May 1st 2017 was when I had enough of FWD: Please review meta title on this page emails from my manager.
I was working in a large corporate environment, and was responsible for the websites content. There were multiple content loaders, and new content was being added to the website daily (press releases, blog posts etc). Whenever someone added a broken image, missed a meta title, or forgot about alt text, it was falling on me to a) fix and b) apologise for not ensuring our website was following every nitty-gritty bit of content loading best-practice.
We were in a highly competitive industry (insurance) and everything needed to be A+ to compete for organic traffic.
Here is what has been achieved from May to December 2017.
1. Pitched the idea to a developer
I was at work when I pitched the idea to a developer. After a little back and forths, I elaborated on why I think the world needs a better website auditor in the email below.
What I didn’t explain was that outside of my day job where I had a budget in the hundreds of thousands to spend, I was frustrated by how expensive website auditing and SEO tools in general were. Most people can’t afford $99p/m for a audit or keyword tracking tool! I wanted to create something 90% of website owners will be able to afford.
2. Built a pre-launch website
I purchased a domain for under $10 from GoDaddy. Finding the domain took about an hour of searching ExpiredDomains.net because I didn’t want to start from a brand new domain name, I wanted one that had a little bit of domain authority already. After searching through all words that gave the vibe of “keeping your finger on the pulse of your website” I saw PulseProduct.com. Not the catchiest of domains, but I didn’t want to dwell too long on picking one.
Hosting was purchased from WPEngine.com because a) its simple, b) has a built in staging environment which will be beneficial for when the website grows larger c) has amazing support via live chat and d) is fast. WPEngine isn’t the cheapest host, but I hate changing hosts so I thought I would start with the host I want to be at long term. Godaddy, Hostgator, or Bluehost offer cheaper hosting if you don’t want to shell out the USD$29p/m for WPEngines smallest plan.
I then threw up a one-page website that explained the concept, why it would benefit any website owner, and how Pulse would be different from competitors. I used the Startuply theme which I purchased for USD$49. Once I purchased, installed, and customized theme, I started seeing it everywhere! Not a surprise really since it has had 2,874 sales at the time of writing.
After a lot of reading GrowthHackers.com and Indiehackers.com I settled on a design. This Hotjar.com blog post was also a wealth on information on launching a SaaS product. Little things like changing the landing page call to action from ‘Register’ to ‘Request an Invite’ can make a big difference.
Once the landing page was up and running (via a theme purchased from Themeforest.net) I started a Twitter Account, and put the ad shown below live with a $50 budget.
The result of this advert was 107 email sign ups on the landing page, which to me indicated that the idea I was pitching was of interest to others. 107 is of course a tiny sample size, and all I got was an email address, not commitment to purchase the product, but I figured if I could find 107 people to sign up to try the product from a quick Twitter ad on a shitty landing page, I could find 100 people to become customers if I spend more than $50 and a day on marketing.
3. Designed & Built the Product
Building the product consisted of lots of hacking around in Notepad++ to try to get the actual tool looking like how I wanted it to look. I’m not a developer, so this was lots of frustrating trial & error, and copying and pasting from tutorials and purchased admin themes to get the service looking how I wanted it to look.
The main theme I used as a base was Limitless, which was also purchased from Themeforest for USD$24.
These designs were then sent to the developer, who made it all actually work.
Once the service was up and running I started using it for my day job, to alleviate the frustration that is shown in my email at the top of this post. I used Trello.com to report bugs & request features, and new versions of the site were pushed to production by the developer once or twice a week.
4. Launched Free Beta Version
Linkedin Founder Reid Hoffman once said the quote below, which we followed when making Pulse publicly available:
If You’re Not Embarrassed By The First Version Of Your Product, You’ve Launched Too Late
The first launch of Pulse wasn’t the most polished product, but if solved the issue that I wanted solved: affordable & automated crawling of a website.
Our goal during the beta period was to iron out all bugs, and get real user feedback on what people liked and didn’t like. We actually added a feedback tab into the main navigation, so any beta user could submit a comment directly into our development Slack channel, which could then be copied/pasted and prioritised in Trello.
It total we had approximately 100 users sign up to use the beta version of Pulse, and all of them were invaluable in shaping what the product is today. They not only reported bugs, but they let us know what was important to them, and also provided some testimonials that we could use on our website.
5. Turning on Paid Subscriptions
Literally within 12 hours of changing our Pricing page from directing people to the beta sign up form, to the paid registration form integrated with Stripe, we had our first account created (thanks, Tharshan!) He found us via the Indiehackers.com forum in one of my introduction posts there when I first joined the community.
As of December 31st Pulse has under 100 paying customers. Our basic plan is just $USD19per month, so we don’t need hundreds or thousands of customers to make Pulse a kick-ass tool. We just need enough to cover costs, and provide a bit of beer and coffee money.
Our slow growth is expected, as we have spent under $100 on marketing (which was all during the beta phase) and both myself and the developer work long hours in full time jobs.
6. Next Steps & 2018 Goals
With little marketing budget (blame the expensive housing market in Auckland, New Zealand, and saving for a wedding!) we aim to grow Pulse through two main channels: content marketing and affiliate marketing.
Content Marketing is effective, but takes a lot of time. Ideally I would be adding at least 1,000 words of well-written valuable content to this site each day, however I don’t quite have time for that at the moment. Content marketing is a super powerful way to get free organic traffic to a website, so any articles I can write on “content audits” or “SEO reviews” will generate organic traffic, which will eventually lead to account trials.
The thing with content marketing is that your content has to be better than all other content on Google for it to be worthwhile. There is no point writing a 1000 word guide on a topic, if there are already in-depth 5000 word guides ranking in google for the same target keywords.
Once my day job gets a bit quieter, I’ll aim to get some quality guides and tutorials published! In the meantime, if you know (or are) a writer and understand technical website optimization, flick us an email.
Affiliate Marketing is when other website owners refer there visitors to PulseProduct.com and if they buy a subscription to Pulse, the referring website gets a percentage of the sale.
Affiliate Marketing is common within this industry, with many of our competitors offering incentives to promote their products.
A big 2018 goal is to reach out to any website that has an audience that may be interested in Pulse, and offer them a free account to review. They can then share their review (hopefully a positive one!) with their audience, and collect some additional revenue from their website.
We have our affiliate registration page already live, so if this sounds like you, check it out and get in touch.
We also plan to keep adding features that we would like to use ourselves (as we use the tool daily on other websites!), and features that our customers request.
Our ultimate 2018 goal is to get enough customers to hire an additional developer that can keep pumping out these new features.