It’s a common challenge for early-stage and growing startups to find the resources and the time to focus on many different activities that can take their business to the next level. It’s also easy to feel lost among all the tasks, being unable to decide where to start.
SEO is sometimes ignored as an activity when it comes to setting priorities, but it can be very useful in:
- establishing your startup’s authority
- reaching a wider audience
- building traffic and brand awareness
- improving engagement
- generating interest in your business
This is an overview of how startups or new businesses can get started with SEO by following a series of steps that can help them improve their online presence and find a new audience.
Set your goals
One of the most important steps when starting with SEO is to align it with your wider goals. It’s useful to set initial goals for what you want to achieve with your content to explore how to involve SEO in the process.
These goals have to be measurable and clear to help you decide on specific ways to achieve them. For example:
- Double the number of visitors to the site in the next quarter
- Increase blog traffic by 30% in the next three months
- Generate interest from 20 new prospects in the next month
- Increase sales by 20% until the end of the year
The next step is to examine how content fits each goal and what that means for SEO.
For example, if your first goal is doubling the number of visitors in the next quarter, it’s important to build awareness through different channels in order to increase the traffic back to the site. This can be achieved by creating more targeted content, which can also be optimized for search engines.
Once your goals are set, it’s useful to explore how SEO can help the wider business.
Keyword research can help you discover new content opportunities, while it can also improve your existing content.
The focus on the right audience and the right content brings an understanding of the content that they’re more likely to consume. That’s when the keyword research can become more useful to provide you with content ideas and new opportunities to rise in the top of search.
You can start by creating an “ideal list” of the keywords you want to target. Chances are that this list will consist of many popular keywords, which means that it will probably be harder to reach the top of the search results as a new startup. The next step is to use a tool to perform the actual keyword research and find new opportunities for keywords to target.
Long tail keywords may offer more chances to show up higher in the search results, while you can also perform manual searches on your own to test the first pages of the keywords you want to target. This will allow you to understand how SEO can work for your target audience and what types of pages ranked higher in SERPs.
A keyword research can also be the start of your content planning, by producing more keyword-focused content in an authentic yet strategic way that can position your business higher in search results.
Analyze your existing content
An important next step is to create an overview of your existing content – any blog posts, or general pieces of copy you’ve created to promote your business. This allows you to spot any content gaps or pieces of content that need to be updated or even removed.
A content inventory allows you to organize every piece of content that exists on your site. This makes it easier to create a content audit for SEO purposes, to explore how your content currently performs and how you can improve it.
A content audit can be a spreadsheet that features all your published content and it can include:
- Page URL
- Page title
- Meta description
- Type of content
- Condition of content – Evergreen, out of date, re-used, off-topic, etc.
If you still haven’t written meta descriptions or set the conditions of each piece of content, then these can be filled gradually, as you start organizing your SEO strategy. Still, they can be very useful in having them all together in one spreadsheet, even when you fill them later on.
Check for errors
There are many possible errors that can affect your content’s SEO. That’s why it’s a good idea to spot and fix any issues, including:
There’s a danger that duplicate content will cannibalize the keywords you want to target in search. Duplicate content can be a problem on your own site, but also with any guest posts that you submit to other websites for backlinks – make sure that they don’t resemble your original piece of content too heavily. We’ll talk more about backlinks later on in this post.
It’s easy to have a broken image on your site, especially if you’re sharing it from an external source. That’s why it’s useful to check your pages for missing images, improving the first impressions of your content.
404 error pages
A page that’s no longer working can affect your site’s rankings in search engines, but also user experience and the engagement. If you recently migrated content or changed any URLs, you may need to check for any 404 error pages that you’re not aware of.
In fact, you can even turn them into a content marketing asset or add a fun element to them. For more on this, see Stuart Shaw’s excellent guide, ‘How to create the perfect 404 page‘.
As with broken images, broken links can harm your site’s reputation, but also the user experience. A broken link can affect your page’s ranking. Luckily it’s easy to discover broken links and fix them with tools such as Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider and Moz Pro.
There are many ways to optimize your content for search engines. The so-called on-site SEO can be improved with a number of fixes:
The structure of your URL can affect both your page’s ranking, but also the user experience. Thus, it’s a good idea to create clear and readable URLs, both for humans, but also for search engines. For example, this url www.example.com/seo-best-practices is better than this one www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=360&sid=4j3898enno0223bns983201djis03
The title of each page should be clear, concise and descriptive. It can improve both the traffic on your page, but also the ranking provided that the rest of the text matches the title’s expectations.
A focus on the formatting of your page can facilitate the crawling for search engines, while it also enhances the readability for your readers. For example, the headings can make the scanning of the content easier, creating a smoother experience and a clear structure.
Meta tags are the HTML elements that search engines and visitors find your content. It’s what they can see in a search engine and thus, it’s important to add value in a limited number of characters. The title and the description should perfectly describe the topic.