The Bootstrapper’s Guide to SEO

As much as we advocate the Customer First Approach, once you have a solid product and paying customers, you want to get more of them by increasing your website traffic.

But getting just any sort of traffic won't cut it.

If I send a thousands of middle-aged men to your local lingerie store, some might buy something, but most of them would leave empty-handed. It's the same online.

No, you want quality traffic. People who are actually interested in your services and want to hear more about you, purchase from you, tell your friends about you. 

How can you find these people without spending a fortune on ads or a skilled marketing team? 

In today's episode of the Traffic for Time Instead of Money podcast series, we interviewed Tim Soulo, CMO at ahrefs, to share his best SEO strategies that work on a bootstrap budget.

If you're new to SEO, read this article before listening to the podcast!


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Episode Transcript

New to SEO? Start Here

If you're familiar with at least the basics of SEO, then go ahead and dive right into the podcast episode above. If you're new to SEO, you might find the interview a bit difficult to follow, so here's a quick crash-course.

My assumption is that you've heard of Google. If you're like most of us, you use it at least ten times a day, for virtually anything - from researching business strategies to figuring out the title of the song you've been humming all day. If you're like my brother, you Google "YouTube" too.

Here's another bold assumption: in 99% of cases, you never leave the first page of search results. Businesses that don't show up on the first page in your Google search barely stand a chance, no matter how good their service is. You'll just never find them.

For your online business this means: if your website gets listed among the first search results for something a lot of people search for, you can get a lot of traffic. This is often referred to as free or "organic" traffic, because you're not paying to get that traffic, your site just happens to show up in the search results.

On the other hand, if your site is not listed among the top results for a search term, you'll basically get no traffic from Google.

google search result page 2

Source: Google

This is the aim of Search Engine Optimization (SEO): it's to optimize your pages in such a way that they will appear on page 1 of Google search results, for terms people in your market or niche often search for.

Here's a simple video explanation for beginners - the analogy used in the video will make it easier for you to understand. And they were the first hit for "what is SEO" in Google, which convinced me that they know what they're talking about. 

Is SEO Still Viable for Small Businesses?

Whatever you start, there will always be someone telling you that you're too late - "it was easier 5 years ago." (Did you notice it's always five years, never four or six?) 

If you've come across SEO before, you've probably also heard that these days it's way too competitive because of all the big companies already using the great keywords and are ranking for them. 

Tim Soulo disagrees: it's not SEO that's getting competitive, but the industry itself. If you're launching a product in a market that's already saturated, you will always have more competition than when you start something completely new.

The Best Strategies for Bootstrappers & Solopreneurs

On the podcast, we asked Tim what you can do as a bootstrapping entrepreneur with a product that's already been validated, but not entirely unheard of. How can you stand out of the crowd and rank for multiple relevant search terms?

Here are some of his tips that you'll hear in the episode:

  • Secondhand Search Traffic: If you're just starting out and you've been focusing on your product, chances are you don't have much content on your website yet. The best solution may not be publishing on your own website. Instead, Tim Soulo suggests publishing guest articles on relevant, high-authority, high-traffic websites, which helps you in multiple ways: the post will be picked up sooner because the website it's published on is more trusted; you tap into the audience of this other blog which already has many readers; you establish a relationship with the owner of the website; and you get strong backlinks. The more backlinks you have (i.e. the more websites link to your site), the higher you will rank, and not all backlinks are created equal. Google prefers if those links arrive from high-authority websites.
  • Outreach: Tim suggests that if you're product is good, often you won't even have to do the writing yourself - other blogs will write about you. What you need to do is reach out the owners of these blogs and pitch your product to them: if they like it, they'll review it for free, simply because it's their job. This can be a great 30-day challenge as well: reach out to someone and pitch your product, for 30 days. This method has multiple benefits - not only can you get backlinks by having people write about you, but you can get a lot of feedback about your product, and if it doesn't resonate with many, you know that there's work to do.
  • Feature Landing Pages: another tip is to create a landing page for each and every single feature or use case there is for your product. Don't just have one sales page, but break it down into its component and build several search engine-optimized pages for every feature and use case you can think of.  
  • Blogging: last but now least Tim suggested a least surprising, yet very effective method: blogging on your own website. This method is not as fast as the previous two, especially if your website is new, but it pays off in the long run when your articles will start getting picked up by search engines. On you own blog, you can publish whenever you want, as often as you want, without having to reach out to people and giving them control.

Finding the Right Keywords

In the podcast episode, you'll find the right tools to find great keywords, but before you get down to keyword planning, take a step back and look into your audience.

You will have a hard time knowing what they might search for in Google if you don't know who they are, what they like and how they think.

Tim suggests getting to know your potential customers as well as possible - getting on calls with them, hang out where they hang out, read the books and blogs they do. Go on Quora and Reddit, and look at questions that are relevant to what your selling. See what people struggle with, how they frame their questions, what words they use to communicate.

Only then should you open a keyword planner tool and see the search demand.

A tip for keyword research: don't just look at the traffic volume for an individual keyword. See what pages rank for a certain keyword and how much traffic they get in total for that page. Sometimes the same question people search for can be asked (and therefore typed in) in many different way, making a page rank for many different terms.

We created a tutorial video in case you're not sure how you can do this:


How Do You Get Traffic? 

What has your strategy been to get traffic on your website? Have you been experimenting with Search Engine Optimization or you prefer other traffic generation methods? 

Let us know in the comments below!

As always, we want your feedback, questions, tips and stories. You can leave them in the comments section or leave us a voice message by hitting the "Start recording" button below:

See you soon with another episode!

About the Author Alexandra Kozma

Alexandra is a traveling marketer. When she is not editing podcast episodes or writing blog posts, she's out there exploring a new city. She's the creator of the Morning Mindset daily mindfulness journal.

  • Happy to hear Tim Soulo on your podcast Shane. Ahrefs has been a blessing for me. It supercharged my business by letting me discover untapped keywords and from which my competitors are getting traffic, I couldn’t even imagine many of them before. 100% worth the investment.

    • Thanks for your comment, Angelo! I’m happy to hear that you got this kind of value out of the tool. :)

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