SEO Best Practices to Growth Hack Startup User Base |

SEO Best Practices to Growth Hack Startup User Base |

A DRATICAL SHIFT WITH GOOGLE SEO

One reason the concept of product-market fit resonates strongly with growth hackers, marketers and CEO or VP of Growth in a startup is because the balance and reliance between the two elements — product and market — is front and center of the whole effort. But when many startups think about SEO, minds often jump to slick shady maneuvers and hacking a way to growth thinking they can trick Google’s SEO algorithm. The truth is that optimization is only as strong as one’s understanding of the search engine part of the equation. When the rules of search change, so must your strategy. Over the last five years, Unthink experts have seen startups neglect a shift that has changed a big part of SEO.

 

A new era for Google SEO began in early 2011, with the new  Google Panda update; a change to its search results ranking algorithm. What was once a relatively simple SEO algorithm was revamped to penalize low-quality, thin web sites. Now gone are the days of a formula based mainly on keyword density and pagerank. In the SEO of the past, one could repeat and conceal a bunch of keywords in a tiny font with camouflaged text to increase pagerank we could also much easily fake authority by having a ton of fake links out in the world linking back to our thin web site pages. A SEO manager’s job was to find holes and exploit them until Google would slap your wrists and patch the gaps. Not anymore.

Together Panda with Google Penguin, which penalizes artificial boosts in page rankings through backlinks, Panda brought in somewhat of a new world order with SEO. While most of the workings of the Penguin filter is public, there was — and still is — more unknowns with Panda. For example, if your site is penalized by Panda, it could take years to get released from it and it’s not obvious how that happens. Here’s what we’ve seen occur over and over: Founder starts a company. He’s not an SEO expert, but hears that it’s important. He asks around, and is told to launch 50 million pages. The startup starts with 100,000 and sees traffic go up. Then it launches 1 million more pages. More traffic comes. Then it launches 50 million pages. Traffic soars. Then a few months later, traffic tanks. The founder frantically tries to get the traffic back. Months go by, but nothing works.

mobile app growth hacking, how to get more downloads for my app, app growth hacking, vp of growth, startup, how to get more leads from seo, ready to use websites, seo for lead generation

THE ERA OF GOOD CONTENT AND SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT

It makes sense to think that Google tweaks its algorithms to reward good content and awesome user experience, but the hard part is figuring out what to do to actually reap those SEO benefits. What’s required is not only a change in behavior, but a switch of mentality. Nearly every get-traffic-quick scheme pulls the carpet out from under you eventually. You have to think for the long haul; the growth curve you want is more gradual and steady. It won’t look good in the early days, but it will lead to significantly more long term traffic if you’re consistent.

 

THE ERA OF GOOD CONTENT AND SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT

It makes sense to think that Google tweaks its algorithms to reward good content and awesome user experience, but the hard part is figuring out what to do to actually reap those SEO benefits. What’s required is not only a change in behavior, but a switch of mentality. Nearly every get-traffic-quick scheme pulls the carpet out from under you eventually. You have to think for the long haul; the growth curve you want is more gradual and steady. It won’t look good in the early days, but it will lead to significantly more long term traffic if you’re consistent.

 

Use Google’s guide — not guesswork — to define what’s good.

 

If improving your content quality and traffic is your goal, there are levers to pull, but don’t assume you can choose which ones. Unfortunately most SEO professionals instinctively nominate themselves as authorities of what’s good when it comes to content and user experience but with SEO what’s important is what Google defines as good content and good engagement. Not what you think is good or note too that is not what Google objectively thinks is goods but what it subjectively defines as good. Unthink has access to Google’s set of guidelines — about 160 pages — and can generally follow these assuming they don’t get updated or changed, then our work must adjust.

 

When it comes to these guidelines and ranking better for SEO and being found more –  the closer your page resembles those labeled as good content by Google’s guide, the better your “content quality” is and the more your page will rise in the rankings. Just like with most sports, sometimes there are rules that don’t make much sense but you have to follow them for long term wins. You have to play by the rules you are given.

When it comes to Google’s guide to content quality, it’s big theme is EAT, which stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. The guide goes into detail about what standard of expertise is expected for various topics. For example, medical advice should come from people or organizations with the proper accreditation, but forums for spouses of those who died from an ailment are also considered experts. The differentiating factor is what life experience is necessary to credibly give others value. The guide offers a good guiding question: ‘What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well?’

