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Where Do We Even Begin With SEO For A Startup?



Where Do We Even Begin With SEO For A Startup?

Today’s Ask an SEO question comes from Aswin from Silver Spring, USA, who asks:

“Hi, I am a beginner SEO with basic knowledge. I am doing SEO for a startup car rentals company.

I thought I should start with off-page SEO rather than on-page and started trying to acquire backlinks.

However because the company is a startup, they have limitations in services.

I am stuck and don’t know how to proceed further. Could you please give me a strategic plan that I should be following?

I did try registering the website with some website submission forums. I tried resource link building but there were not many resource pages for car rentals.

I tried broken link building but the competitors are tremendously big compared to a startup and hence has pages dedicated for them in referring websites.

The only method that may work now is HARO. Please provide your insight.”


Aswin, while backlinks are part of the ranking equation, that is not where I would start if I was doing SEO for a new website.

There are other things you should do first. But don’t worry, I will answer your link building question in a bit.

Here are the SEO items I would focus on first.

1. Set Up Your Local Listings

I am assuming the car rentals company will want to attract local business.

For that reason, make sure you have claimed, verified, and updated your Google Business Profile listing.

Fill out as much information as possible and be sure to add images and videos.

You can also add frequently asked questions in the Q&A area by posting a question and then answering it as the owner.

You should also claim, verify and update other local directory listings, such as Yelp, Apple Maps, and Bing Places, to name a few.


There are tools you can use to help you with local listings, including Whitespark and Yext.

Check out this article for a full list: 9 Essential Local SEO & Listings Management Tools.

If you have questions about local SEO, be sure to check out the ebook, Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings.

Also, there are a lot of local SEO experts who answer questions on the Local Search Forum.

2. Conduct A Technical SEO Audit

This is one of the first things I do when working on a new SEO project – and I explain it using the analogy of a car.

The paint, body, and trim might look amazing.

The interior of the car might be immaculate.

However, if the engine isn’t tuned or something is broken, the car won’t run.


In this analogy, the engine is the technical part of your website.

You need to pop the hood and make sure everything is running as it should.

There are plenty of tools that can help you run an audit, including those built into Semrush, SE Ranking, and Ahrefs.

If any errors and/or issues are detected, you will want to manually confirm them.

Fix as much as you feel comfortable with and bring in a developer to help with the more advanced errors and issues (i.e. those involving the server or advanced coding skills).

I also have a checklist you can use to help you get going: A Technical SEO Checklist for the Non-Technical Marketer.

3. Optimize Your Pages

If you haven’t already, you need to do some keyword research.

There are plenty of resources available, including How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: The Ultimate Guide.


Once you have determined your keywords, map them out to your pages.

You might find during this process that you don’t have content to support some of your important keywords.

In that case, you should create a content calendar with all the pages you will need to develop.

When you start optimizing your pages, be sure to optimize the page titles, H1s, and body copy.

This article will provide you with even more guidance on what to optimize: How to Create Perfectly Optimized Content: 16 Essential Elements.

Attract Links To Your Website

Okay, now I will answer your original question of how to get backlinks.

I classify links into three categories: Easy, Moderately Easy, and Hard (i.e. time-consuming).

Begin with the easy links, such as unlinked brand mentions, which you can find by setting up Google Alerts or using a tool like Semrush.


If you see that your company has been mentioned on a website, and it is in a positive light, reach out to that website thanking them for the mention, and ask if they will link to your site.

Other easy links include local and industry directories. Phil Rozek, a local search expert, has an extensive list of local directories you should check out.

He also has a great link opportunities questionnaire that will help you brainstorm ideas.

Some of the moderately easy link building ideas include creating infographics, contests, and scholarships.

Once these items are developed, share them on social media and appropriate directories.

I would also look for any travel or local publications that accept guest authors.

Writing articles for high-authority publications is a fantastic way to get links.

The harder link building ideas, simply because they are time-consuming, include creating a guide, tool, industry report, or case study.


Getting interviewed on webinars and podcasts can also often generate backlinks to your website.

