Upgrade Your Exposure: SEO for Startups
Startup companies face countless initial challenges, a particularly important one being to establish a solid presence in all available digital channels. With the [growing] excess use of technology (computers, laptops, iPads, smartphones, etc.), it is crucial to the funding and operation of startup companies to gain as much visibility as possible. There are four core channels that can be utilized for maximum digital exposure:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Pay Per Click (PPC)
- Social media
- Public relations (PR)
While all four channels are important, we’ll focus on Search Engine Optimization because it is the most basic effort that is often neglected or executed improperly.
The internet can be the biggest traffic source and revenue generator for startups. Where a website ranks and what it ranks for when a potential visitor performs a search greatly affects not only the volume of traffic to the site but the quality of the traffic, as well.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of advancing visibility in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and is achieved through a variety of techniques:
- Optimized title tags to tell the search engines what to index a site for
- Unique description tags to entice potential visitors with an engaging snippet of information
- Internal linking to pass link juice from one page to another and to guide the search engines and visitors deeper into the site
- Site content should be unique and appealing
- Semantic markup to provide more information and to take up more real estate in the SERPs
- XML sitemap creation and submission
A startup’s new website undoubtedly has low domain/strength trust so focusing much of your efforts on where the search engines mainly spider is key. The title tags on each page of a site should all be unique and should target at least one primary keyword phrase. Title tags should also include the brand, which is more important now than ever before given that Google openly admits to putting more emphasis on brand recognition. Title tags should also be written to best practices (no more than 65 characters long).
While description tags don’t affect rankings, they do significantly affect the click through rate (CTR) a page receives from the SERPs. Getting visitors into the site is half the battle, so it’s important to present strong, informative and engaging description tags that turn potential visitors into actual visitors.
Internal linking within a site serves a couple different purposes. The first is to pass link juice (the power/credibility each page has in the eyes of the search engines) from one page to another page. The home page of any given site likely has the most authority out of all other pages so linking to internal pages from the Home page will help pass along a portion of the authority. Additionally, internal linking guides visitors and the search engines through the site to find deeper internal pages that may not be easily accessible through the navigation.
The search engine algorithms have changed significantly over the past couple of years and as a result, the way a site is optimized has evolved, as well. When it comes to a site’s content, the focus needs to shift away from the search engines and more towards the site’s users. The content should appeal to humans, be easy to navigate by humans and should be sharable by humans. Keeping these goals at the forefront will ensure a better user experience which will then, in turn, help with the site’s rankings in the SERPs.
Websites should not only be crawlable by search engines, but also understood by search engines. Given that, semantic markup is code that’s written to characterize the context of the content enclosed within it. Additionally, it leverages a structured data vocabulary in order to produce highly qualified intelligent and informative search results. Some common types of semantic markup include:
- Authorship markup via Google Plus
- Video markup via Schema.org (self hosting is most optimal)
- Rich snippets via Schema.org
- Google’s Data Highlighter (*markup only appears in Google SERPs)
XML sitemaps tell search engines about crawlable URLs on your website. It’s important to first create an XML sitemap and then submit it to Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools to ensure that the major searches can find every available page on your site.
The goal of search engine optimization is to tell the search engines and visitors exactly what your website is about. Your website should rank highly for search queries that most accurately depict the information/products/services on your site and engage visitors while providing valuable information. Investing in solid SEO efforts and achieving these specific goals can produce the strongest ROI for startups.