How can startups and small businesses get on the same playing field as larger businesses? Among several strategies, search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the critical pieces to building a business from the ground up, and yet many founders neglect this.

SEO or search engine optimisation is the practice of increasing a website’s visibility on organic search engine results page.

While we work with our SEO partner to increase our brand awareness and traction, we needed to upskill up our knowledge in this area. I was recently given the opportunity to attend an SEO course hosted by Equinet Academy. Not surprisingly, most of the attendees were also from startups, looking for ways to boost their online brand presence.

What are the key advantages of SEO?

  • Position your brand as the authority in your industry through prominent ranking for multiple search terms across the consumer buying journey.
  • Drive brand awareness and visibility through websites ranking on the first page of the search results.
  • Long-term return on investment as ranking on the top of Google brings a continual return on investment in the long run.
  • Higher traffic share compared to paid search results (SEM)
  • Boost content marketing efforts by optimising content to rank better on search engines
  • Generate highly relevant and high-quality traffic as users are more likely to engage and convert into customers.

4 steps to kick start your SEO journey

Step 1: Keyword Research

The first step is to conduct keyword research to determine the keywords you want to rank for. To determine the keywords, you will first need to understand the customer journey to find out the search terms they are possibly using. Select keywords that have strong purchase intention instead of keywords that are more for discovery or evaluation.

Here are some keyword search tools that you can consider using: Google Keyword Planner, keywordtool.io or SEMRush.

You will want to select keywords that have the following factors:

  • Low competition
  • Strong purchase intent
  • High search volume
  • Long-Tail (3 words or longer)
  • Location-based (Country name)
  • Aligns to your objective

Once you have selected your keywords, group keywords with similar intent onto similar pages.

Step 2: On-Page SEO

Once you have the targeted list of keywords, input those keywords into your existing content. Search engines often look for keywords on a webpage to determine its relevance to rank for a set of search terms.

Examples to include keywords in:

  • URL
  • Meta description
  • Title Tags
  • Subheadings
  • Image Title & Alt Tags
  • Quality content

A good rule of thumb is to mention your primary and secondary keywords early on in your website copy or meta description. They should also be included in subheadings and distributed evenly throughout the copy.

Other on-page factors which impact SEO include site speed, mobile optimisation, site architecture, and internal linking.

Internal links help to signal to Google which pages are important and provide relevant context, increasing overall website rankings. Google tends to deem pages with many incoming internal links as more important, and they often rank better than pages with little to no incoming links.

After optimising for on-page SEO, it is recommended to conduct an SEO website audit at least once a month with tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush and Google Search Console.

Step 3: Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO activities include link-building and building local citations. Brands can earn mentions and backlinks by amplifying content via social media and digital PR. These signals are picked up by Google and contribute to the trust and authority “equity” of your domain name, pulling up the overall rankings.

3 Tactics for Off-Page SEO:

  1. Submission-based link building – links are submitted to directories, forum, blogs, resource pages, etc.
  2. Manual outreach – requires good relationships with webmasters and influencers for them to link to you on their site.
  3. Content Amplification via social media, digital PR

Step 4: Reporting

After completing all the hard work, be sure to set up keyword ranking reports using SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush. You should also regularly monitor your site health through 3rd party tools such as Google Webmaster Tools.

To ensure that your SEO is effective, you can use the following Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Return on Investment (ROI) from the organic search channel for measurements:

  • Engagement (Google Analytics > Audience > Overview > Organic Traffic)
  • Conversion and Conversion Value (Google Analytics > Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions)
  • Visibility (Using tools like Ahrefs, track the percentage of click for all keywords)
  • Traffic (Google Analytics > Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels)
  • Keyword Rankings (Using tools like Ahrefs, track the total number of keywords your website is ranking for)

While this is just the tip of the iceberg, the training was insightful to get me started on my SEO journey and eventually lead to SEM, search engine marketing.

Remember, SEO is not just a one-time fix but rather an on-going journey. Don’t let your effort go to waste by regularly checking in the progress of your keyword and SEO reports to finetune or change your strategy.

Any other hacks you’d love share on your SEO journey? Leave us a comment below.