SEO 101: Introduction to SEO for Startups

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As a startup, your website is among your main assets. A website that ranks high in search results means high impression and high visitor numbers. The more your website is visited, the more you interact with your prospect customers. And this points to the importance of SEO as a marketing tool.

In simplest terms, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving traffic to a website by increasing the site's visibility in search results.

Today, SEO is one of the most important components of a marketing strategy and your startup certainly needs it. Because SEO;

· makes your website visible to not only humans but also search engines.

· produces high traffic and high conversion rates.

· is free.

· is the main tool for gaining web presence.

· is a must in today’s competition.

You don’t need to be a veteran to enjoy the benefits of SEO. By following these basic steps below, you can make a good start to your Do-It-Yourself SEO efforts.

Before starting: Understand the logic behind search engines

Although there are several search engines including Yahoo, Bing, etc. Google is the king. And you can understand the logic behind search engines by understanding Google. The entire purpose of Google is to provide users with the most relevant search results.  And to return the most relevant result, Google answers the following questions:

· How many times does this page contain your keywords?

· Do these words appear in the URL, title and description?

· Is this page from a quality website?

· How many outside links point to this page and how important are these links?

Basic SEO Tips for Beginners

There are two main components of a DIY SEO strategy:

1) Creating SEO-friendly content

2) Building qualified links

Let’s take a deeper look at these components:

1) Creating SEO-friendly content

Google aims to show the most relevant sites in the search results. This means a site which better answers the questions of users, is ranked higher. So, considering SEO tactics while creating content on your website, plays a crucial role in your success. To create SEO-friendly content;

Create unique and original content

· Be authentic instead of writing content that can be easily found anywhere.

· Understand user intent by finding out the reason of their search.

· Consider your audience and provide useful information that solves a real problem for them.

· If you are going to write about a popular topic, find the best example and write an improved version of it.

Optimize the title and headline

· While headlines are for humans, titles are for search engines.

· For the best result; both titles and headlines need to be optimized.

· Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and think about the keywords they use in their searches.

· Include these keyword, at least your focus keyword in the headline.

· Aim for a title of 55-60 characters, this is what Google will display on the search engine result page.

Use the right keywords

· Ignore the legend that says keywords are not important for SEO anymore and try to use them in context and at the right balance.

· Ensure your keywords are up-to-date by using keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner, Yoast Suggests, Moz Keyword Explorer… etc.

· Be more specific and focus on a single keyword at the beginning.

· Think about starting with long tail keywords- very exact keywords with lower competition instead of popular keywords.

· Do not sacrifice the quality of your content to include more keywords.

Aim for readability

· Use a simple language with active voice.

· Use short sentences and short paragraphs.

· Avoid using jargon, be as simple as possible.

· Divide text into sections in a clean and organized manner. 

· Check the readability of your content by using apps like Hemingway, Read-able, etc.

Use optimized images

· Always use images in your content, nobody would like to read a chunk of text.

· Use qualified and relevant images.

· Add a title or alt text for your image to make it reachable by search engines.

· Include your focus keyword in the alt tags of the images.

2) Building qualified links

Building internal and external links which is also known as interlinking is an important part of SEO. By building relevant and qualified links, you not only help your visitors receive additional information; but also help search engines better understand what your website is about. Whether you’re linking internally or externally, make sure that every link serves its own purpose in your content.

Internal links

Internal links are links that point to other pages on the same website. By using internal links, you can send visitors to different pages of your website. Internal links increases the visibility of your site while providing your readers additional information. Internal links also help search engines better understand what your website is about. With internal links, you can;

· increase page views on your site

· help users to easily navigate within your site

· increase the time spent on your site

· reduce bounce rate

External links

External links cover both inbound and outbound links. An inbound link which is also known as a backlink, is a link coming from another site to your own website. And an outbound link is a link from your website to another site.

The authority of a site increases in parallel with the links it receives from other sites. Higher authority brings higher ranking in search results. In other words, external links points to reliability of your website. By linking qualified websites, you can provide additional resources for your readers and increase the credibility of your content through outbound links.

Building good inbound links require you take various actions which are known as off-page SEO. Publishing online articles on industry news sites, commenting on other blogs and sites, becoming a guest blogger, sharing links on social media are among these actions.

