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How Startups can win at SEO

How Startups can win at SEO

A lot of people think that being a Startup puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to SEO, but I disagree. Here’s how thinking like a Startup helps us and can help you to beat the big brands.

We’re a 2 and-a-half year old company with a 3 year old domain. We rank on some pretty competitive terms ahead of some very well-established brands.

For what it’s worth, we’ve achieved a Page Rank of 6 – that’s the same as sites like Rightmove, John Lewis and Groupon.


A lot of people think that being a Startup puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to SEO, but I disagree. Here’s how thinking like a Startup helps us and can help you to beat the big brands.

Startups are lean

If you want to be good at SEO, reacting to trends quickly is critical. Being lean means that ideas > production can happen instantly. Startups get stuff done while big brands miss the boat.

Do it
Have idea > Do it

Here’s an example of a typical SEO workflow in a big brand:

Have idea > discuss idea with colleagues > wait for sign-off from stakeholders on idea > fail to get sign-off on idea > give up.

and in a startup:

Have idea > Do it

Paddy Kenny
You need to be more agile than Paddy Kenny after a trip to the kebab shop

Startups are agile

You’d have to be psychic to know exactly what Google is going to do next. Good news for Startups who can pivot easily, bad news for brands with 500 stakeholders and the agility of Paddy Kenny after 7 pints and a doner kebab.

Startups are controversial

Startups shake things up and change the way that things are done. People don’t always like that, which means that they’ll discuss it.

Prince Philip
A bit of controversy never hurt anyone

Just days after launching, Copify was mentioned and linked to from some of the most established freelance copywriter websites in the UK. Although the coverage wasn’t exactly favourable, that must have given a pretty strong indication to Google that we were a brand.

Startups give a sh*t

Startups really have to care about their customers. This leads to goodwill and goodwill means that people are far more likely to mention and link to you. Sainsbury’s aren’t a Startup, but I can’t think of a better example of caring about your customers, and the subsequent SEO and social media pay dirt than the Giraffe Bread story that broke at the start of the year.

Giraffe Bread
£3 and a nice letter = 150,000 Facebook likes.

Startups are Marmite

People don’t respond to vanilla content, they respond to content that has character.

Be a Marmite brand

Lots of brands play it safe by being vanilla, but Startups aren’t afraid to be Marmite. If you want to win at SEO, create content that polarises opinion.

Lings Cars, for example, might look gaudier than a gypsy’s wedding cake, but lots of people (including me) love it for it.

But Google loves big brands?

You don’t need to have been around for decades or spend millions on above-the-line activity to build a credible brand. It’s as simple as having a strong identity and a point of view. Not everyone will like or agree with you, but that’s fine, because you don’t want them to.

A meeting of two great minds
A meeting of two great minds

5 Quick Startup SEO tips

  • Do Adwords first – A brand new site will never rank immediately, so until it does, run an Adwords campaign to see what terms convert and then allocate SEO budget to these terms.
  • Don’t fixate on high volume and ‘vanity’ terms – Being number one for a term like ‘copywriting’ might seem like it should be top of our list of priorities. But it isn’t, because it doesn’t convert, it’s a vanity term.
  • Go for the long-tail – Long tail keywords are quicker and easier to attain rank on than generic terms, they also have a higher conversion rate.
  • Update regularly – Even if this is a just a Twitter feed or a news ticker on your pages. Our jobs page is updated on average 40-50 times a day and I believe that this is one of the main reasons that it ranks.
  • Leverage relationships for links – For us it’s the blogs of our writers, but we’ve also found that links from friends and suppliers can work well.

Martin Harrison

Works at Copify

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