Everything you need to know about SEO for a Small Business or Startup
As a Product Manager I have often worked cross-functionally across all teams of a company, having found my career start in marketing, the topic of SEO and Organic growth often comes across the table – especially when working on projects for startup clients.
I went ahead and prepared the following resource for any small business or startup out there looking to quickly get educated in the realm of SEO and organic marketing. It really doesn’t hurt to follow the best practices even if you aren’t looking to create content on your website – having a strong foundation goes a long way and sets you apart from the competition.
Simply put Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making sure that your brand or business has improved visibility on available SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) – not to be confused with paid ads or other paid channels of marketing since SEO is focused towards long term gains in an organic matter.
In my experience, there are 3 categories of SEO:
- On-Site SEO – relevant to anything that is indexable and visible on your primary web pages of the website, e.g Blogs, Landing Pages, FAQs, etc
- Off-Site SEO – Anything that links back, or relates back to your website e.g Backlinks, Social Media posts, Guest Posts on other sites, etc
- Technical SEO – Technical/Under the hood improvements you can make to your website to improve crawlers’ efficacy on your website
Brings us to the next point, what is an SEO Crawler?
You will hear the term ‘crawl’ and ‘index’ a lot when discussing SEO with anyone, basically, a crawler is a sort of automated robot/bot that scans your website for available information and then organizes it to be searchable by common search engines. Every crawler out there has their own unique way of doing things, but as long as you build out a strong foundation, you should be in the good.
So you design your pages, build the content, and develop your website – hit publish – then what?
Then let’s just say wait around 6 months for anything to happen – this number is just a good estimate before your SEO setup should kick in to help you rank in Google/Bing search results.
But you don’t have to wait 6 months and do nothing, this is where this document comes in handy, below is everything you need to know to get started with SEO.
Table of Contents
- How to build a strong SEO foundation as a business?
- How to build a keyword research strategy?
- Working with On-Page optimizations
- Content Creation for SEO
- Off-Page SEO efforts
- Working on technical SEO
- I Understand Everything! What to do Next? – Scaling your SEO Strategy
How to build a strong SEO foundation as a small business or startup?
I love working with startups and having worked with so many, the biggest issue when it comes to marketing a startup is restraints. Hence I want to start this piece out by laying out some ground rules for building strong foundations to build up your web presence. Depending on what kind of business you are, you don’t need to bother with every aspect of SEO right out of the gate, the following table gives a good breakdown that should apply to most businesses out there:
|Business Category||Key SEO Strategies|
|Local Presence Focus||– Optimize Google My Business listing|
– Encourage customers to leave reviews
– Use location-based keywords in and across your web pages
– Keep up-to-date contact info
– Link with your local map services, such as a tool like this
|E-commerce||– Optimize product titles and descriptions to make sense to the crawlers as well as humans|
– Use relevant keywords where possible – this is important to define the product as well if the brand name does not make it immediately obvious what the product being sold is
– Include alt-tags for images for the productHave good details on sizing, variants, colors, etc
– Have a FAQ section answering some commonly asked questions about the products you are selling – try to keep it as general as possible
– If you have a lot of competitors, have landing pages dedicated to comparison of your product vs theirs
|Services||– Highlight your services on your homepage BUT always have a dedicated services page for each of the services with relevant CTAs and FAQs|
– On your services pages, always look to answer a common question in your industry, this will also help you optimize using long-tail keywords, for e.g how to build a well-designed website?
– Always tie your services throughout the website to other pages and make sure all the content is cohesive
– Make navigation easy for a user on the website and get making in touch with convenient
|Blogs and Content Focus||– Write, write, write – content is still king|
– Give thought to your content categories, tags, and strategy – learn to build out a good content cycle
– Use tools like https://answerthepublic.com/ to find ideas for helpful content to write – this is usually good low-hanging fruit content you can work easily on
– Optimize blog post titles and meta descriptions, yes clickbait works still – but always try to stay true to your vision
– Break your content into small chunks to have a higher chance of appearing in Google Snippets
– Use internal linking, you are a content website – keep the reader engaged with other content
|B2B and Enterprise Focus||– Make use of social proof and testimonials|
– Create dedicated landing pages for your desired user groups
– Have detailed information behind your product and/or service in form of FAQs, Blogs, Support Articles, etc for the people interested
– Lean on statistics, data, figures, and case studies wherever possible
– Give importance to branding
– Invest in good tracking and analytics software, since ROI calculation is very important
Hopefully, this table clears out what to prioritize when starting out your Business. Of course, over time you can incorporate everything, but getting the right start is very important. Knowing where to start is half the battle – there’s a reason I picked this line as my website intro.
