SEO is not easy
As a startup, you probably know a thing or two about marketing channels. You may have noticed that spending money on ads works but, unless you’ve unlimited cash reserves, it might not be something that you can rely on. If you’re hoping to stick around, mastering SEO should be at the top of your to-do list.
SEO, or "search" isn't quite as simple as advertising. Doing it right is much more complicated than getting results from paid ads. Even if you throw unlimited money at SEO, without the right strategy, you might never get it right.
But what about SEO hacks? Well, the truth is, there aren't any. Trying to buy your way to the top of Google (aka "Black Hat SEO") will eventually work against you. With every update, Google gets smarter at figuring out what searchers want and which sites provide them value. When (not if) Google cops on to your dodgy SEO, its lights out, permanently.
Doing SEO right costs money, but unlike paid ads, it can still work years after your initial investment. However, SEO also requires time. Time spent on SEO, however, can be time well spent.
Why? Because SEO is about having excellent content, and creating great content means investing in an asset.
So, how is content an asset, and how does this help SEO? Most importantly, why is SEO especially crucial for startups? Read on, and I'll explain.
Nothing lasts forever, but content just might.
The old saying "build it and they will come" is rarely true. Content, however, might be a partial exception to that rule. SEO, luckily, is built on and around great content.
Always useful, or "evergreen" content, is something that should still be exciting and relevant to searchers years from now; tweaking it a little bit will help keep it up to date.
Not every piece of content you have on your site will, or should be, designed to be evergreen, however. Great SEO is like a jigsaw puzzle, and some pieces will fit in in different ways than others. Done right, every piece of content that you have will be an asset to your business.
Keep in mind; I am not saying that you don't have to invest in promoting your content, but having top-class content on your site is actually about more than just SEO.
Content also helps define your brand.
Defining and building your brand through producing content means getting SEO right, but the reverse is also true.
Just take a look at what Google likes.
Great content, according to Google.
As you can see from the infographic below, Google likes content that it thinks people like and find useful.
Essentially this means sites that do great at SEO give people what they’re looking for and appear to be trustworthy, accessible, and relevant.
If the content on your site is all of these things, you are guaranteed not to suck at SEO. Furthermore, by creating great content, you will create long term value for your business.
Content for startups, what's different?
Okay, so you get it, great content is worth having. You might be wondering by now, however, why is that relevant to my startup?
The basics of content marketing are the same whether your monthly marketing budget is measured in the hundreds or millions. However, as a startup, getting started with SEO by focusing on content is especially valuable. The value here comes from three key areas.
Content that builds SEO authority
Content that increases your keyword reach beyond your primary keywords
Content defines your brand identity beyond SEO
Let's go a little deeper into these, one by one.
Domain authority building through content creation
Content helps your site's SEO by building your ranking on your primary keywords— the ones you target first and foremost.
You know that you need to do this. But figuring out how to get links can be a bit of a mystery. Well, the answer is simple: you create content that attracts links. Simple but not easy.
It's not easy, partly because SEO is competitive. Your startup is probably not the only business trying to get ahead in your niche.
This is a simplified explanation of how your domain authority grows. As your authority grows, you also get more customers coming your way through your site.
Branching out beyond your primary keyword
Your product most likely has a small set of primary keywords that are directly relevant to it. However, what startups sometimes forget is that their potential audience is much larger than just those people looking directly for their product.
This audience will have a vast range of interests that are related directly or indirectly to what you’re selling. Content that targets this audience, rather than just being directly focused on the product, is what can help your SEO efforts multiply.
Let's imagine that you’re a startup that sells a password manager based product. The primary keyword that you want to be ranking high for is probably going to be "password manager."
A potential customer is going to be looking for your product’s primary keyword when they know they need it. They are going to be directly searching for products like yours. However, before a potential buyer looks directly for your product, they’re probably going to be looking for information on the issue your product is built around solving.
So your potential customer might be looking for "password storage" or "how to save multiple passwords". Both these search terms then become important first-order keywords for you to target with relevant content.
The best way to capitalize on these keywords is to aim directly at them with high quality "evergreen" content that answers your customer's questions and brings them onto your site. Once your customers are on-site, you can then funnel them towards your offers, deals, or even towards more content.
Defining your brand identity with SEO
Brand identity is something you’ve probably thought about quite a lot. But I bet you didn’t know that SEO can help you with your brand image, too.
To massively oversimplify a complex topic, your brand identity is a mirror image of the way your customers feel about you. This feeling is not something you can necessarily magic out of thin air with SEO, but here are three things that great SEO and strong brand identity have in common.
Functionality. Both your content and your brand should do something for your reader. They should be able to take away something that is of benefit to them. This benefit should be evident from the moment they click on your site and be interesting enough to keep them there.
Recognizability. When someone looks at your site, reads your content, or uses your product, they should know its "you." Easier said than done, recognizable identity that comes out through your content can pay dividends in the long run.
Believability. You should not have content that is not believable. Your customers shouldn't doubt your credentials when they consume your content.
This is a brief guide on how content can do more than rank you on Google. Content, used well, can be a part of a program that strengthens your business as a whole and drives growth.
Google ranks content similarly to how your potential customers rate your business and others like it. Ultimately, the best solution becomes the most popular. SEO, in this sense, is not the goal; it is a result that comes when a good business generates great content that people appreciate. For startups, understanding this is vital.
Written by Robert Galvin on February 1st, 2020