Centori

SEO is a zero sum game. We'll help you win it.

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We help small brands build effective SEO strategies that help them get in front of their customers and ahead of their competition.

August 24, 2021 Running our 4-week SEO strategy program again!

After launching a group coaching program in June, we are already prepping for a 3rd cohort this fall!

In May I designed a group version of our one:one SEO strategy training where we take participants through our 4 principles for building an effective SEO strategy:

  1. Define your winning aspiration - what does it mean for you to win?
  2. Pick where to play - what types of customers and queries will you go after?
  3. Create content that wins
  4. Measure what matters

When I developed the curriculum I honestly had no idea we would get such a reaction.

I distinctly remember whiteboarding the ideas in early June and running a few customer interviews that week to see if anyone would pay for it. Three weeks later we were starting our first session.

The program has been such a hit in the first two rounds that we are gearing up for a third and final round this year before scaling things back for the holidays and prepping for a major push next year.

In the two months since launching the program I have gotten more feedback than I did in two years selling Centori as a SaaS platform. Not only has this been an exciting and fast-paced summer, it has convinced me that the pivot we made with Centori was the right call to make, and we are heading down the elusive path towards product-market fit.

You can learn more about the program below, we have 2 spots left so if you are interested reserve a spot now!

July 16, 2021 10 months after our pivot, how it’s going

10 months ago I wrote a post that we were finally ready take our pivot in Centori away from SaaS.

It’s been quite a while, what happened.

I can say with certainty that it is the best decision I’ve made yet.

Here’s why.

SaaS did not solve the problem

Focusing purely on SaaS was a drain.

Let’s wind the clock back a year. It’s summer of 2020, I’ve been at home for six month with nothing to do. Every day I got up at 5am, made a coffee, and got to work coding. When I wasn’t coding I was adjusting an ad, or a landing page for the hundredth time.

It was a bad summer.

I spent days redesigning interfaces and weekends building features that no one was using, and constantly feeling like I was playing catch up against some heavy hitters in our industry.

All the while, when people did sign up for our software they were stumped.

No amount of onboarding flows or how-to guides fixed the problem. People just did not know what to do with our software, or any software for that matter, and I was racking my brain in all the wrong ways to find ways to fix it.

I was so obsessed with the idea of building an easy to use SEO platform that I forgot about the problem. It’s not that people have trouble finding keywords or optimizing pages, it’s that they have no idea how to put all these pieces together.

Coaching actually solves the problem

SEO software is a wonderful thing, in the hands of a capable SEO.

But what if you aren’t a capable SEO, or can’t afford one? What do you do then?
You’ll likely sign up for a popular SEO SaaS app, get a big list of keywords, and write a blog post for each one. That’s what all the experts say, right?

Tools like Yoast, SemRush, and every new SEO SaaS platform after them all reinforce this behavior while their blogs encourage it as a best practice.

Maybe 20 years ago. But not now.

Here’s why: your competitor has access to the same tools and their staff of writers will write the same content. With every industry stuffed to the gills with competition there are dozens, hundreds, and maybe even thousands of companies all taking the exact same approach, creating the exact same content, and racing to the bottom.

You need a strategy to break this cycle and succeed.

Strategy is a coordinated set of decisions designed to win. It requires having a goal, an understanding of your best customers and a the ability to try something new to best your competition.

Strategy cannot (yet) be automated by software. It is a human problem that needs to be thought through and and solved creatively.

Over the past 10 months I’ve not only realized that coaching is a better solution to the real problem of SEO, it’s the only solution. Especially for people who are brand new to the world of SEO.

The road ahead

The past year has been a hard journey that has suddenly begun to look much brighter.

I’m encouraged by what the next year looks like. It looks like a lot less scrambling to find the magical feature to add to our platform and more working with people to build unique strategies that take their business to the next level.

In the past year we’ve finally made our pivot and it led to onboarding new clients, launching a group SEO strategy training program, expanding our team, and finding new growth channels to take us to the next level.

September 19, 2020 Finally ready to make that pivot

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TLDR: Standalone SEO software is still confusing for people newer to SEO, so we are shifting towards a blend of consulting, education, and our software to guide companies to build SEO strategies that work for them.
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Just over a year ago I wrote about Centori pivoting our business model and here we are never having taken that jump.

I think I'm ready now though. First, a bit of context.

In 2018 I founded a company called 'Blog Trackr'. I really loved writing, creating content, and building audiences so I wanted to help marketers and small business owners at scale.

