11 Challenges in 11 Years: Reflecting on SE Ranking’s Journey

Written by
Svetlana Shchehel
May 30, 2024
13 min read

Today, SE Ranking celebrates its 11th birthday. This occasion encouraged our team to travel back in time and reflect on the challenges we faced over the years. Some of them were thrilling, while others truly tested our resilience. But at the end of the day, they brought us to where we are today. 

We developed a comprehensive SEO toolset that got the attention of over 1 million users from over 150 countries. It all became possible thanks to our team of 160+ people working remotely across the globe. As a business, SE Ranking grew by 43% in 2023, and we have no intention of slowing down. 

None of this seemed possible back in 2013, when our brand story began. Still, we worked hard, dreamed big, embraced growth opportunities with open arms, and stayed true to our values. It all helped SE Ranking transform into a product that helps SEO professionals navigate through the challenges they face as AI disrupts the industry environment. 

But let’s go back to where it all started.

2013: Entering a crowded SEO market 

Did you know that SE Ranking wasn’t actually a calculated business venture? In fact, it was developed because the in-house SEO team of our CEO’s previous project didn’t have accurate ranking data they could rely on at the time. And as more and more features were implemented, the team realized they had created a tool that was on par with other solutions that existed at that time. 

SE Ranking managed to quickly secure its first customers, which proved there was a demand out there for a reliable Rank Tracker. Our challenge now was to further develop the product in line with users’ needs. Another hurdle on our path was keeping up with Google updates. And a decade later, we can confidently say that an SEO tool’s ability to swiftly react to industry changes remains a defining factor of its success.

Business Lesson: If you have a promising project in mind, give it a go. It may be the beginning of a fascinating business story that will last for decades.

2014: Refining data accuracy in personalized search  

The personalization of search results allows for better user experience by offering information tailored to user interests and past activities. But at the same time, it makes it harder to track your SEO performance. 

Alex Dymovich
SE Ranking co-founder and CPO
One of the major challenges SE Ranking faced at the early stages of its development was providing accurate ranking data for different locations that would also be free from personalization. Our engineers have been extensively testing out different solutions, and their effort paid off. By utilizing multiple servers strategically placed all over the globe, we’ve managed to achieve exceptional ranking data accuracy.

SE Ranking takes great pride in its unparalleled ranking data accuracy. You can set up position tracking with maximum precision by specifying the language of Google’s interface and indicating your target location down to the post code level.

Business Lesson: Always prioritize quality. Check what’s available in the market, and aim higher. 

2015: Expanding SE Ranking’s toolset beyond Position Tracking

Ever since SE Ranking was launched, the team has been communicating closely with its clients. In the early years, our co-founder and CPO Alex Dymovich was sometimes answering users’ requests in the chats himself. Such tight involvement with our end users allowed the team to understand that users wanted and needed more data on top of their rankings. They wanted to handle most of their daily SEO tasks within a single environment. 

In early 2015, the team released the Keyword Suggestions and Backlink Monitoring tools. The Report Builder and Social Media modules soon followed suit. The team was also working on developing a website audit tool that would provide technical recommendations for the whole website, as opposed to the many tools that at the time only analyzed a single page. And so our very own Website Audit tool was released in 2016.

Business Lesson: Go out into the field and talk to your end users to understand how to better grow your product. Build a roadmap and take small steps—eventually, you’ll get to your destination.

2016: Building a dedicated marketing team

Up until 2016, SE Ranking grew organically without investing too much in marketing. Still, with a bunch of new tools to promote, we needed a dedicated marketing team that would put SE Ranking on the map.  

Bogdan Babyak
CMO at SE Ranking
Back in 2016, SE Ranking was a lesser-known product that offered terrific value for money. We set out on a bold mission to make SEO accessible to everyone, but before we could prove our worth, we had to cut through the noise to get our voice heard. It took a lot of effort and the right people putting their heart and soul into helping SE Ranking get noticed.

Over the years, our marketing team has grown into a powerhouse of 43 SEO enthusiasts. The first few people who joined the team handled everything from SEO and PPC to building partnerships and launching an affiliate program. They surely had their hands full and managed to get 50K thousand users to try SE Ranking by the end of 2016. 

What matters even more, they laid the foundation for our work environment that is both daring and supportive, an environment that values bold initiatives, open discussions, and data-driven conclusions.  

Business Lesson: Finding the right people to boost your team’s capacity is half the battle. Make sure to look beyond hard skills, as common values and a shared passion for your project are no less important.

2017: Tapping into new markets

Since the SEO industry is English-first, it may seem like there’s no real need to adapt your product for any local markets. While it’s definitely true that many SEOs feel comfortable working with English, when we decided to localize our toolset and website in 2017, the feedback we received was extremely welcoming. 

