Zero to One Million: an SEO Campaign Blueprint

Last Updated: March 16, 2016

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I’ve been working on a lot of exciting projects over the past year, but there’s one in particular that’s really stood out for me.

Californian SaaS startup BuildFire has a ‘do it yourself’ app-building platform aimed at small businesses. They’d just pushed the button to go live in June of 2014 and 12 months later we’ve hit over 1,000,000 pageviews – not bad, right?

BuildFire is the leading global mobile application development platform choice for businesses, organizations, professionals, and resellers. With [their] intuitive system and US based customer support, [they] help thousands of users build mobile apps every week. With [their] aggressive development cycles and massively scalable infrastructure, [they’ll] be here to serve you both now and far into the future.” (source)

Zero to One Million

Well, it’s even better considering that it’s all organic traffic.

What I’m going to share with you is my SEO blueprint for any SaaS business to use to rapidly grow their online presence and ultimately increase revenue.

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Planning the Campaign

Planning is a crucial part of any SEO campaign, and this campaign was no different.

Before you start diving into content creation and link building, take a step back to analyse the following:

Competitor Analysis

This stage is often where I get my best understanding of the current search landscape within the industry.

Your analysis should focus heavily on the search engine visibility of your closest competitors (I usually pick 4-5), as well as their social presence, the coverage they’ve had and the link building tactics they’ve been employing.

I tend to break search engine visibility down by looking at the following top-level metrics:

Estimated search traffic: This looks at the estimated number of visitors coming through to the website each month. You can use a tool like SEMrush or SimilarWeb to do this. Just bear in mind that they’re estimates so this measure should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Domain Authority: a score, on a 100-point logarithmic scale, developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines.

Trust Flow: Trust Flow, a trademark of Majestic, is a score based on quality, on a scale between 0-100. Majestic collated many trusted seed sites based on a manual review of the web. This process forms the foundation of Majestic Trust Flow. Sites closely linked to a trusted seed site can see higher scores, whereas sites that may have some questionable links would see a much lower score.

Linking Root Domains: the total number of domains linking to webpages within your website.

Monthly Branded Searches: the number of times that people are searching for your brand name within the search engines each month.

These metrics will give you a good overview of where you are compared to your competitors, as well as how difficult it is going to be to compete against them.

SEMrush SEO data

Alongside this, you can use a tool like SEMrush to find out which specific keywords your competitors are ranking for. I’d export all of this data and save it for when you carry out keyword research.

I’m not going to go into much more detail on the competitor analysis side of things because I’ve covered this loads of times before. Go and check out this article, as it goes into much more detail on analysing links.

The Traffic Opportunity

The next step of your analysis should be based around the potential volume of traffic that you could bring through from the campaign.

For this, you’ll need to conduct some pretty extensive keyword research. If you’ve not had any experience with keyword research before then I’d recommend watching my keyword research video. I’d also recommend checking out Nick Eubank’s 7 day keyword research course – it’s incredible.

Keyword research

For the BuildFire campaign, there was a list of keywords that stretched into the thousands. The most important thing here is to categorise, analyse and prioritise.

Categorise: group each of your keywords into topic-focused categories. For example, keywords within the ‘App Creation’ category include, ‘make an app’ and ‘how to build an app’. Alongside this, you can group keywords based on searcher intent. For example, keywords with transactional intent will usually contains words like ‘buy’, ‘price’ or ‘deal’.

Analyse: get an understanding of the monthly search volume for each phrase as well as the difficulty score.

Keyword Difficulty Score: developed by Moz, this 100-point logarithmic scale determines the relative difficulty of ranking for a specific search term/phrase based on the webpages currently ranking within the SERPs.

Prioritise: filter down your large list of keywords to prioritise search terms that hold particularly close relevance to your product, have large search volumes and low difficulties. It’s always good to place more transactional search terms near the top of your list too.

