There are many factors around why startups succeed. Having a great product that people are willing to pay for and a proven sales process are usually the core. But discoverability is also a part of that equation.
How do customers know that your product exists?
Unfortunately, SEO tends to be put on the back burner because it can seem confusing or unimportant. With that in mind, what simple things can you do to improve the way people discover your product? I want to share some insight on how to develop healthy SEO for your product’s website over time so you can supplement the growth of your product.
What is SEO and why does it matter for startups?
SEO = Search Engine Optimization.
Moz defines SEO as “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through search engine results.”
Startups should take the time to make SEO important because it allows customers to discover them organically - and that can be powerful when looking to reduce “customer acquisition cost” over time. Marketing and sales folk like to call that CAC. It means you can keep your sales team smaller, make a greater impact over time, and spend less on ads.
That sounds good right? Absolutely.
Sales keep your startup from dying and SEO makes it easier to stay alive.
When your sales are healthy, this allows you to focus on other aspects of the sales process. What are new ways to get better leads and how can you automate that process? This is where SEO and creating valuable content comes into play. Providing online resources that your target customers value can help you collect more leads with less effort over time.
Seeing the results of SEO takes time
Be mindful that discoverability through search engines takes patience, but over time will be to your advantage. That is why SEO and content is supplementary to sales and not more important than sales.
For most companies, it takes 1-3 years before you really start seeing significant traffic gains and lead growth.
It is important to have a realistic perspective on what it takes to get traffic without using advertising dollars to push traffic to your content and landing pages. It is a good idea to have some kind of ad budget to test out the effectiveness of landing pages, but don’t go overboard. Facebook and Instagram ads with A/B testing are a powerful way to target your customers and test ideas with minimal cost.
Now let’s talk about what you should focus on when it comes to building new pages on your website, improving the ones you already have, and continually improving SEO for a product over time.
Getting started with SEO in 2019: Keep it simple
Create helpful content that your customers need
What are questions that future customers have about the problems that your product solves?
What are questions that your current customers have and need help with?
To find those answers, do keyword and phrase research by simply searching on google. As you type in questions customers might have about your product or how to do something with your product, you can better understand how they talk about your product and the problems they face.
When you search for terms on Google, you will also find this view below. It shows relative questions that people are asking about. This is a great place to get information on content to make so you can be more helpful.
You can also use tools like Keywords Everywhere to see all the phrases and keywords related to the topics when you are doing research in google. Seeing the search volume will help you understand how many people are searching for certain topics and the type of competition you may have. Another great tip is to head to the bottom of the search results page and see related search times that google shares with you.
These tools can help you understand what type of content you should be creating on your blog or have as resources within customer support pages. Having FAQ pages are a great way to help your customers find the answers they need and reduce time spent on customer support teams - which can improve retention and success rates with your customers.
Compare your product to competitors
If you are entering a market with strong competitors, you should voice the differences between your product and your competitor’s products. This could be a blog post or page you build on your site. People compare products all the time online. So if you can provide the content to help a potential customer make a decision, you increase the chance of making a sale.
For example, if you were to search “Dropbox alternatives for business” the first page of google usually doesn’t show dropbox links. It will likely show competitor links or sites that showcase other options. If other sites are showing good comparisons, reach out to them to see if they will add your product to that list of competitors. This not only gets you brand visibility on their site, but creates a backlink to your site as well. (SEO Bonus!)
If you decide to create your own comparison pages, be honest about the pros and cons of each product, but also communicate the value of your product in the best way possible. Being unbiased with comparisons will help you to build trust while improving your SEO.
Create videos and embed them on your site
Incorporating videos into your site is a great way to quickly improve SEO and create awareness. Google loves seeing video content on pages. After Google, did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine? Hosting video content relative to your product will only improve your SEO and help you increase your rankings.
Ideas for videos content:
- Getting started with your product
- Product updates
- How to’s for your product
- Success stories with your product
- Industry education
- Share your culture and values
Quick tip: Make sure your videos are titled to communicate value with keywords that people use when searching for answers.
