Turning a startup into a success is hard, extremely hard. In 2019 the failure rate for startups was 90%, with 21.5% of startups failing within their first year in business, 30% in the second year, 50% in the fifth year, and 70% by their 10th year. One of the leading reasons for startup failure is poor marketing, with 14% of startups going out of business because of unsuccessful marketing.
Even if a startup successfully achieves product-market fit, they still need to ensure their target customers can discover their product and their website, which is where SEO comes in. SEO can bring a startup a steady stream of consistent leads when implemented correctly. Despite this, it’s a channel often overlooked by many companies, which is surprising particularly when you consider that 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine.
To ensure your target customers can find your website, we’ve put together this guide detailing how you can get customers using SEO in 2022. So read on and discover how you can boost your business’s search engine rankings.
What factors affect a website’s SEO?
There are over 200 ranking factors that impact a website’s ranking, and these factors can largely be divided into three main categories:
Technical SEO – this encompasses anything that has an impact on the ability of search engines to access your website. In other words, technical SEO encompasses everything that goes into keeping your website technically safe and secure. Technical SEO factors include:
- Page loading speed
- HTTPS codes
- XML sitemaps
- Your website’s mobile-friendliness
- Your websites usability and user experience
On-page SEO – in simple terms, on-page SEO is your content, and it encompasses everything on a web page that affects the page’s content. To rank well, a web page’s on-page SEO needs to be optimized. Common on-page SEO factors include:
- Title tags
- A web page URL
- Meta descriptions
- Header tags
- Image optimization
Off-page SEO – off-page SEO takes into account everything that a website owner or administrator and others do away from the website in question to raise the ranking of a page. Common off-page SEO factors include:
- Link building
- Promoting a website on social media
- Guest blogging
- Ratings and reviews management
- Influencer marketing
So, how do you improve your website’s SEO?
Carry out an SEO audit
Before devising a plan to improve your website’s search rankings, it’s important to monitor and record key SEO metrics to be aware of to get an idea of how your website is currently performing. Start your audit by recording the following metrics:
- Organic traffic
- Rankings of your chosen keywords, or keywords you’re trying to rank for
- SERP visibility
- Click-through rate
- Bounce rate
- Page speed
- Time spent on page
- Conversion rate
If you’ve launched your startup, you’ll already have a company website and may already be getting a percentage of your business through it. Even if you’re content with how your website is performing and the traffic and leads it’s bringing, carrying out regular SEO audits will help you identify areas of improvement and help you spot opportunities for future lead generation. If you’re not happy with the amount of traffic your website brings, then auditing your website is a must.
Audit your website’s technical performance
After recording your website metrics, take some time to measure and analyze your website’s technical performance. Doing this will inform you of the general health of your website and show you what fixes you need to make.
Unfortunately, we can’t cover every step involved in a technical SEO audit in this post, but here are three steps you can take to get the process started:
#1 Crawl your website
You should start any technical SEO audit by using an SEO crawling tool to crawl your website. An SEO crawler will help you find errors such as broken links, poor quality or missized images, page title issues, duplicate content, excessive redirects, multiple website domains, unlinked pages and more.
There are plenty of SEO crawling tools on the market that you can use depending on your budget, some of the best include:
#2 Check how many of your web pages are indexed
Performing a manual search for your website will tell you how many pages a search engine has indexed for your domain. The search will tell you how many of your pages a search engine is crawling and gives you a good indication of the number of pages from your website that will show up in search results. You’ll need to type your website name into a search engine to do this.
For example, if I wanted to see how many pages are being indexed by Google for this website, I would type in ‘site:serpmaniac.com’, and Google will tell me how many pages it’s indexing.
If the number of pages returned is lower than expected, then it may indicate that some of the pages on your website are not being indexed correctly, and users won’t come across them in search results. If you want to see if a specific page is, you can do this by using a similar search formula to the one we used above; the only variation is that it would use the URL of the specific web page you’re checking rather than the URL of your website.
If I wanted to see whether the Serpmaniac blog is indexed correctly, I would enter the following query into Google: ‘site:https://serpmaniac.com/blog/’.
The search results indicate that Google indexes the page as it’s the only search result displayed (minus the Google promotion) when I search for it using the site:https://serpmaniac.com/blog/ search query, meaning users will be able to find the blog if they search for it.
If you find out that Google isn’t indexing the pages you need it to or isn’t indexing a specific page, then you’ll need to carry out steps to correct this. Ahrefs guide titled ‘10 Ways to Get Google to Index Your Site (That Actually Work)’ is a great resource to check out to find out the steps you’ll need to take to do this.
Using Google Search Console to check is a page has been indexed
You can also see the pages Google has indexed by simply creating a Google search console account and adding in your domain as a property. Then move to ‘coverage’ and you will see a list of the URLs that have been indexed and also a list of what has not been:
You can also simply use the search bar to search the URL you want to check and the result should come back looking something like this:
#3 Test the speed of your website
It’s frustrating when you land on a website you want to visit only to find that it takes an age to load. If your website or any pages on your site are slow to load, then people will simply exit your website and most likely not return.
Luckily testing your website’s speed is pretty straightforward; you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool to test the speed of a website. Enter the web page’s URL, hit analyze, and Google’s tool will give you a breakdown of your page’s performance and recommendations on how to improve your website’s speed.
Once you put your website’s URL in, the results will come up like this:
You will get different results for mobile and desktop speed as well as ways to improve both.
Some quick tips that you can implement to improve the speed of your website are:
- Invest in a high-quality hosting provider ( I would recommend BigScoots as a dependable option)
- Reduce your redirects
- Optimize your images (You can use a plug-in like Short Pixel to help you with this)
- Keep your plugins updated and remove unnecessary plugins
- Enable browser caching (WP Rocket is the best caching plugin I know of)
If you’re looking to carry out a full technical SEO audit, Search Engine Journals ‘How to Perform an In-Depth Technical SEO Audit’ is a great resource to check out.
Carry out a content audit and prioritize creating high quality content
After carrying out a thorough technical audit of your website and fixing any outstanding issues, you can then move on to content creation and auditing the current content on your website, should you have any.
A content audit refers to collecting and analyzing the existing content on your website; this can include blog posts, case studies, landing pages, and any other piece of content that brings visitors to your website. Content audits are useful for seeing how your content is performing, uncovering areas of your website that aren’t optimized for search engines, and giving you or your team insights into the type of content your visitors and customers consume.
The first thing you’ll need to do is put together a document where you can record all the findings of your audit. HubSpot and Search Engine Journal have good content audit templates that you can find here and here respectively.
Within your document, you’ll want to collect the following information for each piece of content:
- Who produced the content/who was involved in the creation process
- Content goal
- Word count
You’ll also want to take note of key data points for each piece of content; these include:
- Number of social shares
- Organic traffic (ideally a monthly breakdown)
- Bounce rate
- Time on page
- Unique visitors
- Traffic sources
- Pages per session
- New vs returning users
Auditing existing pieces of content should also give you the opportunity to improve the on-page SEO of your existing pieces of content. For each piece of content, try and make sure you:
- Include your target keyword in your URL
- Have a descriptive meta description
- Use short URLs
- Place your primary keyword in your title tag
- Use your primary keyword once in the first 100-150 words of your content
- Use your keyword in H1, H2 or H3 tags
- Optimize images by using image alt tags
- Place internal and external links within your content
Creating high-quality content
Once you’ve audited your existing content, you can turn your focus towards creating new content, and once you know what creating high-quality content entails, you can update any existing content on your site.
Before you create any new pieces of content, you should try and have some goals in mind for the piece of content you’re creating. Try to avoid generic sounding goals such as ‘keeping our blog active’; each piece of content you create should be produced with a broader marketing objective in mind. For example, your goal for producing a blog post may be to educate your audience on a particular topic; this goal may well fit into a more comprehensive marketing objective of gaining a certain amount of leads from the content you’re producing.
Your objective for a piece of content will also help determine the type of content you create. For example, if you’re looking to gain more backlinks to your website, you may prioritize creating guest posts that you can get published on popular websites within your industry.
Or, if you’re looking to educate your audience on a particular topic, you may want to prioritize creating long-form content (2000+ words) that requires a lot of detail and education.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that you want to create content that’ll improve your organic search results. Here are the steps you need to take to do this:
#1 Decide who you are creating content for
The first step in the content creation process is taking the time to figure out who you’re creating content for. You can do this by conducting persona research to come up with buyer personas. When you know your target audience, you can produce more relevant and valuable content that your audience will want to read and make them more likely to convert.
Here are some tips on gathering the information you’ll need to create your personas:
- Look through your current customer base to identify any common characteristics they may share, such as job title and industry.
- Interview your customers and prospects to find out what they like about your product, why they bought it or are thinking of buying it, any information they can share on your competitors and any feedback they have on your product or any features/improvements they’d like to see.
- Interview your sales team to see if they have any feedback on the leads they’re interacting with, such as what industry are the leads in? What position do they hold? What questions are they asking?
