Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Geoff Atkinson and I’m the Founder and CEO of Huckabuy. Huckabuy is an SEO software platform. Our products help Google find, crawl, and index your website so you can rank for more keywords, get more impressions on your search results, and drive more organic traffic to your website.
We offer two primary products: Automated Structured Data Markup and SEO Cloud, which leverages Google’s dynamic rendering and page speed initiatives. Structured data is the authoritative language that helps a search engine understand and contextualize website content. Dynamic rendering allows businesses to simultaneously serve one version of their website optimized for humans, and another version of the website optimized for search engines.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I come from an e-commerce background, I was the SVP of Marketing at Overstock. When I arrived in 2005, Overstock was a lot smaller and it wasn’t a home and garden company like it is today. My team drove crazy growth using SEO tactics. We took the SEO channel from a very small channel to a very big channel — hundreds of millions. The company became a home and garden company because of keyword research — we realized there was a gap in the online market and moved into that space.
Since our launch, we have been very product-driven. We had a product that was exciting to a lot of people because it was unique and moved the needle for them.
I took what I learned from being on the front lines of SEO over at Overstock, and decided I wanted to apply it to my own business, Huckabuy. I think the industry of SEO is kind of broken. There are plenty of agencies and consultants that are giving advice and telling you what to do, but a lot of these folks don’t have a track record of driving results through the roof. So, I just saw something kind of missing in the market where people were being sold a lot of snake oil, and not getting what they wanted from the industry. We’re here to try to fix that with our software.
The company name is sort of a funny story. Huckabuy is the nickname of my nephew, Huck. His mom often calls him Huckabuy and one day a light bulb just turned on in my head and I thought “That’s the perfect name for my company.”
Describe the process of launching the business.
So I remember, I got introduced to a guy through a colleague at Overstock, that was an SEO consultant. His name was Paul, and he was brilliant. I learned about SEO from him and it was such a monumental discovery for me. We spent the whole time I was there, basically six years or seven years, getting our SEO channel dialed in. SEO is a classic example of where you spend money on technology to make the site better, and then that comes back in the form of revenue.
When I started Huckabuy, I started it as a B2C company. Because I came from Overstock, I was kind of in that B2C mindset. We were essentially an affiliate site and Google had made an algorithm change where they didn’t want people purchasing products through affiliate sites anymore. We had, however, built some cool SEO automation software that helped us with the technical conversation, and people that knew about it wanted to start licensing it. So we got some funding and pivoted into this software company and that’s Huckabuy today. So yeah, that’s how we got here. It was somewhat accidental, but it’s a product that works. It’s something that I’m proud of and it’s exciting.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since our launch, we have been very product-driven. We had a product that was exciting to a lot of people because it was unique and moved the needle for them. And so it just really resonated with some smart internet marketing folks and smart SEO folks, a lot of which I already knew. So, when we were first getting started, I reached out to my network, and said, “Hey, we’ve built something kind of cool and it’s working — and I’d love for you to try it.”
We were very product-driven and network-driven at first, we did a lot of outbound email, and then we got some lucky breaks. For example, we were introduced to SAP when we were quite small. It was a big deal for us to get SAP as a customer and then we got Salesforce, and as we started getting some more big enterprise contracts I think that verified the product and made other prospects feel comfortable. So, initially, it happened pretty organically. I wish we had pushed harder on the sort of sales and marketing side earlier. But I think being product-focused, we did build a great product, and once you have a bit of a track record in SEO, people are willing to give you a shot.
Networking is so important. Wherever you can, I suggest entrenching yourself into a community and finding opportunities to reach out and build relationships with people.
We’ve also had a lot of luck attracting customers via podcasts and interviews like these. So, I have been a guest on several podcasts — like over a 50 in the last 6 to 9 months — and it’s been a lot of fun to get on and talk to various influential people in the marketing, SEO, SaaS, or startup space and tell my story and educate people about what we do here over at Huckabuy. It’s a great way for us to build relationships and get our name out there because you have the audience and built-in trust from the host and their show.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We’re doing pretty well. We also actually got some funding in a seed round this past December.
So we are growing. This year, we have been expanding our marketing team, and we are starting to get our SEO engine running — backlink acquisition, keyword research, and quality content creation. I mentioned podcasting earlier, but display ads have been a great play for building more brand awareness too, and we’re finally starting to have more inbound leads, but we are still doing a good amount of outbound email.
We’re always keeping an eye on what Google’s doing so that we’re directionally aligned with them in the long run, and our product team is constantly thinking of ways we can improve our products and help our customers. So, they’ve improved a lot of internal features with the product user experience and customer dashboard recently, and we’ll continue to work on products that provide Google’s perfect world (like our new page speed product) as Google changes and makes adjustments to their algorithm.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Yeah, so I would say, you know, with startups you can’t be too set on one thing. You have to always be willing to pivot and adjust as things present themselves. So, as I mentioned, we started with a completely different business model, but I realized that wasn’t working and so I pivoted into a SaaS business. That’s a really good business lesson.
SaaS is such a great industry to be in — the recurring revenue model is fantastic. I feel lucky that I managed to get into this industry, and I’m learning every day about how to excel in this space. I do feel lucky to have an awesome community of entrepreneurs here in Utah — especially in the SaaS world — because there are some great local connections, and that entrepreneurial spirit thrives here. If you aren’t familiar with Silicon Slopes, you should check it out. It is Utah’s version of Silicon Valley and it is growing fast. There are some great companies here like Qualtrics, Podium, Vivint, and Pluralsight.
Another thing I’ve learned over and over again from my experience over at Overstock, and my experience now, is that SEO does move the needle. You know, you can do paid marketing, and that works, but ultimately it’s going to be just as effective — if not more sustainable in the long run — to get your traffic coming to you organically.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
This may come across as a boring answer. But honestly, my favorite business tool is Slack. I think it’s just the best app for business communication and sharing information within a team and across teams. We also use Ahrefs and SEMRush for SEO analytics, site evaluation, and general organic channel research.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One book that I like is written by the CMO of Hubspot, Mark Roberge, called The Sales Acceleration Formula. It tells the story of how HubSpot grew so significantly and how diligent they were in their hiring and how they went about it and you can just see the behind-the-scenes growth tactics that have gotten them to where they are today. There’s a lot of tips and tricks, so I think it’s a great read for a business leader.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
As I said before, my advice would be to be open to completely change your business in the beginning. You need to look at what’s going to work, and what the market needs, and you’re going to learn what works best for your business along the way.
I also recommend gaining experience moving the needle and getting results at another company before you start your own business. It’s great to gain that first-hand experience to see how things work and to learn how to work with people and lead a team. I know I learned a lot from my mentor over at Overstock, and I think that he was very instrumental to my overall career trajectory. Also, if you’re able to get a job in a certain market that you want to start a business in, it’s a great opportunity to gain some insider knowledge into the industry and what the market could be lacking. Lastly, it’s a good way to build out your network.
Networking is so important. I know I’ve utilized my network from being a Dartmouth alum many times, and because people know me and we have that common ground, people from that network have been willing to listen to what I have to say and give our product a try. So, wherever you can, I suggest entrenching yourself into a community and finding opportunities to reach out and build relationships with people. Those relationships end up making a big difference when you’re starting your business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes. We are growing a fair amount, we are growing our marketing department and we have a fall marketing internship program for fall 2020.
We also are interviewing software engineers, SEO analysts, sales development representatives, and we just hired on a brand new VP of Sales, which we’re pretty excited about.
Here’s a post from our new VP of Sales.
Here’s a list of our openings and where you can apply.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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