Auditing Existing Content

If you’re not starting your campaign with a completely new website, you may discover that there’s a lot of content on your site that already has some good visibility in the search engines.

Even if your existing web content doesn’t bring through a lot of search traffic, you could update it and get some great results.

Existing content audit

It’s fairly simple to perform a quick audit like this. Hop on over to Google Analytics and navigate to Behaviour>Site Content>All Pages. Once you’re there, filter down to show only organic search traffic and you’ll get a list of the top webpages bringing search traffic through to your website.

You could go in and optimise these pages with more call to action so that they convert better. It’s a great quick win.

Alongside Google Analytics, you can see the top pages from your website based on search visibility within Google Search Console.

If you’d like a little more information on carrying out a full content audit then check this article out.

Industry Content Analysis

There’s a lot of insight that can be gained by analysing top industry content. One of my go-to tools for this is BuzzSumo.

Content analysis with BuzzSumo

To begin with, I plug a few of my main competitors into BuzzSumo to see what type of content they’re producing that’s getting shared heavily.

It’s pretty clear to see the themes and topics that work well through BuzzSumo’s interface. To expand on this further, you can use a tool like Majestic, Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer to analyse which webpages on your competitors’ website have been linked to most.

Open Site Explorer link analysis

The information that you gather here will help to shape a structured content plan for your campaign moving forward. Within the BuildFire campaign, a competitor and industry analysis report was compiled with all the data that had been gathered, along with a full strategic commentary to make sense of it all.

This document was consistently referred to when developing the content strategy.

The Traffic Generation Strategy

Now I’ll get onto the bit you really care about. This is the part that showcases how you can take your web traffic from zero to one million.

For those of you that’d like to quickly browse each of the individual tactics that were employed, here’s a quick menu you can navigate through:

#1 Parasite SEO

The first strategy that I often look to when I’m working on a brand new site is parasite SEO.

Parasite SEO: the act of ranking content for competitive keywords on an authoritative website that you don’t own to funnel through traffic to your domain.

Now, before you start asking me whether this will get your site banned from Google, take a deep breath. I’m not talking about using any black hat SEO techniques here.

Black Hat SEO: a disapproved practice that increases a page’s ranking in a search engine result page (SERP). These practices are against the search engine’s terms of service and can result in the site being banned from the search engine and affiliate sites. (source)

The goal of parasite SEO focuses on tapping into the authority of well-established websites to rank for competitive keywords and consequently funnel through the traffic to your own website.

An example of this could be writing a guest post on a leading industry publication that links to your website within the article copy. In this case, you’d want the guest post to rank for specific keywords so that it generates more traffic; this will then create more referral visits to your website.

Why wouldn’t I just do this on my own website?

I can already hear you asking that question.

The answer is short and simple. Authoritative websites can rank for highly competitive keywords much quicker than your low authority site.

In some cases, it can take little to no effort.

It’s also worth noting that sharing a link from a site you haven’t created can often be a lot easier because it isn’t viewed as being self-promotional.

Business News Daily feature

The above article was published on Business News Daily, an authoritative blog covering all kinds of business topics.

BuildFire was linked to within the article during the first month of going live. After only a few weeks, this article ranked on page 1 (and still does) for the term ‘app maker’ (searched for over 22,000 times per month), amongst a number of other competitive keywords.

This was helped by the fact that we actually spent time on promoting the article and acquiring links for it in the same way that would have been done for content on BuildFire’s website.

Parasite traffic

As you can see from the above screenshot, this has resulted in a staggering 74,783 new sessions and 4,285 new user registrations.

When you consider that this scales quite well, you can imagine how easy it is to start getting early traffic traction.

I also find that these kind of features help grow brand awareness, which results in more branded searches; this metric has a direct correlation with increased search engine rankings.

Self-publishing Parasite SEO

Within the above example, the link was gained through direct outreach but you can often tap into self-publishing platforms to make this process even easier.

