9 Things Every Startup Founder Needs to Know About SEO

If you want to build your company's web presence and appear at the top of Google search results, you need strong SEO. Stephan Bajaio, vice president of professional services and cofounder at Conductor, and Patrick Reinhart, head of digital strategies at Conductor, led a WeWork Labs session to share the basics on optimizing a site for search. Here are nine takeaways that every early-stage company needs.

1. One of the best best investments you can make in your company is hiring people to write content for your website, like a copywriter. Continually creating new content that’s relevant to your chosen keywords is critical to move up in search rankings.

2. Focus on what your customers want and understand the keywords they’re searching for. If you make unbreakable wine glasses, don’t call them polycarbonate stemware, because people don’t search for that. Call them “unbreakable wine glasses.” Think about the way that people express themselves in terms of keywords and derivatives of keywords, i.e what are they actually typing into Google when they search. And be specific with you pages based on the search terms you’re targeting.

3. Paid search is expensive and addictive. Once you start, you can’t stop, and you’re going to be spending more and more money to get the results you want. It also costs you money every time someone clicks on your ad. Plus, users are getting savvier about recognizing when a company has paid for top placement versus earned it.

4. Don’t get distracted by search engine algorithm changes or head terms with massive search volumes. Algorithm changes likely won’t affect your SEO strategy much and focusing on huge search volume terms can lead you to overlook terms with lower volumes that you can compete for more successfully. Focusing on long tail keywords is a smarter bet than head terms (think “red men’s Nike running shoes” vs. “men’s shoes”). You’ll be more likely to rank and to convert traffic to new customers or users.

5. Good SEO takes time to work—you won’t see results in days. You need to be patient and keep at it. But if you implement a good strategy for your site and focus on serving your customer or audience, it will in time. That’s why it’s important to start now.

6. Don’t try to overstuff your content with keywords. Google knows what you’re doing and will ding you for it. And because Google uses latent semantic indexing, you don’t need to overstuff. For example, Google knows that “short-sleeve t-shirt” and “t-shirt” are basically the same thing, so if you rank for one, you’ll rank for the other, too.

7. Make sure your site is in good technical shape. Do you have duplicate articles or pages? Are you missing title tags? Do you have broken pages on your site? Google experiences your site like a user, and a bad user experience will push you down in the rankings.

8. Take advantage of free tools. Google Analytics can give you a sense of what’s happening on your site and where your traffic is coming from. Google Search Console lets you check your indexing status. Google Keyword Planner lets you see the search volume for any given keyword, helping you decide which keywords are worth targeting. You can also use the Conductor Insights app to see keyword search volumes.

9. Use the two to three keyword strategy. Identify a primary keyword, a secondary keyword and a tertiary keyword to target for each piece of content, getting more long tail as you go. Think, “men’s shoes”, “men’s running shoes”, “red Nike men’s running shoes”. Then make sure you’re using those keywords in your title tag, URL and meta description. Using those keywords in those fields lets Google know that your content is relevant to the user’s query when it crawls and indexes your pages.

This post is based on content from a WeWork Labs programming session.

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