18 Feb 2016

SEO Fundamentals Startup Founders Need To Know

SEO Fundamentals Startup Founders Need To Know

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know as a founder about SEO. Let’s start with the foundation.

SEO’s high prioritization as a marketing strategy has been reduced over the years, but it’s still very important for businesses, SaaS or other, which already have some authority.

For most medium businesses, SEO (or rather organic traffic) can provide 30-70% of their new monthly customers.

Now, I have seen many founders struggle with SEO, with questions like:

  • Should we invest in it now or later?
  • When will we see results?
  • Let’s get an agency to build links for us

This post has everything that a founder needs to know on SEO and hiring agencies or employees in 2016.

Audit Your Site In 5 Minutes

This will take 5 minutes and it’s needed to know where you stand. Simply install Mozbar and visit your website.

Mark your DA (Domain Authority). This is your whole website’s authority in the eyes of Moz taking into consideration a bunch of factors. Your DA is updated roughly every month.

It’s important to monitor your DA monthly or bimonthly and see it increase even if only by a couple of points. Mozbar is currently considered the most accurate tool for measuring your authority and is used by the best SEO agencies. Don’t bother with other tools.

Regarding when to start investing strategically in your SEO efforts, it depends on your competition, but as a rule of thumb I’d start evaluating this option at 35-40 DA.

SEO 101

Below I will give you the basics of SEO in simple language and later in the article expand on SEO’s components, keeping it fairly basic and easy to understand. I don’t expect any of those to change drastically in the next couple of years. Google is the dominant player, so we will only refer to that.

So, here are the basics you need to know:

A) There are 2 kinds of SEO, onsite and offsite. Onsite is doing improvements on your site (like appropriate meta descriptions on each page) and offsite is acquiring links from other sites towards your site.

B) Onsite brings roughly 20% of the results and offsite 80% of them.

C) Always start fixing quick onsite issues, because they are usually quick to fix and they will give you some quick wins. Also, they will amplify your offsite efforts.

D) After you have fixed them, move on to offsite SEO. The best way to do that is by hiring a skillful agency. It always outperforms individual in-house hires and costs less. If you want a recommendation let me know.

Let’s move on to specific bits and pieces of SEO…

Inbound Links

These are links on other sites that are linking to you. These are the most important links that will increase your rankings in search engines, but not all of them are equal.

The best links to get are from articles or pages with not tons of links on them and they must be dofollow.

To check if they are dofollow, simply go to your Mozbar’s pencil and select highlight dofollow. The links pointing to your site must be highlighted for maximum SEO value.

mozbar screenshot dofollow links
You can see that my links on WeeklyGrowth are dofollow

Nofollow links will naturally come, so you usually don’t need to actively build them. Their SEO value is very low. These links are typically links from the blogs’ comment section.

Personally, I like to get links that both drive relevant referral traffic and bring SEO value.

If you hire an agency to build links to your site, hire them to build dofollow links from sites with a DA of at least 40.

Outbound Links

Outbound links are links going from your site to other sites. These links are like the pawns (soldiers) in chess. If played right, they can give you an advantage.

What you need to know, is that linking out from your articles to other authority sources (Wikipedia, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, etc) associates your site and article with some authority in the eyes of Google.

Google’s thinking behind this is: “If they are referencing high quality content from authority sources, the chance that their content is also high quality, increases“.

If you have an audience, there is an added benefit. Mentioning others in your article drives referral traffic to them and it shows in their analytics.

Now, next time they write a content piece they can return the favor and mention an article of yours or your company.

It goes without saying that if you are a mini-brand and mention an influencer that has a smaller audience than you, she will definitely share the article you mentioned her, if you let her know.

Duplicate Content

Every founder knows that copy-pasting articles from other sources on their blog is a big no-no. But. Where it can get messy is by having multiple copies of the homepage.

This can happen very easily in SaaS due to creating variations for testing, landing pages that look like the homepage, tracking special offers or affiliates and the like. If the site is not on WordPress this can get very messy.

You won’t get penalized for having a few almost identical variations of the homapage (like domain.com, domain.com/offer, domain.com/var), but it eats on your SEO for no reason.

The easiest thing is go to all these pages/variations and add a rel-canonical tag pointing to the original homepage. A developer can easily do this. If you are creating multiple pages like your homepage, make it default for every new page to include automatically a rel-canonical tag to the original page.

Keywords & Semantics

It’s very important to have your team find you potential keywords to target with your homepage and blog. Then, strategically decide on which ones to go after based ons earch volume, competition and search intent. Chances are you won’t be able to target all of them.

For example in Learning Management Systems, there are keywords like “Online LMS”, “Cloud SaaS LMS”, “LMS”, “Learning Management Training”, “Online Training Software” etc.

You have to decide which ones you will target with your homepage. However, you don’t have to overstress minor variations of the same word/term. In the example above it would be pointless to target both Learning Management System and LMS, since it’s the same thing and Google knows that. That’s called semantics.

In extremely competitive industries it will play its role and have some importance, but for 99% of businesses it won’t have an impact.

In general: finding and targeting the right keywords with your homepage and other subpages is very important. Obsessing about keyword targetting in every single blog post, is usually not very productive.

Technicalities & Best Practices

Some standard ways to improve your SEO are the following:

1) Install Yoast SEO. Go through its settings and fill in what’s needed. Even its default settings without any customization can give you a boost.

2) Provide a unique and consistent Title on every blog post. Usually that’s auto-filled by Yoast SEO and you don’t have to do much. Also, type a unique meta description that summarizes the article or page. If you are targeting specific keywords, you should include them both in title and description.

meta title meta description seo yoast

3) The length of the meta title (or H1) should not be longer than 55-60 characters and the meta description should not be longer than 150-160 characters.

4) Use H2 tags throughout the article/page. Just send your developer this.

If you want to learn slightly more advanced technique to boost your rankings and translate them into sales, check this blog post.


In general, founders need to know the basics that are listed in this article, as these will help them better communicate with their SEO agencies/employees.

If you want to invest in SEO, I strongly advice you to hire one or more agencies (be very careful who you choose to work with) and have an employee knowledgeable in SEO manage that agency and provide feedback.

Unless you are in the 30-40 DA range or higher, it doesn’t make sense stressing too much over SEO.

Feel free to contact me for an SEO agency recommendation.


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