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Guide

Basic SEO Campaign

by
Denys Rudik
SEO Team Lead @ Netpeak
Get a pre-made project plan based on this how-to guide on startuptoolkit.info
In this guide we’ll share the essential SEO tips any startuper can use for their company growth without hiring a dedicated pro. While these are the basic, beginners tips, they can help you create good layering ground for your SEO campaign and significantly reduce further online marketing costs. 

Conduct The Basic Research For Relevant Keywords

First, you need to understand what kind of keywords (search terms) are highly relevant for your product.

At this point, you just do some digging and simply research various options. Try to imagine the exact words your target audience will use to find your product. Create a big list of all the possible variations. You’ll filter those later on. 

Study Your Competition

Even if you are launching a completely out-of-this-world product or service with no evident competition, it’s still worth giving a close look on what industry leaders in closely-related niches are doing.
 
To get a better picture of the market landscape, analyze the first 10 websites appearing in search results based on: 
  • The most relevant high traffic keywords (over 5.000 monthly searches)
  • Medium and low traffic keywords (1000-500 monthly searches and below 500 monthly searches respectively) 
The next, more advanced analysis option is to use a 3rd party tool. For example, Serpstat.

Add your domain name to discover similar websites and keywords they are ranking for.

Analyze the following website parameters: 
  • website structure, landing page design, and lead generation blocks (e.g. sign up forms, call-to-action buttons) 
  • website usability In case you are using a 3rd party tool. Also pay attention to the keywords the website ranks for to grab some ideas for ranking your startup and creating relevant blog posts. 
Apart from potential keywords, you can also grab on some additional ideas from your competitors e.g. their navigation layout, content structure, main menu, sections etc. 

Create a Basic Core of Semantic Keywords

Semantic keyword research entails creating a core of terms, which fully characterize your website's topic. You need it to complete the following goals:
  • Build the optimal website structure; 
  • Craft relevant meta tags (Meta titles, descriptions, keywords) and headings to increase your website visibility in search; 
  • Create high-quality SEO-optimized copy, which includes those keywords.
  • Choose winning anchor texts for inbound links.
In general, to create a great semantic core you should approach a professional. However, you can DIY an essential pack yourself. Here are detailed instructions on how it’s done with a free Serpstat account:
Distribute all the gathered keywords in groups, so that each keyword group has a corresponding landing page.
You need to do this to get ranked not only for high traffic keywords but also for middle to low traffic keywords. For instance, if you are offering online apartment design services, you should create different landing pages for different design styles (for instance, online apartment design in Scandinavian style); types of apartments (online design for one-bedroom apartment, studio, etc.).

Here’s how a basic semantic core looks like:

Semantic Core - Example 

In that plan, you can see that all the keywords are grouped accordingly to create separate landing pages for each group.
To determine the priority of creating new pages, check the keywords for average monthly searches (for instance using free Google Keyword Planner tool)

To create the basic website structure, you need to gather and group at least one-two thousand keywords. (Phew, a lot of work ahead!)

Map Out Your Website Hierarchy

Based on the developed semantic core and competition analysis, map out your website hierarchy a.k.a. structure. It’s the way how all the information on your website will be organized; how your navigation and URL structure will look like.
  • Create website sections, categories, subcategories and related pages based on the high traffic keywords.
  • Create static tag pages with filters and cross-filters based on low and middle traffic keywords. You need to have your tag pages URLs well optimized (with readable URL-addresses, meta tag templates, etc.) as those may negatively impact your rankings later on. It’s best to analyze and fix this thing early on as afterward you may need to change your entire website structure.
If you are hiring someone to build your website, you should add all the points mentioned above to your brief. Don’t forget that you should finish this before launching your website as it may cost you much more to re-do this kind of optimization later on.Even if your startup is really out-of-the-box and you have discovered just a bunch of related keywords, you should still consider creating blog apart from service pages and a section with case studies, which will show how to solve a certain problem. Afterward, when a user searches for a solution to the problem covered in your case study, search engines are likely to rank your page high enough in search results.For instance, if you have an online survey recruiting service, you create different website categories based on the high traffic keywords:
If you run a tour company, you should create relevant page categories for the most popular trip themes e.g. (family tours, weekend tours, Christmas tours, food tours, sailing tours, wildlife tours, cycling tours, short breaks, cultural tours etc.)
Additionally, you create separate pages for tours to different countries e.g. holidays in France, where you also add sub-categories based on cities e.g. Paris holidays, Nice holidays etc.For lower traffic keywords (for example, bus tours to Paris) you can create a deeper page, which users will be able to access through category and subcategory pages. In general, the rule of thumb is to keep your website swallow – your users need three or fewer clicks to reach every page.Using this kind of internal optimization, your new website pages (which still lack authority from a search engine’s perspective) get a chance to rank high enough in search results for relevant search terms. However, even when the pages were ideally optimized, it would still be hard to compete with more established competitors in search results for the same keywords.It’s also worth pointing that if a certain additional product/service doesn’t have any search terms at the moment, it’s still worth creating a separate page for it as those may appear in the future.

