Marketing

SEO for Startups: 150 Experts Explain What to Do and What to Avoid

A third of marketers say content marketing is the most important SEO task for a startup, but it’s just one of 23 startup SEO best practices our respondents recommend.

Jessica Greene Jessica Greene on October 14, 2019 (last modified on October 22, 2019) • 29 minute read

Opinions are divided when it comes to whether or not startups should invest in SEO.

For example, last month, Andreessen Horowitz’s Andrew Chen took to Twitter to post an argument against SEO for brand new startups:

andrew chen anti startup seo tweet

Founders, marketers, and SEOs from all over the world shared their assenting and dissenting opinions in the post’s comments. The overall opinion shared seemed to be that startups shouldn’t rely solely on SEO, but they should definitely start working on it from day one.

So what does that look like? How should founders and early-stage growth and marketing employees approach SEO?

To find out, we asked 150 marketers to share their best tips for startup SEO: what to do, and what to avoid.

Here’s what we learned.

23 Startup SEO Best Practices

There are a lot of places to start when it comes to SEO, as evidenced by the 23 tips listed below. But you don’t have to follow every single tip right away. In fact, a couple of respondents said it’s a mistake to try to do everything right out of the gate.

“Unless you have a bigger SEO budget, you’ll want to focus your efforts on a few things and not try to do it all,” says Camilla Hallstrom. “Focus on the basics. When you have a bigger budget, you can start growing your traffic faster.”

“Stretching yourself too thin can render your hard work useless,” says Alexander Porter of Search It Local. “Keep the Pareto Principle in mind: 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. Identify the SEO strategies that will lead to this 20%, and focus on those.”

So as you review and consider the following 23 startup SEO best practices, try not to get overwhelmed. Just pick a few to focus on, test, measure, and adjust when needed:

  1. Start With an SEO Strategy
  2. Define Your SEO Goals
  3. Allocate Budget for SEO
  4. Start with a Strong Foundation
  5. Focus on Minimizing Load Speeds
  6. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
  7. Spend Time Doing Competitive Research
  8. Conduct Keyword Research
  9. Target Commercial Keywords
  10. Target Niche Keywords
  11. Understand the Intent Behind Keywords You’re Considering
  12. Limit Your Focus When Choosing Keywords
  13. Use Free SEO Tools
  14. Publish High-Quality Content
  15. Create Content That Supports Your Product
  16. Educate Your Audience About Your Product
  17. Answer the Questions Your Audience Is Asking
  18. Build a Library, Not a Publication
  19. Start Building Your Authority With Backlinks
  20. Focus on Getting Backlinks from Key Sources
  21. Partner With Other Companies
  22. Target a Global Audience
  23. Use Your Site’s Analytics Strategically

1. Start With an SEO Strategy

“I currently work at a startup, ZooWho, and we’re facing this dilemma right now,” says Shaner Claire. “My number one tip for other startups is to start your SEO with a well-defined strategy. Think about why SEO matters for your business. If you know what your website needs to do for you, you’ll know where to begin.”

Killian Kostiha of Get Clicks agrees: “Startups tend to be quite busy working on developing their products, and sometimes, the marketing strategy comes in later stages. However, it’s quite important to integrate a proper strategy at the beginning of the project.”

“This simple tip is often overlooked, and people start doing SEO tasks without having a strategy behind it, which may hurt you in the long run,” says McKenna Koster of Advice Media.

“As a startup, you need to know where you are now and where you want to be, and then you can create a strategy on how to get there with tasks that can and will be executed,” Koster says.

Related: Content Strategy vs. SEO Strategy: How to Decide Which Comes First

2. Define Your SEO Goals

“You need to set reasonable, achievable SEO goals,” says Zarar Ameen of CANZ Marketing. “Most startups are either not guided right or are so busy keeping up with all the business challenges that they forget this critical step.”

“Make it clear in your head and on paper what exactly you’re looking for in a quarter/year. Is it the search traffic for specific keywords that you want to optimize, average time spent on your website, bounce rate, brand awareness, number of purchases, or what? Once you get those answers, make your goals achievable.”

“For instance, you can’t achieve ‘more search traffic’ unless you define ‘more.’ ‘More’ itself is quite misleading, ambiguous, and unachievable unless it’s given context with a specific figure. Make it ‘30% more traffic in the first quarter’ or ‘50% more traffic in the year 2020,’ etc. to be able to measure and achieve it.”