Unthink we work with companies to help them establish their EAT scores in a particular category. We don’t try to stake the entire industry or market but instead we develop user personas, buyer journey’s and keyword research to develop an SEO growth strategy that is focused on a small percentage of the entire market with the end goal of dominating that smaller but just as profitable market. Here are some basic guides we suggest you follow for sustainable long term growth by simply following some good Google housekeeping rules.

 

GOOD WEB SITE HOUSEKEEPING

One of the under appreciated aspects of SEO has less to do with what you do and more with what you don’t do. It’s not the type of sexy growth hacking that gets written about, but it’s as critical.

Eliminate incidental indexed pages. It doesn’t matter if you think your pages are important; what matters is what Google deems important. Google will tell you whether your page is important by crawling it often, indexing it and sending it traffic. Google doesn’t like sites with lots of thin pages. Once a crawl catches these “thin” pages, get rid of them. These pages are considered spammy and just weight you down.

“Often startups can accidentally create and index tons of pages without knowing its impact on SEO,” says Humberto Valle, Unthink’s Founder. For example, a typical startup app or web app with users have profile pages for each of its millions of users (Every startup’s dream right?) However these millions of profile pages that are core to any startup’s feature set are not good for SEO. Think about it, very few people search Google looking for profile pages within a website such as Facebook, Yummly, Stripe, Instagram, Yelp, etc — they search for a generic term such as best restaurant in San Fransisco or chicken recipe, or El Paso’s Star pictures. The problem here for startups is that Google will classify these user profile pages as too thin and penalize you for it. Avoid this by being careful about which pages you allow to be indexed. Focus on Google SEO best practices for your digital marketing efforts this is how to generate more leads with SEO. 

Once you’ve found “thin” pages, there are a few ways forward. The best and fastest way to eliminate them is to remove an entire directory by disallowing it in the robots.txt file or using the directory removal tool in Google Webmaster Tools. You can also remove individual pages either with a noindex tag or by returning a 404/410 error code.

 

STEAL FIRST. INNOVATE LATER AND ELSEWHERE.

 

Given that long term growth in SEO takes time, startups can’t afford a steep learning curve when just getting started. Worry about innovation when it comes to your core product, not your SEO. It’s not well publicized but most successful growth teams and companies take the most effective strategies from competitors, apply them in-house, then improve upon them. Most of what works is not obvious at the onset, so startups spend an enormous amount of time reinventing the wheel when they shouldn’t. Like with many other efforts – focus on what you’re good at and outsource or hire for the rest.

Many startups are changing they way the structure their businesses and are becoming more flexible in their hiring, allowing the core app development to an outsource party since many tech founders are now non-techies. This is allowing good SEO practices to keep up with change because these outsourced development companies like BetaBulls.com are experts at not only creating MVP and complex applications and software tools but are also becoming more and more experienced with Google’s sustainable SEO guidelines. By focusin on core efforts startups get mobile app growth hack through internal innovations of the product while software seo experts contribute to traffic itself.

mobile app growth hacking, how to get more downloads for my app, app growth hacking, vp of growth, startup, how to get more leads from seo, ready to use websites, seo for lead generation

APPROACH SEO AS ACQUISITION

Most big companies became very successful by being aggressive with their growth; for example Airbnb used Craigslist early on to tap into a broader market. Pinterest emails your Facebook friends telling them you followed them when you really didn’t. The most successful companies are also extremely aggressive — with email marketing, paid advertising and referrals — but not SEO.  This is a mistake. After Google Panda or Penguin, success favors companies those that take a steady long term approach to growth. Be aggressive with SEO for lead generation in the sense that you want to deploy resources to work on it in the first place, but don’t do too much too fast that’s not in your actual strategy.  In the age of mobile, when used as an acquisition vehicle, SEO is more effective now than ever. In fact, other than gaming apps, the most successful apps, like Pinterest, Yelp, and Houzz, use web SEO as their main app acquisition channel. Most SEO visitors come to a site, look at a couple pages, then leave. It’s easy to dismiss these passerby users as not valuable. The goal is to get SEO visitors to come back. Whether it’s by getting someone to register, use an engaging feature or download the app. When viewed as an acquisition channel, SEO can be one of the most impactful channels to drive long term lifetime value.

 

Custom Software for Startups

 

Startup Resources You Might Find Helpful:

Add to Flipboard Magazine. Delicious Save this on Delicious

Don’t hire SEO “experts” who guarantee a timeframe, Google can’t be tricked and good SEO is a dedicated skill set on its own merit. If you have any further questions or comments send us a message.

About the Author:Humberto Valle

Humberto Valle is a digital marketing strategist with Unthink Marketing Experts in El Paso, Texas. He has over 10 years experience helping small businesses find clever ways to compete in their markets.

Recent Posts