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54 Comments

My SEO experience

In 2020 I launched a project in my country. My main goal back then was to create a project that my girlfriend could run.

The project is in the niche of education. We help students with the biggest exam in my country(kinda like SAT for Americans). For that reason, the product is very cyclical. We get a lot of traffic during the exam month.

We focused extensively on SEO, I did keyword research using Ahrefs, and my girlfriend wrote around ~50 articles. Our goal was to attack low competition keywords.

I remember we were getting pretty excited in the month of the exam in 2020 because we got 4k users from google in one day. We were ecstatic seeing so many people using our product.

One year later and we are getting 4k users from google on normal days. Pretty insane. Last week the exam happened again, and we got 100k users in one week.

I can't help but feel like we'll be getting this amount of traffic on normal days in the next year. It's pretty exciting. We're currently at 2k MRR, but we have this huge audience that I feel we can leverage more.

I've realized that SEO is pretty good for IndieHackers, you can write one article, and it'll be getting you traffic for years. It's like investing. You just need lots of patience.

Here's a screenshot of our Search Console:
enter image description here

It's so damn slow, but worth it. You can change your life in one year. You just need to do your research, create enough blog posts, and be patient. I've realized that being an IndieHacker is all about being patient and persisting.

  1. 8

    These numbers are awesome. " I've realized that being an IndieHacker is all about being patient and persisting." It's also valid for SEO. Keep growing.

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      Yeah Atul, SEO is so slow but worth it. Our first articles took almost one year to get any traction, but now it's much faster.

      Thanks for your comment.

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        SEO doesn't always need to be slow you know...

        But for sure worth it if you put in the right investment (I'm not only talking about money here).

        Great to see your tracking. Hoping to see some more in the future. Nice job :-D

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          I guess it can be fast with backlinks. How's your experience with SEO with backlinks from the beginning?

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            Sure, who can deny it... for real...

            For me, building backlinks is almost the same as crafting the right value proposition for my startup...

            ... It's all about what YOU can do for other people.

            It sure helps to have a well-known brand behind you, but in the end, that's not the most important and shouldn't hinder you.

            I know, because that's what we do at Tabtimize...

      2. 1

        Absolutely agree with you.

        Most welcome.

  2. 3

    Fantastic!
    Did you guys continue writing articles continuously, or is everything result of those initial 50 blog posts?

    1. 1

      We wrote only around 30 articles in the first year. The reason was that she and I had full-time jobs(in her case, she had college too), which meant we could only spend a few hours per week on the project. It also took almost one entire year for the articles to start ranking, which disappointed us back then(little did we know).

      Also, we tried many different channels, like:

      • Paid ads(didn't work for us)
      • Instagram(meh results, we have only 3k followers)
      • Pinterest(surprisingly great, we have 40k monthly visits on our profile there which generates around 2k users on our site)
      • Local marketing through partnerships(can work, but need lots of time).

      After this year, we're planning to focus heavily on SEO and use the articles to leverage a new youtube channel since this is the channel giving us the most benefits.

      1. 2

        Thank you for the detailed reply. I hope your initial delay in ranking was due to your site being new and upcoming articles start ranking sooner.
        I was thinking it needs deliberate link building to start ranking, but your post pushed me into making room for writing.

      2. 1

        Pinterest sounds very interesting! Could you please share more information on how did you approach it? Could you drop a link to your Pinterest profile?

        1. 1

          https://br.pinterest.com/coredacao (It's in Portuguese)

          We didn't put too much time into it, we basically use it as a way to promote content on the blog and re-share some stuff from our Instagram. I feel like we can leverage it more with more effort.

  3. 2

    This is what is motivating me on my side-project. I'm putting a lot of work on my free time, I'm doing it slowly but I know that it's like a snowball that will grow with time.

    Thanks for sharing your story, this will motivate me even more on my efforts :)

    1. 2

      That's right man, I'm chasing the same snowball effect. Good luck with your business!

  4. 2

    This is incredible Giancarllo, congrats!

    I'm currently trying the same thing but now have impressions envy (I'm at 600k in 2020) 😅

    1. 1

      Hey Phil, thanks friend!

      That's an awesome number too man, loved your products. Thanks for following me on Twitter also. Have a great week!

  5. 2

    Nice write-up! you have helped me realize that I NEED to learn at least the basic of SEO, I have been avoiding it. I wish I could try Ahref but it is pretty expensive.

    1. 2

      It was very expensive for us too.

      What we did was signing to their $7 trial week and do all the research on that week. With that, we had a pipeline of ~60 articles to write.

