How I got my SaaS app to the first page of Google in three months and why it was much easier than I thought. Here’s a familiar story for many solo-developer founders/entrepreneurs. First, you get an awesome idea. Then — if you’ve been reading startup advice — you’ll try to validate that idea before building anything. Maybe you make a landing page and try to collect emails. Maybe you do some cold outreach and try to talk to customers. Either way, eventually you decide your idea is good enough to pursue and you decide to move on to the next stage. So you build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This takes some time, but is fun and rewarding. You get into flow and have a lot of fun building it. You’re cruising! If you do build an MVP this is a great diagram to keep in mind When your MVP’s ready, it’s time to put it out into the world, so you announce it on and . You try to see if you can get traction on and . You get a big spike in traffic, a bunch of positive input, maybe even some sign ups or sales. You’re stoked! Product Hunt Indie Hackers Hacker News Reddit Then what happens? Well, if your product is in the 99% of products that don’t magically take off virally, then . You’ll run out of new places to post. Your traffic numbers will trickle to a crawl. You’ll stop getting new sign ups. The world will move on. not a whole lot Even if people really like your product it will be almost impossible to get steady traffic and use. Why is that? It’s because you don’t have . That is, a way to reach people consistently and with no effort on your part. The problem is that the people on Product Hunt and Hacker News aren’t hanging out there to use your product. They’re hanging out there to see what the flavor-of-the-day is, and then move on with their lives. Those real users, real customers, are much, much harder to get organically. reproducible organic reach Where are they discovering things? The same place you do, obviously: Google. And maybe a few weirdos on Bing. But mostly the answer is “through search”. And that’s when you realize you need to figure out this (Search Engine Optimization) thing that everyone’s talking about. And that’s where many developers give up, because SEO seems intimidating and hard. SEO The rest of this post is designed to convince you that that’s not true. I knew absolutely nothing about SEO six months ago, and my little SaaS (Software as a service) app for is now on the front page of Google for all kinds of relevant keywords. Here’s exactly how I did it. printable place card templates Up, up and away! ( ) source The Absolute Minimum Everyone needs to know about SEO This is not a comprehensive guide to SEO, but you will need to know the absolute basics to understand my strategy. I learned almost all of this from , and I recommend everyone invested in SEO read it. Moz’s excellent beginners guide to SEO But here’s the TL;DR as I understand it. Your rank for a search term will be a complicated formula that takes in the following variables: The of your site. Which is how “important” Google thinks your site is, mostly determined by the number, diversity, and authority of other sites that link to it. Domain Authority The of your content. The same thing but rather than for the whole site, for a particular page. Page Authority The of your content. As determined by the content on the page as well as the text of the links that link to the page. Relevancy The of your content. As determined by how people with your site. You get points for solving their problem / answering their question (determined by whether they come back to the search results page after visiting you or not). Quality interact So basically to build up SEO you need to do the following: If your product isn’t actually better than other options, make it better before focusing on SEO. It will be very hard to SEO a turd above a diamond on Google. Start with a quality product. . By adding lots of text/content related to the terms you want to rank for. Google will look at the page titles, descriptions and headers the most so be sure to focus on those. Don’t overdo it as you can be penalized for something called “ ”. Make your content relevant keyword stuffing You need other sites linking to your site, and doing it with text that you want to rank for. This will have a significant effect on your domain authority, page authority, and relevance for those keywords. Get a boatload of relevant backlinks from different places. If you’re a developer I assume you can figure out 1 and 2. It’s getting the backlinks that usually trip people up. How do you get other domains to link to your site? And won’t that involve icky things like (gasp) cold emailing other bloggers / site owners to link to you via nefarious link trading/swapping agreements? The surprising answer is not necessarily. However, let’s get one thing out of the way first. You Will have to Write . If you don’t like writing you can potentially hire someone to write for you, but at its core you will need to produce content . I don’t know how to generate links without content. It can probably be done, but might put you more in the icky networking/link-swapping territory. This strategy relies heavily on writing that you own But, if you’re like me and you don’t particularly want to network or link-trade (and also don’t mind writing) then read on. Your SEO Strategy Okay, here’s our SEO strategy. Write something useful or interesting Sneak in a link to your site with some text you want to rank for Get it published on a content platform. Writing something interesting I’ve , but this is where you’re on your own. However, your secret weapon is that . Just write about something you’re passionate about that you think