This is something that I’ve done a lot of, particularly within BuzzFeed. Getting published on BuzzFeed is extremely easy and the content on their site ranks really well.

BuzzFeed analytics

The above post was to drive traffic through to my food blog. This article started ranking from a number of ‘vegetarian recipe’ related keywords and continues to bring a steady stream of traffic through to my site.

BuzzFeed is just one example of where you can do this; get your creative hat on and you’ll start uncovering a ton of new opportunities.

#2 Product Hunt

For those of you that haven’t heard of Product Hunt, here’s a brief overview:

Product Hunt surfaces the best new products, every day. It’s a place for product-loving enthusiasts to share and geek out about the latest mobile apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations. (source)

Product Hunt Front Page

Quirky SaaS products tend to perform particularly well within Product Hunt but it’s certainly not limited to that.

Taking a look at the most popular Product Hunt submissions of all time will reveal all kinds of products (both free and paid). This includes Startup Stash, a curated list of resources and tools for startups; Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming app; Tesla Powerwall, the sustainable home battery from Tesla, and Lily, the exciting new camera drone that is set to rival GoPro.

I can tell you from personal experience that a feature on Product Hunt’s front page will result in several thousand visits to your website, plus a number of new customers.

This is exactly what we did with BuildFire.

Product Hunt BuildFire traffic

As you can see from the above screenshot, BuildFire gained over 3,000 visits from hitting Product Hunt’s front page, with 252 of those visitors converting.

BuildFire didn’t hit the very top of the front page but the listing was within the top 10, which is a feat in itself (as you’ll see below).

For those lucky enough to hit the very top of the front page, traffic can be in excess of 10,000 visits.

BuildFire on Product Hunt

The final vote count was over 210, which on some days would leave you sitting within the top 3 submissions.

Before I go into the details of how we got to the front page, it’s worth noting that you need to have a fundamentally useful product/service to stand a chance. If you don’t, Product Hunt may be the least of your worries…

Getting Featured on Product Hunt

Like most online communities, Product Hunt has a loyal tribe of followers.

Within the community itself, the more active and engaged members hold more authority when it comes to getting a product featured.

One of the main reasons for this is that all of your followers are sent a notification when you submit something new.

More followers = more early traction. More early traction = a greater chance of getting featured on the front page.

This is one of two reasons why you shouldn’t just create an account and submit your own product straight away.

Invite system on Product Hunt

The second reason is down to the fact that you can only submit and comment on Product Hunt if you’ve been invited. You can’t post and comment with a basic account.

This is Product Hunt’s way of moderating the community and it works really well.

My advice is to find influential Product Hunt members and introduce your product to them.

This is exactly what we did with BuildFire.

If you’re wondering how you’d go about this, then I’ve got a really quick and simple process to follow:

  1. Log-in to Twitter and type the following query into the search bar:
    via "on @producthunt" from:producthunt
  2. The resulting list of tweets will consist of any new submissions to Product Hunt along with the person who submitted it.Product Hunt Twitter
  3. Find someone who’s submitted a similar product to yours and get in touch with them.

Note: Don’t approach anyone and offer to pay them to submit. That could land you in hot water and prevent your product from ever being allowed on Product Hunt.

Rising Through the Ranks

Once you’ve been submitted to Product Hunt you’ll want to start acquiring votes to rise up through the ranks on the front page and absorb more clicks.

Make sure you plan this out in advance because if you leave everything to the last minute, you’ll likely miss out on some extra traffic.

Here’s what we did for BuildFire:

  • Set up a specific Product Hunt page with an offer for all Product Hunt members. We shared this within the comments and asked the PH moderators to update the submission to this URL, which they kindly did.
  • Marked the founders as ‘makers’ on the Product Hunt listing (you can do this within PH or by tweeting them).
  • Had the founders – in this case it was Ian – on standby to answer any questions from the Product Hunt community.
  • Used Hello Bar to bring through visitors from Product Hunt to exclusive offers (this increases conversion rate dramatically).
  • Sent out an email to the subscriber list to ask them to comment/upvote.
  • Ran Twitter ads targeting anyone that follows the Product Hunt Twitter account (this did wonders for acquiring votes).
  • Shared the submission across all social channels with custom imagery.