“Also, while creating your SEO strategy, make sure that your SEO goals align with your business goals. If you are not wary of this, achieving your business goals with your SEO strategy would be no less than a miracle.”

“For instance, people focused on SEO without considering business goals focus on traffic—not on quality traffic with high potential to convert for you. These people, too often startups, are doing nothing but wasting their time, precious dollars, and energies for nothing,” Ameen says.

Related: The Goal-Setting Process We Used to Get to $1M+ in Annual Revenue

3. Allocate Budget for SEO

“Many startups forget to allocate budget for their SEO needs,” says Morgan Lathaen of thumbprint. “If you want to maximize the results of your SEO strategy, you should allocate a budget for it right from the start.”

So what’s a reasonable budget for startup SEO? The bulk of our respondents said it’s somewhere between $500 and $5,000 per month:

typical startup seo budget

Of course, not every startup can afford to invest $5,000 per month into SEO.

If you’re an SEO for a startup with a limited budget, Brighter Digital’s Patrick Leonard offers this advice: “It can be frustrating as an SEO not to address every opportunity, but start-ups are particularly vulnerable. Limited resources should be directed to the most high-impact opportunities.”

4. Start with a Strong Foundation

“SEO should be considered before you finish your website,” says Forrest Old of Today’s Business. “By properly implementing SEO at the development stage, you can accelerate your website’s growth by months. If you don’t, you can suffer the opposite.”

“Startups should be wary of poorly built websites,” says Sam Olmsted of Superior Honda. “Many times, startups are running on a website built by an inexperienced company founder. Their website is not optimized for search, may have poor ecommerce capabilities, or there are just tons of technical issues on the backend.”

“Spend the money to hire a professional to build the site. From there, you should be able to easily update it and maintain it,” Olmstead says.

“All too often, web design and SEO are in conflict,” says Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles. “A web designer/developer will have their preferred way of building a site, and it may conflict with your SEO needs. In such cases, trust in your SEO needs!”

“You could build the greatest, most beautiful website in the world, but if no one can find it, what’s the point? Whereas you could build a not-so-great looking site that is properly keyword-planned and optimized and receive a ton of traffic and make sales. Which would you rather have?” Dodds asks.

“Get your technical SEO right,” says Paul Lovell of Always Evolving SEO. “Think of this as the foundation of your business. If you can not get this right, then don’t move forward with anything else. This is at the core of everything else you do: content marketing, page speed, everything.”

“The number of startups that get this wrong is shocking,” Lovell says.

Related: Conduct a DIY Technical SEO Audit with These 17 Questions

5. Focus on Minimizing Load Speeds

page load speed recommendations

“My number-one tip for startups is to make your site load faster,” says Kulwant Nagi of AffloSpark. “It doesn’t matter how good your content is, how beautiful your theme is, or how much effort you are putting into promotion: if your site is taking too much time to load, you are losing a lot of potential customers.”

“Use an SSD hosting server, CDN plugins, and an optimized theme so that your site loads faster and serves your visitors faster than your competitors,” Nagi says.

Tom Buchok of MailCharts also recommends “keeping all of your images compressed to under 100 KB. You can usually use a simple tool like TinyJPG to the trick!”

Related: 15 Website Speed Optimization Tips That Anyone Can Implement

6. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

mobile friendly testing tool

“Many startups neglect to create a mobile version of their websites,” says Jitendra Vaswani of BloggersIdeas. “Google prefers mobile-first indexing in 2019, and it will continue to give preference to mobile versions of sites.”

“In a mobile-first world, you have less time to grab people,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls. “Attention spans are shorter than ever, so if your site is not optimized to be mobile friendly and load quickly, you will lose visitors’ attention.”

Related: A Beginner’s Guide to Mobile Website Optimization

7. Spend Time Doing Competitive Research

“Doing your industry/competitor research is crucial,” says Tom Anders of Reload Media. “You should decide when to disrupt versus when to conform to industry conventions.”

Some of our respondents said that competitor research is a great way to find out things competitors are doing that you should replicate.

“Identify competitors in your industry and scrape their SEO,” says Cierra Flythe of BoardActive. “Find the terms and tactics that work for them already. It saves time and eliminates the need for guess and check.”

