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Starting a company is hard enough. To start two successful companies would be truly impressive. Doing more than that would be extreme.
With this in mind, StartupNation had the pleasure of interviewing marketing guru Neil Patel, who boasts a resume of co-founding two successful companies, writing a popular blog and consulting to a variety of high profile clients. Patel founded both the heat mapping software company Crazy Egg and the web analytics company KISSmetrics. He also built a successful blog, QuickSprout.com, covering cutting-edge web marketing insights and techniques. On top of all of this, his consulting clients have included HP, Amazon, Microsoft, General Motors and TechCrunch. For GM, he increased website traffic by 300% within six months.
A summary of our exclusive discussion with Patel follows:
The rate of startups failing within the first few years is substantial. What can a new business owner do to increase the probability of success?
“Go out there and solve a real problem, and solve it well,” states Patel. The business can be simple. There’s no need to be crazy and try to come up with the greatest thing in the universe. Just solve a problem very effectively.
New businesses want traffic to their websites. What are some of the most effective ways for a young business to achieve this when their market awareness is minimal?
"Some of the most effective ways for a new business to generate website traffic," explains Patel, "are SEO, paid search ads, local directories such as Yelp, Citysearch, etc., and social media like Facebook and Twitter."
To juice your SEO results, Patel recommends that you start with SEOmoz’s “Beginner’s Guide to SEO,” which has been read over one million times and helps you on the road to professional-quality SEO. To jump start your paid search efforts, Google often offers $50 coupons. To improve your social media results, Patel recommends testing exclusive offers and coupons.
You helped TechCrunch increase traffic by 30% within 60 days. Can you share with us how you did it?
“It came down to two main areas, SEO and social media,” explains Patel.
He then walked us through the process. First, Patel focused on various areas of SEO, such as on-page code. He uncovered and fixed a major issue with duplicate content, as TechCrunch had as many as four pages with identical content, something Google and the other search engines frown upon. Site speed is something that Google has focused on increasingly, and Patel worked to accelerate the load time of the site’s web pages. In addition, he noticed that although TechCrunch had a network of related sites, such as CrunchBase.com and CrunchBoard.com, they were not effectively linking among the sites. So, he set about reconfiguring their inter-linking structure.
Second, he addressed social media. This included the positioning of social sharing buttons throughout the site itself, as well as submissions of content to social platforms such as Digg and StumbleUpon. Patel focused on writing headlines that would be better received in social media, helping to increase the viral nature of content for greater reach.
If you could give only one piece of SEO advice to a person starting a new business today, what would it be?
“Focus on great content!” Patel explained that great content is the foundation of great SEO. With great content, your audience receives tremendous value and you give your site a better opportunity to rank high in the search engines. Anyone can apply SEO best practices from a technical standpoint, but great content is unique to your business and delivers unique value.
In the post Panda and Penguin (recent Google algorithmic updates) world, how important are links?
“You still need to focus on links.” Patel explained that external links are difficult to acquire, and that Google understands and appreciates this.
In comparison, it’s relatively easy to acquire social media links such as from Twitter. Therefore,these types of links do not carry the same weight as if you were to acquire links to your website from high quality, credible websites. Therefore, it’s important for the business owner to pursue strategies that result in organic, high-quality, external links, regardless of recent changes to the Google algorithm.
Mobile is all the hype right now, but how much should a new business owner really focus on mobile?
Patel advises the small business owner to apply only a small focus to mobile marketing, and to instead concentrate your efforts on other, lower hanging fruit such as SEO, content marketing and social media. Although mobile is a hot topic right now, the traffic that you can expect to receive from mobile is still not quite enough to make it the core focus for a small business. Instead, go back to mobile after you’ve exhausted all the low hanging fruit offering much larger audience potential.
For additional marketing insights from Patel, visit his blog at QuickSprout.com.