Jeremey Bencken of ApartmentRatings.com talks about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What do you see as a need in the local startup business?
I think we need more focus on SEO and PR early. I often see business plans with a line item for SEO and PR, assuming these things start after the product is launched. But from experience, when you start doing it, it’s turns out to be a lot more complex than you thought. You can outsource it but it’s expensive and it takes a long time to yield results. There are things you can do as an entrepreneur to lay the groundwork for initiatives to work more effectively.
What are some examples?
The way you design your website or start participating with relevant blogs early and build a reputation. And you can start monitoring the news and build a media list well ahead of your launch. The worst way is to wait till the product is ready to launch and then start working on building blogger interest.
Obviously time devoted to SEO and PR takes time from other product features, but it’s one of only a few things you can do where the cost is low, the return is huge, and the longer you take to start, the longer it takes to start working and the more it will cost when you do.
What is an example?
When we initially launched Apartment Ratings, we had a URL structure that was very long and search-engine unfriendly (our URL’s gave the appearance that we had a 25-level deep directory structure). And fixing it required significant work. I’ve seen a lot of new web-based companies make this mistake. Developers who aren’t aware of SEO implications sidestep the extra work required to make keyword-rich URLs that are grouped into meaningful directories, maintain consistent internal links, and maintain a single URL for the same page content. It might take an extra day or two to implement early on, but once you’ve launched, you could devote several months to migrating a site to pretty URLs and you have to keep track of the mapping between the two.
What’s the key factor in online marketing?
Conversion rate is the name of the game. If you can get that number higher, your cost of acquisition goes lower….and your margins are fatter or you can outspend your competitors to win more advertising placements, affiliates, bizdev deals, etc.
What’s your next project?
My next venture, BuzzStream, will launch in Fall 08 and is designed to help companies accelerate their media and SEO relationship-building efforts. I have a blog at PR4Pirates.