Over the past 10 years of working in various startups, often with limited to no budget at all, I have had to bootstrap my way out of most challenges. Many of these challenges were related to finding new marketing and growth opportunities. With a bit of creativity, you can use tools in ways they were not intended to and get valuable insights to accelerate growth.
Here are 5 smart data hacks for any startup with no budget.
1. Check Out What Works for your Competitor in SEMrush
While you can’t access your competitors’ Google Analytics data, with some ingenuity and 3rd party tools you can mine valuable website data. One of them is SEMrush, a Search Engine Optimisation tool that shows you how your website ranks for different Google search queries.
Now, although my main speciality isn't SEO (even though I have worked with it in the past), I still use SEMrush for market research and to check out the competition. All you need to do is to enter the URL of your competitor and you’ll get access to a range of interesting data, such as:
It’s main competitors
It’s main traffic generating search queries
It’s main traffic sources
By taking a closer look at the data, you can get inspiration to:
Find new sites where it could be relevant for you to be present
Find new content marketing opportunities you’ve missed
Find new relevant partnership opportunities
If you don’t know where to start, this is a good place to start exploring, to get cues on where to look next!
2. Find the Top 100 Websites Who Share Your Audience
This is one of my favourite data hacks. There’s a tool called Alexa, a powerful tool which can be used to compare sites, audit your site and to find new audiences. You can enter your website and get a list of the top 100 other websites that share a similar audience to yours. This is gold to any growth marketer. You can then go through that list to see if you can find any interesting websites to:
Reach out to for potential partnerships
Pitch a feature (if it is a magazine or a blog)
If you have a budget: try advertising at
You’ll probably end up finding all sorts of interesting websites. Some of them might be completely unrelated to what you do but still share your audience. Those websites are ideal for partnerships: you are not competing, but share audiences and can send traffic to one another.
I have found new interesting partnership opportunities this way, and it has saved me so many hours of desktop research - with this tool it takes seconds.
Not enough traffic on your website yet? Just use another good website you think the best resembles your audience and use their top 100 websites!
Note that this tool is unfortunately not free, however, you can sign up for a 14 days free trial and download your list to keep for the future!
3. Prioritise Your Efforts Right with Site Worth Traffic
Again, it is not possible to get competitors' exact website data. However, there are tools that estimate the number of visitors a page gets. While not 100% accurate, they give a ballpark indication of the number of visitors or volume of traffic a website gets. One of them is Site Worth Traffic.
It is super easy to use, you simply enter the URL of the website you want to explore and it gives you an estimated traffic volume.
How about using that list of 100 top websites above and look into which ones get the most traffic, so you can prioritise your efforts?
4. Get New Content Marketing Ideas in Key Word Planner
In my previous blog post, 7 market research hacks using free Google tools, I explained what Google’s tool Key Word Planner is and how it can be used for market research. It can also be used in more practical ways, such as to find new content marketing ideas.
It is rather interesting to play around in it, and see what related sentences and words potential customers search for related to your product or service.
Let’s say you run an online shop, selling materials for do-it-yourself enthusiasts. Now, how do you get people to find your shop? A simple search on “do it yourself” in Key Word Planner gives you a long list of sentences related to “do it yourself” people search for, such as:
“home depot do it yourself”
“seawall repair do it yourself”
"do it yourself decorating"
There you go - your next content article topics!
5. Find What Slows Down Your Website and Boost Conversions
We spend so much money and effort into creating beautiful and on-brand websites. Much needed work, but people often forget to make sure that the website works on appropriate internet speeds. Very often, high res images and too heavy carousels take up too much page weight - causing visitors to leave the website as it loads too slowly. This is why speed optimisation is important, meaning optimising the website to reduce load time and keep visitors staying on the page. This is in fact, the most common conversion killer today, and the amount of time it takes to load a website has a direct negative correlation with conversion rates. In fact, a second extra in load time can cost millions of euros. You can easily calculate how much each second extra in load time costs your business using Google’s free Impact Calculator.
Another common mistake is to optimise the website for the internet speed you have in your office - but your customers might be on a 3G network in South America. It is therefore important to make sure your website loads quickly at internet speeds your customers use.
Now how can you fix this? There are many things you can do and there are specialists working with this, however, there are a few easy things you can do yourself:
a. Use PageSpeed Insights to get recommendations of website fixes
This is a free and simple to use tool. Enter your URL and you will get a list of recommendations of things you can fix on your website. Start at the top, and work your way down.
b. Use Performancebudget.io to get a max recommended image weight
This is another simple and free tool. Just enter what internet speed you want to optimise for and how much weight your code takes up, and the tool will give you a max recommended weight your images and videos can take up. This is an effective way to show your creative department why it is important to decrease the size of images and why you can’t have a carousel on mobile in a country with slow internet.
That’s it for this time. More to come in the future!