Episode 4

How Keyword Insights Used a Brand-first Approach to Building Organic Growth

Portrait of Andy Chadwick from Kyword Insights.

Interview with Andy Chadwick, Co-founder of Keyword Insights

Learn how Keyword Insights took a brand-first approach to building growth, and how they've challenged a major player in their industry to a rap battle.

Spotify logo.

Resources 🛠️

Key Learnings 💡

During our chat, Andy shared an incredible volume of insights, and if I were to summarize his startup's story in three points, they would be:

  1. Know your enemy. Be realistic about your competition, their strengths and opportunities.
  2. Don't chase the same growth strategies as your competition, particularly if you're battling giants. Work on other aspects of your growth, and begin competing with the giants when you're on a similar level.
  3. Don't be afraid to call your competitors out.

Andy's Episode in a Nutshell 🗒️

Andy and his co-founder launched their startup on the back of a successful SEO consulting business. In fact, their first tools were built for internal use.

We started by making our own tools to automate alot of our processes and basically make our workloads quicker. And then we realized the tools were actually the most useful part of what we do.

But as luck had it, Andy's agency would be helping bigger agencies offload their workload. Soon, these companies started asking Andy and his co-founder about their tools and thus, Keyword Insights was born.

This also means that Andy started promoting Keyword Insights having a huge advantage of knowing exactly how to build search visibility and achieve organic growth.

That knowledge and understanding of the intricacies of SEO led them to take a slightly different approach to how they've promoted the tool.

For some businesses, obviously you can, for small niches, you could go away, do your keyword research and start writing top of the funnel type guides that align with that keyword research. For us, it was a content marketing platform. And so our search engine competitors were people like, if anyone knows them, Semrush or Ahrefs or Moz. And so we couldn't, we were never going to be able to compete with their sort of guides on helping people with SEO because they're already monsters. They've been going for ten years. So we actually took a brand first approach, which is why I guess ourbrand has so much search volume now.

What's more, those insights fulled the product development, too.

To most people, their story started with a successful MVP. But in reality, both Andy and his co-founder have been busy building their personal brands a long time before the MVP launched.

A lot of people, you know, hope that you can just, you know, start something and get traffic for it. Saganthan and I have been building our own personal branding for at least two or three years before this. Well, Saganthan, five or six years I've been building my own. But I had a goal in mind that when I launched something, I already wanted a base that would amplify it for me. So before we'd even pushed this, I started building on my,my personal brand two or three years before that.  [...] I think in a year or two, I built my Twitter following from three to six, 7000. Saganthan went from 3000 to, I think he's got about 15,000. And it just meant when we launched the beta version, the mvp of our product, we already had a load of people who had become, quote unquote friends who were willing to not only amplify it, but try it first, paying customers. And so that's how we began to launch the Keyword Insights.

There was another reason for focusing on the brand first.

As Andy points out, given the company's lack of authority in the industry early on meant that their content would have hardly any chances at all of ranking.

There was no point developing that content because we could never rank for it because we just were up against. The problem when you're writing SEO content is you're up against other SEO companies. And if those other SEO companies have a lot more authority, there's just not achance in hell.

As a result, Keyword Insights had to focus on other strategies early on:

  • Brand building
  • Link building
  • Developing free tools

The third strategy on the list turned out to be particularly effective, and continues so. In fact, Andy recommends this strategy not just for software startups.

We get a lot of people searching for a tool or a keyword and they're all aligned to some sort of keyword and they could try itand then it pushed them into paying for the actual version of the tool. We havea load of agency clients as well. We recommend this, too. We work with acompany that has an equivalent of docusign, and there was a lot of searchvolume around sign PDF online for free. They made that app and they rankednumber one. And that got a lot of visitors who then wanted to pay for the full thing.And we've got a Shopify client who makes certain templates. And if you go intoa keyword research Tool and Type Shopify any, find me all the keywords thathave Shopify and Template. There's loads of free templates you can make whichthen could sell them. Yeah, free tools are a huge one.

Not everything worked for the guys, though, and during the interview, Andy was very kind to share all about the strategies that fell flat for them.

One such strategy is Paid advertising.

Paid, that's not working for us at the moment.Uh, bidding on keywords, like keyword clustering tool. It's just the conversionrate is really bad, and I think you just got to know when to pull the. And I'mnot saying pay doesn't work for everyone. In fact, notoriously does work for alot of people. Otherwise, it wouldn't exist as a thing. Just didn't work for us.

The other ... well, you have to see it...

Yup, early on, Keyword Insights have called out one of their biggest competitors, SEMrush, to a rap battle.

So we tried to challenge them to a rap battle. My idea wouldbe it was going to take off. And don't get me wrong, when we launched it, a lotof people laughed and stuff, but it didn't bring in any revenue. I'm prettysure it just. Okay, but if you google keyword sites versus Semrush, there'll bea rap video there that you'll find funny. But that cost us a lot of money. Ihad to get all the cartoons. This is like a proper animated video. We spent alot of money on it. I think Sagantha's not happy with how much I blew on makingthat. And I got the rap. Well, I wrote the rap, but then I had a professional rapper. It was quite expensive.

Naturally, Andy's covered other strategies they've tried (or are testing out) - TikTok, for example.

Another important aspects we covered in our chat was managing expectations.

Early-on, Keyword Insights was more of a side project. Their revenue came primarily from the agency, and thus, both him and his co-founder never had any major expectations in relation to growth or marketing timelines, etc.

But as the tool became more and more successful, this has changed.

For one, their startup got on the radar of the competition who quickly realized how valuable to customers what they're building is, and tried to emulate.

This led Andy and his co-founder to facing a serious challenge of keeping one step ahead.

Sagantha and I used to get really frustrated because things weren't happening quick enough. We couldn't develop as quick as, well. We can't develop as quick as the big guys, and now we're under the radar of the big guys. Whenever you release something, they release it probably a month later. And so it's trying to keep a step ahead of them with our limited resources. And, yeah, there's alot of spinning plates going on, but we've just told ourselves now just to. And what we tried to do is scale up rapidly to develop a lot quicker, and that didn't work. What ended up happening is we started releasing stuff with loads of bugs, and it just didn't work. So we've just had to dial it back. And our expectations are okay. We still want to grow. We still got targets, but let'sjust slow down and not release things.

The result, as I'm sure you can well imagine, was serious stress and pressure.

We weren't fine. We worried a lot and we tried to push things a lot and it didn't work for us. There you go. There's one. Trying to release all our features too quickly just didn't work for us.

Luckily, that's still just the start of their story, and there's so much more coming to Keyword Insights.

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