In the land of technology where 90 percent of startups are bound to go down in flames, SEO is one of the few marketing channels capable of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and turning a failing startup around.
At times when the balance sheet bleeds red ink with no end in sight, a steady stream of free, high-converting organic traffic gives just enough breathing room to bounce back and endure the lows every startup inevitably goes through.
But more than anything, SEO needs time. Knowing that, savvy startup founders hop on the SEO train from the get-go. And in this post, you’ll learn why you should follow suit.
1. Organic Traffic Costs Nothing
When it comes to paid advertising, the premise is simple: pay the advertiser and watch how potential leads flock to you—or alternatively, watch your money go down the drain.
In other words, no money, no traffic. This is the natural order of things.
Well, not in the case of SEO.
Since search engines don’t charge anyone for the users they drive to websites, if you secure a healthy flow of organic search visitors, all that traffic—the fuel that keeps your startup going—will not be cut off the moment you stop paying for SEO services.
As a result, having a constant supply of free users actively looking for your product or service translates into a phenomenal ROI in the long run.
The gift that keeps on giving even when you stop throwing money at it. What could be better than that?
And those who fully realize that start early.
2. SEO Helps to Accurately Identify Market Needs
Behind every startup is a dream to make a difference. However, to prevent that dream from becoming a nightmare, you've got to keep your eye on the wants, needs, and pain points of your customer base.
Why? Well, it all comes down to one simple truth: it takes a lot less effort to sell something people want than to create a new market for a product when there isn’t one.
The further you step off the path of satisfying existing market needs, the higher the risk of your startup going under.
In fact, based on an analysis of 101 startup post-mortems carried out by CB Insights, the failure to serve a valid market need is the number one reason why startups fail:
So how can SEO help you gauge market demand? Two words: keyword research.
Keyword research refers to the practice of analyzing the search terms that users type into search engines, and it makes up the backbone of any SEO strategy.
Thanks to cutting-edge SEO tools like Ahrefs and Moz, you can get your hands on accurate data reflecting how many times search engine users enter a particular phrase into the search box each month (also known as search volume).
Just stop and let that sink in for a second.
Every startup under the sun needs a data-driven reality check to stay in tune with the market.
If done the right way, SEO acts as such by giving you the critical data needed to walk the tightrope between the startup vision and what the market dictates.
So, the earlier you get the SEO ball rolling, the better off you’ll be.
3. SEO Takes a Long Time to Gain Traction
Just like ginseng takes at least five years of growth before the first roots can be harvested, SEO needs a great deal of time to take off from the ground before you can reap the fruits of your labor.
Every SEO expert worth their salt knows that any SEO consultant or agency promising dramatic results in just a week (or better yet, in 48 hours) is most likely trying to scam you.
In fact, as effective as SEO truly is, even the almighty Google itself preaches that it takes at least four to twelve months to start seeing any apparent ROI from SEO. And who would argue with Google?
4. SEO Builds a Safety Net Against Ad Budget Cuts
Having been around long enough, we discovered a disturbing pattern that tends to occur way too often these days.
After raising funding, a startup doubles down on paid ads to get an instant influx of visitors. Everything looks fine at the moment.
But at some point, the startup hits a rough patch, leading to cuts in ad spending. Naturally, the stream of paid traffic takes a nosedive.
With less money to burn on ads, the company can no longer sustain rapid growth—the key predictor of success for virtually any startup—and enters a downward spiral of spending cuts, slowly inching toward a catastrophe. The rest is history.
For that reason, a tech startup that heavily relies on paid advertising as a means to generate revenue is pretty much like a drug addict dependent on a substance: in both cases, things go south the moment money stops flowing in.
To cushion any potential blows to your ad budget, build a safety net to weather the storm whenever you need to temporarily scale back on marketing.
In the moment of crisis, SEO is something you can fall back on, allowing you to lower the burn rate and stretch out the runway.
But tech startups should start preparing beforehand for the results from SEO to kick in—or else, when the rubber hits the road, they will get caught totally off guard.
5. SEO Provides a Bottomless Well of Customer Behavior Data
Collecting feedback from your users is paramount for both polishing up your MVP as well as swiftly adapting your product or service to the needs of your client base.
Unfortunately, very few of your potential or existing customers would actually go out of their way to tell you their experience with you.
For that reason, every drop of customer data is worth its weight in gold.
And with the help of web analytics tools like Google Analytics, you can break down in great detail the way your visitors behave on every single page of your website, gathering tons of customer behavior data to work with:
What’s more, some SEO tools even enable you to spy on the competition, uncovering their best-performing pages along with their tried-and-tested digital marketing tactics.
Always try to learn from the mistakes of others, not your own.
As an example, here’s how competitor analysis looks in Ahrefs, showing the most popular pages of a competing website in terms of organic search traffic:
On top of that, customer data gives you a glimpse into what your user base truly likes or dislikes about your product or service, which features you may lack, as well as how to gain an edge over market incumbents.
So, the earlier you get to work on your SEO strategy, the more customer data you’ll be able to gather.
6. SEO Helps Troubleshoot Hidden Performance Issues Hurting Your Conversion Rate
The web pages take too long to load? Expect a 7 percent drop of the overall conversion rate of the website for just a one-second delay.
The website is laced with broken internal links leading to URLs that won’t load properly? Prepare to see a good chunk of the users who would normally click on them leave in frustration.
Some of the external links channel your visitors to a third-party website that got hacked and infected with malware? Pay with your credibility both in the eyes of users and search engines.
You get the idea: regular technical SEO audits paired with data-driven web analytics typically help unearth an otherwise invisible layer of issues chipping away at your conversion rate for years to come.
What’s more, some of the technical issues can only be spotted and tackled exclusively by SEO professionals (no, your web devs don’t have all the answers).
As the unresolved issues stack on top of each other, with time, the heavy burden of SEO problems inevitably drags the conversion rate down, leading to massive revenue losses in the long run.
Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let SEO slip through the cracks from day one.
7. It’s Not All About the Paid Ads
Did you know that 70 to 80 percent of search engine users completely ignore the paid ads and jump straight to the organic results?
Basically, it means that even if you completely dominate the ad space in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) in your industry, a fairly unrealistic scenario to begin with, roughly 80 percent of your potential customers are going to completely dismiss the ads and move on to exploring what the competition has to offer.
Is that what you want?
For that reason, technology companies that play the long game know all too well the massive value SEO brings to the table and will start pouring resources into it as early as possible.
Stop Your Competitors from Stealing Your Customers
As tech startups mainly entail a greater level of risk as opposed to traditional businesses, it’s understandable why so many startup founders—trying to get the best bang for their buck as quickly as possible—tend to write off SEO as a marketing channel.
When explosive growth must be achieved at all costs, the uncertainty of getting results and the long lead time to seeing any ROI have discouraged early-stage technology companies from placing their bets on SEO.
The implication? While everyone is going about marketing the same way, focusing on the same beat-to-death marketing channels, startup SEO is not crowded.
Now, over to you. Schedule a discovery call with our team, and we’ll talk about how we can help you take your SEO game to the next level.