You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that 90 percent of all online startups fail. This stat might have shocked you a few years ago, but it’s one we have all taken as fact in recent years. That’s because we know how cutthroat the online world can be and how difficult it can be to succeed. There is a general consensus that if you don’t know SEO and can’t afford to pay someone who does, then you will fail. To an extent, that’s true, but it’s not the magical, terrifying, omnipotent force that many aspiring online businesses seem to think it is.
It’s something that we have come to rely on for the success of Garage Door Nation and something that has helped us to stand out from the crowd. We know SEO in and out, but we didn’t start out that way. We just gradually came to understand that SEO is not necessarily all about enigmatic algorithms, big numbers and the luck of the draw, and that it’s actually something much simpler—and something that many offline businesses making the transition into the online world already know.
That’s because SEO is basically all about creating the best environment for your customer, and ignoring everything else. To show you what we mean, let’s break it down and look at it from a perspective that we have also taken.
On-site SEO: Getting the basics right
If we use an analogy of the online business vs offline business, then on-site SEO is the way in which you structure the basics of your business to appease the people who matter, and the people who will decide whether you even get customers or not. In an offline business, this may entail hiring and training staff in a certain way in order to appease franchise bosses. It may involve pandering to the requirements set out by food safety and fire safety agencies. It may involve keeping your investors happy by ensuring that your business will have all it needs to produce a quick and profitable turnover. It may involve getting a local reviewer/blogger on your side.
It’s very much the same with an online business, but Google assumes the role of reviewer, franchise boss, investor and safety officer all rolled into one. You need to follow a strict checklist in order to ensure they give you a pass. If you fail to do so, then your business is doomed to fail from the outset. If you meet their demands then you stand a chance of succeeding, and the more boxes you tick, the more successful your business will be.
At Garage Door Nation, we spent a lot of time creating a site that was easy to navigate, didn’t have extensive load times, and allowed customers to find everything they wanted. We made sure it was aesthetically appealing, without going over the top; we made sure we included links and useful videos, without flooding a customer’s bandwidth. We included details on the products that we were selling, but we also wrote articles that explained them in greater detail and offered advice on why those products were good or bad. After all, a site that just sells a product is like a restaurant menu that just contains a list of dishes, but doesn’t allude to what is in those dishes or what their nutritional values are.
It’s all about helping the customer to have a better experience, and that’s the most important to thing to remember about Google. Their guidelines are there not to make life difficult for the online business, but to make life easier for their customers.
A franchise owner is not interested in a franchisee who wants to open a store in the middle of nowhere, demand that customers overpay, order without knowing what they are getting and then stand-up when they are eating, and they are not interested because they know that their customers are not interested. It’s the same for Google.
Off-site SEO: Reaching out
Of course, an investor or franchise owner is not interested in a business that ticks all of the boxes with regards to food safety, information and a great customer experience, but has no way of attracting customers. That’s where off-site SEO comes in. If on-site SEO is akin to the way that a business structures the inside of the store, then off-site SEO is akin to the marketing it does to get its name out there.
Most of off-site SEO comes down to what is essentially brand recognition. If your site is mentioned on sites that are already established and successful, then Google will respect you more for it. An investor is more likely to get behind an offline business if it has received mentions in newspapers, on TV and in other media, just like Google is more likely to get behind your online business if you have been mentioned on other websites.
A link that is placed on another website and points to your site is known as a “backlink”, and these are often considered to be the be-all-and-end-all of off-site SEO, but that’s simply not the case. When you sell a product like we do at Garage Door Nation, then it’s also about entertaining, informing, and enticing a customer enough for them to want to click through to this site and to make a purchase.
The reason we have excelled with regards to off-site SEO is because we assume a multi-directional approach. We don’t just randomly stick our link on respected sites in the hope that Google will notice and give us merit points.
Garage Door Nation’s approach to backlinks
This is how we do it:
- We find sites that are relevant, either because they are in our niche or because they are frequented by people who we see as our customers.
- We broker a deal that will allow us to publish a guide about the products we sell, or about DIY/home improvement in general.
- We hire professionals to write extensive guides that discuss our niche and our products.
- We add a link back to Garage Door Nation, thus earning respect from Google, while also providing customers with what they need and helping to directly increase our business.
Repeating our success
Every business can do what we have done. The first step is to remember that the rules of online business are much the same as the rules of offline business, in that it’s all about the customer. Your first step is to appease the people who are looking after the needs of those customers, and the second step is to target those customers directly.
You don’t need to get caught up worrying about SEO and its many complicated nuances if you don’t want to. You just need to focus on creating something that will benefit the end user, and then everything that you do to get to that point will fall in line with what Google expects you to do.