There’s a certain mystery surrounding search-engine optimization (SEO). This is primarily because the environment where SEO is used, the internet, can feel so ethereal. It can be hard to understand something you can’t touch or really see.
Many mistake the internet as a whole with the search engines that index the ever-growing content and products for consumers. It’s in this inchoate market where businesses currently seeking to put themselves in front of their target audience can get into trouble.
With so much choice online, finding the right customers is the name of the game. That’s why SEO is so important. Its impact increases in a startup because inspiring interest and intrigue from customers is the fulcrum for success.
Unfortunately, because startups are by their very nature new, mistakes often happen. Below are six reasons why startups face-plant SEO their first time around:
1) It Comes too Late
For any e-commerce company, the look and the feel of the site is important. It should be as intuitive as possible, and you probably have strong feelings on its design and interface.
Well, you should feel just as strongly about the SEO because it needs to be a part of the concept phase of your company. So many ideas show a site. before they’ve even planned. how they’re going to optimize it for an audience.
This is the wrong order of SEO implementation.
SEO should be a foundational element of the site itself and the marketing plan you’re giving angel investors and venture capitalists. Don’t let the arcane nature of SEO scare your startup away until it’s too late.
2) Cursory Analytics Inspection
Companies can often get the technical aspects of SEO wrong, but diligent tracking of analytics reveals a lot more about who your customer might be, and what clicking and spending habits you can glean from SEO.
That’s what’s great about the internet: you don’t need to speculate on your customer or the efficacy of your marketing. It’s all right there in the data; you just have to know how to act on it.
Every SEO action you take will get a reaction from the market. If you’re not tracking those reactions, then what’s the point of even doing SEO? If you’re not learning and experimenting with your SEO, you aren’t using it properly, and that starts with an obsessive attention to the analytics.
Moz, Google Search Console, cognitiveSEO and Google Analytics are just some of the tools to do so, but the service is less important than the mindset — analytics are your company’s lifeblood, so ignore them at your own peril.
SEO isn’t something where you can set it and forget it.
Like all marketing, it’s fluid, and not just because Google frequently changes its algorithm. SEO is online marketing, and you’re constantly on the lookout for changing consumer patterns (check your analytics!).
But for your business to flower, SEO has to be routinely watered and trimmed in the right spots. No product or business can survive if you don’t open it up to customers, and in the e-commerce world, the door is SEO.
You can’t intermittently unlock it; it has to stay open all the time, with the door flung wide open, inviting potential customers in. Consistent SEO does that.
4) Partner With the Wrong People
It’s so easy to get bamboozled by SEO consultants you find online. Their job is to get in front of you, so you have to be leery, even if they’re the first search result in your geographic region.
“My own firm showed up first in Google for ‘utah seo’ for several years, but it’s not because we’re the best SEO firm in Utah,” he writes.
“It’s because we were one of the first SEO firms in Utah, we have an old domain that’s been in use since 1996, and because we did a decent job on SEO. But nothing more outstanding than 50 other firms targeting the same keywords. Fortunately for us, it appears Google put a lot of weight on those first two factors.”
Fortunately, over a decade later, MWI is one of the best SEO firms in the business — their clients’ results speak for themselves. Still, there are many who aren’t quite so experienced — don’t let the lure of a nice website design or a “big-name” company influence your decision, either.
Competency and the right fit cover a large spectrum of characteristics. “The No. 1 question you want answered from an SEO firm is ‘Are you going to help me get my job done?’” says Steimle.
Let that maxim be your guidepost.
5) Tricks to Game the System
Whatever ruse you think you’ve found to game a search engine likely won’t work. You can register thousands of sites, and ding tens of thousands of “friends” to try and synthetically boost your Google rank, but it’s all been done before.
Even if your scheme gets around Google guidelines, you still won’t pass the spam litmus test.
Google, Bing, and other search engines are deliberately updating and changing algorithms to stymie any such scheme. Don’t waste time on Hail Mary’s that could be spent organically working to improve your SEO ranking.
6) Impatience With Results
This goes in hand with any silver-bullet marketing schemes you always encounter that overpromise and underdeliver. There’s no miraculous spike in traffic, and your SEO ranking fails to materialize.
It’s not a movie. It’s consistency and quality that achieves slow, steady growth. Results certainly matter, but the timeframe you chose for calculated search growth needs to allow for this reality.
SEO is a key for any startup if they hope to achieve maturation online. It should be a part of the conceptual stage before a site goes live, and part and parcel with any marketing plan and site architecture.
Then, you have to consistently work to act on what the analytics reveal. Team up with the right experts to help facilitate your SEO plan, and remember that success never happens overnight.
Let SEO work for you, without forgetting it’s also on you to implement and nourish it.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.