Rebecca Caldwell of Mash Media agrees: “See what your competitors are ranking for and what questions they’re answering. This gives you a great indication of the right keywords to use in a content strategy.”

Others say that competitive research is a great way to capitalize on what your competitors are neglecting.

“If I was optimizing my own startup website, I would focus on missed opportunities by my competitors,” says Hamza Karim of Local Writer. “That could be content gaps, keyword gaps, some UX/UI functions, graphics, calls to action, whatever.”

“We’ve found that looking at what keywords drive traffic to our competitors is the best way to find these gaps,” says Aaron Wiseman of SmartrMail. “Any good SEO tool will give you this analysis, including free tools like Ubersuggest and Alexa. The good thing about Alexa is that it will also identify competitors for you.”

alexa site statistics

8. Conduct Keyword Research

“One important thing to focus on with startup SEO is to make sure you conduct keyword research,” says Andrew Ruditser of Maxburst.

Corey Haines of Refactoring Growth agrees: “Do thorough keyword research in the early days. The biggest mistake I see is that startups wait a year, two years, even three years to try to start optimizing for specific keywords when they could have been doing that the entire time.”

“Taking a few days to really hone in on the keywords you want to rank for and then making simple optimizations on your site will pay off months and years down the road,” Haines says.

Related: 14 Free Ways to Research and Analyze Keywords for Blog Posts

9. Target Commercial Keywords

“Many startups fall into the trap of targeting any keyword under the sun to attract traffic,” says Vartika Kashyap of ProofHub. “But traffic doesn’t make sense without lead generation.”

“Therefore, concentrate on driving the right kind of traffic by targeting commercial keywords that your audience is searching for,” Kashyap says.

10. Target Niche Keywords

“As a startup, you’re likely bringing a product or a service to the market because there is a specific, niche demand for it,” says Danielle Carson of Lake One. “Find how that demand translates into keywords and long-tail phrases. Then, build your SEO strategy around it.”

Ben Cook of JC Social Media agrees: “It’s easy to make a list of keywords or phrases you feel like you should cover, but unless you can produce something really high quality and build links quickly, you’re far better off finding niche topics to target.”

David James of Business Growth Digital Marketing recommends this process:

“Identify the niche audience in your target market and develop a content marketing plan that will serve them with the information that they are searching for. Publish the content so that it is better than what is on the market. Then, promote it to the audience as much as possible.”

“This will be the most cost-effective way to penetrate the SEO market as a startup, even if you are competing with major, established brands. The content will get found and shared and will eventually give your startup the competitive advantage in the SEO space,” James says.

11. Understand the Intent Behind Keywords You’re Considering

“Some keywords and their difficulty may look misleadingly attractive,” says Illia Termeno of Extrabrains Marketing Agency. “You need to check the search intent for each of the keywords you’re planning to target. If you use the keywords with irrelevant search intent, you’re going to face the following issues:”

  • “At first, your bounce rate will go up because people are landing on a page that is not answering their questions.”
  • “Then, Google’s algorithms will decrease your rankings for that page, and you will stop getting traffic to the page at all.”

“Before creating content around a specific keyword, check the top 10 results on Google for the keyword. If you’re considering using this keyword for your ecommerce product page, for example—and the top 10 results contain only educational content—you will understand that the search intent is different,” Termeno says.

12. Limit Your Focus When Choosing Keywords

When choosing keywords to focus on, Drew Cohen of SmartBug Media says to “limit your focus! Ask yourself: what are the top three search terms that you want to be found for? Think outside the box and identify questions or longer-tail keywords that align with your company focus.”

“Once you’ve identified those three target keywords, make that what you build your on-page SEO strategy around, as well as your content marketing plan that generates blog material, premium content (ebooks, whitepapers, fact sheets, etc.), and web page copy,” Cohen says.

13. Use Free SEO Tools

ubersuggest

“The best thing for a small startup is to use free SEO tools,” says Nathan Finch of Aussie Hosting. “It sounds obvious, but I’ve worked with lots of startup entrepreneurs who ignore free SEO tools.”

“You do not need to pay money for SEO tools. There are plenty of free tools that can help you like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. For startups, this means you won’t need to spend big on your SEO,” Finch says.