Focus on On-Page SEO

SEO is typically divided to on-page and off-page. Off-page SEO mainly involves getting links to your website from other web resources.On-page SEO assumes optimizing your website structure based on search engine requirements. Study the official Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide by Google first. There are tons of advice on the matter, so we’ll cover the absolute on-page essentials only in this guide.On-page SEO can have a decent impact on your search rankings. Below are the key steps you can easily DIY.

Optimize Meta Tags: Titles, Descriptions and H1 Titles

We use <title> tag to suggest search engines what’s a webpage is all about. The content of this tag is not displayed on the page itself, but is visible in search results:
Titles are one of the important search ranking factors. Think of the best wording to describe your page content using a high traffic keyword. Each page title should be unique and consist of 70-80 symbols (the rest would be cut down in search results). Try to include the keyword you’d like to rank for in the beginning of the title.
NB: Avoid keyword stuffing a.k.a. using keywords in meta tags more than twice as you’ll be violating search engine guidelines and your entire website may get penalized.Craft juicy, click-worthy and attractive descriptions – between 150-170 symbols in length with your keyword used ones. Search engines use description tags to form snippets in search results. They may choose to display the proposed description or pull out custom content based on the user's search term. Catchy descriptions attract more user clicks and more traffic from search.Don’t forget to add H1 titles – visible on-page headlines, typically the largest text elements. Keep it short, sweet and include one high-traffic keyword.

Set Up Webmaster Tools

Add your website to Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.

These services offer a great pack of useful optimization tools (for free!), which can help you to improve your website indexing and get notified instantly of any potential problems.

Optimize URL Structures

Dynamic URL addresses (e.g. site.com/category=123&page=2) can negatively impact on how web crawlers (bots that index your website and suggest search engines how to rank each page) render your website. Those create a large number of URLs pointing at the same or similar content. As a result web crawlers index those pages as duplicates – something that negatively impacts your rankings and overall indexing process.You should make your URL structure simple and readable both for humans and crawlers. Here’s how a well-optimized URL looks like: site.com/startup/example/Hence, create custom URL structures that are short, sweet, easy-to-remember and contain the keyword you are optimizing the page for. You should create custom URLs for all the important pages including categories, services, informational pages and blog posts.

Setup Robots.txt File

You have to create a robots.txt file for search engines. It allows you to regulate which pages should be accessed and indexed.You should point to the main mirror website from there and don’t forget to include a link to sitemap.xml (your website map for search engines).Example:User-Agent:*
Disallow: /example/
Host: site.com
Sitemap: http://site.com/sitemap.xml
If you have a certain website section you don’t want search engines to index, indicate that section’s directory in Disallow line.

Interlink Your Inner Pages

If you want your website to get indexed faster and more efficiently, you should map out and set up a crawlable link structure for search engine bots.First of all, create a convenient main menu structure, which would include links to different category pages, important sub-categories and different sections of your website.Add text-based links from one page to another.Create a sitemap to guide your users, which would include links to all the important pages. If you have tag (filter) pages on your website, add links to those tag pages from category pages (sometimes you’ll need a developer to do this). Otherwise, search engines may not be able to index those pages in the first place.

Create an XML-sitemap

Create and setup an XML-sitemap – a list of all your webpages in XML format, which is open for scanning and indexing to search engines. XML-sitemaps deliver the information about all the important website pages and increase their chances of getting indexed faster.

Delete Duplicate Pages

Check whether your website has duplicate pages (e.g. your site and the pages exist in two versions on http/https; you did not setup proper www.domain.com and domain.com redirect; duplicate page appear with and without the ending “/”; or some pages may be available both through a URL-address in uppercase and lowercase). Run a thorough check for such pages and create a list for a developer to set up proper 301 redirects, which must be in place for duplicate pages (e.g. pages with and without www. in front).

Set up your site

Proceed to the "Setup a Mobile Version of your Website" task.

