SEO for startups

Build a foundational SEO program

Setting a foundational search practice is critical for startup teams to gain a share of voice in a market full of larger players.

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What differentiates SEO for startups and SEO for established enterprises?

Google and other search engines treat established and startup businesses alike. There’s no “hack” to winning search. However, acknowledging inherent startup challenges and applying a set of search engine optimization (SEO) best practices to a hyper-targeted strategy will help you improve rankings, even against established industry players.

Limited time and SEO budget

Even after getting funded, the majority of the budget will be allocated to operational efficiency, sales and technology teams, with limited funds allocated to digital marketing until you start showing tangible progress.

You will be measured by quarter and will need to show tangible gains within 12 months. You will need multiple agency partners with a performance-first mindset and not a retainer-based model.

Scale of existing competitors

You’re not the first — or the last — to join the party. Established players might have hundreds of keywords being ranked with thousands being associated with their domain.

They might also have hundreds of content marketing pieces and paid campaigns running, which at a first glance may seem challenging to defeat until you form an intelligent spearhead SEO strategy.

Category making

If you’re trying to create a category that is “new”, remember that people won’t be searching for what your product team thinks the market needs. You will need to do your research into how people currently search for the competitive alternative you’re trying to replace.

This way, you will attract people based on what they know (as they are looking to solve a problem) and then introduce them to your new concept.

Stress to perform

As a new marketing team in a startup, you will need to ensure your operational efficiency is at peak level. You will be wearing multiple hats, learning to work with new teammates and pulling long hours while managing multiple vendors. For this reason, your projects will be more prone to failure.

To prevent failed projects, you need to use Monday.com or Wrike to get 100% transparency in all of the initiatives you’re running and ensure your vendors are on board with task transparency as well.

Time that’s limited by fundsScale of existing competitorsCategory makersStress to perform

What differentiates SEO for startups and SEO for established enterprises?

Limited time and SEO budget

Even after getting funded, the majority of the budget will be allocated to operational efficiency, sales and technology teams, with limited funds allocated to digital marketing until you start showing tangible progress.

You will be measured by quarter and will need to show tangible gains within 12 months. You will need multiple agency partners with a performance-first mindset and not a retainer-based model.

Time that’s limited by funds

Scale of existing competitors

You’re not the first — or the last — to join the party. Established players might have hundreds of keywords being ranked with thousands being associated with their domain.

They might also have hundreds of content marketing pieces and paid campaigns running, which at a first glance may seem challenging to defeat until you form an intelligent spearhead SEO strategy.

Scale of existing competitors

Category making

If you’re trying to create a category that is “new”, remember that people won’t be searching for what your product team thinks the market needs. You will need to do your research into how people currently search for the competitive alternative you’re trying to replace.

This way, you will attract people based on what they know (as they are looking to solve a problem) and then introduce them to your new concept.

Category makers

Stress to perform

As a new marketing team in a startup, you will need to ensure your operational efficiency is at peak level. You will be wearing multiple hats, learning to work with new teammates and pulling long hours while managing multiple vendors. For this reason, your projects will be more prone to failure.

To prevent failed projects, you need to use Monday.com or Wrike to get 100% transparency in all of the initiatives you’re running and ensure your vendors are on board with task transparency as well.

Stress to perform
My project

How to do SEO for tech startups?

Yes, search engine optimization for technology companies is typically a longer play, but most likely you’ve already got an existing site and digital assets that can be optimized to gain maximum value out of them in the short term. 

Here’s what you need to show quick wins to your executive committee in the first 6 months of a project.

Research your competitors

Research your competitors

Conduct competitive research to identify exploitable gaps in your adversaries' organic and paid marketing strategies and areas of focus.

Validate people are searching for your topic

Validate search interest for your topic

Understand how your adversaries attract their audience. Use tools like Google Trends, Semrush and Ahrefs to validate their keyword clusters against your value promise.

Set realistic goals built to scale

Set realistic goals built to scale

Expecting leads from the start is not the right mindset. Instead, set up a foundation by track keywords, impression, page relevance and engagement growth before moving into MQL metric tracking.