I quickly found that there is much more to creating content than writing 800 words and clicking 'publish'. You need to create content that gets found. A little less than a year in I started diving into the wonderful world of SEO and never looked back.

I've used plenty of SEO tools - from simpler tools like Neil Patel's Ubersuggest to higher end tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMRush and the one constant I have found between them is they are all geared towards people who already know a thing or two about SEO.

The marketer just dipping their toes into SEO, or the founder who is already juggling too much, are consistently left out. They feel overwhelmed and intimidated, so they throw up their hands in defeat.

SEO is more than building a long list of keywords, or making sure every page has a title.

There is an element of strategy and nuance from business to business that gets lost in a one-size fits all approach from an app. This often results in users of the aforementioned tools getting stuck or not seeing any progress for their efforts.

I thought I learned that lesson last year, but I didn't.

I pursued a software-based solution and around $1000 in Google ads later I had 40 signups for a free trial and 0 customers to show for it. The software was a tad buggy at times, but the real killer for us was that people just were not getting value out of it, did not know how to use it, and dropped off after logging in a few times.

Ouch.

Rather than tweak my copy or redesign my onboarding for the hundredth time I took a step back to make sure I really understood the problem I was trying to solve.

Over a series of months this summer I interviewed as many people as possible across industries, business types, and levels of experience in marketing and SEO. I wanted to understand how they viewed SEO, what they struggled with, what they tried, and what they want out of it.

There is one phrase that everyone used, no matter their background or expertise.: 'what do I do next?' I've heard the same question in the feedback chats with people who used our own software and then it clicked for me.

When it comes to SEO, people are unsure of what the 'right thing' to do is, and are terrified of doing the 'wrong thing'. So they don't do anything. Or the hire an agency and have a bad experience.

That is why I am shifting Centori from a software-based solution to one that blends hands on SEO consulting with our own software at a small biz-friendly price point.

So what does this look like?

  1. We start with a consultation session to understand the business, their goals, and the gaps that need to be filled.

  2. We then build a personalized growth plan in order to reach those goals, and work with the client's team to educate and guide them to ensure they stay on the right track.

  3. All the while we power our SEO services, and the client's marketing team, with our intuitive SEO software in order to help them find keywords to target, monitor their rank, watch their traffic grow, and more.

As each business is unique pricing will vary based on the needs and goals of the client.

That said, I want to provide a fixed-cost pricing option for small businesses so we are considering a basic package that includes:

-An SEO growth plan
-Full access to our software
-Email/chat support
-One consulting session per month
-A personalized report each month

Pricing is still TBD.

I can't wait to see where this new road takes us, and I'm ready to finally make the jump and commit to this pivot. People don't just need a simple tool to help them with SEO, they need expertise and guidance at an affordable rate to show them how to grow and give them the gentle push they need.

June 11, 2020 I think people want to learn SEO

I've been working on Centori for about two years now, and it's been a slow-ish going.

The SEO software space is extremely crowded. Top of the line tools like Moz, SEMRush, and Ahrefs dominate the space and have a ton of data to power their systems making them extremely competitive. Meanwhile lower-priced SEO tools are a dime a dozen. It feels like there are new ones popping up every day to flood the space.

What makes Centori different/better than any other tool?

That's a scary question to be asked as a founder. It's basically asking you why bother. For any idea there are dozens like it that claim similar benefits and are geared towards the same target market. Why should anyone buy your product when there are x, y, and z tools that do the same thing?

Yes Centori covers more ground than other lower-priced SEO tools that hyper-specialize in one aspect of SEO, but we're also much less advanced than tools upmarket from us that do the same. I've always claimed that 'Centori is for businesses just learning SEO' however the best UX in the world can't help you make key strategic decisions on what content to create. Even though we are in a crowded market of 'simple to use SEO tools' they all have a degree of cognitive overload for people who are very new to SEO.

I had an idea though: combine a tool that does just enough to enable someone to SEO with quality education that shows them how. Suddenly we've got something that looks very different than our competition.

I recently posed a question to IndieHackers 'Do you want to learn SEO?' and 24 hours later I had hundreds of hits to the website, several conversions to our blog and mailing lists, and dozens of comments showing me that yes, people do want to learn SEO.

So here's a slight pivot: the Centori platform is in decent shape as far as providing SEO functionality goes; now we're going to double-down on educational content and resources in-app to guide new users through the platform and show them how to do SEO effectively.

We have a ton of content already on our blog that can be repurposed into helpful articles and guides in app which I'm beginning to import over. Next will be a series of video courses made of 1-2 minute videos breaking down SEO concepts. It's a slight adjustment in focus, but one giant step towards being a platform that truly anyone can sign up for and be empowered to do SEO for their website.

