A comprehensive guide every startup needs
Anyone who has ever worked at a startup can tell you that startup marketing is overwhelming.
You need to build a dedicated customer base, craft an advertising strategy from scratch, and run a marketing department on a shoestring — all while trying to sell a product with limited name recognition (and potentially big-name competitors!).
In the face of all this, many startup marketing departments understandably put content marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the “when we have time” basket.
But doing so can be a huge mistake.
In early 2022, there will be nearly two billion websites to compete with online. Searching for most keywords will also yield you millions to billions of results. Without SEO, you won't stand out (especially against competitors who are already using it).
So, how do you build a content marketing strategy for a startup? Read on because this article will cover the why and how of startup SEO marketing.
Let's jump into it.
Why Your Startup Needs A Content SEO Strategy
But while content strategies for startups are definitely fun to produce, they are also highly effective.
Think of content marketing as the glue that sticks leads to your website. When they visit your site through an ad, referral from a friend, or Google search, you need something that intrigues them enough to stay.
Content marketing also legitimizes your business, builds credibility, and helps you portray your brand as an industry expert. Think of it this way: would you feel safer buying from a website with only a homepage and product pages or a website with a weekly blog, podcast, product pages, and 1,000 Instagram followers?
And, of course, content marketing makes you stand out from competitors. Though we don't know why every startup failed (and for reference, the failure rate was 50% by the end of the fifth year in the United States), we know market competition plays a vital role. Research into 110 failed startups from CBInsights shows that 20% of failed businesses “got outcompeted.”
What Content Should You Start With?
Okay, so it's fair to assume content marketing is a worthy investment in your startup's long-term success. But what do I mean by “content?”
The great thing about content is that it's flexible. You can produce whatever you want, in whichever medium your customer base will respond to.
That being said, the most common forms of startup content marketing include:
Blog posts are phenomenal for boosting search engine rankings, as you can produce Top-of-the-Funnel (TOFU) content that ranks highly for keywords within your industry.
You don't need to produce niche or academic blog posts to make an impact with blogging, either. Here at Mediaberry, our blog covers many topics, from digital marketing trends to link building to productivity software reviews.
Sales Enablement Pieces
These Bottom-of-the-Funnel (BOFU) content pieces engage leads who are interested in your offering and push them to hit “purchase.”
Like blog posts, sales enablement pieces rank well on search engines (so they will grow both your website and customer base simultaneously).
At Mediaberry, we use sales enablement pieces to teach potential clients about the costs, pros, cons, and nuances of relationship-based link-building so they can make an informed decision.
Case studies help people visualize what working with your brand will be like for them. For example, they answer questions like “what does this software look like in practice” or “what results have other brands had with this?”
Mediaberry uses case studies to show off our best work — like helping an AI software company grow its organic traffic by 2272% in six months.
Social Media Posts
Social media posts help you build social credibility for your brand by reaching leads and customers on their favorite platforms. Social media is huge in 2022 — Facebook has 2.9 billion users, YouTube has 2.5 billion users, Instagram has 1.4 billion users, and TikTok has 1 billion users.
At Mediaberry, we use LinkedIn to share our latest articles with our network of digital marketers and Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. (Here's Mediaberry's LinkedIn, if you're curious!)
Unlike the other forms of content marketing I mentioned, email newsletters don't appear in search results. They are still highly effective in increasing website traffic from leads, however.
Where Does SEO Come In?
I've used the term “SEO” several times already, so before we move on, let's define it.
Search Engine Optimization (or “SEO” for short) is the art of adjusting your website so it performs better in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). SERP performance is vital in attracting leads, as the higher you rank in SERPs, the more people visit your website or webpage.
For proof of this, let's look at a study of billions of search results and 80 million+ keywords from Sistix. The study found that the CTR of the first Google result is 28.5%. This drops to 15.7% for the second result, 11.0% for the third result, and 8.0% for the fourth result.
Shockingly, if we jump to the tenth result, it only scores 2.5% of organic traffic.
It's safe to say you want to rank above #10.