You can also use tools such as Google Analytics to get a deeper understanding of your visitors by accessing demographic data such as age and gender.
#2 Carry out keyword research
If you want your content to rank well, you need to carry out keyword research before writing your content. Keyword research involves finding keywords and phrases that people are searching for that are relevant to your business and the topic you’re writing about. Ideally, you’ll want to target low competition, high-volume keywords to base your content around.
Low competition/high-volume keywords are keywords or phrases that many people are searching for but are not utilized by many websites or pieces of content. SEO tools such as Ahrefs can help make keyword research easy by estimating how hard a particular keyword or keyphrase will be to rank for. For example, the keyword difficulty feature in Ahrefs ranks the difficulty of a keyword from 1-100. The higher the percentage, the more competition for the keyword, and the harder it will be to rank for.
Here is an example:
If the keyword you’re looking at is ranked 70 and above, then it’s going to be extremely hard to rank for it unless your website is already established, but it’s virtually impossible to do if you’re creating a website from scratch.
If the keyword is between 50-70, it will still be somewhat challenging to rank for, but not impossible. With a comprehensive SEO strategy and by creating high-quality content and relevant backlinks, it’s certainly possible to outrank your competition.
Keywords that have a rating of less than 50 will be considerably easier to rank for, but these keywords can be tricky to find. Ahrefs can also help you with that. You can search a keyword, go into matching terms and then use the settings to find keywords within your target range.
For example, sticking with the keyword ‘finance’, if you go to ‘matching terms’, you will find a list of keywords here:
Now, let’s change the traffic potential (a better metric than volume since it takes into account all of the keywords you could potentially rank for– not just the main keyword) and keyword difficulty to anything below 50. You have now got a list of potential keywords to rank for:
#3 Determine search intent
Once you know the topic/s you want to cover in a piece of content and the keywords you’ll be targeting, it’s time to look at the highest-ranking content currently out there for your chosen topic to help you determine your audience’s search intent.
For example, if you type in ‘how to carry out keyword research’, the top three results that show up in Google are guides on how to carry out keyword research from HubSpot, Ahrefs, and Moz.
From this, it can be inferred that people searching for this phrase are looking to learn how to carry out keyword research. SEMRush states that you can break down search intent into four main types:
- Informational — the searcher is looking for specific information on a topic.
- Navigational — the searcher is looking for a particular web page or site.
- Commercial — the searcher is considering a purchase and wants to investigate their options.
- Transactional — the searcher wants to purchase something.
When you’re looking up the content that’s ranking well for the terms you’re looking to rank for, keep these four categories in mind and review at least the three top results to come up to see the structure and type of content that’s included in these posts. Keyword research and determining search intent should be carried out each time you plan and strategize a piece of content.
When you’re determining search intent and carrying out your keyword research, try and keep the buyer’s journey in mind throughout the process. The search terms and keywords your potential customers are using are a clue to what stage of the buyer’s journey they are in.
Users that are using question-based search terms are often in the Awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. If a user is in the Interest phase, they’ll often search for a brand name or a particular product or service. In the Consideration and Decision stages of the buyer’s journey, a user may search for a review of a particular product or search for the pricing of a product or service.
#4 Write the content
Once you’ve decided on your topic and the piece of content you want to create, it’s time to write it. You should already have an idea of how long the piece will be and the type of content you’re creating.
If you’re creating and writing the content yourself, then you will hopefully have a deep understanding of the topic you’re writing about. If you aren’t writing the content, try and outsource the job to a writer who has experience in your industry or the topic you’re writing about.
#5 Content Promotion
Once your content is written, you’ll need to promote it. You may have different methods for promoting different types of content, but the most commonly used methods include:
- Promoting your content on social media through organic and paid methods.
- Promoting your content to your email list.
- Reaching out to reputable figures within your industry or network, asking them to share your post.
- Carry out a link building campaign to build links to your content and website.
Whatever content promotion or outreach methods you intend on using, make sure you include content promotion as a part of your content strategy for each piece of content you create. Getting your content promotion right will lead to more people reading and engaging with your content, your content ranking higher in search, and more traffic to your website.
Wrapping up the step-by-step SEO process for startups
Getting your startup’s website to rank well isn’t particularly complex, but it can take time to see results. When done correctly, SEO can be a long-term, sustainable method of business growth.
By making sure your website is technically sound, figuring out what keywords you should be targeting, and by creating valuable content, you’ll unlock a powerful marketing channel that will increase your traffic and set up a constant stream of new business for your startup.