Conclusion

As a startup, SEO is an indispensable component of your marketing strategy. Although SEO is a long-term investment which requires time, it guarantees effective results and high ROI if done properly. By creating unique and original content and working on building quality links, you can make a good start to your SEO efforts.

 

Basic Presentation Tips for Startups

As a startup, making presentations is among your important tasks. Presentations play a crucial role in telling your story. With a well-prepared presentation, you can target any stakeholder including investors, prospect customers, potential partners etc. You can use presentations for different purposes including providing information about a specific situation, introducing a product or service, persuading your targets, explaining a business plan or strategy and making a sales pitch.

Getting Started

While preparing a presentation, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What do I want to achieve, what is my goal?
  • Who am I targeting?
  • What will be the context of my presentation?
  • What will be the content?
  • How will my presentation look like?

Goal

The goal of your presentation defines the result that you would like to reach. Before starting to work on the content and design of your presentation, you need to set your goal. Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve with this presentation? Answers may vary: to provide information, to convince, to sell and so on. Your answer will determine the rest of your presentation.

Target Audience

The more you understand your target audience, the better you answer their needs in your presentations. While defining your audience try to answer the following questions:

  • Who is my audience?
  • How much do they know about my presentation topic?
  • What do they expect from my presentation?
  • What kind of presentation style they are got used to?
  • Why are they reading/ listening to my presentation?

 Context

The context of your presentation determines how your message will be understood by your audience. For example, will it be an oral or written presentation? If you are going to speak at an event, you will have an oral presentation. So the presentation you will prepare may include less text and more images since you can explain your slides by speaking. But if it will be a written presentation that will be published on an online medium like Slideshare, or will be sent to a customer; then you will need more text since you will not be able to explain your slides by speaking.

Content  

The content of your presentation defines what you are going to say. While creating your presentation content; you can follow the steps below by answering the related questions: 

  • Determine your key message. What should your audience remember at the end of the presentation?
  • You need to develop your ideas around your key message. While developing these ideas, consider if;
    • your key message is your most critical message,
    • your ideas are clear and concise for your target audience,
    • your messages are convincing enough to persuade your audience,
    • any of your ideas needs improvement.
  • Support your key message with statistics and emotional proofs. Why should your audience care about your message?
  • Try to make a benefit for your audience. How can you frame each point with a clear benefit that concerns your audience?

Design

Visual design has a major impact on the success of your presentation. A good design can help you close a deal, win new clients, or simply influence and convince your audience effectively.

Take into account the following details while designing your presentation:

  • Support your content with graphic evidence including photos, images, tables and charts.
  • Do not use too many bullets on a slide.
  • Use each slide to express one idea, do not include more than 5 lines of text.
  • Instead of using cluttered slide themes included in your software, start with a clean and plain background.
  • Maintain a strong contrast between text and background.
  • Use readable fonts with appropriate sizes. For example, sans serif fonts can be easier to read.
  • Do not use too many colors at once, instead, use close colors from a palette in a way that provides consistency.
  • Instead of using too many images on one slide, use a single image.

Include high quality images. You can use free stock photos if you cannot afford paid photos.

Creating effective presentations, requires not only know-how but also hard work. Although getting professional services can be an option, startups generally adopt a do-it-yourself approach due to limited budgets. Thanks to free training resources and design tools on the Internet, startups can create useful presentations at no cost. The tips above can also guide them through the preparation process.

 

 

 

 

Creating a Marketing Plan for Your Startup

With the new year already underway, many of us have set various business goals. One of the best ways to achieve these goals is having a good plan. The same goes for marketing. A marketing plan can help you make the right decisions and guide you through the steps you need to take in a way that boosts your marketing effectiveness and grow your business.

What is a marketing plan? 

A marketing plan is a written document that describes your startup’s marketing efforts for the coming year. It includes your marketing vision, goals, strategy and tactics. It also covers a variety of details including the definition of your target customers, marketing tools, costs and action steps. A marketing plan acts as a road map which provides you guidance through specific actions you need to carry out to reach your business objectives.

