SEO Tips Straight from Google

Recently there has been quite a bit of discussion about the new Google Hummingbird algorithm, the change to encrypted keyword searches, and the increase in natural language Google queries rather than simple keywords.

These recent changes have created some confusion especially among startups that can’t afford a good SEO consultant for advice. The confusion shouldn’t be there however as  Google has just published a new Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide that describes in a concise and easy to understand way how to optimize a site for search.  The Guide is excellent. What better way to know how to optimize for search than read a guide straight from Google? The Google SEO support page is also worth a quick look and is especially helpful if you are considering hiring a SEO consultant. As an aside, there are also some SEO software now available such as BoostSuite and Yoast (if you are using WordPress) that are cost effective and useful.

In the future, one should anticipate more changes to Google algorithms. Looked at from Google’s perspective, they want to deliver a better search result to their customers. That likely means more support for natural language queries. This will be especially true as mobile search becomes more important since voice queries will be increasingly used. Apple has pioneered this area with Siri which will likely add more competitive pressure for Google in natural language query area. Also, achieving results through technical tricks will likely simply go away as Google develops better and better algorithms. This is good news for those who are actively pursuing aggressive content marketing strategies that are designed to answer the queries that their desired audience will be asking. They key to the future SEO success will be great content and lots of it. Achieving results as  content marketing becomes more important will require hard work. But when is delivering real value every easy?

New Educational Support for the Business Model Canvas

The Kauffman Foundation through its set of resources has just announced a video series that supports the Business Model Canvas approach pioneered by Alexander Osterwalder.

The Business Model Canvas was introduced with the book Business Model Generation in 2010. I highly recommend the book.

Using the Business Model Canvas or a similar approach is a great way to begin to thing through an idea through focussing on one of the most important aspects of validating the idea – the business model. The original canvas has made a significant contribution in giving entrepreneurs a way to think about the business they want to create and explain it to others. The approach is much faster than the traditional business plan first approach and in my opinion should always be completed before any work on a formal plan takes place.  It some cases, a formal plan might not even be required.

Recently, Ash Maurya has created a derivative of the original canvas called the Lean Canvas. He also has published the book Running Lean which is another excellent book for entrepreneurs or those involved in creating new businesses and products in established companies.

Both of these approaches are very valuable and should be a first step in most new business planning. Especially now with the new video support series from Kauffman.

Listening to Startup and Entrepreneurship Podcasts

Recently, I have been listening to startup, marketing, and entrepreneurship podcasts. I will start a series of reviews on some of the podcasts that I find interesting.

First, though if you plan on listening to some of the podcasts, I highly recommend getting a good player that keeps your podcasts in sync across devices.  The best one that I have found is Downcast.  It works on Mac, iPhone, and iPad which are the devices that I care about. There could be other good applications for PC and Android.

The first entrepreneurship podcast that I recommend is Steve Blank’s customer development series. Steve needs little introduction. Steve is a well known expert in entrepreneurship and marketing. Earlier in my career I had the privilege of working for Steve.  He taught a young engineer how to market products.  Something that I will always be grateful for.   The series of podcasts are excellent and you get to hear Steve explain his ideas. The topics are wide ranging and very helpful to those who think entrepreneurship and interested in creating startups or bringing new products to market.  I highly recommend subscribing to the series. It is also worth taking a look at Steve’s website where there is a huge amount of valuable information.

In addition to the podcasts that I will be reviewing, there are many podcasts available. Some of them can be found at Podfeed. However, this resource misses many of the better ones available.

If you find additional podcasts that are interesting, please let me know.


Evaluating a Management Team: The 8 Key Factors Investors Use

At some point in every startup, a management team has to be put together.  Often this needs to be done to build out an early stage management team before private equity investors and venture capitalists are willing to invest.  Sometimes venture capital groups will assist in this effort. As you assemble a management team, it is useful to consider how investors will evaluate the group.  And it is important to consider that while this is how outside investors will evaluate the team, this is how founders should evaluate their management team as well. After all the founders are the biggest investors in the startup as they have dedicated their lives to the venture. Not just their money. It is also extremely important not to make mistakes in putting together a management team. A poorly constructed team can reduce the chances of venture capital investment and can hurt the chances of success of the startup. In my experience, here are the 8 most important points that should be considered.

1. Completeness

Is the team complete across all functional areas needed? Are the appropriate functional disciplines covered for the opportunity to succeed?

2. Diversity

Are there a sufficiently diverse set of skills within the team? The skills needed will depend on the nature of the startup to be built.

3. Complementary Skills

Are the people complementary? Is there too much concentration in one area? Often there will be an over concentration of technical or business oriented people. Balance is important.

4. Past success

What is the past success of the team? Have they worked together before? This is an important item for venture capital investors. They are very fond of intact management teams that have worked together in the past.

5. Commitment

What is the commitment level of the team? Are they all in or just dabbling? Is this a part time activity. Did they “Burn the Boats”?

6. Energy Level

What is their energy level, drive and enthusiasm? Does the team have the desire to overcome all obstacles

7. Judgment

Is there evidence of sound business judgment in decision making?

8. View of Investors

Does the management team see the investors as partners in the startup? Or just money.

Other Viewpoints on Building Startup Teams

For some additional information and thoughts on the startup management team see below.

Steve Blank (who I once had the privilege to work for at SuperMac) has some learnings about startup management teams coming from his experience teaching.

Fred Wilson has some advice that is especially useful for technical founders. Engineer the team just as you would your product. Applying an engineering approach to many things can be very helpful.

AlltopStartups also has some good posts on the topic. 11 Reasons Why Your Founding Team Is Important To Investors is a good place to start.


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