The most common SEO/SEA mistakes to avoid

Search engines are the heartbeat of internet. But did you know 91% of online content receives no organic traffic from Google search? This week we’re bringing in a search engine marketing expert, Clément Bourdon, cofounder of Webloom and mentor at the Incubateur HEC Paris, to let you in on how to be in that remaining 9%.

What strategic and operational mistakes do startups often make in terms of SEO?

I often see them making the same strategic mistake: not preparing enough early on. SEO is a long term and continuous process as opposed to the majority of other growth drivers. That being said, many entrepreneurs are choosing customer acquisition tools with a shorter-term effort/impact ratio. That choice can be a real burden when the time comes for the startup to rely on a substantial growth driver: a lot of time wasted and more room for competitors.

As a matter of fact, it takes a long time to see the first tangible results after setting up SEO strategies, be ready to wait at least 3 to 6 months or more if your technology isn’t “Google friendly”. If your competitors started using this growth driver upstream, it’s even more problematic. Being in the top 3 Google search results is an incontestable barrier to entry for other companies, whatever the market.

So how can we prevent this? I think it’s crucial to turn SEO into a daily task, right from launch.

First by systematically integrating technical prerequisites to your website design briefs: ask developers to minimize page charging time and have an indexable site for robots. Not doing that is one of the biggest mistakes that I encounter as a mentor for startups.

Second, by regularly creating engaging content, even if only a small quantity. Remember that Google doesn’t see the photos or the videos you post, he only knows about your words. With one subtlety: don’t self focus, get inspired by your prospects’ searches.

What are the most recurrent mistakes in terms of SEA?

SEA, managed by Google Ads, is a powerful tool to grow your business, but is increasing dependent on technique. Google regularly restricts companies’ ability to manually manage their ad campaigns.

What does this means? That your ad campaign’s return depends on the information you provide for Google Ads.

A first mistake I often see is to start without setting up “conversions”. The consequences can be disastrous for your budget, if Google doesn’t know who to send your ad to.

What’s the solution? Validating all tracking pre-requisites. Even for small budgets.

This means linking Google Ads and Analytics for example and adding conversion tracking tags on your purchasing pages. I often recommend that startups go through an outside consultant, who can take care of that at a low cost.

Be careful not to leave the job completely up to algorithms. This is my favorite structure on Google Ads: 1 campaign on your own brand / 1 campaign on business keywords / 1 remarketing campaign for your visitors.

What does an ideal balance between SEO and SEA look like?

I like to consider SEA as strikers in a soccer team, and SEO like the rest of the team.

Be present on a few competing searches with high business potential by buying the first position via Google Ads (SEA), as well as your own brand. Then cover more ground on all the other niche searches with natural referencing (SEO).

Google represents 90% of all searches in France: it’s essential to deploy a strategy in which SEO/SEA complement each other in order to be as visible as possible.

Startups generally run on limited resources. How do you suggest they allocate their customer acquisition budget?

I think it’s very complicated to find a perfect allotment before testing your market. The real stake is de facto centered more on a company’s ability to keep track of results and to regularly iterate.

We’re going back to the SEA problematic: it’s imperative to secure your Data, and to know your CAC. This is thus your first investment: having good analytic tools, or at least Google Analytics.

Once you’re able to keep track of your trafic, I always recommend to keep at least 30% of your budget on SEO.

How can startups do a better job exploiting the customer data they collect?

Most startups have a good global vision of the tools they should use, but often have a harder time identifying the right indicators to keep track of. Two subjects seem crucial to me:

The "device" report on Google Analytics :

It’s rather paradoxal to see Web trafic governed by smartphones, but that website analysis is often done through a PC standpoint. A quick look at this report can help you identify the contribution of mobile trafic to your business and its ability to generate leads.

The "keyword" report on Google Search Console :

We’ll never say it enough: your customers have their own way of verbalizing their needs. And Google gives you this information for free. What words are used? Are the searches informational or transactional?

All this information directly influences your ability to create an appealing offer: a strong page title, stimulating the click rate, and smartphone-friendly.

What digital marketing tools should all companies be using?

The Google suite! Free and easy to use. Including one often forgotten tool: Google Search Console, which enables you to know what searches lead to your website.

What is your opinion on subcontracting specific digital marketing tasks?

You shouldn’t underestimate platforms linking companies to freelancers. They are trustworthy environments designed to help you find recommended professionals, with a specific expertise, in all price ranges.

This is ideal for startups, since it’s easy to access and allows you to contain costs.

Personally, I use the platform Malt, to help with the growth of my own company. For example: to configure conversion on Googles Ads, to identify the top SEO keywords, to install Google Tag Manager, and so on.

What advice do you most often give to Incubateur HEC Paris startups?

Google’s search engine is a wonderful growth driver, if you know how to be patient. Devoting a part of your marketing efforts to it is often very profitable, but demands thorough work.

Don’t forget to leave some room in your planning for writing articles, analyzing data, and choosing “Google friendly” technology, on a daily basis.

Finally, generating qualified visits thanks to SEA/SEO isn’t everything. Because, after the initial click, conversion pages…well often don’t convert.

This is my main tip: take an average smartphone, using 3G, and private navigation, then find your own way through Google to your website to avoid any unpleasant surprises!

I want to be in the 9%