Custom Twitter sharing image we created

The listing on Product Hunt was a huge success and didn’t just leave BuildFire with a surge of new users, but it’s also resulted in a ton of extra exposure, including a link from, a linked mention from a popular podcast (DA77) and many more.

#3 Influencer Outreach

A lot of people ask me how to get links from top tier publications like Forbes, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, et al.

The fact is that it’s pretty difficult to get links from these kinds of sites, even when you have a great product. Getting in touch with the editors is close to impossible because they have so many requests coming through to them every day.

My advice is to focus on the contributors as opposed to the editors themselves.

Let’s take as an example.

The site has tons of different contributors that write content for it on a regular basis. A number of these authors write for other big publications too. If you’re able to get in their good books then you may be able to get them to consider linking to you within some of their articles – or even better, they’ll link to you naturally.

Influencer Identification

A huge task at the start of the BuildFire campaign involved earmarking a number of influencers within the industry that wrote for the publications we wanted to get into.

To do this, I extracted a huge sample of the author pages from and scraped the data for each individual author, including their name, social accounts, bio and the title of their last post.

To extract the data I used a tool called Screaming Frog SEO Spider. It’s an awesome tool and I’ve put together a full tutorial here that you can check out for more information.

Ann Smarty's author page on Entrepreneur

Once I had all of this information, I organised it within a spreadsheet and filtered down to the titles of the most recent articles to find keywords related to apps or mobile.

This helped me find authors that covered topics related to BuildFire.

This was the target list of authors that we needed to influence. One of these was Ann Smarty (as shown above). The next step was to get in touch with them.

The most important thing here is to avoid asking for something.

Before you even begin getting something back, you need to give something. In this case, we approached a handful of influencers and offered to give them a free app for their blog/website.

Ann was one of those that became interested and we went on to develop her Content Marketing Training App for Viral Content Buzz.

Viral Content Buzz app

As a result of the relationship we built with Ann, we gained links from Entrepreneur (DA90), (DA77) and (DA55).

It’s worth noting that we didn’t ask Ann to mention BuildFire at all – this was purely a consequence of the relationship we built and the introduction to the platform.

Ann was one of a number of influencers that we partnered with and it’s helped create a steady flow of traffic, links and brand awareness.

#4 The Blog Strategy

Before working with BuildFire there was one article on their blog and it had a handful of social shares.

After analysing a lot of their competitors, it was clear to see that nobody was doing anything overly creative; even Como, their largest competitor that has a Facebook following just shy of 1,000,000 people, gets an average of 123 social shares per blog post they write.

There was clearly an opportunity to stand out.

Como social share analysis via BuzzSumo

The problem was that BuildFire hadn’t really had any kind of social presence, there wasn’t any existing content and the website was completely new.

Rapidly Growing the Blog from Nothing

To make an instant impact I knew that we needed to hit a large audience. This is where we looked to build a content influencer team.

In short, this involved bringing in influential writers within the industry to become key members of the blogging team. This way we could tap into their personal network of followers and have industry-leading content.

I’m not going to go into all the detail on how we found these writers because I’ve described this process in detail here before.

Buildfire blog content

To support the blog strategy, a full content plan was developed. This is something that I’d encourage any business to do.

To populate the content plan, the following research was carried out:

  • Audience profiling
  • Competitive content analysis
  • Industry content analysis
  • Long-tail keyword research
  • Q&A with target audience

The long-tail keyword research played a critical role in the long term traffic growth to the website. As a result of creating well-optimised, highly shareable content, the site now ranks on page one of Google for terms like ‘app ideas’ and ‘app promotion’.

