How These 5 Start-ups Used Strategic SEO to Become $1B Unicorns


In the journey from startup to billion-dollar success, think of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as your digital growth booster. For growing companies, SEO isn’t just tech-related matters, it’s a strategic tool. It helps your business get seen online, brings in the right customers, and boosts your credibility in the competitive business landscape.

Imagine it as the guide in the digital world, ensuring startups not only survive but thrive on the path to that billion-dollar goal. In this blog, we will dive into 5 famous startups that used SEO to boost their growth with content mastery and to become true unicorns in the startup scene.

Why Is SEO Important for Start-Ups?

The majority of Google users stay within the first page of Google’s results to find an answer to their query and 75% will click on either the first or second result on the page. SEO is a digital compass for startups navigating the vast online landscape, and its importance cannot be overstated. Here’s why:

  1. Visibility and Ranking: In the crowded digital space, startups often struggle to be noticed. SEO strategy is the key to unlocking visibility by ensuring that your website ranks higher in search engine results. Appearing on the first page of search results significantly increases the likelihood of users discovering your startup.
  1. Credibility and Trust: Users tend to trust websites that appear at the top of search results. SEO does not only improve your ranking but also establishes your startup as a credible and trustworthy source. This is essential for building a positive online reputation, especially for new businesses.
  1. Cost-Effective Marketing: Startups often operate on tight budgets. Unlike paid advertising, which can be expensive, SEO provides a cost-effective way to drive organic traffic to your website. It’s a long-term investment that continues to deliver results without incurring ongoing advertising costs.
  1. Targeted Audience Reach: Utilizing SEO allows startups to target specific audiences based on relevant keywords. By optimizing for keywords related to your products or services, you attract users who are actively searching for what your startup offers. This targeted approach enhances the quality of your traffic.
  1. Competitive Edge: In competitive industries, startups need every advantage to stand out. A well-executed SEO strategy can be a game-changer, allowing your startup to compete with more established players. It levels the playing field, giving smaller businesses the opportunity to shine.

5 Famous SEO Unicorns That Owe Their Success to Strategic SEO

Among the crowd of companies using SEO, there are some notable entities – unicorns among startups. These companies recognized early on that a strategic and well-executed SEO plan could be a game-changer, setting them apart from competitors and propelling them toward becoming industry leaders. 

Here are 5 SEO success stories and SEO strategy examples that will help you craft your own action plan.

1. NerdWallet: How to Use SEO for Tech Companies

Founded in 2009 in the United States, NerdWallet swiftly evolved from a bootstrapped startup to a significant player in the fiercely competitive fintech industry, specifically focusing on credit cards and personal finance. 

In the face of industry leaders such as Capital One, Discover, and Bank of America, NerdWallet, under the visionary leadership of founder Tim Chen, embraced a David vs. Goliath strategy. 

Understanding the paramount importance of organic search, Chen strategically positioned the company to leverage the power of SEO to boost brand awareness and compete effectively against the established giants. This strategic approach, coupled with a commitment to providing valuable content, allowed NerdWallet to not only survive but thrive, achieving a valuation of $500 million within seven years.

“Our content strategy is writing for a consumer with a very specific problem. As long as we can help that consumer solve a problem, that’s considered success for us. It’s more subjective than just metrics, but there are metrics involved.”

NerdWallet’s CEO & Founder, Tim Chen in the interview for

NerdWallet’s growth was fueled by a two-pronged SEO strategy:

  • Creating Quality Content: Tim set an ambitious goal of producing 500 pieces of high-quality content per month, focusing on providing value to users. By 2014 and 2015, the content production scaled up to a few thousand pieces per month, resulting in over 36,000 indexed pages. This extensive content library enabled NerdWallet to rank for a vast array of keywords related to personal finance and credit cards.
  • Building Quality Links: NerdWallet realized that creating a high volume of great content would only be effective if it eventually ranked at the top of search engine results.

    The company invested in data-driven stories, combining good design with high-touch outreach. This approach resulted in numerous press mentions, surpassing even industry giants like Capital One in certain periods.

    NerdWallet’s content, rooted in data analysis and often presented as “State of” studies, location studies, and resource tools, attracted a significant number of high-authority backlinks.

The success of NerdWallet’s SEO strategy is evident in its ability to rank for nearly three times as many keywords as its closest bank competitors, showcasing how a focused and intentional approach to SEO can propel a startup to unprecedented heights in a relatively short period.

