There is more to creating a website than meets the eye. It’s not just a great design, adding some content, slapping some CTAs on there and then thinking that you’re done. It’s crucial that you consider SEO when building your site. This ensures that the content - and therefore your business - can actually be found online. This is doubly important when it comes to SEO for startups. If you’re a startup, you’ve got a small team, very little time and you begin with zero or few customers. The time you spend on trying to sell your product or service must, therefore, be optimized to the max.
But SEO is one of those things that covers a wide range of topics, issues and thus… info.
Although we’ve called this article ‘SEO for startups’, it is essentially about the basics of being found online. Search engines scour the web with ‘spiders’, looking for fresh sites, pages and content. They use the information they find to work out how useful it may be for potential readers. The information gathered when crawling the web is then visible on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). This isn’t just about keywords, but also about the content that people actually want to read and share. Good content helps a site rank higher in SERPs, which in turn leads to more traffic, more leads, and more customers.
Begin with the end in mind
There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to SEO for startups - and just as many blogs already dedicated to the factors for ranking on a SERP page (literally - ranking factors). We suggest you read the links we’ve added to the end of this article, if you want to dive deeper. They’re the best you’ll find anywhere. 🙂
What we’ll cover here are the basics of being found online. Too often we begin a mission with a client - especially early-stage startups - and discover a bunch of issues that are fairly basic and simple to fix. If only they knew how. So we’ve tried to approach this like a checklist: site architecture, keywords, meta descriptions, meta titles, image optimization and more.
It is also important to keep in mind that SEO takes time, patience, and effort. It requires continuous work to maintain and improve results. But if you don’t begin with these basics of SEO, your pages will never be found no matter how good your content is.
Data: Google Analytics, Plausible, Mixpanel or Kissmetrics
It’s important to begin with how you measure your data. Maybe you’re doing everything perfectly and it’s going great - but if you’ve never created content or had to build an audience and looked at how it performs organically, how would you know?
The most commonly used analytics tool for web traffic is Google Analytics. Other tools that provide similar data include Plausible, Mixpanel and Kissmetrics.
Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool that provides detailed insights into site traffic and user behavior. With it, you can see how many people visit your site, where they come from, what pages they visit, and how long they stay on each page. This information is crucial for understanding how users interact with your content, identifying areas that need improvement, and optimizing your content to drive more traffic. On July 1st, 2023 Google will stop supplying data to their current version of this platform - known as Universal Analytics - and all must use Google Analytics 4. There is a lot of content to be found on how to use each, and we’ll provide our own guide soon.
Plausible: Plausible is a lightweight, privacy-focused web analytics tool that provides similar insights to Google Analytics, but without tracking any personal data. This makes it a great choice for working on SEO for startups that want to prioritize user privacy and GDPR compliance - a key issue many see with Google Analytics. Plausible offers simple, easy-to-use dashboards that display metrics such as page views, bounce rate, and referral sources, making it just as easy to track the performance of your content over time as with GA.
Mixpanel: Mixpanel goes beyond basic website analytics to track user behavior across multiple platforms and devices. It is particularly useful applying your best practices for SEO to startups that offer mobile apps or other digital products requiring more sophisticated analytics and dedicated behaviour tracking. You can track user engagement, retention and conversion rates, so you can optimize marketing campaigns and user experience.
Kissmetrics: Kissmetrics helps track user behavior across multiple touchpoints. You can track user interactions across website, mobile app, email campaigns and more. You can then use this data to create personalized user experiences and improve conversion rates. Kissmetrics offers a range of advanced features like cohort analysis, funnel visualization, and A/B testing, making it a good choice for startups that want to take analytics to another level.
The problem with not being on Google Search Console isn’t that you won’t be found at all, it’s that you’re less likely to be found and more importantly, will have little idea of how search brings users to your pages, and little to no any control over it.
Search Console helps you monitor and maintain your presence in search results. With Search Console, you can see how Google crawls and indexes your website (or how it doesn’t). You can also identify and fix technical issues that may affect page rank and understand how to optimize existing content for better organic performance. Search Console helps you understand the search queries that bring people to your site and the pages which are the most popular in search results.
If you’ve just read the previous paragraph but have never heard about Search Console, don’t worry. You’re not alone. You’re among a large group of business owners who are aware of SEO, know they should ‘publish content’ but have no idea how any of it works. We even have a question for it on our client pre-kickoff questionnaire that looks like this:
So, if you’re not set up on GSC, go ahead and do it now. The simplest way is to do this as a ‘domain property’. Just make sure you choose the 100% correct URL. Check the live URL of your site: make sure you match the https (NOT http) and whether the site uses www or not in your live URL. The fastest way is to go directly to your site in a browser and copy and paste that URL - when you click on the URL in your browser you’ll see the FULL detail of your site URL.
Not a way to find buried treasure, or how builders navigate a construction site. Read on…
1. What is a Sitemap?
The sitemap is much like a restaurant menu: this is how your site tells Google which pages exist and how they are ordered according to their relative importance.
To make best use of the sitemap, you should first make sure that it is actually a list of the pages you want search engines to find.
2. How to find your sitemap?
To find the site map, check if there is one submitted to GSC by looking under ‘Sitemap’ in the left section of the control panel. If there isn’t, there will be nothing under ‘submitted sitemaps’.
In any case, you’ll need to find your sitemap on your live pages and understand how it is populated. You should be able to find it in your CMS (webflow, wordpress, Squarespace) usually under SEO ‘tools’ or ‘settings’. This is important because if you need to change the sitemap, you’ll need to know where it is and how it functions in your particular CMS.