Here’s a screenshot from Webmaster Tools that shows the huge traction we’ve had with ranking the blog content in the search engines:

BuildFire search analytics stats from Google Webmaster Tools

The thing to remember here is that growing a successful blog takes time.

To stay on track, set yourself small targets and reward those that share your content; make people feel part of your community and you’ll soon start gaining traction.

Expert Roundups

To build awareness of the blog content amongst the target pool of influencers, I knew that we’d need to have some level of trust/authority within the content itself.

Expert roundups are perfect for this.

An expert roundup is a type of article that collates answers from a number of industry experts to a specific question.

Expert Roundup

The above screenshot is an example of an expert roundup conducted by the Monitor Backlinks team.

Expert roundups often gain large volumes of social shares, in particular from influencers with large social followings. This can provide huge traffic spikes and a ton of new followers across your social accounts.

I take part in these kinds of posts all the time and I always share the finished article.

One thing that I would say is that they’re not always linked to heavily; they provide much more value from a social and traffic point of view.

BuildFire Expert Roundup

The above article was an expert roundup that we ran across 40 local business experts and it was shared over 800 times across social media, linked to by 26 domains and generated just under 3,000 visits.

For this roundup I called in the help of Codrut Turcanu to manage the expert outreach. If you’re looking to run a similar expert roundup then I’d highly recommend his services.

#5 Sponsorships and Discounts

Never underestimate the value of a discount.

Offering discounts or sponsorships to major websites and events within your industry can not only land you some new customers, but it can also get you some juicy links.

One of the first tasks that I carry out in any SEO campaign is to see if there’s any link opportunities from offering discounts. This helped us earn a huge link from Moz by being listed within their ‘Pro Perks’ section.

Moz Pro Perk

This discount was the same one that we offered to Product Hunt members to generate more conversions from the site.

Another route outside of offering other companies discounts is to offer them to bloggers.

If you give a blogger with a large following of readers a discount, chances are that they’ll share this with their email list and within some of their blog posts.

I know this works from first-hand experience because I offer a 10% discount off of URL Profiler to any new subscriber to my email list. This was a result of the team reaching out to me.

Here’s a snippet of my welcome email that offers the discount:

My URL Profiler discount email

Using this approach even on a smaller scale can be just as easy, for example, in a number of campaigns that I’ve ran in the past I’ve searched through to find relevant local events and then contacted them about sponsorship. Nine times out of ten, the group just want a lunch put on (which isn’t exactly bank-breaking) and in return they’ll feature you on their Meetup page and the event website.

Not bad, right?

#6 Journalist Outreach

To earn links from some of the biggest websites online you need to catch their attention.

As a lot of you probably know, this isn’t easy. Most top journalists will receive around 100 pitches via email every day, so the odds aren’t exactly in your favour.

That said, there’s a lot more to it than simply creating a catchy email subject. Once you do eventually catch someone’s attention, you need to have everything ready to go in order to capitalise on the opportunity.

This is where you need a press kit.

Balsamiq press kit

The above is a screenshot from Balsamiq’s website that shows their press kit that can be accessed by journalists to get any information they need to complete any features on them.

You don’t necessarily have to host it on your website (we didn’t for BuildFire) as you can send it over in a .zip file, but I’d recommend hosting it online so that it’s easier to access.

Here’s a breakdown of what you should include within your press kit:

  • Introduction/pitch letter – this should explain why people should care about your product.
  • Company history/profile – an overview of the company and its core staff.
  • Logo/product images – you’ll want a few variations of your company and product/service logos that can be used by the press.
  • Screenshots/videos – simple screenshots of the product in action, along with a walkthrough video.
  • News coverage – any other news or coverage around your product/business should be shown here.
  • Speeches/interviews – any talks at events or interviews with your founders.
  • FAQs – this gives journalists a quick resource to get their questions answered.
  • Awards – any awards you’ve received.
  • Stats/case studies – any statistics on your product or successful customer case studies.

