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SEO Strategies for Startups: The Blueprint for Sustainable Growth

Women working on SEO for startups

Congratulations, you have successfully built your business from the ground up! The manufacturing process has already been initiated, and your workforce is patiently waiting to provide the finest service. Simultaneously, you have managed to develop a beautiful website, but for some reason… you are not getting the traffic you were hoping for! What to do now?

You have been offered plenty of marketing solutions, some of which are quite lucrative, and placed dozens of paid advertisements, and yet you hear crickets. The content featured on your website may need to be properly optimised, at least according to modern search engine guidelines. But SEO can be so overwhelming, right? Don’t worry – We’ve got you! 

So let’s talk about this: what is SEO, and how does it all work? 

Stay with us to learn more about SEO for startups and how implementing certain strategies can skyrocket the amount of inbound traffic your platforms receive. 

What Is SEO for Startups?

Search engines such as Google, Microsoft Bing, and even YouTube all utilise different algorithms to rank search queries. These are complex technical procedures used to identify reliability among various search results. The more authoritative and trustworthy a website appears, the higher it gets placed when specific keywords are typed in.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of carefully tweaking and improving a new website for higher visibility. Generally, this includes content relevance, link popularity and technical configuration, to name a few. 

Types of SEO Startups Can Leverage

While there are several SEO types and practices, some require first-hand experience and knowledge to understand. Our main point of discussion is SEO for startups, so let’s focus on the ones necessary for all the newcomers out there.

1. On-Page SEO

On-page SEO, also referred to as on-site SEO, is the optimisation of individual web pages in order to increase organic traffic and rank higher on search engines. Alongside publishing exceptional content, this type of SEO aims to ensure that the quality of said content is up to par with the competition. 

This includes optimising headlines and HTML tags such as title tags, meta tags and header tags, as well as keyword usage, URL structure and internal links. On-page SEO is a tool used to prove content reliability. By doing so, search engines better understand a website’s content and correctly interpret the search intention it was written for.

women doing on-site SEO

2. Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to improving a website’s search engine ranking without making any changes to the actual website. Instead, this SEO strategy focuses more towards the exterior platforms surrounding a website. This includes social media and content marketing, link building, guest posts, as well as video marketing and podcasting. 

To sum it up, any type of content published on platforms not under the same domain as your website falls under the category of off-page SEO.  

3. Technical SEO

When you open any web page, the first thing that catches your eye is the responsiveness. Technical SEO is the process of improving the technical aspects of your website. A trustworthy website should check several boxes, including fast loading speeds and a responsive layout. 

A commonly overlooked technical factor is a mobile-friendly variant of a page’s layout, and it’s quite important given that most consumers nowadays use a mobile device. Your platform should be easy to navigate through, and pop-ups should be minimal, if any. 

Compressing your images and decluttering your web design is certainly a viable solution to increase responsiveness further. Given that some devices might read and load websites differently than others, ensure that you test it out on all operating systems.

4. Local SEO

At one point, we all find ourselves wanting to grab a slice of pizza and making a quick Google search for some joints near us. Typically, three restaurants within the area will appear on the top of the page, featuring all their business information. The Local SEO strategy is used to help rank a business higher on Google based on its geographical location

In order to effectively optimise a website’s local SEO, businesses perform a few tasks to rank higher among the search results. These include optimising their Google Business Profile, creating content relevant to the local scene, and identifying local keywords. Any business with a physical location can greatly benefit from local SEO.

5. International SEO

Unlike local SEO, international SEO helps target users all over the internet, regardless of their geographical location. By implementing a global SEO strategy, search engines can easily identify which countries you are trying to target and which languages your business operates with. 

The primary international optimisation practices include defining your international markets upfront and identifying which languages are spoken in each global market. Others include ccTLDs (Country Code Top-Level Domains), domain subfolders or subdomains for international SEO, as well as regional keyword research and optimisation. 

6. Content Marketing

Content marketing is a strategy used to attract and engage a target audience through relevant blogs, video content, podcasts and other media. This approach focuses on nurturing existing and potential customers by conveying expertise and providing value. 

The benefits of content marketing include increasing online visibility, generating more leads, boosting customer loyalty and increasing authority.

a woman typing up an SEO strategy for a startup

How Important Is SEO for Startups?

Generally, SEO will help any business as long as it is operating at a stable pace and has a relatively good understanding of its target market. It would be ideal to initiate the process in the early stages or the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) stage. However, early-stage startups often neglect SEO due to the time required to yield results. In some cases, this might make sense. 

