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January 11, 2024

Your Startup Should Not Focus on SEO

I see a lot of early-stage startups trying to focus on SEO, which I believe to be fundamentally wrong. Doing SEO right requires you to have some kind of strategy that guides you through how to improve your search presence.

Every company is different, and each requires a different strategy depending on the product, audience, goals, etc. I'll share with you a few reasons why I think startups (pre-product-market fit) should not focus on SEO.


If you are a pre-product/market fit startup, it is unlikely that you know your target audience. Knowing your audience is an essential thing when trying to figure out your SEO strategy.

With SEO, you try to rank for certain keywords that your target audience is likely to search for. Not knowing your audience sets you up for failure in SEO: it is literally a shot in the dark. Also, it will be unlikely that any traffic you get through SEO will convert to actual paid users.

You may have a preferred audience that you want to reach, but in reality, you don't really know. In an environment where you aren't sure if your startup will survive or not, it is hard to target a certain audience that you aren't sure will like your product. Your startups may experience a lot of change in a short period of time, which may include pivots of the core service/offering. As such, your SEO content may be deemed worthless and you've wasted valuable time working on SEO instead of focusing on your business.

If you don't know your audience, don't focus on SEO.


Not that ranking for certain keywords takes a lot of time (it took Blogkit less than a week of "low effort" work to rank for certain keywords), but it depends on your goals. Low-volume keywords are likely to take low effort and produce minimum outcomes. While high volume keywords are what everyone is competing for (they give the best outcomes).

Ranking for keywords can take a lot of time and planning, and for your startup, it may not be worth it. It is best to not waste your time looking at ahrefs data and instead focus on making your product the best it can be. Talk to your users, and focus on what they want. Don't worry about keywords, backlinks, metadata, etc. In the end, it may not even matter.

Even if you hire a third party to take care of your SEO, I still believe it to be a bad investment. Results from these third parties may take months to be noticed, and your product might be completely different. Unless you have received a lot of funding and have a safe runway, I don't recommend this option.

Don't get me wrong, SEO can be great for your business, but only if you know what you're doing. In an environment that is quickly changing, it is hard to land on an SEO strategy for months to come. I believe that your startup should be focusing on building a sustainable business, and SEO can follow.

Plus, your startup might not even need SEO. If you are building a revolutionary product, SEO might come easy to you. For example, take ChatGPT. After its launch, OpenAI's website received tons of backlinks, and its Domain Rating skyrocketed. Hopefully, that could be the same for you.

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