I just saw this quick video on YouTube by one of Google’s software engineers. At first I was a bit hesitant to watch it because it wasn’t Matt Cutts… The video describes 17 tips for starups. Maile focuses her tips is sites trying to rank for fewer, but related keywords (rather than trying to rank for thousands of unrelated keywords, like an e-commerce site). In other words, the following tips are ideal for startup companies with a focused and specific product and/or service. I’m including the video below so you can watch it for yourself. BUT, don’t worry about taking notes on her SEO advice - I’ve already done that for you. See below.

17 SEO Tips from Google’s Maile Ohye

Tip #1: Use a 301 to redirect users to your prefered domain (www vs. non-www)

Why 301 redirect instead of 302? Because 301 is a permanent redirect, which triggers signals in search engines to transfer pagerank and other positive attributes from one domain to the other.

Tip #2: Verify ownership in Google Webmaster Tools

Sign up for all email notifications so you can be kept updated on anything that Google finds wrong with your site.

Tip #3: Do a background check on your domain

If the domain was once owned by a spammer, it’s likely not going to rank well now. How to do a background check? Use Google Webmaster Tools to see what keywords the site is currently associated with.

Tip #4: Use fetch as Googlebot feature of Webmasters Tool

This feature not only allows you to have Googlebot crawl your page, but you can also tell it to submit the page to its index right away.

Tip #5: Include some sort of analytics code

This doesn’t have to be Google Analytics, but since it’s free, and super powerful, it wouldn’t hurt. The key here is to start gathering historical data about the site.

Tip #6: Design your site based on your users

Before you dive deep into an eye-candy design, first identify the persona you’re targeting. The key here is to identify your users the best you can, then only focuse on satisfying their needs. The main (if not the only) focus of your site should be directly related to the primary persona you’re serving.

Tip #7: Define your conversion

That means that you identify a goal (namely, to get people to register for your newsletter list, buy a product, or hire your company by submitting a form on the website), then make it possible for users to accomplish this goal on as many pages as possible.

Tip #8: Be smart about your copy

Include relevant keywords in a way that people are more likely to use. If the way your products/services are described can be reworded in a way that’s more natural to most people (aka your persona), then by all means, include those words instead of your own. Maile also suggests that you use tag clouds and consider misspellings of these words, since people might use those when searching for your products or services.

Tip #9: Answer questions that your users might have

Show other users’ reviews, return policy, etc.

Tip #10: Pay attention to the formatting of your documents

In other words, every page in your site should have the following attributes:

  • A unique topic
  • A unique title (meaning the <title> tag inside your HTML document)
  • A unique meta description (also an HTML attribute), which may be displayed as the preview snippet by the search engine
  • Keywords in the filename - all lowercase and hyphen separated
  • Keywords in the anchor text for every link in your site

Tip #11: Avoid the common SEO pitfalls

The old advice still applies:

  • Avoid shady SEO companies. As Maile puts it, “if they guarantee any rankings, it is too good to be true.”
  • Don’t buy links or participate in linking schemes
  • Don’t publish content that is not searcheable text

Tip #12: Focus on page load time

While some users might consider 2 seconds to be an acceptable load time for an e-commerce site, Google considers anything above half a second to be less than ideal.

Tip #13: Try to rank for your company name

Aim for nothing less than number one result. This is a pretty obvious one, so be sure not to ignore it or neglect it.

Tip #14: Get involved

Participate in relevant online communities, blogs, and especially social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. The hope is that people that find you in these communites will make your site known to his/her friends, and from there the positive spiral will help your site rank better.

Tip #15: Focus your energy where your audience hangs out

No point in putting up a very expensive, sophisticated, and clever billboard by a highway that nobody drives through. Again, the key is to identify exactly who it is you’re trying to attract and impress, then only focus on those people. Find out where they are, and tell them about your company.

Tip #16: Provide an awesome product or service

The key is to add value to something. By doing so your users be delighted, and will return to you for more.

Tip #17: Stay focused, and make sure you’re ready

Remember, valuable conversion happens on your site. No matter how many people come to your site, in the end, if your site is poorly designed, not functional, or confuses users or breaks their trust (or never allows them to build any trust in the first place), the your conversion rate will be non-existent. Focus enough effort on making the user experience on your site the best it can be, so that however many users find your site, the highest possible percentage of them will convert.