SEO for startups: How to build a foundation for successJump to content
You’ve probably heard of SEO, or search engine optimization. However, you might not be an expert on the topic (and that’s ok!). We’re breaking it down for you, because leveraging SEO best practices is an all-important part of creating and building a customer base online.
Before we dive into best practices when it comes to SEO for small businesses, let’s start with the basics.
So, what’s SEO?
According to Google, SEO is “the process of making your site better for search engines.” It means optimizing your website’s functionality on the back end and the content on the front end so search engines like Google can find, crawl and index it. In other words, understand and store your site for future searches.
FYI: In this resource, we’re strictly talking organic SEO, not paid search advertisements.
Why is SEO marketing important?
There are a few reasons why SEO is critical for businesses, especially smaller and emerging brands.
First, it helps you rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) so new and existing customers can find you. It’s not often that consumers search past the first page or two on Google. The higher you rank, the more traffic — and sales — you could get.
Second, it puts you ahead of the competition. You can start to outrank your competitors and win over their customers.
Third, ranking higher on search engines can boost your brand’s credibility. This helps build your reputation, which is paramount for breakthrough brands.
How should I get started with SEO for my biz?
Here are five priority elements of SEO that you can get started on right away.
1. Begin with your site architecture
Your site architecture is the structure of your website, or the hierarchy of your pages and how they’re linked to one another. Not only is your site architecture important for people navigating your site, it’s also important for search engines. They should both be able to easily understand how all your pages are organized and connected.
- Your site navigation should be intuitive. Make it easy to navigate from the top of your site architecture to the bottom. If you need inspiration, consider looking at leaders in your industry or your competitors.
- Use a mobile-friendly platform. Ensure your customers have a positive experience while searching on their mobile devices. Plus, help Google crawl and index your content.
- Your pages should load quickly. Keep an eye out for common issues like outdated code or images published on your site that are too large. Google PageSpeed Insights is a helpful tool to see if anything is slowing your site down.
- Make sure you have access to analytics. Glean actionable insights using real user data about site visits, page visits and more.
If you need more help setting up your site, we’ve got a great resource.
2. Keep page content organized
Scannable content is preferred by people and search engines alike. Every page you create should have a clear purpose with even clearer prioritization and organization.
- Use simple, short and descriptive URLs. Clearly indicate what every page is about.
- Be intentional with formatting. Use proper header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.), bulleted or numbered lists and more to make content digestible.
- Use images and add alt text. Images, when used purposefully, support what you have to say. Alt text is the text that appears if the image doesn’t load and that’s read aloud by screen readers. It’s important for accessibility.
- Add internal links to related content. Guide your audience to learn more about the topics they’ve shown interest in.
3. Set up a keyword strategy
Search engines look for words and phrases in your content that match consumer search queries. These are known as keywords. By including keywords in your content, you’re telling Google that you’re relevant and you’ll be more likely to show up higher in the SERPs.
- Start by digging into search queries. Get in the mind of your customers. What’s your audience searching for and what do you want to rank for? What are your competitors ranking for? It might be best to aim for the sweet spot — keywords that aren’t too competitive but are still relevant.
For example, let’s say you own a sustainable pet care brand. The phrase “pet care” is more competitive because it has a high monthly search volume, so it’s harder to rank for. But a more targeted phrase like “sustainable pet products” is less competitive because it has a lower monthly search volume, so it’s easier to rank for. If you’re looking for a keyword resource, Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a good place to start.
- Once you’ve landed on your keywords, start using them. Add them to your URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, headlines and subheadings to communicate that these topics are important.
- Strike a balance. Google knows when you’re stuffing unnecessary keywords into your content. Honestly, your audience knows, too. As you’re writing, remember that your brand should sound human and remain true to its unique voice. This ensures your brand feels authentic, which is critical for building trust with your audience.
4. Five stars for fresh content
Fresh, quality content keeps people coming back to your site. Not only are repeat visitors great for your brand, they’re also great for your rankings. While creating and executing a content strategy isn’t something you can do overnight, it’s an incredibly powerful tool for SEO purposes and beyond.
- Blog posts are a great place to dive deep on topics your customers care about. You can demonstrate your expertise and your point of view while offering value to your target audiences.
- Use your blog to rank for specific keywords. Your blog can be a gold mine for SEO when you’re intentional about it.
- Share your content on social media. Not just to get your name out there and engage with people, but to start link building. When your content is linked to other credible sites, search engines recognize that your site is reputable. This is called your domain authority.
Looking for help? There are a lot of options out there. Hire guest bloggers or an agency to write SEO optimized content, or consider working with an analyst to understand your site’s strengths and weaknesses. A developer can also help keep your site functioning optimally, too. Looking for more self-guided content? For a crash course in SEO, check out Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
All in all, when it comes to setting out on your SEO journey, it’s important to look for ways to build a solid foundation. As you see small improvements in your rankings over time, you can learn more advanced tactics and build a broader strategy. And remember, SEO is ever-evolving — just like your business.
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