Tim Soulo’s successful career started when he won a bet with a friend that ultimately led him to launch his personal blog, the BloggerJet. Not being an expert authority at that time, Tim built two amazing plug-ins that guaranteed him a job at one of the leading SEO tools, Ahrefs. He now devotes his time to share his knowledge by giving talks and publishing various SEO research studies and blog articles.
In this episode, Tim shares the techniques and strategies he used to help Ahrefs grow its traffic by over 200% and how Blogging can be a powerful tool to help you grow your business.
You will be notified everytime I have something valuable for you
Everybody welcome to another episode of the show today. I'm super excited to have none other than Tim Soulo on the call here from Ahrefs. What's up Tim?
Hey Joe. How's it going?
It's going good, man. It's going good. So Tim, man, I've been following you for a long time since, I think, 2015 actually when you were back in the day doing content upgrades, right?
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
So I think that's how I found out about you first. And then I found out about kind of Bloggerjet and then obviously I followed you into Ahrefs. So, could you just give everybody a little bit of a background, right, on content upgrades pro and Bloggerjet, and then obviously your transition into Ahrefs before we kind of dive deep here.
Yeah, so actually for the most of my career in marketing, I been working in-house. So I started at a junior SEO level position in a company that was selling website templates. And then I worked in quite a few different companies. Basically being a marketer, director of marketing, a marketing manager, you name it. And as I got bored at some of my in-house jobs, I started to explore, my side project. As it happens with a lot of people actually, once you get bored, once you don't get satisfaction from your work, you start to work on your own thing that inspires you. And this is how I actually had a bet with my friend who can launch a brand new blog and generate more traffic in six months. This is how I launched Bloggerjet, which then became my kind of personal blog.
Long story short, I won that bet, but not because it was better at generating traffic, but because my friend abandoned his blog like halfway through. So yeah. And so that blog was basically just a hobby project. But then I realized, as I was consistently getting bored, bored with my in-house marketing jobs, I realized that I want to make money on the side and I need to monetize blog somehow. And when I launched the blog and when I was publishing articles, my only goal was to attract attention, to attract traffic, Twitter following, email list, all those arbitrary metrics, like anything but not money. So then I thought like, what can I do to monetize blog? Now I didn't want to go the info products around because for that you need to have an authority if you want people to buy from you.
I didn't quite have that at the time. So I figured that I'd rather build something tangible, something that people can buy from me without necessarily me being like the expert authority. So I figured I can launch some plug-ins for wordpress. And first and foremost, I can use them on my own blog and they can use my own blog as a testing ground for those plugins, share my results with people and approve them that my plugins work. And that they shouldn't sell them for, for their own work. So this is how I build the two plugins. One is the Tweetdis, which was creating tweetable quotes in your articles. So whenever you're writing a piece of content, then you have like a short sound bytes, as some people call it, that is tweetable, that is shareable, that you want people to share on social networks, like Twitter, Facebook.
I created a plug in that was creating like fancy, good looking tweetable quotes and dividing them into your articles. And another plugin was about content upgrades. This is when you want to kind of hide, like hide part of your content behind an opt in form and entice people, lure them into your email list by saying that in your article, you're not sharing like 100% of awesomeness that you have. So you've hidden a little bit of it behind the opt in form. And if they want to get that extra content, they need to subscribe. So that was the plugin for content upgrades and both like were starting to kick off. But then I got an email from Dmitry, CEO and founder of Ahrefs, who explored my work online a little bit. And he invited me to collaborate on some content marketing projects. And, I said yes to him and we started working together in about three to four weeks, we realized that we have some chemistry going on and he invited me to come to Singapore, which is where I'm at right now. And, become in charge of marketing for Ahrefs. So that's the short story.
Okay. Awesome. So how long have you been officially at Ahrefs then, Tim?
Uh, since 2015. So that's a like 4 years. Yeah.
Okay. All right. Awesome. So if we kind of go back just a little bit to like your days at blogger jet, right? Like, and even today, right? Like you've been able to achieve success, right, so to speak with blogging, but my team did some digging, right? And you had four blogs that failed, right? So what do you think were the big mistakes, right, that you made trying to grow these four blogs? Like so many people start out a blog, I feel like, and they give up halfway through or they give up, like you said, your friend four months in. You know, I think that that's definitely a mistake. But what do you think are the big mistakes that people make?
Actually, I think there was more than four that failed, but like four, for sure. So I think I had more failures than that. Anyway, the biggest mistakes, like first and most obvious one, I simply didn't understand how blogging works in a sense, like a tool to help your business. So I didn't understand blogging in terms of business growth. I understood the basic principles that everyone understands- that you have to publish new articles, that you have to tweet them to your audience, that you have to go with popular topics that everyone is publishing on their blogs. So basically I was doing so-called monkey job. I was looking at other blogs in my industry and writing almost the same articles that they're writing and like tweeting them, trying to submit them to different, communities like Reddit, etc. And they didn't work out.
So I simply didn't understand like what is blogging, what is the business objective? So whenever I was an in house marketer and for example, I was working on a CMS (content management software), a tool that helps you build your website. And we had a blog, again, I didn't understand like what blog is for. Yeah, we could post some updates about this software, like what's new in our software and send it to our customers and like, to some of them it was interesting. Of course not the 100%. Then we could cover some, I don't know, Industry News, like what's going on the in the website building industry, some new technologies or something. But I never got traction. I never figured out the simple idea that if you're blogging, you might want to like, I know, I'm not sure if you want me to go deep on this, but, I'll just quickly share, that I think there are two approaches to blogging.
