Podcast Title: The SaaS Podcast
Host: Omer Khan
Guest: Geoff Atkinson
In this podcast interview you will learn Geoff’s story and how he went through 3.5 years of lean times for his business, how he pivoted into a SaaS business, what he learned about sales and the importance of structured data and how it can help you with SEO.
“[Huckabuy’s pitch] was a totally different pitch than any other SEO pitch. It really resonated with people. They were like, ‘I’ve never even heard SEO talked about this way and it’s really refreshing.’”
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What You'll Learn in This Episode
- How SaaS companies specifically can benefit from Huckabuy software products — such as structured data markup software.
- SaaS companies don’t fully take advantage of the opportunities that SEO and organic search traffic can provide.
- Geoff tells his entrepreneurial story and his mistakes and lessons learned throughout his career.
Time Stamped Highlights
3:43 SEO Tip: Problems that Huckabuy software products solve
Omer: So, Huckabuy is the name of the company but right now you sell two different product packages. So can you tell us what the products do, who are your target customers, and what problems are you helping to solve?
Geoff: Yeah, absolutely. So I always say, you know, websites are built for human beings. But I argue that in any given day, the most important visitor is actually this little Googlebot, because they kind of end up dictating how much traffic you get. And we take a site and essentially translate it using structured data and dynamic rendering so that Google has this wonderful user experience as a bot.
5:05 SEO Tip: Geoff explains structured data
Omer: Now, most people when they think of SEO will think of the traditional stuff like, "Are all my pages optimized for being crawled?" and "Do I have high-quality backlinks to my site?" and all the other stuff that SEOs focus on to get ranked on the first page of Google, as one of those first ten blue links, for whatever keywords they want to optimize for. But with structured data, there's more to it than just that. So for people who aren't familiar with the concept, can you explain, like what structured data means in the world of SEO?
Geoff: Yeah, absolutely. So structured data is essentially a language that is a search engine's sort of preferred way to communicate with a website. It’s called structured data markup and you can have markup for almost anything. So, a human being, a location, an event, a product, you know, on and on almost anything can be represented through structured data. Also, it's authoritative. As opposed to metadata — stuff like title tags and meta descriptions — which is really suggestive. So if you say the sports score is 3-0, and it's the bottom of the seventh, it has to be 3-0, bottom of the seventh. And if they find that you're not giving them accurate information, you actually get dinged, so it needs to be very accurate. And then you'll see Google use it in lots of interesting ways. So anytime that you see a sort of a unique feature in search results that aren't, as you said, just a blue link — if you search for a recipe and the recipe just shows up or you see star ratings on products, or you search for a movie time and the movie times just show up and you can book right there. Those are called rich cards and that's all powered by structured data. Search engines are leveraging it more and more. So it's very important from an SEO perspective to have world-class structured data. And they keep incorporating it into their search results. And also, they use it for voice search. So voice searches, essentially, if you search for something using a voice search, it's essentially reading to you the rich cards that are available on the page. And so as voice search becomes more prevalent in every industry, structured data is a way to capture those interactions.
8:57 Geoff’s success and experience as SVP of Marketing at Overstock.com
Omer: Tell me about how you came up with the idea for this business. What were you doing before you started this company?
Geoff: Yeah. So, I was the SVP of marketing at Overstock. And we had a great SEO story. We took it from a very little channel to a very big channel — hundreds of millions. And, you know, while I really got into SEO, that wasn't the only thing we did there — I was just sort of fascinated by it. And it ended up transforming the business which helped us become profitable. And it's just such an interesting and special channel versus your typical paid media channels. You know, it drives the best new customers, it always has the highest ROI — I could go on and on about why it's so important. But yeah, I just really got into it, and especially around the technical conversation between a website and a search engine. That turned out to be particularly important. I think it was really cool just to be on the front lines of SEO for so long. And really recognizing what moved the needle and what didn't.
13:17 How Huckabuy got to $100k in MRR in 1.5 years
Omer: So, really the growth to getting to over 100k in MRR has happened in just over the last year and a half. So what have you done? What's driven that growth so quickly?
