Pay attention to the UI details. We found out the hard way how important speed and usability were for our users. Even if we had the greatest software in the world, if the data didn’t load fast enough, or if there was a user interface thing that annoyed someone, they would cancel.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam White. Adam is the founder of SEOJet, backlink management software that helps marketers instantly build customized backlink plans that actually work and Jasper Holland Co, a men’s t-shirt brand with a mission to build stronger marriages. He has been an SEO professional since 2002 and in his spare time, he wrote and directed a feature film. He lives in Arizona with his wife and 7 children.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Sure, when the internet became a thing, I was fascinated with the idea that it was possible to own and run an internet business. I jumped in with both feet without knowing anything. I started two different websites but couldn’t figure out how to monetize either of them so I shut them both down.
I had just transferred to Brigham Young University and a classmate of mine asked me if I wanted a job doing this thing called SEO. I had no idea what that was but since it was internet business related, I was in. I learned a ton there and then moved on to an SEO agency before branching out on my own and eventually started SEOJet.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
I had just finished taking a two-year break from SEO while I wrote, directed and produced the feature film Inspired Guns. I was ready to get back into the SEO game and was looking for clients. At the same time, the TV show “The Profit” was in its first season and I was hooked. I decided to write about the show on my blog but instead of praising the show like every other Profit related article out there, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about how the Profit was the worst show on TV.
I then promoted the post on Facebook to fans of the show. Little did I realize that the star of the show Marcus Lemonis was going to not only read the post but share it with his 200k+ rabid fans. Needless to say, the post went viral and shut down my website for a while. It was such a viral post on Facebook that the producers of the show started paying for Facebook ads to send traffic to the article on my website. A few days later I got a message on Twitter from Mr. Lemonis showing me a picture of a billboard in Los Angeles that simply said: “Is The Profit the worst show on TV?”
At this point, I realized that I had his attention so I messaged back to him: “Love the billboard. Speaking of love, I’d love to help your websites rank higher on Google. We should chat sometime.”
He immediately messaged me back with two he wanted me to work on.
It was a crazy way to land a famous multi-millionaire client but as I was doing SEO for him I was petrified to build backlinks to the sites. Knowing how important building backlinks to a website is for the success of SEO I knew I needed to spend time and effort in this process. The problem was I didn’t want to do anything too aggressive that could get him penalized by Google. I couldn’t find a resource that explained what Google actually wants to see and so I didn’t do enough and he eventually moved on from me.
I was so distraught by this that I made it my mission to find out exactly what Google wanted to see in a backlink profile. I researched thousands upon thousands of backlinks and figured out what it takes to rank in Google. I then built SEOJet around that research.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I have always prided myself on being a solopreneur and so I wear way too many hats. The downside to this is I can’t give enough attention to all pieces of my business. I finally hired a girl to help with a certain part of the business that was eating up way too much of my time. With more free time to spend on more important marketing aspects of the business, I realized that for months there had been a glitch in my email software and over 6000 people that had requested to sign-up to use the software never got the email. Personally I don’t think it was very funny but I learned a valuable lesson to get the proper help so I can focus on the big-picture stuff.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think one of the biggest things is as the CEO I personally handle almost all of the customer service and product demos. People are always shocked by this when they find out it is me talking to them. I have been able to make some great connections and build some awesome relationships through this strategy.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My recommendation is to have at least one hobby that you spend a significant amount of time on every week. For me, it is writing. While I was working on a youth fiction novel I would stop working on SEOJet every day from 2 pm to 4 pm and would only work on the book. This was a good release from constantly thinking about SEOJet and has helped me stay motivated on both things.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am a big believer in the idea that you make your own success. Having said that, I think spending time with like-minded people is extremely helpful. One of my closest friends is Jesse Mecham, the founder of YouNeedABudget SaaS budgeting app. We have spent countless hours discussing strategy, bouncing ideas off of each other, playing golf, and just hanging out. That has been a priceless relationship.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
Because we are in the middle of negotiations for acquisition I can’t give you specific numbers. I will tell you that since our inception just three years ago we have had over a thousand SEO agencies sign up for SEOJet.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We have typical subscription plans that users are charged each month. Then on the inside of the software, we have a built-in guest posting service that many of our users use. This unexpectedly has been the biggest source of revenue for us surpassing our subscription revenues. The one thing we have thought about doing but haven’t tried is to offer annual plans alongside the monthly plans. I don’t have a good excuse for not doing this.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
The first thing is to recognize a problem in an industry that can be solved with software. For us, it started as knowing exactly which backlinks to build to create a top-ranked backlink profile so you wouldn’t have to guess anymore. It has definitely evolved into something much greater that solves many more SEO problems.
The second thing is to have a really good onboarding experience. Your users need to get a really quick win that makes them forget the hesitation they felt to try something new.
Third thing is to pay attention to the UI details. We found out the hard way how important speed and usability were for our users. Even if we had the greatest software in the world, if the data didn’t load fast enough, or if there was a user interface thing that annoyed someone, they would cancel.
Fourth, get to know your users personally. Reach out to them, offer to give them a live walk-through. Become their guide and they will stick with you.
Fifth, don’t forget to make the user the hero of the story. When they first come to your website, they don’t care about you. They are looking for someone that can solve THEIR problem. Identify their problem and show them how you can guide them to solve it.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I actually just getting ready to launch a men’s t-shirt brand (Jasper Holland Co) with the mission of building stronger marriages. There is a huge human trafficking problem in the world and I believe much of the problem stems from the widespread use of pornography especially among men. I think one way to chop at the root of that problem is to foster stronger marriages.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My Twitter and Instagram handles are realadamwhite.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!