One approach is if you focus on SEO and it's actually not blogging anymore, this is what you're doing at Ahref's blog. We're simply finding topics that people are searching for in Google and covering them on our blog. So basically it's not even a blog, it's a collection of resources that are findable online. So our only objective is to publish something that people will later discover in Google. If there is no search potential for a certain topic, we wouldn't publish about it, anything about it. So that's the first approach. The second approach is the storyline. This is what if, you know, guys from GrooveHQ done, they had an amazing blog, which had the footer that said something like from Aha to Oh shit we're sharing like everything on our own from like zero to a million annual recurring revenue, something like that.
So, that blog was different. So they didn't necessarily cover topics that people were searching for in Google, but they were sharing their own story, how their startup is growing. So everyone who was in similar situation, everyone who is running their own startups, everyone who is doing, who is doing marketing, product marketing, product management, etc, etc, they were interested to follow their publication and to see what kind of other challenges they meet, how they sold them. So it was interesting. So yeah, there are two approaches to blogging and they didn't realized any of them back in the day. So I didn't focus on SEO and I didn't focus on storyline. And that's why my blogs weren't taking off. I simply didn't have any of the strategies in mind.
That's really interesting. Frankly, I've never thought about it like that either. But that makes a whole lot of sense. Right? So at Ahrefs, I know that since you've been there, you've been able to help grow the traffic by over a hundred percent. Right? And you just said..
I think 200%.
200% all right. Gotta give you credit where credit's due. Awesome job. So when you look back and you look at how you're doing, you know that resource kind of blogging, so to speak, are you trying to give away resources? Are you trying to really have like really impactful pieces or what are your kind of guidelines on pieces, right? So you find a keyword phrase that you want to go after, right? You're like, yes, this is something that we would want to be found for. This is congruent with Ahrefs It's about SEO, it's about marketing, you know, it's the same type of visitor, kind of what goes next that into your content planning or just what happens next?
What happens next is we are trying to figure out how to make the article that people in our industry would actually care to read and quite often, as we publish an article on a certain topic that we want to rank for, for example, like I think it is easier to look at things with specific examples. For example, there is a search query "What is SEO" that we clearly want to rank for? Because this is a gateway to people who are looking to explore SEO and we can lure them into Ahrefs. We can show them some interesting used cases and they will become our customers. So we thought like, what kind of notable thing can we do? Because to rank for this kind of phrase, "What is SEO?" We also need to get a little back links from other websites so we cannot just publish like another piece with our definition of SEO because who cares what is our definition of SEO.
We wanted something noteworthy, something worthy of a link that people might actually link to that would be so interesting they would want to reference it on their own blog. So we decided to go kind of the famous expert round up a path. But in our case we understand that everyone is sick of experts roundups so our goal was a bit more sophisticated. We reached out to a lot of experts and ask them the question like how do they define SEO, what they think SEO is. And we were secretly hoping that we'll be able to clash those experts together. We were hoping for contradictory opinion, we wanted controversy. So we wanted to create the kind of article that would sparkle controversy. We wanted experts to say different things, different definitions of SEO. Then we wanted to create a few groups of people if you groups of experts, a few schools of thought within that article and show the different people define SEO differently, etc, etc.
So, we ended up publishing this article and it's not an expert roundup. It's mostly a like curated approach like journalists approach to a topic when you don't feel that you have authority to do to speak about something. You reach out to people who have authority, get their opinion and create your piece. So that's what we did to make our article notable and they think it did generate some traction. Plus of course the Ego Bait aspect made quite a few of these people who contributed their opinions to read that article. That always works - works with me as well. People often reach out to me for some quotes and they often ended up tweeting the article if they think it is good. So, but the point is, even though we did, we had that strategy in mind, even though we were hoping to strike some controllers and stuff, they didn't end up working as good as we thought.
So we didn't get the kind of controversy we wanted to generate. And probably we didn't even explain what is SEO in a good enough way. So I'd say we failed. We failed to nail that phrase and if you search for what is SEO, I think we are either ranking at the very bottom of the page one or maybe even on page two. So we didn't reach that goal. So then we thought like okay, what could be the problems, and then we realized that with the search query, what is SEO, what people are actually looking for is not some philosophic piece with like brightest minds of the industry discussing what it is and what it is not. When people search for what is SEO, they literally want to know the basics. Like what the hell is SEO? I don't need like your hustlings, I don't need your ramblings.
Just tell me what it is like in plain English. So we figured that we'll have to rewrite that article and the next angle that we're going to take is we want to rewrite it in a way that would be so objective that everyone will agree with us. And whenever people would want to reference to send their peers, like if someone would ask them what is SEO, we want to create the kind of page, the kind of article that everyone objectively will agree that this is the best answer to the question "What is SEO?" So that's what we're going to do next and we'll basically republish that same article under the same URL. So we'll preserve any backings that we've got already. We'll probably preserve some expert quotes that we have already, but by taking the second attempt at ranking at the same article, by promoting it the second time and by seeing if the second angle resonates, we're kind of improving our chances to rank.
