Search engine optimization -- SEO for short -- is likely not top of mind when you're getting a new business off the ground. You may be motivated by your vision, the product you want to build, or the impact you want to have on the world. But setting your business up for SEO success can be the difference between life and death for your company.
Four years again when I started my company Winnie, a child care platform, we had a hunch that SEO would be a good user acquisition channel for us. Fast forward to today and the vast majority of our users now find us through Google when they do a search for daycare in their city. Because acquiring users looking to enroll in child care is so expensive, the fact that we can reach parents for free ended up being critical to our business's bottom line.
By doing the following things right in the beginning, you too can find yourself with a lot of free customers down the road.
Pick a brand name that can rank.
Shopify, Etsy, Twitter -- these are all names that can easily win the Google search results for their brand name. If you pick a common term or popular name though, when people google you they might not find you on the first page of results -- at least, not until your product has significant traction like Amazon.
Be sure to also pick a dot com. No one remembers dot co or dot biz, and in addition to googling your name, people will just tack a dot com to the end of it and try to find you that way.
Harness the power of user-generated content.
Getting content to rank in search results is hard. You essentially need to guess what users would be searching for related to your topic, and then create the most relevant content for it. Why not let users do that for you?
Quora, YouTube, and Wikipedia are all products that grew through the power of user-generated content. Even products that focus on expert and professionally created content can use user-generated content to their SEO advantage. Adding user-powered forums to your website will not only help your website rank in search results, but also can inform a content strategy by providing signal about what content ranks best.
Ensure web crawlers can find your pages.
You could have the best blog in the world, but if you can't get to it from your business's homepage it might as well not exist. Google's web crawler has to know about a page's presence to surface it in search results. A good rule of thumb is if a user can't get to a page through a series of clicks from your homepage, then Google can't either.
Make sure all of your key pages are discoverable by linking to them from other pages on your website.
Don't create thin or duplicative pages.
This one can really put you in the doghouse with Google. If you have a lot of pages with very little content, or content that can be found elsewhere on the internet, Google will not take kindly to your entire domain. Especially when you're just starting out, it's better to have fewer pages than to have some pages that are low quality.
You don't need to go overboard with SEO optimizations when you're starting out, but being aware of these essentials can be the difference between your business thriving online or not. Strategically implementing a name that ranks, user-generated content, internal linking and avoiding thin content will go a long way in enabling people to discover your company online.