All companies struggle to get noticed. Startups struggle even more.
To that point, Google is the number one tool that startups turn to?
But does Google wield too much power over your future and your marketing efforts?
Readers of this blog are mostly startup people. Several are solo entrepreneurs, or teams of 2-3 people, where resources (cash and time and everything else) are stretched very thin.
So how does Google factor into this picture? There are 3 key ways that startups can use Google to get ahead.
- Use white-hat SEO techniques to get found better.
- Pay for ads
- Try to leverage social media properties owned by the search giant.
But in all of these actions, who is in control? You or Google?
Let’s talk through these options.
Startups love SEO; Google doesn’t necessarily
We’ve talked about SEO on this blog before – search engine optimization. What is it? Simply put, it’s trying to make the search sites love your site more. How do you do this?
- Optimize your content. This has historically been something built around managing the text of your web site, web page, blog post or other content posted online. Lots of times, when people say keyword optimization, this is what they mean. It’s about balancing your keyword percentage (# of times your keyword appears) with the overall volume of content on that page.
- Getting good inbound links. The most relevant thing is to get inbound links from popular sites that have good reputations. There’s more you can do, like getting the link text to have certain keywords in it. This practice is more controversial, since there has been some abuse and paid services in it among some less scrupulous sites.
- Figuring out the rest of the content around the content. This refers to things like optimizing the headlines, title tags, image alt meta tags, and so on.
SEO is popular, because there are tools that can help you analyze your content, and generally speaking, SEO is free!
OK, I get it. So what’s the problem here?
The problem here is that Google fundamentally controls this, and can change the algorithm at any time. Moz has a great history of Google algorithm changes, summarized in one nice page. These changes can have HUGE impacts on your business, if you depend on traffic coming from search engine result pages (often known as SERPs). Check out this search result on companies hit by algorithm changes. You’ll see that every update (Starfish, Panda, Hummingbird, etc) has hurt someone.
I personally saw a company built on amazing SEO lose 60%
of their business after a Google algorithm update.
And speaking of changes, right at the end of last year, the formula changed again, moving from keywords to topics. Check this out and see if it impacts your startup’s SEO approach.
Finally, what about some of the new stuff? Authors are the latest rage!
But I can still buy ads on Google, right?
Of course. And if you’re well-funded, then this could be a viable approach for you. But bear in mind a few things:
- Most startups use ads to target freemium users or free trials. Can you get to paid in time?
- En masse, does your LTV (life-time value) outweigh your CPA (cost per acquisition)?
- Click-through rates are dropping.
But yes, the bottom line is that you can still use ads.
What about Google’s social stuff? Can that help my startup?
Yes, absolutely! And this is an area that’s growing. Check out these 13 tips for leveraging Google+ tools. These are very interesting tools, and they can really help drive not only traffic, but engagement. By definition, these tools are designed for providing richer content that takes more thought and time to consume. This is powerful.
And an added bonus for startups – these social media tools are also free!
Side note: I’m actually kind of waiting for an anti-trust law suit around this. There is a theoretical, and probably valid, argument, that Google is abusing its near monopoly in SERPs to promote its own social platforms.