So to answer your question, the way we rank for keywords is we are trial and error. We tried to create the best possible piece of content we think of. What would be notable, what people would want to link to, what people would want to reference. And sometimes, and quite often to be fair, to be honest, it doesn't work. So we published, we don't see the traction we wanted. And we think of another way we could do it better. So, it is a long process. Sometimes we have to republish articles three to four times to generate enough traction to generate enough views and to resonate with people as much as we can. I literally yesterday republished my article about keyword difficulty because I saw that my original article about keyword difficulty was not good enough and in less than 12 hours, I think it is ranking number one for keyword difficulty. Let's see how long it will stay there. But so far I see that it resonates with people and lot other people on Twitter saying that they like my take on keyword difficulty and they see that they will send their peers and friends to that article if those will want to learn about keyword difficulty yet.
That's a really refreshing approach, Tim. Frankly, I've never heard anybody really talk about that. Right? It's like write the piece once, do on page, right. Get some backlinks and call it a day and then just continue to optimize it and promote it. And so I think that that's a really neat and fascinating approach that nobody really in the space I hear talking about
I mean, I don't, I've certainly never had that mindset or that, that throughput. And I love it because if you don't nail it the first time and it doesn't go that great, you still have an opportunity with that same URL. Right? And with that same base piece to get that ranking and you're not starting from scratch, right? You're just reiterating and saying, what could I have done better with this? Let me go do better. And then, you know, let's see how it goes. Let's market it again and see if it gets better results. I love that. Great take away from you then. Good stuff. All right, so then, when it comes to building out a blog, right? And when it comes to growing a blog, do you have any thoughts? Do you have any recommendations in terms of like how many blog posts a week? How many blog posts a month? Right. That ever question that everybody always gets about how many articles a week or how fast you should be growing your blog. Right? Any take or thoughts on that?
Yeah, you need to think about the bottom line. Like I said, my biggest mistake with blogging is that I didn't understand how blogging helps to grow your business. So you need to think how your blog will help to grow your business. For example, in the case of Ahrefs, the way our blog brings us customers is that whenever people search for keyword difficulty, they see that our article ranks number one. And within that article I mentioned our own metric. We have keyword difficulty in Ahrefs. I mentioned that our own metric and I explain people how our metric works, how is it useful, how to apply it in their own marketing, in their own keyword research. So by reading my article, people get understanding how our tool works. And from there, if you have understanding how one tool works, why would you go and try other tool if you don't know how it works.
So you will speak with the things you know. So we try to educate people on the concepts of SEO through the prism of Ahrefs. So in every single article, we mentioned use cases of Ahrefs and we have a, what we call, I think it is unique to us because I never saw it mentioned by anyone before in any of the other guys about keyword research. So we have a score called business potential. So for every keyword or topic that you want to target, we assign a score from zero to three, which we call business potential, where three means that your product is an absolutely irreplaceable solution for whatever people were searching for. And again, let's look at it through an example. Let's talk about the keyword, the search query "weight loss or how to lose weight".
When people are searching for how to lose weight, when they have problems with weight, the best solution as far as I know, is diet, so less calories you consume, less weight you have, there is no better option than, than dieting. So if you have like an amazing diet, if you're an expert in creating like custom diet plans based on people's health, they're like preferences in food, etc, then you'll be able to bank a lot on this keyword because you're offering them the best possible solution for their problem. Business potential of two, which is one point lower than three is when your product is extremely helpful, but it's not critical. So it will help you a lot to achieve what you were searching for but you can do without. So again, back to weight loss.
Diet is the single best thing you can do to lose weight. But there are supplements like chemicals that actually help you get rid of the fat and all that stuff. So everyone or like a surgery and a lot of people are getting rid of of their fat, just by surgery. Again, this is not critical. You can lose weight without surgery or you can lose weight without chemicals or supplements, but it is very useful. So that's business potential of two and many people will go for it because they think that the best way is not like is not optimal for them. So they will choose the other option. Business potential of one means that your product can be mentioned. But people won't really buy it. Like, you can mention it.
So it is relevant, but it is not critical at all. So in that example, the business potential of one, I would say kettlebell. So kettlebell is a nice piece of fitness equipment and you can do a lot of exercises and you can burn calories, you can keep yourself in shape, blah, blah blah. But the value of buying a kettlebell towards losing weight is questionable. So, dieting is so much better. A surgery or supplements work so much better. Like with Kettle Bell, you'll have to work a lot to lose weight so you can, if you're selling kettlebells, it makes sense to talk about weight loss topics. It makes sense to talk about fitness. But the odds that people will convert into buying your kettlebell are slim. And finally, business potential of zero means that there's absolutely no way to even mention your product within the topic.
So for weight loss, I'd say it would be, I don't know, car tires. How do you mention, how do you sell car tires to a person who's looking to lose weight and all of the people actually make this mistake. They write on their blogs about topics where their product is absolutely irrelevant. So yeah, the topic might make sense for their industry, but there's no way to mention their product to showcase it within the article and to explain people why their product helps them with whatever they were searching for. So, to like, to answer your question, like how do people, what kind of publishing frequency people have to choose? How many articles they should have on their blog? It depends on the business potential because I know a lot of people who are making millions of dollars with just a few articles. Again, if we take the example of weight loss. If you put weight loss into Google, if you take the top ranking page and paste it to Ahrefs to see how many different keywords that it is ranking for and how much search traffic it is bringing per month, I think that single article about weight loss, it is bringing over 300,000 visitors per month from search.
