Monthly Archives: February 2013

SEO Explained in 2 Minutes

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(This is an article I wrote years ago. Just thought I’d share it here)

Those of you who that are just starting out and want to know more about SEO or online marketing, I can feel your pain.

Companies nowadays create products and then become confused about how to market their products, or who their potential buyers are. A rule of thumb is, you create your company and product around your main SEO and marketing strategy. I will walk you through this.

The reason why SEO is so important is not because it uses shady tricks to place your website on the first page of Google’s search results. The reason is because to do good SEO, you must have a very clear scope of what your company does, who your customers are, what they look for, and how to find these customers. Don’t these information answer to any company’s core philosophy?

If you’ve read a book called the Art of SEO by the founder of SEOmoz, you will see that he now equates SEO to online marketing, and online marketing equals to marketing, so SEO = Marketing.

What is SEO

To explain this, SEO includes:

1. Onsite Keyword Optimization: Populate your page with targeted keywords that your customers care about. These will have to be relevant to your products. By doing so, this will also help optimize the conversion rate on your website. Also, it’s proven that customers’ buying emotions are triggered by keywords. If you use the right keywords, which are ones acquired after research, customers are much more easily converted.

Furthermore, your targeted keywords will also help Google or any search engine understand what your website is about, and the search engines will show your website to users that are searching for those or related keywords.

This is just also like in the real world. When you talk about what you know (and you seem like you know what you are talking about), that’s what people will know you as, and will refer to you when someone asks about something you can help with.

How do i do this?

Let’s say that you are operating an eCommerce store that sells motor oil, and you want potential customers to find you. To do this, you can write up each of your page’s content containing keywords or keyphrases that your potential customers search for (which would require research. Use Google Adword’s Keyword Planner Tool to find out what your users are thinking about/searching for).

keyword-planner

For instance, when a customer is searching for motor oil to purchase, the query that they input into Google search might be “best synthetic motor oil”. Knowing that’s what they search for, you can use such keywords in moderation on the page (not necessarily the home page) that you want Google to relate that keyword to. So, in fact, each page on your website could be optimized for different keywords. Many people create separate pages for different types of buyers.

Also, each website should have a portfolio of keywords that you target. If you are small, start with 5 or so keywords. You can target 1-2 short tail ones (2-word keyphrases), and 3+ long tail ones (2+ words keyphrases). When you have more budget and manpower to create more content with other keywords, then you can start expanding your keyword portfolio.

2. Manual Backlinks: You must go to the places where your customers frequent, and participate in discussions and provide links to your solutions when applicable. This is done in forums, twitter, blogs, and social networks. This is kind of like social customer service. This is also now a part of growth hacking. By creating backlinks on different channels, you not only better your site’s SEO, you also trickle users to your site using those same backlinks.

Note (Updated 11/22/2013):

When you write your response on these platforms, make sure you are not spamming your targeted keywords as your links’ anchor text (the text of the link, like this -> this is an anchor text). Back in the days, people would spam keyword anchor text (like this -> best synthetic motor oil). Since Google’s Humingbird update, Google are now penalizing excessive backlinks with keyword anchor text. Back in the days, Google used to give a lot of SEO juice to backlinks containing targeted keywords, so many sites abused that, which resulted in a lot of low quality websites making it to the top of Google’s search results.

If you think about it, it’s pretty unnatural to write links’ anchor text using keywords. What’s more natural is using your company’s brand name as the anchor text, like StartitUp or startitup.co, instead of Start your online business. However, that’s not to say that you can’t. It’s beneficial for you if you do it in moderation, for instance if you want to use the title of a blog post as the anchor test. The % of backlinks with keyword anchor text should be the minority of your backlinks.

3. Content Marketing: You should provide insightful and easy to understand material such as podcasts, videos, white papers, simple tutorials, or blog articles to help your customers solve their problems. If you are successful in providing authentic and original content that helps your potential customers, other websites will in turn link back to your website, increasing your website’s merit and authority in the eyes of Google Search Engine.

Not only will Google trust you more, this will give you Thought Leadership or Mind Share points so that when your customers are thinking of a solution, they will think of you. This is also called Content Marketing. Every big corporation or successful startup follows this. In fact, many believe that content marketing is now the best method to do SEO. The keyword tips given in #1 should be used here as well.

