A start-up’s journey into SEO: Lessons and solutions

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In a large and crowded marketplace in which every trader is selling their wares at the top of their lungs, it’s difficult to make yourself heard over the background noise and attract shoppers to your own stall.

The same problem exists in the online marketplace; if your business relies on digital marketing to attract customers to your website, you need to work out how to increase the visibility of your site compared to your competitors. This is what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is for.

Search engines, the best-known of which is Google, are how customers find your website. When they type in a search term describing what they’re looking for, relevant web pages appear in search engine results pages (SERPs) which lists them in a ranking order according to set criteria.

If your website isn’t optimised to rank highly, then your potential customer will never be signposted to your website. They will go to a competitor whose ranking puts them above yours on the SERP and your expensive new website, with its great user experience, will be a waste of money. You will have been drowned out by the noise from your competitors in the online marketplace.

The benefits of SEO to smaller businesses

Most online traffic is driven by search engines, so effective SEO is about increasing both the quantity, and also the quality of the traffic coming to your website (you don’t want a large number of visitors if they don’t want to buy what your site offers).

Visibility is critical for a start-up or a smaller business going up against more established firms and many fail because they don’t achieve the visibility necessary to sustain them. SEO is a winner for start-ups because it’s a cost-effective solution to the visibility challenge and over time you are likely to see a good ROI.

SEO builds customer engagement, enabling smaller businesses to compete with much larger ones and demonstrate to potential investors their potential. It also builds trust and credibility in the eyes of the search engines and customers. 61% of marketers say that improving SEO and growing organic presence (ie relying on your website content rather than paying for pay-per-click advertising) is their top inbound marketing priority so there is little doubt that SEO is a powerful marketing tool. Yet many new businesses fail to think about SEO from the start, when they are having their website built.

The truth is that SEO needs to be part of the foundation of any website build in order to successfully deliver on your site’s full digital marketing potential. Thousands of other businesses are competing online for the same customers as you, so you need SEO to gain a competitive edge.

Establishing good SEO from the start

To gain the most from SEO it must be integral to the design and building, or to the refreshing, of a website and should not be an afterthought. It’s also important that businesses keep monitoring the success of their SEO and adjusting their strategy accordingly.

There are two key aspects to SEO: Search engines should be able to search the content on your website and understand it. When they can do this, it improves your ranking.

In addition, website users should have a positive experience when they navigate around your website. All this is achieved by:

  1. The technical and behind-the-scenes operation of your website ensuring reliability and that the structure is optimised for SEO.
  2. Website content that engages users and is structured in a logical and helpful way to increase search engine ranking. This requires strategic planning and a programme of content production that clearly represents your business, products and services.

Putting SEO at the heart of website planning

SEO grows organically, often at a slow but steady rate, taking typically 6-12 months to reach fruition for your main key search terms. This longer-term approach needs a digital marketing plan and strategy and for this reason, Incepteo takes the time to understand deeply our client’s business vision. This then drives a clear marketing strategy which should inform a number of elements of their website, boosting its SEO:

  • Domain: This should be obvious to customers, with subdomains linking back to the main site
  • Hosting: Needs to support your website. If slow, users will move on
  • Text: Plenty of clear, up-to-date text so search engines understand what you do
  • Reliability: Able to support the volume of traffic and perform consistently
  • Customer experience: Good experience encourages search engines to trust your site
  • Link structure: Ensuring that content beyond the home page is accurately indexed
  • Content structure: Needs to be clearly categorised, organised and signposted so that users can find the relevant part of your website. This also raises awareness of what you do and engages the user
  • Analytics: Identify which metrics measure success and the tools to show what’s happening on your website, so that you can make necessary changes and improvements
  • Multi-platform: Functionality across different platforms, especially mobiles, is critical as customer habits change

SEO builds on the foundations of a well-structured website, brimming with regularly updated, engaging and relevant content. Once you have the website infrastructure in place, you can then build content structure such as keywords, title tags, heading tags, page content, all anchored to delivering a good customer experience.

Taking a holistic approach to SEO from the start

Establishing a website that genuinely serves your digital marketing strategy takes commitment, but it pays dividends. Long gone is the time when a few key search terms scattered across your webpages and occasional checks of your website’s analytics are sufficient. SEO is fundamental to website design, from concept, through build and beyond, as part of your marketing plan.

At Incepteo we put this idea into practice when we work with clients on their new websites, applying the depth and breadth of our services and expertise to drive our clients SEO success. These specialists include entrepreneurial disciplines such as UX and marketing, analyse a business’s marketing strategy, target markets, marketing funnels and sales streams as well as in coding, to ensure the right tools are implemented to deliver data and sales results.

We accompany clients on their journey from an initial discovery meeting, to deeply understand a business, through web design and build, technical support and ongoing analytics to ensure website performance and development.

This service supports both start-ups and clients who wish to revisit their websites and need a partner who can understand the nuts and bolts of their existing website, prioritise fixes to optimise SEO performance and realise its potential.

Whether you wish to develop and manage your SEO yourself, work with a development or marketing partner at key points along your journey or find a partner who you can work with you from concept to completion will depend on your own resources and appetite to commit your time.

Whatever your approach, it’s worth reminding yourself that a website without SEO will be invisible to your customers in a sea of competitors so, as a start-up or an established business, SEO really does deserve your attention.

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