A marketing plan basically answers the questions below:

  • What do you want to accomplish with your startup next year?
  • How will you accomplish it, what are the actions that need to be taken?
  • Which resources will you need?
  • How much budget will you allocate for this?
  • Who will help you to take the necessary actions?
  • When will you take these actions in terms of monthly, weekly and daily basis?

Why your startup needs a marketing plan?

As a startup you are on a small budget, with a small –maybe no- team. You want to make a good start by quickly creating awareness, educating your audience, generating leads, expanding your products. You know that marketing can help you achieve these goals. But how?

You may have no idea about which marketing actions you need to take, when and how you will take them. Marketing can seem as just another uncertainty you need to deal with. But a marketing plan can help you to see a clearer picture of your future efforts.

A comprehensive marketing plan helps you to:

  • Know your organization and products/services better
  • Understand your strengths, weaknesses and differentiation points
  • Identify your target customers
  • Uncover the needs of your potential customers
  • Find the right methods to reach your customers
  • Find the ways to generate more leads
  • Define the actions that need to be taken to market your products and solutions
  • Craft marketing messages that will generate results
  • Set who is doing what (in case you have a team)
  • Measure the effectiveness of your actions
  • Find and fix weaknesses in your assumptions and tactics

Creating the Plan

Before starting, keep in mind that a marketing plan is a dynamic document. Things might not happen as planned and you may need to take into account new variables that you did not consider before.  The tactics in your plan, may not survive the yearlong period for which you wrote it. That is why you need to revise your plan continuously in order to make the necessary updates and frequently assess it to see the results.

A startup marketing plan must;

  • Be simple and clear
  • Based on real data and facts
  • Be flexible enough to be updated when needed
  • Easily transform into a marketing calendar
  • Include right measures to evaluate its success

Although contents of a marketing plan may vary from organization to organization depending upon the industry, the organization size, the product etc.; the basic elements of a startup marketing plan can be listed as below.

Key Elements of a Marketing Plan

The elements of a marketing plan, are the answers to the following questions:

1. Who are you?

There is no single "right" way to approach a marketing plan. Since your marketing plan is unique to your business, you need to start it with a self-evaluation process.  In order to set right goals, you need to know yourself better which requires examining your business from top to bottom. In order to understand your current situation, you need to make an internal analysis.

Internal analysis is an in-depth understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your organization. While strengths define positive attributes; weaknesses define the negative attributes that may prevent you from achieving your goals.

2. Where are you?

This section of your marketing plan helps you understand your position in the competition while evaluating the external factors that influence your overall success. It also helps you define your target segments, in other words your ideal customers.

External analysis: External analysis covers opportunities and threats which result from external environment. While opportunities include factors that can positively influence your organization; threats include negative factors that can risk your goals.

Competitive analysis: Competitive analysis requires evaluating both current competitors who are already in your market and potential competitors who might enter your market. While analyzing your competitors try to find as much information as possible by searching the internet, checking their websites, evaluating their communication messages. Try to list their strengths, weaknesses, marketing strategies and points of differentiation which will let you know how you will position yourself in the market.

Target segments: Target segments include a set of customers sharing common needs or characteristics. In this section, you group different sets of people according to their needs and your ability to answer these needs. While defining target segments, you can use demographic information like age, gender, location, education level, annual income, job title etc.

Buyer persona: Buyer persona can be defined as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. While target segments are defined with basic demographics; buyer personas also include psychographic and behavioral information like interests, opinions, values, lifestyle features. To gather these information, a detailed research including interviews and surveys is needed.

3. What do you want to achieve?

This is the main part of your marketing plan where you set your goals and objectives by looking at your vision. The prior condition to succeed is knowing what you want to achieve.

Vision: Your vision explains what you want your organization to be or known in the near future. The vision gives you a control over your plan by showing a reason for your efforts. Vision is one of the main motivation sources that guides you through the steps you need to take to succeed.

Goals and objectives: While a goal is a well-defined and targeted statement of what you want to achieve; an objective is a specific result that you aim to achieve within a timeframe. It is possible to consider an objective as the breakdown of a goal. Trying to set “SMART” goals is a common approach in marketing plans. According to this approach; goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. While setting objectives; instead of having a long list, it is better to structure them in a way that aligns them to your goals. So, your objectives should define how you will achieve your marketing goals and they should specify actions and desired outcomes.

