AMAs August 2, 2019

We're the Ahrefs marketing team. Ask Us Anything!

Sam Oh @samoh

Hi, we're the Ahrefs marketing team. We've built one of the most popular SEO blogs and YouTube channels in our industry (with a tiny team). Ask us anything about SEO and how marketing works at Ahrefs.

We'll be here at 4pm Eastern Time on Wednesday 7th of August to answer all your questions. #ama

  1. 18

    I found Ahref little bit pricier and not a suitable for new startups like me. But we love how much data it can offer us.

    Is there any possibility Ahref can help the startup communities with a wide range of plans from current ones?

    1. 12

      I feel the same way. A pricing tier made for startups would be huge.

      1. 6

        Totally agree with this, after using other tools like Moz, Semrush, etc, there is nothing like Ahrefs, but for an early-stage startup paying $100 a month is like paying the 20% of your MRR, really expensive. The only solution is starting a $7 trial every month :(

    2. 4

      I'm a small blogger, I feel the same when come to seo tools.

    3. 1

      Please offer a startup plan.

    4. 1

      we don't have plans to introduce any cheaper subscription tiers, sorry

      1. 6

        Well, then its a great opportunity for low cost SEO tools or affordable tools to grow faster. :)

    5. 1
  2. 9

    Hello

    1. I'm using ahrefs almost every day, I advise my clients to buy an account, but price is going up, up. The tool is amazing, and it's for the correct pricing, but in my case, I'm using only maybe 10%-15% of the features. but you can maybe do a "light account", with only keyword search & backlinks
    2. your blog is, for me, the BEST seo/marketing blog to get quality infos and tutorials. thank you for that !
    1. 2

      I'll let Tim answer your first question. I just wanted to say that it's fantastic to hear such praise for the blog. Is there anything you feel we could do even better? Perhaps there's a topic you feel we're lacking?

    2. 1

      We haven't raised prices in quite a while (in ~3 years I believe?), so I'm not sure why you're saying that the prices are going up.

      As for the second part of the question - I'm afraid we don't have plans to create any cheaper accounts as of today, sorry.

  3. 2

    What are some things that you can't tell us?

    1. 2

      Nice try. :)

    2. 1

      Generally speaking, we don’t really talk about our search engine (other than here: https://twitter.com/botsbreeder/status/1110889488706760704) or revenue.

  4. 2

    Why is it so expensive?

    1. 2

      because it is so useful :)

  5. 2

    How do you decide what content to write about? Is it mostly through keyword research?

    1. 2

      Keyword research—absolutely! It's important that there's "search demand" behind the topic we're writing about. In other words, if nobody is searching for it, there's not usually a lot of point in us writing about it.

      There are exceptions to that rule, of course. Sometimes there are topics that, while somewhat unrelated to Ahrefs in general, still deserve talking about. These are usually trending topics in the industry (e.g., TF-IDF).

      Another part of the equation is tackling topics where Ahrefs' tools are genuinely helpful for solving the task at hand. You'll notice that we feature our tools a fair bit throughout our posts and, hopefully, this doesn't feel forced. The trick to this is topic section. If we're talking about link building and keyword research, then showcasing ways Ahrefs can help to solve such issues throughout the post makes total sense. But if we started talking about "how to make a gif," that wouldn't make much sense because there's no way Ahrefs can help with that task—nor is it likely to attract our target audience.

      TLDR; Keyword research is crucial, as is writing only about topics that are likely to attract our target audience.

  6. 2

    I’ve already heard a lot of Tim’s interviews, so my questions won’t be about SEO 😀

    1. Is your paid trial strategy paying off?

    2. I would be curious to know more about if and how you use Facebook Ads: strategy, results, etc.

    1. 1

      RE: paid trial strategy

      I can't say if it's "paying off" or not, because you can't split the universe into two versions where your trial is free and where it is paid and observe it for a couple years.

      But we like how things are and don't plan to go back to a free trial. So I guess it's "paying off" well :)

    2. 1

      That first question is more Tim's department, but I'll answer the second.