Patricio Quiroz of Code Authority agrees: “There are so many different free SEO tools that you can use to do competitor, keyword, and industry research. Google literally gives you free tools so that you can understand where your audience is coming from, where they are clicking, and where they are hanging out.”

“Then you have Ubersuggest which is basically an all-in-one marketing software that is great for competitor analysis, keyword research, and even backlink analysis. These are only a handful of tools out there that are completely free.”

“When you’re starting off, you shouldn’t go broke trying to figure out a marketing strategy for your business. Use the resources and tools available to you in order to market your business correctly and efficiently,” Quiroz says.

Editor’s note: Databox is a free tool you can use to monitor the impact of your SEO efforts and gather insights on what’s working and what’s not. Get started by grabbing this free Google Analytics Website Traffic dashboard that gives you an overall view of which channels and keywords are driving traffic and conversions.

google analytics website traffic dashboard

14. Publish High-Quality Content

“Focus on creating unique, high-quality, insightful, and well-researched articles,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers. “Write for people, not search engines. Focus on quality, not quantity. It’s better to publish one insightful, researched, and high-quality blog post every two weeks than two low-quality, low-value blog posts per week.”

Lots of respondents agreed. In fact, when we asked what the most important SEO task was for a startup, content marketing received the most votes:

most important startup seo task

“A lot of people think that SEO is about volume, which can be intimidating for a startup with limited resources,” says Jeremy Cross of Team Building Texas. “Instead, focus on writing two or three insanely detailed articles that could rank for your most important keywords, and then do link building for these.”

“It’s much better to have three articles bringing in 20,000+ clicks per month then it is to have 100 articles with 10 clicks each,” Cross says.

Zak Mustapha of Mustapha Holding Company agrees: “I’ve found that creating a few solid pieces of content can drive a ton of traffic. Creating a resource that people will want to come back to for reference instantly makes you a leader in that topic.”

“Creating that go-to resource every now and then can have a tremendous impact on how people see your business. Are you just another startup pushing out good content, or are you the startup pushing out content that makes people think ‘wow, this is something I want to bookmark,’” Mustapha says.

And in addition to creating fewer pieces of high-quality content, Clemens Rychlik of Bourbon Creative says, “you’ll need to spend even more resources to promote these assets and secure relevant and high-quality backlinks pointing to them.”

To help you create the content you need, Deyan Drazov of VIP Games says to “use the resources and competencies you have available on your team. Find out what your team members are good at, let them brainstorm ideas, and get to work!”

“Whether it is making engaging videos, writing blog posts, or creating infographics, generating content that’s relevant to its niche should be a startup’s main priority,” Drazov says.

Related: 29 SEO Copywriting Tips for Writing High-Quality, High-Ranking Content

15. Create Content That Supports Your Product

“Create canonical content that targets keywords your customers will be looking for when wanting your product,” says Jarie Bolander of JSY PR & Marketing.

“Canonical content is content that teaches potential customers how to use your offering to solve their problems. Usually, it’s a series of posts that build upon each other,” Bolander says.

MarketMuse’s Stephen Jeske agrees and says “your content can serve a myriad of needs for prospects, closing deals, customer support, and others.”

“Underlying this content is the notion that your company is the expert in your chosen field. So take that content and turn it into public-facing pages on your website. Use it to tell the story that you are an authority on your subject.”

“Aim to create a minimal viable blog (MVB) just as you would an MVP, for all the same reasons,” Jeske says.

16. Educate Your Audience About Your Product

“If you’re a startup with a new product or technology, you’re going to have to educate the market,” says Tanya Wigmore of CRO:NYX Digital.

“Don’t assume that people know what to search for to find you. Keep your focus on TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU to make sure you can capture, nurture, and educate potential leads,” Wigmore says.

Maria Cieślak of Onely provides some related advice: “Don’t be too geeky. I have analyzed many startup websites, and they all have something in common: they create innovative products and services, but they can’t clearly describe them.”

“Sometimes, even after analyzing their website, I still don’t know what they are offering. They need to learn how to describe their products in simple words and match them with keywords and queries that normal users are searching for,” Cieślak says.

“Focus on solving customer problems in your messaging,” says Jay Ratkowski of Transistor.

