SEO Essentials for Startups: Building a Strong Online Foundation

Category: How-tos

Search engine optimization (SEO) may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you’re just starting out. By focusing on some core essentials, your startup can build a strong online foundation that’ll serve you well into the future. 

As startups have limited resources, you want to ensure the time and money you spend on SEO deliver results efficiently. The good news is you don’t need to master advanced tactics right away. Start with the basics and a few smart strategies below:

Craft valuable content from the ground up

While a lot goes into effective SEO, quality content should be the cornerstone. Before getting occupied with technical optimizations, you must first create content that delivers actual value to readers.

Helpful, engaging content not only converts visitors into leads and customers but also earns links, social shares, and word-of-mouth—critical for SEM growth. So, focus on creating blog posts, videos, guides, and other content that answers questions and solves pain points for your target audience.

You can create content in-house, conducting keyword research to identify topics your audience is searching for. But if you want to save time and resources, work with a digital marketing agency with the expertise and tools to align keyword research and content creation with your business’s specific needs and goals.  

Look for long-tail keywords specific to your products or services for initial content. Long-tail keywords are more niche, targeted phrases like “small business accounting tips” rather than just “accounting.” These specific phrases bring in more relevant organic traffic, have lower competition, and convert visitors better. 

Learn what questions your niche is asking online and create content centered around those informational needs. Answer people’s questions better than competitors, provide actionable advice, break down complex topics, or share little-known tricks. Useful “how to” articles and educational content almost always work.

Optimize all aspects of your website

With quality content in hand, ensure your website itself is search-engine friendly. Follow technical SEO best practices so search bots can easily crawl, index, and understand your pages. This allows them to match pages with relevant search queries. 

Some key areas to optimize include:

  • Page titles and meta descriptions: Create catchy, keyword-rich titles under 60 characters. Accurately summarize pages in meta descriptions of under 160 characters using target phrases. These snippets visible on search engines should compel clicks. 
  • URL structure: Use descriptive URLs with hyphenated versions of main keywords instead of generic URLs or numbers/symbols. For example, “online-accounting-tips” rather than “blog376.”
  • Headings: Properly structure pages using relevant target keywords in your H1 and H2 headings. Don’t keyword stuff, but strategically optimize. 
  • Image SEO: Use alt text descriptions and file names containing focus keywords for images/visuals on the site. 
  • Site architecture: Have a simple, easy-to-navigate information architecture so bots can crawl all pages efficiently. Ensure site navigation links to all parts of your site. 
  • Page speed: Faster loading speeds improve visitor experience and search visibility. Optimize images, enable compression, minimize redirects, fix broken links – aim for sub-three-second load times. 
  • Mobile responsiveness: With over 60% of searches now on mobile devices, ensure your website is mobile-friendly and responsively designed. 

Leveraging these technical optimizations signals search engines on relevancy for ranking potential while establishing SEO best practices.

Conduct ongoing keyword research

As your startup grows, you’ll want to continually expand into new content categories. Ongoing keyword research is crucial for identifying new opportunities. 

While starting off targeting longer phrases with lower monthly searches, you can target additional mid-tail phrases over time, driving larger volumes of traffic. Use keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMrush, and Moz’s Keyword Explorer to expand your list. 

Analyze what keywords competitors rank for, as well as suggestions from tools based on your offerings. Cluster these into topics and themes and directional content efforts.

It helps create an editorial calendar or content plan around these clusters. Track keyword metrics over time after creating content targeting a phrase to optimize accordingly.

Promote content the right way

Just creating amazing content isn’t enough, unfortunately. You also have to promote it to maximize reach. This, in turn, accelerates search engine visibility through increased engagement metrics and external signals like backlinks. 

Promote freshly published posts across your startup’s social media channels. Run targeted ads for your content. Seek referrals from existing customer networks to share relevant posts.