In a VC-funded scenario, backed startups are under immense pressure to scale exponentially, and SEO takes some time and resources. Another negative scenario for early-stage startups is that their marketing story might dramatically change in the future. Relying on a set of keywords or a particular marketing message might prove unwise if it does not resonate with the audience.

Keep in mind, though, that when it comes to SEO for startups, the sooner you lay the foundations, the better. As we mentioned, SEO takes time to show visible results, but as your business expands, you will quickly realise that it’s an inevitable investment worth both time and resources. 

Why Should Your Startup Invest in SEO?

A common misconception is that implementing various SEO strategies to increase a business’s visibility is quite costly and competitive. In reality, among the many marketing strategies used, SEO is by far the most inexpensive and provides the highest ROI with no expiration date. Yes, the field is competitive regarding certain keywords, though plenty of other ones have barely been touched and are often searched.

SEO will undoubtedly help a startup position itself better as an authoritative figure in its industry. If SEO is approached correctly, your website’s visibility will increase, ultimately helping you drive quality traffic, generate leads and convert them to paying customers. Your brand’s trustworthiness and the user experience and engagement will increase.

Many young businesses face the challenges of limited resources and time constraints. With burn rates skyrocketing monthly, creating a stable runway is difficult. By investing in SEO, businesses gain a strategic competitive edge that will ultimately help them overcome these challenges and emerge as leaders in their niche. This is why 29% of marketers list SEO as a top trend they leverage.

Building an SEO Foundation for Your Startup

SEO should not be considered a quick fix; rather, it requires some amount of time before showing effective results. Typically, a well-thought-through strategy could take anywhere between three months and up to a year to see improvements in ranking. While time and resources are limited for many startups, getting an early start is essential to ensure sustainable growth.

SEO for startups can be tricky as it differs from the traditional SEO approach in several ways. This is primarily due to limited resources, competition, authority building, and various technical challenges. Let’s look at the steps necessary to build and maintain a successful SEO campaign for your startup, which will get you ahead in the long run.

Startup employees

Set Your SEO Goals

Set healthy and achievable goals and align your SEO objectives with your business’ primary objectives. Aim to deliver the right message, helping your startup establish its brand. 

First and foremost, gather enough data to establish your current position in the market. Your startup’s performance metrics should act as a benchmark to help you determine where your business stands. Coming up with your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will guide you in evaluating your SEO performance efforts.

Here are some primary goals you should consider setting before rolling out any SEO strategy.

1. Organic Traffic

The larger your site’s audience, the more potential customers you can convert. Organic traffic goals are one of the most common goals for boosting SEO effectiveness. They will help you catch up with the big players’ search engine ranks. 

2. Backlinks

Google and other search engines view your backlinks as a vote of authority for your website. Increasing the number of high-quality backlinks means an increase in referral traffic from other sites. Around 30 to 50 backlinks in 6 months should be sufficient for startup growth. 

3. Leads and Conversion Rates

Another SEO-specific goal may be increasing your company’s qualified leads and conversion rates. SEO can be a valuable tool for setting up a marketing or sales funnel, increasing your site’s traffic, and converting visitors into paying customers. Setting the right goals is key. 

4. Engagement Rates

Your startup can set goals regarding the website’s engagement rates. This includes the amount of time visitors spend on your site, link click-through rates, and retention. Google Analytics 4 is a good tool for measuring these.

5. Bounce Rates

Bounce rates are essentially the opposite of engagement rates. Setting a bounce-rate goal will help your startup minimise lack of interest by creating engaging, attentive and retentive content. An average bounce rate lingers around 40%, depending on the industry and the devices used when visiting your site.

6. Elevating Domain Authority Score

Domain authority is a domain’s perceived quality and SEO performance in search engine rankings. Setting a healthy domain authority score goal will help your site rank higher.

setting SEO startup goals

Define Your SEO Strategy

Every good SEO strategy starts with benchmarking your current SEO performance. However, early-stage businesses lack reliable benchmarks as they are just starting. Startup-centric SEO can be a bit confusing in the initiation phase, and businesses struggle to find the right strategy to implement.

A good start would be analysing your competitors’ SEO strategies, especially the ones that have been a part of the game for some time. This will help you highlight any strengths and weaknesses to keep an eye on. Simultaneously, it will give you an idea of which keywords to target, what kind of content to create, and which high-performing links to build.

