Why is SEO for startups different?
The simple truth is that startups do require different SEO strategies than well-established companies or well-known brands. After all, while they’re still operating in a competitive market, it’s important they find their own place among their industry’s giants. Their environment is also very dynamic; consequently, they need a flexible strategy that can meet their challenging SEO requirements. (SEO efforts also need time, actually.)
In my experience, people who work in startups have a wholly unique and refreshing approach. They are fascinated with their innovative products or services. They are really surprised to discover their online visibility does not appear as rapidly and effortlessly as new ideas in their minds.
What I like the most about working with startups is the fact that their teams are active, energised and ready for a change. Thanks to their adaptive, flexible nature, they can make decisions faster (and, sometimes, a very risky ones, indeed,) which, goes a long way towards surviving in their turbulent and chaotic environment.
I have prepared some useful tips that will help you plan your SEO strategy for startup projects. All these recommendations are based on my own experience and observations as a SEO specialist so, having used them myself, I welcome you to try them, too.
Measure the progress
Your SEO efforts must deliver the results. Therefore, the first step should be setting up the Google Analytics account and Google Search Console.
Google Analytics is free and will display detailed information about the traffic on your website. It gives you a clear view of the sources of traffic on your website (organic, PPC, social etc.) and you can easily monitor which channels need improvement or are the most effective. You should also set up goals to track eg. forms sent, newsletter sign-ups, or purchases. With low traffic, you need any hint or idea about which keywords or topics are converting best. Gathering this priceless conversion data as soon as possible will help you avoid going in the wrong direction.
Google Search Console collects the data and offers vital information on how GoogleBots see your website. In the reports, you will find data about indexation, crawling, internal linking, and the website’s appearance in Google search results.
Comparing data will give you an instant answer about the progress of your business.
Describe your products and services in normal words
I’ve observed that many websites don’t directly say what they offer. Using metaphors that figuratively describe what you offer is not a good idea. GoogleBots (and users too) may have problems with understanding what the content is about.
People involved in startups are often unaware that the message on their website is not clear or easy to understand. However, there’s a simple test that always works. You should ask yourself this question:
“How’d I explain to my mom what the product does or what my services are?”
Not easy, right? While it may be difficult, effective communication is nonetheless important. You should always describe your offer in as simple words as possible.
Could be helpful:
Choose proper keywords
Choosing the right keywords is seldom an easy thing to accomplish. This is especially true for startups, as it’s difficult to predict the exact queries your potential customers will use to search for your product. At the beginning, your customers won’t even be aware of your product’s existence. This means that, probably, people won’t search for phrases you have in mind while thinking about your product.
How to solve this problem?
- Try to describe the product or the offer with longer phrases. For example, you should be focused on its particular features. Very often, people don’t precisely know what they are looking for, leading them to ask Google about “the best software for creating cartoon drawings,” etc.
- Try to associate your innovative offer with well-known products. It should give potential customers a hint, even if just a slight one, what your products are used for. Try to present your offer as an alternative to other services; people not satisfied with them will search for phrases: “Alternative to …..” and there’s a great opportunity to present your offer!
Useful keywords for keyword researches:
Find your competitors
I know you may think that your product is so innovative that you won’t have to compete. That’s not the typical case, however. It may be true that your offer is unique, but you will compete with other websites for the same keywords.
If your keyword research is done, you can check what appears on these queries. You have to check if you compete with blog articles or landing pages within some website. It should give you an idea what kind of content you should create to start ranking for these phrases or similar queries.
You can also find your competitors with these tools:
Flood the internet with high quality content
You have to keep in mind that, at the beginning, you’ll have to inform the world about your awesome products. The best way to present all the features, advantages, usability, etc. is through creating high-quality content. Articles, videos, explainers, infographics - all these things are really welcome.
First of all, you should have all the necessary information about the product on your website. You should create written content and accompany it with additional materials (these include: videos, graphics, infographics, etc.) It’s a great idea to have an official blog with articles about the products, news in the niche, tips and advice, etc. An FAQ or Q&A sections is also perfect for answering user’s questions and acquiring long-tail traffic. Another idea is to create a glossary with the most important phrases in your niche or white papers with deep insight into the particular issue.
All these things will enrich your website (Google favours websites stuffed with high-quality materials) and help you in gaining long-tail traffic.
Apart from Keyword Research tools you can use:
There are numerous examples of websites or applications that look and perform amazingly, yet haven’t appeared in the search results. The reason for this is the technology. For example, websites with dynamic content, built with AJAX, do not work well with Google’s search algorithm.
Despite of some improvements in crawling dynamic content made by Google, we still can’t be sure how much its robots ‘understand’ dynamic-loading content. We have plenty of evidence that Google may incorrectly index the dynamic content on the website. Yet the reasons themselves can be quite broad and numerous.
I would recommend caution when it comes to similar announcements. You will invest a huge amount of money in developing a website with no guarantee that Google will see the content correctly.
If you have the possibility, speak to an SEO agency for the best options. It’s better to ask before developing the whole website, rather than implementing core changes when the website is ready.
Strategy for international startups
One of the biggest dilemmas in the international SEO is choosing between one global domain for a website or many regional TLDs. You have to know that there are many solutions that you can choose while building language versions of your website:
- Keep it on subdomains, eg., de.example.com pl.example.com etc
- Keep it on regional domains, eg., example.de example.pl
- Keep it on one global domain in local directories, eg., example.com/de/ example.com/pl/
Based on our experience we’d recommend the last solution. Keeping all the language versions in one domain makes the website’s whole SEO managing process much easier. You have to care about ONE domain instead of MANY local domains. Furthermore, this solution significantly complicates all analysis made by your competitors - it’s very difficult to identify your SEO strategy. The next advantage is gathering all the authority within one domain, rather than dispersing it between many domains or subdomains. Whichever solution you choose, though, remember about the proper usage of hreflangs: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/189077?hl=en
Additionally, here’s the case study of an international startup that decided to move all local domains to one global domain: https://en.onpage.org/blog/one-global-domain-vs-multiple-tlds-for-an-international-brand-841-visibility-boost-case-study
Conquer your niche with small steps
This approach is strictly connected to the tip number 3 - keyword research and keyword targeting. What I have in mind is the fact that, at the beginning, you can’t fight with a giant for the traffic from extremely competitive keywords. I’m almost sure that any brand new domain won’t appear in TOP3 for phrases like “flat for rent” (even in spite of the extremely innovative services or products you offer.)
What I can recommend in that case is conquering the search results with smaller steps. These small steps mean less competitive keywords, which will give you the real chance to appear in Google’s search results. Many times, it means looking for opportunities in long-tail, complex phrases.
After some time, when your website will gain stable visibility on less competitive keywords, you can look around for some new, more lucrative keywords.
I know that I will break the rules of many SEO experts who say that valuable keywords should have 100 searches per month at least. Often, long tail traffic is based on the keywords that have much fewer searches than that. Yet, here is some good information for you - those keywords drive the most valuable traffic, because long terms are specific and narrow. People know what they are looking for and are about to make the purchase!
- Small steps are better than fighting for traffic that is too difficult to compete for at the beginning
- Content plays a key role - it will increase the quality of your website and deliver long-tail traffic as well
- It’s always better to consult a specialist before developing your website, rather than implementing core changes first and requiring a larger budget to redevelop it after it’s done.