others will get value from. Coding / technology is a good option for developer founders. I’ve mostly chosen to write about (including this post). written a bit about this before you don’t have to write anything relevant to your product my self-education in entrepreneurship A small side note/caveat — writing about something relevant to your product is super valuable (particularly as a form of content marketing ) and can really help with SEO — but it is not required , particularly for getting backlinks. Sneaking in a link Did you notice that I had a link to my SaaS product with the text “printable place card templates” in the first section of this post? You might have. But even if you did, did it noticeably detract from your experience of the article? I suspect not. And now I’ve just gotten one more backlink for a search term I’m working on. Sneaking in links is much easier than you think — and when all else fails, you can always include something in the footer as an “about the author” note, as I did here on this : totally unrelated blog When it’s hard to sneak in a link you can always include it in your bio. Getting Published Getting your content published by someone else sounds intimidating, but it’s actually much less difficult than you might think. The secret principle that makes it easy to get published is what I call the . It’s a fancy name, but all it means is that your incentives and a content publisher’s incentives are often highly aligned. You want them to publish your content, and they want content to share with their readers. So everyone’s incentives are perfectly aligned. Symbiosis is a great world to be in! symbiosis of content platforms In this analogy, the writers are the enterprising clownfish and the publishers are the home-providing anemones. ( ) source In fact, most content platforms that aren’t the New York Times, Techcrunch, or Wired are actively seeking quality content for their site, and they’re happy to take articles from strangers as long as the quality is good and the content is relevant. All it takes is doing a little bit of research to find relevant ones for whatever you’ve chosen to write about. The content platform that I’ve spent the majority of my efforts on is a very specific one: . Though the same principles would apply to any content publisher. the Medium publication Two Quick Concepts to Understand Before talking more about Medium publications I need to quickly explain two more concepts related to SEO. What is rel=nofollow and why do you need to care? The first is about link metadata, and in particular an attribute called . Nofollow is an attribute that can be attached to any link tag whose job is to indicate to a search engine that the link should not count towards SEO. They are automatically added to all links by some platforms (including Wikipedia and Medium) — typically to prevent SEO spammers. nofollow Unfortunately, if they are added to your content then your backlinks are essentially worthless. D’oh! What is a canonical link and why do you need to care? The second concept is . These are used to prevent duplicate content on the Internet (which can significantly harm your SEO). Basically it is a page’s way of saying “I’m a copy of this other page”, and then links that go to the copy actually boost the SEO of the page, instead of the copy. canonical links original Canonical links to your content should only help your SEO. Medium and SEO Okay, now that we understand nofollow and canonical links, we can talk about SEO and Medium publications. Here’s the nitty-gritty details: If you a story into Medium from somewhere else, the canonical link for that story will be set to wherever you imported it from. import Every other link in your content on medium.com (published directly on medium or a publication without a custom domain) will be slapped with a nofollow. However, links in anything published on a publication with it’s own domain (which most have) do get slapped with a nofollow. not So to use Medium for your SEO benefit you should either be importing your stories from somewhere you want to SEO, publishing in a publication that has its own domain, or (ideally) both. Some Practical Resources Here are some other practical tips and resources to help get you going. This is a great resource for finding relevant Medium publications to submit to. Most publications have instructions for new submissions on their site or via Google. publication leaderboard As I mentioned already, the is a great way to invest a few hours in understanding the fundamentals of SEO. Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO Moz has a few other excellent tools on their site, including an excellent that will give you guidance on what keywords to go after and a that helps you see your sites domain authority (and compare to competitors). keyword explorer site explorer Google has fantastic tools as well, including the , which will tell you how people are finding your site on Google, and the which will provide rough search stats for any keywords. search console keyword planner I’m told that Bing has a as well, but really keyword research tool why are you using Bing?!? Play the Long Game Finally, just remember that SEO is a long, slow game. You see overnight results, but over time this strategy will pay off, and it is super fun and rewarding when it does. There’s no substitute for a steady stream of search traffic to your site, and (at least in my case) it’s really not as hard as you think to achieve that. Here’s my click stats from the last 60 days of following this strategy. will not I started more than 60 days ago but it’s taken this long to really start seeing the payoff. Good luck! Originally published at www.coryzue.com .