Everyone knows what “startup” means. It’s almost a synonym for the “low budget” and “struggling for survival” type of business. Sometimes, everything works out for the better though and the startup becomes a full-fledged business. There are a lot of startups’ success and failure stories on the Internet and all we can do is to get inspiration and learn from one another.
In this post, I’ll describe Serpstat’s story. This one is about a Ukrainian SaaS which managed to become the most upvoted SEO tool on Product Hunt and best-selling SEO tool on AppSumo.
A brief introduction to Serpstat
It all started when Artem Borodatuyk founded Netpeak —a Ukrainian company, the largest digital marketing agency in Eastern Europe. As they worked on it, they faced a particular problem. There was actually no SEO tool in the Uranian database. This is how the idea of Serpstat came about.
Serpstat was born in 2013 as a keyword research tool for the in-house use of a company. At that time, the team consisted of three employees (now it’s 53). These three people launched Serpstat as the first keyword research tool in Ukraine.
In 2015, the tool started growing and finally became an independent SaaS used outside of the agency. By 2016, Serpstat also turned into an all-in-one SEO platform and now offers five features:
- Rank tracking
- Keyword research
- Backlink analysis
- Competitive analysis
- Site auditing
Soon Serpstat became a leader in CIS so it was the time to enter the global market. Here are their biggest achievements so far:
- It became the most upvoted SEO tool on Product Hunt
- It took the first place among all SEO tools on G2Crowd
- It became the best-selling SEO tool on AppSumo and entered the top of their 5 best-selling tools ever
- It has been sold out on Stacksocial
This article isn’t going to describe each step that led Serpstat to the said results. Instead, this article will point out three thoughts which have helped them when they started out.
Tip #1: Find a way to engage users
In the beginning, Serpstat was bidding on search analytics and it was their biggest mistake. They were providing a ton of useful data but all those data wasn’t necessary for the user every day. Thus, it was difficult for them to get regular customers as every user could download all needed data in a few clicks and then never return to Serpstat (or do it rarely).
They had to find a way to engage and keep users.
Their solution was to launch a search engine rank tracker. This tool offered keyword tracking at global and local levels on a daily basis. You can get positions of competitor domains for the tracked keywords alongside your own without creating additional projects or spending extra keyword credits.
It means that you can track your positions every single day as well as positions of your competitors. It’s the very first step every site owner should do when starting a project as regular monitoring of progress is a must.
It was a feature that brought them the most users and more importantly, made them want to stay with Serpstat for a long time.
So their foremost tip is: If you’re a SaaS owner, find a feature that users need as often as possible. Only this way you’ll be able to get regular, staying customers.
Tip #2: Marketing is key
The main question every startup owner keeps in mind is: how to get more customers without spending a penny? Well, of course, it’s not about greed. Most of the time, the fact is that there is never any extra money in a startup.
Serpstat’s answer to this confusing question is marketing. As mentioned a bit earlier, there were four biggest marketing achievements they were proud of, mainly from Product Hunt, Appsumo, G2Crowd, and Stacksocial.
All of them were a significant step in the direction to expanding to a global market. They got a lot of users from all over the world so their global brand awareness started growing and they got great exposure in return. It cost them not money but huge work in the process.
A word on how it works
Platforms like Product Hunt, AppSumo, and Stacksocial are kind of distribution channels that allow offerings of products with a substantial discount to a large audience. In fact, they show your product to their audience, share, and promote it through their channels. You, in turn, give them an interesting offer for users and percentage from each sale.
There are a lot of tools and products selling lifetime subscriptions for a steal. It may sound like something that’s not very profitable but the aim of launching on such a platform is to win a large audience and go viral. Such collaborations bring quick results and best of all—they’re free! That said, your team will work around the clock for a few days so there’s still some sort of exchange for it in any case.
Here’s what they’ve learned about using such a platform:
- Obviously, you can try your luck and fill out an application form but there’s a really small chance that someone will notice your product among thousands of other applications. The best way to do it is through personally contacting them via Linkedin or even better—through the introduction of someone who has already worked with the platform.
- You should impress the representative from the platform. Tell about the benefits of your product, your service support and team, as well as your achievements.
- Prepare your product for sale. Make sure to buy extra servers, fix bugs, and provide all needed information for the new users (landing page, training site, video, webinar, etc).
- Lastly, teamwork is crucial! You’ll have to handle a huge rush of customers and work 24/7 on the days of the sale. They had a small team which was divided into shifts. Some people were working at the live chat on their site, others were tracking questions on social networks, and the remaining part of their team responded to comments on the distribution platform. Programmers were also around to fix potential bugs. (It’s especially true as to Appsumo, with other two platforms it wasn’t so difficult.)
Now let’s take a look at the results.
Product Hunt is a website that lets users share and discover new products. The site, which was founded by Ryan Hoover in November 2013 allows people to submit products which are listed in a linear format by day. The site includes a comments system and a voting system similar to Hacker News or Reddit.
Serpstat featured “search suggestions” module on this platform and became the #1 in tech on Product Hunt on the day of release, and now, a year later, it’s still one of the most popular SEO tools on the service.
The service received 5990 sessions from 4800 users, most of them are from the US.
AppSumo is a daily deals website for digitally distributed goods and online services. It was founded in March 2010 by Noah Kagan. Today the company has over 700,000 active subscribers.
They took a big risk in launching Serpstat on this platform but it was totally worth it. It brought them the following:
- 6,400 sales worth more than $250 000
- 8,400 users from the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK
- 685 reviews and comments as well as more than 2,000 shares
- Increased registrations and sales by 370%.
You can read a detailed tutorial on this on the Serpstat blog.
Their Stacksocial sale lasted for about few months so there wasn’t any rush. Even so, it brought them about 7,000 users from all over the world.
G2Crowd is a reputable business software review platform which has more than 170,000 independent user reviews read by nearly 900,000 buyers each month. Since Serpstat started becoming known on the global market, the high score on such a website was just a result of the work they’ve put in earlier.
Resources like G2Crowd are extremely important for building a good reputation for a product. Every single review is moderated manually so they are all written by real people. A high score on them helps gain the trust of a new audience. Moreover, reviews help users make a final decision on the product.
Tip #3: Let the idea lead you
Lastly, it’s also worth pointing out the line of thinking they took. Their idea was to create a comprehensive platform for all SEO issues at once but at the same time, also make it accessible for everyone. Why is their tool cheaper?
First of all, their development team is located in Ukraine so product development costs significantly cheaper compared to similar products in the US. Another reason is that Serpstat is much younger than its competitors. Modern technologies have allowed them to develop new functionalities much faster and cheaper.
All of these no doubt makes them a decent alternative to Ahrefs and SEMRush. The only substantial difference is the database number. That said, they’re still working on it and throughout the last few months, they’ve launched German, French, and Spanish databases.
It’s obvious that they chose their goal and went for it. There’s no doubt that they’re on their way to it now!