For the longest time, I thought about creating a no-BS guide on building an online presence for a hitherto no-name entity – a startup. As it turns out, most of it boils down to two things – Domain name and SEO.
I have three indisputable reasons for saying that. At the time of writing this:
- 35% of all ecommerce traffic comes from organic search
- 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine
- 80% of all users completely ignore search ads and pay attention only to organic search results.
Basically – Rank high or go home. There’s no in-between.
Organic search just works because of the ROI you get from it over time. You get leads from a paid campaign for as long as it’s running (or until your budget dries up, whichever comes first). But following a simple but clearly defined SEO strategy ensures traffic, quality leads (I’m talking 10x better leads than social media), and brand-perception practically forever.
It’s important to get it right right from the beginning – if you mess up, it’ll still be on the internet forever (Wayback Machine exists for this) and the damage will take its own time to undo. In this post, we’re going to tell you how not to mess up.
No BS. Just brief how-to’s on finding the right domain name and SEO strategy for your startup.
Let’s start with the deceptively easier one.
The Calling Card: Domain Names
Your domain appears on all your marketing collateral (digital or otherwise), your email addresses and your business cards. It’s intricately tied to your brand, and just to up the difficulty level – it’s kind of a massive pain to change a few years down the line. So, it’s important to get your domain (and brand) name right.
Some tips to keep in mind when looking for the name:
- KISS: Keep it Short and Simple so it’s easier for hundreds (or millions) of users to remember/type directly in the address bar someday. Single real words will establish authority (render, examine) but will be pricier since people tend to hoard these domains. Portmanteaus are always good (Pricenomics, investopedia). Numbers and hyphens aren’t really cool in a domain name, so try not to use those unless you’re sure of what you’re doing.
- Research: Check to ensure that your name is not blacklisted by Google. Look through trademarks and previous usage of the name+extension using Archive.com or Wayback Machine.
- Ditch the trends: Focus on the usability of the domain name. Before the civil war, the .ly extension was so totally rad you guys. After Gaddafi became international news, not so much.
Currently trending is .io for tech-based startups. Sky’s the limit, so be original. But think of your target audience as well. If it’s a B2C venture, use something an Average Joe would expect from a website name (like .com). Familiarity fetches you extra UX points, my friend.
That’s all the advice on coming up with a domain name. Once you have decided what you want to name your startup’s website, go to a registrar site (GoDaddy, NameCheap, etc.) and buy it. Note: You’ll need a credit card or Paypal account for this. And mind you, don’t fall for ‘free’ if you like peace of mind.
Once that’s done, you can set about creating your website for business. I suggest using WordPress, if you’d rather not delve into code.
Moving on to a larger beastie.
Heavy Weight: SEO
SEO is awesome because, for one, it’s free. Anyone can follow a handful of rules while creating their content. If you write an incredibly detailed and helpful post that ranks first for a search query, you bet that people will assume you know what you’re on about.
Organic search gives you ‘thought-leadership’ points. People trust the search algorithm to separate the good from the greasy (exception being that one fateful incident 2 years ago). It’s not rocket science, it’s creative constraints and clean formatting. That’s not very difficult at all.
Only, there’s more to SEO than title tags and long-form content.
Broadly speaking, SEO can be divided into two subcategories – on page and off-page. You need to have a working knowledge of each in order to come up with your own SEO strategy. Here’s a brief overview:
On Page SEO
This is about optimizing user-facing aspects of your website and blog pages so they will rank higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It includes everything from keywords to content and image optimization, site speed, responsive design, internal and external links within content, and more.
Some quick tips and tools to remember:
- A keyword finder tool is mandatory. Take your pick from Ahrefs, Moz, KWfinder, etc. Find all the keywords of high search volume (and hopefully, low difficulty) that are relevant for you, and start creating content around those.
Note: It’s not so much about density anymore, so a big no-no to keyword stuffing. However, do try and make sure that the keyword appears ‘organically’ (naturally) within the slug, title, and at least one of the headings.
- Smush the image size, add ALT text to each and every last one of them.
- Outbound links matter. Your own domain authority (DA) tends to get a small boost when the site you’re linking to is high DA itself. It indicates that you’re focused towards providing value to your audience.
- Internal linking spreads the ‘juice’ within your content pages. If you have one awesome, high-ranking post, you can add a link within it to a newer post. The newer post will ride off of the authority of your older one. Do it as often as feasible.
- Optimize your site speed. Do I even have to say that?
Do-follow links from external, reputable sources in your industry, guest posting on awesome blogs/sites, building brand authority (via guest posting), forums, stealing competitor backlinks, and so on. This bit depends on networking and reaching out for content opportunities.
Here are several things to note:
- Aim for as many dofollow links from as many high DA sites as possible – via guest posting and so on. Dofollow means the site is sharing link juice with you, so even if it’s not sending any traffic, it’s adding points to your domain authority.
- Find guest posting opportunities in your niche, initially to build some backlinks, and later, to build brand authority. Use keywords relevant to your niche in Google search and add intitle:”write for us”. For specific blogs, use intitle:”submit” + inurl:blog.
- Quora and Reddit. Use these community forums to find questions/ threads relevant to your industry/business, and answer them. The key is to be helpful. Try to find a balance between high visibility and more ease. Keep an eye on forum guidelines so you don’t get blocked for spamming.
- Try to get listed in industry roundups. Reach out to the content people of the blog you have set your sight on, and see if they’d be open to adding you to a new list (or an existing one).
Back to You
No, really: back to you. Because while I (and everyone else) can drone on and on about do’s and don’ts, most of it is simple enough to figure out on your own when you actually sit down to do it. If you do hit a snag, open Google, or comment below.
Just be consistent and you’ll get there.