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SEO for Startups

SEO for Startups – How to Grow Your Traffic on a Lean Budget and Why Startups Should Invest in SEO

SEO for Startups: SEO is often an essential channel for startups. Here we share some practical advice for getting started with SEO on a budget. Without expensive and complicated tricks.

Too expensive. Too much work. That’s what a lot of startups say about SEO and TBH, we get why it’s a pretty big turn-off. But every coin has a flip side, and this has a pretty major one. SEO may take time, but the results are long-lasting.

Hiring an SEO agency may come at a big expense, but it delivers unbeatable ROI. And sure, SEO is a lot of work, but when you have the right partner, you can trust them to handle it while you focus on making your startup a success.

Justifying Investing in SEO for Startups

So be specific about what you offer. Instead of saying, “We do SEO,” it’s more specific.

You need support from leadership to launch an SEO program that will help you achieve business goals.

If everyone is sold on SEO and ready to go, skip to the next section.

But if anyone on your team feels hesitant, you’ll need to overcome that.

Skepticism around SEO investment usually happens due to:

  • A misunderstanding about what SEO involves
  • Concerns that results will be too slow

Let’s go over how to address both:

Help Leadership Understand What SEO for a Startup Involves

Educating leadership about what implementing an SEO plan takes will keep them from thinking you’re talking about anything that could sacrifice the brand image. Like creating low-quality content or engaging in keyword stuffing (see an example from Google below).

For example, say that you’ll:

  • Hire two freelance writers
  • Produce eight pieces of long-form blog content per month
  • Create quality content that we’re proud to share
  • Prioritize [category/use case] topics because they appeal to our most satisfied users

It also helps to position SEO as a distribution channel rather than saying you’ll create “SEO content.”

You can explain that you’ll create quality content that will be helpful for your ideal prospects (and current customers). And optimize it to rank highly in search engine results to drive traffic to it.

SEO Doesn’t Have to Take 6+ Months

Leveraging a sound SEO strategy for startups can help any new business with just one person creating content start to see SEO results within a few months.

You might not rank for category-defining keywords at that time. But you’ll get some small early wins with the right approach.

Let’s dive into what that involves:

5 Steps to Improve SEO for a Startup

1. Conduct Keyword Research

You’ll see SEO results faster if you prioritize keywords that indicate searchers need a solution you can provide.

If you’re doing SEO for software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups, for example, good topics might include things like:

  • How to [use case]
  • [Category] software/tools/platforms
  • [Brand] alternatives

Imagine you’re a Kanban board software. Applying those categories, we might find:

  • How to track task statuses
  • Kanban board software/task management tools
  • Trello alternatives

These types of keywords indicate that searchers need the solution that Kanban software provides, so it’s reasonable to expect high conversion rates.

(Higher than “task management methods,” for example. Which indicates the person is looking for information—not for a solution.)

2. Start Creating Content

Next, focus on creating content targeting the keywords you discovered during your research. Because the sooner you start getting content produced and published, the sooner you can potentially start ranking.

Here’s a simple process to get started creating SEO-friendly content:

Determine Who Will Write the Content

If you have in-house content resources, great. If not, you’ll need to hire.

Your options are:

  • Full-time, in-house writers
  • Freelance writers
  • An agency that has content writers

Often, startups get SEO content creation off the ground using freelancers.

Here are the advantages of going that route:

  • You don’t have long-term commitments like with an in-house hire
  • You can start with a smaller budget
  • You’ll benefit from working with someone who probably has writing/editing knowledge from working with other clients

The main downside to consider is that freelancers typically won’t understand your product as well as an in-house hire will.

Create an SEO Brief Template

SEO content snippets are key to content ranking. Because they help the authors understand exactly how each piece

Briefs can vary in their comprehensiveness, but they should all specify:

  • Target keywords (both primary and secondary terms)
  • An approximate word count—which you can provide a range for based on what you see in the search engine results page (SERP)
  • A suggested structure that touches on all the main points the piece should cover
  • Supporting resources like relevant research or other content you’ve created

That’s the type of content you need to produce to compete. Anything else, like a product landing page, probably wouldn’t rank.

Simply check the current SERP in advance. And tell the writer how to satisfy the searcher’s intent.

You can mention:

  • What format is needed (listicle, templates, “how to,” etc.)
  • How knowledgeable the audience is (beginner, intermediate, or advanced)
  • The level of detail they should provide

And for topics with high purchase intent, help the writer understand how your product solves searchers’ problems. Because there’s usually a natural opportunity to mention your solution.

Give the writer examples of how you’ve naturally mentioned your product or service in that type of content before

Create an On-Page Optimizations Checklist

On-page optimizations are things you can do right on your pages to increase your chances of ranking for your keywords.

Here’s a simple checklist you can use:

  • Include the target keyword in your URL, title tag, meta description, H1, and appropriate subheadings
  • Use a simple, short, and clear URL so users know what the page is about
  • Make sure to use the correct heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.).
    Add internal links to other related content
  • Use appropriate images and prepare them using a meaningful filename, compressing the file size, and adding unique text.
  • You can do these things yourself before publishing. or supplement the content as part of the author’s work.

Document Your Style and Editing Preferences

Style guides help you meet new authors, save editing time, and improve the quality of your output.

You don’t need one to get started. However, first pay attention to editorial preferences and product details, which over time combine to form style guides.

