In 2017, approximately 61% of marketers said that improving their SEO and their organic presence was their top inbound marketing priority. But even for large corporations, SEO takes time and energy -- not to mention a realistic budget.
While SEO offers an excellent ROI long-term, it's important to note that good SEO doesn't happen overnight. And, like any successful marketing strategy, you need an appropriate budget to succeed.
That's why many startups believe that search engine optimization isn't worth the investment. That's a huge misconception.
It's entirely possible to create a successful SEO strategy, even with a limited budget. In fact, startups and small businesses arguably stand to benefit the most from search engine optimization because it's a time investment more than an investment of dollars.
Because startups don't have name recognition on their side, digital marketing will play an incredibly important role in how much their business grows -- or doesn't.
In short, if you want to improve your search rankings and your brand recognition, you need to invest in SEO. The SEO strategies used by startups and large companies may differ, of course, but the need for SEO doesn't change just because you're new to the market.
Quite the opposite, in fact. You just need to be smart about how you spend your budget to ensure you're getting the ROI you need. To that end, here are some essential SEO tips every startup needs to know (and use).
Create Excellent Content
There are certain must-haves just about every site needs. Yours will typically need a home page, an about page, a services or products page, a contact page, and perhaps many others. But your site also needs a blog.
A lot of businesses don't think they have anything to blog about or don't quite understand why anyone in their industry would be interested in reading their posts. But regularly updated blog posts are one of the best ways to boost your SEO without having to spend a lot of money.
Google likes to reward websites that are updated frequently and that contain relevant, interesting information. Blogging allows you to achieve both of those goals. Your posts can be educational or entertaining, with a mix of infographics, video content, and long-form content mixed in with your typical company announcements.
Not sure what to write about? Do some research into a simple question: what problems are my customers trying to solve? If you can provide solutions to their problems or answer the search queries they're typing in, you'll be more likely to have your content read and shared.
Don't forget: blog posts also provide the ideal opportunity for keyword usage. Once you've conducted thorough keyword research and determined which search terms to target, you can organically work those terms into your blog posts.
If you do it correctly, you may be able to improve your search rankings on those terms and increase your traffic overall. Blogging might seem like a simple aspect of an SEO strategy (and in some ways, it is), but that doesn't mean it's not valuable. Don't dismiss blogging; it's definitely not dead.
Understand the Value of Long-Tail Keywords
Now you know that every business -- regardless of size or budgetary constraints -- needs a blog. What you include on that blog will differ depending on your industry and a lot of other factors.
But one thing that's a universal element for any blog is the use of carefully researched and organically implemented keywords.
Conducting keyword research can be a complex process (which is just one reason why even startups should work with an SEO agency!). Targeting the wrong kinds of keywords can result in wasted time and money. But targeting the right kinds of keywords can allow you to improve your overall web visibility.
For startups, specifically, highly competitive keywords probably aren't a great choice. The broader the term, the more competitive it typically is. When your budget can't compare to a large corporation in your industry, you're probably not going to edge out their page one rankings. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use these terms at all in your web copy, however.
They can add important context clues that show Google how relevant your content is. But when you're focused on search ranking factors, it's important to be realistic.
Neil Patel stresses the importance of long-tail keywords for startups. These longer search terms (usually containing three to five words) can really help you zero in on what your customers want to know.
You'll gain a better understanding of the behaviors of those users when they're online, which means you'll be in a better position to capture their attention and appeal to their interests.
Instead of trying to target a generic search term that points to one of your products or services, use that generic term as part of a longer keyword. Often, these keywords can determine the topics you'll write about on your blog.
Ultimately, that means your strategy will be more focused and you'll have to spend less time finding topics to write about. Plus, you'll be more likely to rank on those less-competitive keywords while still capturing user interest.
Look For Off-Site SEO Opportunities
There's a lot of work that needs to be done on your own website for the sake of SEO. You need to prioritize a high-quality user experience by making your site navigation simple and ensuring essential information is easy to find.
You'll also need to ensure your site is consistent for mobile users and that your site doesn't disregard any rules Google has laid out. You can do all the SEO work you want, but if your site is a total eyesore or doesn't help consumers who visit, they'll immediately hit the "back" button on their browser.
But while you definitely need to optimize your site, there's also a lot of ground to be covered offsite. When you're a startup, it may be tough to get noticed. And because SEO, whether it be national or local SEO, is a long-term strategy, you probably aren't going to see results for several months.
That can be a tough pill to swallow.
By supplementing your onsite efforts with offsite ones, you'll be able to execute a more versatile and successful digital marketing strategy.
Registering your site with Google's webmaster tools such as Google My Business will also ensure that the work you're doing on your own site can translate into higher visibility in search.
You may even consider running some pay-per-click (PPC) ads as a complement to your organic SEO efforts, though that's not always feasible for startups with limited budgets.
One of the most effective ways to gain traffic back to your site and boost your authority is to provide guest blogs or other shareable content for established websites. It's a plus for them (assuming your content is relevant to their readers) because they'll get a piece that will engage their audience.
It's a plus for you because you'll get a link back to your website and an implied endorsement from that site that tells Google you're trustworthy. Not only can this help to build your reputation, but you'll also build connections with other businesses at the same time.
Don't forget about social media, either. In the digital age, businesses need to establish accounts on the major social media networks and update them regularly with high-quality photos and engaging content.
Startups often turn to social media because the platforms are free to use (even social ads are fairly affordable). There are a lot of ways to grow your following on social media (including reaching out to influencers for collaborations), which can ultimately translate to increased traffic and higher conversion rates -- particularly for eCommerce startups (see: eCommerce SEO Services or Magento SEO Services).
Because social media is more community based, it provides an excellent way for you to connect more deeply with potential customers and really find your voice.
And while having a huge following won't necessarily improve your search ranking for a certain term, it can bring a lot more people to your site and help you be seen as more of an authority in your industry (even if you're technically the new kid on the block).
No matter how established your business may be offline or how much experience you've had, improving your search rankings can be a real challenge. Startups are unique in that they usually have a limited budget to work with.
They may also be on a time crunch, meaning they can't afford to waste their efforts on techniques that won't pay off. If you've started a new business, you shouldn't wait to prioritize your website development and your SEO strategy.