Julia Brusylo
UX Writers Lead and Localization Manager at SE Ranking
SE Ranking users felt so enthusiastic about having an SEO tool available in their own language that they volunteered to do the first translations themselves—this kicked off our localization process. Soon we contracted professional translators to do the job, and our most loyal customers became our localization advisors, who ensured nothing got lost in translation.

Today, SE Ranking is available in French, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese. We run blogs and hold live events in multiple languages, taking into account the specifics of SEO in the local markets. 

Another important thing we did back in 2017 was introducing a Competitive Research tool that allowed users to analyze how any website performs in a specific location. Engineering-wise, it was not an easy solution. Operating big data required high-cost server maintenance and a lot of manual work. Eventually, we handled this complexity by implementing elastic search, which allowed us to scale much faster. As of now, SE Ranking’s Competitive Research datasets cover the whole world. We’re also constantly expanding our dataset, with a 30% increase over the past year alone.

Business Lesson: Be mindful of the cultural context and customize your product to local preferences. Your customers will definitely appreciate the effort.

2018: Establishing a multi-channel customer education model

As the number of SE Ranking customers grew, it became harder to provide the top-notch user experience we always aimed for. The solution was to partially automate interactions with customers, with the challenging being not compromising on quality.

Anastasia Saidakova
Operation Marketing Manager at SE Ranking
I joined SE Ranking as a Customer Engagement Manager and worked in the position for two years. Then, before moving to the newly-established Marketing Team, I spent six months creating our Help Center, transforming my first-hand experience with the users into detailed guides. Everything from texts to the WordPress backend was created from scratch to perfectly match our vision and needs. Since we were a small team back then, investing this much time into a project that did not provide immediate ROI wasn’t an easy decision to make. Still, it was totally worth it.

With these insightful guidelines, our customers could finally get more out of SE Ranking. The same year, we took it one step further and created our first video guides. Even though video production can be costly and time-consuming, we wanted to use every type of media to get our messages across.

Business Lesson: Don’t hesitate to invest in automation, even though it takes a lot of resources to set things up.

2019: Hosting our first live event

If you attended some of SE Ranking’s online events or listened to our DoFollow podcast, you should remember Andrew, our one and only host. Back in December 2019, he held his first live webinar with Tommy Griffith where the two explored how keyword research can help businesses grow. 

Our first live digital event was a huge milestone for SE Ranking. It kicked off a new way for us to connect with our community of SEO and digital marketers. The excitement and positive feedback from our audience really fired us up to keep delivering valuable and engaging content through webinars, workshops, onboarding sessions, and panel discussions. Sure, it was challenging at first, but it paved the way for many more successful events. 

Andrew Zarudnyi,
Content Marketing Manager and Event Host at SE Ranking
Our first live digital event was a huge milestone for SE Ranking. It kicked off a new way for us to connect with our community of SEO and digital marketers. The excitement and positive feedback from our audience really fired us up to keep delivering valuable and engaging content through webinars, workshops, onboarding sessions, and panel discussions. Sure, it was challenging at first, but it paved the way for many more successful events.

From technical setup to post-production, holding a live event can be daunting and even stutter-inducing, especially if you set the quality bar high from the get-go. We certainly did make our fair share of mistakes before setting up the whole process properly.

Today, we regularly hold webinars and record podcasts with top SEO minds. We actually just wrapped up the second installment of our Agency Growth Day, where we brought together digital agency leaders for a day of insights and knowledge sharing. If you missed the event, be sure to check out the recordings

Business Lesson: Video marketing and podcasts are powerful tools that can help you build partnerships and connect with your audience on a deeper level. Start small if you currently lack resources, but don’t ignore the opportunity.

2020: Navigating COVID-19 

2020 started well for SE Ranking, but then COVID-19 came into the picture. We had to embrace remote work and find new ways to generate demand in the world where many businesses started to cut marketing expenses. We couldn’t afford just waiting, so in April 2020 we started taking action and held marketing marathons in multiple languages.

Alena Demianenko
Country Team Lead at SE Ranking
When COVID hit us, everyone felt at a loss. We started brainstorming ideas on how we could keep growing in spite of all the limitations. Good thing that it didn’t take long for us to realize we were not alone. All the businesses were in the same boat, so we decided to hold a marketing marathon on not just surviving, but thriving during COVID-19. We shared our own experience and asked our partners to share theirs. Our idea was to cover every major digital marketing channel, offering expert solutions and support to struggling businesses.

These marketing marathons helped us to develop online event marketing at a time of the greatest demand.

After all, we were lucky to be a part of the industry that helped many small businesses find their footing online—this is the story of how 14 SE Ranking customers survived the pandemic. By offering the much-needed guidance and tools to small and medium businesses, SE Ranking managed to not just outlive the crisis, but to keep growing. In 2021, we were thrilled to surpass the milestone of 500K users who trust us. 

