Ideating, launching and running a startup pulls entrepreneurs in a thousand directions. When your business requires all of your time, there’s not much remaining for learning the skills that help you share your idea with the world. Search marketing, the process of using search engines to draw awareness to a business and its offerings, can be particularly intimidating, and organic search engine optimization (SEO) can be a turnoff given its black-box reputation.
What we hope to show you is that SEO is not only doable, but can help startups achieve real growth. Here are four actionable tactics you can use to leverage search to grow your business.
Optimize for answers
In short: Use your website to answer the questions your audience is asking, and you can be rewarded with awareness-driving SERP features.
Google is obsessed with creating positive experiences for searchers. Part of that is getting searchers the answers they need fast, and “fast” to Google has meant providing the answer on the search engine results page (SERP) itself.
Russ Jones of Moz expects this to continue, saying that “Google will find more and more ways to replace organic with solutions that keep users on Google’s property.”
If this is the new reality, we need to work with what we’ve got. And what we have is a ton of Featured Snippet and “People Also Ask” (PAA) box opportunities, examples illustrating how Google thinks about searcher experience in terms of satisfaction across an entire topic, not just a specific query.
If you’re not familiar:
- Featured snippets are summaries of an answer to a searcher’s query, extracted from a webpage, displayed in a box on top of Google search results.
- PAA boxes are the expandable, FAQ-style results Google pulls from pages across the web.
“Because Google wants to answer questions, it will reward sites with succinct, well-structured answers,” Pete Meyers, marketing scientist at Moz, said.
Startups can get great brand exposure by showing up in these SERP features, and this visibility is out there for the taking. You can start by:
- Type in a word or phrase related to your business (it’s key products or services)
- See what questions and suggestions Google lists as related to those phrases
- Clearly and succinctly answer those questions with content on your website
Prioritize your mobile experience
In short: Google has begun indexing and ranking websites based on their mobile experiences. It’s time to get your mobile content in order!
Google officially started moving websites over to mobile-first indexing (MFI) in March 2018. That means they’re ranking websites on the basis of their mobile version, rather than their desktop version.
MFI was just the latest in a long line of advancements Google has made in response to mobile. In 2015, “Mobilegeddon” gave priority to websites that displayed well on every device, the Google “Speed Update” introduced page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches.
Google has taken the shift to mobile so seriously that “almost all their features are designed with mobile-first in mind,” explains Meyers.
Here’s how you can make sure your startup’s website is prepared for mobile:
- Focus on achieving parity between the desktop and mobile versions of your website
- Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to ensure your pages meet Google’s criteria
- Use page speed tools like PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse to find things that might be slowing your website down and improve them
Prepare for the growth of voice search
In short: Optimizing for voice boils down to traditional SEO best practices, and be on the lookout for opportunities to advertise your business on voice-supported display devices.
Voice search devices pull their answers from search engine results. If you ask Google Home “Why do we yawn?” and query the same thing on desktop, you’ll realize that the voice assistant just read from the Featured Snippet. What’s good for screen-based search is also good for non-screen (or voice) search.
Google and Amazon are also focusing on how to get voice-supported displays like Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show into more homes, and we should expect to see efforts toward monetization once they do.
Moz’s own Britney Muller predicts that might take the form of “Amazon providing sleep-mode display ads similar to how Kindle currently displays them today.”
If entrepreneurs owners want exposure on this ever-growing search medium, they should:
- Rank highly in search (such as capturing Featured Snippets)
- Be on the lookout for voice ad opportunities in the future
Create great real-world experiences for digital success
In short: As Google moves toward ranking local businesses on real-world signals, focus on creating great customer experiences in addition to traditional, web-based signals.
Google wants to surface the most relevant local business results, meaning they want to give the top spots to businesses whose real-world qualities match what local consumers are looking for. This task is difficult if Google only has access to web-based signals like links and content.
“If Google can acquire accurate real-world information about a business, they can rely less heavily on website signals and provide more accurate results to searchers,” Muller said.
For example, geocaching technology could help determine your percentage of repeat customers, or transaction history data could help determine pricing. Expect Google to start exploring more ways to tap into real insights like this.
For now, traditional web-based signals can still massively impact local rankings, so startups should:
- Focus on providing exceptional real-world experiences for customers
- Follow traditional SEO best practices
You don’t have to be a search engine expert to capitalize on what search has to offer. Armed with these tactics, you’ll be set up to achieve the growth your startup deserves!