One single article every month is viewed by 300,000 people. You can easily build a business of that article alone so you don't need any other articles as long as you keep ranking for this one. But if you have secured your number one spot with this article, you'll probably want to target another topic and rank number one for it as well. So, again, a great example is Brian Dean, the guy who has a famous SEO blog, backlinko.com, who is selling SEO courses and who's doing millions in revenue, as far as I know. He only has, I think, less than 40 articles on his blog. I know many SEO blogs of different SEO tool vendors or like SEO experts that have hundreds and hundreds, sometimes thousands of articles on their blog, and the ROI of these articles is not as huge. So yeah, it's all about the traffic you can get and how, how the traffic is relevant, what's the business potential of the traffic. And if you're able to convert the traffic into your customers, you can build the business of just a single article alone.
Yeah. I love the business potential side of that. Right. So I mean, I think for me anyways, like thinking through what you just said, the Aha moment was like, look at the business potential in those keywords and create kind of a content plan around that. Right. And whether that's a one month plan or a three month plan or a six month plan, that's where you start. At least, that's what I took from what you said.
So Tim, I know that I've been using Ahrefs for about a year now and I completely love it. And when somebody asks me, you know, Joe, what are you using for keyword research and what are you using for backlink audits and what are you using kind of as your SEO tools to stay. It's always one of the tools that I recommend. But I really want to give everybody that's watching this some practical advice on what are the top five, what are the top seven, what are the top 10 things that anybody watching this, whether they're a seasoned SEO expert or they're brand new to SEO could use and go get a return quickly, right, with using Ahrefs. Like what are the tactics that somebody could deploy quickly?
Yeah, sure. Thanks. Thanks for letting me plug some Ahrefs used cases into our conversation. I only did that actually while I was discussing different strategies. Yeah. But still, if you focus on how Ahrefs helps your directly. So, we have seven day trial which costs $7 and people actually don't realize how much they can accomplish in just those seven days. So, the workflow that I suggest is first of all, go to our site audit tool, which will crawl your entire website and report all the SEO issues you have. So you might have some critical SEO issues that are hurting your website's performance and they might want to fix that. So it always helps to know what's happening in your website. And usually because I know the technical guy myself, I don't really mess with the code. I don't know how like all that set up works.
But like our SEO audit tool is very straightforward. We have over a hundred preconfigured SEO issues that we audit your website for. And for each of the SEO issues, we actually show issue description, like what it means and how to fix it. So all you need to do is crawl your website, then explore the pages that have a certain issue and then copy paste the description of the issue. For example, go to upwork, look for some web developer and tell them that you have these kinds of issue on these pages and you want it fixed. So that's all you need to do to fix the SEO issues that you have on your website. The next thing that Ahrefs is incredibly useful for is researching your competition. So if you're doing, if you're creating a blog in a specific industry or if you're having an ecommerce website or a SaaS website, you actually want to know how your competitors are getting traffic from search, what kind of things they're ranking for.
So I just explained that people can build a business. You can build the business of just one single article about weight loss if you're ranked number one for it. So you want to know what kind of topics, what kind of keywords your competitors are ranking for in Google, and you want to score their business potential and see if any of the articles that they rank for actually make sense for their business. Because a fine example, there is a famous brand in marketing space, Hubspot, they have CRM/marketing automation tool. I don't even know like what they do because they just handle so many different things. But if I, when I take their blog and plug it into Ahrefs, I always make fun of them because the top ranking article that is bringing them over a hundred thousand visitors per month from search, their top top article by search traffic is how to make a GIF image.
And they always, like in my talks, in my podcast interviews, I make fun of Hubspot because how do you convert the person who is looking for how to make a gif image into a customer of complex CRM marketing software where the annual subscription can be over $10,000 annually. So the buyer's journey there would be quite sophisticated then you have to have incredible salespeople to follow up with that lead and persuade them that they were looking to make a gif, but they actually need like CRM marketing software. But then it gets better. They actually, I recently noticed I think number five article by search traffic on Hubspot blog is shrug Emoji. These Emoji that you make shrugging this text where people literally search for Shrug Emoji. They open article, they copy paste, how to like type the shrugging emojis.
They go and use the into in their conversation without like reading the article. I don't know like why their marketing team keeps publishing those articles and pumping their traffic while it has no business value but that's an example of how you research your competitors and find what kind of topics actually makes sense because yeah I just made fun of two topics that Hubspot are ranking for but they didn't mention quite a few other topics that make sense that are highly related to marketing and that we have kind of stolen from them and covered on our own blog and we are ranking for them and we are generating traffic for them because we researched what, because we researched what kind of content they have and we replicated it on our own website. We did it better and we started collecting SEO traffic for ourselves.
So that's the number two use case. First crawl your website, second, research your competitors and see what kind of topics are bringing them traffic. Third, do the keyword research. So we have a tool called content explorer where you can actually, you can research topics by looking at what brings traffic to your competitors. But you can also research what people are actually searching for online. So if you take weight loss and put it into keyword explorer, it will show you all the search queries from all around the world that people are making with the words weight and loss in them. So how do I lose weight, weight loss, exercise, weight loss, diet, etc, etc, etc. Anything that contains weight loss in them will be listed in our database of search queries. And for every search query you have, how many times per month people are out in the world search for it in Google and the so called keyword difficulty, which is basically a proxy to how many backlinks the top ranking search results for that keyword have.