Moreover, we reshaped our operations to remain productive in a fully-remote work environment. As COVID restrictions eased, we switched to the hybrid system where attending an office was an option, but no longer mandatory. This helped us a lot when the full-scale invasion of Ukraine forced our Ukrainian employees to run for their lives or hide in shelters to stay safe.

Business Lesson: A crisis can spur growth, provided that you timely adjust your strategy and seize opportunities.

2021: Launching the SE Ranking Academy

By 2021, we felt bold enough to develop an all-round educational product—our first SEO Basics course that covered everything from keyword research to technical SEO. Our in-house team used all of its prior experience and expertise to write scripts packed with helpful content, shoot quality videos, and then add some magic to every lesson in post-production. 

With 41 video lessons that last 6+ hours, the scope of work seemed enormous. Yet, when we finally released the course and received the first feedback, it felt so rewarding, and gave us the drive to do more.

Viki Radzivill
Video Production Team Lead at SE Ranking
The most fascinating thing about developing the SE Ranking Academy was that we got to build a new product from scratch. We thought every detail through to ensure users get a holistic, satisfying experience. The landing page design, motion graphics in the videos, the certificate of completion—they were all pieces of a bigger puzzle that had to connect well together. The deadlines were tight, so we had to carefully plan everything. Our four shooting days were scheduled down to every minute, and thanks to the team’s dedication and well-organized processes, we managed to complete the post-production phase in only three months.

In just three years, SE Ranking Academy developed into a powerful educational portal that offers guidance to in-house and agency SEOs with different levels of expertise. All the courses are available to every SE Ranking user at no extra cost. We team up with world-class experts to offer unique perspectives and non-trivial tips paired with SE Ranking’s signature animation style that supports and enhances every point experts bring to the table.

Business Lesson: Reflect on how you can bring additional value to your clients. Adding a little extra to your offer can help you secure more leads and nurture existing clients. 

2022: Addressing the full-scale invasion of Ukraine

In 2021, SE Ranking’s team grew by 44%, and we had ambitious plans for 2022 in place. Then, on February 24, russia invaded Ukraine, home to a big part of our team. In the early days of the war, we lost our colleague, Tetiana Perebyisnis — a wound that will never heal. 

SE Ranking immediately ceased its operations in russia, one of its big markets at that time. A decision that seemed disastrous for the business was taken with no hesitation. Doing otherwise would mean neglecting SE Ranking’s core values.

Over the next months, our team members who stayed in Ukraine had to learn to work from bomb shelters, to the sounds of air raid sirens and in the darkness of blackouts. Those who left had to rebuild their lives from scratch. No matter how hard it was, the whole team always delivered what was expected and beyond. This allowed SE Ranking to grow by 24% in spite of the global economic decline.

Business Lesson: Your values will only matter if you stick to them no matter what. Doing what’s right is the only way to remain ethical and support sustainable growth.

2023:  Embracing the rapid growth of AI technologies

AI has been on everybody’s lips since 2023, fascinating us with new opportunities and threatening with potential damage it could cause if misused. Since Google introduced AI Overviews (a.k.a. SGE) during its I/O in 2023, search marketers have been stipulating the impact the full-scale rollout would have on the SEO industry. 

SE Ranking responded immediately by developing a tool that tracks AI Overviews (formerly SGE) in search. We conducted an SGE snippet research to determine the impact AI snippets would have on Google search. Now, as SGE went live under the name of AI Overviews, we’re working on a new research that would measure the impact of this release.

Vik Kuushynau
CEO at SE Ranking
AI gets into all areas of our life, including search technology, which has so far evolved into AI Overviews. For SEO professionals, this means that they need to adapt to new user behaviors, optimize for AI-driven results, and focus on high-quality, engaging content. Keeping pace with these changes is essential for maintaining and improving search visibility in an increasingly AI-centric digital landscape. We, at SE Ranking, are doing our best to support SEO professionals during this exciting time by providing all the solutions they need to succeed.

Besides keeping our fingers on the pulse of AI-driven search changes, SE Ranking has been investing in AI-powered solutions to enhance our toolset’s capabilities. Integrating AI into our engineering process allowed us to provide 29% more accurate organic traffic estimations, turn raw data into ready-to-use SEO Insights, offer one-click article generation, and more.

In the upcoming year, new technologies can change the digital landscape beyond recognition, and our mission at SE Ranking is to stay at the forefront of such changes and further provide SEO experts with the tools and insights they need to thrive. 

Business Lesson: As the world changes, you need to adapt fast to remain innovative and competitive.

As we at SE Ranking look ahead, we are filled with optimism and excitement for the future. The journey of SE Ranking over the past 11 years has been marked by resilience, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. With a dedicated team and a commitment to staying ahead of industry trends, we are confident that the best is yet to come. 

Together, we will continue to empower SEO professionals around the world, helping them navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape with confidence and success. 

Here’s to many more years of growth, innovation, and making a positive impact in the SEO community. Happy 11th birthday, SE Ranking!

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