Bottom Up SEO: How To Prioritize Growth Projects As A Startup

To put it simply, you don't have unlimited resources. If you did—sure, go chase every shiny object. Since you don't, just do this instead.

Where should you start with SEO?

Here’s my answer…

Think BOTTOM UP first.

Optimizing for the WRONG things

If you own marketing at a startup & your background isn’t in SEO, you’re probably still familiar with a few things:

  • Keywords
  • Search volume
  • Organic traffic

Which if you’ve read enough “SEO guru” blog posts usually leaves you thinking…

  • Rank for as many keywords as you can
  • Target keywords with as much search volume as possible
  • Make the organic traffic chart go up & to the right


Pause 🛑

Can each of those statements be true with a great SEO strategy in place? Sure. But should they be the primary deciding factors in what you do or don’t execute on? No chance.

Instead, work from the bottom up.

How to actually optimize for the RIGHT things

Rather than trying to “think like an SEO” and start with keyword research, search volumes and big traffic targets—think about the fundamentals. Adopt a first principles mindset.

You need to show up in the search results if…

  • Someone’s looking for your product directly
  • Someone’s comparing your product to a competitor
  • Someone’s looking for alternatives to your competitors
  • Someone’s asking for solutions to a problem your product solves

These are the searches that present the best potential value to your business. These are potential customers or users actively looking for what you’re selling.

You don’t need to show up if they’re just asking basic “What is XYZ” questions or looking for examples of something. Eventually, these are pages that can help you build topical authority and support a more sophisticated content marketing engine, but they aren’t mission critical early on.

Sure, there may only be 100 searches for “competitor A alternatives” each month while that flashy “what is XYZ” term is getting 10,000, but think of it like this:

ROOM #1: 100 people actively shopping for your product.

ROOM #2: 10,000 people that heard an acronym on a call & don’t know what it means.

Which room would you rather be in?

3 simple SEO tips for early-stage startups

You can’t do everything. In fact, you can only do a select few things.

Here’s how to actually optimize for IMPACT:

1. Optimize for revenue, not traffic.

Sorry, but organic traffic doesn’t matter if you’re putting up a 0.001% conversion rate on those clicks.

If you’re only optimizing for an organic traffic chart that points up & to right, you’re focused on the wrong thing. If your SEO manager / freelancer / consultant is telling you to do this, consider this your permission to pull the plug ASAP.

2. Prioritize USE CASE content.

I get it.

When non-SEOs hear “SEO content” they picture a bunch of glossary pages, “What is…” blog posts, ultimate guides, and every other heavily top-funnel-focused topic you can think of.

Don’t do this.

At least not in the early days.

Instead, focus on USE CASE content. What are your best customers doing or trying to do? How are they likely typing that into Google? Great, go create that—no matter what the search volume tools say.

3. Focus on what your best customers look for.

This is similar to the point above, but more broad.

To put it simply:

  • Figure out what your best customers are looking for
  • Publish content that addresses those questions / searches
  • Optimize those pages to drive actions when someone finds it

It’s really that simple.

Use case content is a big one here, but also think about the product-focused bottom-funnel searches your potential users may be doing.

For example, someone may be using your competitors product right now but not loving it. Create a page that goes after “[Competitor] alternatives” as a topic. Make it an editorialized round-up where you plug your own product at the top of the list.

That’s exactly what Writesonic did with their “Jasper Alternatives” blog post and it’s ranking near the top of page 1 driving dozens (probably hundreds) of HIGHLY QUALIFIED clicks every month.

Over to you

SEO should drive business results, not just big organic traffic charts that drive $0 in revenue.

Prioritize VALUE over VOLUME in the early stages.

Then look to scale over time once you have the resources.

And if you want someone to just plan it all for you instead, we got you.

Work with us.


Steal our SaaS SEO checklist
70+ proven items prioritized by impact vs effort.

When you're ready, here's how we can help you:

We’ll build a research-backed, conversion-led search marketing strategy to help you bring more qualified traffic to your website (and convert attention into opportunities). 

We’ll create (or refresh) optimized content assets that help get you in front of your ideal buyers when they’re looking for solutions like yours.

Get 1:1 time with Josh to talk organic growth strategy, content marketing, demand capture, fantasy football, and anything in between. I’ve got a decade of experience working with seed-stage startups through to B2B SaaS unicorns to lean on.


Josh Gallant

I help B2B SaaS companies grow with conversion-led SEO.

Big on building scalable systems & frameworks for growth. I write about how B2B SaaS companies can unlock better results from organic search. Follow me on LinkedIn for more.

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