Should Startups Care About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

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Does SEO matter for an early stage company focusing on building social media connections first?

It does. Founders, how do you think you get visibility in the sea of social media posts? The strategy that goes into social media optimization is at the core of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the online viral result of everything you do online and offline to match your customer’s pain point to your solution.

I am a promoter of growth hacking. That means that I advise startups on the ways to achieve maximum growth with the minimum required resources. This growth hacking is part of an overall short-cycle, learning-based approach for companies validating product-market fit.

A digital marketing strategy begins by thinking of the ways to connect with the people you have targeted to serve. In the early stages, you are making an extra effort to target customers whom you hope will best promote your product to go viral. So how do you get these early customers to begin the journey to your solution? You go to them. You go to where your customers reside offline and online, and attract them with their own language.

What words do your customers use when beginning a search? How do those customers want content? Photos, videos, infographics, audio, podcasts? Do your customers rely on user-generated content (UGC)? Who do your customers go to for buying advice? Your ability to figure out the content preferences and leverage the network of relationships offline and online will help bond you to your customers. The result of doing this well raises your online presence in the ranks of SEO.

Your job is to remove the friction between your customers and your solution. SEO reflects the real-life relationships you are encouraging to build your brand. SEO is the outcome of your overall marketing strategy.

What this specifically means is that the words you use to describe your solution as well as your content offline and online need to reflect the words your customers use to find you. You can develop this common language through extensive customer discovery and validation (Lean Launchpad nod here) that should be ongoing… like forever.

Create shareworthy content optimized for key words and phrases to connect with your customers. The better connected you are with your customers (offline then online), the easier it is for search engines to find you, index your content, and rank you to best answer a potential customer’s query. Reality check. We know that startups don’t rank well in search engines. That is true but think about the following: the keywords, content format, and relevant linking required for SEO are also required to get your content viewed on social media feeds. So hone in on the optimal language and user experience to attract your customers.

It is all about the buzz. Give target customers a reason to search for you online and relevant sites to link to you. You might consider a partnership with better-known brands to put you on the map.

No one will know you when you start out. Do whatever it takes to acquire early customers, one by one, and give them the best experience possible. Key to that experience is to create a seamless dialog with your customers from awareness to the promotion of your brand. Mirror the relationships that naturally form to create this. And thus you will boost your SEO.

So yes, SEO matters to early stage startups even if you are a nobody when you start.

Joy Fairbanks evaluates early stage startups, advises founders, and creates programming for startup accelerators globally. She writes about startup success at

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Joy Fairbanks evaluates early stage startups, advises founders, and creates programming for startup incubators and accelerators globally.