Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Ayal Aldema, and I’m the founder of SheerSEO, an online SEO software.
I started the business to help people do SEO (Search Engine Optimization) with online tools. When I started the business, I looked for solutions in this field and all I could find was scammy desktop applications that promised to make you a fortune in 30 days. There was nothing online at the time, and I knew that the future will go that way.
I never did any real market research, but I believed that if I produce something useful, even for free. I’ll feel the right path when I get there.
I think that developing a product is like a chess game. You start by making the right moves, and only later the opportunities reveal themselves.
Today the business makes $30,000/month by selling SaaS service to both webmasters and SEO professionals.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I started the business I had about 10 years of experience as a software engineer and I already created one website before which was making some income.
The previous website was in the hair industry. It was about hair loss information. There I learned the power of organic search. Google was fresh at the time, and it was easy to manipulate it. Very quickly, it became ranked in Google not only for hair loss but also for things I didn’t even aim for like hair removal and hair products. I was able to make some money out of that by selling some stuff over the website and providing some advertising to companies in this field.
I didn’t know it would work for sure. But I loved both SEO and software development. So, what could go wrong?
I was the only resource it took to create the product, so all I needed was a few months I was taking between jobs.
The strategy was to launch the product for free and see how it goes. Not even $1 spent. Just time.
I didn’t spend money on advertising. I was hoping my SEO skills will work and people will find the product through Google searches.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Designing the product was simply a process of visualizing what I want it to do.
Just take some time to yourself between jobs and try to create something useful.
I designed the screens and the technical parts using my skills as a software engineer.
One of my previous jobs was for software that monitored applications, so I guess the UI there was an influence in my project.
Back then, the landscape was mainly the software that you could download and install. Nothing online. Also, they looked very suspicious. With promises of becoming a millionaire and such.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The launch of the product had two phases.
The first phase was when the website was live. But being live meant nothing since no visitors came to it. I had to wait for Google to pick up my new website and I knew this takes time. Maybe months or a year. I gave free accounts in the hope that people will recommend the product. And they did. I simply provided free signup. Those people were whoever found the website and signed up. They were mostly from the US and UK.
During the time after the launch, I was worried it would not work, so I took a job to be on the safe side. That job was a waste of time. I did it for one year, and during that year more free customers started to join my free service.
After one year of that useless job, I already had more than 1000 free subscribers. I also had some kind of SEO working for me. My site was ranked for a few strong keywords in Google and that was a major step also.
One of the customers even offered me some money to have some changes done in the service.
This was my sign to leave that job and focus on my new business. This is the second phase. I consider that as the real launch. At this time I had the courage to bet on this business and leave the engineering salary. That was the hardest part.
I planned the pricing model, which was very difficult since at the time there weren’t many services that took monthly fees from subscribers.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
In the beginning, I used mostly SEO and word to mouth to market the product.
In recent years I found that method to be harder. Google has improved its service and it is a lot harder to rank for main keywords today.
Also, the competition is huge, and I find it very hard to compete with sites that their main business is creating content.
I still have hundreds of visitors a month from the organic Google traffic, but that is not enough.
I started using Google PPC, an affiliate program (my own code, not a third party).
Last year, I started offering free service with limited features to attract more visitors and that works pretty well also.
To retain customers I simply provide a good deal for them. Great customer support where you can talk with the developer and get his view. Customers love it.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today this field has become very challenging. There are probably a hundred companies competing with our service in some way. A few of them are much bigger than us, which makes it quite hard to compete.
The competition led me to offer some free service, which led to an increase in visitors, but conversion is smaller. That is because you can get much of the product for free.
The initial product was mostly a tool for monitoring data. Today I’m expanding the product to do some actual work with link building. That seems to be making nice money and we’re still just beginning to get into this field.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
My main lesson with this business is to use investment. I believe I could have had a company making millions a month if I did so.
Creating a company without investment is great since you are totally free, but when other companies have millions of dollars, their product will probably be better than yours.
Another topic I want to mention is the freedom you get from having your own business. You become the boss of your own time and that to do things that are not work!
I was able to develop my hobbies, which are triathlon and chess. I was able to take the family on long trips and control the business from there.
Here is some triathlon picture
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
If you’re like I was with a steady job, and afraid to take the first steps in your own business, you might find my approach interesting. Next time you need to switch jobs. Just take some time to yourself between jobs and try to create something useful.
You never know where that is going to take you.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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