As you are in the trenches refining your product and customer experience, tasks like growth hacking or customer segmentation might be on your long list of to-dos. And everything on that list might seem like game-changing opportunities that you and your startup cannot afford to miss. However, the important question to ask is this: Is it possible to tick all of the boxes for your business in its early stages?
The answer for mosts startups tends to be a “No”. As a new entrant to your industry, one of the key priorities is gaining traction and building a niched but loyal customer base. To do that, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the best tools for the task – SEO can be a big part of winning these first paying customers.
Selecting Your First Customers
Focusing on too many different customer segments might exhaust your business in terms of finances, resources and time. Let’s say you want to build a fashion brand for women where you feel that women from 25-39 years old would love your brand. On the other hand, picking a generic customer segment of women of age 25-39 can be too general for your brand to stand out.
However, for startups and small businesses, acquiring your first customers who are willing to pay for your products or services is often one of your key priorities. These customers are usually known as your beachhead market in which Bill Aulet has mentioned in his book Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Steps to a Successful Startup. This term was derived from an army strategy where the army would first focus on winning and controlling the beach before expanding into enemy territory. Similarly, by choosing the right beachhead market and excelling in it, you can establish a strong market position and secure the positive cash flow that is vital to sustaining any business.
But which market segmentation should startups aim to get? In many cases, the largest market segmentation would not serve well as your beachhead market. The first market should be small enough for you to quickly get exposure and learn through interaction and experiences with customers
Search Engine Optimization
After defining and selecting your beachhead market, you have many ways of getting in touch with them. Your first organic customers would be seeing you from the Internet, more specifically when searching on Google. Hence, it is significant that you bring your business online presence closer to these customers. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the right tool for improving your business’s visibility through a different set of technical tools for your content. When customers search Google for a solution for their most pressing problems, as you would understand from your own experience, the third or the fourth pages of a search is seldom visited. And this is why an entire industry has grown out of vying to appear as highest as possible on search engine result pages.
So how can small businesses rank higher on search results?
We’ll be discussing, from a high level perspective, the main strategy that most SEOs will implement to gain a foothold in this competitive landscape.
Before that, be sure to reach out to us to download our free 10-step SEO checklist that you and your business can refer to when building up your search presence.
Building Your SEO Strategy
First things first, you would want to guide your optimization efforts with a round of proper research. This involves searching for keywords that your beachhead customers are most likely to search when looking for a solution to their problem. However, as this customer segment is often small and specific, the keywords that you would surface from this round of research should also be expanded to be highly specific. These are called “long-tail keywords”, and an example would be a search for “Interior design agencies in Singapore” versus “Modern Interior designers in Singapore, Queenstown under $2000”.
This step involves putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and understanding their chain of thought when searching for your solution online. A simple way for brainstorming these keywords is to do a quick Google search and jot down the suggestions that are popping up (search bar, top/bottom of the pages). These suggested keywords and phrases often give deeper insights into the mindset of your dream customers. Alternative keyword research tools also include Ubersuggest and SEMrush.
Configure your website for SEO
The next steps can get a little technical as this is involves the “on-page SEO” and “off-page SEO” that you might have come across when researching more on Search Engine Optimization.
You would want to have your site/domain connected to tools like the Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools that help businesses monitor and improve their SEO efforts. On these platforms, you can submit your sitemap (often named sitemap.xml on hosting providers) to the Search Console. That makes it easier for search engines to understand your site structure and identify which pages are important for you.
This is crucial as implementing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies is one thing, and refining it through a continuous process is another. Securing a good search ranking is always an ongoing battle, and analyzing past performance using tools like Google Analytics is crucial. This is because this reveals clues on what is working and which keywords are not getting the clicks you need.
This wraps up the first 3 simple steps in our 10-step checklist for SEO. The other steps in our free checklist will get you acquainted with on-page SEO and off-page SEO strategies, so don’t forget to check it out!
Want to learn more about how Google is influencing the online world through its many tools and products? Check out our post about Google’s impact!
GrowthFunnels is a global web design, E-commerce and digital marketing agency that specializes in helping small brands and startups scale their businesses online. As a full-service provider, our services include social media marketing, SEO/SEM, email marketing, and strategy coaching.