Setup a Mobile Version of Your Website

Mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop traffic in 10 countries worldwide, including the USA. Optimizing your website for mobile is no longer a fad, it’s a necessity.You should create a responsive website or a separate mobile version of your website. It’s equally important both for users and search engines as the latter will rank your website lower if it’s not mobile-friendly/responsive.Run a quick test using Mobile-Friendly tool from Google and make respective changes if needed.

Create a HTTPS Website by Purchasing SSL Certificates

Your users care about security and data privacy more than you can imagine. Purchase a secure SSL-certificate to add an extra layer of data protection. Learn more about the benefits of using https and how to choose a certificate.

Start Working on the Copy and Launch Your Blog

Once you are done with the basic tech optimization, it’s time get started with content. Do not copy any type of content from other websites – whether those are texts or images! Search engines will never rank duplicate content higher than the original ones and your website may even get penalized for this.Hire a copywriter to produce attractive copies for your pages based on your keyword research and requirements. Your writer should understand well all the in-house processes and deliver truly educational and useful content. Always write with your audience in mind, not search engines, hoping you’ll get ranked based on the amount of keywords you’ve stuffed in the copy. The latter will only damage your website.Start a blog, where you will publish interesting, relevant content geared towards your target audience. Great content allows you to obtain links from other sources and get ranked higher. Craft case studies, where you’ll explain how your product magically solves problem X – an issue that keeps your target users awake at night.From this post you can learn how to create a content plan for your blog for a few months in advance while spending just 15-20 minutes on it.

Also, check out "Get Started With Blogging" how-to guide.

Setup Main Social Media Accounts + YouTube

Create official social media accounts for your startup on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. This way you’ll stay in touch with your target audience and increase loyalty to your brand.Add follow social media buttons to your website and sharing buttons to your blog posts. This way you’ll put social media growth on autopilot.Launch a YouTube channel and stay active there by uploading new videos at least once in 2-3 weeks.

Execute a Basic Link Building Campaign

Here are a few 100% actionable tips to earn the first links for your websites.1. Start with getting your project listed at:This way you are not only getting the first few links, but some traffic and user feedback as well. If your startup gets traction at one of this platform, high chances are it may land some news coverage and a massive amount of social shares. 2. Get your startup listed in different directories. Here’s a list of categories where you can submit your startup manually or using some of the fast submission tools:https://startuplister.com/type/directory/Prior to listing your startup, get a close look on the directory website. If it’s completely irrelevant or spammy, don’t submit your website there. A link from a spammy website can do more harm than good.3. Your golden links obviously come from news and editorial mentions. In this guide we offer a step-by-step plan of how to land mentions from top online publishers for free.4. Press releases work great for getting the initial links. While journalists don’t really read PRs these days, a lot of website simply auto-publish them – meaning new links for you. You can try using both free and paid PR distribution services. For example, PR Leap.We suggest using paid services as free ones typically distribute your PR to some very shady and spammy platforms. Such links will hardly make any positive impact on your rankings (or can even harm it).5. Don’t forget about online communities. Create accounts and stay active at the next ones:· Quora· Reddit· HackerNews· GrowthHackers, Inbound.org, Designer News· Stack OverflowIn this guide we go into details on how you can build links and get traffic from those.6. Post on Forums. Yes, the good old forums. Forum links still have some value. You should register accounts on relevant niche and city forums in your area. Contribute to the community; try soft-promoting your services in line with the forum’s moderation policy, meaning don’t start with posting links straight off the bat. Sometimes you may need to contribute at least 50 other posts before you can post a single link; or you may need to have an account older than 1 month. For each post containing a link to your website, there should be 20 others without any links. Include links to your startups homepage and relevant blog posts.7. Additionally, you can get links by leaving meaningful comments with links on other blogs relevant to your niche. Again, those should look organic or such comments will never pass moderation.8. You can also obtain links through guest posting. Search for blogs accepting guest contributions (those are plentiful in most niches!) and where you can add some great content based on your expertise. Strategic guest posting can not only bring your links, but quality traffic as well. Here’s a great case study about the power of guest posting.Using the methods listed above you can get a decent amount of links for your website when you are just starting out!

Final words

Those were just the basic advice. In general, optimizing and promoting your website in search requires a lot of time, efforts and expertise. For tangible results, you should better approach the pros like NETPEAK.To get a better idea about SEO we recommend checking out the next resources:
Story by
Denys Rudik
SEO Team Lead @ Netpeak