by Paul Dunstone
Every new startup wants to rank highly in the search engines. Why? Because they know that by placing prominently for key terms, they’ll not only generate a great deal of targeted incoming traffic to their website, but they’ll also be viewed as a legitimate brand by those searching in their particular space. But how difficult is it to achieve this, and what should you expect as a startup when engaging an SEO provider? Below I’ve provided some critical advice for startup SEO on what to expect when trying to improve your search engine rankings.
You won’t rank highly immediately
As a startup, because your website is new in the eyes of search engines such as Google, you’re going to have to prove your worthiness to rank for given keywords. Generally for a new website, you’re going to have to wait around 4 – 6 months before you start seeing some good results, and that’s if you do things right along the way.
One way to evaluate your site’s progress is using tools such as the Open Site Explorer. With this tool you can compare your site against your competitors, and gauge where you need to be to compete. Another tool I use as more of a mental marker is Google’s Page Rank value (unfortunately only updated twice a year). Many SEO specialists will tell you that this value doesn’t affect your ability to rank for a particular term, and they’re right, but it does give you a good idea how easily you’ll be able to. For example, if you’re competing against a results set full of page rank 5/10 and 6/10 sites, because you’re a new startup, you may only have a page rank of 1/10, therefore you’re going to find it tough. The best option here is to build your domain strength over time, and target some longer-tail (longer and less competitive) terms first.
You’re going to need some help if you’re not an SEO expert
Most likely you’re not an SEO expert, therefore hiring a SEO expert is a smart thing to do. In my experience, you’ll want to find someone who approaches the process with your particular circumstance in mind. Because your domain has little presence at this point, you’ll want to partner with someone to help you build your domain quality over time. Whoever you hire, if they’re forthcoming, they will tell you that you’re going to have to build your site strength legitimately, through an array of proven strategies. This will include content marketing, guest blogging, on-site optimization, link building and social media marketing. If you encounter someone who says they can do they job in a few months or less, they’re most likely attempting to take you for a ride.
You’re going to do some learning
Businesses who aren’t web focused but get good results generally take an interest in SEO, and try to learn what they can, or ask a lot of questions. Blogs such as Moz, or Search Engine Land are a great place to start here. You’re also going to want to check out the Google Keyword Tool to assess keyword difficulty. When using this tool, make sure that you’re checking keyword data using both the ‘Broad’ and ‘Exact Match’ filters. This way you can see the true value of keywords to your domain, and focus on building both broadly targeted content and specifically targeted content.
Choosing an SEO expert is tough
I know many companies who’ve been through a handful of search engine marketers only to find that nobody quite fits the bill. The reasons for this that often come up are:
- The SEO expert hasn’t been up-front
- The customer didn’t know what they were paying for
- The customer didn’t ask enough questions (or the right ones)
- The customer expected too much, too soon
One of the most effective strategies I’ve seen used is to do your research, talk to a handful of recommended experts, and then look at their previous work/results. If you’re still unsure about a provider, consider contacting a previous or existing client for a reference. This way, you can get the inside scoop on any areas to watch out for!
And finally, one of the most important aspects to remember when hiring an SEO provider is to watch out for lengthy contract periods. Although it may take time to get the job done right, you should try and put in place a month-by-month agreement, and remember give it 6 months before you make an assessment of your actual progress. Undertake some price comparison across your shortlist of candidates, and remember to get someone to check over the finer details if you’re not sure about them.
Paul Dunstone is the founder of freelance jobs marketplace Job Stock, and previous to this role had been working as a professional freelancer.