“Tech and B2B startups tend to talk about innovations and features in vague terms to create a lot of excitement, but it doesn’t directly speak to the problems folks are trying to solve. More directly, it doesn’t speak to the thing people are typing into Google for help,” Ratkowski says.

17. Answer the Questions Your Audience Is Asking

“My most successful startup SEO efforts largely started as writing about whatever questions and topics we thought were relevant without much thought to strategy, inbound linking, or actual SEO,” says Giuseppe Frustaci of Stick Shift Driving Academy.

“We just identified the questions that buyers would probably ask through their journey (typically identified via paid search query reports) and then wrote content answering those questions.”

“Once we did that, we used our analytics tools to see what queries Google was matching our content to. We did this via Google Search Console. As Google showed us the queries we were matching to, we would add those terms to our content.”

“We’d go back and forth between writing content and seeing what terms Google thought was relevant that people were searching for. It’s an incredibly unsophisticated approach to content strategy, and it has now worked very well for me in three separate ventures,” Frustaci says.

Another way to find the questions your prospects are asking and the terms they are using, according to Kelsey Formost of Tagger Media, is to “practice what I call ‘review mining.’ Pull your SEO keywords and phrases directly from your own customer feedback and the reviews of your competitors.”

databox g2 review

“You’ll understand what your actual customer’s pain points are, not just what the competition’s marketing department wants you to see. If you practice approaching your SEO from the perspective of real customer language, you’ll naturally rise above the noise online.”

18. Build a Library, Not a Publication

Mollie Kuramoto of Element Three recommends taking an approach coined by Jimmy Daly of Animalz: “View your own content as a library, not a publication.”

“Focus on creating evergreen content that’s helpful to your users and supports your own products or services. While timely content can be good, startups will want to ditch the publication mentality and instead build a library of evergreen resources that generate organic traffic over time,” Kuramoto says.

Drew Beechler of High Alpha agrees: “Don’t just create content for content marketing’s sake. You need to be creating content that people are searching for.”

“Focus on earning backlinks,” says Alex Vale of Attio. “There’s no point in focusing on trying to rank higher without having the authority that’s necessary to do so.”

“Backlinks can be earned through lots of channels, but when you’re a young company, you should be leveraging your expertise in guest posts and capitalizing on things like fundraising and product update announcements in press releases on news sites,” Vale says.

Robbie Richards agrees: Piggyback off the authority of larger sites to rank faster for ultra-competitive topics. This tactic is often referred to as ‘parasite SEO.’”

“A simple example of this in action is publishing a guest post on a large industry publication that targets a specific keyword you would have no chance of ranking for on your own site. Because the site has loads of domain authority, your article will likely rank quickly and send passive referral traffic to your site each month.”

“Basically, the ‘host’ is the middle man sending traffic through to the ‘parasite’ (your landing page) from the search engines. If you’re looking to get your brand out there and see a quick bump in targeted traffic, this strategy can work really well,” Richards says.

“Building backlinks (good clean ones) is the key to ranking quickly and effectively,” says William Chin-Fook of Pickfu. “It helps you grow your digital footprint and get more eyeballs on your brand!”

Related: 100+ Marketers Share The Link-Building Techniques That Work Best

20. Focus on Getting Backlinks from Key Sources

databox on crunchbase

“Startups should focus on building quality backlinks from notable industry directories like Crunchbase, Startup Tracker, Gust, and BetaList, among others,” says Osiris Parikh of Summit Mindfulness.

“In addition to providing quality backlinks that improve the startup’s website ranking, having a presence on those sites can attract attention from prospective clients and investors,” Parikh says.

Takeshi Young of Optimizely offers a similar recommendation: “Press and news coverage are a great way to leverage the excitement of a new product to build quality backlinks. Conducting interviews on blogs can be another way, as well as submitting your site to various product directories such as Product Hunt.”

“The benefit of these backlinks is that they will improve your domain authority and help any content you produce rank better in Google. They can also be a strong source of referral traffic aside from the SEO benefit, which can take some time to take effect,” Young says.

21. Partner With Other Companies

“No company is an island, so connect with your fellow companies,” says Cayley Vos of Netpaths. “Write helpful, informative articles that complementary sites will publish, get published in industry sites, and get featured on their social media profiles.”

Sarah McIntyre of Bright Inbound agrees: “Work on building your domain authority by partnering with other organizations to create and promote relevant content. This has a dual effect of increasing traffic and also building relationships with others in your industry.”

