When I first started in digital marketing, I would get the craziest people from startups knocking on my door asking me to wave my magical SEO wand and – POOF! – millions of website visitors.
They were quite disappointed to learn that I had no magic wand and that SEO didn’t work that way.
They were also disappointed to hear about “The Google Reality.”
Introducing: The Google Reality
Think about this: Why should Google put you in their search engine rankings? Just because you created a new cool website?
Let me explain this a bit further. Let’s pretend we are a startup, and we make organic skin care products. Let’s search for “Organic Skin Care Products.”
If you look right below the search engine, it says there are over 16,000,000 results for this search query. I highlighted it above. This means that if you start a website and want to rank, you will be in that 16,000,000 somewhere in Google. SEO helps you to rank higher in Google’s search results. Your goal should be to rank in the top 10, because, let’s be honest, no one really goes past the first page.
So, how do you get in the top 10?
In order to rank for a certain search query, you need two things – content and backlinks. The content part should be pretty self-explanatory. You want the absolute best content – products, information, blogs, etc.
The other part consists of backlinks. In the simplest of terms, backlinks are just other websites that hyperlink to your site. This is what Google uses to judge popularity. The higher-quality backlinks that you have, the more Google will trust you. There are tons of different ways that you can acquire these backlinks, but, at the end of the day, you need them; otherwise, Google will not trust you.
Understand Basic SEO
It is critical that you have at least a basic understanding of SEO. There are many guides to beginning in SEO, but there are two main things that you need to know in order to understand SEO. The first is that your keyword has to be found within your content. If you want to rank for “Organic Skin Care Company,” that should be in your page title, page description, header, body content, etc.
You also need websites to link to your content on their page, which will upvote you in the rankings.
Interlinking is a good, basic strategy to help your link profile. This is when you have your websites link to other pages on your site through the navigation bar, footer navigation bar, or interlinks inside the content.
One of the most attractive tactics to startups is digital PR. However, there are a few contingencies, here, with digital PR:
You must have a popular product or story.
You must be good at PR.
Even though you might think that your product is good, it does not mean that it is, in fact, good. If you don’t have a good product, you at least need a good story or spin. Some popular spins I have seen are below:
The reason the company was started is interesting.
The owner is a young entrepreneur.
It has a recycling or “green” focus.
It gives profits to charities.
At the end of the day, you want to have a pitchable story journalists will want to pick up and write about. If you don’t think you are the best at PR, or you just simply don’t have the time, you can also work with PR freelancers, PR agencies, or even some SEO firms. Justreachout.io is a good tool for the DIY startup owners out there.
So, how does digital PR help your SEO? Here are the top 3 reasons:
First and foremost, digital PR gets you links, which are the lifeblood of SEO. This can really help get a startup from SEO zero to SEO hero overnight. However, make sure you focus on unique content for your PR efforts. You want solid individual links with individual content. You also want to make sure you have links within the article itself. They can be in the author bio, but, usually, sites add “rel=nofollow” tags, which tells Google do not pass authority.
In my opinion, it is not the end of the world if you get the “rel=nofollow” tag. A lot of people will tell you that those links aren’t going to help you, but I think they do help SEO. However, it is much better to get links without that tag. Work with your journalists and contacts to get those juicy links without the “rel=nofollow” tag.
2. Brand Exposure
The more people search your name, the more popular you become. The more popular you become, the more people trust you. The more people trust you, the more likely they are to link back to you. Digital PR can really help SEO because it can help build your brand, which, in turn, helps to build your SEO through increasing the chance they will link back to you or your content.
3. Social Signals
I don’t care how many times Google says that social media signals don’t help with their rankings or what other experts say. It helps. Google crawls social media shares and is able to judge popularity based on links and social media signals.
Reverse engineering is a classic tactic, but a goodie. You can reverse engineer your competitors and see how they received their good backlinks and copy them.
And, it is fairly easy to do. You can check out this full article on reverse engineering for more depth if you are interested, but, for this, we will discuss using Ahrefs because it is simpler. You can check out Ahrefs’ guide on it here.
The first thing that you want to do is export your competitors’ links using a tool like Ahrefs. Then, take those links and sort them by the highest quality. From there, you can devise a strategy to help you acquire similar links.
