Today we want to share an excerpt from a huge article we wrote for out friends at Founder Institute. When you’re a startup and in the middle of building your product, you may not give much thought to your SEO strategy. But, getting your site search engine optimized from the start relieves you of any future pain of having to fix poor SEO on your website. Take a peek at the first part of the post below and if you want to read more, head on over to the Founder Institute website for the almost 3000-word post.
It’s tragic, but on the internet, even the best products can go unnoticed. Like a tree falling in an abandoned forest with no-one around to hear, if you launch a product and no-one can find it, will it even make an impact?
Say you’ve created a product you know will benefit someone. Hundreds, probably thousands of hours were spent planning, coding, testing, re-testing, debugging, and designing it. You’re down to the last phase: the launch.
But, if you’re like a lot of startups, marketing doesn’t come naturally. You know your stuff – but maybe your “stuff” just isn’t knowing how to get people to your product. That’s okay. No-one can be an expert at everything.
But here’s the thing about digital marketing: even though social media gets all the attention, search engines still hold the keys to the kingdom. Understanding and implementing the basics of search engine optimization at the early stages of your startup will not only help your site rank better from day one, but will give you a solid foundation if you need to hand off the responsibility as your team grows.
That’s why we’ve made this quick SEO guide specifically for startups. So you can rock your product launch, build your audience, and grow your startup.
If you have a good handle on how search engines work already, feel free to jump straight to our 7 strategies. If not, let’s dig into how Google, Bing, and the rest do their thing.
What is SEO, really?
Let’s look closely at how Google actually works. A person decides they need something (some information, a solution, a product) and, if they’re like 75% of online US users, they’ll type a search query into the Google search bar in hopes of finding what they’re looking for. From Google’s results on the SERP (search engine results page), they choose the website or webpage that best suits their request.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) studies how search engines like Google select pages to include in their results and uses that data to optimize a web page for that search engine.
Well, yes and no. The algorithms used by search engine engineers are fantastically complex, but many of the factors they weight you have a lot of control over.
How search engines work
A search engine’s goal is to serve the “best” results to the user, and it’s this list of “best” results that keep SEO researchers up at night. How does the search engine decide what’s best? What data is included in their calculations? And what may hurt a website’s rankings?
To answer these questions, we need to ask, “What does a search engine do?”. Well, it has two main jobs:
Crawling and Indexing webpages (building a map of the internet)
Providing users information (locating and serving the best spots on the map)
As the engine crawls web pages, the links provide the “routes” or “highways” to drive to the next “city”, the next page. Crawling one page locates all the links on that page, and the search engine’s “spiders” follow each link to the following page. And this keeps going until there are no more pages to be found.
When the spiders follow the links, they build a map, or an index, of the web. Each page is assigned a spot in this index, and the search engine returns the most relevant information for the user based on their algorithm.
This is your most important SEO element.
How do you get a good spot in the index? Popularity, ultimately. But it makes sense, right? The more people visiting a particular site and sharing their content, the more useful it must be. It’s a pretty reliable metric for providing useful sites to searchers, but as Google’s algorithm evolves other factors become important too.
But when thinking about reverse engineering popularity online, here’s the most important equation you need when for SEO for your site:
(Valuable Content + Viral Sharing = Relevance) = Higher SERP Ranking
If you’re creating content that is valuable to an audience – this could mean blog posts, infographics, podcasts, videos, and more – they’ll naturally share your links around the internet. As your content gets consumed by more people and they link back to you when they share it, more roads will lead to your spot on the map, i.e. your pages in the search index. As your site’s value and influence builds, search engines translate this as relevance. And more relevance means better results.
This may be a little too simple, but if you ignore the quality of your content, your SEO is dead — no one wants to be annoyed with junk content that’s boring, difficult, or irrelevant.
So if content isn’t everything, what else is there?