Positioning: Positioning can be defined as establishing the identity of your product or service in a way that differentiates it from your competitors’ products and services. While defining your position, try to answer what makes your product or service unique and how is your product or service different from those of your competitors. You can differentiate your products and services with the help of marketing mix which includes product, price, place and promotion. In other words, you can position your product or services by emphasizing your product features, pricing strategy, distribution channels or promotion methods you use.

4. How will you achieve it?

This part includes the strategic and tactical details of your marketing plan. In the previous sections, you simply define what you should do and in this section you need to clarify how you will achieve your goals and objectives.

Strategy & Tactics:  While a marketing strategy defines a general approach that is adopted to achieve a goal; a tactic defines a tool to achieve this goal in a way that is associated with a strategy. For example; “creating an expert image in your industry to reach new people” is a strategy; “writing blog posts and making online presentations that provide useful information” is a tactic. Although your strategy and tactics may differ dependent upon your industry, your competition, your goals; there are common points you need to take into consideration while setting your strategy and tactics:

  • Answer what marketing efforts you will focus on
  • Detail specific activities you intend to undertake
  • Identify the audience each activity is targeted to
  • While defining your actions consider your audiences’ needs
  • Define which promotion methods and communication channels you will use
  • Try to be as specific as possible

Timeline: Timeline of your plan includes the details about when you will do what. Your plan should indicate a timeline for each task to be completed. In other words, your marketing plan should include all major and minor details with proper dates. Timeline helps you to keep track of your marketing actions. You can directly transform this section of your marketing plan into a marketing calendar.

Budget: Budget is one of the most important parts of your marketing plan. It is a determining factor in your actions. Without setting a realistic budget, you cannot set your strategies and tactics accurately. While setting your budget;

  • Assess your current finances and what you can afford to spend right now
  • Start small allocating your marketing funds for each activity planned
  • Try to be as objective as you can while anticipating your costs
  • For the budget items you have no idea, add at least 25% more money
  • Use apps or at least an Excel to track your spending and make the necessary revisions

How will you measure your actions?

You need various measures to track progress on your marketing activities throughout the year. Since measurement is an ongoing process; you need to start measuring and reporting as soon as you put your marketing plan into action. Instead of allowing the entire year to go by; it is better to make weekly, bi-weekly or monthly evaluations to monitor your progress and and make necessary adjustments in your actions on-time. Although the components of a marketing plan may differ according to business priorities, industries that are targeted or products and services that are provided; you can evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts by looking at ROI, sales numbers, customer feedback, investor feedback and competitor’s reaction.

A detailed marketing plan not only provides you guidance through your marketing efforts but also helps you build your brand, mitigate business risks, know your competition better and answer customer needs on-time. By revising your plan continuously, you can make the necessary updates in a way that helps you to take the right actions to achieve your overall goals.

 

Basic Content Types for Startups

Like many other startups, you are in the search for achieving best results with minimum budget. As a cost effective method, content marketing can boost your marketing efforts if you manage to develop the right content on a consistent basis. And choosing the right content type, is one of the most important decisions that will increase the impact of your content marketing efforts. Below is a list of basic content types with their benefits which can contribute to the overall success of your startup:

Blog Posts

A blog is one of the most important assets of your startup. On your blog, you can provide useful information that answers the main questions of your prospects. By sharing valuable content through your blog, you can create an industry expert image for your startup.

  • Blog posts are good choices for long content.
  • Blogs can pull traffic to your website.
  • By using the right keywords in your posts, you can take the advantage of SEO.
  • By asking questions at the end of your posts, and answering your reader’s comments, you can have a two-way communication with your prospects, which means feedback for further improvement.
  • Each blog post means something to share on social media which increases your engagement with your auidence.

Presentations

Presentations are among useful content types to share information about your products and services. You can also use presentations when you need to summarize some long contents including a report, a research etc.

  • Presentations combine various formats including text, image, audio and video…etc.
  • Presentations can catch the eye and make the content easier to remember.
  • Presentations help you reflect your creativity and contribute to your brand image.
  • In addition to current social media platforms, there is a presentation-specific platform: Slideshare
  • When managed effectively, Slideshare can help you get traffic, rank better at search results, get new prospects and build your brand.

