If you’re in touch with the marketing world at all, you know about the value of search engine optimization (SEO). A favorite strategy of tech startup entrepreneurs and big business corporate marketers alike, SEO is a highly cost-efficient strategy that can help you dominate the digital landscape – or so people say.
In reality, if you talk to a variety of business owners and read stories online, you’ll find opinions on SEO that vary. Some people swear it’s the strategy that keeps their business afloat, while others insist it was a total wash.
Disproportionately, new entrepreneurs seem to struggle with SEO – but why is that the case, if SEO is so valuable?
A Primer on SEO
We’ll start with a short lesson on SEO, in case you aren’t familiar. SEO is all about optimizing your website, both with onsite and offsite changes, to increase its rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). In other words, when your customers run online searches for brands like yours, your company will be listed higher in the subsequent results.
This is accomplished through strategies like onsite content development, technical website optimization (including backend coding tweaks), and offsite link building. Collectively, these help you optimize your site for specific target keywords and phrases – while also boosting your “authority,” or perceived trustworthiness, so you rise above the competition.
It takes months to years for an SEO strategy to truly take off – if you’re doing things right.
So are all these entrepreneurs doing SEO “wrong?” Or is there something limiting about this marketing strategy?
The Most Effective Marketing Strategy… But Wait!
By my estimation, SEO is arguably the most “effective” marketing strategy in the world. I put “effective” in quotes because different people want to optimize their strategies for different goals. SEO does have weaknesses, including its long-term time horizon and sensitivity to competitive issues, so it’s not a perfect strategy for every business.
However, there are usually workarounds for the biggest weaknesses in SEO. And if you come at it with the right combination of strategies, you can make it extremely cost-efficient – with an eventual return on investment (ROI) higher than almost any other digital marketing strategy.
The big issue is usually a lack of understanding about the strengths and weaknesses of SEO – a lack of understanding of how the strategy works, or an unwillingness to accommodate its needs.
Let’s look at how this problem manifests more specifically.
The Budget Problem
One of the biggest issues faced by new entrepreneurs is what I’ll call the “budget problem.” It’s definitely possible to spend too much money on SEO. If you overpay for an agency that isn’t doing its share of the heavy lifting, or if you invest in the wrong assets, it’s possible to overspend and wreck whatever chances you had at getting a positive ROI.
However, it’s more common for entrepreneurs to be low on cash. They want to practice SEO as cheaply as possible; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it can lead to corner cutting that ultimately jeopardizes your effectiveness.
For example, let’s say you pay a small rate for the cheapest content creators you can find; you’ll end up with shoddy, rushed content that ultimately hurts your brand reputation rather than helping it. It’s much better to invest in high-quality content. Let’s say you keep your link building at a small, local scale; you’ll have a hard time building the momentum you need to contend with your top competitors.
It’s a catch-22 for many new business owners. You need to invest significantly in SEO to see decent results, but you may not have the money to do it in the early days of your business’s development.
The Black Hat Temptation
SEO tactics can be broadly categorized into “white hat” and “black hat” subsets. White hat tactics are those that are purely ethical and in line with Google’s terms of service. These include things like writing high-quality content, distributing that content, and collaborating with other influencers.
There are also black hat tactics, which break ethical guidelines and put your website on the chopping block for a Google penalty. For example, spamming links, utilizing link schemes, and churning out keyword-stuffed content at scale are all considered black hat.
In the middle, we have gray hat techniques that are debatable in terms of ethical and regulatory status.
Generally speaking, if you practice black hat tactics long enough, you’re going to be penalized. Your site will plummet in rankings, and in extreme cases, you could be delisted from Google entirely. But here’s the thing; some black hat tactics can lead to short-term gains. This makes them extremely tempting for entrepreneurs trying to jump the gun and rush their SEO progress.
Accordingly, many entrepreneurs fall into this trap, rushing into black hat tactics, and eventually compromising the integrity of their site.
The Timeline Problem
Remember, SEO is a long-term strategy. You can automate parts of it, invest more heavily to speed things up, and take occasional shortcuts to scale faster – but you’re still going to end up spending months of effort to get the results you want.
For some entrepreneurs, this is a reason to never touch SEO in the first place. They simply avoid it, favoring short-term strategies to boost their brand visibility. For others, impatience sets in; they spend a couple of months optimizing for search engines, then bail when they don’t see incredible results.
Both these entrepreneurs end up missing out on the incredible long-term potential of SEO. Its ROI only ramps up after several months of consistent effort.
The Hubris Problem
SEO is low hanging fruit in some ways. In just a few hours, you can learn the basics of the strategy. And if you spend a few hours a week reading free content on the internet, you can probably become adept at it. However, some entrepreneurs take this to mean that they can become a self-sufficient SEO expert in a matter of weeks.
Trying to learn everything and do everything by yourself is a disaster waiting to happen. There are too many things that can go wrong, too many areas to specialize in, and too many volatile changes for a single person (or a small team) to reasonably keep up with. That’s why most successful entrepreneurs end up hiring an SEO agency or outsourcing at least some of their work.
The Competition Problem
Some entrepreneurs run into a major problem with competition. SERPs are a finite resource; there’s a limited number of keywords and phrases your target audience will search for, and each of those SERPs has only 10 slots on the first page. If you want to get any value from your strategy, you need to shoot for the top 3 positions. So what happens if your top 3 competitors are already ranking?
This is a dilemma even for experienced optimizers. One option is to brute force your way through with a bigger budget and better content – but this conflicts with the “budget problem.” Alternatively, you can differentiate your brand with new and different keyword targets or a slightly different target audience.
The Priority Problem
Additionally, most entrepreneurs are juggling multiple priorities simultaneously. When you’re working on a superior product design, a pitch for new investors, and a dozen new hires simultaneously, it’s natural for your marketing strategy to take a backseat – especially when it’s costing you a lot of money. Because of this, many new SEO strategies end up half-baked, leading to inferior results – which makes entrepreneurs feel like there’s something wrong with SEO itself.
Overcoming the Challenges
All of these challenges can be overcome. In fact, most of them can be overcome just by doing your research and understanding them better. As long as you’re willing to do your homework, analyze your efforts, and adapt to new circumstances, SEO has the potential to pay off.
Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!