Now, SEO isn't just important for SERP performance. It can also:
- Boost your brand's visibility in the media
- Grow your domain authority and establish you as a high-quality source
- Help you maximize the reach of your website marketing
Your Startup SEO Checklist
Broadly speaking, there are two types of SEO:
- On-page SEO, which includes everything on your website (posts, pages, images, etc.).
- Off-page SEO, which includes everything that boosts your ranking outside your website (like backlinks).
Obviously, you'll need a website to get started with on-page and off-page SEO, as well as a few other things like:
- A detailed ideal customer profile, so you know who your target audience members are (including their demographics and behavior trends)
- An understanding of which marketing channels will resonate with your audience (a rough idea is fine — there is no substitute for trial and error)
- Baseline figures for your brand's Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), Customer Lifetime Value (LTV), marketing Return-On-Investment (ROI), and Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU), and customer churn rate (these will help you measure the impact of your SEO strategy later)
- Baseline website performance figures for metrics like organic traffic, bounce rates, exit rates, and landing page conversion rates
- A passionate staff member with the drive to manage your SEO strategy and work on it over time
Once you have those checklist items, you're ready to craft your SEO strategy.
Speaking of which…
How To Build The Perfect Content SEO Strategy
Building an SEO strategy is like building a house. Every blog post, image, video, or other pieces of content you post acts as a new wall that slowly takes your house from a fledgling structure to a robust space people want to spend time in.
In this analogy, the foundation of the house is your goals. So, let's start by setting them.
1. Define Your Content Goals and SEO Goals
Goals give you direction and a way to measure your SEO strategy later, so you don't want to skip setting them.
Ask yourself: “where are we currently?” Consider your revenue, audience, marketing, and how you compare to your competition. Then, think about where you want to be and what activities will get you there.
Set objectives that will map your progress towards your ideal situation. These could be things like publishing weekly blog posts, increasing organic traffic by 10%, ranking highly for a particular keyword, etc. Whatever they are, make them specific to you.
Then, set SEO-based goals. Think about:
- Increasing the amount of time people spend on your web pages
- Decreasing your bounce rate
- Growing your backlinks
- Increasing post engagement
- Growing your domain authority
Your SEO and content goals should align with each other and your overall strategy. If your goal doesn't move your startup forward long-term, there's really no point in pursuing it.
Similarly, use the wording of your goals to your advantage and set SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound.
2. Know Your Audience and Competitors
Next, dig deeper into your target audience. You'll want to understand their pain points, interests, and any questions they have about your industry to produce content that intrigues them.
You can gather this information by speaking to people face-to-face, asking on social media, or sending out a survey. Then, create a long list of content ideas to come back to later.
Before you launch your first piece of content, you'll want to familiarize yourself with your competition's content. Here are some things to look for:
- Topics covered
- The style of their content
- Which mediums they use
- Domain authority/domain ranking (you can find these with Moz and Ahrefs)
Take note of anything you'd like to emulate. Personally, I keep a file of interesting pieces of content to refer to when I'm looking for inspiration.
3. Choose Your Keywords With Your Content Goals AND Audience in Mind
It's now time to start brainstorming and planning content pieces.
Building a content calendar can be quite daunting, so start by choosing a few keywords to focus on and scale your efforts up over time. Your audience will receive high-quality pieces better, so don't rush your content production and keyword research efforts.
Generally, you want to plan one piece of content for each primary keyword (otherwise, you risk keyword cannibalization). Then, for each content piece, come up with:
- Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords. LSI keywords help search engines understand the context of the primary keyword (so “how effective SEO and content marketing compare” and “SEO content strategies” are LSI keywords for “SEO vs content marketing”).
- Secondary keywords. Secondary keywords are related to the primary keywords (so “SEO content creation” is a secondary keyword for “content development for SEO”)
- One to three competing articles for inspiration.
Before you give any ideas the green light, ask: “will this idea further our progress towards our goals” and “will our audience get value from this?”
