3 Critical SEO Rules That Founders Can’t Ignore

Founders thinking through sales funnels and digital marketing strategy

More what you’d call guidelines than actual rules

You’re a founder who wants to drive organic traffic to your website through optimization. But you need affordable SEO – you aren’t looking to spend the big money demanded by digital marketing agencies.

Where do you start?

How do you create quality content that Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo will recognize as the best answer to a search query? 

In this short article, I will give you three critical SEO rules for founders to keep in mind with the end goal of getting eyeballs on your content –

  1. Search Intent
  2. Competition
  3. Conversion

Think of these as less than rules, but more than ‘nice to have‘.

They should guide your decisions rather than force you to adhere to a structure.

Rule #1 – Search Intent

What question are you trying to answer?

That is to say, whose problem are you trying to solve with this content? Put yourself at the keyboard of the person at the search bar, and ask “how does the information I am presenting satisfy their needs?” This is a very different approach than trying to describe a feature you offer, a service you provide, or something special about your product.

With this mindset, you focus on the searcher rather than on yourself, and, as it turns out, this makes a significant difference in the way you should present your content. 

There are a few reasons why this will produce better results than simply promoting your goods and services.

First, when you approach the content from the end-user perspective you will focus less on the things you like about the product and more on the things that customers care about.

Second, search engine algorithms have moved beyond simple keyword recognition and backlink detection and are actively trying to present their users with results that best solve the question being asked.

Consider that 32% of all clicks go to the first search result, and 99% of searches never leave the front page. This suggests that search engines are getting pretty good at serving up content that satisfies their user’s desires, not just content that happens to be in the same neighborhood. 

Finally, keeping search intent at the front of your mind helps you present your product/goods/services as the solution to someone’s problem, which in turn is going to help with the second and third considerations: competition and conversion.

Rule #2 – Competition

Who are you competing with for these search results?

If you don’t know the answer to that, you’re at tremendous risk of running headlong into a classic blunder. It’s not ‘never start a land war in Asia‘ bad, but definitely not good. The mistake is trying to fight an established brand on their home turf.

As a startup founder, you have a lot of advantages, but what you don’t have is name recognition, a huge marketing budget, and an established reputation. Trying to break into your competition’s search “fortress” with paid advertising can cost 3-6x what they are currently spending.

So what can you do?

At Sage SEO, we recommend that you come at the problem sideways, rather than charging headlong at their moated and walled castle. Focus on differentiating yourself from the competition, and build your initial content around those differences. Find out what keywords your competition is missing, are there any that you can pick off?

What products/services/features/functionality do you have that they do not? 

When you create content with an eye to where your competition is weak, you provide yourself the best opportunity to get to the front page and first rank on search results. While it is true that you will not be getting as many eyeballs as if you were where your competitor is today, you’ll be getting a lot more than if you are on page 3 for the same terms.

Consider the following example:

ChrisCo vs NAE

Chris’s startup “ChrisCo” is going to change the world, eventually.

Although North American Enterprises dominates the field today, ChrisCO has a way to do the same thing better, faster, and cheaper than NAE.

Consider two possible SEO strategies:

  • Creating high-quality content that targets the same keywords NAE ranks for in hopes of displacing them 
    • NAE has the #1 result on Google for the top search terms that ChrisCO is targeting
    • After six months, ChrisCO ranks between 3rd and 15th for most of these terms
    • People searching for these terms always see NAE’s results above ChrisCO’s
    • Some traffic will come from the 3rd place ranking, but most will go to NAE.
  • Creating high-quality content that highlights the ways ChrisCO is different from NAE, specifically aiming at areas and keywords where NAE has poor SEO or there are underserved keywords in the search engine world:
    • NAE has results between 15 and 90 for the constellation of targeted search terms 
    • After six months, ChrisCO ranks between 3rd and 9th for most of these terms, and gets the top ranking for one keyword.
    • People searching for these terms will always see ChrisCO’s content before NAE’s, and are more likely to come to ChrisCO’s site as it solves their problem
Top 3 Results garner 75% of all clicks. Page 1 gets 99.1%

Because the content focused on areas where ChrisCO is strong and NAE is weak, Chris was able to rank higher on Google for the same amount of effort.  While fewer people may search for the specific keywords used in that content, it is better to get 75% of a pear than 1% of a watermelon!  This chart shows the Click-Through-Results for searches on Google. It’s always better to be on the front page!

Rule #3 – Conversion:  A-B-C

The final and most important guideline is to remember why you are creating content.

A-B-C - Always Be Closing

You want the person reading to sign up for a demo, or a sales call, or simply purchase what you are selling. You can create a lot of content, get hundreds of thousands of eyeballs to your site, but if you haven’t moved the needle on sales, all you’ve done is spend a lot of cycles succeeding at failing. 

You need a strong call to action in your piece.

At Sage SEO, we work with startup founders to help them understand the best way to move the needle on conversions. Yes, we have a powerful suite of SEO tools built specifically for startups and small businesses.

But what sets us apart is our commitment to working with founders to give them the insight they need to understand what has/hasn’t worked for them in the past, and what they need to do to improve their inbound organic traffic in the future. 

What do you do that sets you apart?  How can you weave that into the content you create, in a way that makes someone reading it say “well, I certainly want to know more about that” and click the link.


When you create content that incorporates:

1) Intent:  Solves user problems – genuinely provides them with good insight into what they are looking for, 

2) Competition: Focused on what differentiates you from your competitors, aimed at places where they aren’t, and

3) Conversion: A strong call to action that leads readers to click through to learn more about whatever it is you do,

you will be on the right track to get the powerful results that SEO can provide. 

If you’d like to learn more about the way Sage SEO enables founders to kickstart their startup’s SEO, we’d love to hear from you – click here to schedule a call!


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