Our Gamified SEO Tool Grew 25% Despite A Traffic Decline [Update]

Published: February 7th, 2024
Karsten Madsen
Founder, Morningscore
from Odense, Denmark
started January 2018
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hey, I’m Karsten Madsen, co-founder and CEO of Morningscore - an all-in-one SEO tool that is built like a computer game.

Thanks for asking me for an update since our last interview from Feb 2022.

2023 was a weird year. A combo of lots of positives and negatives.

We grew our ARR by 25% to $720k in 2023. 10% off our target, but still solid considering the shaky waters we sailed through.

I am ready to dive into how we did that below 🧑‍🚀

And we won our first major award at a startup competition!


Sometimes you are a boat in stormy weather, and then not everything is up to you. So everything I could control, I tried to double down on, and everything else I had to accept somehow.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

We have had to grow our business with fewer resources in 2023 since it was decided not to take in any further investments. This means our burn declined and even hit cash-positive at the end of 2023.

We didn’t take investment because we tried to pursue Venture Capital in 2022, but it didn’t go as planned, and I am happy it didn’t work out, to be honest. It was never for us.

But that led to a focus on profitability, as so many other SaaS companies did. Classical 2022 story.

We grew from roughly 800 to 950 subscribing customers. I would have wanted more. But we got some big logos on board and generally more robust and cool companies.

I think our big achievement was growing with half the costs. Our CAC (customer acquisition cost) halved. Which resulted in a strong LTV:CAC of 5.3 and a much faster CAC payback of 5.6 months. (amount of months it takes before a new customer has paid the same amount as the CAC)


So all growth activities also had to be more of an organic nature, since our marketing budget was WAY smaller than in 2022 (less than $2k/month)

We managed to get the same amount of new customers per month as in 2022: 48

But for half the price (CAC)! So while it might not be an amazing growth story, I think at least financial wizards would say that’s a success. It means the business can grow healthily.

SEO and partnerships were our focus. Partnerships went well with many huge companies deciding to work with us. It all culminated in a big partnership with Fiverr, which we launched in December. A small revolution in SEO, that’s starting to bite now in 2024.

What is it? A new SEO freelancer model where verified experts work inside Morningscore’s tool and our “missions” (SEO tasks). So you chat with experts to buy completion of tasks and only pay for results instead of a monthly retainer. And there is a money back guarantee. We think it could healthily disrupt the SEO agency business.


And how did we manage to partner with Fiverr? Mostly luck and a strong network. Our CCO used to live in Israel where he met one of the heads of Fiverr. So that was our entry point.

The platform launched on 12th December. It wasn’t all perfect but we did make a splash. So far 10 orders have been placed on the platform, but all happened in the middle of January 2024. So it’s starting to kick off.

When the world throws you around like a basketball your job is to hold on. Most cases of failing entrepreneurs are “premature death.” They gave up too early.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Our SEO didn’t go as planned. The problem was we had a lot of old and outdated landing pages - which brought home vital traffic - but by January 2023 they had started declining in ranks.

This was our fault since we took too long of a break from SEO. Almost 2 years. Why? We jumped the “grow quick with ads” hype wagon. We thought we could get back to our SEO later, which is true, and SEO did pull through in those 2 years to be fair. But the break got too long.

So instead of SEO, we spent tons of money on FB ads for example. I am not saying ads are a bad marketing strategy. But it isn’t as effective long term as SEO for a company like ours.

So the rest of the year we spent kinda rescuing our SEO channel which we had decided to go all in on again.

We used to get roughly 40% of new customers from SEO. This declined to 25% in 2023 and slowly climbed to around 30% by the end of the year again.

So we did manage to reverse the downfall while still not getting fully back on track. What was supposed to be a growth engine became a rescue operation instead ;)

The rescue operation itself was simple: Update all of our traffic bringing pages and blog posts. A quick boost was updating this list of best SEO tools for example.

But really thorough updates and rewrites were needed in a lot of content, so it took time. We have roughly 100 pages that rank. ⅔ of them needed an update.

Apart from that, we kept building links from other websites (an important part of SEO). The links came mostly through partnerships where we reached out. Hard work, but those are strong links.


What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Sometimes you are a boat in stormy weather, and then not everything is up to you. So everything I could control, I tried to double down on, and everything else I had to accept somehow.

I couldn’t change the fact that we neglected our SEO and now had to fix our most important growth engine.

I also couldn’t change a tough economic climate. Especially tough for those of us who work in the field of marketing.

Finally, I couldn’t change AI hype creating a lot of misinformation about SEO which led to customers postponing decisions about growing their SEO. I don’t have a super overview, but something happened with many marketing departments' perception of SEO around early to mid-2023.

Maybe because Google rolled out the beta of their AI search (SGE). From the best of my understanding, the faith in SEO has returned with full force by the end of 2023 again. But again these are gut feelings. It’s an interesting time to be in search for sure.

But at least there were so many other things I could change. So we tried to focus on those.

Like, keep releasing awesome updates to our tool. We integrated with Google Search Console. Added new missions. Redesigned our reports. Fixed speed and stability issues and improved keyword quality to a point where we can now go head to head with Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz.


What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Double our SEO traffic. This time we finally stand on a great platform again!

The SEO goal is:

Build 100 new pages on Morningscore.io and generate +300 trial signups from SEO per month (reach a total 600).

And this is the 4-step-plan:

1) Update our top info pages. Our blog posts that answer questions people have.

2) Optimize all our current money pages for better rankings. A money page is a page that focuses on keywords and UX that converts to sales. Example: seo-checker

3) Build new money pages (so much potential). We are inspired by veed.io and other software tools that built these great mega menus to showcase all their features and go for money keywords at the same time.

4) Grab more markets with translations. AI will be our friend here. And get proofreading from Fiverr for perfect results.

So this is our SEO plan and so far in January we already built 10 pages.

We also want to grow our Fiverr partnership. My goal is that 100 customers will have invested in it.

For our product our goal is a much better beginner experience - we want to create one of the best onboarding experiences the world has ever seen.

And just keep improving data quality and speed.

Finally, a ton of added gamification is coming as well as part of our huge version 4.0. That’s exciting!


What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

In the last year, I read less than I usually do. I started reading physical magazines again. I love the calm it gives me. No distractions.

I specifically enjoy the “Delayed Gratification” magazine from the UK. It gives me a sense of what’s going on in the world but without all the dumb clickbait and hype.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

Hang in there! One of my favorite mottos is “Steady wins the race”. It’s true in these years, I believe. When the world throws you around like a basketball your job is to hold on. Most cases of failing entrepreneurs are “premature death”. They gave up too early.

On the other hand, I guess it’s dangerous advice to keep a business alive that will never work.

Finally: Try to listen to yourself and your gut feeling. That advice would have helped me.


Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We just hired in January. No current plans for the rest of the year.


Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!