While these ideas take more time, they can really pay off.

Also, consider using a blog on your website to generate links.

You could post how-to guides, interviews, expert roundups, and other long-form content.

Be sure to check out Link Building for SEO: A Complete Guide for more advice.

Plan Out Your SEO Strategy

Finally, when it comes to SEO, you need to have a strategy and timeline in place.

While I gave you some things to focus on, there is more that goes into SEO.

Be sure to download the ebook, SEO Strategy: A Full Year Blueprint (+Template), because it is packed with information and templates to help you succeed with your SEO work.


More resources:

Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured Image: eamesBot/Shutterstock

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8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By



8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

Pillar pages are high-level introductions to a topic. They then link to other pages, which are usually more detailed guides about parts of the main topic.

Altogether, they form a content hub.

Example of a content hub

But not all pillar pages look the same. 

In this guide, we’ll look at eight examples of pillar pages to get your creative juices flowing.

Excerpt of beginner's guide to SEO by Ahrefs

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 1,200
Backlinks: 6,900
Referring domains: 899

Overview of Ahrefs' beginner's guide to SEO in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is our very own pillar page, covering the broad topic of search engine optimization (SEO)

Why I like it

Besides the fact that I’m biased, I like the custom design we created for this page, which makes it different from the articles on our blog. 

Even though the design is custom, our pillar page is still a pretty classic “hub and spoke” style pillar page. We’ve broken the topic down neatly into six different chapters and internally linked to guides we’ve created about them. There are also custom animations when you hover over each chapter:

Examples of chapters in the SEO guide

We’ve also added a glossary section that comes with a custom illustration of the SERPs. We have explanations of what each element means, with internal links to more detailed content:

Custom illustration of the SERP

Finally, it links to another “pillar page”: our SEO glossary


Consider creating a custom design for your pillar page so that it stands out. 

Excerpt of Doctor Diet's ketogenic diet guide

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 92,200
Backlinks: 21,600
Referring domains: 1,700

Overview of Diet Doctor's ketogenic diet guide in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Diet Doctor is a health company focusing on low-carb diets. Its pillar page is a comprehensive guide on the keto diet. 

Why I like it

On the surface, it doesn’t exactly look like a pillar page; it looks like every other post on the Diet Doctor site. But that’s perfectly fine. It’s simply a different approach—you don’t have to call out the fact that it’s a pillar page. 


Diet Doctor’s guide is split into 10 different sections with links to its own resources. The links bring you to different types of content (not just blog posts but videos too).

Video course about keto diet for beginners

Unlike the classic pillar page, Diet Doctor’s guide goes into enough detail for anyone who is casually researching the keto diet. But it also links to further resources for anyone who’s interested in doing additional research.


Pillar pages need not always just be text and links. Make it multimedia: You can add videos and images and even link to your own multimedia resources (e.g., a video course).

Excerpt of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 5,600
Backlinks: 2,800
Referring domains: 247

Overview of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Wine Folly is a content site devoted to wine knowledge and appreciation. Its pillar page, as expected, is about wine. 

Why I like it

Wine Folly’s pillar page is a classic example of a “hub and spoke” style pillar page—split into multiple sections, with some supporting text, and then internal links to other resources that support each subsection. 

Supporting text and links to other resources

This page doesn’t just serve as a pillar page for ranking purposes, though. Given that it ranks well and receives quite a significant amount of search traffic, the page also has a call to action (CTA) to Wine Folly’s book:

Short description of book; below that, CTA encouraging site visitor to purchase it


While most websites design pillar pages for ranking, you can also use them for other purposes: capture email addresses, sell a book, pitch your product, etc. 

Excerpt of A-Z directory of yoga poses

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 11,100
Backlinks: 3,400
Referring domains: 457

Overview of Yoga Journal's A-Z directory of yoga poses in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Yoga Journal is an online and offline magazine. Its pillar page is an A-Z directory of yoga poses.

Why I like it

Yoga Journal’s pillar page is straightforward and simple. List down all possible yoga poses (in both their English and Sanskrit names) in a table form and link to them. 

