Tim Soulo: Q&A Session

Q&A Session: Tim Soulo

Tim Soulo Q&A Session is happening on February 8th 2022 at 6:00 AM PST (9:00 AM EST)

Tim Soulo is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product advisor at Ahrefs – an industry leading SEO tool, powered by big data.His data research studies in the field of SEO were cited by thousands of online publications including Inc, Techcrunch and Venturebeat and he has spoken at some of the largest industry conferences around the globe, such as PubCon (Las Vegas, US), BrightonSEO (Brighton, UK) and Digital Marketers Australia Conference (Melbourne, AU).
If you’re not an OG yet feel free to join us.

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Tim Soulo – Transcript

AMA with Tim Soulo @ Ahrefs

February 8th, 2022

It’s Q&A Session time and today we have an awesome guest! Please give a warm OG welcome to Tim Soulo. Tim Soulo is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product advisor at Ahrefs – an industry leading SEO tool, powered by big data.
His data research studies in the field of SEO were cited by thousands of online publications including Inc, Techcrunch and Venturebeat and he has spoken at some of the largest industry conferences around the globe, such as PubCon (Las Vegas, US), BrightonSEO (Brighton, UK) and Digital Marketers Australia Conference (Melbourne, AU).Tim will be here for one hour today to answer all your questions

Hey OGs!  Thanks a lot for having me! Looking forward to your questions 

Hey Tim,First off, congrats on $100MHere’s my question:I was told that Google uses chrome data for SEO, and even if we get 1000 visitors from google ads from our target icp, it will boost the SEO performance.Does, Google basically looks for concentrated traffic to a website?What are your thoughts?

Eh.. we’re just starting out and the first question is so hard. I don’t work for Google, so I can’t say for sure.. but having read a couple books about them (I recommend “I’m feeling lucky”) I would imagine they do store and use all the data they can possibly get their hands on. How exactly is it used though? – that’s another question

Hi Tim! Thanks for being here and sharing your experience with us.
What can we expect from the future of customers’ search behavior? And can we adapt and get leverage out of it in our SEO strategy?

the way I see this is that today’s kids will grow up and treat Google almost like AI.. so they will phrase their searches in a much more conversational way than we do today. But that imposes a problem to Google to understand those searches and give relevant information.. for SEOs I don’t see any major changes in the next few years I’m also interested to observe how new platforms will influence the search behavior. The hottest one is TikTok and I’m not sure if people tend to search for stuff on TikTok

Hey Tim Soulo  Thanks for this AMA!
My question: What’s the most used section in Ahrefs App (Overview, backlinks, Organic search, …Etc)?

You basically answered your own question 
The most common way to use Ahrefs is to plug a website that you have some interest in and quickly check their search traffic, their Domain Rating, the quality of their links and what pages bring them traffic

Yes but wanted more granularity on it  Thanks anyway

no problem!
I actually wrote an article with 11 most common use cases 

Hey, Tim Thanks for joining us today!First of all, just wanted to say that I love the fact that you have such a small team and yet so powerful within Ahrefs. Congrats!Question: One of the things you mentioned (not sure if it was on your Linkedin or on the website — or both), was that you value experts who have the capacity to figure things out on their own and who enjoy running crazy experiments.So, I’m curious what’s your craziest experiment as CMO & Product Advisor there? And why do you consider it crazy, ofc?

Spending $30k to hire 3 copywriting agencies to work on our homepage independently was rather “crazy” in my book 

re-allocating $200k of our paid traffic budget in the hands of creators is also something not many companies would be willing to risk doing 

What were the results of the influencer campaign? Promising?

the sponsored “gigs” are still rolling out.. and will likely not stop up until summer.. then those “gigs” are very different in nature.. some people advertise us in email newsletter, some give a shoutout on their podcast, some write a twitter thread with their favourite use cases of Ahrefs, some post on LinkedIn that we have sponsored them. tracking the value of all those “gigs” is basically impossible.. so we only have tracking for the most basic things.. and we don’t make any judgements.. just observe 

Hey Tim Soulo ! Firstly, I’ve read so many articles from you and Ahrefs blog over the years – I’m a self taught SEO and the Ahrefs blog pretty much single-handedly educated me on everything, so want to say a HUGE thankyou for all the work you guys do as it basically made my career lol – plus testament to the content marketing strategy, I forced 3 agencies I have worked at to buy Ahrefs licensing as well as my own business so it works a treat lol.My question is; what do you see for the future of SEO & Google? With all the web 3, decentralization and huge shifts in how we use and interact with content coming within the next decade, how can we as SEO’s and marketers become early adopters and get ahead of the curve? Thanks! 