      Over time I've made other accounts on their trial 😅 I know it's not ethical, but their product is very expensive for non-US people. I try to give it back to them by recommending their product to other people.

  6. 2

    They are some epic numbers. What kind of keywords were you targeting competition wise?

    1. 2

      All keywords had <20 competition according to Ahrefs, so pretty low competition. Thanks for your comment!

  7. 2

    Absolutely mind boggling amazing. Good job not succumbing to paid marketing.

    1. 1

      Thanks man!

      We had no choice, I couldn't make paid marketing work at all at first. Lately we explored retargeting with a bit more success, so it seems like it works better for mid/bottom funnel.

      1. 1

        what did you use for your blog on your site?

        1. 1

          I'm using Ghost with a custom front-end that I wrote using NuxtJS. Also, I have an AMP version, which helped a lot with mobile traffic.

          Here's how it looks like(In Portuguese):
          https://coredacao.com/conteudo/alusoes-historicas-para-redacao/

          1. 1

            nice is it ghost open source version? im looking in to a cms blog that will statically render at build time, dont want the user to have to fetch content from a cms when they visit the site. not many options... thanks though will look in to ghost, im using vue

            1. 1

              What are your needs? Ghost is moving in another direction. They're more into newsletter/paid membership content now, I would say. I'm using them only as a simple CMS with an API.

              If your needs are just a simple CMS for blog posts, then Ghost will work.

              Yes, it's open-source. I'm using NuxtJS with Vue to render the posts dynamically on the server side. But I'm deploying on Vercel, so it has cache, infinite scaling, etc.

              I think you can statically render at build time using NuxtJS too. See this:
              https://nuxtjs.org/announcements/going-full-static/

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                thanks, hope you dont mind me msging you privately so we can following up on our tech discussion.

                edit: cant seem to do that on IH, anyway maybe others here can benefit:

                Actually we're not using nuxt as we dont need all the other overhead that comes with it, all we need is a single page application with pre-rendering so we can host on s3 or vercel etc.

                When you use ghost as a API, is the content generated at run time? or I guess it does the pre-rendering for you on you local machine, then you upload static files to vercel. The problem is there is not way to integrate NUXT with an existing large scale vue app only to get pre-rendering. It would require a change of director structure etc, but i havent seen any blog posts about how to do this.

  8. 2

    Thank you for your number. I use a very similar strategy for my SaaS. We started around 7 months ago, we create blog posts and we see day by day that the numbers are growing.

    The strategy works fine for Polish content, but it's way more complex with English, so many competitors, and we don't know where traffic will come.

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      Yeah, you're correct. English seems to be way harder.

      We're basically attacking low competition keywords in Portuguese, which helps a lot and we were able to get traffic despite putting no effort into backlink building.

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        Any ideas on how to make English more localizable? :) I mean is it possible to target English content to some regions? Maybe that's would be easier.

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          I know that Google results heavily differ based on your region and history, but no idea how we can use it to our advantage.

          I think the easiest path is just focusing on writing great content, making the site performant, and having an AMP version for mobile.

  9. 2

    Congratulations! It raises hope! I launched 8 months ago and still wondering how to get some traffic.
    How did you get backlinks?

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      We didn't spend any time building backlinks. We mainly focused on writing the best articles possible for each keyword. Also focused on keywords with low competition, so doing keyword research is an important first step IMO.

      Eventually, we started to get backlinks organically because our articles are the best in our niche, and even started to rank in keywords with more competition.

  10. 2

    I've used a similar strategy to grow my project (link on profile). I notice that SEO tools ahrefs/semrush are good for keyword ideas, but their estimates and volumes don't match reality.

    Three questions for you:

    • After you did your first 50 posts, what your strategy for finding your next 50?
    • When will you start outsourcing content writing for more posts? ex: scaling your writing
    • What monetization methods do you do? present and future?

    To leverage my organic I'm thinking of the following:

    • Site sponsorships - Businesses that want to get in front of our audience
    • Courses - Promoting courses that our audience may want to take
    • Ads - Currently running ads for our $320 MRR
    • Community - Getting up a paid slack/discord community. Though this would take the most work.
    1. 1
      1. I'm using an extension called Surfer and trying to come up with keywords. We have around 100 articles in the pipeline. One of the best decisions we made was adding a chat where we tried to start conversations with our users, and we learned a lot about their struggles and how they phrase them. This helped find new keywords.
      2. My GF has been working in his free time on this project(same for me), but now we've reached a point where she can work full time on it. That's the first step of scaling, I guess.
      3. Our product is currently a course + essay correction system, where customers can send their essays and have them reviewed by teachers (here's an example of what it looks like: https://app.coredacao.com/redacao/6785488e-e1c6-4b39-a96f-30777e6021dc).