      Our use of Facebook ads is very simple and straightforward. There's not a whole lot of strategy behind it because we generally shy away from things like retargeting for privacy reasons. In fact, we're currently in the process of stopping all retargeting with our Facebook ads. gasp

      So, we mainly use them to spread the word about our new blog posts. Conversions aren't really our focus here. We spend a huge amount of time and effort creating every blog post so we simply want as many interested people to read and learn from them as possible. Mostly we target people who are interested in SEO, then sometimes target lookalike audiences if the ad performs well initially.

      Apologies for the disappointingly simple answer. :)

  7. 1

    Hi Samoh,
    I am new to IH. But I have an idea for a product concept that I feel pretty good about. I want to do a market research for this concept. I don't know what questions to ask my target market? I did some search and came up with stuff like - Would you use this product if it were there? What do you think/ feel about the concept? I just don't know if those are the right or exhaustive list of questions. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.

  8. 1

    Do you plan on coming to Australia at all? Any events? Conferences? Meetups?
    So many SEOs here and would love to meetup with them + other aHrefs customers/users.

    1. 2

      We were actually in Australia twice this year!

      We sponsored Digital Marketers Australia in Melbourne (https://www.digitalmarketersaustralia.com/) and Search Marketing Summit Sydney (https://www.searchmarketingsummit.com.au/)

      I think we'll be back again next year :)

  9. 1

    You guys have created an awesome blog, together with Moz it is really the go-to place for industry knowledge. I heard Tim tell about how he started it years ago, and how he managed to join the ranks of the best SEO blogs around. Great job.

    One question about that: is there anything that you would have done differently if you could start it all over?

    1. 1

      Absolutely!

      I would go after the most competitive keywords much earlier. And keep rewriting and repromoting those articles until we outrank everyone.

      I would also not waste time with guest articles and just focus on building a solid in-house content machine (read: hire Josh & Sam earlier).

      1. 1

        Great stuff, thanks Tim!

  10. 1

    How do you scrape Google at scale? Do you run your own proxy network and/or commercial proxies?

    1. 1

      we buy this data from multiple partners ;)

  11. 1
    1. Where did you find skilled OCaml developers?
    2. Can you give an overview of your crawler and database architecture? What design/other systems is it inspired by? What are your thoughts on Google Cloud Spanner? What would you change if you had to re-design from scratch today?
    3. What are your hard infrastucture costs?
    4. We'd love to be able to search for keywords arbitrarily, not by domain or topic, as in pick a geo, get keywords by volume or CPC or whatever. Are there any plans to offer this?
    5. Do you rely on Common Crawl at all or is the data all from your own crawl?
    6. You tweeted https://twitter.com/botsbreeder/status/1110889488706760704 that you're planning to build a general search engine. How is that going?
    7. What are the hardest problems when trying to crawl the whole internet?
    8. What counts against the Site Explorer rows per month quota?
    1. 1
      1. It's a big challenge to find skilled OCaml developers. Most of the ones we have are "friends of friends."
      2. It's not a marketing question, and this is AMA of our marketing team :)
      3. I don't have the exact number, but afaik the total costs of our infrastructure + data partners are in millions per month.
      4. Do an empty search in Keywords Explorer.
      5. No, we don't rely on CC and our crawl data is 100% ours.
      6. Slowly :)
      7. I guess that would be a question to our devs, not marketers.
      8. Uh-oh.. tried searching in our Help for the answer and didn't find it. Will fix that and post the URL here.
  12. 1

    What are your suggestions on reaching the marketing crowd? Looking at creating a new service for marketers.

    1. 2

      Sam has made some great points here already so I don't have much to add.

      Personally, I think consistency is the most important thing he mentioned. It's easy to publish one epic blog post or video every couple of years; it's less easy to publish solid content, consistently, week after week. Yet, ultimately, that's what it takes to make an impact—no matter who you're trying to reach.

      I know that probably seems obvious but it wasn't to me three years ago. I felt like if I just published one amazing post, then I'd be on everyone's radar forever. Then I realised it doesn't really work like that. Consistency is key.

    2. 2

      Honesty, transparency, content marketing that stands out above what's already out there (aka. not rehashing). People love results/case-studies and learning about actionable things you did to achieve those results.

      A lot of the content we create is from experience, which I feel helps us stand out to a certain extent.

