SEO - Search engine optimization
Oscar Sandström is the Co-founder of the Swedish company Viseo, and he spent several weeks in California to learn, connect with people and to better understand what's so unique with Silicon Valley . Oscar knows a lot about SEO (Search engine optimization) and how to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results pages like: Google, Bing, Yahoo and others, so we asked him if he would like to share some of this. So here you go - a bunch of useful advise on how to get to the top on Google!
SEO for startups
I wanted to write this post as if I where to do SEO for my own start up as if I was writing advise to my best friend on the same journey; no “duh” information. Only actionable information, and applying the 80/20 rule (Paretos law). This will not be a post which will cover all basics for SEO or provide a "how to guide" (there are plenty of those and I will link to them). It will be an actionable list on how to approach SEO that will produce maximum result in minimized amount of time.
Step 1: Build on solid ground - How to vet the web agency’s SEO skills (or your technical co-founder’s!)
Hire a web agency that has basic knowledge in SEO. However, if you are building your own website, make sure that the developer on your team has the necessary skills! I can’t stress this point too much.
Working with over 200 clients the last seven years, it still amazes me, how many of them have web agency’s that claim to have done SEO on their site. But they lack the necessary skills. This often has catastrophic effects and can end up losing a lot of money, advantage against competitors, and marketspace.
Not surprisingly, often those web agency’s that think that the “SEO guy” is obsolete is the guys who screw up the most. This sounds like a SEO guy blowing his own horn, and it doesn’t sound good, I know. But this post is not about beauty, it's about facts that will help your startup.
In the defense of web agency’s, many of them have a lot of pressure from the buyers to be able to handle “the web”, which in many cases includes design, coding, UX, technical SEO, keyword research, market profile, conversions, and so on. Think about that relative to the price. If your website costs $5,000, is that really enough to cover those critical part of a web based business?
Pro tip: Instead of guessing, spend hundreds of hours to learn SEO by yourself or spending money on an SEO firm before you get a basic solution going: Hire an SEO firm to vet the web agency. Give the consultant 1 hour to check some of their recent sites and ask some tough questions. That hour will probably have the highest ROI you have ever seen. If SEO is a weapon in the startup battle, make sure that your gun can fire properly, before trying to hit your target.
From now on I will assume that the basics are in place. Therefore I will spare you the boring technical details, and go right on the actionable good stuff.
Step 2: Choosing converting keywords
Choosing keywords will be as important as your vision for your startup. It should even be included in your business plan. Everyone who is involved in marketing of your startup should know your target keywords.
Short tail SEO
Choose 10 - 30 short tail keywords. Just because it is short tail, it doesn’t have to be one keyword it could also be longer for example “create website online”.
This will be the main keywords that mainly will focus on:
· Traffic – Use Google Keyword Planner to verify that your short tail keywords actually get traffic. There's no point in showing of you fancy store on an empty street. Here is a guide on how to use Google Keyword Planner.
· Buyer or action intent – If you are offering a service that helps people build responsive websites you should focus on “create responsive website” instead of just “responsive website”.
Long tail SEO
According to Google around 18% to 20% of all searches have never been seen before. Considering the fact that are 1 trillion, that there are trillion with a T, searches per day, it is a considerable amount.
Long tail keywords should focus on:
· Answering specific questions
· Being descriptive
There are two types of content, and landing pages that long tail keywords usually focus on:
· Blog posts
· Comparisons - Your SaaS product vs. X vs. Y.
· Reviews - You can do a review post about other products. Preferably a product that integrates with yours, or is used in close to your product.
Depending on your services you can create hundreds of thousands of landing pages. Every landing page is an opportunity for exposure and should have keywords connected to them. Doing this right, you could answer thousands of specific user quires every day.
E-commerce sites and booking sites often do this well. When you search for “golf hotels in Austin“ your site should have a landing page with the hotels that you have tagged with “Golf “that are located in Austin. This will help you rankings and your conversions. Google and visitors love message match.
It often comes down to the structural planning with categorization and tagging.
For many people it seems like a natural thing to do, and many companies “are planning to do start categorizing.. one day”. That day doesn’t really come, as we all know. Get on it right now. Invest in your website. You will get sweet rankings and present super relevant content to your readers/user, and get a ton of conversions. Yummy!