White Papers

If you would like to give detailed information about a product or solution while sharing important insights about your industry, a white paper can be the best option. White papers address an issue or problem and present an effective solution. Including valuable information that is not easy to find with a simple web search in your white papers, helps you position yourself as a reference point in your industry

  • White papers are right choices for long content, no fewer than 6 pages
  • You can catch a serious tone that reflects your expertise.
  • White papers have high conversion rates, which helps you to generate leads
  • They provide share-worthy social media content
  • White papers constitute brick contents that have a long term value and create resources for new contents including blog posts, social media updates etc.

Infographics

As the name implies, infographics combine information with graphics. Thus they transform even complicated and boring information into easy-to-grasp and eye-catching content. When detailed explanations are required, a picture may worth tens of words and infographics can convey messages in seconds compared to minutes spent reading.

  • Infographics are among the most searched contents on the web and drive traffic to your website.
  • Infographics help you reach a broader group of people.
  • Infographics can be easily shared on various social media platforms.
  • They help you position yourself as a problem solver by providing less time-consuming and memorable content.
  • They can help you create a powerful visual identity.

E-books

E-books can be defined as electronic forms of printed books. By including in-depth information in their e-books, startups not only provide the knowledge their audience lacks; but also gain credibility in their industry. E-books help startups catch an interactive marketing approach by including links to video, audio and other related contents like blog posts, articles and research reports etc.

  • E-books are affordable when compared with paid marketing options like advertising.
  • You can easily create them by using your existing content.
  • E-books are among evergreen brick content which pull continuous attention.
  • You can use e-books to attract subscribers and grow your email list.
  • By using e-books, you can establish your authority and expert status.

Case Studies

In general terms, case studies are documented studies of specific real-life situations. In marketing context, they include a business problem, a solution to this problem and insights into how this problem is solved. In other words, case studies have a powerful story behind them which shows your customers how your product or service works in real life. Thus they help your customers to understand how your product or service could benefit them.

  • Case studies prove the worth of your product or service with qualitative and quantitative data.
  • You can target your ideal customers by including notable customers in your case studies.
  • Case studies help you build brand awareness and reputation.
  • They are among long lasting content types which enable continuous lead generation.
  • Case studies can be promoted in different formats including online content that drives traffic to your websites; and printed content that can be used as a sales material to close deals.

Videos

 As video consumption continuously rises, video becomes an indispensable component of content marketing strategies. When used strategically, videos help organizations accomplish specific business objectives. As a result of increasing number of platforms that support video, video is one of the most popular content types.

  • Customers are willing to consume video since video is a key means for them to satisfy their information and entertainment needs.
  • Videos contribute to your brand awareness by increasing your online visibility.
  • Videos have high conversion rates when compared with other content types.
  • Audiences are more likely to engage with video content which means more shares and reaching more people.
  • By using video, you can simplify complex processes, explain your products and solutions and educate your target audience. 

Webinars

Webinars are live online presentations during which participants can interact with the presenter. They usually combine slides with audio or video and include informative content. Webinars can help startups to differentiate since they are among exceptional content tools that deliver lasting value.

  • Webinars allow you establish credibility since they are perceived as qualified and educational content.
  • They are also great tools to boost engagement with your audience.
  • Webinars provide an opportunity to promote your product or service and potentially gain new clients.
  • Webinars contribute to lead generation when you make recordings available to subscribers.
  • Webinars can be transformed into different content formats like white papers, Slideshare presentations and recorded videos.

Podcasts

Podcasts are digital audio files which are available as a series and can be distributed over the Internet.  Podcasts let you talk directly to your audience in a way that helps you to be perceived as an actual person. This can contribute to stronger engagement and a powerful relationship with your audience.

  • Podcasts are easy to consume; they don’t take your audience away from their work. Anyone can listen to a podcast while cooking or driving.
  • Podcasts are easy to create with a simple microphone and a recording program. Since they do not require complicated equipment, they are inexpensive.
  • They can be easily transformed into other type of content like blog posts, articles and presentations.
  • As relatively less consumed content types, podcasts help you differentiate your startup by talking to your audience directly with a personal tone.
  • Podcasts are convenient for guest content like interviews. Interviewing with an industry expert, pulls your audience’s attention and helps you gain credibility.