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Startup SEO: How to Get the Ball Rolling on a Limited Budget

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 21/05/2014 Jonathan Long
US_UK_CA © Provided by Huffington Post US_UK_CA

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be a complete nightmare if you are a new startup. The majority of new startups know that SEO contributes to online success but many do not fully understand how to develop an effective SEO strategy.

SEO companies from every corner of the world constantly contact new startups, promising the same outcome: top rankings in the search results. There will be large experienced digital agencies that will quote large five-figure monthly retainers and there will be some overseas companies that will promise the world for a few hundred dollars a month. This confusion can be quite overwhelming for a new startup, especially one that is launching with a very limited budget.

Paying a premium for service that doesn't deliver the promised results can quickly deplete a marketing budget and selecting a poor service can get the website penalized, presenting the startup with a major handicap from the start. The worst thing a startup can do is hire a low quality SEO company in an effort to save money. The cost to clean up the mess they create can far outweigh what it would have cost to go with a more expensive and experienced agency from the start.

If your startup is brand new and you don't have the budget to hire an experienced SEO agency then take a deep breath and follow the tips below to start your search engine optimization internally until your revenue can support the cost of professional help.

Get Your On-Page Optimization Perfected First

Many startups (and SEO companies) forget about one of the most important search engine optimization factors for long-term success, and that is the on-page optimization of the website. Neglecting the on-page optimization is like attempting to run a marathon with one leg. Sure, you might eventually get to the finish line, but it is going to take much longer and you are putting yourself at a severe disadvantage from the start.

I was recently speaking with Weston Bergmann, lead investor in BetaBlox, which is an equity-based business incubator for startup entrepreneurs in Kansas City, and he also compared SEO to a marathon:

"The most important thing to note about SEO for early-stage ventures is it's a marathon, not a sprint. I see too many people getting frustrated by a lack of stellar results in the first couple months, when this just isn't possible. These fights are long-term ones, so buckle down and stick to the basics. Eventually you'll look back and see that you've built a monster."

Want to learn what proper on-page optimization consists of and steps you can take to make sure that your website is ready for SEO? My company used our nonprofit marketing page as an example and created a guide to help you with on-page optimization: The Definitive On-Page Optimization Guide.

Build a Strong Social Media Presence (Attract Social Signals)

A startup needs to have a strong social media footprint from the day of birth, and a well thought-out social media effort can help the growth of the startup along with providing a SEO benefit. Every re-tweet, share, like, mention, etc., is referred to as a social signal, and these signals are an important component of a successful SEO plan. A full time social media manager or agency might not be in the budget but that doesn't mean the startups social presence must be neglected.

I know of a start-up that would designate one employee as the "social king" for the day and they would be responsible for running all of the social accounts for the day. This included posting the new daily blog posts across the social profiles, interacting with their followers, and handling any customer support inquiries that came over via social media. They were starting out on a shoestring budget but got creative and made it work.

Launch a Blog & Keep it Updated With Fresh Content

Every startup should have a blog on their website and it should be updated on a regular basis. A simple way to get good content for the blog is to source it from within the organization. In the beginning have one employee manage the blog and delegate writing assignments throughout the company.

Employees of a new startup should have no objection to contributing a weekly blog post, as it will help with the growth and success of the startup.

Assigning blog topics that are based around keywords that the startup is going to target for SEO is a great way to help get some quality content posted that can benefit the search engine optimization effort.

Guest Blogging is NOT Dead When Done Correctly

Look for industry blogs that have potential to get provide the startup with exposure and traffic and then pitch them guest posts. Again, this can be spread out through the startup at first. Have a contest that rewards the employee who obtains the most guest posts and reward the employee that creates the guest post that drives the most traffic back to the startups website. This kind of internal competition can produce great results while building work place camaraderie, something that is very important for a new startup.

When I was speaking with Weston Bergmann of BetaBlox we also discussed guest blogging and he had this to add:

"Recently I've heard a lot of people say that guest blogging is dead. Well it's not. What's dead is spammy and manipulative link building techniques. What's more important than ever is high-quality guest blogging and thought leadership. If you're sharing high quality and exclusive content you'll be rewarded, not punished. Also, guest blogging shouldn't be a one-and-done thing; aim to write for the same publication multiple times."

Once a startup experiences some growth it is then possible to hire an agency to handle the search engine optimization. In the meantime, the tips above can be used to kick start a SEO effort with a limited or even non-existent marketing budget.

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