On today’s “Friends Friday,” we’re joined by Tim Soulo, the head of marketing at Ahrefs. With almost a decade of practical SEO and digital marketing experience under his belt, Tim’s the perfect guy to give us a masterclass in SaaS SEO.
Under Tim, The Ahrefs Blog has seen hockey stick growth. In our conversation, he lays out his approach to SEO for the blog and points out the biggest rookie SEO mistakes for SaaS businesses. Plus, he gives us the inside scoop on one of Ahrefs’ most powerful (but often overlooked) tools.
An edited version of our conversation appears below.
I wanted to start off with something I read on BloggerJet: Don’t write about marketing strategies you’ve heard about from someone, only write about things that you have personally tried. How much is that idea reflected in how you think about SEO?
I think the actual question is the answer, because it’s the right thing to do. What’s the value of reading what someone else has done and writing about it? When I joined Ahrefs and took over the blog, I didn’t feel that I was in a position where I would be the best person to create information and present it in a way to make people care about it. So we figured it would be easier for me to just try everything and write about my own experience. Because as soon as you try something and write about your personal experience, your article immediately becomes unique.
How do you decide where to start or what to prioritize when it comes to SEO?
I’d say my approach to SEO is not very technical. At our level, I believe it’s not just about how many times you put your keywords in the title or if you optimize your pages to be super fast. At our level, too many factors are in place. For example, branding. There are tons of SEOs with their personal blogs, and anyone can publish an article about link building. But when people decide what article about link building they want to link to, they would think of brands. They will think of authorities.
So, SEO is not really dependent on any specific factors. It’s broader than that. We think about audiences. We think about brands. We think about our authority. I feel that almost everything our company is doing is SEO, because almost everything can be turned into a link or reference. Almost anything can be checked for search traffic potential. And we could potentially rank in Google for that thing and milk search traffic and turn it into customers.
There are some people who are analytics hounds. They want to know the data and the conversion rates, and they’re thinking about things like reducing the bounce rate. But you don’t do any of that.
Yes and no, but mostly no. For example, we don’t try to collect people’s emails on our blog. Our blog is fully SEO-driven. We want to rank for anything related to SEO. Then, if you search in Google for any problem that you have with SEO and you land on our article, you’re basically about to read a sales pitch for our product. Why would I want to interrupt your experience with a pop-up? Our job is not to convert people into our lists and “nurture” them. We’ll put out a lot of content that educates people how to solve their issues with SEO, and we’ll wait for people to discover us in Google. We’ll wait for people to sign up organically without us having to persuade them. I don’t need the analytics to know that it works.
People are super unlikely to sign up from their first visit to Ahrefs’ blog. They might go to forums and hear about Ahrefs, they might go to a conference. There are a lot of touch points with your potential customer before they become a customer. So, the first thing is that I don’t believe that the funnel is straightforward enough to be tracked in Google analytics. I don’t care about the numbers.
The second thing is, if the conversion rate is 7% or 15%, it doesn’t change my marketing strategy. Even if that content doesn’t work on converting people into leads or sign-ups, it still works like a charm for educating our current customer base, which improves our churn rates. And if people are educated, they can talk to other people. So, there’s no tracking of how our blog performs.
What are some beginner mistakes you see with blogging and SEO?
Most businesses—not just SaaS companies—who want to do online marketing and launch blogs make the most obvious mistakes. First, they don’t write articles about the things that people are searching for. Do proper keyword research and find the topics around your business that people are searching for.
The second issue is that, even when people start targeting things that people in their industry are looking for, they don’t showcase their product in the articles. They don’t understand that the purpose of your content is to drive people to your business. Maybe they have the KPI of traffic, not leads or sales.
The final issue is that people don’t build links. It’s easy to understand how to do keyword research. But link building is about making people link to you for whatever reason. So you have to use methods of persuasion, which basically stem from the quality of your content. Is it a resource that someone would want to link to? Another thing you need to think about is: How do people in your niche who have websites learn about your content? Answering those two questions gives you some link building strategy.
I also wanted to talk about Content Explorer, which I started using recently and I think might be the coolest tool in Ahrefs. What’s the best way to use Content Explorer, and how can we get the most leverage out of it?
One word: Prospecting. Like we discussed, there are two issues that you need to solve as a person responsible for bringing traffic from Google. First, create something valuable that deserves to be linked to. Second, find people with websites who might potentially link to it.
Content Explorer is the perfect tool for finding people who can potentially link to you. For example, you’ve created a productivity app and you wrote a post about the best productivity books. In Content Explorer, you can find all the articles from around the web that have mentioned “productivity” in the titles. Then, you can click a setting called “one article per domain” so that your list of articles will transform into a list of articles that come from unique domains. In less than 20 seconds, you can get a list of almost all the websites that publish content about productivity.
From there, all you need to do is start reaching out to them. You can build relationships, show your content, figure out ways you can partner together, figure out ways you can do marketing together, and more.