      Another thing I've seen work well is to hit hard rather than gradually drip out. For example, if you're doing a guest posting campaign, and you plan/hope to reach people through top industry mediums, try and publish all on the same day/week/month or close together.

      For example, I started seeing comments in various places of “Ahrefs being everywhere” ~June-Aug last year. Josh who runs the blog would post some great stuff. I would also publish videos on YouTube. Then we had a couple people doing Quora posts regularly and others doing guest posts. For people who were in "research mode," they would often come across our content regardless of where they were searching.

      But over the years, we (Ahrefs) have seen our efforts compound. With consistency on both the quality/quantity side of our content marketing efforts (and obviously an awesome tool to back it), we were able to reach marketers and earn the trust of many people who had never heard of us.

      So I think the bottomline is that if you want to reach marketers, you have to:
      a) be credible and/or create interesting/actionable/unique content for someone to listen (super noisy space).
      b) be consistent in both quantity/quality (can be content, outreach, relationships, conferences, whatever you decide to push).
      c) do things with honesty and integrity.

    3. 1

      be worthy of listening to and you won't have a problem reaching the marketing crowd ;)

  13. 1

    I'm new to SEO and the main thing I'm struggling with is understanding what I'll actually have to do to get in the first 3 links on Google. I understand it's an imperfect science unless you actually work on the Google search team, but the keyword/search difficulty seems fairly opaque to me. E.g. I have a keyword I want to target with a search difficulty of 5/100, but I don't really have much insight into what I need to do.

    Sorry if this is a noob question (I'm using Ubersuggest btw, but might look at Ahrefs since the reputation seems pretty good).

    1. 2

      Ranking in the top 3 is no easy feat especially if you’re relatively new to SEO. To your example (keyword difficulty):

      I wouldn’t fully rely on any tool’s keyword difficulty scores. There’s no way that any tool (ours included) can accurately reflect how hard it is to rank in Google with so many so-called "ranking factors."

      Instead, I think keyword difficulty scores can give you a good idea of potentially low-competition topics when analyzing large data sets.

      If I were to simplify ranking in the top 3 results, I’d say:

      1. Focus on matching search intent. This basically means the reason behind the searcher’s query. I talk about it a lot in my videos and Josh has actually written a guide on it here (https://ahrefs.com/blog/search-intent/).

      2. Focus on building quality links to your pages. Unfortunately, there isn’t an X step process for this as it can be situational depending on the page you're trying to build links to. I recommend watching some of these video tutorials, which cover executing various link building strategies. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqmTWHunB0I&list=PLvJ_dXFSpd2tjUTuAHpHidz5e2hAedP_m)

      1. 1

        Just to add to what Sam already said, our Keyword Difficulty score is based on a weighted average of the referring domains (unique websites) linking to the current top-ranking pages for your target keyword.

        (Note that keyword difficulty scores in other tools may not work the same way.)

        Therefore, the lower the KD score, the fewer backlinks you're likely to need to rank in the top 10. Ranking in the top 3 may be more difficult, which is one of the reasons it's best not to rely entirely on any keyword difficulty score from any tool—including ours.

        1. 2

          How far is Google in being able to judge the relevance and quality of the content without relying on external signals, like backlinks?

          1. 1

            Given the fact that backlinks still correlate strongly with rankings and traffic, I would guess not far enough. :)

      2. 1

        Really helpful, thanks.

  14. 1

    I am organizing a giveaway for marketers. Can I have a yearly subscription of ahrefs to give away?

    1. 1

      As far as I know, we’ve stopped doing giveaways.

  15. 1

    My business is doing about $7k MRR in offering companies SEO services. ahrefs is an important part of my business and worth every penny - (but please don't raise your prices ;-)

    This may be a bit outside the wheelhouse of ahrefs, but I'm looking to outsource more elements of my SEO project management. Preferably, to some type of VA. Do you have any success stories on how to maintain quality standards while outsourcing a bigger share of SEO project management? I haven't found any companies that look promising in finding a solution to that problem. But there's lot's of room for growth on that front but still only 24hrs in a day.

