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How to use SEO to grow your startup
If you are working on a startup and want to build your online presence, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help you achieve that faster. Optimizing your website will increase your web traffic without paid advertisements, helping you reach more people quickly and significantly more cheaply than if you pay money to get clicks.
Having a strong online presence will increase your visibility and will help you reach more people. The most effective way to bring more organic traffic to your website is to optimize your pages for the search engine.
However, SEO is not a one-time thing. You need to keep at it and continuously optimize and adjust your pages if you want to keep attracting a constant stream of visitors to your page.
How Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not about optimizing a search engine, as you might assume from the name, but about optimizing a website so that it gets more organic traffic from search engines. Organic traffic is the traffic that you get "naturally" without having to place paid online ads.
Search engines use algorithms to organize the results according to their relevance to the user’s search. Having high-quality content on your webpage combined with good SEO practices will help you rank your page higher on the search results page, bringing more visitors to your website.
How to get discovered by Google
If you want Google to find you, your first step is to ensure that your page links to a page that has already been indexed. Then, when web crawlers crawl the indexed page, they will see the link to your page and add it to the list of pages to crawl in one of their next steps.
It’s also important to look at the tags on your pages, specifically the “noindex tag”. This tag is usually used for blocking the crawlers from exploring pages that are not meant to be indexed. But mistakes happen and you might have a “noindex” tag on a page that you want to be discovered by crawlers.
The “robots.txt” file can also stop the crawlers from exploring your webpage This file tells bots how to navigate your website. However, if your “robots.txt” file is not directing the bot towards your pages but instead tells it to avoid them, they will not get indexed.
It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to get a page indexed so you need to be patient in the beginning. You can check your pages’ index status by Googling “site:” followed by the URL of your domain. The results will show you all of your indexed pages. If nothing appears, then your web pages aren’t indexed.
How a search engine ranks the results
To help us find a page out of the trillions on the web, search engines use hundreds of metrics to evaluate each website. To avoid manipulation by website owners, the exact metrics are kept secret from anyone but the search engine operators themselves. However, the rules are unknown even to most Search Engine employees.
Only a very small group of people know the exact metrics. So unless you happen to share your bed with Sergey Brin, you probably don’t have access to that information! This is an eternal cat and mouse game between search engine optimizers and search engine operators. When SEO experts find a way to exploit the search engine’s algorithm to rank higher on the search results page, you can expect the search engines to adjust their algorithms shortly after. This "game" has been going on for over 20 years. Despite that, we can still tell a lot about these metrics by looking at the pages that appear as search results on the first page for different queries.
Today, search engine algorithms are so good that SEO mostly consists of good journalism and marketing rules. Old, silly hacks like using a white font on a white background, or stuffing your content with keywords will no longer work. Today, if you try to cheat the algorithm, you risk getting banned from the search index entirely.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a tool that will help you manage your SEO. This free web service by Google gives you a more comprehensive look at your website in terms of SEO. You can see the crawl rate, pages that are not getting indexed, and a list of internal and external pages that link to your website. Through Google Search Console you will receive alerts when Google encounters indexing, spam, or other issues on your site.
How to get more organic traffic from Google
As we move on to the actual optimization of your website, we will divide this process into On-Page and Off-Page SEO. Let’s start with On-Page optimization, which is mostly concerned with the content of your website.
Choose your website’s main topic/topics.
The first step to optimizing your website for Google is to choose a topic or a couple of topics to focus on to narrow down your target audience. Focusing on more niche subjects is the most sensible way to get started since it will be easier to create a loyal user base as well as some authority in this field. After you have settled down on your topics, it’s time to get to research.
Conduct Keywords Research
Keywords are one of the defining factors for SEO. Keywords are words or phrases users type in the search bar to look for your product.
You can use Google ads’s free tool - Keyword Planner to look for keywords related to your product or services. Keyword Planner will show you which keywords are best for your product, how often certain words are searched, and how those searches have changed over time. This tool will help you determine which keywords are more likely to increase your organic traffic.
Keywords can also help you better structure your articles or come up with more specific topics based on what your audience is searching for. As a rule, each of your articles should be focused around one primary keyword to make it easier for users to understand it and get the most out of your article.
Find Semantically Related Keywords
Apart from the primary keyword, your articles should also feature semantically related keywords throughout the text. Semantically related keywords are keywords that are either synonyms or closely related to your primary keyword.
These days Search Engines don’t just look at keywords. Instead, they try to understand the main message behind the article. Semantically related keywords give search engines additional context and a more in-depth understanding of what your article is about. When Google understands your article topic, it helps the search engine to pinpoint more specific questions that your content can provide answers for. In turn, when users search for similar questions, your content will appear higher, since Google knows that your article covers that topic.
You should start searching for related keywords during your keyword research stage. You can use Google Autocomplete and Related Searches to get ideas for related keywords.
Research Long-tail Keywords
If you don’t have a lot of organic traffic yet, focus on long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are words or phrases with lower search volume. They are usually also longer than keywords, containing 3-5 words. These types of keywords are more niche, hence they get less search traffic. On the flip-side, they are more likely to get you on the first page since there’s less competition. It’s more effective to be on the first page for a less popular keyword, than back on the 24th page for the most popular keyword.
