SaaS Marketing from Scratch with Tim Soulo from Ahrefs

By Site Strategics
October 2, 2019

We were excited to have a special guest for episode 327 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast from our current sponsoring company, Ahrefs. Tim Soulo serves Ahrefs as their CMO and Product Advisor. Host Erin Sparks spoke with Tim about the many SEO tools available from Ahrefs that make digital marketing more effective and how to market SaaS offerings. Here’s what we learned: 

00:02:35

Tim Soulo: His Background and Experience

Tim Soulo is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product advisor at Ahrefs (an industry leading SEO tool, powered by Big Data). With nearly 10 years of practical experience in SEO and digital marketing, Tim loves sharing his knowledge by giving live talks at various digital marketing conferences around the world and publishing blog articles at Ahrefs Blog. He’s the author of many data-driven SEO research studies and a number of detailed marketing guides. He also makes his rounds on the podcast circuit, with a few of his recent appearances including the following: 

He’s about to speak in Pubcon, that’s October 7th, Brighton SEO Search Engine Marketing Summit in Australia, Digital Marketers, Australia, Melbourne, Chiang Mai SEO Conference in Thailand. Clearly, he’s a busy man!

Tim was born and raised in the Ukraine and started out in customer support for a hosting company. But he realized he didn’t really want to be a developer, though he wanted to stay in tech. He was also a DJ and had a website for his services, but it wasn’t getting any traffic. That’s what turned him on to SEO, and he heard people saying there was money to be made for SEO professionals. He learned his SEO basics from MOZ and watching their Whiteboard Friday, then branched out from there experimenting with his own techniques and research. That’s when Ahrefs noticed the kind of work he was doing and soon offered him a job at their headquarters in Singapore.

00:07:21

What Ahrefs Is and DoesTim Soulo on EDGE of the Web

Ahrefs aims to be the ultimate SEO tool. If you are looking to get traffic from Google or other search engines, if you’re already getting some traffic but want to get more, Ahrefs provides all the tools and data you need to be successful at it. Tehre is a whole suite of tools to analyze your competition, what pages are bringing them the most traffic from search, what websites are linking to them (and therefore boosting their authority or domain rating or domain authority), how their website is structured, where they’re linking out to, and so on.

The keywords explorer tool lets you tap into the kinds of searches people conduct online because if you want people to find you, then you need to know what pages to create that answer specific searches. You can also research what kinds of topics you should be writing about and presenting on your website. If you’re not writing about what people are looking for, you won’t get traffic.

There is also a site audit tool very useful for freelance SEOs to analyze websites to reveal any technical SEO issues that should be fixed. It’s pre-configured to screen for more than 100 common SEO issues. There is also a content database with more than a billion pages of content for people to explore, which may undergo a significant expansion. Rank Tracker is another useful tool that is self-explanatory in terms of what it does.

The important thing about Ahrefs is how it is constantly improving the quality, depth, and scale of its data so customers know they’re getting the best data in the industry, as well as always coming up with more innovative tools you won’t find anywhere else to give you an edge. While many SaaS SEO platforms have gone by the wayside, Ahrefs has shown it has staying power.

00:11:44

SaaS Marketing to Marketers

Ahrefs is unique in that its SaaS offering is about serving digital marketers, and so it has to also market its SaaS offering to other marketers, and it has done this by building out its marketing department in-house from scratch rather than relying on outside help to do it. Marketing to marketers is an interesting niche because there are so many opportunities. Marketers are always on the lookout for the tools they need to make their efforts more successful. Other industries don’t have as many marketing opportunities. This is why it’s important for Ahrefs to be thinking about those audiences as well and what they need to be more successful. 

Every company has a blog, and it can be a real challenge to raise the profile of that blog. This was one of Tim’s primary objectives after joining Ahrefs. He wanted the Ahrefs blog to be more like the MOZ blog – something everyone in the industry turns to and follows. When you have a blog like that, you can attract the highest-quality experts and writers because they want that exposure. But what about the people whose blogs aren’t yet on that level? So Ahrefs had to really seek out people who were passionate about their SEO work and doing amazing things and bring them on board to Ahrefs. You simply don’t get the kind of depth of connection to your brand and the raw passion for the work that you need if you rely on freelancers. They need to be working from the inside of your company. 

Ahrefs prioritized great content that would allow people to find them and get great information that helps them. A company could plow all of its resources into paid advertising, but that’s like making cold calls – very hit or miss. But if what you focus on is providing such good content that people come to respect you and your work, that’s a much surer path to gaining and keeping customers. It’s what Seth Godin calls effective permission marketing (great content) rather than interruption marketing (pop-up ads). When you land on an Ahrefs blog article because you searched on the topic, the last thing they want to do is interrupt your reading of the article. All that will do is anger them. The article itself is the advertisement but is useful.

00:25:03

Using Outsiders or Not When Starting Out

Building that in-house marketing team has been an important aspect of SaaS marketing for Ahrefs. But when you’re first starting out, it seems like there are a bunch of things that would simply be more effective if you used outsiders with greater expertise to do them. But the goal should be to build that in-house marketing function as quickly as possible. In part, this is because the marketing efforts can really inform the product mix and product development. You’ll notice that Tim’s title is not just chief marketing officer, its CMO and Product Advisor. Why? Because the process of marketing this SaaS SEO company and its tools will reveal a lot about what other tools and functionalities should be developed and added to the mix. The way this happens is by being out there in the community through the forums and having conversations with people to understand their needs and wants. 

What Ahrefs achieved was a symbiotic relationship between the marketing department and the product development department. The marketers would tell product development what it was that SEOs wanted from what they learned being out in the community, and the product development team would let them know what’s possible. And sometimes product development would come up with ideas of things they could do, but they wouldn’t have a sense of whether or not it was something people wanted, and the marketing department could provide perspective from their side of the equation. You can only benefit from this kind of inter-departmental symbiosis if your marketing people are in-house. Although another source to bring into product development would be the customer support folks. They’ve undoubtedly got all kinds of insights about product issues and opportunities for improvement. This is all much easier to accomplish when your company is small. It’s much harder to figure out these interdepartmental collaborations when your company is larger.

Connect with Tim Soulo and Ahrefs

Twitter: @timsoulo (https://twitter.com/timsoulo)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timsoulo

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/timsoulo/

Instagram: @timsoulo (https://www.instagram.com/timsoulo/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDidoS6DWZVYk-PdNtcY9PQ 

Ahrefs: https://ahrefs.com 

Ahrefs Twitter: @ahrefs (https://twitter.com/ahrefs

Ahrefs Facebook: @Ahrefs (https://www.facebook.com/Ahrefs)

Ahrefs YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWquNQV8Y0_defMKnGKrFOQ

Ahrefs Instagram: @ahrefscom (https://www.instagram.com/ahrefscom)

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