A commonly overlooked strategy that causes plummeting SEO results is the intelligent use of keywords. While we all want to take advantage of leading keywords searched globally, sometimes it would be a better idea to identify alternative ones that might yield similar results. 

Technical Optimisations of the Website

A technical website audit is a must if you plan to implement a successful SEO campaign. A well-optimised desktop, mobile, and tablet website will do wonders for your startup alone, as you can never be quite certain which device your site will be accessed from. 

Implementing an SEO-friendly architecture is another of the most important aspects of any website development if you are aiming for search engine visibility. This will allow Google and other search engines to crawl, index, and understand your content well enough to place your website at the top of specific search results pages. 

Your web page design should be neat, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. With the millions of websites available on the web, sticking out with the front-end side of yours will give you a tremendous advantage over your competition. 

Competitor Analysis

An SEO competitor analysis is the right approach to SEO for startups. Given the lack of valuable metrics that can be used as benchmarks, early-stage businesses must take examples from their higher-ranking competitors. As they say, there is no point in re-inventing the wheel. 

There is a reason why they call SEO a competitive marketing strategy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of it. Luckily, any SEO strategies implemented by various businesses and websites are completely visible to the public. By researching your competitors, you can minimise the trial-and-error process of figuring out what works in your niche and what doesn’t. 

This process includes researching your competition to gather insights such as keyword usage, content types, and backlink strategies. After figuring out how exactly your top-ranking competitors structure their SEO, you can implement the same techniques on your platform, getting similar, if not identical, results. 

Keyword Research

Keyword research means identifying and analysing the keywords relevant to your niche that audiences search for. Finding the correct keywords helps you better understand the mentality behind searchers’ intent and directly influences the results of various search queries. Creating content that aligns with your target users’ needs can increase your organic rankings in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). 

You can use many tools to identify which keywords to focus on. One of the most common ways to do so is by searching a keyword database. Typically, these work by inserting a seed keyword, or rather a term to base your search around and could provide you with up to five different types of results, including:

  • Broad match: Keywords containing your seed term’s variations, with the words presented in all orders.
  • Phrase match: Keywords that match your seed term exactly, with the words in any order.
  • Exact match: Keywords identical to your seed term in the exact order specified.
  • Related keywords: Keywords generating search engine results similar to the results your seed term keyword would. 
  • All keywords: A collection of broad match, phrase match, exact match and related keywords for a broad overview.

On-Page Optimisations of Existing Content

If your business already has a finished website and is pushing content through it, make sure you optimise it according to updated search engine guidelines. Optimise your title tags, headings, internal links, content usefulness, image alt text, and schema markup using the strategy you decided on. 

In a case where you have existing content featured on your platform, though not updated in accordance with your current SEO strategy, you might be losing potential customers. The more optimisations are scattered evenly across your entire content portfolio, the bigger the opportunity to rank higher among SERPs. 

Another valuable factor to consider is ensuring that most, if not all, of your content, delivers the same message with the same tone of voice. If your previously published content does not align with the ideals behind your new posts, it might lead to confusion and disinterest from your audience. People like to reserve specific emotions for content produced by specific authoritative figures on the web, and you can be the one providing them. 

Create Valuable High-Quality Content

Providing value and establishing authority is key for search engine rankings. When publishing content, the most important thing your business should focus on is answering the questions your audience is asking. You want to present yourself as the trusted expert your target audience looks up to and consumes knowledge from, potentially turning into a paying customer and a supporter.

If you deliver high-quality content combined with keywords associated with your niche, you will certainly be laying down a solid SEO foundation. Quality speaks for itself. However, keep in mind that content can be shared, re-shared, and repurposed, which might increase your presence elsewhere. 

There are numerous platforms on which you can promote your high-quality content for improved traffic and better engagement. You can amplify it across social media platforms by creating teaser posts and communicating directly with your audience. This way, you build rapport and authority and invite them to your platform. 

Get Backlinks

Getting dozens of high-quality backlinks directed towards your website can significantly increase your ranking on search engines and bring more visitors to your platform. Backlinks are quite important when it comes to SEO for startups, especially when they come from reputable websites and platforms that already maintain some level of authority.

Big SEO players maintain thousands of inbound backlinks for a single keyword, with a variety coming from high-quality referring domains. Each valuable backlink pointing towards your web page or content will increase your authority score. Therefore, don’t overlook a head-start in link-building.