Nerdwallet SEO organic traffic’s organic traffic development according to Ahrefs
nerdwallet organic competitors’s TOP 5 organic competitors in the US according to Ahrefs

2.’s Journey Through SEO Excellence

Founded in 1996 in the Netherlands, began its journey as a struggling startup in the online travel industry. Initially grappling with challenges like low visibility and an unfriendly website interface, the Dutch company recognized the transformative potential of strategic Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

Faced with fierce competition in its early years,’s innovative response was to initiate a comprehensive SEO strategy, understanding the critical role it plays in the digital landscape. This approach marked the turning point for, propelling it from obscurity to becoming a revenue powerhouse, surpassing the billion-dollar mark and redefining the online travel sector.

To thrive in the digital era, undertook a significant investment in SEO. Their strategy involved a holistic approach, focusing on content optimization, technical SEO, backlink building, mobile optimization, and localization.

  • Content Optimization: created high-quality, unique content about travel destinations, hotels, and customer reviews. This strategy enhanced their visibility for a wide range of relevant keywords and locations, attracting organic traffic.
  • Technical SEO: Prioritizing the technical aspects of their website, such as site speed, mobile friendliness, and structured data, improved their appeal to search engines and enhanced the user experience.
  • Building Backlinks: Actively pursuing backlinks from authoritative travel websites and bloggers increased’s domain authority and trust in search engines.
  • Mobile Optimization: Recognizing the surge in mobile usage, developed a user-friendly app, tapping into the growing mobile travel market.
  • Lots of testing and constant optimization: is known from its testing culture. Small multidisciplinary teams of experts are given power to test new ideas and roll out new effective solutions on the website.

Utilizing both Google’s and its own analytics tools, rigorously monitored the SEO efforts, tracking metrics such as ratings, traffic, and conversion rates to ensure the effectiveness of their strategy.’s concerted SEO efforts yielded tremendous results, with revenues skyrocketing and crossing the one billion-dollar mark. The company became a household name in the travel industry.

3. Stripe: One Of The Largest Fintech Companies That Uses SEO For Success

Stripe, founded in 2010 in the United States, stands as a pioneering force in the fintech realm, specifically in the domain of payment processing. The company has significantly influenced the dynamics of online transactions, reshaping the landscape for businesses. 

Stripe’s remarkable achievements are not only rooted in its innovative solutions but also in its astute recognition of the crucial role played by the SEO strategies. By strategically leveraging keywords, Stripe has cemented a powerful and dynamic online presence, contributing to its prominence in the fast-evolving world of digital payments.

Stripe’s SEO Strategy in the nutshell:

  • Homepage Optimization: Stripe’s SEO success is woven into a carefully crafted keyword strategy that permeates various layers of its digital ecosystem. Starting with its homepage, the company strategically optimized for broad yet essential keywords like ‘online payment processing.’ This ensures that their core service is front and center when users explore their website.
  • Product-Specific Optimization: Beyond the homepage, Stripe diversified its keyword optimization across specific product pages. Each product or service, whether it’s the ‘payments platform,’ ‘subscription management,’ or ‘payments platform for marketplaces,’ has its dedicated page optimized for relevant keywords. This not only aligns with SEO best practices but also allows for precise targeting of different user intents.
  • Distributed Keyword Strategy: Understanding the limitations of optimizing a single page for numerous keywords, Stripe strategically distributes keywords across multiple pages. This ensures that each page maintains specificity, adhering to Google’s ranking criteria.
  • Extended Optimization: Stripe’s success is not confined to its main pages. The company extends its SEO reach to partner pages and blogs. By optimizing for related keywords and even those associated with partner brands, Stripe maximizes its visibility in search engine results. This nuanced approach capitalizes on less competitive terms while building overall brand authority.
  • Strategic Blog Content: The company’s blog, strategically addressing topics like ‘starting a real business,’ serves as a content marketing tool. It not only imparts valuable information but also positions Stripe as a go-to solution for aspiring businesses, seamlessly integrating SEO with content marketing.

stripe SEO organic traffic’s organic traffic development according to Ahrefs
stripe organic competitors’s TOP 5 organic competitors in the US according to Ahrefs

4. DocPlanner: Healthcare SEO Success Story

DocPlanner is a Polish champion that has risen to remarkable heights. Founded in 2012, DocPlanner has not only disrupted the traditional healthcare model but has grown to a billion-dollar valuation. Behind this extraordinary achievement lies a tale woven with the threads of strategic SEO, proving that in the digital age, visibility is indeed key to transforming a startup into a unicorn.