Let’s say you are a WordPress website design company. When you go in and look at the link profile of a competitor, you see they have 10,000,000 links. Holy moly! How can you get 10,000,000 backlinks to compete? However, if you look closely at all of them, a lot are on the footer of the website giving them credit for the design. This is what creates that large number of links, so, then, you don’t need to create 10,000,000 backlinks. You just need to do some website projects for some big sites and get the footer link installed.
Overall, reverse engineering is a great way for a startup to understand their competitors and make a game plan to get the same authority.
Identify Search Phrases
One of the biggest issues that I see when it comes to startups is that they generally don’t know what their competitors are searching for. However, this is easily remedied. You can use a tool like SEMRush, Google AdWords, or Ahrefs and figure out what consumers are searching for.
You can put in keywords that you think they are searching for, and then these tools will give you suggestions. It might take a little digging and sifting, but you can find the good keyword phrases that people are using for your industry.
For example, let’s go back to our original example and say you sell organic skin care products. However, you refer to your products as “Natural Skin Care Products.” You might think that searchers will find you using that search phrase, but, if everyone is searching “organic skin care products,” you might need to change the plan and target those keywords.
Once you have your search phrases, you can start developing landing pages!
Build Landing Pages
After you have found your awesome keywords that you want to rank for, you need to develop landing pages for them. You want to make sure that you only use similar keywords per landing page. So, if you want to rank for “organic skin care” and “natural skin care,” you could use the same landing page. However, for “organic face wash” and “organic shampoo,” you would need different landing pages.
After you have the pages you need outlined, you need to develop amazing content and images that will target those phrases. Just make sure that you Google the keyword phrase you are trying to rank for, and that your content is way better than any you find on that first page. And be honest with yourself: Is this content really better?
If it’s not, don’t fret. You can always hire copywriters to help make your content better and overtake those top positions.
Once you have your landing pages live on your website, make sure you have an interlinking strategy to pass authority from your other links to that page.
This is a good example. Your homepage and other pages that are linked on the navigational bar get the most of your backlinks, so, to share the authority, they all need to link to each other, either on the navigational bar or with interlinks in the actual content.
Create Viral Content
Next, you just need to go create some viral content. Sounds simple, but, in reality, creating viral content is ultra-hard. It’s not a science that you can put down into a formula or steps. This isn’t Nike; it’s not something you can just do.
The truth is you have to try, fail, and execute a lot of campaigns before you are going to be successful. However, when you do create viral content, it sends tons of links and social media signals to your websites, which tremendously helps for SEO.
First and foremost, you are never going to create one piece of content and have it go viral on the first try. Sorry to burst your bubble. You are going to have to try a bunch of different topics and ideas, build an audience, and then, eventually, you will hit on something.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on. You follow the “Ahrefs.com” blog, right? They created lots of long form content, then hit it out of the park with this article with over 5,000 social media shares & 212 referring domains for an SEO article – a very boring industry ☺.
You might be saying, “Wow, Ron. That is amazing! How did you know about it”?
Good question. I looked in Ahrefs and, sure enough, the article was there.
All I did was use their content explorer. You can use it, too. Put in keywords that are relevant to your industry, and what you are trying to rank for, and find the best articles. Once you find the articles that have done well in the past, you can reproduce those topics/ideas. By looking at what has done well historically, you are taking the guesswork out of what people like and read.
Step 2: Create Amazing Content (Writing and Design)
Once you have found an article that performed well, you know what the topic and content were. You can use this to your advantage. Now it’s time to take what worked well and make it better.
You can do this in a lot of different ways. First, always have better copywriters. We are constantly scouring the internet for better copywriters because they are the most important piece. You can use Indeed postings, look on Indeed, or use other tools to find writers. Just make sure you are using rock star copywriters.
Once you have the content written, you need to have it professionally proofread and designed, with awesome elements inside the content. Words alone no longer capture people’s attention. You need great designed content to have consumers actually read it.
Step 3: Promote the Content
Once your content is written, proofread, and designed, it’s time to get it out in front of people. You can promote it through your social media channels, social media advertising, and your email newsletters or even through tools like Justreachout.io to tell content editors who have written similar content.
One-to-one communication and promotion are always the best!
You always want to keep your patience with Google. The companies that are dominating in the SEO world have been taking SEO seriously for years. They didn’t just pop up overnight. They worked hard to get where they are.
Google values trust and the time that you have been around. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to change that. These values are impossible to overcome except with time.
Overall, SEO for startups is difficult, as I wrote in this article, but it isn’t impossible. With the right strategies and work, you can take your startup to a whole new level of traffic – more than you ever thought possible.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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