Compare the two search results for the same search quire “golf hotels in Austin”.
Clearly both users and Google will favor Hotels.com over Expedia.
Here is a comprehensive guide on how to categories your website.
Step 3: SEO Copy writing
Have your target keywords in mind that we picked out, and structured in the last step.
What is important right now in terms of SEO copy? A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, keywords density and meta keywords ruled the search world. Now Google has become smarter, more semantic, and understands synonyms, whole sentences, and user intent much better. That is good news. This makes it so much easier to write SEO copy.
How to write SEO copy, explained in one (long) sentence: Write relevant information, include the keyword in the title tag, headings, and use the keyword with its synonyms (singular, plural) as frequently as it seems natural to you.
There is your SEO copy. It's that simple.
If you are using WordPress, SEO yoast is a great tool to make sure that you get the essentials in place.
Make sure that your team uses the “Focus Keyword” in SEO Yoast.
The Google Zoo: Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird!
A short explanation of important and frequent mentioned Google updates.
Especially the two latter, Panda and Penguin, once hit the web with storm. Entire business collapsed during the aftermath from Google algorithmic changes.
A quick explanation
Google Penguin – Crackdown on low quality links. Made it harder to manipulate search engine results with inlinks. Take away: Think twice when offered to buy links, and keep your anchor text density natural.
Google Panda - Copied content and scraping is a tempting thought for an exponential entrepreneur and hungry start up, but won't do any more. Google Panda favors the original source of content. Take away: Always go for unique content.
Google Hummingbird – Hummingbird made it easier for Google to understand user queries, and intent. E.g. when you are typing a query that involves “cars”, are you searching for cars or the movie cars?
Hummingbird made Google smarter and took us one step against the semantic web. Now Google understands that Barack Obama, The president of the United States president, the first African-American President, and the Commander-in-Chief is the same person.
If you are writing a blog post and mention “Honolulu”, “Harvard” and “Michelle”. Google has enough information to know what you are writing about. Take away: Write relevant information, and use both dictionary synonyms of the subject.
Step 4: Off page
Getting your on page right isn’t enough. If content was the only thing you needed, every affiliate blog would be able to rank on “hotels new york” or “iPhone apps”.
Liking this to archery, if you are aiming with the on page, then the off page is the power behind that arrow. Links are still the most valuable asset in SEO. Basing their algorithm on links was how Google got its competitive advantage, and how it all started. Almost two decades later, links are still the name of the game.
What are good links?
Here are four pointers on how to evaluate what are desirable links.
· Trust. How trustworthy are the sites that are linking to you. Use common sense and Moz Trust.
· Popularity of linking domain. I.e. how many links has the domain that are linking you? Moz Domain Authorty (DA) will help you here.
· Anchor text used in the link. For example, “iPhone app” is better than “click here”.
· Relevancy. Which is better: "5 mommy bloggers", or "Apple fan boy blog"? The answer is: "it depends".
If your startup builds an iPhone app that improves the iPhone experience, you would prefer a link from an Apple, or mobile related blog. Even though the link the trust and popularity is 5 times stronger from "the mommy bloggers". If you where to have an iPhone app targeted for shopping lists and recipes then you might consider the other alternative.
A good (and free to an extent) tool for evaluating links is Moz SEO Toolbar, which is a plugin for Chrome and Firefox.
How do I get links?
You can find the holy grail of link building here. You can really dig in here, and sort on what typ of department can do what type of link building, the amount of time that you would like to spend on this subject, and much can alos be found here. However here are a few of my favorites:
Guest posting – Essentially you ask link candidates (that hopefully fulfill the conditions above) if you can write a blog post, or a guide about a subject that relates to your product on their site. This link will be highly relevant, and will also place you as an authority in both Googles eyes and in the client´s eyes as well. This is like traffic, PR, affiliate marketing and SEO combined.
Here are some great real guest posting examples, and approaches.
Reviews – Write reviews of products that integrate in some way with yours. You will come of as an authority, and thus people are more likely to treat you as a valid source.
Web tools – Create a free web tool. For example if your product helps people build responsive websites, create a tool that allows them to view their website in an iPhone emulator. The tool doesn’t have to be complex. But if it is helpful, it gives people a reason to link to you.
Hopefully you found these tips helpful. If you need further information in any specific area, or have questions, please post it in the comments.