How SEO Impacts your Startup Financial Projections

February 21, 2022

Adam Hoeksema

I recently shared ProjectionHub’s SEO Journey and had the chance to reflect on some of the major mistakes we made along the way along with what long-term success looked like.  One of the major takeaways for me was that growing our SEO traffic for ProjectionHub took years of work, but in the later years, the gains really do start to compound.  

So that got me thinking, how should startups think about SEO and organic search traffic as it relates to their financial projections.   

Many of our financial projection templates are built on a set of assumptions that include organic and word-of-mouth website visitors as a primary driver of new customers.  Take our mobile app financial projection template, for example, the primary traffic drivers in the financial model are paid ads and organic or word-of-mouth visits.

Here is the problem though.  Often it could take a new site 6 months minimum to start seeing any material traffic, and that is best case scenario.  The reality that we have experienced in our business is that it took years of producing content before we saw meaningful traffic, but that growth can really compound over time.  See the slow and steady grind upward of organic traffic that we received over a 4+ year period. -Traffic Growth 2013-2018 (Source: Google Analytics)

So, what are the lessons to be learned as it relates to SEO and your financial projections?  

  1. It takes time - If you are relying on organic, SEO-driven leads for your startup, you should be prepared to invest heavily into SEO and content work for months and months before seeing any return.  
  2. It is competitive - SEO is competitive and might not work for you depending on your industry, so it is tough to count on it for your financial projections.
  3. Results are delayed, but compound - If SEO does end up working for you, the fruit of your labor will really be seen in years 3, 4, and 5.
  4. Local SEO is easier - If you are a local business, it should be easier to do local SEO because there will be less competition than if you are trying to sell shoes online for example where your competitors can be anywhere in the world. 
  5. Research your competitors to ground your expectations - A good place to get an idea of your SEO potential is to find a competitor website and do some research on their website on Ahrefs where you can see what kind of organic traffic they are getting, and you can see what those traffic trends have looked like over time.  For example, let’s say I wanted to start a gym in Indianapolis and wanted to rank organically for the search phrase “Indianapolis Gym.”  

You can do a keyword search on Ahrefs

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I saw that the second organic result on Google was for a Lifetime Fitness gym, so I explored that site in Ahrefs to see more detailed traffic information. 

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I could see that they rank for 412 different keywords and receive 1,100 organic visits per month.  You can also see their traffic trends over time:

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This data will really help you put into context what your potential for organic website visits is and even how long it might take you to rank over time.  

Interestingly, in this particular case, you can see significant traffic at the beginning of the graph which is probably when the gym first opened, and people were specifically searching for the Lifetime Fitness gym in Indianapolis which is such a direct keyword that it would be easy for them to rank for.  It would likely take much longer to rank #2 for “Indianapolis Gym” as they do now.  

So do your competitive research and use that data to help inform your financial model.   

As you get to work on building out your financial model, you can download our gym projection template or 50+ other financial projection spreadsheets for just about any business you can think of, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out at 

Photo by Burak Kebapci from Pexels

About the Author

Adam is the co-founder of ProjectionHub which is a SaaS web application that helps entrepreneurs create financial projections for their business. Since 2012, over 40,000 entrepreneurs from around the world have used ProjectionHub to help create financial projections. Adam also serves as the Executive Director of Bankable. Bankable is a Small Business Administration (SBA) lender that makes loans from $500 to $250,000 to Indiana small businesses that are unable to secure financing from a traditional bank.

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