Because generally if you are not able to generate as many backlinks to your page as the top ranking pages have, you are unlikely to outrank them. You're unlikely to rank in the top 10 search results. So this is why knowing how many backings competitors have is pretty useful. So that's the keyword explorer, that's keyword research and that's number three. Again, first do the site audit. Second check what brings traffic to your competitors. Third, do keyword research and explore the searches that people are doing in Google that contain keywords related to your industry, whether it's productivity, photography, pants, whatever. Just play with the search queries. Fourth backlinks. So, to rank in Google, you need backlinks. And backlinks are actually more than just metric or like thing that helps you rank in Google. It's actually a way how you gauge. I think gauge is the right pronunciation. Gauge your popularity and how many partners, how many fans you have.
Because if people are linking to you, it means that you are useful. Some of these people might be your affiliates. So again, if you plug the websites of your competitors and research who is linking to them, what kind of websites are linking to them, where are they getting links from and where those links are pointing to. You'll be able to figure out who like who are the fans of your competitors and why they're linking to them, what kind of, I don't know, products, services, tools, content, personas, what makes them link to the websites of your competitors. Because then you can figure out your own strategy and you can then reach out to those same websites, show them your products, tools, services, content, whatever, and persuade them that you're also worthy of a link. So that's number four. Again, quickly go through them again.
Site Audit. Second, research what brings traffic to your competitors. Research, what people are searching for in Google, research who is linking to your competitors. And one final thing, let's not do above five. One final thing is we have a tool called content explorer, which is basically a search engine. But if Google lets you search through everything that is published online, content explorer is focused on content, which is in the name actually. So we have a database of over 1 billion pages with content that is constantly growing as we crawl the web and discover new content. So for the value of content explorer is that, for example, you can search for the word productivity and you can search for all articles from all around the web that have the word productivity in their titles. How this is useful? If you have some kind of startup or application or a service.
Now in the initial productivity, you want to know about all the blogs that write about productivity because then you'll be able to reach out to them and you'll be able to figure out affiliate partnerships, guest posts, email list, you name it, like any marketing strategy. Just knowing who writes about stuff in your industry is very helpful. Other than that, for every article that we have in connect explorer, we have two super important metrics. The first one is how many backlinks that article has. And the second one, how much traffic that article is bringing from Google. So if you want to research the content that generates backlinks in your industry, just search for a topic in content explorer and sort the results by the number of referring domains, the number of backlinks they have. And you'll see what the track's backlinks in your industry.
If you want to find topics that are generating a lot of traffic from search that are relevant to what you do, you can search for example, productivity apps. You will search for that in content explorer and you'll see all articles that have words, productivity apps in their content. And then you can sort them by a search traffic and you'll see which topics that mentioned productivity apps in them, which means that these topics are relevant to productivity apps are getting the most search traffic. So these gives you the ideas of topics that you can cover on your own website and still talk about productivity apps or whatever you want to talk about. So these are five use cases of Ahrefs that I suggest people to start from. But there are many, many more.
Yeah. I can't believe how many you didn't even mention. So, how about where would you put in order of importance, where would you put like the link intersect tool that you guys have? And can you explain what that is?
It's funny because just a few hours ago I was having another live call, like a podcast interview. And the guys actually asked me about link intersect as well. To be honest, I think this is incredibly useful tool, but you have to like how do I put it, let's say you have to use it with extreme care because the, the idea behind link intersect is that you can find all websites that are linking to two or three or four of your competitors, but not you. So the idea there is that if someone is linking to all of your competitors, but it's not linking to you for some reason, it makes them a perfect prospect for link building or for building business relationships because they are already fans of all your competitors but not you.
But the reason why I'm saying that you have to use it with extreme care is because there might be actually a reason why they mentioned all of your competitors and not you. So probably they don't mention you because you don't really deserve it. So you have to deserve it first and then reach out to those people and then negotiate with them, and mention on their website. So yeah, what I'm saying is that all of people are putting too much hope on the tool. So they think, okay, I will figure out everyone who's linking to my competitors and they will get easy links. I disagree that those links are easy. I disagree with that. So unless you first figure out what it is about your competitors that makes those people link to them and not you and create it within your own website, a business tool service and then reach out, then you will be successful. Otherwise you might just reach out to a lot of people and the get zero replies.
Yup 100% agree with that. Yeah. You have to contextually understand why they got the link in the first place. Right? Like what was the purpose of the piece and why did they get the mention? Why did they get the link, before you approach them? So yeah, I completely completely get that. Completely understand. I think that there is, there's a lot of low hanging fruit though in that tool, so to speak. Right. There is a lot of sites that are low hanging fruit that I feel like you don't have to do so much research with and you could get a link pretty easily. But I do agree that a lot of the list as well is like you're going to have to put in some research and you're going to have to understand contextually what the heck is happening there.
Overall, I'd like to add that, acquiring backlinks is not easy at all because when you acquire backlinks, you're practically making people who probably don't know about you, recommend you to the audience of their website visitors. So it's the same, for example, I would launch some new startup or tool tomorrow and I will tell you about it, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you will link to it. So the simple fact of me telling to you that I have created something doesn't mean that you will link to it. It has to have value for you as well so that you would recommend it to your audience. So yeah, acquiring backlinks is not as simple, unfortunately.
So, that's a good segue, Tim. What would be your top three to four recommendations or favorite ways, right? Or tactics to get backlinks, right? You just said, right. Getting backlinks and convincing somebody to link to you isn't the easiest thing in the world. And you explain why. Right? So what would be kind of your favorite go-to three to four tactics, two to three tactics, right, to get links.
To be honest, I only have one tactic, and that is quite sexy.
That's even better than three or four.
