When you’re first starting a business, how you manage your money matters. In fact, how you manage every single aspect of marketing plays a role in whether or not you survive the first year. Your number one goal is to achieve rapid growth without putting yourself in the hole in the process. That’s a tough nut for most marketing departments to crack because exposure and brand awareness costs money.
Unfortunately, budgeting issues often cause businesses to completely overlook search engine optimization (SEO) in the first year. They either feel they aren’t big enough to need it or they feel other strategies are more important.
We believe this outlook couldn’t be more wrong.
Budget matters. Early SEO matters. And you can make the best of both worlds by scaling your efforts to match your monetary capabilities; you don’t need to overextend yourself just to see beneficial effects. Here’s how.
Develop a Consistent Brand
No, this isn’t really an SEO tip. But it is the single-most important precursor to SEO success. Define your brand and figure out who you are what you’re trying to achieve, then create that persona and stick with it. Don’t flip-flop on names, change your product multiple times, or change your mission repeatedly; it confuses people and essentially forces you to start brand awareness all over again.
When it does come time for SEO, you’ll be marketing your brand. If you can’t figure out who you are, how can you expect anyone else to?
Research the Market
Market research is just as critical to SEO as it is to your overall market strategy. You need to know your available audience, your competition, and the market’s viability before you can even begin to identify a niche or keywords to target. This should be your first step – and you should continue your research as you grow.
Identify Your Niche
Start by categorizing your business – what do you sell? What do you provide? Are you marketing to customers, businesses, non-profits, enterprises, or some other form of organization entirely? Define your industry to start.
Now, head on over to Google’s Keyword Planner. Pop the name of your industry in and do a bit of exploring. What keywords come up? Do any of the longer 3+ word keywords (called long-tail) relate to your business? This should give you insight on your niche if you’re having trouble nailing it down.
Save your list of keywords in the Planner for now. You’ll need it!
Assessing the Competition
While you’re in Google Keyword Planner, take a look at the “competition” column. How competitive are the keywords you chose? If they’re all high, deep search a little more, branching off from your identified keywords. Look for keywords with low to medium competition that really relate to what you do or offer.
Next, it’s time to hit up Google. Search for your keywords on Google (plus your location if you’re a brick and mortar business). Which businesses come up? Are you going up against places like Wal-Mart and Target, or do you only find Yellow Pages listings and small mom or pop shops? This, too, is insightful.
Optimize Your Website First
Once you have a good list of keywords nailed down, it’s time to start optimizing your business website. On-page optimization comes first because it ensures search engines like Google and Bing can not only find but also correctly index your website. Without that critical factor, no one will ever land on your site.
First, I’ll explain three forms of keywords. Then, I’ll tell you how and where to use them for the best chance of success.
“Branded keywords” are niche or industry keywords that also contain your business name for brand awareness. E.g., “Sachs Marketing Group,” our name, is a branded keyword because it contains both our name and what we do (marketing). “SEO Services from Sachs Marketing” is another example, as is “Best SEO Company SMG.” They all include some variation of our brand name.
Niche keywords are self-explanatory; they’re the industry or niche-specific keywords we discussed further up in the article. These should be related to either semantic search questions your customer may have (such as “SEO Services in Thousand Oaks, California”) or something specific to your industry (B2B SEO Services).
How and Where to Use Keywords
Start by using your keywords in titles, headers, and the title of your page. This ensures that search engines see who and what you are the moment they crawl your page, but it also prevents confusion when your first few organic visitors start landing on your homepage.
Next, use your keywords sparingly and naturally throughout any existing content. This means no stuffing, no high percentages of keywords, and no oddly-placed grammar in your text that makes the keyword obvious. One to two times is plenty for most standard on-page content.
If you’re using a site platform like WordPress, look into plugins that help to simplify adding meta tags (tags that tell search engines what your content is about). SEMrush and Yoast are two of the most popular; they enable you to enter meta tags from within the WordPress editor instead of via FTP. Use keywords here, close to the start of the tag, at least once for each tag.
(Confused over meta tags? See this article by Search Engine Watch for a more in-depth primer.)
Get Present on Social Media
The second-last major tip for your first six to 12 months, at least concerning SEO, is to get out there and get noticed on social media. If you don’t have a business page on at least three platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat), create them.
But don’t stop there! Create posts regularly (at least once per week to start, if not more often) on each profile, tailoring the content to the site. Users on LinkedIn are more business-minded and professional, while SnapChat users often want to see product demos or be notified about insider specials. Similarly, Twitter is best for images or short #TGIF posts, while Facebook allows for more creativity and length.
Posting regularly has two main benefits: it lets searchers who look for you know that yes, you DO exist, but it also improves SEO and brand awareness. Google ranks sites with established social media profiles higher on trust and rank.
Start Blogging or Influencing
This last tip is critical to your ability to grow in the online sphere. Don’t just set up your sites and profiles, post to them, and forget they exist. Turn your brand into an influencer by getting involved in conversations online, responding to your clients and customers when they have questions, and releasing high-value, helpful content people find useful on a regular basis.
There are a few ways to make this happen:
- Start blogging at least once per week, covering audience-specific topics
- Start guest blogging for other industry or niche bloggers in exchange for links
- Have a spokesperson or brand representative become an influencer
- Hire influencers with experience to increase brand awareness for you
Blogging is the easiest because most businesses have at least one person who can jump right in and write authoritative, interesting content. Guest blogging is a little bit more difficult because you need to research and network to identify the right blogs, but it can really pay off.
Influencer marketing works differently; either you work to become a branded influencer, or you hire someone who influences to share your message.
No, this doesn’t mean you’re always hiring people like Kim Kardashian – unless she’s right for your message, of course. It just means finding someone who somehow relates to your brand and/or is already using your products, who also happens to have a large following, to give you a share, promote your services, or mention your name. Sites like Instagram and Twitter are best for this approach.
It isn’t easy being “green” – Kermit the Frog said this, and it just so happens to be a really common reason businesses turn to us for help with their SEO and marketing campaigns in the first year. It’s hard to enact marketing and SEO changes during hectic ramp-ups and rapid growth. We’re always happy to lend a hand! If you need guidance, we’re just a telephone call or message away.
Just reach out.