Geoff: We haven't done anything special in terms of marketing or sales, I don't think. We were very product-driven. We had a product that was exciting to a lot of people, because it was really unique. And it made sense. It was like, okay, this software is going to move the needle, it has a track record of moving the needle. And so it just really resonated with some smart internet marketing folks and smart SEO folks, a lot of which I already knew. And so I reached out to my network really, and said, hey, we've built something kind of cool and it's working — and I'd love for you to try it. And so, that's really how we got started — within my network, my network’s network, and people that worked at Huckabuy. We would take any business that we could get our hands on, and we have a relatively high conversion rate. People were interested and we were very product-driven and network-driven at first and then we got some lucky breaks. For example, we were introduced to SAP when we were quite small. And we learned that this thing really works for SaaS companies — I can kind of get into why it does a little bit later. And that was a big deal for us to get SAP as a customer and then we got Salesforce. And as we started getting some really big logos early on, I think that really verified the product and made people feel comfortable that we had these enterprise contracts. And yeah, so it really has happened, you know, more organically than it probably should have, looking back on it. 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 that ended up moving the needle significantly for these companies. And once you have a bit of a track record in SEO, people are willing to give you a shot.
17:57 SEO Tip: The value of outsourcing technical SEO
Omer: Okay, so now the story is getting more intriguing because it's like, you're going out, you're getting in front of prospects and you're selling them product that they can't see, or touch, or use — but it will help them if they take that leap of faith. But you've also got this challenge: how do you present it in a way, and how do you pitch it in a way, so that people can understand the value and are willing to pay? Were there some people who said, “Well, yeah, that sounds great. Thanks. And we can probably create some of that ourselves”?
Geoff: Absolutely. Yeah. You know, as we get more mature, I think it's getting easier to convince people that this is real and something's visible. And now we have this track record of results. But, you know, most SEO — successful SEO teams — almost do everything internally. That's how we did it at Overstock — really good SEO teams do almost everything internally. Especially with Huckabuy Cloud, we have to explain a lot. We, you know, we sell as much into technology as we do into marketing — there’s a lot of that attitude. What we have to do to overcome that, is prove that we know what we're doing and that this is a complicated thing to accomplish in-house. And you're better off outsourcing it to us — which hasn't always been easy. You know, we have had plenty of companies turn us down saying they're going to do it internally. We've also had plenty of companies turn us down and come back to us 6-12 months later, and say, “We just can't — we're not getting this done, we’re not seeing the results that we want SEO-wise and we're interested.” And that's really reassuring to feel that, but yeah, it hasn't been easy. I'd say that we're getting a lot better at making the product much more tangible so that people know what they're getting. They know what the results are to be expected and they can rest assured knowing that they've got this terrific SEO software platform that's gonna make a big difference for them.
30:25 Marketing Advice: How Huckabuy was finding new customers in 2019
Omer: Beyond working your network, how are you finding new customers today?
Geoff: We still do a pretty significant amount of outbound email. We're pretty clever about it. For example, I was a Dartmouth College alum, and it's a fiercely loyal alumni network for some reason, like unreasonably loyal. And so we email Dartmouth alums that are executives and such at various companies, and they almost always take a conversation — which is really nice and sometimes it leads to something and sometimes it doesn't. But that's sort of a clever marketing move.
The other one is, there's a lot of SaaS companies in Utah. We're in Park City, but a lot of SaaS companies are in Lehi, in Orem and Provo. And so we'll set appointments and take people to lunch and we'll drive down there and spend the day in Lehi and just go sort of door to door. There's literally so many companies and they're all in the same office park, you know, you can go to five SaaS companies in a day in Lehi and not leave the office park. So that's where a lot of our customers are coming from.
34:45 Huckabuy prices and customer results
Omer: How do you price the product? And can you maybe give me an example of the type of results a customer has seen by implementing these products?
Geoff: Yeah. So typically, it's about $2,000-$4,000 per month — depending on how big your website is, and what products you're going with. I think we have some smaller customers that are down in sort of the $1,500 area, but typically it's $2,000-$4,000 per month, annual contracts. We do a discount for prepays.
As for the results of our average customer — if you take all of our customers and you look at their growth rates after 12 months of having the software installed — our average customer grows 62% in terms of organic search traffic. And we're really proud of that. I mean, that moves the needle. And we work with some big, established companies — it's not like we're taking a startup from zero to 500 visitors a month. These are often relatively big numbers. We work with companies of all sizes. But yeah, your average customer will grow 62% in terms of organic search traffic in 12 months. And these are mostly companies who already have at least one person dedicated to SEO, if not a team of people.
Helpful Content Mentioned In Show
Geoff's Book Recommendation
“Warren Buffett: Investing and Life Lessons” by Ashton Marshall