Yeah. And the tactic is quite simple and straightforward. Three words actually: do something notable. Do something worthy of a link. Do something like incredible that people would want to, to tell their friends about, to reference on their blog. Do something that will help people. Because like I said, we want to rank for what is SEO and we want to create the kind of article that will, that people will use to explain SEO to their friends. If you don't want to talk for hours with your friends and explain like, what is SEO, where to start, etc. etc. You will just peak our article because you think it's the best resource. And you will tell it to them.
This is how we're hoping that people will reference our article over anything else. So the best link building strategy, and this is what I figured over the years, is to create things that people naturally want to reference, that they are so useful. They are so incredible, so controversial, so unexpected, so surprising, so inspiring. Like you name it. There are many things of why people want to spread the word about content, tools, products, services. I'm not saying content actually, because at Ahrefs we get a lot of backlinks because of the actual product. So we would create a new feature and that feature is useful and people start linking to us because they talk about the useful feature. So we get backlinks because we create notable stuff. We create things that help people. Same with content. We might publish a tutorial that is useful and people want to reference it because of how helpful it was to them and they think that their website visitors, or their followers or the people they communicate with on forums and message boards will find it useful as well.
Or we would create a study, we would bust a specific myth. For example, my most recent study is named "Ranking number one is overrated", where we crunched some numbers and I proved that the number one ranking page is not necessarily the one that generates the most search traffic in total because pages don't rank for just a single keyword. Yeah. If you rank for just one keyword, the number one result gets like 30% of clicks from the keyword, the number two gets 20% 15 etc. etc. But pages rank for all sorts of queries. So, with an example of weight loss, it's like weight loss, how to lose weight, effective weight loss, etc. Etc. Etc. And if you look at the total traffic to top ranking pages, the page that ranks number one for a specific keyword doesn't necessarily get the most search traffic in total.
And that was an interesting study and it was surprising in some way because people believe that the number one ranking page is the one that is banking on traffic the most. It is not and it is notable, it is something that people want to link to. It is something that people want to reference. So the best link building strategy I know is to create stuff that would be notable. One kind of a hack to it is like something that I did on my own blog, BloggerJet. I wanted to write an article about guest blogging and I wanted to figure out if guest blogging can bring your referral traffic. We all know that guest blogging is good for acquiring backlinks because if you struggle to make, to persuade other people to link to you, you can just submit content to their website and link to yourself from your own content.
So this is an easy way to get links, easy quote unquote because it is not so easy to, to guest post on quality websites anyway. But yeah, I wanted to know if guest blogging is actually bringing you any referral traffic and not just helping your own article to rank. So I reached out to 500 bloggers and I asked them to give me the numbers from their Google analytics on a few of their most recent guest articles. And they calculated that the average referral traffic from a guest article was just 54 visits. So 54 visits. Think of how much time you put into creating an article, negotiating with the blog owner maybe refining your article, publishing it, promoting, etc, etc. And for 54 visits. Like how much would you pay to Facebook ads to get 54 visits for your website? I think your time is worth more than that.
So yeah, this was the article I created and because I reached out to 500 bloggers and I got their numbers, I did something notable, I did something that other people don't do. So everyone would go, could share their own opinion. Like I published like 20 or 50 guest articles and they didn't get any referral traffic and people would say like, so what? I know people who are generating a lot of referral traffic. So it wasn't my case, they didn't go the easy way of sharing my own opinion of how much a referral traffic I was getting because I actually knew that I wasn't getting any referral traffic from my guest articles. But I reached out to 500 people. That was a lot of work to communicate with each of them because it's not just you reach out to a person than they immediately give you the numbers.
No. They will ask you questions like, why do you need it? How do you need it? Sometimes they shared their Google analytics access with me. Sometimes they send me screenshots, sometimes they send me numbers. Sometimes you had to reconfirm with them like, are you giving me the right number because it doesn't seem correct. So there was a lot of work involved. But then again, that article I think to date it's, it's my most linked to article on BloggerJet. It has generated links from over 200 blogs from 200 websites and for like for Ahrefs generating links from 200 websites is not a fit. It's not something like out of the ordinary. Now we can do it quite easily. But for bloggerjet, a blog that pretty much no one knew about to generate links from 200 websites is a pretty cool accomplishment. So yeah, it's all about doing notable things. It's all about doing things that will be interesting to people in the industry and about doing things that people in your industry would want to tell their friends and audience about.
So that's pretty amazing. Yeah. 200 right root domains, essentially, right? 200 different blogs linking to you from one piece of content is amazing. I mean, if you look competition wise, right? Like you could compete well with a lot of people, right? Just from that the backlinks from that one piece of content alone for your entire site. So that's fantastic. Good stuff. So contextually like how long did that study take you? Right, like high level. Like if you had to look at how long that took from coming up with the idea and writing the piece and doing the outreach and the back and forth and the verification of the numbers, like what would you have to say kind of your time investment was on that piece?
I think it took me three to four months. But at the same time, like I said, I always had a full time job, so I was writing that article part time. So right now whenever here at Ahrefs, we tried to get into such ventures for example, with what is SEO post. I think it took us around three weeks. Like when a fulltime person is doing this. And again, it's not that they invest like all eight hours each and everyday into doing this because uh, for example, you take two or three days to reach out to a hundred people and then you just wait. You simply collect responses and you reply to people as they come in. You can take care of other things, but the timeline is you have to wait for people to reply. You have to ping them with followups.
