Although nothing can compete with having a compelling product or service that’s a true game-changer, there are certain marketing tactics that can make a distinctive difference for entrepreneurs. Search engine optimization (SEO) is equally important for startups as well as established firms. Google, Bing, and other web searches are often the starting point for consumers seeking information or looking for businesses on the web.
According to Vocus, 82% of mobile shoppers use search to influence their purchasing decisions, and 70% of mobile searches for products or services will result in a sale in the near future. As such, being easily findable and accessible via search engines is a vital element of operating any kind of business. For entrepreneurs, that importance is magnified. Here are the top seven ways that SEO is uniquely important for entrepreneurs.
1. Reputation management is essential; and it’s much easier to suppress negative information or reviews about your brand by taking a proactive approach to prevention rather than a reactive approach when problems are already being caused. Entrepreneurs’ startups can live or die on their first impression and reputation, because cashflow is the lifeblood of any startup; and a bad reputation can stifle cashflow.
From the perspective of organic search, reputation management is all about dominating the first page of search results for branded queries, or queries that include your brand name. Your website should rank #1 for your brand name, and your social channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+, and LinkedIn, should round out the top six results. These are channels where you control the content, enabling you to control the messaging that new customers see when they research your brand.
Owning the top search results for branded queries is an extremely effective way to ensure that current and prospective clients get the best possible impression of your company when they search for your brand name or related keywords.
2. Keyword research is the most strategic way to get inside the minds of your target market. Understanding what keywords are being used to find your website (as well as your competitors’ websites) can inform your overall marketing strategy on many different levels, from subject lines used in newsletter emails, to press release titles, and more.
Not only does proper keyword research result in valuable insights into your customers’ minds, needs, wants, problems, and questions, but it can also be used to inform and optimize the copywriting on the company website, blog, and landing pages.
Keyword research is a discipline perhaps most well-understood to SEO professionals, and is often preached as the starting point for any SEO campaign (though PPC professionals are well-versed in keyword research as well, it differs significantly from the kind of keyword research SEO professionals are trained to perform). Entrepreneurs need every advantage they can get, especially with startups. Understanding a target audience and appealing to their needs is not only crucial from a content marketing standpoint, but also from a customer service and product standpoint.
SEO-professional quality keyword research informs and enables this customer intelligence, and optimizes content production as well as goal identification and targeting. These benefits, collectively, result in happier customers, better content, and better search engine rankings, which leads to more traffic, leads, and sales.
3. Organic traffic increases are a big indicator of future growth. Good ideas, products, or services tend to spread, and this buzz results in better search rankings due to inbound links, brand mentions, and social signals.
Entrepreneurs need to prove to investors the long-term viability of their company in order to secure funding, and organic search traffic increases are a major factor in establishing current trends, and can help inform future trends.
Organic search traffic is free, so conversions have huge ROI. Investors know this, which is one reason why entrepreneurs put so much effort into boosting organic search traffic.
4. Competitive gamesmanship is a basic element of any SEO campaign; it’s also a common trait in entrepreneurs. Getting ahead of your competition in organic search is a major way to set your business apart from the competition. And with every step up the organic search ladder, a competitor must fall lower; as such, climbing the rankings not only benefits your brand, but it simultaneously hurts the competition.
In a crowded startup environment filled with hungry entrepreneurs, claiming as much of the pie as possible is crucial for establishing long-term success.
5. Social media marketing has become intertwined with SEO; not only do social signals play a role in organic search rankings, high rankings in organic search results drives more traffic to your website and social media channels, accelerating their growth. As I explained in my article, “The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2014,” social media is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. As such, savvy entrepreneurs bolster their social media efforts with strong SEO campaigns, and vice versa.
6. Trust is an important factor in online success, especially for startups that haven’t yet established a recognizable brand name. Users tend to have more trust in sites that rank well for the keywords they’re already searching for. According to a study reported at Search Engine Land, “student subjects are heavily influenced by the order in which the results are presented, and, to a lesser extent, the actual relevance of the abstracts.” Additionally, users tend to click on the organic results as opposed to the paid search results. According to Search Engine Watch, organic search rankings essentially win over users 94% of the time, which means that if you can’t be easily found in organic search results, you can’t just make up for it in paid search. Your competitors that rank higher than you will have more inherent trust, and attract a larger share of customers. Consequently, high rankings in the search engine results pages can help a fledgling company or startup position itself at the top of the market, at least in the eyes of the target audience.
7. Long-term brand equity should be the goal for any entrepreneur, and SEO is the most strategic long-term investment for a brand’s online marketing initiative. As I outlined in my article, “SEO Vs. SEM: Are You Investing, or Just Paying Rent?” a website is a lot like real estate, and SEO is like building equity in a property whereas SEM (PPC) is like renting a home.
“For every dollar you spend on SEO, you build up long-term value, just like paying a mortgage when you buy real-estate. In contrast, SEM is a lot like renting a house. You pay to rent ad space in order to get traffic NOW, delivering short-term benefits only, with no long-term benefits. It’s like paying rent for the short-term benefit of living there now, but those dollars are not building you any sort of long-term equity in the house.”
SEO success requires traveling a long road, but it’s a Warren Buffett-type investment.
While there’s a wide variety of digital marketing tactics valuable to entrepreneurs, SEO yields the most strategic long-term investment. Despite the fact that SEO is time-consuming and requires lots of resources (copywriters, developers, designers, and more) in order to be successful, the long-term results can be much greater than short-term ad buys or similar tactics. SEO is a remarkably valuable investment for entrepreneurs looking to kickstart their business, establish credibility and trust, secure investments, and build a sustainable business for long-term success.