Don’t focus too much on Keywords density.
While you should use your keywords in your main text, you shouldn’t use them in an unnatural way. Keyword density refers to the ratio between the total number of words in the article. The Keyword density is not an important factor for SEO. So, use keywords to structure your article cohesively and avoid placing keywords in the text just for its sake.
Having just one keyword is ineffective because you want to maximize the number of people who see your content on their search results page. On the other hand, overstuffing your articles with unrelated keywords will lead to low rankings since users will see through your strategy and won’t stay on your website for long. As important as keywords are, they are not more important than good quality content.
Having high-quality content on your website is the most important aspect of optimizing your pages for Google. Your articles need to follow the same rules that apply to good journalism if you want to get more organic traffic. They should provide accurate information based on reliable sources, while also offering unique content. The articles should be easy to follow and should be written with proper grammar and spelling. While more technical aspects of SEO that we will discuss further below also contribute to how Google sees your pages, nothing is more important than having well-researched and reliable information on your website.
You have to catch your readers’ attention from the very beginning, which is why the most important part of your article should be placed at the top, and information density should decrease as the article progresses.
Capturing your visitor’s interest with your website content can be a challenge. Most visitors will spend less than a minute reading a page, while a well-written content will hold their attention for longer. When your audience spends more time on your website, this lets Google know that your content is helpful. As a result, Google will rank your content higher on the results page.
Start the article with your main message then gradually work down to the more specific, supportive information. To avoid overwhelming your readers, break up your text into bite-sized portions. This can be done by splitting larger paragraphs into smaller ones or putting images between the sections of text.
Another guideline to keep in mind is that your article should leave people with answers, not additional questions. Write with the readers in mind and explain every concept you mention in the article to make sure that you don't confuse them.
When it comes to the style of your articles, use an active voice instead of a passive voice. Active voice uses fewer words, making your article simpler and more concise. Active voice also creates a faster-moving narrative making your article more engaging for the readers.
Using good grammar and correct spelling will tell Google that your content is high-quality. Poor spelling and grammar may cost you your credibility. While Google relies on its algorithm to rank pages, it also considers user experience. If your readers find a lot of spelling mistakes in your texts, they won’t trust your information and will click away without even reading the whole article. So make sure that your articles are written well and use correct spelling to avoid looking unprofessional.
Good articles also avoid repetition. It’s better to write shorter pieces that get the point across, instead of stretching your article with useless, empty information. While it’s true that long-form content ranks better, word count alone is not going to get you on the first page. Google looks at the quality of content, and using a lot of pointless buzzwords and extra sentences to reach the word count makes your article look untrustworthy.
Finally, all good articles should have meaningful conclusions. Sum up all the main points you have made throughout the article using short sentences and simple terms. Do not bring up any new points in the conclusion. Fit everything you want to say in the main text, and provide a summary of that in the conclusion. While this may seem more than enough, your work does not end here.
Have Proper Formatting
Correctly formatted copy for your webpage will encourage visitors to stay longer. Format your content to make it easier to read, always bearing in mind that people read websites by scanning them, rather than reading them slowly like a novel. Keep everything short - from paragraphs to sentences to words. Break text up with bullet points and lists, headings, and subheadings. Headings tell Google your article’s content and focus so incorporate keywords into your headings too. You can use the H1 tag for main headings and H2-H6 for subheadings. You can also use different fonts and colors but don’t overdo it! Keep it clean and simple.
Include and optimize Images
Your images also need optimization. The images that you use across the pages should have descriptive and useful keywords included through alt text and title tags. This ensures that even if your image does not load on the page, readers will still know the contents of the image. Images on your webpage should also be fast loading, which can be achieved by using the SVG format.
Finally, when it comes to using images on your website, you also have to think about copyright issues. You can’t just use any picture on your website since they might not be for free use.
Other parts of your webpage that will need optimization are your meta title and meta description. These are texts that your readers see on the results page even before they decide to click on your article. Meta tags and descriptions are html attributes that provide search engines with data about your pages.
While meta tags don’t affect your rankings directly, they affect your click-through-rate, the percentage of users who click on your webpage when they see it displayed on the search results page. Which is why meta tags are important, when it comes to SEO.
Your Meta title should contain the main purpose of your article. Meta Description should briefly summarize the content of your article.
You should keep your meta title under 60 characters and your description under 120 characters. Both your meta title and description should include your keywords, describing the content of your page as accurately as possible, because it lets Google know which keywords to focus on.
Convert to HTML
After you are done with the content of your article, it’s time to start working on the layout of your page. In order to have a professional-looking page, you need valid HTML. HTML is valid if it complies with the standards issued by the World Wide Web Consortium, which also allows you to check the validity of your HTML through its online validating tool.
Now, what does your HTML have to do with the Google rankings? Besides the layout, Your HTML determines the speed at which your web pages will load. Now, this is important for organic traffic and SEO because, the longer it takes for the page to load, the more likely users are to click away. As we mentioned above, how users interact with your website affects your rankings and organic traffic.
