Why SEO is important for startups — and why we’re building Hike

So, it was a miserable Thursday in Manchester late last November. I was interviewing for a place on the Ignite Startup Accelerator programme for my business theWebShed (if you don’t know who Ignite are, then check them out here ).

theWebShed is a platform to help agencies and freelancers deliver SEO for their clients, and Kieran (the other co-founder, the tech one) and I had big plans.

However, it didn’t take us long to realise that an opportunity for a new product was right under our nose.


During the interview process we met lots of other startup founders all vying for a place on Ignite’s programme. Investment and support awaited — a dream combo for all founders.

As I began to speak to the other founders and introduce myself there was one thing I couldn’t help but notice; they were all particularly interested when they found out I was an “SEO guy”;

“Im going to need your help when we launch!”

“Fancy taking a look over my website for me?”

“SEO rules!” (I may have made that one up)

Comments/questions like this kept being asked. “Of course” I said, knowing that there was a good chance I’d never see many of them again :)

I kept thinking one thought, “can theWebShed help these founders?” As much as I tried to think of ways it could, it quickly became apparent that this just wasn’t going to be possible.

It’s a platform built for people who already know SEO, not those who don’t.

So we canned that thought almost immediately.


Skip forward 6 months.

We’ve been accepted onto Ignite’s accelerator programme, and we’ve been growing theWebShed’s customer base consistently since the platform was ready earlier in the year.

However, we’re not ones to rest on our laurels, and we’re always looking to spot an opportunity to really help a customer base.

So, we put our thinking caps on. How can we really make a difference? Who aren’t getting the SEO love they need?

Luckily it didn’t take long for an idea to spring to mind;

“We’ve now launched the site, can you give the website a once over?”

“We’re not getting the traffic we need, fancy seeing what SEO opportunities there are?”

Startups!

Why was it that founders kept asking us for SEO help? Couldn’t they get the help they needed elsewhere?

So we started looking, searching. Turns out, no — there’s nothing in the market that helps startups with SEO. Maybe a few blog posts here or there, but a practical solution for them? Nope.

The next question sprung to mind, “do startups need specific help when it comes to SEO?”. What makes startups different to other new businesses?

Well, first off — more often than not anyway— they’re unique. They might be operating in a space that doesn’t exist yet. Or introducing a new solution to an existing problem.

There’s a good chance that their audience aren’t even searching for products like theirs just yet.

But is there still a need for the startup’s product/service? Theres a good chance the answer is yes (if they’ve done their research).

Also, startup founders really need to learn to do SEO themselves.

Unless they’re really lucky, and had significant investment, then they have to do things themselves. They can’t afford to employ agencies or consultants.

Plus, learning is the fun part right?!

Kieran and I gave a short presentation on the basics of SEO for startups to the many founders at Ignite sessions. Needless to say it went down a storm :)

So we had a hypothesis. A potential market who were in need. Time to prove it.

First we created a questionnaire that we fired out to startup founders.

Of everyone who responded, over 80% responded that SEO was at least a 7 out of 10 importance for them. (40% of respondents said it was 10/10 important.)

Know what the most popular answer from respondents was when asked “what do you find most difficult about SEO for your startup?”?

It was “time and expertise”.

And this all makes sense right?

Everyone knows that SEO is a fantastic driver of new customers. And it’s kind-of-free (if you minus the time it takes you to implement the work, but founders can afford that one).

Ok, so — in our eyes — this was concept proven. If we could produce a platform that helps founders with their SEO, then we can really make a difference.


Next up, time to make a landing page and push it out there, to see if we can get people to sign up to a tool that didn’t yet exist. So we did just that — https://hike.webshed.co/

This worked really well. We launched ‘Hike’ (thanks to Jasper Lyons for thinking up the name) on Betalist on the 29th May. By the end of May we’d made their top 5 startups in May. Not bad for a mere 2 days worth of exposure.

(next up… Product Hunt :)

Again, this was proof for us that there was a real need for this product.


So where are we now?

We’ve had almost 200 people show interest in signing up for beta access already. (If you’re interested too, sign up here.)

We’ve started the build and hope to launch V1 in August.

We’ve created a Facebook Group called ‘SEO for Startups’ where founders can post any SEO question they like and we’ll answer it.

It’s going pretty well. There’s a lot to do still. But we’re up for the challenge.