Related: The 35 Most Effective Off-Page SEO Techniques (According to 98 SEOs)

22. Target a Global Audience

“My advice to any startup investing money, time, and energy on building an effective organic traffic machine is to act globally,” says Carlo Morandi of Callbell. “This means that, in my opinion, every startup should invest time in translating content into any language, besides English, that potential customers speak.”

“Structuring a multi-language website from day one easily helps to build up traffic over time from any country where your potential customers might be located and to get backlinks from local websites.”

“Often, content published in a language other than English finds much less competition when it comes to keyword targeting, and this allows you to generate traffic more easily for a specific target topic.”

“It doesn’t really matter if then you need to switch to English when communicating with potential clients: once they want to talk to you because they are interested in your product, you will figure out how to make it work (it’s just a nice problem to face).”

“Moreover, the effort to translate a piece of content is usually much smaller than the effort you need to invest to produce it. Once you’ve invested the time to write an article, then you can easily translate it into different languages through freelancers on Fiverr or Upwork,” Morandi says.

23. Use Your Site’s Analytics Strategically

Our final startup SEO tip comes from UNIwise’s James Kingsley who says to “keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to analytics. Granted, it may seem a little dry, and may not seem urgent given it tends to look at the past rather than the future, but stick with it.”

“Delve into the granular details, and you can really figure out how your website’s visitors think. Set up a spreadsheet so you can track changes over time—that way, you can optimize your site as per user patterns.”

“High bounce rate on one of your pages? Review it. Spike in visitors from Australia? Optimize for your new audience. There is incredible power in simply reading the data at your fingertips,” Kingsley says.

“It’s important to understand what’s working and what’s not working,” says Veronica Batista of OnPoint Internet Marketing. “This way, you will be able to save time and prevent further mistakes.”

Editor’s note: There’s no need for spreadsheets to track changes over time. Just build a Databox dashboard showing the data you need with comparisons turned on. This Google Analytics Acquisition Snapshot dashboard is a great example, showing month-over-month trends for channel and keyword acquisitions.

google analytics acquisition snapshot dashboard

Things to Avoid and/or Watch Out For

Now that we’ve looked at what our respondents believe are the best practices for startup SEO, let’s turn to the worst practices—the things you need to avoid or watch out for when optimizing your startup’s website for search.

Beware Promises of Quick, Sweeping Results

“Be wary of the easy fixes—companies or software that promise you quick results or mass-linking in a short amount of time or for a super low cost,” says Caterina Romano of Eric Mower + Associates.

“There are so many bogus agencies out there wanting to take your money that you really need to be careful,” says Adam Hempenstall of Better Proposals. “Ask for previous results and solid proof before deciding on an agency or freelancer to work with.”

“A startup’s biggest enemy is its own impatience when it comes to SEO,” says Tea Liarokapi of Moosend. “SEO is a long game. It will take combined efforts (content, keywords, backlinks, etc.) to make things work, and said things won’t work at the drop of a hat.”

Avoid Blackhat SEO Techniques

“Startups should be wary of any blackhat SEO techniques,” says Patricio Quiroz of Code Authority. “Blackhat techniques are methods of applying SEO that are against Google’s rules. These tactics can end up penalizing your website and even removing it completely from the search engine.”

“Everyone claims they do ‘white-hat SEO’ that ‘follows Google’s guidelines, but few actually do,” says Adam Thompson of ReliaSite. “Read Google’s actual guidelines, especially the guidelines around link schemes. If you get penalized by Google for breaking their guidelines, you can lose a lot of time and money trying to recover.”

“It’s okay to not follow Google’s guidelines exactly, but you need to be aware of the risks and make your decision accordingly,” Thompson says.

Be Patient, But Not Too Patient

“Regardless of how good your content is, it will take time to show up/move up in the SERPs,” says James McGrath of Yoreevo. “The delayed results can be frustrating for the obvious reasons (nobody likes to wait) but also because it makes it hard to pin down what’s actually helping.”

“If you’re not seeing results in 3-6 months though, you should reevaluate your strategy. That should be enough time to get some feedback. This is especially relevant when you’re paying an SEO agency that says results are always a few months away. Eventually, you need to see results,” McGrath says.