Backlinks, in particular, help Google and other search engines discover and rank your content through website crawlers. Website crawlers are essentially bots that automatically access and process webpages to understand their content better, label it, and rank it appropriately among the SERPs.

To explore the various backlinks your competitors benefit from, you can use an SEO tool such as Ahrefs. 

backlink profile of a startup

Track and Evaluate Your SEO Efforts

Constant monitoring is vital when planning and executing the initial steps of your SEO strategy, as well as all of the upcoming ones. You should always keep track of how your new content is performing, analyse the numbers surrounding it, and compare them with existing content from both you and your competitors.

Certain types of content or a combination of keywords and backlinks that you never even thought would perform well end up gaining the most traction. Regular analysis will help you and your team make data-driven decisions and adjustments to your SEO strategies. This will allow you to continuously improve your rankings and become a leading industry authority. 

Keep Up With Google Updates and SEO Trends

The estimation is that Google makes about 500 to 600 micro changes annually in its algorithm. Even though the majority of these changes don’t really affect the SEO landscape as a whole, some do unpredictably end up being quite significant and change the way we write for SEO. 

Major changes have occurred, such as Panda, Florida, Penguin, and RankBrain, to name a few. All these notably influenced the game and played an ample role in what search engine optimisation is today. Keeping up with Google updates and emerging SEO trends will allow your business the opportunity to make strategic moves and gradually evolve as a trusted authority. 

What To Avoid When Doing SEO for Your Startup

Search engine optimisation can be complex if undertaken without enough knowledge and experience to face the various challenges it poses. The strategies required for it to yield effective outcomes should be devised and performed by a seasoned professional with years of experience.

If not approached with the right amount of attention, some hick-ups are bound to happen when implementing SEO. Unless you hired an SEO agency to do the work for you, it’s highly advisable that you or your team do the necessary research on what to avoid. Here are a few common mistakes that startups just getting into the field of SEO make: 

Outdated Tactics

Ensure you and your team refrain from taking advantage of SEO strategies that might have been effective in the past. If some seem too good to be true, they most likely are. Thoroughly research what works in today’s market and what doesn’t to secure your place among the top SERP ranks.

If a specific strategy worked a couple of years ago or even a few months ago, it doesn’t mean it’s still effective and applicable today. Relying on outdated SEO strategies and tactics can harm your rankings in SERPs, which is why you should be aware of them.

Keyword Stuffing

Keywords are the primary tool of any effective SEO strategy, as they are the shortened thoughts that send visitors to your website. However, stuffing your content with the same keywords in an unnatural manner can be identified as a black hat practice by search engines and, therefore, negatively impact your ranks and visibility.

Search Engine Oriented Content

It’s always a bad idea to create and maintain any form of content to satisfy algorithmic standards instead of the ones of humans. Even though Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are the bread and butter for an effective SEO strategy, overly abiding by them can dehumanise your content and decrease its value. 

Google search

Plagiarism

Mimicking strategies that competitors implement is also acceptable. However, the plain old copy, restructure and repurpose technique is just not cutting it anymore. Always ensure that your content is unique and valuable for your frequent readers and new visitors. 

Strictly Google-Focused

Even though Google is the leading global search engine, you might benefit from optimising for many alternatives. Engines such as Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, and DuckDuckGo are all widely used and might bring you some extra traffic if you place yourself at the top of their SERPs.

Targeting Multiple Keywords

Everyone in the field is considered to rank for multiple keywords on a single piece of content at least once. Multiple keywords and phrases in different areas might diminish the key values of your posts and negatively impact your authority levels. 

Overseeing Mobile SEO

More than half of searchers use a mobile device to type in their queries on various search engines. We have already made the first steps toward entering a mobile-only era, and desktop devices are slowly becoming obsolete, especially for quick web searches. The way to go is to focus on technical SEO aspects such as responsive website designs and mobile optimisation.

Low-Quality Content

When attempting to do something, you might as well do it to the best of your ability. The internet is no place for dull, unengaging content that does not provide any retention value nor answer the readers’ questions. Low-quality pieces often get buried under the millions of daily online posts, especially if E-E-A-T guidelines aren’t met.

E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. These are part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which evaluate the quality of various search results. Quality raters are essentially indirect consultants for Google who help identify the flaws of any upcoming algorithm updates and ensure their success. 