DocPlanner’s journey began in 2012 with a vision to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare providers, not just locally but on a global scale. Recognizing the importance of online visibility, they orchestrated a robust SEO strategy, making their website not just a digital platform but a beacon for those seeking healthcare solutions. Here’s how they did it: 

  • Strategic Keyword Optimization Including Doctors’ Names: DocPlanner meticulously identified and optimized for relevant keywords, ensuring that their platform appeared prominently in search results for various healthcare queries. Especially for names of doctors and other healthcare professionals users search online in order to check their credibility or make an appointment. This laid the foundation for future online visibility and created a flywheel effect: doctors having noticed patients find them on Google via DocPlanner wanted to optimize their profiles even better which consequently led to improved rankings and more users for DocPlanner.
  • Content Excellence: Beyond keywords, DocPlanner invested in creating high-quality and relevant content. Their website transformed into a comprehensive resource, offering not just a directory of healthcare professionals but also informative blogs, articles, and guides. Content became a valuable service, setting them apart in the healthcare tech landscape.
  • Local SEO Dominance: Recognizing the importance of local relevance, DocPlanner implemented robust local SEO strategies. Optimal listings, region-specific optimizations, and a user-friendly interface tailored for different locations ensured that DocPlanner was not just a global player but a locally trusted healthcare companion.

“It probably wouldn’t have been possible if ZnanyLekarz [the Polish subsidiary of DocPanner] hadn’t specialized in positioning medical profiles on Google. Good SEO allowed the company to achieve this at a relatively low cost, while western companies were spending millions of dollars…

The main source of ZnanyLekarz’s popularity was the content published on the website, generated on one hand by the doctors themselves who were trying to promote their services online, and on the other hand by users who posted reviews about various specialists. This was the foundation that, in combination with smart SEO efforts, helped build the recognition of the service”

Peter Bialo, CFO of Docplanner; as cited in: Kurasinski, A., & Domaradzki, K. (2023). Startupowcy.

Imagine a patient in search of a specific medical service – finding DocPlanner at the pinnacle of their search results. This isn’t just SEO; it’s the art of digital healthcare matchmaking. DocPlanner’s rise wasn’t just about being found; it was about being the first and most trusted choice for millions navigating the complexities of healthcare decisions.

Their SEO success extended beyond users to healthcare providers. DocPlanner created a platform that physicians and clinics not only wanted to be listed on but actively engaged with. Positive feedback, testimonials, and a robust network of healthcare professionals naturally translated into stronger SEO.

5. Adyen: Fintech Startup That Drove Growth Through SEO

Adyen, the global payment company based in the Netherlands, has effectively used SEO as part of its growth strategy. The company’s approach to SEO is both strategic and hands-on, offering guidance to local and global teams.

  • New Markets Expansion: For instance, when Adyen was expanding to Japan, it recognized that 93% of Japanese consumers use search engines to find items online rather than specific websites or platforms. This insight likely informed Adyen’s SEO strategy, helping it boost visibility, attract customers in this new market and after all endorse the brand through high ranking.
  • SEO for Optimizing Transactions and Generating More Revenue: Their all-in-one payments optimization toolkit, RevenueAccelerate, is designed to get the most out of every transaction at each point of the payment journey. By optimizing their online presence for search engines, Adyen can drive more traffic to their site and convert more visitors into customers.
  • Extensive Knowledge Hub: Through case studies and extensive content on different topics, industries and products, Adyen show its vast expertise to potential B2B customers. Adyen acts as a thought leader which improves not only its credibility but also its rankings in search engine results, increasing visibility and attracting new clients.


Transitioning from startup aspirations to billion-dollar achievements, NerdWallet,, Stripe, DocPlanner, and Adyen have a common concealed tactic: the strategic use of SEO. Consider it as their digital ally, ensuring visibility, endearment from the right audience, and trustworthiness.

For those aiming to become unicorns, here’s valuable advice: leverage the influence of SEO expertise. Develop a keyword strategy, generate high-quality content, establish robust links, and conquer local SEO. Let this be your guide, potentially transforming your startup expedition into a celebrated success narrative.