SEO Advice for Startups

Being an SEO located near Boston will most likely be the blessing of my career. In my opinion, Boston is the startup capital of the North East and a force to be reckoned with all along the East Coast. In my nearly 5 years as an SEO I’ve already had the opportunity to meet some great people who are doing some great stuff (yeah that’s the technical term).

Just the other day I got an email from one of those awesome startup types, a former co-worker (not an SEO) who has a great idea and is taking it places. Here is the body of the email:

“So SEO still feels like a giant game to me and I’m not sure where to start. In a way, it’s overwhelming. I’ve literally done nothing, nor do I have much time. So two questions:

1) In order for me to start the process and outsource my SEO, what’s a fair budget for me to set? (Think startup/small biz)
2) If I were to hang out on one website to learn more about SEO, what would you suggest?”

Now, unless you are a former SEO who is launching a startup, you have the same exact questions. And before I answer the two direct questions let me first address the starting sentences, specifically how to overcome that overwhelming feeling that can sometimes accompany SEO.

Take it Slow, Step-by-Step.
As most startups go, it is your baby. You have put in the blood, sweat and tears to start from nothing and now it is starting to take off.

This applies to SEO too.

Since you are starting from ground-level take your time to just get the ball rolling. SEO as a whole can be completely and utterly overwhelming from the outside looking in. But, if you approach the SEO project with a step-by-step mentality it is definitely do-able.

If you put into SEO what you have put into every other aspect of your startup then SEO will deliver.

Now on to the questions…

What is a Fair SEO Budget?
As a startup, with or without funding, making financial sound decisions matters. So, when setting a budget for outsourcing your SEO there are, at the very basic, two choices:

  1. Hiring an SEO consultant on retainer
  2. Hiring an SEO consultant and paying hourly

Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Hiring an SEO consultant on retainer will give you that SEO expert that you are looking for right in your back pocket. On a month-to-month basis look to them to set and drive your SEO strategy including valuable reporting on where you are and where you are going. Monthly fees for SEOs on retainer vary greatly based on experience (and market) but as a startup look to be spending $2000 – $4000/month for someone who knows what they are doing.

Hiring an SEO consultant and paying hourly means that as the startup you will most likely be in charge of setting the SEO strategy. As the startup, you will be in charge of breaking the SEO project down into the steps that you want accomplished and then sending them off to the SEO consultant (or consultants) when you want them done. A little bit more work on your part but you have more control on what you spend on your SEO on a month-to-month basis. Hiring at an hourly rate, again, varies based on experience and market but knowledgeable SEOs can often be snagged at $50 – $100/hour for one-off SEO tasks.

Like everything and anything you have every purchased in your lifetime, you get what you pay for with SEO. Outsourcing your SEO to an 3rd world country for $199/month or $10/hour will often result in low quality, underwhelming work that could lead to more problems than it solves.

Where do the SEOs Hang?
As an SEO I am all over the place when it comes to where I get my information that keeps me on the bleeding edge of search. But, as a startup you are probably looking to get caught up, get a little dangerous and be able call a little bs.

Here is where you should go to start learning SEO:
The SEO Training Dojo
SEO Book

Once you have learned a bit about SEO I recommend these other great sites:
Search News Central
Search Engine Journal
Search Engine Land
Search Engine Roundtable

Finally, setup your Twitter outpost. Create a Twitter list that is composed of SEOs. Twitter is where we share articles from great blogs as well as tips and tricks. To get you started with that list just check out the SEOs I follow on Twitter, there are a lot of exception SEOs on Twitter.

In Closing
Good luck to everyone who is working on a startup of their own. Your entrepreneurial spirit is what makes the US and many other countries around the globe great.

And, feel free to drop me a line I love talking to startups about SEO.


  1. Jared


    Very nice article for any company looking to establish an online presence. Businesses have to understand that SEO is a game. Changes everyday. So you must make sure you have a company or Strategist on top of their game in order to adapt, make changes, etc. If you don’t, you better be ready to fork out some big bucks to hire someone on site, as you stated. Thanks for the posts!

    • matthewdiehl

      @Jared – Thanks for leaving the comment, your thoughts on the post are appreciated!

      I figured it would be a good post to get out there as my former co-worker can not be the only startup/small business owner looking for a little guidance on where to even begin to wrap their brains around “the game” called SEO.

      All the best.

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