The original version of these guidelines was E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness), though Google added one more E for Experience in 2022. Even though E-E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor of the search engine, Google still prefers to reward websites with strong E-E-A-T scores.

Ignoring Your Audience 

A target audience is a group of people who are most likely to purchase your product or service if the opportunity presents itself in front of them. When starting your business and evaluating your target audience, it’s of utmost importance to understand their decision-making process and buyer mentality in general. 

Once you have identified your target audience, you can only lose if you ignore their needs. Social media, advertising, market research and competitor analysis are just a few tools that aim to provide actionable insights. If you fail to utilise these tools, you potentially close the doors for thousands of potential customers. 

Keep in mind that, however tempting it might be, appealing to all demographics is nearly impossible and quite ineffective. You will get much better results if you focus on a specific target audience and take the time to really get to know them. Once you do, just listen and act accordingly. 

discussing target audience

Black Hat SEO Techniques

When SEO first appeared in the marketing world, many misused it by trying to cheat the algorithm. Using various tactics, there were countless attempts to overly leverage Google’s guidelines and force the search engine to rank specific content higher than it deserved.

Black hat SEO is a combination of techniques that violate search engine guidelines. It manipulates search engine algorithms to boost websites among SERPs. Although they might promise quick wins, these techniques can be detrimental to your site. Here are some common black hat strategies we strongly advise against:

Keyword Stuffing

Excessively repeating a certain target keyword might lead to a decline in rankings. Search engine algorithms are trained to recognise such tactics and introduce penalties, fighting against them and demoting them.

AI-Generated or Duplicate Content

Genuine, high-quality content is difficult to compose. This is why thousands of pieces are plagiarised regularly, and many turn to AI as their daily ghostwriter. These are black hat techniques that modern search engines have adapted to and have already overcome. 

Gateway Pages

Another violation of Google’s guidelines that aims to create pages targeting specific search queries, using content as a funnel. 

Hidden Text

Some tricksters learned that stuffing a piece of text with keywords and making it the same colour as its background would increase its ranking among SERPs. While this might have worked a few times in the past, modern search engine crawlers are designed with precision to identify these techniques and exterminate them.

Misleading Redirects

Redirects are a common tool in SEO. They help you organise your page easily and increase its accessibility. However, they are sometimes abused to trick search engines by displaying content that’s not what it seems. 

Negative SEO

This is a black hat SEO tactic on the unconventional side. Some perpetrators attempt to use negative SEO to cause their competitors’ rankings to plummet by pointing unnatural links to their websites. This tactic is easily recognisable and extinguishable by Google and other search engines. 

SEO competitor analysis

Forgetting About Off-Page SEO

They say there is no such thing as bad exposure. Off-page SEO is as equally important as on-page SEO and helps capture larger audiences from multiple angles. Essentially, the more sources of potential exposure you have on the web, the more likely people will find your business and interact with it. 

Many businesses focus primarily on their own website or, rather, on-site SEO. While having your information featured on one central platform sounds intriguing, it will ultimately hurt your business. We live in an era where businesses and entrepreneurs strive on social media and various PR outlets. 

We can’t stress the importance of Google My Business for SEO, given that with enough dedication, you can be the algorithm’s local choice. Basically, any promotion platform outside of your website that you can utilise will effectively introduce new audiences to your business and help you reach peak visibility. 

When Should You Partner With an SEO Agency 

Only a few newcomers have experience with SEO for startups. While SEO sounds quite simple from a conceptual point of view, it requires the right research and experience to know how to best leverage search engines. If you want to scale your business but have a limited amount of in-house expertise, perhaps it’s best to consider hiring an SEO agency like BrainZ Digital. It is definitely worth considering! 

BrainZ Digital has been a trusted SEO agency offering tailored solutions to the international startup marketplace. With a wealth of successful global brand stories, BrainZ will help you develop the right SEO strategy for your business. 

Every course of action taken to implement the right SEO strategy for your startup is backed up by proven case studies. Simultaneously, the dozens of client success stories can prove that your business’s SEO endeavours will be in good hands. 

BrainZ Digital doesn’t make decisions based on a hunch. You can rest assured that we take a data-driven approach from the beginning, creating the perfect SEO strategy for any young business. You will be greeted by us, a wonderful (if we may say so ourselves) team of SEO professionals who will provide you with ongoing support until you are satisfied with your campaign’s results. 

Ready to take your business to the next stage? Contact BrainZ Digital now to schedule your SEO consultation and leverage the fate of your business for good.

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