How to build a keyword research strategy?
The keyword for this article is going to be SEO of course, that being said the key word is a one-word theme for your page, piece, blog, etc – but we do have many kinds of keywords, here is my favorite representation of them by ahrefs
So how to research good keywords, you may ask, here is an easy to get started with the process:
- Make a list of relevant words to your product or service
- Put them in a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to further iron out their validity
- Since this resource piece is meant for new businesses, let’s not worry about competition too much in terms of keywords – we need to set up a good foundation so for each of the keywords you believe you should rank for, put them in a whisper tool like https://answerthepublic.com/ – this will get you a really good idea for catering your content
- Once you have a list of your keywords, content ideas, and priority – start working on building out pages using the keywords – DON’T make the rookie mistake of forcefully stuffing the keyword over and over again in a page – make natural use of it. The keyword for this piece is SEO, and this was the 25th mention of it, but it felt natural, right?
Working with On-Page optimizations
Got your keywords? Good – time to get working on some On-Page optimizations, as the article so far is – let’s keep it simple, here is what you need to work on:
- Always make sure that the page title, meta description, SEO title (the title that shows up in search results, URL, and page headings are consistent with each other in terms of keywords and readability. If you use WordPress, Yoast is a great tool to ensure this
- The structure is important! – Always have a table of content for longer pieces, H1 for your main headings, H2 for subs, H3 for other headings
- Use lightweight image and video formats for media content, such as .webm and .webp
- Keep your URLs simple and easy to remember – they must make sense to humans and bots – if your blog is a fancy blog name (like mine is called ‘the rift’) make sure the URL says /blog – don’t keep the bot guessing
- If your business requires to have a lot of content and media, opt in for a dedicated Content Delivery network, get an expensive hosting service that will be better optimized such as https://wpengine.com/
- Lastly, always have good CTAs, easy to contact information, and location info highlighted if a local business
Content Creation for SEO
I once wrote a message on a whim to send to a friend over at LinkedIn and it turns out, that message is fully relevant here. Below is the list of type of content one can write, of course there is a series of permutations and combinations that you can apply – but this should cover all the basics:
Content Category: How To Guides
Typical Length: 500-1000 words
Audience: Top of the mind, new to niche users
Example: How to break into Product Management, How to write effective user stories, How to plan out your product research
Content Category: Listicles
Typical Length: 500-1000 words
Audience: Trend watchers, people who search for group searches
Example: List of top PM tools, Top 5 prioritization methods you must use
Content Category: Personalized/Blogs – Your Story
Typical Length: 1000-1500 words
Audience: Long time followers
Example: My journey into PM, What I learnt from my experience with xyz
Content Category: Newsworthy/Reviews
Typical Length: 300-800 words
Audience: News trends
Example: The UX behind the Latest iPhone 14, Why Tesla’s new model is bound to fail, etc – anything that touches upon current news mixed with your niche
Content Category: Comparisons
Typical Length: 500-1000 words
Audience: people looking to make a decision
Example: Technical vs Marketing product managers, Linkedin Vs Indeed Vs Angel Co – where to look for a PM job
Content Category: Infographics
Typical Length: 300-500 words
Audience: stat searchers
Example: top product companies by the numbers, features tied to revenue
Content Category: Checklists
Typical Length: 300-500 words
Audience: people searching for processes
Example: The definitive checklist for building a QSR appContent Category: Resources
Content Category: Resources
Typical Length: 1500-2500 words
Audience: people searching for resources and in depth research
Example: A deep dive into Product Management frameworks
Off-Page SEO efforts
In my opinion, getting Off-Page SEO right is the hardest endeavor (some argue it is the technical SEO instead, which has its own issues) – the reason simply being that most of the things you are doing for Off-Page SEO are a shot in the dark.
For new businesses, I often recommend not worrying too much about this aspect of SEO, but since this article is meant to educate, here are the steps you can take to improve your Off-Page SEO:
- Backlinks, basically what it means is that websites and platforms out there with good authority and trust – should link back to your website – getting these links is basically 70% off the Off-Page SEO effort.