There are three ways to convert your content into a webpage. You can either hire a professional who does HTML manually, you can use tools like Hugo or Jekyll, or you can resort to CSMs. (Content Management Systems).
All of these have advantages and disadvantages. While hiring a markup language specialist will give a clean and simple HTML document that loads fast, it is also more costly and takes more time. Using tools like CMS will be more affordable but it can not beat the quality of manually created HTML, because this document is generated by a computer. Also, it has to retrieve the content from its database upon each page request in order to display it for the user, increasing the loading time.
Meanwhile, Jekyll and Hugo offer solutions that are somewhere in the middle. They do not store your content on a database, instead, they run their code once, to transform your content into a static page, meaning that when a user wants to visit that page, Jekyll displays the content without any processing, making it much faster.
Set up Internal Links
Another part of On-Page SEO is internal linking. Having a good internal linking system helps out your website in many ways. First of all, it improves the user experience, by providing easy access to other in-depth articles about topics mentioned in the original article. If readers want to learn more about one of the topics covered in the text, you can direct them towards your other pages that cover this subjecttopic in more detail.
Internal linking also increases the time users spend on your website since if done right, it should encourage the reader to learn more about the topic. As discussed above, when users spend more time on your website, Google sees this as a reassuring sign to rank your pages higher.
Having internal links also means that Google will know that your website is well thought out and can serve as a helpful online space for people to find relevant information about many subtopics related to the main focus of your website.
Internal Linking also serves the purpose of redistributing traffic that websites get from ouside links. Having internal linking is an effective way for you to redirect visitors from one specific page to your other pages, but most importantly to your homepage.
The anchor text that links to your other pages matters as well. It serves as an introduction for Google, explaining what the link is about. So, if the anchor text seems irrelevant to your target audience, it won’t help you rank higher when people search for your specific keywords.
Find a Good Domain
Your URL also affects your ranking potential, it should not be random but instead should correspond to the page’s contents. Your web address must be simple, short, and descriptive and should incorporate your main keyword(s). Having a professional looking domain leaves a positive impression on your potential visitors and makes you look more trustworthy, compared to websites that have random or hard-to-remember domains. Having a memorable yet professional domain will help you build your online reputation faster.
Work on Ease of Navigation
The quality of your website affects how your users interact with your web pages. People will not stay on your website if it takes a long time to load or if it is difficult to navigate.
Optimize for Mobiles and Other Devices
Mobile optimization became a factor in Google’s ranking strategy in 2018 and it has only become more important since then. After all, the majority (over 63%) of Google users happen to be on their phones when using the search engine, so you have to work on your website’s mobile version as well.
Consider the Age of the Domain
The age of the webpage also affects its ranking. The web constantly changes, pages appear and disappear. If your page has been around for a long time, this gives it more credibility. You can either wait for your online authority to build over time or else purchase a domain that fits your business that has been active for a long time and repurpose it for your company.
As the name suggests, Off-Page SEO deals with matters that aren’t directly connected to your website. Instead, Off-page SEO ensures that whatever you put on your website, will get to the readers quickly and seamlessly.
From Google’s perspective, the more high-authority websites link to your content, the more valuable, trustworthy, and helpful it is. When other websites, especially ones with high authority themselves, link to your pages, Google sees that as an up-vote for your website and ranks your content higher for users to see. But remember that the backlinks only work in your favor when the websites linking to your pages are relevant to your article’s topic. If the web pages that link to yours are completely unrelated to your articles’ subject, they can actually do more harm than good.
Since it can take a long time for other websites to take notice and start linking to articles on your site, it can make sense to actively influence this process. One way to do this would be to offer free guest posts on high authority sites, where you then link to your own website in the article. Building relationships with other website owners by offering them to write for them can be a great way to speed up the process of backlinking.
After you have completed all these steps for one article, it’s time to do it all over again. To generate substantial traffic you will need quantity as well as quality. If you manage to put out new content daily, for at least 100 days in a row, you will start to see an uptick in your website traffic.
A high ranking cannot be achieved by optimizing your pages only once. SEO metrics are constantly being refined or even changed fundamentally to avoid manipulation. However, there is one thing that will never change - the best-ranking pages are those that provide the exact information the users are looking for and do it clearly and understandably.
SEO is a way to bring more traffic to your website for free. While it needs constant updates, the results make the effort worth it. When you create helpful and unique content, you also increase your chances of improving your rankings on Google. To create content that Google recognizes as high quality, write easily understandable texts that use proper grammar and spelling, while also following the basic SEO rules.
Creating a high-ranking website is a lot of work. You can no longer cheat the algorithm by only using the right keywords; your content and website should be helpful to users. While the technicalities of SEO are necessary to get Google’s attention, what will guarantee your long-term success is providing useful content.
Users are overwhelmed by the number of websites and volume of information, but there is always room for well-researched, quality articles. Consistently providing quality articles while also integrating the best SEO practices into your website will ensure that you stay high on the results page.