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Many startups fail. Some fail because their products aren’t a good fit for the market. Others experience slow growth and can’t secure later-stage funding. Increasingly, however, as search engine marketing and the need to be found online becomes a higher priority, many startups fail because their websites aren’t effectively optimized through search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is complicated
Admittedly, search engine optimization isn’t typically a DIY project. It’s not something you can knock out over the weekend before your startup launches. For one thing, the rules search engines use to determine which sites gain the highest rankings are complex and often difficult to understand.
For another, those rules are continually changing as shown in the dozens of Google algorithm updates since 2000: Penguin, Possum, Rank Brain, the AdWords Shakeup and, more recently, Google’s “mobile first” initiative.
Start with the basics
That said, there are some fundamental aspects of search engine optimization which will improve your rankings and help your business be found in online searches. Here are the top 5 SEO tips:
- Identify target keywords
The goal is to identify the keywords and keyword phrases your customers are typing into search engines when they look for your products and services. Some of these will be obvious (like the name of a product or service you offer, plus the city in which your business is located). You can get help with other keywords with using keyword research tools, which will help you find the best long tail keywords.
After you’ve identified the best keywords, integrate them into your site’s page titles, heading tags and body content in a natural way. Don’t overuse your keywords because search engines will penalize you for “keyword stuffing.”
- Create customer-friendly, relevant content
Content improves SEO because it gives you an opportunity to use your targeted keywords organically. Strong content helps SEO in another way: when you engage customers with useful information, your bounce rate goes down and the amount of time people spend on your site goes up, both of which impress search engines and increase your rankings.
- Increase off-page search engine optimization by building backlinks
Backlinks are other websites which link to the pages on your site. Backlinks are important to search engines, because they show that others consider what you have on your site valuable. The more backlinks you have, and the more authoritative they are, the more it improves your SEO.
One of the best places to start is to find out where your competitors are getting their backlinks. You can use tools like Majestic SEO or Moz’s Open Site Explorer to find this valuable information. You shouldn’t match their strategy, link-for-link, but rather customize their linking sources to your own business strengths.
- Perfect on-page SEO with small adjustments
Effective on-page SEO begins with making sure search engines understand what your site is about and can properly index your pages. Optimize technical elements of your pages by starting title tags with your keyword, utilizing H1 and H2 tags to organize headings and choosing SEO-friendly URL structures. SEO authority, Brian Dean, created this helpful infographic for creating perfect on-page SEO.
- Measure results for continual improvement
As with any marketing strategy, search engine optimization is not a one-and-done deal. You must find out what’s working, and what isn’t, and that means carefully measuring results. One of the best ways to do that is by installing Google Analytics on every page of your website. With Google Analytics’ easy to navigate dashboard, you can quickly learn how many people are reading your content, completing an online form, how many unique visitors you have, and even where they live. Test various landing pages and types of form fills.
Improving your SEO strategy should lead to higher rankings and more traffic. SEO works with other components of an inbound marketing strategy like social media, content marketing and pay-per-click advertising, to help increase online exposure and grow your business.