    1. 1

      I agree with the point Sam already made: VAs probably aren't your best bet when it comes to project management. I would recommend a VA more for simpler tasks that don't require a huge amount of SEO know-how. For such tasks, I would create detailed SOPs and hire a VA with no SEO experience. If that sounds crazy, then I would say to break your tasks down further and improve your SOPs. :)

    2. 1

      Congrats! Sounds like you’re doing well :)

      I used to run an agency that started with just me and a partner, so I get what it’s like to start hiring help (exciting and kind of terrifying). But take these things with a grain of salt because what worked for me may not work for you.

      Generally speaking, I wouldn’t assign a VA to be a project manager for SEO clients. VAs that I’ve hired in the past have been more “generalists.” So they'd be usually be in charge of a specific / smaller tasks (ie. minor edits in photoshop, ppt, etc.)

      Since most clients’ projects are very case-by-case, my partner and I didn’t feel comfortable having a VA be the point of contact for our clients.

      The way I did it in my previous agency was to have an SEO lead for each client. The lead had both a budget/team they would use to help execute / plan / report for clients. But the lead themselves would do the presentation.

      Doing it this way ensured that “quality standards” were met because it was the Lead’s responsibility to ensure their team was executing according to our internal standards.

      Another thing that helped tremendously for “quality control” was having SOPs for virtually everything we did. So when we lost a contractor / employee, it was rare that it would actually hurt our day-to-day business.

      If you don’t have SOPs yet, I highly recommend creating them. This will give you both a macro and micro view of things that need to be done in your company. It should also give you a solid view on which tasks you can/should outsource immediately and those that may require a bit more planning.

      Hire slow, keep the good ones and allow room for them to grow in the company/take on more responsibilities.

  16. 1

    Hi Sam! How did you folks think about how to differentiate the blog in a super crowded SEO content world?

    1. 4

      Great question! :)

      I have to be honest, I'm not the one who started the blog originally. That was Tim. But given that it's largely my responsibility these days, here's what I think separates the Ahrefs Blog from the others in our industry:

      Accessible style/tone/format - Nothing is worse than reading blog posts that make you feel dumb. I remember reading a lot of Moz posts back in the day and while they were truly useful and taught me a lot of what I know about SEO today, I recall feeling overwhelmed by many of them. I would often come away thinking "Damn, I know NOTHING about SEO compared to these guys" rather than "Wow. Those were cool ideas that I never thought about before. I'm going to try them for myself!"

      Looking back, I think that was because of two main things:

      1. Lots and lots of different authors, which led to a lack of consistency in writing style.
      2. Not much effort made to make the posts accessible—especially with the more technical subjects.

      I think this is part of the reason why blogs like Backlinko got so popular. Brian made an effort to explain things for the average reader—not technical SEO wizards and geeks.

      So, long story short, we try to do the same on the Ahrefs blog, but perhaps with a little bit less hype. :) I want people to come away from our posts excited to try the things we're teaching... not feeling overwhelmed and dumb.

      Data - We've published a lot of studies over the years and continue to do so. We're in the fortunate position where we have a lot of data at our disposal that's interesting to marketers. (I know other SEO blogs do this from time to time, but usually, they have to partner with us or another tool to do so).

      Consistency - This is perhaps the most important one. I don't know of any other blog publishing the caliber of content that we publish as consistently as we do. Now that I've written that sentence it sounds super big-headed—but I also feel that it's true. We publish 1-2 blog posts a week right now, and we go to town on them all.

      SEO-focused approach - This is another thing that, surprisingly, I don't see many other blogs in the space doing. Every post that we publish (or nearly every post) targets a specific keyword/topic that we KNOW has traffic potential. In other words, we know that if we can create an exceptional piece of content and rank for keywords related to the topic, it's going to bring us organic traffic, consistently, month after month. This is how we grew the blog from ~30,000 to ~250,000 monthly organic visits in the past two years. Of course, we don't always crack topics on our first attempt but if that happens, we simply rewrite the post and try again.

      Freshness - This follows on from the previous point, actually. A lot of the content you read on other SEO blogs hasn't been updated for 3, 5, sometimes even 10 years. Given the fast-moving nature of SEO, this content is often largely pointless in 2019. This is another reason we focus on refreshing and update content regularly. Right now, well over 50% of the organic traffic we get goes to posts published, republished or updated within the last 12 months.