Think about things like this:

  • American English vs. British English
  • Sentence case versus subject case
  • preferred tone
  • Examples of good introductions

3. Follow Some Technical SEO Basics

For most startups, initially, technical SEO basics like ensuring SEO-friendly architecture, creating an XML sitemap, and implementing basic loading speed optimization will suffice.

In general, you get the most bang for your buck by creating more content in the early stages.

But the three strategies above are worth paying attention to:

Create an SEO-Friendly Site Architecture

The fewer clicks it takes from the home page to other important pages, the better. Because it makes it easier for users and search engines to find their way around your website.

You should aim for a flat surface design. Also, avoid pages that cannot be accessed because no internal links are pointing to them (so-called orphan pages).

Because the longer you leave it in subpar condition, the more difficult it will be to change.

As you plan your structure, think about:

  • Using navigation and footer links to access key subfolders (e.g., /blog/ or /category/)
  • Internally linking related pages together
  • Minimizing click depth (how many clicks it takes to get to a page from the homepage)
  • Avoiding orphaned pages

Create and Submit an XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap can help search engines find your pages faster. Creating one is quick and doesn’t require recurring work.

If you’re using a content management system (CMS), it will likely auto-generate a sitemap for you. This is true for WordPress, Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace.

If you don’t have a CMS, you can use a sitemap generator tool.

Once it’s created, submit the URL to Google Search Console. It’s usually something like

Improve Page Load Speed SEO for Startups

Load speed is important because slow sites make for a poor user experience.

Page speed is also a confirmed ranking factor. All other things being equal, a fast-loading page is likely to perform better than a slow-loading page in Google Search.

The best way to get started is to run your key site pages through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

Don’t shoot for a score of 100. Usually, that requires excessive optimizations to the point where you start to sacrifice other things (e.g., design).

Look for quick wins like:

  • Removing unnecessary scripts: Get rid of any unused plugins and reduce the size of your CSS and JavaScript code
  • Optimizing images: Compress slow-loading elements like large images and see whether you can implement a long-term solution (e.g., a plugin that automatically compresses upon upload)
  • Enable browser caching: Install a plugin like W3 Total Cache if you use WordPress. Otherwise, research caching solutions for the CMS you use. Browser caching lets users’ browsers memorize parts of your site to help it load quicker next time.

In the beginning, you should prioritize content creation over gaining links from other sites.

If you’re tight on capacity and budget, you’ll likely be torn between the two. But start with carefully selected topics and focus on nailing the content first.

Then, it makes sense to begin link-building.

Here are two startup-friendly link-building tactics to consider:

Writing Guest Articles

Writing for another site is a tried and tested way to get backlinks.

Look for websites that:

  • Are closely related to your niche but not in competition with you
  • Are authoritative in your niche
  • Publish quality content

Avoid generic news sites, sites that aren’t relevant, or sites that have potentially spammy backlinks or content.

Editors get bombarded with outreach for guest article opportunities. So, put some time and effort into your outreach to stand out.

Try to put yourself in their shoes. And pitch a topic that could drive some organic traffic and provide internal linking opportunities for their site.

Create Linkable Assets SEO for Startups

A linkable asset is a type of content that earns backlinks naturally. Which means you can do less outreach.

Often, linkable assets include original research and statistics, free tools, and useful guides.

Here are a few great examples of linkable assets:

  • Statistics and research: Semrush’s Content Marketing Statistics
  • Free tool: Modash’s Fake Follower Checker
  • Ultimate guide: HubSpot’s Guide to Video Marketing

To get some ideas, check competitors’ domains for linkable assets using Backlink Analytics.

5. Measure Your SEO Performance

You’ll need to measure SEO performance to see whether your SEO work is contributing to business goals. And to optimize your strategy as you go.

The exact metrics you’ll want to track will depend on what your overarching goals are.

But here are three metrics startups commonly track:

  • Keyword rankings
  • Organic traffic
  • Conversions from organic traffic

Keyword Rankings SEO for Startups

Rankings are a useful leading indicator. Because you’ll likely see progress there before the traffic and conversions start showing up.

A rank tracker is among the most useful SEO tools for startups. And can give you useful data about how your rankings are trending.

You can use Position Tracking to keep an eye on your rankings.

Organic Traffic SEO for Startups

Organic traffic is the unpaid search traffic you’re earning through SEO efforts. And you need to track it because it’s a prerequisite for conversions (and revenue) from SEO.

Organic traffic can be tracked for your entire domain, for specific pages, and subfolders.

For example, you can track organic traffic to your blog specifically by only looking into URLs that are unique to your blog content (for most sites, that means URLs that look something like

The easiest way to segment your traffic by subfolder like that is with Google Search Console (GSC).  If you haven’t used it before, you’ll need to verify ownership of your website. Learn how to do that in our GSC guide.


Conversions from Organic Traffic

All the traffic you earn is only worthwhile if it translates into valuable actions (e.g., purchases, signups, downloads).

To track your conversions from organic traffic in Google Analytics 4, you first need to set up events.

Start Applying These SEO Tips for Startups

The SEO industry can sound complicated. But avoid the noise and just start.

You’ll learn a lot as you go, and results will compound over time.

To speed up your startup SEO efforts, sign up for a free Semrush trial. So you can start using tools that simplify keyword research, competitive analysis, and more.

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