Focus on technical SEO performance

Focus on technical SEO performance

If you’re not going to rebrand or replatform anytime soon, ensure your page experience and core web vitals are in top shape. You can track the technical improvement progress in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Toolset.

Optimize existing content

Optimize existing content

Your site might have a good amount of pages, but they need to be optimized with the right keyword structures and internal linking. Start by clustering your SEO content into logical categories.

Rebuild your site navigation

Rebuild your site navigation

Your navigation must be clear in answering the benefits of your product. Create a navigation layout that enable the user to organically move through the buyer journey.

Understand the key elements of an SEO-friendly website

Navigation logic

URL structure

User experience and accessibility

Mobile-friendliness

Lightweight code

Internal linking

Structured data

Resource categorization

Content output

Build your navigation to answer audience pain points

Streamline your site’s navigation to improve user experience and help potential leads find the pages they are looking for. Your navigation should make browsing your site appear seamless.

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Navigation logic

Intuitive linking structure helps with best practice coding

Your URLs should look simple enough for users to be able to memorize them. Long and unintuitive URLs will make your site look unprofessional and will hurt your SEO.

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URL structure

Better user experience means more visibility and conversions

If users find it easy to navigate your website, they are more likely to go through the user journey you have set out for them. User experience is key to getting prospects to convert instead of quitting halfway.

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Use experience & accessibility

Mobile-first indexing means your pages have to be 100% responsive

Google now measures a site’s performance by looking at the mobile version, so your site needs to be well optimized for mobile if you want to get anywhere with SEO.

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Mobile-friendliness

Reduce bloated code

The heavier your code, the slower your site will be. Site speed is an integral metric for both user experience and SEO. Users will likely not stick around waiting for your page to load.

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code

Send relevancy signals to your most important pages

Internally linking to certain pages on your site sends signals to users and Google that these pages are relevant. Your link-building strategy will determine what pages perform the best for SEO.

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Internal linking

Make your pages easy to understand for Google

You should have well-optimized structured data (also known as schemas) across your site to help Google understand the content of your pages. Structured data is the best way to improve your site’s appearance in search results.

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Structured data

Logically structure your content into demand hubs

Organizing important information into hubs will make it much easier for users to find what they are looking for.

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Resource categorization

Build quality content at a regular pace

If you want to maintain steady growth, you will need to output content at a steady pace. Making sure your site remains relevant is integral to SEO performance.

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Content output

How to build search-friendly content

Valuable

Valuable

The key to making SEO-worthy content for a new startup is to ensure you are adding value. If the content is thin, your target audience is likely to click away or make another search. When writing your copy, keep in mind that you should be adding something new to the topic. Value often comes from answering questions that have not been adequately answered elsewhere.

Actionable

Actionable

Data and analytics are great but aren’t very useful if they are not actionable. If you are writing copy and want to add value for your readers, ensure your content is actionable. If a user can read your article and then put it into practice, they'll be more inclined to share it with others. Instead of just telling users how important cybersecurity is, tell them exactly how to secure their digital assets.

Shareable

Shareable

Most content on the internet is ignored, so writing copy people want to share is a great way to stand out. People like sharing content that not only teaches them something new but also makes them look good. Your content should embody your brand’s unique voice so your audience resonate with it.

Visual

Visual

To keep your content engaging, you should take advantage of all of your reader's senses. Your page should not be a wall of text. Instead, break the copy up with useful contextual images. Adding videos or speakable text is even better since it keeps your content accessible for differently-abled users.