first of all, thanks for your kind words, Toby! it really means a lot to me. web3 – I’m on the skeptical side for now, sorry but we’re not talking about blockchain here, right ? 

future of SEO & Google.. in my opinion the direction is rather clear –
Google wants to provide answers to the questions rather than traffic to websites.. so they will continue enriching their search results and adding more and more “widgets” to become a “platform” rather than a search engine

Not a question, but wanted to thank you for the great series of videos hosted by Sam Oh. I’m constantly rewatching them for ideas on how to use all of the data in Ahrefs. Keep up the good work and give Sam Oh a fist bump for me. Cheers! 

thanks, Elliott.. do you know the story of how I hired Sam? 

What’s your favorite youtube channel?

I don’t really have any favourites.. but whenever I watch youtube for leisure that would be russian comedy shows why? got any recommendations of cool YT channels? 

My personal favorite for entertainment is Yes Theory.

I also really like Noah Kagans channel

Hi Tim,
Thank you for your time! 
I’ve experienced a couple of times that backlinks that I got from some websites are not visible through Ahrefs, even though they are indexed and have do follow link to our site. I’d like to know why is that and do they have any impact to our site and ranking if they are not recognized by Ahrefs? Thanks a lot!

I’m certainly not Tim – but have done a lot of work in the technical side and a lot of sites block the Ahrefs bot user agent – so those sites won’t show in their index.

^ that, or we haven’t discovered the backlink yet

you can check if the site is blocked here: https://ahrefs.com/robot

and here’s more info on how fast we discover new links:

Hey Tim Soulo, Thanks for joining us!I feel like you’re going to get bombarded with a million SEO questions, but I’d love if you could expand a little on your overall marketing strategy and some of your thought processes behind it.

it’s quite simple really:

  1. be in the trenches and know your market well
  2. share your knowledge with the product team and help them create a product that people would get tons of value from
  3. create educational materials to explain what your product can do for people
  4. promote those educational materials

^ that is a birds-eye view.. if we go into individual tactics, I’m sure you’re well familiar with all of them

Hi Tim Soulo, Thank you for your time!Do you guys see decent conversion from free users to paid users? Do you have enough data to know whether the free plan is worth it or not?

tbh I’m not sure what would be a “decent” conversion..
Some of the people who sign up for AWT
 eventually do become paying customers.
But some people might sign up the same day, and for others it would be a combination of AWT, our free tools
 and our educational materials over the course of a year before they sign up

so we don’t really bother about these things.. we see that AWT is insanely popular and spreads via word of mouth very well.. and some of these people do become our customers.. so we’re happy 

we don’t need to report to VCs and we’re not afraid our stock will drop if we have a bad quarter, so we can do things the way we like 

Decent conversion to me is where you make a lot more money than it costs you to support those users. Looks like you guys do. Thanks.

Long-time fan and customer, thank you Tim Soulo for building a truly great SEO tool for early and power users alike (once upon a time you had to choose from pretty UI but insights-thin, or powerful but ugly UI).All of my Qs for you are about your wonderful marketing. Answer whichever you find most interesting.️ What have you learned from your creator/influencer-focused experiment (assuming that went forward)?️ What’s your advice to other exec-level leaders on building their brand/presence? You’re a shining example of company ambassadorship/thought leadership, but not all teams have a Tim!️ What’s your philosophy on investing in the ahrefs brand? Do you separate % of your marketing (or ad budget) into brand vs. performance? Ahrefs has grown tremendously from its freely-shared content, high referral rate, and industry reputation, so something is clearly working!

hard questions, mate.. let me first try to answer some easier ones 

  • I don’t think I’m particularly good at it to be honest..
  • I don’t pitch myself to podcasts,
  • I don’t invest enough time to posting on Twitter,
  • I abandoned my Medium blog and my YouTube channel..
  • I don’t write too often for our blog

^ basically do these things and your personal brand will grow 🙂

oh.. and make sure to experiment with your profile picture 

I would give yourself a lot more credit. For the most part, everything you ‘don’t do enough’ most execs don’t do at all. I appreciate the thoughtful response, Tim, you rock! 

Hey Tim Soulo – how did you go about getting your first customers of Ahrefs? Differentiating in a crowded marketplace?

