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Common wisdom says that early-stage startups should not go all-out on SEO. The Finnish-based AI startup, Flowrite , did anyway and has grown its monthly organic traffic to 1,000,000 in January of 2023 after two years of consistent content marketing and SEO work.
They started with a founder-led approach, then hired a senior marketer as the 4th employee. At any given time, their marketing team has been 1-person strong.
In this case study, Flowrite outlines 3 pitfalls that can hinder SEO performance and how they overcame them.
One common pitfall marketing teams fall into is growing traffic instead of growing conversions, and ultimately revenue.
The hard truth is that turning “clicks into revenue” can be harder than initially thought. This is the reason Flowrite focused its SEO efforts first and foremost on growing its waitlist (before taking their product public) and only scaling content production as they were able to validate that this was a sustainable approach for user acquisition.
How did they do it?
Flowrite starts its content production by identifying broader customers' pain points first and then uses Semrush to do more in-depth keyword research.
For example, they might start from a problem such as “following up with a sales prospect” and develop a solution (in their case, a collection of sales email templates), then dig deeper into how people are trying to find a solution to this problem.
This has helped them become better at predicting which keywords will generate conversions instead of just traffic. This is key for startups – especially in early-stage – that need to stay cost-efficient.
“What makes pain-point SEO such a brilliant (yet simple) content strategy is that it inherently starts from the search intent instead of the keyword. In our experience, the best SEO strategy is keyword-informed, not just keyword-driven,” Flowrite’s previous head of marketing Samuli explains.
Another common pitfall marketing teams with limited resources – especially time – sometimes make is utilizing too many tools.
Focusing on the essentials is a hard thing to do. Often the first reaction is to add tools and processes in order to get more data and to “do more”. This is not unfamiliar for Flowrite either.
Speed is essential for startups. Too many tools can lead to paralyzation and less productivity.
How did they do it?
Their best tip is to experiment with different approaches, tools, and tactics to find what are the essential things that work for your niche. This has helped them optimize their processes.
Using just a mixture of Webflow (for CMS), Notion (for all text editing, writing, and proofreading), Make (for automating manual work), and Semrush (for keyword research and competitor analysis), the 1-person marketing team has been able to develop a process that allows them to produce 3 high-quality blog posts per week, investing just 5 hours a week into content marketing and SEO.
“We believe that a considerable reason for our success has been prioritization. Because we don’t have time, people, or money to do everything, we’ve been focused on finding the essential tactics that have the best ROI. This means investing in finding great writers who can produce quality content, being efficient with keyword research, and optimizing internal linking, content updates, and on-page experience,” says Flowrite’s growth lead Saku.
The third crucial pitfall – that we all have most likely fallen into at some point – is including as many keywords as possible in each post.
“Keyword stuffing” – as it became known when Netscape and Yahoo! still dominated the market – is largely a thing of the past. You can, however, use keywords to your advantage by being creative about how you can satisfy the search intent of a variety of keywords in one post, inside a broader topic.
How did they do it?
Flowrite has created a user-friendly blog post format that heavily focuses on helping readers solve their problems. The format is, however, still also SEO-friendly.
Each of their posts targets a main keyword, but additionally often hundreds of other long-tail keywords, which means more traffic per post.
One method Flowrite uses to find long-tail keywords is Semrush’s keyword grouping functionality. You start by searching for a root keyword (such as “sales follow up email”) in the Keyword Magic Tool and then searching through relevant groups Semrush automatically provides:
“You can use keyword data to find ways to help your audience solve their problems. For example, we found out that with any topic revolving around "how to write X email", there is plenty of search volume for different “X email samples”, and X email templates,” Saku explains.
What should you take away from this case study? To recap, these are the practical tips Flowrite believes can help most companies: