Anyone who is doing a startup should be reading Patrick McKenzie’s blog MicroISV on a Shoestring. He’s an American living in Japan and in his spare time over the last few years, he has built his Bingo Card Creator product into a business that has allowed him to quit his day job. He has done this through ruthless efficiency, analytics, SEO, and iterative learning from experience. While Eric Ries of Lean Startups fame talks about the big picture and vision, Patrick gives a boots-on-the-ground account of his experience. The fact that he can support himself selling Bingo Cards has led me to refer to him as the reductio-ad-absurdum of the ability of the Internet to support any product. If he can make it selling bingo cards, your startup can succeed. So if you haven’t already opened his blog in a new tab to read after you finish this, do so now.
His latest post, Stategic SEO for Startups, is a classic Shoestring article. In the longish article, he describes the basics of SEO, why some common conceptions about it are wrong, how it can work to your advantage if done right, and the hallmarks of good startup SEO. Again, read his article but the main takeaway is that you do better by ranking high in lots of specific, niche keywords that relate to your product, and the way to rank high is to start early, iterate, and get links back to your site. Clearly he knows what he’s doing because I’ve already linked to his business blog and his product.
But to show him I really understood the article, I’m responding to his thinly veiled request in the very last article: “I do try to write most people who ask for advice (odds are better if you ask good focused questions, let me get a blog post out of it, etc)…” So Patrick, in the spirit of mutual SEO building, here are some good focused questions that you can answer publicly. If and when you answer them, I’ll happily link to your answers:
- In the past you’ve talked about outsourcing your content creation to your “army of freelancers”. What did that consist of on your end? My guess is you looked at terms and topics people were searching for (you mentioned “baby shower bingo” once) and then sent a job to your freelancers to come up with 80 or so baby shower words that you feed into your card generator and sample bingo card landing pages.
- How do you analyze and rank your SEO strategies? I see your sample card landing pages have an id that they pass to the registration page so you know how the different landing pages are converting. What other methods do you use to determine which SEO methods are most valuable to you?
- Your Bingo Card landing pages allow you to programatically generate tons of pages from content in your product. What other tips do you have for getting lots of good SEO content for a low investment of time/money?
GeekStack is very close to starting playtesting and once there’s some feedback coming in there I’m turning my attention to SEO, marketing, etc, so this is on my mind. Thanks in advance – you’re one of my favorite startup writers and every time I see a “MicroISV on a Shoestring” article on Hacker News of in Google Reader I know I’m getting something good.
UPDATE: Sure enough, Patrick responsed within 16 hours and his reply is here: Followup Questions for â€œStrategic SEO for Startupsâ€ Thanks, Patrick!