Most sitemaps that are linked to a CMS are auto-populated. This means that if you add a page it is immediately added and published to the sitemap. However, you may not want this to happen, or you’ll only want certain pages to be visible.
For example, the iytro site uses webflow. We have created a way to add customer testimonials called ‘shoutouts’ which you can see here. However, we use the same database in webflow (called a collection) to add all the logos you see on the homepage. If we don’t have a full testimonial such as this one, it isn’t added to the shoutouts page BUT the actual ‘shout out’ is still created in the collection and it creates a page in any case like here. Obviously, we don’t want people to find these pages so we don’t link to them anywhere, but the only way to remove them from the sitemap is to update it manually. So that’s exactly what we do.
It is important to keep in mind that removing pages from your sitemap doesn’t mean search engines - and therefore users - won’t find them. It just means you have more control of what you want the search engine to consider important, and how the search engine web crawlers should view your site structure.
Once you find or add the sitemap to GSC, you should next check whether your pages are being indexed. This means that the pages can be found via search engines.
The indexing will not happen immediately and you may need to wait a few days if the sitemap - or your pages - are new. Even then, you may encounter issues which we’ll cover below in ‘non-indexed pages’
1. What should and shouldn’t be indexed?
That’s a decision for you. A good example is where you have authors and tags that are auto created for blog content, like in Wordpress. It automatically creates a page for each author and each tag, but this is not necessarily valuable content.
If your site doesn’t have very many pages, it probably doesn’t matter too much. But understanding how indexing functions gives you some control over the pages of your site that are and are not being indexed.
2. Non-indexed pages
If you’ve been producing new content for months but have not seen an uplift in traffic, then It’s possible your pages aren’t being indexed. The easiest way to find out whether this is the case, is to look at the sitemap section in GSC.
In GSC go to ‘Sitemaps’ under ‘Indexing’ in the left menu.
In most cases, you’ll have one (and should only have ONE) site map. However if you have an exceptionally large site, or are on Wordpress and using a plug-in like Yoast, you may have more than one, and that’s ok as well. Here we’ll focus on what happens when we have just one.
Click on that sitemap and the following page will open up:
Click on ‘See Page Indexing’.
What you want to see here is that all the pages on your sitemap have been indexed, like in the iytro site above.
Now click on ‘Pages’ under ‘Indexing’ in the left menu.
You’ll see how many pages are indexed and how many are not (see below)
Having non-indexed pages doesn’t necessarily mean you have problems. Any page from the entire history of your site that has not been indexed will be here.
It is important, however, to consider the reasons why pages are not being indexed.
In this case, let’s start with “Alternative page with proper canonical tag”.
This reason implies that there are pages that have been found, but they’re not the ‘proper’ page as they do not have the ‘canonical’ within the page code.
In our case, they look like ‘invented’ pages. Our CMS (webflow) is somehow creating new URLs of existing pages (see below):
Therefore we’re not too concerned with these pages not being indexed.
If they should be indexed, then we need to work out why they are not which we cover in the next section.
3. How to fix non-indexed pages
Unfortunately, the only way to do this is manually.
If there are many pages that require indexing, create a list; the easiest way is to download it directly from Search Console. Then follow the instructions below.
1. Copy a URL and paste it into ‘Inspect any URL’ at the top of the page
2. The page should display ‘not indexed’ as per the below (if it says ‘page indexed, the you’re fine - the process for that page can stop here!)
3. Click on ‘Test Live URL’ to see if it finds any reason the page may not be indexed. If it does, you’ll need to work out how to fix the page.
4. If it says ‘page can be indexed’ then click on “Request Indexing’
5. Be aware that there is a daily limit of 10 pages which can be submitted daily
6. Then do this for each page that you need to be indexed.
It may take a few days for each page to be indexed after you’ve submitted them, however if you’re submitting regularly and have many pages, you should see something like the graph below for indexed pages - with search impressions increasing along with it: a perfect result!
Be careful that you’re not submitting pages you shouldn’t. A great example relates to the URL that has been allocated to the ‘domain property’ we discussed earlier. For example you may have a blog that exists as yourdomain.com/blog
Depending on whether you’re using www or not, a page with the alternative may appear in the ‘not indexed’ group. If your page is www.yourdomain.com/blog you may find yourdomain.com/blog in the non-indexed pages. But you needn’t request that this be indexed. The first page - www.yourdomain.com/blog - is the correct one. Therefore you don’t need to do anything,
And the same applies to http pages. If your site is https (as it should be - mentioned earlier)
The architecture of your site has a significant impact on the SEO performance of your startup. A well-structured architecture helps search engines crawl and index your site more effectively, which can improve your visibility in search results. Factors to consider include:
Hierarchy: Your website should have a clear hierarchy of pages and content that reflects the most important topics and categories. This can be achieved through a clear navigation menu, adding breadcrumbs, and a well-organized sitemap.
URL structure: Your URLs should be clean, concise, and reflect the content and topic of each page. This helps search engines understand the relevance of your pages and thus improve visibility in search results.
Internal Linking: this helps search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your website's content. When done properly, internal linking can also help distribute page authority and improve the ranking potential of your pages. The simplest way to do this is to look for keywords within your site content, and link to the most relevant pages for that keyword.
It’s crucial that you consider SEO when publishing your content, especially if you are or intend to publish content at a high volume. This list of things to consider should make sure that your content can be found, and that you’re able to see any issues relating to its discovery. We recommend that anyone publishing content takes the time to understand as much as possible about the state of SEO in 2023, and so we recommend the following as some of the best resources we know. Good luck and if you want some SEO advice, feel free to contact us!
Hubspot: The Ultimate Guide to SEO
Search Engine Journal: SEO for Beginners