Case Study: David Sertillange on SEO, Scaling and Exiting a Content Business

In 2016, entrepreneur David Sertillange founded a content site offering in-depth golf equipment reviews and high-quality content to golfing enthusiasts.

With Google search rankings skyrocketing through Sertillange’s SEO best practices, the business eventually reached the turning point of success. Here he shares how he built the business, his best SEO tips and why he ultimately decided to exit.

Diving Into the Right Niche

The entrepreneurial lifestyle rewards the ability to spot a business opportunity with high monetization potential and match it to your experience and skillset.

Sertillange, originally from France, came from a background in business school and started a job as a technical support engineer at Silicon Valley company, Optimizely.

With a passion for technology, he began working on numerous side projects. His first venture was a French website on finance and investing. Sertillange then moved on to drop shipping and e-commerce small ventures. By the time he got into English-based content websites, he was experienced in managing all the necessities of building a website as an entrepreneur.

“I was doing everything myself,” Sertillange says. “The content and the SEO.”

Learn more about how you can make your content business attractive to investors.

Many niches follow trends and come and go, containing only fool’s gold, but Sertillange struck real gold. In 2016, he dove into the golf niche and pushed his site to the first page of Google through dedication and alignment with SEO best practices.

“I created the site because I enjoyed the technology part of the business more than the love for golf. I’m not originally a golfer, and I’ve only played it twice in my life,” Sertillange reveals.  Still, with an eye for spotting monetization potential and his market research skills, Sertillange held the key to success. He saw the potential profits within the niche and understood how to get them.

“I was doing all the keyword research and trying to understand the topics people were talking about in this industry. I wasn’t trying to play with techniques that may temporarily increase the rankings, but in the long run, lead to potential growth.”

He also found a solution to his lack of expertise in the golf niche.

“I hired a golfing expert to review the content since I wasn’t an expert on the topic myself.”

His hard work, paired with a passion for search engine optimization, paid off. “I just love the SEO piece of trying to understand how to work with the Google algorithm,” he says. “Understanding the parameters that go into it and figuring out how to provide content relevant to queries of Google users.”

Sertillange goes on to explain the potential of the golfing industry and why he chose it. “There was an audience [of golf enthusiasts] that was big enough to allow for something to take off and be a sustainable business,” he explains. “There were a lot of products that people were passionate about.”

Read the FE International case study: Selling Your Content Business When the Time is Right to learn more about why timing is key for a successful exit.

Business Growth and SEO Tips for Entrepreneurs 

Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving; therefore, knowing how to succeed in SEO requires thought and research.

“I follow white hat principles and do SEO by the book so that I can sleep well at night and not worry about future Google updates,” Sertillange says, encouraging other entrepreneurs to go on the path of tried-and-true SEO best practices.

“Some of the things that worked in increasing organic traffic was making sure the products were well recommended, in addition to the golf advice. [What we supplied] was original, personalized, and matched the queries of the target keywords,” he says.

His advice for others looking to succeed in the content and affiliate space is straightforward: “Continue and never give up on publishing and keeping up with SEO,” Sertillange says, honing on the main piece of advice for content business founders. “For me, for example, the start was in 2016, but it didn’t take off until 2019. I guess if I had given up in 2018 or even early 2019, I would have never been able to sell the business and then have it grow as much as it has.”

For long-term success, Sertillange recommends being active in a community with other experts in the field, staying dedicated to the right SEO despite periods of stagnant Google keyword rankings, and researching the market to remain competitive.

Breaking Through to Success in the Content Space

Every founder hopes to reach the turning point when the business proves to be successful.

Sertillange’s moment of truth was when the articles he published immediately started ranking on the first page of Google. “We saw that the incremental effort needed for each article to appear on the first page started becoming less and less, which means that Google starts trusting you more.”

When the site became more trustworthy to Google, it started to show scale in the business. “That’s when revenues started to go up dramatically,” Sertillange says.

Choosing to Exit  

Selling a business just because it has become profitable doesn’t make it immediately easy. A good exit can take a while, require a precise valuation, and even be sentimental. So, what makes an optimal time to sell?

“It was a business I had started from scratch and had been running since 2016. When you see that you’ve maxed out on many of your areas of growth, you start to feel like you need a lot more resources or someone with better connections than you for things like launching new products and expanding into new territories,” Sertillange says.

“That’s also when you start to see that you could go faster. The business could be on someone else’s shoulders and grow much more rapidly. I started to see that I was good at SEO or taking things from zero to $10,000-$20,000 per month.”

Connecting with FE International

Sertillange decided to sell his business through FE International after hearing stories of successful exits through founders in the Authority Hacker Pro community.

“I expected it would take a little bit of time [to sell],” Sertillange says. “There’s always an audit phase, and then there is a go-to-market phase, and then a negotiating offer phase.”

“[I knew that] FE is a very serious and knowledgeable company with a lot of experience selling content sites. I knew I would have a lot of handholding,” he says.

For Sertillange, the most crucial step in the exit process was the marketing stage. “This is when you see if your business is attractive to investors,” he says.

“I saw how investors were interested in the business and had quite a few conversations,” Sertillange says. “[It gave] a good picture of the website. And that’s when I saw that we would be able to make it through and make a sale.”

A New Day, a New Vision: Pivoting to SaaS

Starting fresh for an entrepreneur means pushing past limits and using your previous experience to further your new ideas. The next chapter for Sertillange is to go from content and affiliate businesses to SaaS.

“I’m now trying to pivot a bit and from just managing websites into actually helping other website owners manage their sites,” Sertillange reveals, excited about his new vision. “I’m trying to figure out the pain points I had myself and turn them into something that can be useful for people in the same industry as me.”

“As entrepreneurs, we’re always driven to really push our limits,” Sertillange says. “[Starting fresh and pivoting away] means new things to learn and new people to serve in the future. So that’s the main reason: helping out other people doing the same thing as me. It’s also a personal challenge to go for new things that I may not be an expert in.”

A business valuation can help determine whether now is an optimal time to sell your business. Get a free valuation to set your business on the right track towards a successful sale.