You have to ping them on Twitter, on Linkedin if you want to get the response from them. So you have to be persistent. So yeah, it's quite a big time investment and depending on what kinds of piece of content you're creating because for what is SEO, we were just, we just needed their opinion and then we created it for my research or for referral traffic from guest articles, I had to actually like crunch some numbers in a spreadsheet. So it took some extra time and they wanted to create some fancy looking graphics. So yeah. But yeah, a good piece of content will take quite some resources and quite some time investment, that's for sure.
100% but that's not bad, right? At the end of the day to get 200 root domains for a three month investment. I mean, how many people out there haven't even built 300 root domains to their site? Right? And it's, and they've been around for years. So that's an amazing feat no matter what. No matter how you look at it.
What amazes me is that there are a ton of blogs about blogging or tone of marketing resources that talk about blogging. And to date, my study is already three or four years old. I think four years old because I created it shortly after joining Ahrefs. And Dmitry actually reached out to me and said, why did you publish that study on your blog while you're working at Ahrefs? And I was like, he said, I'm interested too, like, so that you would invest all your resources into Ahrefs. And I will kind of provide you with the sufficient compensation for your work. So yeah, this is how I decided that all my mental powers on my work should go to Ahrefs. But yeah, I did it part time shortly after joining Ahrefs and to date I didn't see anyone four years later replicating that study because my study is outdated.
The numbers could be different today. People might be getting more referral traffic today or less referral traffic today. And again, even simply the fact of reaching out to a lot of people in the industry and asking them about their guest blogging activities, how they do it, what kind of KPIs they have, what kind of ROI they're expecting from it etc. etc. It would be interesting. I would definitely read it. I would definitely tweet it. I would probably find the place to link to that article somewhere. But so far no one has replicated it because of how much time and effort it takes. And that is what puts you into those like 1% of people who are above everyone else because they are eager to do things that no one else is eager to do and like there is no shortcut to it. People are usually looking for some secret strategies, for secret source, for secret tactics. They're like, they always have a feeling that there's something that like successful people know that they don't, but the only thing that successful people know is the same thing that they know, like you have to put in a lot of work. People just are unwilling to put that work.
100% percent. Completely agree. Most people are just looking for the quick fix, not the longterm one. Yeah. All right. So, one thing that always bothers me in terms of content marketing in our space, in the marketing space, so to speak, is how fast things move, right? And how fast things change, right? Marketing is always evolving. SEO is always evolving. So what are your thoughts or what are your systems, what are your processes? What are your guidelines on kind of writing content that is going to be good for the long term versus is going to cycle out, so to speak, and not be good in three months, six months, or 12 months? Like how do you deal with that or how do you think about that?
There's no way to deal with that. Like we discussed previously, what we do here at Ahrefs is update our content. So like I said, just yesterday I have republished my article about keyword difficulty and the reason for that is first, I saw that the article plummeted. So it ranked in top five, sometimes into three quite consistently for quite a long time. But then I saw that Google has removed it from their Search results, which is indication for me. Many people in the SEO industry, already agree that Google is capable of looking at behavioral factors of how people behave after clicking on your search results. If they like it, if they stay or if they go back and click on something else. And the fact that Google has removed my article from their search results for keyword difficulty was an indication for me that people today no longer like it.
People today no longer like my approach to keyword difficulty, which was three years ago. So I decided that I actually re-read that article and I figured out that the article is bad. So me three years later, thinks that my work three years later was bad, which is quite natural. And I'm sure it's the case with many people. If you look at the content that you've published a few years ago, you'll find that absolutely terrible. So there's no way to create like everlasting content. Well, actually there is, but you have to be like in front of everyone else. You have to be on the forefront of your industry. There's actually a great book about it by Ryan Holiday is called Perpetual seller. It's about how to create like evergreen content that will outlive yourself. But again, like you said, marketing is a fast moving industry.
Things change, new concepts arise, people discuss different things, people care about different things. And a lot of other industries are the same. So it's not exclusive to marketing. Technology moves super fast. There are new things in finance, new things in law, new things in politics, etc. Etc. So you have to update your content. Your content will inevitably get outdated. And if it gets outdated, if people start reading it and figure out that, the things that you're talking about are not relevant today, they will close it. Google will figure out that people don't like your content and Google will remove it from the search results. So the best thing you can do is revisit your content from time to time, especially the articles with your highest business potential. Because keyword difficulty, even though the search volume, the traffic potential of the keyword is not high, the business potential for us is super high because we actually have a metric which is literally called keyword difficulty. So we do want to rank for that stuff and we do want people to find us when they search for it. So yeah, you have to revisit those topics that are critical to your business and you have to update them and you have to make sure that your content is up to date and ahead of the curve.
So I think mindset wise, I think, you know, what I took away from what you said is that you just got to change your mindset, right? You gotta know that the contents going to have to get updated and so, write the piece in a way that it is a long term piece and that you can go back and you can edit and you can update it and just have that mindset going into it instead of having the mindset, like I just kind of talked about, I would have in the past that, you know, this is going to last forever and I'm never going to need to update it, right. Because the chances are that's not going to work. Cool. Okay.
And then Tim, where do you see Ahrefs going? What's the future look like for Ahrefs? Right. You guys have amazed me frankly, right? With just like you guys keep updating feature and tool after tool. And frankly, I haven't seen some of the things coming that you guys have added. Like, I just, I didn't see it. Right. I didn't see that you guys or even think that you guys would add a feature like that or go into kind of, the keyword content explorer. I'm sorry, the content explorer for example, like that for me, it was like I didn't see that one coming. Right. So share with us kind of where you see Ahrefs going in the future.
