Most of the reasons that startups fail stem from an inability to attract the right kind of attention. In some cases, they do not attract the attention of investors, which typically results in the startup running out of cash. In other cases, they do not attract the attention of customers, once again resulting in the startup running out of cash. In either case, startups can address the problem and give themselves a better chance of succeeding by paying attention to search engine optimization (SEO).
Developing and implementing an SEO strategy can be daunting, even for companies with healthy budgets. For startups, it is easy to move SEO to the back burner while founders focus on developing products and courting investors. However, when done correctly, SEO can assist with both of those startup needs and better position a business to survive the startup season.
Using SEO to explore your customers’ needs
More than 3.5 billion searches are conducted every day on Google. That’s 40,000 searches a second. In most cases, those who are searching with Google are looking for a solution. They want access to information. They want directions to a destination. They want a product or service that will address their needs.
To optimize your web content so that it ranks high with Google, you need to provide the solutions for which Google users are searching. Presenting your product or service and its various benefits is not enough to rank high in Google. Businesses need to craft content in a way that answers questions. They need to present their product as a solution to a problem.
Search Google for “pillow” and you will find a host of companies selling pillows. For the most part, those companies provide content that describes how comfortable their pillows are, how soft their pillows are and the material from which their pillows are made. You will also find information on how to choose the right pillow and how often you should replace a pillow. Any company that sells pillows would be tempted to focus its web content on the same information. As a result, it would not be optimized to stand out in Google search results.
Thanks to sites like SEMrush, Ahrefs, SpyFu, and AnswerThePublic, any startup can explore the questions that are being asked on Google about the products that it intends to sell. In the case of pillows, many of the top questions are focused on how to wash a pillow. Among the top 10 searches are “how to wash pillows,” “can you wash pillows,” “how to clean pillows” and “how to wash my pillow.” Therefore, to increase your chances of connecting with potential customers, web content regarding pillows should offer guidance on how to wash them.
Using SEO to refine your business purpose
Using search engine insights to craft optimized online content not only will increase search results ranking, but can also assist startups in refining their business purpose. Sites that provide data on keywords and search queries include search volumes as well as the average cost per click (CPC) for keywords. If you find that the CPC for your product is high, it is a good sign that there are already plenty of businesses pushing that product.
If research shows that the market for your product is already saturated, keyword research can reveal a niche that is not being served. If you can pivot into that niche, you can find yourself promoting a product that has less competition and that provides the solution for a common problem.
Addressing on-site SEO
The content found on your site is one of the main factors that will influence how your page is ranked in Google search results. In the past, simply putting the right keywords in the right places in abundance was enough to make your page competitive. However, as search engines like Google have gotten smarter, keywords have become just one of the factors that must be addressed for a site to be optimized.
Startups looking to appeal to search engines in 2022 should make sure that they have in-depth content on their site. Simply providing a keyword or two will not be viewed as helpful to visitors and therefore will not be identified as a good search result by Google. The more relevant content you can provide, the longer visitors will stay on your site and the more value Google will assign to it.
Blogs and e-books provide one way to include in-depth content on your page, but they should not be the only place that in-depth content appears. A more effective trend in SEO today is providing in-depth content directly on the pages where your products or services are promoted and sold. When those pages rank highly in search results, potential customers are that much closer to making a purchase.
A simple way to make your content more appealing to search engines is to use URLs that are “readable” and relevant. Sometimes URLs are reduced to a jumble of letters and numbers to make them shorter. For the sake of SEO, it is better to have a long URL that describes the page content than a short URL that is gibberish. When Google sees “https://mystartup.com/pillows-that-are-easy-to-wash,” it can assess the value of your content quickly. When it sees “https://mystartup.com/jk8w321,” it moves on.
Addressing off-site SEO
In addition to optimizing the content that is on your site, there also are steps you can take “off-site” to increase your SEO. In general, your off-site SEO efforts will involve finding ways to get other sites, preferably reputable, well-visited sites, to link to the content on your site.
Off-site optimization is challenging, but it is well worth the work. As Google ranks search results, its goal is to serve its users well. Ideally, the top ranking results will provide not just relevant information, but also trustworthy information. When Google sees other pages linking to your content, it considers that a vote of confidence. The more votes you get, the more valuable your content becomes to Google.
There are a variety of strategies for getting backlinks, as incoming links are called, and most of them involve convincing other sites that your content would be helpful to their users. Sometimes this can be accomplished by connecting with local or industry-specific business associations that maintain clickable lists of relevant businesses. Another possibility is tracking down broken links and offering related content from your page as a replacement for the missing info. Tools like the “Check My Links” extension for Chrome can get you started with identifying broken links.
The best way to build backlinks from credible sites is to have your business featured or quoted in media sources. A link from a credible news source carries a lot of weight with Google and can quickly move your content up in the rankings. HARO, which stands for Help A Reporter Out, is a resource that can help you to connect with reporters who cover your industry. Hiring a PR company to secure media placements is another option.
Any startup looking to attract attention cannot afford to ignore how it ranks on Google. If implementing a comprehensive SEO strategy seems overwhelming, start small and make regular progress. Every moment you invest in SEO increases your competitive edge. Anything you can do to increase your rank will increase your chances of connecting with new customers.