SEO for CEOs of startups: The top four questions CEOs should ask their digital marketing specialists

Organic search engine optimisation (SEO) can be complex, technical and time-consuming and the challenge of getting it right can be very overwhelming for a CEO of a startup.

Unfortunately, a lot of assumptions are made about SEO by new businesses; it is usually over-simplified and thought to be easy, leading to unmet expectations.

Quite frankly, the mysterious nature of SEO can lead to misunderstanding and frustration for CEOs, so I’d like to set the record straight on the key questions they should be asking.

In plain English, SEO is what enables people to find an answer when they are looking for stuff, and this answer is located on a company’s website. The higher a site ranks for a given search, the more people will click on it. SEO’s purpose is to drive a high volume of qualified traffic to a website.

With the prominence of digital marketing for businesses set for further growth, the following questions CEOs need to ask their digital marketing specialists (in-house or external) will ensure marketing fundamentals are geared towards efficiency and effectiveness going forward.

1. Are we over-reliant on free SEO tools?

Many services provide free tools which deliver audience insights and increase brands’ visibility. However, for those focused on watching their business grow, it’s insufficient to rely purely on free tools in the long term.

For example, whilst a free domain name works effectively for a personal blog, it does not foster confidence in potential clients, thereby hindering future growth. There would be a similar impact if all accounts were driven purely through social networks, particularly when offering professional value-add services.

2. Is the design or optimisation the key priority for the site?

The process of creating a business’ first website is extremely exciting for everyone involved in a startup. However, sometimes the creativity gets in the way of the usability of a site and startups need to understand that it is more important for a website to capture the interest of the target audience than over enhancing the design.

When creativity is in overdrive, there’s a penchant to see pages linked to other pages, certain images to be used, the effect of parallax or animation, debates on typography and it’s easy for confusion to set in. This can lead to a website becoming extremely complex and expensive and there are often usability concerns.

3. Is the website successfully converting visitors to buy?

Solving SEO issues is the key to long-term success and requires both time and patience, but when it starts to pay off, a startup’s communication funnel should be ready.

When a visitor arrives at a site with zero previous knowledge of the brand, the conversion will not be instant. In fact, with all the choices offered by the internet now, the purchase process has actually become slower. People do not tend to impulsively buy online anymore. These days people come to the store, see something they like, search the internet for comparable products, read reviews from other buyers, look into the specifications of the product and then decide whether to purchase, or not.

With digital products or high-level professional services, more contact is usually required between the company and the customer to aid conversion. In this sense, providing a wider depth of knowledge of the product or service is vital. Supplying an eBook or newsletter, which can be consumed in a short time, serves as the lead magnet to the target market.

4. Are we too hung up on the latest search trends?

There is a never-ending stream of new search trends and buzzwords in the media that can overwhelm CEOs and leave them wondering which new search technologies they should really pay attention to. Some of the latest trends are definitely worth looking at though, specifically ‘voice search’ is one that should be seriously considered.

Today, two-fifths of adults use voice search at least once every day. By 2020, it is estimated that half of the search will be transferred from keyboards to microphones. According to Google, 20 per cent of the searches in Android applications are conducted by voice search.

Voice search seems to be more colloquial, and through voice search, people tend to ask Google as if they’d ask a real person, except that they can ask about things they would not discuss with family, friends or even their doctor.

What’s interesting through with voice search, is that just the first page of the results is not enough as about 80% of the answers returned are from the top three organic results. So the goal of getting to the top of the page gets even more challenging for an organisation.

The Take-Out

It’s a matter of fact that sales cannot be generated without leads. With effective SEO, the pipeline is filled systematically, perpetually and ever more quickly. No other digital marketing discipline matters unless there is a pool of visitors on the site to market to.

The best approach for a startup is to optimise their website and once this is complete, wait for a few weeks to let the website rise in rankings. Then complement these efforts with all types of relevant content to rank even higher and remember that consistency is the key to success.

Olga Andrienko is the Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush. Olga specializes in conversion and relationship marketing and has increased SEMrush social engagement by 400% in one year together with her team.