As mentioned, Google doesn’t care what kind of business you are or what your marketing objectives might be. Search engines have their own agenda and when it comes to SEO its all about awarding high-ranking positions to pages that provide the following:

  • Accessibility: Before search engines can rank your pages, they need to be able to access them.
  • Quality content: This means relevant, unique and useful content that provides the answers users are looking for when they type in a query.
  • Great user experience (UX): Your website is an extension of the search experience and Google wants to see great UX from your pages.
  • Engagement: Quality content and great UX should keep users on your site and engaging with your content, which is precisely what search engines want to see.
  • Optimisation: All the optimisation essentials that make pages easy for search engines and users to understand.

Essentially, you need to create great content and experiences while covering the technical optimisation essentials  thats what search engines and users want to see from you.

How do search engines measure these things?

The problems with phrases like quality content and great UX is theyre entirely ambiguous. So how do search engines actually measure these vague qualities when they only have rigid data to work with?

rankbrain seo for startups

According to Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, the top three Google ranking factors are content, links, and RankBrain.


One of the most significant changes to Googles algorithm over the years has been how it uses keywords to match relevant content to queries. The days of simply matching search terms to the keywords on your page are behind us, and Googlemachine learning algorithms are able to match the topical relevance of your content to the contextual meaning behind user searches.


While Google has hundreds of ranking factors working together in its core algorithm, links are still one of the top three factors. Content that earns a lot of links from trusted sources is likely to be engaging, high-quality stuff and its the quality of the links you earn, not the quantity that really matters.

links as a google ranking factor

UX signals

Google uses a combination of UX signals to get an idea of how good the experience is on your pages. This includes loading times, mobile-friendliness, secure encryption, content placement and the navigation of your site.

Engagement signals

If you want to know how engaging your content is, you might look at bounce rates, average time on page and the number of pages visited per session to get an idea  and Google can do precisely the same. If a user clicks through to your site, quickly returns to the results page and clicks on another listing (called “pogo-sticking”), it suggests you havent provided what this person is looking for.


local startup seo

Lyft and Uber competing in the SERPs for the query get a ride in manchester

Whether location comes into your SEO strategy really depends on the nature of your startup. Airbnb certainly wants to be showing up in local results, and the likes of Uber, Skyscanner and Deliveroo all rely on location data to connect with users new and old. This is a crucial factor in terms of relevance for suitable searches and you may need to consider this if location plays a key role in your startup.

Building an SEO-friendly website for your startup

While it might be tempting to throw together a website and sign up to the cheapest hosting provider you can find, youll be limiting your growth prospects. As weve already looked at in this guide, user experience and engagement factors are a crucial part of your search marketing strategy, and this means you need a website built for SEO.

There are five key areas to think about:

#1: Hosting

Remember, your goal as a startup is to grow as quickly and sustainably as possible, and choosing the wrong hosting package is the worst way to get things moving. Page loading times  which becomes a direct ranking factor in July 2018  is largely determined by the quality of your hosting services.

web hosting for startups

An overview of Bluehosts hosting packages  cheaper isnt always better.

The package you sign up for will also place a limit on the number of visitors that can access your site and how much data can be transferred from your site to them. Which means, if your startup outgrows your hosting package, people arent going to be able to access your website.

You also need to think about the uptime record of your service provider, what security system they have in place and what additional performance features are available (e.g. web cache, CDN, etc.)

#2: Code

The other key factor in website performance is code, and this impacts everything from the way search engines access your website to how quickly your pages load and the mobile experience youre able to provide.

Clean, fast code is important and you need to be aware of this if youre using WordPress themes or other CMS platforms that typically come with a lot of bloated code. Despite its chunky build, one of the key benefits of using WordPress is its structure of templates that allow you to create new pages at the push of a button and create content in a visual interface, rather than code everything yourself.

If youre building your website from scratch, create your own templates for new pages and important elements so you don’t have to keep typing out the same code. Also make sure youre familiar with dynamic web pages so you can edit elements like your websites header in one place instead of having to make the same changes manually across every page.

#3: Design

While search engines can’t see the visual design of your website, they can interpret the navigational structure and basic layout of your pages, as long as you mark them up correctly. You also have the UX signals we looked at earlier to think about and these directly impact your engagement signals, too.

mobile seo for startups

Source: Google Developers offers a number of mobile optimisation tips

As things stand, user experience is only a direct ranking factor for mobile pages but this doesn’t mean UX and engagement signals arent going to hurt your desktop ranking as well. If your bounce rates are sky high and your loading times are sluggish, youre not giving Google much reason to recommend your pages to users on any device.

#4: Content

Content is why people turn to search engines in the first place, and being able to produce what they’re looking for will decide how successful your SEO strategy is. Ill go into this in more detail in the next section of this guide.

#5: On-page optimisation

On-page optimisation gets quite a lot of attention so we probably dont need to go into too much detail here. Its important you get this right for every page you publish, but theres no shortage of guides on this subject and, once youve got a hang of it, itll be the most straightforward part of your SEO strategy.

Heres what you need to cover:

  • Page URL: Make it descriptive, readable and include your main keyword where appropriate. In most cases, this will be the same as your page title with any stop words removed and formatted like this:
  • Page titles: The title for search engines that appears as the blue link text in search results  make it descriptive, readable and include your main keyword where appropriate.
title tag seo for startups

A page title as it appears in Google Search, highlighted in red.

  • Headings: Make sure your page content is broken up into logical chunks and separated by the suitable headings tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.)
  • Content: Make it unique, useful and highly specific to a single subject.
  • Keywords: Include keywords in your page title and headings where appropriate while using a variety of synonyms, variants and closely related terms in the main body of your text to avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Use images: Break up chunks of text with relevant images and optimise them for search (compress files sizes, include subject and keyword in alt-description, etc.)
  • Internal links: Include links in the main body of the text to any relevant pages on your website.
  • Mobile optimisation: Pages that are optimised effectively for mobile perform better in search.
  • Structured data: This gives search engines structured information about your content at the code level by marking sections of your page as articles, reviews, addresses, etc.

Build a website for SEO from day one and youll save yourself a lot of hassle and money further down the line. Get these five essentials right now and youll have a platform for life that only needs minor tweaks as your startup progresses.