Check out this guide: YouTube SEO
Creating videos can give you a competitive advantage since google search will showcase relative video content above most of the search results. You can see how it looks below.
A positive user experience (including mobile)
Don’t overload your web pages with too much content. A slow site creates a poor user experience. Be clear with your message and make sure users understand how to find what they need. Density is always better than length. Bring people value efficiently. As always, make sure the mobile experience is just as enjoyable as a desktop experience.
Make content well organized. Use headings to make content digestible and easy to read.
- H1 headings should only be used for your main title of the page.
- H2 headings break down the key points of discussion on the page.
- H3 and H4 headings can be used to further organize information and lists under H2 headings.
Images are a powerful way to add value to your content and improve your search rankings. The section below will guide you to name and format image files correctly.
File name best practices
Don’t: App Development Ruby On Rails React Native Milwaukee Wisconsin United States.jpg
- Never use the original file names when uploading to your website.
- Eliminate gibberish. Use words that describe the image. Typically between 4 and 6 words.
- Don’t use underscores or complex characters. Stick to letters and hyphens.
- Keep them short. The length of your image file name will determine the length of the image URL. Generally, the shorter the URL, the better.
Avoid keyword stuffing. Don’t just use keywords for the sake of using keywords - instead, describe the image.
Keyword tip: Who is it? What is it? Where is it? When is it?
- Reduce image dimensions relative to the content areas they live in. Don’t upload images straight from your phone or camera. There is no need for photos or graphics to be larger than 1600 pixels wide on your website.
- If you know an image will be used in a smaller space like a half column, keep the dimensions even smaller. 500 pixels is usually better for that scenario.
- Try to keep images below 300kb. Go as small as you can without sacrificing quality.
- Use free tools like Compressor to compress images.
Share your content
Promoting your content and what you’re doing on social accounts creates more awareness beyond organic search. When you share your content you increase opportunities for customers to share it with others. When people link back to your content on their own websites and blogs, it creates backlinks which can also help improve SEO.
Great places to share your product:
- Beta List - Allow people to discover and get early access to your product
- Product Hunt - Share your product with people interested in new tech
- Reddit - Great guide on sharing your product on Reddit
- Quora - Find people with problems that your product solves
- Twitter - Create a company account
- LinkedIn - Create a company page
What startups can do to improve their SEO in 2019
If you already have a website, blog content, and FAQ pages for customer support, here are some things you can do to improve your pages and increase discoverability.
Review and update your images
- Reference the guidelines for image SEO shared above to audit your current images.
- Can you add new images to your pages already live?
- Are your images unique to your site? Consider moving away from stock images.
Add video content to old pages
- Are there pages that could be updated with video content?
- Can you improve old videos?
Increase page loading speed
- Test your current site speed here.
- Compress image files to reduce load times.
- Consider using a better web hosting provider if you still have page loading issues.
Update old pages
- Review content on live pages and see if there are opportunities to add more relevant information. Can you make the content better?
- Do you have a physical presence in your city? If so, make sure your office is discoverable through Google’s business tools.
- Hosting local events and getting people to leave positive reviews about your company will only benefit the ways people can discover your product.
Do an SEO audit
There are lots of great tools like SEMrush that provide free audits of your website. If you are looking to get more insight and professional feedback, you might want to consider finding a trusted consultant.
Working with trusted partners
There are lots of consultants and agencies out there that can give you personalized insight. They can even help you execute on a well designed strategy to improve your SEO. I recommend checking out Credo. They can help you find the right consultant based on your industry and needs.
Diving deeper into SEO on your own
If you want to learn more about SEO beyond what was shared here, I recommend checking out these resources:
Quality, uniqueness, consistency, and iteration
Beyond all of the technicalities of SEO, the best way to improve your discoverability is by creating high quality content that is unique and consistent - and learn from the results. It doesn’t take much to get started and there will always be opportunities to improve.
Sell your product first. Then support it with content your customers need to succeed.