As a start-up founder, you will likely have grand ideas when it comes to your marketing, but maybe not the budget to match.
So, where to focus your energies and budgets in the early days of launching your brand?
One key area is search engine optimisation or SEO. Getting a new website ranked on Google, both for brand terms but also lead or sales-driving keywords, takes time – but once achieved, it can help deliver sustainable, ‘free’ and profitable traffic to your website.
There are many strands to SEO, and for a start-up, it’s important to know what to expect, and how best to divide your time to create a sustainable and systematic organic search strategy.
How long does SEO take?
A question that’s been asked by thousands of small businesses to thousands of SEO consultants – how long does it take to start generating results from SEO activity?
The answer is, somewhat frustratingly, ‘it depends’. It depends on a number of factors ranging from sector competitiveness to the amount of time and investment you put in.
But, a good rule of thumb for a new website, is that it can take about a month to get your website ranking for branded searches (that is, people searching directly for your business), around two-three months to start ranking for important keywords, and anywhere from six-12 months to get onto page one for your most important terms – unless they’re the most competitive keywords to do with housing, finance, or gambling.
Therefore it’s important for start-up founders to use SEO as part of a wider digital marketing mix that includes more immediate lead generation channels too, such as paid search, social, and email marketing too.
Start with the basics
First and foremost for any new business is to make sure your website is ranking for branded searches. This isn’t a given, especially if your brand name overlaps with a sector-specific search term.
To do this, start by generating some ‘core backlinks’ into your website. These include national directories as well as local citation listings, plus social media links too.
These will help get your site noticed and indexed by search engines, and begin to rank for basic terms.
Optimise your website
To get a new website ranking, you need to make sure that website pages are working as hard as they can to help.
An easy 1,2,3 process to follow for this is:
1 – keyword research: use tools like Google AdWords’ keyword planner to find out which search terms are being typed into Google by your prospective clients and customers
2 – plan where you’re going to target these keywords on your website, ensuring that each page is only targeting a tight band of related keywords
3 – optimise your website so that each important SEO page has at least 500 words of copy (more if you can!), and mentions your target keywords in the title, subheadings, opening paragraph, title tag and meta description
Look to your competitors
Larger competitors in your space will have likely invested thousands into their organic rankings, and you can look to capitalise on their investment into SEO research by copying their best backlinks.
Using tools like SEMrush, you can analyse the backlink portfolios of the best-ranking brands in your space, and sort their backlinks to show the most powerful links.
With this list, you can look to replicate as many as you can!
Write for sector-relevant websites
The final step helps develop both your brand awareness and keyword rankings.
Do some research in your niche to find the most popular news websites and online magazines. For example, in the HR space, that could include HR.com and HRzone.
Next, create a personal profile on these websites with a link back to your site.
Then, start creating free content for these websites, with each piece including a link back to your important SEO pages.
Some websites allow you to publish content once you’ve created a profile, others will require content approval or even payment.
However, these contextual links are some of the most powerful that you can generate to help drive keyword ranking growth, and increase organic traffic and sales.
DIY or expert support?
SEO success comes as the result of consistent, systematic hard work and constantly doing the right things. It’s one of the most time-consuming elements of digital marketing and requires frequent research, outreach and content writing.
Many start-ups with budgets big enough will look to work with an SEO consultancy to manage this part of their online marketing on an ongoing basis. If you do decide to DIY your SEO, then be prepared to put in the hours each month, and keep reminding yourself that results don’t happen overnight!
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