February 17, 2020 Kicking off 2020 with new tools and tiers

It's been a while since our last post, but that's just because so much has happened in the past few months!

Here's a quick recap.

We've grown. We ran a survey on IndieHackers a short while back asking questions about how people viewed SEO and the challenges they faced offering a quick report in exchange for the feedback. It gave us the opportunity to log feedback at scale as to how folks view SEO and the challenges they commonly face with it.

We learned a lot about the barriers folks commonly run into with content marketing and SEO, which allowed us to double down on exploring solutions. We also dove deep into our competitors, creating accounts for each of them (as long as there was a free trial) to understand what gave them their mojo and what gaps we could fill.

Overall I've found that good SEO software is often far too technical for the average user and requires an SEO pro, and the lower-cost/entry level SEO software just isn't as powerful of an offering. We aim to balance power and ease of use, giving users something that actually helps boost their rank while not giving them a migraine in the process.

And here we are.

We've grown to a few more customers, have taken on regular client work, and now are expanding to three paid tiers alongside a free plan. Our paid tiers will offer higher-level tooling such as advanced competitor reporting, social reporting, and partitioning an account by multiple websites. This is a big one as we've found a whole new market in agencies who want to onboard their clients and scale their SEO offerings. So we've taken Centori upstream to solve for them and open the door to an entirely new customer segment.

We're super excited to launch Centori Pro and Enterprise, but more importantly we're excited to be building a platform that allows teams to grow and scale with us!

August 22, 2019 Nothing like a good old fashioned pivot

I've been running Centori for about a year and a half now (about a year of that has been developing/beta testing) with the mission of making seo and content marketing accessible.

I remember my dad would tell me that what I knew about marketing is far more valuable than the platform I created. That I should focus on productizing my services rather than building a saas product to which I replied "Yes, but my vision is that anyone using this platform could be as good as me" and it hit me.

In creating a startup you make assumptions, the goal of the startup is to find which are correct and which are not so you can put yourself into the best position possible.

Centori hinged on two big assumptions: that businesses care about content marketing/know it is important and that they want a software solution.

The problem is, that there is a sliding scale with the folks who need our services when it comes to how familiar they are with marketing, and how comfortable they are with using technology.

-There's the business owner who wants to start a blog but doesn't know how.

-Or the manager of a small marketing team who needs help scaling.

-And the startup who wants to learn SEO and wants a product to handle it.

All three would benefit from an SEO platform.... but in very different ways. Which is where our pivot comes into play.

If you asked IBM 10 years ago what kind of business they are in they won't say they're in computers, or software - it's consulting. They offer touchless solutions, but they also use their software and hardware to enable businesses to grow. That's the direction I see Centori going in, shifting towards onboarding teams onto our platform, running their marketing operations with us, learning along the way until they no longer need our direct involvement and can work solely of our platform.

And continuing to market and sell the platform as a standalone product for teams that know what they're doing, don't need someone teaching them, and have a smaller budget.

As it stands we have two paid app accounts, and brought on two consulting clients and hope to keep moving in the 'up and to the right' direction!

July 3, 2019 Lessons learned: losing a customer

This journey is not always going to be about success stories, we learn more from failure than we do success anyway.

From running Centori we learn more from the features that don't get used, the users who stop logging in, and the customers who churn - but only if we ask and really listen.

We've seen some great growth lately, 32 organizations have signed up with 46 users across them, 4 of them upgraded to paid trials and one of those trials converted... only for the customer to churn.

Why?

If we want to truly grow as a platform, we need to be a platform that is worth using.

-For one, we need to really dive into our UX and ensure that every experience for a user is a positive one. Good design does more than look pretty, it's memorable and it makes the user think 'wow, this is pleasant' and that's what keeps them logging in.

-We need to add value. We need to be a platform that doesn't make people think, rather we need to be one that thinks for them and makes them feel smart for viewing what's in front of them.

-We need to guide people towards successful outcomes, not features. Our onboarding before was quite self-serving. Give us this info and that info, good now you're set up for your account. Instead we need to drive people towards actions that make them successful on the platform, and for their business.

Next steps: We've taken a critical look at our ux, as well as our onboarding process and are implementing app tours/guides for new users.

We're also going to set up an email strategy based on actions taken in the app. If you've run out of tasks we'll tell you, if your site is performing well, we'll tell you. Anything we can do to encourage you to be successful (rather than just a 'hey use our app please'). I'm excited by the changes coming, and grateful for the lessons learned.

