49
19 Comments

5000 Users, 3 Months, $0 in Paid Ads = Here's how

Backstory:

Growth is hard. Unless you've got 40,000 followers engaging everyday on twitter or a mailing list. Growth is hard.

But that doesn't mean impossible or unachievable, absolutely not - it simply means you need to be strategic with how you bring new people to your product.

We never ran paid ads, don't ask why - I just never had faith in paid media for SaaS (this is changing since though) so I started off with what I knew best, content.

Content was great to drive traffic from FB posts, reddit etc, but never really in a consistent way (AKA using uncle Google to get us traffic)

So we set out to try move our focus to SEO and bring in leads consistently and daily.

I'm going to talk on what are the things we did that have worked well for us over the span of 3 months.

1) Onsite SEO -

this is an easy win. Make sure your meta tags, title tags and images are optimised. Aka right keywords, load time and contextual

2) Intent-based search -

Stop stuffing keywords, Google has gone from lexical to semantic-based search. When writing content, understand the intent with which people would be searching for your content

3) Interlinking -

SEO juice is the real deal and Google bot goes top to bottom, so you need to make sure your "popular" blogs have relevant link to your upcoming blogs. Interlinking also opens into the topic of topical authority and clustering, Google is looking for authority in topics (more on this soon)

4) Anchor tag management -

If your business is on Cold Email Personalisation and you're writing a blog to link to your landing page, don't hyper link to a keyword that isn't related e.g potatoes and carrots. In Google's eyes (similar to customers) when they click on a highlight link they want to go to a page talking about what they clicked on

5) Backlinking -

If you spend more than 20 minutes in SEO, you'll hear backlinks. It's Googles ranking metric to decide authenticity of sites, almost like a vote of confidence. Easy ways to get back links are by far these:

  • Use unique data from your customer data to write reports
  • Create tools, tool-based marketing is incredible
  • Offer to write guest posts in niche sites relevant to yours (you can use smartwriter for personalising your entire outreach)
  • Create infographics on a topic people often chat about
  • Create definitive guides
  • Awards or Embeds - figure out if there is a way you can create an embed type side project that will encourage users to add your embed to their site. e.g Producthunt offers this as their embed tag earning absolutely free backlinks

6) Programmatic SEO -

Using the concept of head terms, primary and secondary modifiers to create 100s of content pieces targeting several permutative combinations. How to lose weight after turning 40 / after pregnancy / before wedding / for beach body each of those can be individual pages

7) Creating topical maps/clusters -

Ever noticed random small sites killing it with little/no backlinks this is because of topical authority. This is the reference to the image above (how we do topical authority creation). Topical authority or topic clustering involves you creating "cluster" content around a pillar topic. Lets say we want to talk about Weight Loss, that would be a pillar topic and surrounding that pillar will be cluster content like "how to loose weight", "keto weight loss", "weight loss after pregnancy" etc etc where you find long tail and sub topic keywords using ahrefs etc.

Then what you do is interlink between the cluster content and the main pillar page signalling to Google the pillar page is the main leader on this topic. What the topic clusters approach does is move us from writing siloed content and moving towards solving for an niche of content, because surely someone searching for what is a cold email will most likely want to know how to send a cold email. And this is the "trick" to SEO dominance these days.

8) Page bounce rates and Page on time -

Google wants to show its users the best content. If someone hits your site and leaves immediately it signals to google it showed the prospect wrong data for the keyword you might want to rank for. So write engaging content that actually has users sticking to your site

9) Disavowing backlinks -

All backlinks are not good, if you end up in aggregator sites and see a lot of of backlinks (via ahrefs analyser) from spam sites, you can disavow them - google doesn't always guarantee it will follow suit but they give you the option

10) E‑A-T- stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Expertise means to have a high level of knowledge or skill in a particular field. Google is looking for content created by a subject matter expert.

Authority is about reputation, particularly among other experts and influencers in the industry. Quite simply, when others see an individual or website as the go-to source of information about a topic, that’s authority.

Trust is about the legitimacy, transparency, and accuracy of the website and its content.

This is not a ranking factor by any mean but more so a mindset you need to think about when writing content and building your blog.


These are the 10 key points I can mention that have helped us gain traffic and users.

Also SEO does take time, and that is the unfortunate truth. But like in a startup if you push past the ditches the result is magical, with leads flowing in everyday

  1. 4

    Great, very informative article. Bookmarked 📚

    One thing that stands out is:

    Create tools, tool-based marketing is incredible

    I think this is definitely an underrated technique with massive opportunity. Thanks you pointed it out :)

    👋

    1. 1

      100% its something we're putting alot more effort into as well - zestimate, veed and kapwing are the best examples of this.

      Millions of users from these tools

  2. 4

    Also to make sure to protect your domain from SEO attacks :) smartwriter.ai for personalized cold email, backlinking, and much more 💪

    1. 2

      Smartwriter looks great! Thanks for sharing. I've been using http://surferseo.com for writing the content and this tool helps a lot

      1. 2

        Thanks mate! Let us know if you need any help

  3. 2

    this is some solid advice man thank you!

    1. 1

      Thanks mate - happy it helped

  4. 1

    This is awesome! Congrats on what you've achieved. Just launched our project today on Product Hunt so going to incorporate some of these tips into our marketing/growth strategy.

  5. 1

    Thanks. Very actionable post. 🚀

  6. 1

    Awesome post! I've always been intimated with SEO techniques. Any other resources you suggest for this?

    1. 1

      i honestly learnt alot from viper chillis seoblueprint course, else learningseo.com is great free resource too

  7. 1

    Thanks for sharing, @veebuv! Excellent advice.

    I'm definitely going to use some (if not all) of these tips when when working on SEO for my latest project.

    Matter of fact, I already have begun thinking about how to structure/cluster my upcoming blog posts and your 7th point gives some valuable advice!

    1. 2

      huge mate - I hope you succeed regardless, all the best to you!

  8. 1

    I don't think it matters as much as it used to but what word count do you shoot for in your blog posts?

    1. 1

      also word count doesn't matter as you said, intent and time on page does - it acts as their reassurance to their ai that they delivered the right content to the right person

    2. 1

      1500-3500. And some 1000 word posts

  9. 1

    Amazing post man! So good to see Smartwriter's growth!

    1. 1

      Thank you Dan! Long way to go, but we'll get there!

Trending on Indie Hackers
I will promote your startup to 50K+ people 49 comments I made Session—a productivity timer that makes $5K/mo in net profit. AMA. 20 comments I built an NFT Guide site. Feedback welcome! 15 comments I've teased this project for a while. Initial thoughts on this landing page? 12 comments Only 30 days! We finished a great Etsy products research tool 10 comments #1 on Product Hunt with an open-source project 8 comments