      No annoying nonsense - No "content upgrades", exit popups, or other interruptions. All focus is on the content which is why we tackle only topics where Ahrefs' tools are genuinely helpful for solving the problem at hand. That way, we can teach and demonstrate how our product can help throughout the content itself. The result of that is there's less need for us to force an email address out of you so we can pester you with complex funnels and sales pitches.

      Passion/care - I saved this one 'til last because it felt like a bit of a flimsy point to make, but I'm going to make it anyway. I see the blog as my baby. I care about every post we publish and it pains me should one fail to hit the mark as they sometimes do.

      TDLR; we just try to make it good. :)

      1. 3

        plus Ahrefs brand :)

        People who love and respect Ahrefs tools and data automatically put faith in our blog. This helped us tremendously.

        But at the end of the day, if your blog won't live up to the high expectations set by your company brand - it will actually backfire at you and hurt your brand.

  17. 1

    Love the tool, been using for years...

    1. How did you decide on the unusually short 7-day trial?
    2. How come you don't offer a free tier alternative to compare to Moz's Site Explorer with a limit on lookups? Wouldn't that drive conversions?
    1. 1

      I think that 7 days is a very long trial actually :)

      There's a good chance that we'll trim it down to 3 days going forward.

      I mean, why do you need an entire week to understand that Ahrefs is worth paying for while you can watch just one of Sam's 15-minute videos, learn some valuable SEO strategy, open Ahrefs and take action on it in just 2-5 hours and then see results.

    2. 1

      I'll let Tim answer that first question as that's not my jurisdiction.

      How come you don't offer a free tier alternative to compare to Moz's Site Explorer with a limit on lookups? Wouldn't that drive conversions?

      We have a free backlink checker. https://ahrefs.com/backlink-checker

      With that, you can see the top 100 backlinks to as many domains and URLs as you like. We also show the top 5 pages, top 5 anchors, and the total number of referring domains and backlinks.

  18. 1

    What plans does Ahrefs for the future?

    I hear (not sure if true) that Ahrefs has the second most crawlers in the world, only second to Google. Any plans on expanding past a paid tool?

    1. 1

      Correct. We have the second most active crawler only after Google, which was done by a third party (https://www.incapsula.com/blog/most-active-good-bots.html).

      What plans does Ahrefs for the future?
      In addition to continually improve our toolset, our CEO tweeted that Ahrefs will be creating a search engine. If you’re interested in learning more, this thread explains it better than I ever could (https://twitter.com/botsbreeder/status/1110889488706760704)

  19. 1

    I have seen some big eCommerce sites use a JS mega menu. Only their top menu links are visible to Googlebot. The other links on the mega menu are made available to just the Googlebot? Is that a proper way to implement this if devs have coded this way for performance reasons.

    1. 1

      Could you point me to a site doing that? I have to admit I've never really looked into that. Having said that, Google has devoted a lot of resources to crawling Javascript over recent years so I would imagine even the JS links are visible to Googlebot these days.

      Short video where they talk a bit about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXF8bM4g-J4

  20. 1

    Is it pronounced A-H-Refs or Ahhhhh-Refs? Super pressing question - the people need to know, Sam!

    1. 3

      Ha! Our founder and CEO calls it “H-Refs,” so we’ve all naturally started calling it that. Last year, we asked some of our customers to record a video of how they say it and you’ll notice it varies quite a bit depending on the part of the world you’re from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35NdGdYaFBs

    2. 2

      I think I say either A-H-Refs or H-Refs.

      Either works. Just watch out for those who call it Ahhh-Refs. They can't be trusted. ;)

    3. 1

      I think it's "H-Refs"? Literally, the letter "H" followed by "refs".

  21. 1

    Singapore SaaS founder here. At $40m ARR, I think Ahrefs could very well be the most underrated yet successful tech startup in Singapore. I would like to ask:

    • Why did Dmitry start Ahrefs in Singapore? Low tax and good place to startup?
    • As a technical founder, what did Dmitry do to get initial tractions? Did he do everything by himself? Blog posts? Freemiums?
    • How was the initial growth like? First year $10k? Second year $100k?
    • No salesperson right?

    Personally, I love every bit of how Ahrefs was created as a startup. No external funding, long term growth and profitable since day one.