4. Get Creative With Your Content
At this point, you'll want to start putting together the first few pieces for your content calendar.
This is the fun part, as you can be as creative as you like to make your content stand out. For example, you could create infographics, animations, fun fonts, sound effects, or illustrations.
Adding downloadable content to each piece is also a great idea. If you have a team member who is good with graphic design, try creating a topic cheatsheet, short eBook, or template readers can download and fill out.
Or, if you have the functionality to add an in-built tool into your content, that's a great option too. We did that by adding a calculator into the post “Link Building Pricing: Outsourced or In-House?”
Adding creative, relevant content is all about adding value that helps leads succeed in their goals.
5. Don't Be Afraid To Repurpose Your Content Assets
Depending on how fast you work, producing new material can be one of the most time-consuming parts of your content SEO strategy. Thankfully, you can cut corners by repurposing material.
For example, if you wrote a blog post on SEO strategies, you could repurpose the post as a script for a video about SEO tips. And/or, you could take key points from the post and turn them into a “How To Use A Keyword Tool To Boost Clicks” infographic.
As a general rule, you want to make sure you publish repurposed material on a different marketing channel than the original (as otherwise, you risk cannibalizing your keywords!).
6. Choose Smart Distribution Channels
With your content in hand, you're ready to start publishing. There are many distribution channels to choose from, including:
- Email marketing
- Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
- Influencer marketing (and influencer amplification)
While it's tempting to try to juggle multiple channels at once, don't overburden your team. Instead, just try your hand at a few channels and scale once you have your content calendar under control.
At this stage in your SEO efforts, it's also wise to start thinking about building links through an agency like Mediaberry (I'll cover link building in “8. Build Your Authority With Strong Backlinks”).
7. Conduct a Content and SEO Audit For Your Website
Back under “Define Your Content Goals and SEO Goals,” I mentioned that good goals can help you evaluate your content marketing performance. The time for that evaluation is now.
The evaluation process is very subjective, so you need to decide what this will look like for you. However, we have some suggestions:
- Use free SEO tools like Frase, Clearscope, and MarketMuse to analyze the SEO scores of your content
- Measure audience engagement with metrics like views, likes, comments, and shares
- Watch how your audience interacted with your content through Google Analytics
- Look for trends in Google Search Console
Additionally, look at whether your content helped you reach your objectives. If it did, great! But if it didn't, consider what you'll need to change in your strategy going forward.
Finally, conduct an SEO audit for your website. In essence, this audit should look at page speed, internal links, indexed URLs, mobile-friendliness, indexation issues, redirects, backlinks, and on-page SEO.
8. Build Your Authority With Strong Backlinks
Finally, really invest in link building. Link building is the practice of increasing your backlinks (the number of links bringing people to your page from other websites).
Link building can help you amplify the reach of your content marketing by upping your SERP performance. According to Google's former Search Quality Senior Strategist, Andrey Lipattsev*, links are in the top two things Google uses to judge how to rank articles.
Link building also builds your domain's authority. The better your authority, the more reliable search engines will find you.
One of the best established link-building strategies is guest posting (when you produce a blog post for another website in exchange for a link), but easier options exist.
This includes partnering with an agency that can secure you links from websites with strong domains. Mediaberry is one such agency and currently has a network of over 142 SaaS brands to work with.
*Lipattsev is now a Partner Development Manager at Google, but he held the position of Search Quality Senior Strategist when he discussed backlinks in a Google Q&A.
Grow Your Content SEO With Mediaberry
Crafting a content SEO strategy for a startup may seem complicated on the surface, but (like most things marketing-related), you can easily break it down into manageable tasks.
The thing to remember with SEO is that it's a long-term strategy you need to work at over time. Don't get discouraged if you don't go viral within a week. Instead, invest small chunks of time into SEO like any other marketing strategy.
And, of course, consider seeking expert help to push your SEO results to the next level.
Mediaberry are experts in building strong backlinks to startups, small businesses, and budding entrepreneurs, and we can help you succeed, too.
Click here to learn more about Mediaberry's link building system.