If you have a start-up business (or even an established local business) this SEO list is a must. 

Everyone knows SEO is important if you are looking to increase your website rankings in a google search engine results page. If you are a start-up business you need every competitive edge that you can get, and good SEO is one of those.  SEO today however is more complex and involved than it has ever been. However despite the complexities there are a few simple truths that you can follow if you are looking to beat your competition online. Clear Digital has put together 5 of the most important things you’ll need to consider.

5 SEO Tips For Start-Ups

With so much information about out there, it can be difficult to determine what specific activities you should prioritize to have the greatest impact.  To help with that, we have put together a short list of 5 imperatives. They are:

  • 1. Claim & Optimize Your Google My Business Local Listing

  • 2. Conduct Keyword Research

  • 3. Ensure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly

  • 4. Build Real Relationships For Link Building

  • 5. Focus On Beating Your Competition, Not Google’s Algorithm

The following sections will go into more detail about each along with some actionable next steps you can get started on right now.

1. Claim & Optimize Your Google My Business Local Listing

For those that are not aware, Google provides a free service called Google My Business.  If you haven’t claimed yours for your business, the very first thing you need to do is go here to claim your Google My Business.

What it is:

  • Google My Business is essentially a local business listing that you can populate with important business information such as your business name, your address, your phone number, your website, along with photos, videos and virtual tours.

Why it is important:

  • When someone conducts a search on Google and the keyword phrase they used has both business and local intent, Google will populate the search engine results page (SERP) with a number of different pieces of information.  You will see Google Ads if businesses are bidding on that keyword in the Google Ads auction, you will see websites of course for businesses that have earned their way onto the first page of results, and you will see Google My Business listings.  Currently Google shows 3 listings on the first page for the majority of search results with an opportunity for the user to click through to see more.
  • For the vast majority of searches, Google My Business listings appear above organic website listings, and just below Google Ads.  When optimized correctly, your Google My Business listing can be more powerful and important to your business than your actual website.

How to optimize for SEO:

  • There are a number of ways to optimize your Google My Business listing including but not limited to:
    • Adding compelling photos
    • Adding engaging video content
    • Adding a virtual tour
    • Adding a concise business description
    • And finally building out additional local listings such as Yellow Pages that include your Name, Address, and Phone number.  Google leverages 3rd party data sources such as these to validate your business location, name address, and phone number among other things.

2. Conduct Keyword Research

One of the most important research exercises to engage with is keyword research.  This will allow you to get a better understanding of what your target audience is using as search phrases onlines.

What it is:

  • There are many tools around, however some of the best are the ones that you might already know:
    • Google Keyword Planner
    • Bing Keyword Planner
  • If you want to go a little further, there are also a number of paid tools available.  One of the most popular ones is SEMrush.

Why it is important:

  • Leveraging tools such as the above-mentioned, is important not only to understand what your target audience is using as search phrases online, but also to see which ones have more search volume behind them. 
  • For example the keyword “milk chocolate” has an average of 1,300 monthly searches in Canada, whereas the keyword “dark chocolate” has 5,400 monthly searches.  We won’t get into hypotheses as to why the difference in this blog, however will dig a little deeper into this in a future entry.

How to optimize for SEO:

  • Once you have identified the keywords that your target audience is using, you can now leverage this in a number of different ways.  You can optimize for SEO in the following ways:
    • Have the URLs website taken these keywords into consideration
    • Has the copy on your website & your Google My Business taken these keywords into consideration?
    • Do you have online marketing material that you are promoting for your business, and if so, are these keywords incorporated into those materials?
    • There are many other ways to leverage these search terms and we hope the above three examples have provided a quick springboard for you to get started on.

3. Ensure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly

Over 50% of web traffic today is mobile traffic.  One of Google’s ranking factors is a website’s mobile-friendliness, or mobile-responsiveness (another term you may have heard).  

What it is:

  • A mobile-friendly website is essentially a site that loads quickly, functions well on a mobile device, and provides a great user experience on a mobile device.

Why it is important:

  • More people are spending time on mobile devices than ever before – whether that’s at home or in the workplace, even when a laptop is right there that could be used.  More purchases are being made via mobile phones than ever before. It’s even to the point that as a society, it has become the expectation that websites function well on a mobile device, and if a site does not, it is quickly dismissed.

How to optimize for SEO:

  • Most web development platforms such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and Shopify to name but a few, have great mobile experiences.  The best thing you can do to ensure you have a great mobile website, is to actually navigate through your website and see if what you experience on a desktop version has translated the way you want to the mobile version.  
  • You may find that in going through the exercise above, that some elements such as photos, videos, buttons may need to shift around in order to get the experience you want to deliver.

4. Build Real Relationship For Link Building

You likely have heard that building links is good for SEO.  You may also have heard that links are one of the most important ranking factors.  Both of these statements are true, however not all links have the same impact. Creating relationships, in part, for link building is one of the most activities you can do for SEO.

What it is:

  • So what do we mean by “real relationships”.  We refer to these as relationships you likely already.  As a start-up, likely few than other more established businesses grant you, but you likely still have them.  Relationships could include other professional services you have partnered with to help create your business.  They could include (but not be limited to) the following
    • Your accountant
    • Your lawyer
    • Your landlord
    • Your suppliers
    • And so on…

Why it is important:

  • Creating linking relationships to and from the above-mentioned potential linking partners helps to establish both trust and credibility in the eyes of your prospects, and in the eyes of Google.

How to optimize for SEO:

  • Having a variety of links coming from real businesses that you are connected with is one of the best things you can do for your SEO efforts.  Ask your suppliers and partners if they could link to your business website – using either your business name or URL as the link. You can return the favour and link to their websites.  In doing this, both the link giver and receiver can benefit.

5. Focus On Beating Your Competition, Not Google’s Algorithm

At first, this may seem like an odd statement, but if you think about it – it makes sense.

What it is:

  • So what do we mean by this statement?  Well, Google rewards those that provide the best user experience.  Now, that can mean different things to different people of course, but it also means different things in different industries, or even different things in the same industry but different by geography.

Why it is important:

  • If you focus on being the most valuable business you can be to your customers and ensure that your online experience reflects this, you will start to be rewarded by Google in kind.  
    • For example, if all things are equal but your competitor has more online reviews than you, and a higher star rating, there is a good chance they will rank above you for keywords related to “top-rated (insert business type here)”, or “top-reviewed (insert business type here)”.

How to optimize for SEO:

  • The first thing to do is look at your competitors.  We have always stated and believed that leaders leave clues.  If you look at those that are leading in your business vertical, in your market they will be leaving all kinds of clues for you to pick up on.  Just a few things to look for:
    • How does their website perform compared to yours?  Is it faster? More user-friendly?
    • Do they provide more value-added services to their customers than you do?
      • If so, what are those?
      • Can you offer those?
      • Can you improve on what they are doing?
      • Can you provide something that differentiates you from them?
    • What kind of loyalty programs do they provide?
    • How are they engaged in the community, and how do they demonstrate their involvement through the online content they publish?
    • And of course the list can go on…

We hope that this blog has provided some interesting information – perhaps something new, or simply validation for what you are already doing to help your SEO efforts.