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In the first post of this series, we spoke about the one task that startup founders focus their time and energy on: decision making. Why effective decision making is important – and how asking pertinent questions to key team members and stakeholders aids better decision making.
Today, we’re examining a key function that startups carry out to grow their business: SEO, and the SEO-related questions founders should seek answers to.
In today’s digital world, we have the ability to find a solution to our problems with the click of a button.
Google – and search in general – have transformed the way we look for information and solve our problems, whether it’s an answer to a maths question or finding the nearest gluten-free bakery.
Easy access to information and the ability to easily publish information online puts business owners, entrepreneurs and startup founders in a unique position: you have the opportunity to put your brand and business in front of the world and have it discovered by your audience.
But the only way you can get found by the search engines, is if your website and your content and communications are optimised for search engines with SEO. And for obvious reasons, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become an increasingly important priority for startup founders.
Many startup founders are aware of the basics of SEO and why it is important, but may not know how to navigate the landscape and make smart decisions that will help grow their business with SEO. As a founder, you don’t need to know the detailed intricacies of the algorithms to improve SEO and grow your business with it, but you do need to know what metrics to track so you can ask the right SEO questions to your team, which lead to effective business decisions.
Each department will have some sort of SEO function to perform in the larger scheme of things – from launching campaigns to tracking sales and conversions, from studying page structure to analysing the performance of a campaign. SEO ties your marketing efforts together so your teams need to keep an eye on the tasks that impact SEO.
Here’s a look at some essential SEO questions you need to ask execution teams.
Your SEO head is responsible for setting the foundations of your SEO framework and strategy so that the rest of the team can execute their tasks with sound SEO in place.
Have you done a detailed SEO Audit?
There is always room for improvement as you build your website. As you grow, it is essential to fix the bugs so your page gets seen. A thorough audit will tell you how well your page stacks up against the best practices outlined by Google. Your SEO head should do a detailed one to fix the draggers on your site. (Take the technical SEO quiz or download the essential SEO checklist here.)
Are you conducting thorough competition analysis?
Your competitors need to be segmented into direct and indirect competitors – and your SEO Head should be able to understand their SERP strategy and how it affects you, and work on a strategy to make your products and services stand out.
Are you following Google-focused SEO practices?
Google rules search – and your content and SEO strategy needs to meet their best practices. Your SEO Head should take into account things like visual search, voice search, mobile optimisation, AMP etc. (Read about the latest updates to the Google search algorithm here.)
Are you looking at keyword distribution and the sandbox effect?
New domains will rarely rank on the first page – because Google is still figuring out how worthy you are of that spot. The sandbox effect is when your pages get “sandboxed” in the range of pages 8-10 – a kind of holding area – till Google deems you worthy of a better rank. Your SEO Head should keep tabs and work on keyword distribution strategies to get out of the rut.
Your Growth Lead is responsible for identifying growth opportunities and managing efforts to fulfil those opportunities – while ensuring that those activities are in line with the SEO strategy. Startups need an agile growth framework and a lead who can align the team with the company’s growth goals – but the growth initiative shouldn’t veer off-course from the SEO goals.
Are you analysing ranking based on segments?
Whatever your offering may be, you are likely to fall into more than one segment. If you sell ice cream, you will probably fall under both ice cream as a segment, and chocolate ice cream as a category. Your Growth Lead needs to break down keywords into segments to understand how each specific segment is performing – and then, optimise/make changes. (Read more about boosting lead generation with SEO here.)
Are you analysing indexed pages?
When Google indexes your pages, it’s a sign that things are going well and SEO efforts are giving you returns. However, if your pages are removed from the search index, it is a sign that all is not well. Your Growth Lead needs to keep a track of your indexed pages.
Are you looking at ranked keywords?
Not all of the keywords the SEO team has pulled will rank immediately – but your Growth Lead should keep an eye out, and, once your site and business have been live for a couple of weeks or months, they should analyse the results.
They should monitor the number of ranked keywords and look at opportunities to further capitalise on those keywords with experimentation. On the other hand, if nothing seems to be ranking, your Growth Lead should work with the SEO team on a new strategy.
Are you analysing search visibility?
As your Growth Lead runs experiments and analyses data, they should analyse keywords from search visibility POV, ie, how much potential traffic a keyword has based on its ranking. This will help the team optimise better for conversions.
For a complete list of SEO tools and resources, click here.
Your Marketing Head is responsible for crafting marketing strategies across digital, communications and creative – and managing and preparing monthly budgets for the same, and keeping those campaigns aligned with the SEO strategy and goals. Your Marketing Head needs to speak to your target audience and the problems they are facing – but those activities need to do more than just inform. They need to drive traffic and conversions, which happen with proper SEO.