4. Page Rank: You should get external websites to link back to your website. This tells Google that your website is popular and trustworthy (PR – Page Rank), because when a website links back to your website, it’s kind of like someone’s talking about you. The more people talk about you, the more popular you are. The more trustworthy your referrer, the most trustworthy you are. Also, the links and their anchor text that they use to link back to your site or pages also matter. The “merit” ecosystem is just like what it’s like in the real world.

There are a lot more details points, but the 4 points above easily points out why SEO is not only important, but has also replaced marketing in our modern world. Also, if you do these 4 points well, you would have already covered 90% of your SEO efforts.

If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, do shoot me an email at ed@startitup.co.

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Why Did We Build The Step-by-Step Startup Guide?

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So one day, we’ve just begun brainstorming for Hellol.com, and while we were preparing, I was feeling pretty frustrated. It was frustrating because we were just kind of doing things or thinking of things as they go. We have to do everything all over again. We have to remember what we did right, and what we did wrong. Coding and all is all quite easy. Yitao does the back-end, and I do the front-end. However, what’s really hard is all the other stuff. How do we validate our MVP again? Where can we find our early adopters? How should we create our interview script? How about content marketing? When and where do we launch our MVP. The list goes on.

I’ve done it before, but where did I put all my notes again? I have a bunch of bookmarks of great articles from the internet and notes I’ve taken while reading great startup books by Eric Ries, Ash Maurya, or Steve Blank, but they’re just all scattered everywhere. I’ve read and saved great growth hacking trips from people like Mattan Griffel, Noah Kagan, or Andrew Chen. And while each piece of information is great, starting a startup is requires knowledge from all of those experts.

Information Overload
That’s what I feel like when I’m going through all my bookmarks and Read Later saves.

Also, we needed a way to keep track of what we’ve already done, and what else can we do to make our startup more awesome. We didn’t know if all the tricks and knowledge I’ve saved are still current. All those frustration piled up and that kind transformed into an idea. 

So…we have a few problems here:

1. We do know how to start a startup, and the team does have prior experience to building and growing startups, but most of our actions are more like reactions, and not proactively planning on action items before we realize we need something.

2. We do have these knowledge and tips saved somewhere, but we’d have to look at them separately. Also, the collection of them is not organized, and most of the knowledge are macro, not micro. They focus on telling, not showing. We needed action items that can give us immediate results (for things like Growth Hacking, getting early adopters, or getting feedback, etc)

3. We have no way to know which stage we’re at, or where we should be at. We don’t have a way to track what we’ve done, and what more we can do to improve.

4. Startup knowledge gets outdated quickly.

5. It wasn’t easy to just get a bunch of early adopters to test out your service or give you feedback on how you can improve your startup. Yes there is reddit, hacker news, quora, or what not, but most of them are not for this purpose.

So I said to Yitao “I wish we had this step-by-step guide that we could follow to help us do everything that’s right to building a startup. Lean startup shit, and it’ll have all the tricks to growth hacking and stuff.”

Enter StartitUp. So we decided to make something that we would love to use ourselves. Therefore, we ended up creating a startup guide, with constantly updated step-by-step action items collected from the best startup masters, where a startup can track their own progress, and get feedback from a community of other startups. We also want to make this guide free, so we can get the best information to entrepreneurs everywhere. We want this guide to help people succeed. Starting something you are passionate about is just about one of the best things anyone can do in their lifetimes…except for Ice Cream and perhaps sex (I love Ice Cream so much it’s a pronoun for me). The point is, we want people to be happy. Yitao and my dreams are to help people get the information they need, in the way they want it.

Ok, so other than that…I think it’d be interesting to discuss about why we think we’re qualified to create a guide that claims to be the ultimate startup guide. The truth is, we don’t necessarily think that we are. We’re just the guys who consolidates and organizes all the best startup knowledge from the people who ARE the shit, and organizes them. However, that’s not to say we’re not at all qualified. We’ve build and failed with startups before, and while we haven’t had a hit startup, we have learned a lot from the mistakes we’ve made, and we definitely have learned from that.

Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia doesn’t know every single history in the world, but he collected all the information and made a platform that made it possible to create the most complete encyclopedia in the world. Like Jimmy Wales, we’re merely consolidating and creating a platform to collect the best startup knowledge. And we’re creating the Ultimate Startup Guide.

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