We lost a customer, but hopefully with their feedback we'll retain many more in the future.

May 12, 2019 2x our customer base - lessons learned

Going into 2019 we had one customer, we then doubled that to 2 by April, and now we're sitting at 4.

In the constant quest to achieve a point of product-market fit it's exciting to see the balance start to shift and for us to be in a position where we are acquiring upgraded users in addition to free users.

So what worked?

-We refined our messaging on our site as well as our sales pitch. Centori is a web app that aims to make ranking on Google a lot simpler. That's a much tighter pitch than we've adopted before.

-We focused on what people needed as opposed to what we thought they wanted. Good SEO means being a domain authority on a core topic to your business, we designed our product in a way that started to make that easier

-We stretched out the trial, the jump from 30 days to 90 days made it much more feasible for a business to sign up, get started, and begin an onboarding process that gave them results.

What's next?

We need more users, we're doubling down on our marketing efforts creating a slew of landing pages, pillar pages to boost SEO, and will begin exploring Google ads and Facebook ads. Now that we have some more revenue we can start expanding our operations a bit.

We're refining the product constantly, we brought on 2 engineers and a project manager to oversee development of our new features, as well as continue to stabilize the platform.

It's crazy and humbling to think we joined Indie Hackers just 6 months ago and here we are. When I signed up I was getting feedback on our landing pages to advertise a simple MVP that I built with another engineer. Now we're sitting at 4 customers and continuing to grow and expand!

April 1, 2019 We've got our second customer!

When you're a startup every single customer counts.

Last August we were sitting at 5 users with fairly low usage, now we've grown to 32 users across 24 organizations and have secured our second paying customer.

It has been a truly wild ride. We've rebranded from Blog Trackr to Centori with a focus on making SEO and content strategy accessible and scalable for small teams, now with our second customer we're starting to get some momentum and our legs under us.

A few other changes include a new pricing structure: Free $0/month, Starter $25/month, and Pro TBD along with a 90-day free trial as opposed to 30 days. The reasoning being that SEO takes time, so allowing users to experience the full benefit of our platform and grow with it before upgrading will (hopefully) lead to a better free -> paid conversion rate.

Our goal continues to be to market and acquire new users, though our big focus will be on further refining our featureset and examining what blockers there are in going from the free version of Centori to the paid.

We'll continue our customer/user chats to examine this in detail and provide updates along the way!

March 7, 2019 What's in a name: new direction for our company

I remember when I first came up with the concept for Blog Trackr.

I was walking to the grocery store when I thought to myself: man, blogging has got to be easier. Over the years, as I delved more and more into this problem I realized it was far bigger – content marketing has got to be easier.

It’s 2019 and the web is crowded. That’s a fact.

It’s never been easier to start a business, but growing one is harder than ever.

That’s where Blog Trackr came to be, though I’ve realized that we’ve outgrown our original mission. It’s not just to help bloggers, it’s to help businesses that are new to content marketing get a head start. It’s to make things like SEO, social media, and content marketing accessible to everyone.

Our goal is to help new businesses jumpstart their SEO in a matter of button clicks, it’s so smaller teams can map out a content strategy without the need for an agency, and it’s so you can schedule a week’s worth of social content with minimal effort. Growing a business is hard and I believe that you should spend your time on just that – growing your business, not agonizing over marketing it.

With this new mission comes a new name.

A name that encompasses everything we as a company aim for and one that does not limit us just to blogging.

I am happy to share that we will be flying under the name Centori.

Centori, named for the star system Alpha Centauri, has a fun etymology that fits our mission well:

On one hand, each piece of content you create should connect to a broader theme forming a ‘constellation’ to stand out from the rest, if you will.

Secondly, Alpha Centauri is a part of the constellation Centaurus which many attribute to be Chiron the Centaur who in Greek mythology was famous for training famous heroes such as Hercules.

I like that. Our mission is to take ordinary folks and turn them into marketing heroes. The world is growing crowded for small businesses but that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. It means it’s time for things like SEO and content strategy to be made available for everyone, even those just starting out.

We’re going to begin the rebranding process – we’ll be moving our site and app to the new domain, updating our logos and branding materials, as well as switching over our existing social accounts to the new name.

Stay tuned for more updates down the road!

If you’ve been with us the past year, thank you for sticking around. If you’re just joining, you have pretty good timing so thanks for coming by to join the ride.

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We help small brands build effective SEO strategies that help them get in front of their customers and ahead of their competition.