SEO tools to help you win

If you’re running the project without the help of an agency (which must have enterprise access to advanced tools), here’s the typical SEO tool stack you’ll need (note that there are many tools out there, so this is just a sample-suggestion):

Keyword research

Ahrefs

Ahrefs

SemRush

SemRush

Serpstat

Serpstat

Google Trends

Google Trends

Technical scanning

SceamingFrog

SceamingFrog

SiteBulb

SiteBulb

DeepCrawl

DeepCrawl

Ryte

Ryte

Content optimization

Grammarly

Grammarly

Hemingway

Hemingway

Clearscope

Clearscope

UX monitoring

Google Search Console

Google Search Console

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Microsoft Clarity

Microsoft Clarity

Optimizely

Optimizely

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Why is SEO important for startups?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great way for startups to start generating highly relevant organic traffic. It may take a little while to achieve results, but if done right, it can be the cheapest and most long-term marketing strategy you can execute. SEO traffic is also often very stable. Once you achieve some decent rankings, it doesn’t take much to maintain them.

How do I select an SEO agency that knows the startup tempo?

You need an agency partner that has the processes set up to run startup search optimization projects. Startup SEO is more fast-paced than enterprise search projects, which tend to be longer in timeframe and much bigger in budget. 

Your agency needs to understand that you’re running against the clock to display marketing ROI across all of your initiatives. They should also be ready to help you with executive reporting and program progress updates as well.

Can you set up a foundational SEO practice and let us take over?

Yes. We specialize in technology startup projects where time is of the essence. We have built a system of best practices specifically to address the uniqueness of SaaS search optimization. If you’re an established enterprise, we can also help you get much better clarity and direction in what you should be doing instead of polarizing your organic inbound efforts.

Can I do SEO by myself?

Yes, but in order to run a successful search project at a startup you’ll need the following resources to run a very lean team: 

  • x1 SEO strategist: 100% allocation and at least 4 years of experience in both strategy and technical SEO (do not hire freelancers). This person needs to have an agency background or demonstrated experience in a SaaS company. 
  • x1 Web developer: 25% allocation and at least 5 years of experience in building websites, troubleshooting plugins, building custom fields and setting up repositories. This professional must also know how to work with APIs and CRM forms.
  • x1.5 Copywriters: 100% allocation of at least 1.5 copywriters (1 full-time; the other .5 FTE will be sourced from your existing product marketing team as they have deep industry context that a new-hire copywriter will not be able to match).   
  • x1 Web designer: at 50% allocation and at least 3 years of experience in designing websites. Your web designer needs to have a good grasp of low and high-fidelity wireframes, design principles, accessibility standards and user experience best practices.
Is SEO difficult to learn?

Not at all. It just requires multidisciplinary knowledge and genuine interest in development, content creation and user experience optimization. You can start learning enterprise SEO at our resource center, written by top industry professionals who do it for a living on a daily basis. Also, academy resources from sites such as SemRush, Moz, Yoast and CopyBlogger are a great way to get your team to start learning.

How much does SEO cost?

Reliable and experienced search-focused companies or seasoned specialists charge a blended rate from $125  to $175 per hour for their services. Keep in mind that “SEO” is not just one person. In order to run a successful initiative, you’ll need copywriters, a designer, a developer, and an SEO strategist (not to mention the toolset it takes to run a project).

For a lean team that will be at least 50% allocated (on average) to your initiative, you’re looking to spend at the very least $250k per year. Experience plays a big part in search optimization, which is why you want to hire an agency to put you on rails, train and help you hire a team — so past the first 12 to 24-month point, you can hire themselves out, as you have an internal team sustaining the search practice.

Is guaranteeing keyword positions a good sign in an agency?

No, it’s impossible to guarantee keyword positions as rankings may change on a daily basis depending on a wide variety of factors such as algorithmic updates, hosting, UX and accessibility, site speed, content output quality and frequency, internal link logic and shifting market demand.

How important is backlinking in B2B SaaS?

It’s the quality — not the number of backlinks — that matters the most when building a B2B SaaS backlinking strategy. If you’re a new industry player, you’ll need to reach out to others actively in order to get backlinks to your site. However, if you do not have quality content,  the chances of you getting collaboration agreeance are slim. Conversely, if you’ve got great pieces of content (blog posts, white papers, webinars etc.), activating existing industry partners and PR channels is the best course of action.

If you’ve been referred, give us a shout.

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