Watch Out for Outdated Tactics

“Be wary of outdated SEO tricks and hacks,” says Victor Antiu of Zenmate VPN. “A few years ago, many of these tactics worked—or at least did not do much damage—but now they could seriously hurt you.”

Sameer Somal of Blue Ocean Global Technology concurs: “Techniques that worked a few years ago may attract penalties today.”

“I’ve found that the majority of folks writing about SEO aren’t true practitioners,” says Adam Steele of Loganix. “A lot of what they are sharing is only based on a couple of experiences or what they’ve read or heard.”

“It’s important—even in whatever small way—that you measure and test. Or, if you decide to hire outside help, that they do. Ideally, they don’t just say they do, they can also point to real-life studies they’ve published,” Steele says.

Related: The 44 Most Destructive SEO Myths (According to 120 SEOs)

Avoid Unsuitable Tactics

“Not all SEO strategies are good for everyone,” says Jubaer Prodhan of Marketing Doorway. “For example, it’s extremely difficult for a new website to follow Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique. If you don’t have authority, people will be less likely to link to your website.”

“Find a strategy that is beginner-friendly and can be started with zero backlinks (i.e. long-tail-keyword focused content marketing),” Prodhan says.

Don’t Strive for Backlink Quantity

“Don’t make the mistake of going for too many links right away,” says Farasat Khan of IIWP. “It is nice to get backlinks, but getting too many in an unnatural manner won’t bring results. It is highly advised to create great content and focus on getting quality links—not bulk links.”

Don’t Try to Rank for Highly Competitive Keywords

“One of the things to be wary of, especially in the beginning, is going after high-competition keywords,” says Mack Dudayev of InsureChance. “You simply will not outrank websites who have very high authority, so it’s best to go after lower-competition keywords.”

“When your site acquires higher domain authority, you can start going after those higher-competition keywords,” Dudayev says.

Alexander de Ridder of INK agrees: “Don’t invest in content for keywords you can’t compete for yet. It’s a waste of time and money. Just like starting to lift weights, don’t damage yourself: start slow, build up strength, and keep at it.”

Don’t Pursue Traffic Blindly

“B2B startups, in particular, should remember that SEO should be used to capture leads and not simply to generate traffic,” says Fiona Kay of Nigel Wright Group.

“They should consider how they will maximize the value of their SEO efforts through lead generation via lead capture forms, live chat, and similar methods,” Kay says.

Don’t Do SEO Once

“SEO is an ongoing process,” says Andrew McLoughlin of Colibri Digital Marketing. “All too often, businesses fall victim to the convenience of a set-it-and-forget-it mentality, and SEO simply doesn’t work that way.”

Should You Invest in SEO for Your Startup?

We started out talking about whether or not investing in SEO is a wise decision for startups, so let’s close by sharing a few of our respondents’ thoughts on that matter.

Robin Rozhon of Electronic Arts (EA) says you should “understand your options before committing to an SEO strategy. If no one searches for your product, SEO may not be the right thing for you. Instead, explore other marketing channels.”

“SEO is a long-term strategy. Some startups don’t have that much time and need to start driving results early,” Rozhon says.

Related: SEO vs. PPC: Which Channel Generates More Sales?

On the other hand, Grete Jeltsov of GSMTasks says that “SEO for startups is a huge topic because it works. When I began SEO at GSMtasks, we ranked for a super-high-volume keyword in three months.”

“It wasn’t even a product-related keyword, but it drove a ton of signups. Why? Because we put out an incredibly helpful and useful resource that solved a problem for one of our key customer segments,” Jeltsov says.

And finally, Carlo Barajas of Surface SEO recommends a measured approach: “As we know, SEO takes time to show results—sometimes a long time for a brand-new startup.”

“I always recommend that startups focus on marketing tasks that can generate the fastest ROI because they tend to have smaller budgets and high burn rates.”

“That said,” Barajas continues, “I also recommend that startups focus on foundational SEO activities (keyword research, technical audits, on-site optimization) so that as they naturally start to garner press and mentions around the web, they will enjoy the full benefits of every link.”

About the author
Jessica Greene
Jessica Greene writes about marketing, business, and technology for B2B SaaS companies. A former writing instructor and corporate marketer, she uses her subject-matter expertise and desire to educate others as motivation for developing actionable, in-depth, user-focused content.
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