5 Things Every Startup Owner Should Know About SEO
FACT: You don’t have to promote your startup in any particular way.
As long as visitors land on your site and sign up, the channel they arrived through is irrelevant.
Or is it?
You see: some channels are more expensive than others, they don’t attract equally qualified traffic and convert at a different rate.
There is one channel among them though guaranteed to drive highly relevant traffic and convert at a high rate.
And that’s the very one you’re so afraid to use, SEO.
In this week’s post I’m going to dispel some myths about it and show you what you need to know to start consciously driving organic traffic to your site.
Let’s Start with the Myths
Here’s something I noticed working with SaaS owners:
Most of them know very well what SEO is. They’re just afraid to use it. And that’s typically for one of those 3 reasons:
- They think it’s a scam,
- Too technical, or
- Too slow to yield results.
Let’s discuss those reasons in turn then.
SEO as a Scam
I won’t deny that in recent years SEO got a bit of a bad name. From hugely publicized penalties to horror Penguin and Panda stories quietly told at networking events, the practice has got on the people’s mouth.
Add to that large amounts of spam comments and shady pitches from offshore SEO “agencies” promising first spot in Google and the moon as a bonus and the perception of SEO as spam comes as no surprise.
In truth however, SEO is a valuable practice of optimizing your site to increase organic traffic. SEO does not promise to bring specific rankings or results (that’s how you can tell shady from reputable SEO firm, by the way). Instead, it aims to increase your organic traffic by optimizing the site and improving quality and authority signals.
And it works.
SEO is Too Technical
SEO requires technical knowledge.
But it’s not as technical as you may think. At least when it comes to the most necessary things you need to know. You can easily learn and apply those yourself.
And then hire a professional to help with the more advanced stuff.
SEO is slow to yield results
Ahah, SEO is far from instant.
With SEO you could expect to see first results in 3-6 months and might have to wait up to a year to start seeing real results.
But there is the other flip of the coin.
SEO is also a long term investment. Unlike PPC for instance, once established SEO will keep bringing traffic with very little maintenance required.
With that off the way let’s take a look at what you need to know about SEO to promote your startup in organic search.
The most important thing is to know what your potential users are REALLY searching for
Think for a second of how you describe your startup.
You probably call it an accounting software. Or a SEO tool, social media management app or use any other term that you think best defines it.
But here’s the catch, your potential users might use different phrases when looking for it.
They might be searching for an invoicing app for freelancers. Or keyword tracker, Twitter schedules or anything else really.
And so they won’t find you unless you optimize your site for them.
That’s the most important thing you need to know about SEO – for best results you need to become proficient in finding phrases and keywords users looking to buy your solution would use.
Understanding and targeting the very keywords your audience would use will help you:
Drive more organic traffic. After all, you’ll be ranking for the very queries potential customers use to overcome the very problem your startup is solving.
Have a better understanding of the market. Customers use different keywords depending on their buying intent, knowledge of their problem, level of interest in it etc. Knowing what those keywords are will help you optimize your content to attract visitors at different stages of the buying cycle.
It will also help improve your communications. Using your customers’ phrases will help you connect with them using the language they use.
Make your website more customer focused. You’ll be able to deliver the content that meets your users’ expectations and make it more relevant to their needs.
The process of uncovering phrases your customers use to find you is called keyword research. It can come across as quite complex, at the start. So to learn more about it check out:
- Our guide to keyword research (and our new keyword research tool – KeywordIni),
- Our tutorial on using Google Keyword Planner to find relevant keyword ideas.
SEO is all about monitoring results
There’s an ongoing debate in SEO circles about the importance of rank tracking as a viable metric.
In my opinion however, rankings are the only accountable result of your SEO work.
Other outcomes like conversions or engagement can be easily attributed to other departments. Keyword rankings on the other hand are solely the result of your work.
Monitoring rankings also helps spot SEO problems
A number of factors contribute to a drop in conversions, from faulty email form to slow page loading time. But a traffic drop is a clear sign of SEO problems. And quite often, monitoring rankings can help you uncover problems before they really escalate.
You should plan content around keywords you want to rank for
I’ve already mentioned this:
Using the right keywords will help you make the website relevant to customers at different stages of the buying cycle.
In practice this means that your blog should target top of the funnel keywords and target users with the intent to learn.
Your site and landing pages should focus on middle of the funnel, attracting potential users evaluating different alternatives and considering which app to buy.
Lastly, you should optimize landing pages for the bottom of the funnel, targeting users interested in signing up.
SEO is all about the copy
Don’t let other advice confuse you, SEO is first about the copy and value it offers to users, links second.
Links plan important role as a ranking factor but only if copy and value are equal.
Otherwise, a site with better copy, providing advice and exceeding user’s expectations might easily outrank one with greater amount of links but worse content.
So when optimizing your site, pay special attention to copy. Provide insight and information your potential clients might be looking for, exceed their expectations and you should be on your way to increasing your organic traffic.
Your site must be mobile friendly
Lastly, if you want to succeed at SEO, you must make your site mobile-friendly.
Google users now perform more searches from mobile devices than desktops. And so the search engine prefers to include mobile friendly results in mobile search. I’ve written more about it here. This is important stuff so go on and read the article.
And then make sure that your site is optimize for mobile. It will have a significant affect on your rankings.
These are the 5 things every startup owner should know about SEO.
It’s not a magical solution but it works. It takes time for it to yield results but they last long. And the most important thing to find out is what phrases your potential users will type in a search box when looking for products like yours.