      However, after talking with so many customers, we realized that we are too pricey, so I have a few ideas for creating micro-products that we can price at a few bucks. One of the ideas is an app where you can simulate the exam and get your estimated grades using the Elo algorithm.

      About your plan. I like everything but the Ads, I feel like the return is too small and I don't wanna competitors advertising for my audience. I would rather use the space to advertise my own products.

      1. 2

        Thanks for sharing about Surfer - I checked it out and looks like there is promising insights.

        I'll be kicking of a sales project for the sponsorship in Dec '21 after my website redesign is done. I'll let you know how it goes.

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        Hi, Can you please explain more on the Chat widget? How did you go about it?
        I have a live chat widget on my site. But when I initiate chat, visitors walk away :(

        1. 2

          We tried using Drift and Crisp on our landing page, didn't work. Maybe Intercom could work, idk, but it was too expensive for us back then.

          So we build our own chat widget, and we use it as a marketing tool. We have internal tools that allow us to send in-app messages for our whole member's base. We send automatic messages based on their behavior; that way, we get way more replies than we did when using these other tools.

          For example, when a user uses one feature successfully, we automatically message them asking how it was and if they need some help. Eventually, we create relationships, and they get more open. Some users talk to us like we are a friend, they vent, they tell their frustrations, their anxieties, etc.

          Keep in mind that we only message people who signup, so they clearly have some pain that they're trying to solve, thus are more open to talk about it. We did not get any success with chat widgets on our landing pages.

          This was a game-changer for us in the monetization aspect. We learned a lot from this and we're planning on launching new products/features based on these conversations.

  11. 2

    Congrats on the growth! I agree SEO is a secret weapon for Indie Hacker’s. Paid ads, and other promotions are fleeting. Where as SEO will pay dividends over time.

    1. 1

      For sure man! Thanks for commenting.

  12. 2

    Congratulations on 2k MRR.
    Work hard and be patient.
    Patience is important factor of all.
    No doubt work hard pays off.

    1. 3

      Yeah, man. Honestly, it's so slow 😅 I was expecting much faster results when I first start. Especially being a bootstrapped company, it's easy to get sad looking at other startups spending tons of money and getting many users fast, but we're on our own journey.

      Thanks for the comment man!

  13. 1

    Useful topic, thanks for sharing!

  14. 1

    Looks like you 25x traffic, did your revenue increase by that much?

    1. 1

      It's hard to tell because we had little revenue in 2020, and we were using paid channels back then. It's more like 5x for the profits.

      We are still trying to find a market fit, all our traffic comes from keywords on the same niche(People studying Essay Writing for the exam), but we're still struggling to offer a product that pleases the audience. Our conversion rate sucks.

      We did one pivot last year, but overall we've been slow with changes since we couldn't put many hours into it. We learned a lot of things, though, and we'll be pivoting again. Hopefully, we hit something this time.

      1. 2

        PMF is so hard.

        Wish you luck!

  15. 1

    Very cool!

    How did you develop backlinks from other sites? Or was publishing the content all you needed to do to drive traffic?

    1. 2

      We only focused on publishing content targeting low-competition keywords.

  16. 1

    Those are some fantastic numbers. After 6 years with my main product, I have come to realise it's never too late to start SEO and content marketing. What advice and resources would you give to new indie hackers on how to grasp SEO basics. A lot of articles outline keyword research but don't provide many details on the process of keyword research. I've read your other comments and notice you used a browser extension and ahrefs, were there any other tools you used ?

    1. 1

      I like Ahrefs Blogging for Business course. It helped me a lot back when I doing my first keyword research.

      https://ahrefs.com/academy/blogging-for-business

      It was mainly Ahrefs + Surfer. I did use Ubersuggest for some time, but they have inferior data. Ahrefs is good for checking keyword competition and stealing keywords from your competitors, Surfer is nice for finding new keywords and checking volume.

  17. 1

    I've used Semrush, Ahref, Ubersuggest and lately Lowfruits. What I noticed is that there's a significant difference in what these platforms consider low competition keywords. Did you have a similar experience?

    1. 1

      Yes, same experience.

      I guess it depends on the internal algorithm and how much data each tool has. Ahrefs I know heavily relies on backlink data in their rank/difficult algorithm. But Google's results have been changing, different users get different results for the same keyword, which probably messes with these tools to some extend.

      With that in mind, I still think it's a good sign to look into. Ahrefs seems the most accurate for me.

      1. 1

        Thanks for chiming in! This is why I come here. :)

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