Winning the indie game without an audience

jasonleow  •  14 Apr 2023   •    

In a move to call BS on the oft-stated reason “You’re only successful because you have a large following.”, Danny Postma posted a great, informative thread about how he grew a product to $1.2k/m using SEO, without ever mentioning it on Twitter.

What struck me about his thread was how simple SEO could be. Yes it can be complicated and look like black magic, but it can also be simple. He did it the simple way. The other realisation was that I probably stumbled into this same approach with my Carrd plugins project! It was SEO right from the beginning, that’s how it pulled itself forward even though I didn’t market it much. So it is possible! And thing about audience, as he said, it helps with “faster link building”, giving you an edge of a few months over competitors. I mentioned before that an audience is an accelerant, if the product isn’t moving there’s no speed or momentum upon which to accelerate. So it’s true.

So here’s how Danny did it, paraphrased and referenced with my Carrd plugins project:

  1. Find your main keyword using Ahrefs’ Free Keyword Generator. Mine is “carrd plugins”. I chose “plugins” over “widgets”, “components”, “scripts”, because Wordpress calls it “plugins” so i assumed that would be most familiar and commonplace.

  2. Research keywords to find something with:

    • Keyword difficulty (KD) < 20 - requires less than 10 backlinks to rank on 1st page of Google. Interestingly, the KD was N/A for “carrd plugins”. So very niche but require even less to rank?!
    • Volume > 500 - average monthly no. of searches for the keyword over last 12 months for 1 country. For worldwide search, triple the volume. Estimated 15 sales/month at 1% conversion of 1500 searches. My volume for “carrd plugins” was 30 for US, 90 for global. Not high. Average sales for my plugins were about 10-20 per month, so conversion is about 11-22%!? Which kinda makes sense because it’s so niche, but also explains why the sales volume isn’t high.
    • Many child keywords. High ranking for main keyword means high ranking for long-tail keywords too. Volume for “carrd widgets” is 10. No available data for other child keywords.
  3. Spend a lot of time researching the ideal keyword, as this is the baseline. Start off the wrong one, you will struggle later.

  4. Build product around the keyword.

    • Give users what they want from searching. Answer their search intent, be it information or assets. Provide free downloads with low barrier. I do that with my Carrd plugins. There’s more free plugins than paid.
    • Optimize website copy for the main keyword. Repeat it everywhere but not too much. Yes I did this for my plugins site too. My hero tagline is a SEO grab basically lol - “Plugins, widgets, scripts to power up your Carrd sites”.
    • Build subpages to rank for specific long-tail keywords. The subpages for me are not subdirectory pages because I use Carrd’s subdomain – But I link all the plugins subpages on the main home page.
    • Offer both free and paid options. Free users keep users on site, boosts Google’s ranking, and also earns trust by providing value first before asking for payment. Totally what I’m doing with plugins. My approach is “Giving till it hurts”.
  5. Backlinks. All my plugin subpages have links back to home page. When I launch my plugins as separate tools on various channels, they bring traffic back to the mothership. Danny suggested launching on Product Hunt, because Product Hunt gives you a link with a strong domain authority (DR) of 90/100 even if you do not win first place. The higher the DR the higher the SEO effect. Other websites reposting via PH will give you even more backlinks., enough to rank on the 1st page with KD < 20. I’ve so far not launched plugins on PH yet because it feels rigged. But must consider now since getting a place on the leaderboard doesn’t really matter!

  6. Next is to wait. An average of 3 months for traffic from Google, and another 6 months for larger boost. SEO is long game. Set and forget.

What a fun meta analysis of how my Carrd plugins worked itself out!

Now I know roughly why my plugins pages appear in 7 out of 10 on first page of Google for “carrd plugins”!