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Where Do We Even Begin With SEO For A Startup?

When you are new to SEO, it's difficult to know where to even begin. In this Ask An SEO, Mindy Weinstein helps a startup with first steps.

Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Aswin from Silver Spring, USA, who asks:

“Hi, I am a beginner SEO with basic knowledge. I am doing SEO for a startup car rentals company.

I thought I should start with off-page SEO rather than on-page and started trying to acquire backlinks.

However because the company is a startup, they have limitations in services.

I am stuck and don’t know how to proceed further. Could you please give me a strategic plan that I should be following?

I did try registering the website with some website submission forums. I tried resource link building but there were not many resource pages for car rentals.

I tried broken link building but the competitors are tremendously big compared to a startup and hence has pages dedicated for them in referring websites.

The only method that may work now is HARO. Please provide your insight.”

Aswin, while backlinks are part of the ranking equation, that is not where I would start if I was doing SEO for a new website.

There are other things you should do first. But don’t worry, I will answer your link building question in a bit.

Here are the SEO items I would focus on first.

1. Set Up Your Local Listings

I am assuming the car rentals company will want to attract local business.

For that reason, make sure you have claimed, verified, and updated your Google Business Profile listing.

Fill out as much information as possible and be sure to add images and videos.

You can also add frequently asked questions in the Q&A area by posting a question and then answering it as the owner.

You should also claim, verify and update other local directory listings, such as Yelp, Apple Maps, and Bing Places, to name a few.

There are tools you can use to help you with local listings, including Whitespark and Yext.

Check out this article for a full list: 9 Essential Local SEO & Listings Management Tools.

If you have questions about local SEO, be sure to check out the ebook, Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings.

Also, there are a lot of local SEO experts who answer questions on the Local Search Forum.

2. Conduct A Technical SEO Audit

This is one of the first things I do when working on a new SEO project – and I explain it using the analogy of a car.

The paint, body, and trim might look amazing.

The interior of the car might be immaculate.

However, if the engine isn’t tuned or something is broken, the car won’t run.

In this analogy, the engine is the technical part of your website.

You need to pop the hood and make sure everything is running as it should.

There are plenty of tools that can help you run an audit, including those built into Semrush, SE Ranking, and Ahrefs.

If any errors and/or issues are detected, you will want to manually confirm them.

Fix as much as you feel comfortable with and bring in a developer to help with the more advanced errors and issues (i.e. those involving the server or advanced coding skills).

I also have a checklist you can use to help you get going: A Technical SEO Checklist for the Non-Technical Marketer.

3. Optimize Your Pages

If you haven’t already, you need to do some keyword research.

There are plenty of resources available, including How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: The Ultimate Guide.

Once you have determined your keywords, map them out to your pages.

You might find during this process that you don’t have content to support some of your important keywords.

In that case, you should create a content calendar with all the pages you will need to develop.

When you start optimizing your pages, be sure to optimize the page titles, H1s, and body copy.

This article will provide you with even more guidance on what to optimize: How to Create Perfectly Optimized Content: 16 Essential Elements.

Attract Links To Your Website

Okay, now I will answer your original question of how to get backlinks.

I classify links into three categories: Easy, Moderately Easy, and Hard (i.e. time-consuming).

Begin with the easy links, such as unlinked brand mentions, which you can find by setting up Google Alerts or using a tool like Semrush.

If you see that your company has been mentioned on a website, and it is in a positive light, reach out to that website thanking them for the mention, and ask if they will link to your site.

Other easy links include local and industry directories. Phil Rozek, a local search expert, has an extensive list of local directories you should check out.

He also has a great link opportunities questionnaire that will help you brainstorm ideas.

Some of the moderately easy link building ideas include creating infographics, contests, and scholarships.

Once these items are developed, share them on social media and appropriate directories.

I would also look for any travel or local publications that accept guest authors.

Writing articles for high-authority publications is a fantastic way to get links.

The harder link building ideas, simply because they are time-consuming, include creating a guide, tool, industry report, or case study.

Getting interviewed on webinars and podcasts can also often generate backlinks to your website.

While these ideas take more time, they can really pay off.

Also, consider using a blog on your website to generate links.

You could post how-to guides, interviews, expert roundups, and other long-form content.

Be sure to check out Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide for more advice.

Plan Out Your SEO Strategy

Finally, when it comes to SEO, you need to have a strategy and timeline in place.

While I gave you some things to focus on, there is more that goes into SEO.

Be sure to download the ebook, SEO Strategy: A Full Year Blueprint (+Template), because it is packed with information and templates to help you succeed with your SEO work.

More resources:

Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured Image: eamesBot/Shutterstock

VIP CONTRIBUTOR Mindy Weinstein Founder & President at Market MindShift

Mindy Weinstein, PhD is the founder of Market MindShift, a digital marketing agency, and podcast host of Persuasion in Business. ...

Where Do We Even Begin With SEO For A Startup?

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