Are you keeping track of organic CTR?
Organic CTR indicates how many people are clicking on your SERP listing when they find it organically. So when a user’s search triggers an impression, the more people click on your link, the better. Your Marketing Head should keep track of this metric.
How bad is the bounce rate?
Bounce rate indicates how quickly users navigate away from your site – this means missed conversion opportunities. Your Marketing Head should step in to fix issues if there is a high bounce rate.
What is the average time on page and session duration?
The more time a user is on your page, the more engaged they are. Ask your Marketing Head how your campaign pages and landing pages are performing in this regard. Your Marketing Head also needs to examine session duration on Google Analytics – that is, the average length of a session or the active time a user spends on your site. 30 minutes of inactivity signals the end of a session.
Are you measuring organic conversions?
Your conversions are your measure of success. The Marketing Head must be in sync with the sales team to tell you the number of conversions vis a vis the benchmark set before the campaign. (Read more about SEO marketing trends for 2022 here.)
Your Project Coordinator does just that: coordinating between all the moving parts and stakeholders, managing deadlines, and keeping everyone in sync and delivering on the overall SEO strategy. Rolling out a campaign is no easy task. But in the middle of communications, data sharing and tracking project milestones, the overarching SEO goals cannot be ignored.
Have you communicated with all stakeholders?
This doesn’t mean checking if your Project Coordinator has mailed the right people – have they communicated the exact SEO needs to the right people in the project?
Are you on track of on-page and off-page SEO?
The Project Coordinator needs to keep a track of updates and outcomes and check if the right keywords are incorporated. They also need to keep a check on search rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks to better optimise off-page SEO activities. (Read more about off-page SEO here.)
Do you have analytics and reporting on hand?
Your Project Coordinator needs to have the data on hand, which can be shared with other stakeholders, clients (if any), and management, which can then be used to implement a forward plan.
Have you looked at performance analytics?
The most important aspect of running SEO strategies is to analyse their effectiveness.
Your Project Coordinator should be able to generate relevant, easy to digest data-driven reports to guide the rest of the team and gain better insights for effective action.
Your Content Marketing Head will work closely with the marketing and SEO Head to plan, create, share and publish content that speaks to the audience: but, it MUST be optimised for search with keywords, efficient linking, and the right formatting.
Have you reached out for guest posting opportunities?
In the early days of your startup, ranking is not easy, nor is building backlinks. Reaching out for guest posting opportunities is a great way to generate positive backlinks with authority. Your Content Marketing Head should actively look for opportunities to guest post on other authority sites and domains.
Are you tracking branded vs non-branded traffic?
Your traffic can be branded traffic (that comes in from previous knowledge about your business) or non-branded traffic (searches for keywords related to your products/services). Your Content Marketing Head needs to keep an eye on this, to gauge the success of existing content marketing efforts and to optimise and experiment.
Are you measuring sentiment?
Publishing content is one thing – but what is the sentiment of the people who are receiving and reading your content? Do you get enough page views? Is there a spike in traffic when a new piece is published? How is your comments section? Do subscribers feel left out or ask what happened if they don’t see a new post published? Your Content Marketing Head needs to be able to gauge whether people care about your content (and brand).
Are you measuring content efficiency?
Content efficiency is an interesting metric that moves beyond keywords and search intent and looks at creating and optimising content not just for SERPs, but also for your startup’s overarching goals related to that piece of content. Your Content Marketing Head should create, publish and update content – and measure it against how often those pages/articles meet the company’s goals and ROI. (Download our SEO content marketing guide for startups here.)
Startups don’t grow because of a singular focus or the efforts of a single team, business process or function. Startups grow thanks to solid processes and that work together to create a synergy.
SEO can help startups reach their target audience at the right time, at the right touchpoint, with clear messaging and a strong campaign. But remember: SEO is NOT a channel, but an ongoing, iterative PRACTICE. You can’t just pump more money in and expect customers to flock to your site.
SEO is a useful tool and each of your teams need to use it in the right way to create the best experience possible for your target audience — and this can happen only when your department heads work together and deliver, keeping in mind the unique needs of SEO. So, when you take the time as a startup founder to understand the SEO process for each department and ask the right questions at the right time – your team can deliver.
If you’d like to learn more about tools and resources that can help you better understand SEO for your business, check out our detailed SEO resources guide.
In the next blog in the series, we will be looking at the crucial PPC questions startup founders need to be asking their teams.
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