List of yoga poses in table form

Since it’s listed in alphabetical order, it’s useful for anyone who knows the name of a particular pose and is interested in learning more. 

What I also like is that Yoga Journal has added an extra column on the type of pose each yoga pose belongs to. If we click on any of the pose types, we’re directed to a category page where you can find similar kinds of poses: 

Examples of standing yoga poses (in grid format)


The A-Z format can be a good format for your pillar page if the broad topic you’re targeting fits the style (e.g., dance moves, freestyle football tricks, etc.).

Excerpt of Atlassian's guide to agile development

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 115,200
Backlinks: 3,200
Referring domains: 860

Overview of Atlassian's guide to agile development in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Atlassian is a software company. You’ve probably heard of its products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, etc. Its pillar page is on agile development.

Why I like it

Atlassian’s pillar page is split into different topics related to agile development. It then has internal links to each topic—both as a sticky table of contents and card-style widgets after the introduction: 

Sticky table of contents
Card-style widgets

I also like the “Up next” feature at the bottom of the pillar page, which makes it seem like an online book rather than a page. 

Example of "Up next" feature


Consider adding a table of contents to your pillar page. 

Excerpt of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 114,400
Backlinks: 2,900
Referring domains: 592

Overview of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Muscle and Strength’s pillar page is a massive database linking to various categories of workouts. 

Why I like it

Calling it a pillar page seems to be an understatement. Muscle and Strength’s free workouts page appears to be more like a website. 

When you open the page, you’ll see that it’s neatly split into multiple categories, such as “workouts for men,” “workouts for women,” “biceps,” “abs,” etc. 

Workout categories (in grid format)

Clicking through to any of them leads us to a category page containing all sorts of workouts:

Types of workouts for men (in grid format)

Compared to the other pillar pages on this list, where they’re linking to other subpages, Muscle and Strength’s pillar page links to other category pages, which then link to their subpages, i.e., its massive archive of free workouts.


Content databases, such as the one above, are a huge undertaking for a pillar page but can be worth it if the broad topic you’re targeting fits a format like this. Ideally, the topic should be about something where the content for it is ever-growing (e.g., workout plans, recipes, email templates, etc.).

Excerpt of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 39,100
Backlinks: 1,100
Referring domains: 308

Overview of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Tofugu is a site about learning Japanese. And its pillar page is about, well, learning Japanese.

Why I like it

This is an incredible (and yes, ridiculously good) guide to learning Japanese from scratch. It covers every stage you’ll go through as a complete beginner—from knowing no Japanese to having intermediate proficiency in the language. 

Unlike other pillar pages where information is usually scarce and simply links out to further resources, this page holds nothing back. Under each section, there is great detail about what that section is, why it’s important, how it works, and even an estimated time of how long that stage takes to complete. 

Another interesting aspect is how Tofugu has structured its internal links as active CTAs. Rather than “Learn more” or “Read more,” it’s all about encouraging users to do a task and completing that stage. 

CTA encouraging user to head to the next task of learning to read hiragana


Two takeaways here:

  • Pillar pages can be ridiculously comprehensive. It depends on the topic you’re targeting and how competitive it is.
  • CTAs can be more exciting than merely just “Read more.”
Excerpt of Zapier's guide to working remotely

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 890
Backlinks: 4,100
Referring domains: 1,100

Overview of Zapier's guide to working remotely in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Zapier allows users to connect multiple software products together via “zaps.” It’s a 100% remote company, and its pillar page is about remote work. 

Why I like it

Zapier’s pillar page is basically like Wine Folly’s pillar page. Break a topic into subsections, add a couple of links of text, and then add internal links to further resources. 

In the examples above, we’ve seen all sorts of execution for pillar pages. There are those with custom designs and others that are crazily comprehensive.

But sometimes, all a pillar page needs is a simple design with links. 


If you already have a bunch of existing content on your website, you can create a simple pillar page like this to organize your content for your readers. 


Keep learning

Inspired by these examples and want to create your own pillar page? Learn how to successfully do so with these two guides:

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.  

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