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After launching a startup, you’re likely still in the beginning phases of identifying your online audience and what they want from your website. That’s where Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, comes in.
An SEO strategy helps identify your audience, discover their needs and determine what combination of marketing tactics will deliver ideal traffic. Before getting into the details, it’s important to fully understand what SEO is and why it’s needed.
According to Moz, SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search results.
Essentially, the purpose of SEO is to ensure that when a user types something relevant to your business into a search engine, your business shows up—ideally, before your competitors.
With 81 percent of shoppers researching online before making a purchase, having an SEO strategy is more important than ever. If your business doesn’t show up when people search, don’t expect users to find it. While there are useful guides that can give you an in-depth explanation of everything that goes into SEO, here are a few priorities to drive users to your website.
The site needs to work and Google has to find it
Before any marketing effort or content can convert, the site itself needs to function properly from a technical perspective. Nobody is going to stay on the site to read your newest blog post if the page takes 10 seconds to load.
Find and follow a technical checklist to ensure all your bases are covered. Your site speed should be fast, you should have as few server errors as possible, and most importantly, the site needs to be indexable by search engines.
What does indexable mean?
Google can only show websites in the search results that it can see, or what is referred to as crawling and indexing. You can check that all URLs are indexed using a variety of tools, like Google Search Console. Anything that should be indexed, but is not, needs to be addressed immediately and sent to Google for recrawling. If your website is technically sound, Google will have an easier time displaying it and customers will have a better user experience.
Create content that people want to read
Google always aims to show the most accessible and useful information available. Once your website is easily accessible, the next step is ensuring that its content is useful and relevant. Your content should always inform and engage your audience by providing valuable information on topics they care about.
Knowing what these topics are is where keyword research comes in to play. There are countless keyword research tools, all of which can inform what keywords lead users to your site and competitor sites.
However, keywords should not dictate your entire strategy or dominate your content’s entire conversion. Use keyword research as a starting point to understand how people talk about your industry and what people are looking for when searching online.
For example, if you’re a shoe company, instead of including the keyword “leather shoes” 10 times within your content, take notice if people are searching for “how to clean leather shoes” or “how to protect leather shoes.” Use those keywords as a jumping off point for engaging and helpful content.
Don’t write content with SEO at the forefront, write about what customers want to know, and then the SEO equity will follow.
Google takes website trust and credibility very seriously in order to provide the best experience possible for its users. Implementing an outbound linking strategy is useful to show Google that your site is trustworthy. Linking to other websites within your content helps Google draw parallels between your site and other associated sites. If you link to other credible leaders in your space, Google will learn over time how your sites are related. Those other sites may also see you’re linking to them, check out your site, and link to it in the future.
It’s also important to internally link within your content to other pages on your site. This helps point customers to other blogs, products or services they may not navigate to otherwise.
For example, if you have a blog about product instructions for a product you carry, you should internally link to the product within the blog and then to the blog from the product page.
Use reporting to inform future strategy
At the very beginning, it’s hard to tell what is and isn’t working. Establishing regular reporting can provide valuable insights into what pages are garnering traffic. Set up a Google Analytics and Google Search Console account for data on keywords, top visited pages, bounce rate, time on site, pageviews per day, etc.
Creating reports from these metrics and tracking them on a regular basis will give you invaluable information about your wins and losses. Over time, adjust your strategy to work with your audience.
The intent of an SEO strategy is to figure out what’s bringing people to your site and adjusting your tactics accordingly. You can’t force an audience to your site with keyword stuffing or excessive backlinks; you need to create something they’re already trying to find.