    -- Ryan from OnVoard

    1. 1
      1. afaik Dmitry have chosen Singapore because of: the ease of running a business, low taxes, amazing city, great food, safety, convenient airport, etc :)
      2. Early on Dmitry focused solely on making the technical side of the product better than anything else on the market. He only added marketing and UI/UX to the mix when the company had 5k+ customers. So basically early on the product got traction in the community almost by itself. They reached out a bunch of influencers to give free access and the snowball started rolling.
      3. I can't pull you the exact numbers, but does it even matter? Each company will have it's own growth curve.
      4. Nope, no sales people to this date.
  22. 1

    Also curious to find out any info about the performance of the paid trial and how that's working for you, especially since it seems to automatically put you on to a fully paid plan after that. What's the conversion rate and churn like?

    1. 1

      As far as I know, there hasn't been any (or much) of a difference in lead -> customer conversions from having a $7 for 7-days trial vs. a free one.

      especially since it seems to automatically put you on to a fully paid plan after that
      From my experience SaaS accounts I've signed up for that required a credit card at sign-up always automatically charge after the trial. If you cancel before then, you don't/shouldn't get charged.

      What's the conversion rate and churn like?
      Believe it or not, we don't track these numbers in great depth. Afaik, our main KPI is revenue/profit :)

    2. 1

      Yep, would like to know what's the visitor to trial conversion rate :)

      1. 1

        we don't care about it :)

        I recently asked our devs to plot a graph with how many people in the last 7 days have paid for the first month of Ahrefs after a trial. And the objective of our marketing & support teams (among everything else) would be to make sure that this number of "new customers" is growing over time

        for me this kind of number makes more sense than the conversion rate.. because I can improve something on our homepage and see that the number of "weekly customers" have increased in my dashboard.. I don't necessarily need to know the conversion rate though

        hope it makes sense

  23. 1

    What would be the first thing you'd do to rank https://fbacatalog.com organically better?

    1. 1

      Seeing as your site is still relatively new, I’d focus on getting some traction (traffic) to pages that are ranking.

      Based on your organic keyword rankings, seems like your /product/slug/ pages are ranking (mostly page 2). Looked at a few of the pages and I’d personally add more content to these (ie. what features does it have? Pros/cons? Generate UGC via. reviews?)

      I’d also take a look at competing/similar sites like G2 as well as the top ranking pages for your target keyword.

      I know you only asked for "the first," but I feel like I'd be doing you a disservice by not saying to build links to these pages.

      It doesn’t seem like you need that many to rank for the couple that I checked.

      Another thing I'd do for links is to try and get some to your homepage. Two strategies:

      1. I recommend signing up for something like HARO (Help a Reporter Out). From my experience, pretty easy to get authoritative links which will almost always point to your homepage as an “expert source.”

      2. If you're an Ahrefs user, use the Link Intersect tool. Basically, the tool will tell you who links to your competitors, but not you.

      Finally, I'd dig a bit deeper into content marketing and blogging with SEO in mind. This should help you reach larger audiences. Examples:

      • create an amazon fba calculator (27K monthly searches in the US)
      • a blog post on "what is amazon fba"(6.8K monthly searches in the US)

      Once you're ranking, you should be able to get more consistent traffic from search.

      Won’t go any deeper as I think the first two things should keep you pretty busy to start.

  24. 1

    This comment was deleted 7 months ago.

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    This comment was deleted a month ago.

    1. 2

      No. :)

      I would suspect that if you did a correlation study, you'd find the opposite answer. But that's why we constantly push the message that correlation ≠ causation. There are a lot of factors at play here. For example, most sites on CCtlds are trying to attract traffic from a specific country whereas .com's are often targeting the people around the globe.

    2. 2

      Generally speaking, I wouldn’t say so. Two things to consider:

      1. The .in TLD is the country code top-level domain for India, just as .ca is for Canada and .co.uk is for the United Kingdom.

      Personally, I’d go for a .com when possible. But it might be because I’m old fashioned :)

      1. I’ve seen plenty of .me domains rank well even though the TLD is for Montenegro. .co TLDs were also assigned to Columbia, but do just fine.
      1. 1

        This comment was deleted a month ago.

    3. 2

      Top level domains like .com will always rank higher than lower level ones.

      1. 1

        it depends...