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start-ups or startups?

Start-ups or startups? Should your communications be grammatically correct or findable?

I recently spent an evening changing every ‘start-ups’ to ‘startups’ on my new website – BrandsStartHere.com. As the website is all about promoting 1-2-1 brand advice and branding packages to startups, this was no mean feat.

The reason for this change was initiated by a tweet I was in the process of writing. As I typed #start Twitter offered me #startups as an option. But as soon as I got to #start- Twitter stopped offering me options. On Twitter, hashtags and hyphens don’t mix.

So, I left Twitter and went to Google. I typed ‘start-up or startup?’ into the search box and pressed ENTER. Lots of interesting stuff came up, but a very informative blog by Liam Collins at Nesta caught my attention: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/startup-or-start

Now, I could have taken all his information and written my own blog, claiming to have done loads of research on this. But, that’s not what the internet is for. Use it to find stuff, to learn stuff, but don’t use it pinch stuff and claim it to be your area of expertise.

So, the aforementioned blog was enough evidence to get me to change the way I communicated the word startups. It wasn’t easy. It went against the grain for me to ignore the spell check and the dictionaries and choose an alternative spelling.

But if startups are putting startups into Google, or typing #startups into Twitter and Facebook, what was the point of me taking the grammatical high ground by adding a hyphen.

It is all about understanding your marketplace and your target audience. If they don’t use hyphens, then don’t give them hyphens.

Last night, I did another search on google.co.uk. I typed ‘1-2-1 brand advice for startups’ into the search box and pressed ENTER (I had changed the search settings to ‘Do not use private results’, so it didn’t take into account my previous searches or browser history). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first four entries on Page 1 were all about my new website. This meant one of two things: 1) I had done a pretty good job with search engine optimisation, or 2) No one else was offering the services I was offering.

This, in turn, meant one of two things: 1) I was offering a unique service that no one else was offering, or 2) I was offering a service that no one wanted. The latter being the main reason why nine out of ten startups fail: http://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders/.

I have been providing a very similar service to the one I am offering on BrandsStartHere.com through the Cultural Enterprise Office (in my role as their Industry Associate for Brand & Branding). This has been very well received by everyone that has taken it up so far. I have three sessions booked in for this week and a waiting list for my availability for further sessions. I recently ran a Brand Workshop for the Cultural Enterprise Office which was sold out (and received very positive feedback).

So, 1-2-1 brand advice for startups is clearly a service startups can benefit from. It’s just that most startups don’t realise they need it, don’t know it is available, or simply haven’t found it yet.

What does Google consider a high quality site?

Google's thinkingGoogle’s aim is to help searchers find the most relevant site for the search word, or search term they type in.

The emphasis on the most relevant site is increasingly being based on the quality of the content of that site.

So, what can small businesses do to help them get to the top of searches?

In their own words, these are the kinds of questions Google ask themselves as they write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as their take at encoding what they think their users want:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognised authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognise this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Google encourages you to keep questions like the ones above in mind as you focus on developing high-quality content rather than trying to optimise for any particular Google algorithm.