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Why Keyword-Driven Content Won’t Rank Your Startup (& What to Write Instead)

Keyword-driven content isn’t for every business. Here’s why it's likely a waste of resources for startups and what you should be writing instead.

Content for Startups

No, keywords aren’t dead.

Yes, they are still important.

But keyword-driven content isn’t for everyone or every business.

In fact, as a startup or a new business, keyword-driven content is likely a waste of time and money.

Here’s why and what you should be writing instead.

Your Domain Authority & Link Profile Are Crap

This isn’t a personal attack on your startup.

This is simply the harsh reality of starting a new venture.

Unless you’ve built an empire and amassed loyal followers in high numbers, your authority is going to be crap.

Ranking potential is slim to none.

Most keyword-driven content is overcrowded by titans of industry who’ve been crafting brand awareness and thought leadership for the last decade:

SERP for local seo

And that keyword has a mere 250 searches per month, according to Ahrefs.

But what about the long-tail?

Maybe five years ago. Now? The same old story: the rich (big brands in this case) have moved in and gentrified it, leaving almost zero space for the rest of us.

If your domain authority is crap, which it will be when you start a new venture, the time it takes to rank for this generic top of the funnel content isn’t worth the traffic you’ll get.

Couple that with a crappy link profile and it could be five years before a generic post on local SEO takes off for your brand.

You need rankings now. You need traffic now. You need brand awareness now. And writing keyword-driven content won’t get you there with crappy links and a crappy DA.

Your Connections & Budget Are Crap

If we can learn anything from the latest college admissions scandal, it’s that connections are key.

It’s no different in the workforce, and it’s no different in content marketing.

The more people you know, the better.

The more people you know and work with, the more you can mention each other’s content to help each other grow.

And when you are a brand new startup, you have almost no value to offer, and no budget to scale it, either.

To rank for popular niche terms, you need both connections and a budget.

So, what can you do instead? What content can help you establish authority fast?

1. Write Interesting Research Pieces

You need rankings now.

You need traffic now.

You need brand awareness now.

And writing keyword-driven content won’t get you there now.

When you’ve got a DA of 50-60+, you can comfortably attack those targets and play the long game.

But now, your focus should be on content that hasn’t been done.

Original research can provide the biggest bang for your buck when your brand needs authority and links.

Think of pieces like Drift’s Year Without Forms:

drift year without forms

Or Buffer’s Facebook Posting Study:

buffer facebook study photo

These original studies combined both data and storytelling to hook you in.

These are posts that get shares and links.

Seems expensive, right? It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

Other than a time-based investment, you don’t need to spend a dime.

Track a fundamental change in your strategy and see how it impacts growth.

Create a well-thought out survey with serious, engaging questions and campaign for it on social:

orbit media study on twitter

Email your list of small connections and have them share it.

Conduct outreach to as many people in your space as you can.

Original research gets links. It gets shares. It gets talked about.

You can bet your bottom dollar that no high profile site is going to link to your XX SEO Tips post.

But an original research study on how bloggers craft pieces from start to finish and the detailed statistics behind it?

That’s a link goldmine:

backlink profile for orbit media study

2. Craft a Unique Tone with Thought Provoking Pieces

XX SEO tips are informative.

But people are looking for seasoned veterans like SEJ (wink wink 😎), not your startup.

They don’t trust you yet, and why should they?

This is good news for you, though: you don’t need them to just yet.

Rather, you should be focusing on grabbing their attention in other ways, like shifting the narrative or changing the status quo.


By writing thought-provoking pieces in a tone that is unique to you. For example, check out this post from Uberflip:

uberflip opinion piece

Now that’s something you are going to click on regardless of brand power.

If they had titled it “XX Content Experience Tips,” you’d probably skim it like most people do.

Clickbaity? A little.

Intriguing? Absolutely.

Another prime example is Lianna Patch. Her content is off the chain. Reading it is a stimulating experience:

lianna patch blog post clip

Witty, yet informative.

Informal, yet professional.

Reading 2,000 words from her blog has you wanting more.

Reading 2,000 words from most other boring blogs just doesn’t happen.

Focus less on “we must target XX keyword ASAP” and more on “we should craft a tone that sets us apart and actually keeps our readers engaged.”

3. Interview People for Opinionated Round-Ups

Interviews and round-up style posts are extremely interesting to read.

Especially when the people in question are known in the industry.

It’s always intriguing to see differing perspectives on a given subject and how those people react in certain situations.

With opinionated round-ups, you take advantage of that while simultaneously increasing the odds of generating social buzz:

expert opinion example

Mention people and they are likely to share it and mention it themselves.

How do you get started with this when you’ve got zero connections?

You start campaigning.

Look for ways you can get in contact with experts and keep it simple.

Don’t ask them for their life story or a ten-page essay.

Ask them for a simple, 1-2 sentence quote on a given subject. And that subject better be kick-ass.

Don’t ask them what their favorite SEO tip is. Please don’t.

Be genuine and simply ask them because you truly value their opinion and you know others will too.

When you’ve compiled the final product, send it to them and thank them for their time. Don’t ask for links or shares. If you’ve created a stellar find product they are going to link to it and share it already.

Wrapping it Up: Be Fundamentally Different

When you’re a startup, you don’t have the authority or links or budget to attack most keyword-driven content.

Common posts will net you close to zero results.

Focus your time and effort on thought-provoking content.

Original studies that people can genuinely learn from.

Unique opinion pieces that change the way people in your niche perceive the world around them.

It all boils down to this:

Be fundamentally different and the results will follow suit.

More Resources:

Image Credits

Featured Image:
Screenshots taken by author, June 2019

Category Content
Jeremy Moser Co-founder at uSERP

Jeremy is Co-founder at uSERP, an agency earning backlinks and press mentions on the highest authority sites online to boost ...

Why Keyword-Driven Content Won’t Rank Your Startup (& What to Write Instead)

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