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Should Early Startups Invest in SEO

When you’re just getting your startup off the ground, it’s tempting to focus solely on building your product, onboarding those first few customers, and keeping costs low. However, while search engine optimization (SEO) may seem like an unnecessary expense early on, there are good arguments for putting in the work upfront to boost your site’s visibility.

In this post, we’ll examine both sides of the debate around early stage startups and SEO investment. Should you hire an expert, create keyword-optimized content in-house, or put those limited funds toward more urgent needs? Does driving organic traffic even matter when you’re still honing your core offering? We’ll discuss the potential benefits of prioritizing SEO now versus later, as well as strategies for doing SEO on a startup budget.

Benefits of investing in SEO early on:

Benefits of investing in SEO early on:

Demand Capture

If someone has a problem, they are going to look for a solution. There are 8.5 billion Google searches a day, and all of these searches are opportunities for companies to meet potential customers at their respective stages of the user journey (Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Retention, and Advocacy)  and provide them with value. 

But first, you need to get their attention, and to do so, you need to be at the top of the SERP; after all, over 80% of the clicks are distributed between the top 5 positions. If you manage to be there and get people to your website, you have acquired the attention of someone who is interested in what you have to offer.

Once you have their attention, you can start to engage them with your content and additional value offers like ebooks, guides, or a newsletter. By now, you have set the stage to keep on nurturing until they convert into a paying customer.

Organic search has an average conversion rate of 2% -4%. That means that out of 100 people, 4 of them are either going to do business with you or one of your competitors. Unless you can sleep knowing you are leaving money on the table by not capturing that organic demand, you should start implementing an SEO strategy for your business. 

Build Long Term Brand Value 

If you are constantly present at those key moments in which your target audience is looking for information, they will associate you as an authority on the matter.

Take a look at HubSpot, for example. They are one of the biggest and most known SaaS companies out there, and it receives millions of thousands of organic visits a month through its blog section. They are an authority in matters of CRM, Digital marketing, and Sales. Through their content they have earned their audience’s trust and have solidified their position in the market.

Ideally, you’d like to achieve the same for your industry, whether that is procurement software, accounting services, athletic footwear, etc. You want people to think of you when they think about the industry, and you want your audience to expect you to show up when they are looking for information about your area of expertise. 

Build an organic lead generation engine 

As it was mentioned before, organic traffic has a conversion rate between 2% and 4%. It does not particularly outperform other mediums of lead generation, such as paid media. However, if you were to stop your SEO efforts for a month or 2, you can still reap the benefits of your efforts. The pages you have managed to place in top positions will continue to get traffic from your target keywords, and you will continue to engage and nurture that organic audience.

On the other hand, if you stop putting money into your Google ads or meta campaigns, you stop getting leads from those sources, so building a strong SEO foundation and getting those top 5 positions for your most important keywords (the ones that have lead generation potential) pays off in the long run, and will continue to do so. 

Why are companies reluctant to invest in SEO?

Why are companies reluctant to invest in SEO?

They do not see the value of SEO

The problem: Even though SEO is not new, its value is still not obvious to most stakeholders within a company. Convincing founders to invest hundreds doing keyword research and creating SEO-optimized content for a few months with the prospect of getting traffic that can potentially generate revenue for the business is not an easy sale. Especially when there are other options that have a much clearer value proposition, like paid ads. Invest X amount of dollars, and expect X amount of revenue according to industry benchmarks.

The need for short-term results

Startups are usually driven by the urgency to deliver quick wins and results. So, from their point of view, SEO does not align with their current needs. And no SEO professional would promise to deliver results as fast as other mediums can, like paid media, which, if executed properly, can start showing results after a few days or a couple of weeks.

Lack of time

In some cases, startup founders may understand the value and need of SEO, but they may just not have the time to do it. After all, SEO takes time and effort, and a budget and staff-constrained startup may not have the time to:

  1. Conduct Keyword and Competitor Research 
  2. Design an SEO Strategy 
  3. Tracking and Report on Results.

Budget constraints 

As more and more companies start to see the value of SEO, the demand for SEO specialists increases, as does their expected salaries. So hiring the right person with the right skills without going over budget is no easy task.

Additionally, an early startup is most likely looking for key roles that will help to build and grow the company, so an SEO specialist may not be at the top of the priority lists of roles to hire.

Even though there are several reasons for startups not to prioritize SEO, there is a big opportunity cost when deciding not to. 

How to get your startup started with SEO

How to get your startup started with SEO

Kicking off your SEO journey boils down to two key steps. First, you’ve got to demonstrate the undeniable value of SEO to your company, highlighting why it’s an essential strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Secondly, you need to find the right person perfect to spearhead your SEO efforts effectively.

Build the case for SEO

To effectively position SEO as a fundamental rather than a luxury to your company’s decision-makers, begin by conducting comprehensive competitive research to analyze your competitors’ traffic sources. The results of this initial effort can prove that other companies are gaining an edge on you in the race for capturing organic traffic. Use tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Similar Web to assist you in this task.

It’s crucial to start with some basic keyword research to gauge the current demand within your industry. This involves examining the search volume for terms related to what you offer. Take, for instance, if your business specializes in procurement software and you discover that the phrase “top procurement software available” gets about 1,000 searches a month. That’s a clear signal you’ll want to tap into that audience.

However, if your industry is relatively new or niche, and high-volume keywords directly related to your products are scarce, it’s a sign to shift your focus towards more general, awareness-building content. Often, your potential customers know they have a problem but might not be aware of your specific solution. This is your opportunity to craft content that addresses these broader issues. By doing so, you not only get on their radar but also perfectly position your product as the answer they’ve been searching for, seamlessly guiding them from recognizing their problem to considering your solution.

Hiring someone for SEO Specialist role

It might seem smart to have an existing team member handle SEO, but this will often lead to less-than-ideal results. SEO involves a steep learning curve, waiting for an employee to become proficient might slow down your progress, and result in a long and more expensive project when compared to hiring someone for the role.

Even though startups ara limited by their hiring budget budget-constrained, there are ways around to design and execute and SEO strategy while staying within your budget

  1. Hiring an agency: in some cases this may be cheaper, depending on the specific goals you set them up to achieve and the scope of work agreed upon. If your website is small, and you need to start by putting on content, and not focus on the technical aspect of SEO just yet, the cost of your package may very well be within your budget.
  2. Hire a freelancer to design the SEO strategy and roadmap: One of the hardest tasks in SEO is to design the strategy, if you can hire someone to give you instructions on what to do, and how to do it with a timeline, and then you can assign someone on your team to execute as told, it may be a more cost-effective and efficient way of implementing an SEO strategy.
  3. Hire an SEO specialist in a nearshore country: Nearshore outsourcing allows you to tap into a wider talent pool to hire the right person for the right skills within your budget. Given that they live in a country where the cost to live is lower than where your company is based, it can help you hire someone full-time while saving costs on overhead.

Final Thoughts

Diving into SEO for startups isn’t just a good move—it’s essential for survival and growth. Picture your audience, out there, searching for exactly what you offer. They’re ready to be engaged, to be convinced, and ultimately, to convert. SEO is about more than visibility; it’s about becoming the trusted authority in your space, the name that comes to mind when your industry is mentioned. It’s about creating an evergreen source of leads that flows continuously, even when you pause the efforts. 

By embracing SEO, you’re not just participating in the market; you’re leading it. Let’s make your mark.

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