58 | SEO for Startups and Small Businesses with Carolyn Lyden


Carolyn Lyden grew up in a family of businesses and startups. Her gran, aunties and uncles, her mum, so she got an idea about how small businesses work and what’s a challenge and what helps the business succeed. 

She started out in a small agency, saw how someone can start from being a freelancer to become a small agency to work across industries and companies. 

Carolyn helps small businesses or startups. So, from the beginning of last year, she opened her own business. As the financial crisis hit years ago, it meant there was monumental growth of small businesses and startups. Carolyn started as SEO and content creator. She was making sure that what she created was driving traffic. Finding out why and how as well as experimenting to see what helps it to perform in local and individual areas. 

Top Priorities for Startups

You need a clean and understandable website that has the following pages: 

  1. A homepage
  2. About us 
  3. Services page
  4. Contact us page 
  5. Blog or a hub to produce content 

These are the basic 5 elements that most sites need and to which you should add keywords and localisation. Target the areas you’re meaning to go after. Where you are is a big deal and don’t put down a near-by city because your audience will no doubt be your local community. The nearest big city might mean all the traffic but unless you’re global or you travel to them then you can’t fulfil your service and become untrustworthy. This is a big deal that gets overlooked. 

Google My Business

Even if your company is just digital, select a service area that you cover locally as Google My Business (GMB) is a crucial element to search engines. There’s a map and you can include your business number. It also leaves a place for people to leave reviews. These can be both good and bad but critical, especially for startups because potential customers need lots of information.  

Is Wix bad for SEO?

A lot of people use Wix because it’s easy and quick to create a website so this allows a great way of doing it. Great for usability but when it comes to search engine optimisation, it has a lot of crawl issues and Google sees empty pages.

Make sure to add meta tags, titles and descriptions on indexable pages and Wix are working on making the platform more search engine friendly.   

BUT if you need help – I have a great podcast episode that will help you build your own site. It covers how to choose a domain and hosting on a server, choosing a website theme via Themeforest and so on. If you’re willing to give your time you can learn anything online. Carolyn recommends that it will also help you experiment along the way. Why not try out a page and see if it looks good?

If your site is on WordPress then you can easily add plugins too, such as Yoast SEO.  

What Content do Startups Need on their Websites?

Content on your website should be focused on the target audience. When you first start it could be one type of person but then as a business grows, there are other groups that will benefit from your service or products so make sure to add those into your content as your business grows. Some owners make the opposite mistake and throw in an irrelevant audience to target – don’t do this and make sure you’re always tailoring your information to quality leads. Find out what your audience is looking for. Why do they need your products or services and what part of the user journey is it. Incorporate it all into your content, especially any questions they may have about your service/products.

Things change and evolve over time, which is natural, and your website needs to keep up with what’s happening. Keep it fresh!

Look at the keywords. How are people looking at your services and what words are they using? This will help you understand what words people are using and the intent of their searches so you can best tailor your content and pages to those. 

Top Tip: Find out how your existing customers are talking about your services. When you’re on the phone to them or dealing with a customer service call is a great place to start. You can do this via your website too by offering triggered emails when they make a purchase which asks them questions like ‘how did you find out about us’. So, use what is available to you, both digital information and verbal. Find out what ‘real’ words they use in the industry to get to you. 

Carolyn’s great example:

House cleaning company was heavily targeting chemical-free cleaning products. BUT they were coming up for ‘free cleaning’ rather than free-cleaning products. How are you using your language and how is it understood on the other end (aka Google?) 

Jargon sometimes doesn’t make sense to prospective customers either. I had a legal client that was using jargon, so make sure you’re using wording that people search for and most importantly, understand! 

Go onto competitor sites and check out what they’re doing. What imagery, wording and branding are they using and showcasing? Don’t forget to differentiate yourself though and know your USP (unique selling point.) Make this clear on your website. Saddleback Leather example of great USP in their meta data is “they’ll fight over it when you’re dead.” 

Link building for Startups 

  • Press attention from authoritative sites. Here’s a great past episode on link building with expert Laura Crimmons or another, with Ross Tavendale
  • Offering content. Quotes and guest posting, giving expert advice to other sites. Make sure you’re offering it to relevant websites too that can offer you good traffic and not just a good link. 
  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out) be an expert and get links back for quotes. It also ranges in topics and is free to sign up and get emails from journalists who are looking to write articles with your information. 

There’ll always be business, says Carolyn’s friend Sarah Duff. A lot of people don’t know how to find business but there’s always more than enough. You need to go out and make sure you’re working hard to find it. 

When we make a sale, customers usually go through the full funnel. Carolyn says that we think we’re done once the service is finished but there’s a lot of use in keeping existing customers happy and having them continuously refer their family and friends to your services. This can be really overlooked, especially when you’re first starting out.

The Marketing Eco-System

A lot of people think SEO is an add-on to the ecosystem but it’s actually the foundation. The keywords and language used can work across all other channels. These can be used across the ‘tentacles’ (as Carolyn nicely puts it) of digital marketing. 

“In SEO, we look at the keyword research and the language that people use when searching and how they find us and can use that in all these other tentacles that reach out beyond the website.” – Carolyn 

Questions to Ask

  • What does our user want and need from us and how do we serve them through the website and Google My Business?
  • What is the messaging on social media?
  • How do you promote your value against competitors? 
  • How can you best serve your target audience?

Don’t try and do everything (ie. every social media platform) but use the platform that you’re getting a lot of engagement and leads from. Focus on the places that are driving traffic and conversion to your sites. 

Reporting When Starting Your Site

  • Get Google Analytics as a bare minimum.
  • Set up Search Console, it’s free, can take a few clicks and is great for SEO.

Brand Pitfalls – Not Starting Reviews!

Some startups are afraid of reviews, says Carolyn. People don’t want potential negative reviews so don’t start any online. Carolyn recommends you do start these and that you reply to ALL reviews (listen to episode for suggestions on how.) 

I was speaking to a Feefo employee, recommending that for good reviews you should use your brand name and product name if applicable, so that if someone searches for that product then that review will come up. On the other hand, if it’s negative then de-optimise your reply. Don’t add your brand name but use ‘customer service team’ instead which helps the negative not come up first for your company. People trust reviews that are 4.X stars rather than 5 stars because the latter looks fake. 

Find Carolyn Lyden via:

Related Episodes:

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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