Collaborators, Hiring, Research

Keyword research for startups [Part 1 of 2]: Why SEO starts with Keyword Research

Keyword research helps us instantly understand the organic landscape for any product – whether it’s a new category in itself (Netflix), a better way of doing something (Slack) or a combination of many products/ ways of doing something (Canva). 

Looking at how people search for the solutions these products provide is the quickest way to understand how we can position them – not only for a website, but to some degree for social media and paid marketing as well. 

Some top level outcomes from keyword research for startups are:

  • Building an early hypothesis of how to structure your website
  • Figuring out which evergreen content your website needs to have
  • Understanding what kind of landing pages are driving relevant search results
  • Identifying opportunities for scalable SEO 

Keyword research goes hand in hand with competitor research. The biggest win (when combining keyword research with competitor analysis) is solving user problems with better design while targeting popular/targeted search intents.

What does keyword research look like for different startup stages

Keyword research depth and timelines depend on your startup’s stage of growth. 

Pre-MVP startups – with a skeletal or no website – need keyword research to 

  1. establish an early website structure that covers the main terms for their product category
  2. complement UX so that the new website takes into account qualitative (user research or tested product hypotheses) inputs along with quantitative (search volumes for popular terms) insights.

MVP startups – with a basic but well structured website – need keyword research to

  1. identify long term organic growth bets and use paid marketing to validate them
  2. Prioroitise scalable organic growth strategies (easy to replicate high value SEO pages) against non scalable (hard to replicate) strategies such as co-marketing, evergreen guide-style content, PR outreach etc.

Scale-ups would already have a good idea about what’s bringing in organic growth and what isn’t. Given their existing website structure, they can use keyword research to audit their current SEO strategy. Specifically, this will help them:

  1. find terms that they may have missed all along or terms that they’re better positioned to surface pages for now
  2. restructure their website to better suit search demand – perhaps renaming subfolders to suit how the SEO landscape may have changed since they launched

Relaunching startups or startups that are pivoting or scaling their product features can benefit from keyword research to complement past learnings and insights while bringing new strategies into the picture. Since a relaunch most likely includes a re-positioning or new features/behavior, keyword research will help them

  1. understand which new terms they need to target as per their new identity
  2. prioritise scalable versus non-scalable approaches to cornering search for the new verticals or features

In the next part of this keyword research guide, I’ll cover five quick steps for keyword research that literally anyone can do with zero SEO knowledge.