- Reach out to websites to write blog posts about your products and services
- Write guest posts on other people’s websites and embed link back to your websites, with their permission of course
- Use social media posts and content as a way to link back to your site – though this way is seeing degradation these days
- AVOID spam links and especially avoid paying some random SEO EXPERT online to get you low-quality backlinks, THIS WILL doom your website forever after the short burst of engagement you get
- Invest in content marketing, building out other forms of content such as podcasts
- Register your business onto review sites such as Trustpilot or Clutch
Working on technical SEO
The most overlooked part of SEO, technical mumbo jumbo – the fun thing is though that it is pretty easy to improve technical SEO for most simple CMS-based websites. Do this:
- Run the following tool on your website
- And do what it says
For most people honestly, it will be as simple as that but here is a bit more you need to know about:
- Core Web Vitals are everything when it comes to technical SEO
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): calculates loading performance of your site
- First Input Delay (FID): sees how long it takes for your site to be interactive
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): are images breaking? No? Good
- Improve Mobile responsiveness! 60% of people use visit most sites on mobile, don’t go for over-the-top designs that will look basically garbage on a mobile screen
- sitemap.xml – just google how to set it up
- Advanced thingy – you have been warned
- Use structured data to help search engines understand the content on your website. This includes schema markup, JSON-LD, and other types of structured data. Use https://schema.org/ to find premade schemas for you to use.
- What is a schema? See I told you it is advanced, even too advanced for me, the gist of it is that schema helps search engines categorize and understand the content better, think of them like advanced categories for your website pages
- Get an expensive hosting plan once you cross 5K visitors a month
- Move away from simple CMS based websites, like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress to custom website or headless WordPress (this can be another 5,000 word article)
In conclusion, as a small business or startup just grasping the points laid out in this article will get you across most competitors out there. A lot of what is here is quite easy to implement yourself with little know-how, and sure enough when you are raking in revenue – getting on a consultancy session and getting your site audited is a good way to have a strategy built out to bring improvements.
The SEO industry has turned into this money-grabbing and misleading user trust kind of thing where there are so many people claiming to rank your site if you pay them XYZ – that often leads to poor results in the long term and you will end up spending similar amounts to what you would have if you went with paid marketing/advertising. The thing to take away here is that SEO is long-term, consistency matters over quantity, and as long as you are always optimizing your platform – it should outperform short bursts, trends, or fads – unless you are a news agency, ignore whatever I said then….
Here is the SEO bingo board as I call it, save a copy of this, whenever to remember what you need to do for your startup or small business:
|SEO Category||Main Focus||Action Item|
|Keyword Research||Finding relevant keywords||Constantly use tools like https://answerthepublic.com/ and https://trends.google.com/trends/ to monitor good keywords to incorporate into your website|
|On-Page Optimization||Structure||Always audit and recheck your website for structural integrity and mobile responsiveness every couple of months|
|Off-Page Optimization||Backlinks||Try to get your website link to trustworthy websites in competing or adjacent industries|
|Technical SEO||Performance||Run Core Web Vitals report to investigate and solve critical issues|
|Content Marketing||Content Creation||Write at least 2 blog articles or any other form of content on your site every month|
I Understand Everything! What to do Next? – Scaling your SEO Strategy
The last thing I want to end this pretty long article on is scalability.
Calculating the effect of SEO is probably one of the hardest things out there, most businesses run a bunch of ads that boost their content and register wrongly as organic growth when in reality it is not that simple.
As a Product Manager, I can only guide you in the right direction, and the only way I know how to measure success is to look at the data. There are a treasure trove of tools available to constantly see how your site is performing against competitors, what your users are taking action on vs not on your site, and where to fill in the gaps when it comes to content, landing pages, FAQs, etc
- User action analytics
- Metric Tracker tools
- SEO tools
And with this I hope you are now equipped to take on the challenge of growing your business or startup, organically.
I am dedicated to helping small businesses and startups achieve their full potential by providing guidance through the power of open discussion and a strong will to listen.
Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your business to the next level, I am here to help. Let’s work together to turn your vision into a reality. I invite you to schedule a free consultation call today!
I am a Tech-Driven Product Manager that helps businesses, big and small, develop their software products.
The fields of Product Management, Business, and Consumer Tech are my passion – with a decade of executing successful projects along with knowledge of 10,000+ hours in IT, Software Development, and SaaS – I Empower Teams To Build Epic Products