It's hard to define where Ahrefs is going, to put it simply. But we do have quite a few amazing ideas of features that will help people in their SEO and marketing. For example, you mentioned content explorer. One absolutely unique feature that we have in the content explorer, I'm not sure whether you know about it or not, is the ability to search content of pages that no longer exists. So previously, we have the database of content which we constantly recall and whenever page becomes 404 whenever a person deletes an article from their blog, we would remove it from content explorer. But then we figured, why do we do that? While that article could have backlinks. So for example, right now you're able to search for productivity in the titles of the articles that don't exist today. And many of these articles have backlinks pointing at them.
So this is like broken link building on steroids. As apple would say, we are reinventing broken link building. So previously you would have to go to websites of your competitors and search for pages on specific websites of your specific competitors that no longer exist and hoping that your competitors wouldn't notice. And wouldn't recreate those pages. Right now you can actually search within content of pages that are ceased to exist and you can see these pages have have backlinks and so you can recreate those topics on your website and reach out to all websites that are linking to the piece of content. Tell them that you're linking to a page that is that. Here's the replacement. Again, I'll be honest with you, it's still not easy to build links. Even with that strategy that seems like low hanging fruit. You'll see that only like 30% of people will reply to you.
Only like five or 3% of people will end up changing the link, etc. etc. So it's not as easy as it seems, even though it seems like a low hanging fruit, but still that is very useful. And we are the only tool in the world today that does it and they don't see any other tools catching up with these kinds of feature. And we have quite a few more features like that planned. We have quite a few unique angles that we can take with our tools and data that no one else can just because they don't have the required technology and they don't work with the data the way we work. But I cannot define it with words like where Ahrefs is going. We do have some amazing features planned that we're going to release. But I don't see how that can be defined as some direction or anything on, it's like we're just, our goal is to make the job of marketers of SEO people easier.
We want to provide them with the best information, with the best strategies to be ahead of everyone else. So for example, people who know that you can do that broken link building trick in content explorer are one step ahead of everyone else because like you're banking on the strategy that no one knows exists and we're not even hiding it. So while some people would love to keep this a secret, we are actually in the business of spreading the word about it. So be the first to use that feature. Be the first to find the content that no longer exists and has backlinks replicated on the website and claim those backlinks.
Yeah, man, you guys are iterating at such a fast pace and just providing so much value with the tool, right? Like refreshing it. New User interfaces, new tweaks, you know, new features, new little ways to dig into the tool. That's what I love, right? It's not a stagnant tool. So many tools in the industry get built once and they you know, receive a refresh once or twice a year. Every other year they get a little tweak here and there, that's one of my big favorite things about Ahrefs. Like you guys are just iterating at such a fast clip that it keeps things super interesting and keeps, you know, me as a marketer on the forefront of the game. So I really appreciate that. But Tim, it's been great having you man, and I want to be very respectful of your time.
You've dropped a lot of knowledge, you've dropped a lot of nuggets here and we're hitting the top of the hour. So I do want to wrap it up and I want to wrap it up by asking you one last question. Right? At the end of, I think every podcast they always ask like, what, what are your favorite three books? Right? So I want to do something just a little different. Right? I want to ask you, what's the one book, right? That's made a huge impact on your business, right? What's the one book you would recommend? And why?
Well, first of all, I don't have a business of my own right now. I'm an employee. I'm chief marketing officer at the Ahrefs, which is the business of Dmetry who has founded it. So let me change your question a little bit to make it easier for me to answer. I can answer with a book that actually, I think it changed my life and my career. And it's quite famous book, actually, it's called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. So there's a very famous takeaway from the book that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. And overall the book explores what makes you successful? Is it luck? Is it the time you put in? Is it hard work? Is the environment, etc etc. And after reading that book, I realized that even though a lot in my life depends on luck, I actually have control over many other things. And I can put in the work, I can create necessary connections, I can change my environment, etc etc. So I think that book was like pretty life changing for me. So if people, if anyone in your audience haven't tried that, I do recommend it.
All right, awesome. Yeah, that's an absolutely fantastic book. One that I try to revisit actually quite often. So fantastic. Good stuff. I really appreciate you coming on, Tim. And if people want to connect with you, man, with social media, like what, where's the best place? It seems like you're the most active on Twitter these days, but I'm not sure.
Yeah. I think Twitter is the best way to connect with me just search for Tim Soulo.
Okay, awesome. And then in the show notes, we'll make sure that we link up to Bloggerjet. We'll also link up to Ahrefs. Any place else that we should link up in the show notes for you?
Well, actually, BloggerJet is no longer updated because Dmitry talk to me out of pursuing other side projects while working at Ahrefs. So no need to link there. There's a page about me at Ahrefs.com. It's at ahrefs.com/tim. T-I-M. Okay. And this is a page where I list all my links to social media profiles, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Medium and what not. I also list there my most recent podcast interviews where the link to this interview will appear at some point, where I list my most recent life talks at different conferences around the world. So yeah, this is the page here and in some of my best articles published at Ahrefs blog. So if people want to research my work, all this then some other interviews with me, this is the page ahrefs.com/tim where they can explore my work.
Awesome man. We'll definitely link that up in the show notes and thanks again, Tim. We really appreciate it and I highly recommend you guys definitely take them up on their trial, right? And you start using Ahrefs and I know you guys won't be disappointed. So I'll see you guys on the next episode.
Thanks a lot. Joe.