An impactful strategy is blogger outreach—actively reaching out to industry influencers and experts, requesting they view and possibly link to or reference your content if relevant for their audience. Securing backlinks to content from quality sites helps immensely, especially early on. 

Guest posting on authority websites also helps build quality backlinks, leading to direct referral traffic while reinforcing expertise and brand visibility. 

Monitor brand mentions, hashtags, and keywords using tools like Mention or BuzzSumo. When others share your content without links, politely request they link back to the source. All this inbound link-building bolsters domain authority ranking-wise.

Master local SEO fundamentals

For location-based startups targeting customers in specific regions, local SEO should be integral to strategy. Half of mobile searches are local intent-driven, so begin optimizing for local search visibility early. 

Start with Google My Business profile, which is completely filled out with accurate business information and location. Expand into other directory listings like Yelp and niche citation websites relevant to your industry with consistently matching NAP or “name, address, and phone number” details across sites. 

Create unique, locally flavored content like “top 10 accounting firms in Ohio,” optimizing for geo-targeted keywords. Ensure location pages highlight the same NAP details.  

Encourage customer reviews and local engagement through check-ins or tagging locations in their social posts. Positive local signals get integrated into search relevancy and map pack rankings.

Set up location tracking tools

Like standard SEO, track how local efforts translate through key metrics using Google Analytics and Google Search Console. 

Additionally, leverage location data analytics to optimize further: 

  • Google My Business insights: Provide a snapshot of local search performance—impressions, clicks to call/directions, customers’ actions, and reviews
  • Google Analytics location-based reports: Track store/location website traffic sources, on-site behavior, and conversions specifically for geographical areas
  • Moz Local: Tracks local rankings, including map pack results for target keywords and locations

Monitoring local search analytics allows for an understanding of customer actions by region to tailor localized content and promotional initiatives.

Adopt an agile, data-led approach 

Unlike larger corporations, startups need to take an adaptable, iterative approach towards SEO. Analyze metrics, pivot where necessary, double down on what delivers results, and test new tactics.

Set up free accounts with tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Moz, which provide data on search visibility. Additionally, use rank-tracking software to monitor keyword rankings monthly. 

Key metrics to track progress include: 

  • Organic traffic: Total visitors from search engines monthly. Shows content visibility. 
  • Rankings: What key terms does your site rank for, and do their positions indicate authority strength? 
  • Backlinks: Quality links secured from external domains over time. Valuable referral source. 
  • Lead growth: Search-generated conversions for email signups, content downloads, purchases, etc. The true test on ROI of SEO efforts. 

Analyze this data to shape content development, technical fixes, and promotional initiatives. Which pieces move the needle and which don’t? Double down on what delivers tangible outcomes.

Convert visitors into leads and customers

While climbing rankings is great, SEO success is best measured by visitors that actually convert into leads, signups, and paying customers. So, focus on conversion rate optimization as you scale organic growth. 

Some quick wins—ensure forms are easy to find with clear calls-to-action across the site, reduce barriers with minimal fields needed, or provide lead magnet content upgrades in exchange for email contacts after reading blog posts. 

Optimizing user experience using on-site behavior data prevents visitors from leaving without desired actions. Over time, craft customer journeys tailored to search visitor segments once analytics reveal conversion drop-off points.

In closing

The key takeaway is that SEO for startups is an iterative, adaptable process centered around understanding and fulfilling user intent through search. By focusing efforts on optimizing technical foundations and consistently providing quality content tailored to answering audience questions and achieving business outcomes, sustainable organic growth can be built over time. 

Stay agile by monitoring key metrics, double down on what delivers results, and keep learning, but don’t overcomplicate initial execution. If the core emphasis is solving for the user, increased rankings and conversions will follow through continually refining the experience.

Santiago Henostroza

Marketing Manager at Startupxplore, with experience in journalism, media, advertising and marketing agencies. Passionate about metrics, ways of communicating and innovation.

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