Unfortunately I wasn’t around.. I only joined the company 6 years ago, when they already had a few thousand paying customers

but to the best of my knowledge, Dmitry (our CEO and Founder) himself was reaching out to some SEO influencers and giving them free access to the tool.. so that they could play around and compare it to Moz/Majestic, which were the leaders of link data back then

and Ahrefs’ link data was (and still is) so good, that those SEO influencers were blown away and couldn’t resist talking about the tool to their peers 

Hey Tim Soulo, thanks for being here. As we all know, link building is one of the most important tasks that every SEO enthusiast take up. We often look for various strategies to build backlinks and try to flesh out the maximum from our outreach activities. Ahrefs has been the primary pillar that helps our outreach activities. So, my question here is, are there any other factors other than backlinks that add value to the site’s overall DR?And just a follow-up question, as someone who is constantly looking to scale up their link building activities, what are the important factors/criteria that one should make sure to inculcate in his/her link building process?It would be great if you could share your perspective on this 🙂

No.. Domain Rating is based purely on backlinks. but if your DR goes up it doesn’t mean that the search traffic will go up too 

DR is merely a simple link-based metric that allows you to compare a bunch of websites with each other and quickly gauge who has a better link profile. from my conversations with top link building agencies I understood that it’s all about building relationships

Hey Tim Soulo,  What’s the best method to estimate SEO traffic? If we rely on keywords ranking – we do not get the correct estimates considering the expected CTR% is different for each keyword phrase and with each position and above all featured snippets and ads are playing an important role in getting bulk of clicks – Thanks.

there’s no better way than that 

My understanding is that traffic value is calculated basis assumption on the traffic. However, since my GSC is already connected why doesn’t Ahrefs give me more accurate data which in reality is 80% less traffic?

yeah.. we’ll get to it someday.. 
We do want to let people have lots of cool graphs and reports based on their actual GSC data. But it’s just one feature idea of many. And we have to prioritise them somehow 🙂

Hi Tim Soulo, thank you for being here today! My question:What do you think is the best content strategy for a software development agency? I mean those “how to build a website” or “how to fix ‘X’ bug” articles are usually read for other developers or people looking to build their own websites/software.
How can you we build content for people interested in hiring a website/software development agency that will actually bring leads and sales?

tbh I would rather focus on referrals than content marketing..
People who need to develop software likely have a few friends with the same needs. So I would try to figure out how to make my clients talk about me (apart from doing a word-class job of course)

Assuming all of us here know that Digital PR is the “holy grail” of link building, I’m submitting this question to you. All the examples/case studies we find on the internet are for B2C sites but how sure are you that it would be equally successful for B2B SaaS sites?
Is it worth the time & resources to start Digital PR for our site? Or should I just stick to conventional link building techniques?

what do you mean by “digital PR?” we might be thinking of different things here

I mean building links by creating content and reaching out to journalists in a particular niche [practically pitching to become their source] and when they use it in their stories, we get a mention back to our site from DR 90+ sites like Forbes, Entrepreneur, NYT etc

I don’t think that what you’re describing can work.. unless there’s money involved.
Top journalists don’t care about “content.” They care about “stories.”
If you can give them a kick-ass story, that will bring tons of eyeballs to their article – they will write about you. But if there’s no story – they will put your email to spam. top PR agencies spend years building relationships with journalists.. and their biggest advantage compared to any in-house marketer is that they have dozens of clients, each with their own unique story.. (or at least an option to create that story for them)
when you’re trying to do PR “in-house” it is very hard to get attention from top journalists..
I know this because we tried doing that for the past year and this wasn’t particularly fruitful

A question regarding the new pricing, what was the fundamental reason you felt like you need to adjust this?

I think changing the pricing structure of the software is a pretty natural process.. lots of articles for SaaS owners would give you advice to review your pricing once in 3 years.. we didn’t touch it for 6 years

Hey Tim Soulo, just another question. There has been a lot of confusions on disavowing spammy backlinks. I just want to know what deal and impact does it have in the site’s overall DR

I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for you..
If you get a notice of penalty in your search console – then disavowing definitely helps (even better if you can actually remove them though). but if you’re unsure that you have a penalty, MY OPINION is that disavowing won’t help you rank better but I’d rather ask this question to a few agency owners who tried that for hundreds of clients and see what their opinion is

That concludes today’s Q&A session! Thanks Tim Soulo for being here and giving us all some great answers

Thanks a lot for all your questions, folks! 11:06PM in Singapore right now. Time to go sleep 


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