This will give you the best possible chance of securing coverage from the publications you’re targeting. Not only that, but it can also be used as a blogger pack too.

Once you’ve compiled all of the information and if possible, hosted it on your website, you’ll want to craft an email pitch template.

One of my favourite templates to base my outreach around was scripted by Paul Sawers on TheNextWeb, but here’s my own guidelines for creating the perfect pitch:


I’m [FULL NAME], founder of a London-based startup called [NAME + WEBSITE LINK], and I think you may be interested in our new product. We’ve developed a GPS-powered app that helps drivers instantly see how much they’re spending on petrol with each journey they make, and whilst there are similar apps out there (e.g. XXX and XXX), this is the first time an app has been created that uses up-to-date, real-time data from local service stations around the world.

We are releasing the Android version next week, and we expect the iOS version to be approved shortly after. I’ve attached a few screenshots of what the app looks like, and here’s a link to a video that demos exactly how it works.

I thought I’d give you first refusal to review this app before contacting other publications. If you could let me know if you’re keen to learn more, I’d appreciate it.

Thanks a lot for your time.

Telephone number
Twitter Handle

  1. The body of the email shouldn’t exceed 190 words.
  2. The email must address the recipient by their name.
  3. It must give a very brief intro of who I am and who my client is (if I’m pitching on their behalf).
  4. The pitch section should get straight to the point of what the content is and take up no more than two paragraphs.
  5. Never send over the content in the pitch email. Wait until you’ve had the go ahead from them.
  6. If the content is very complex, use bullet points to get the idea across in a concise way.
  7. Give an emotional hook for the recipient to want more information.
  8. Every pitch should be unique and add a personal touch if possible.
  9. Explain how publishing the content will be mutually beneficial.
  10. You should have a good understanding of what the recipient publishes to ensure that the content is completely relevant to them.
  11. The email subject should be no longer than 55 characters and should encompass the content idea within it.
  12. Get straight to the point and don’t use buzzwords!

#7 Ranking for Links

This approach that I’m about to go through forms the basis of the majority of the SEO campaigns that I work on and is probably the most effective method for earning organic links over a sustained period of time.

By ‘Ranking for Links’, I’m talking about ranking content for phrases that people will be searching for in order to get references for their own content.

For example, take this simple process:

  1. I want to create an article that talks about the devaluation of a Facebook like (true story).
  2. In the scene-setting paragraph, I give a stat about Facebook’s organic reach.
  3. I now need to substantiate this statistic with a reference.
  4. I Google, “Facebook organic reach stats”.
  5. After opening a few of the results in my browser, I choose the most relevant and credible webpage and then link to it within my article.

Within this process, content ranking in the top 3-5 results on page 1 for “Facebook organic reach stats” have a chance of earning a link.

If you consider that “Facebook organic reach” is searched for [at the time of writing] around 1,600 times each month, this could land you a number of links from different domains on a monthly basis.

Now, if you could scale this over a larger number of keywords then you’ve pretty much created a continuous flow of new contextual links coming through to your website.

Whilst you’re probably not going to convert a lot of the visitors to these webpages into customers, the new links that they bring in will have an enormous impact on the rankings of the more competitive keywords you’re trying to go after.

From my experience, content ranking for phrases including the following terms work best for earning organic links this way:

  • How to
  • Definition
  • Stats
  • Meaning
  • What is
  • List of

As you can see, these are all informational queries with low intent towards purchasing.

Within the BuildFire campaign, we had a steady flow of links coming through for content that ranked for terms like, “how to promote an android app”, “how to submit to the app store” and “how to market an app”.

Building a Glossary

If you’re in an industry where there’s a lot of confusing terminology (SEO springs to mind!), then you can take this approach to the next level by creating an industry glossary.

Not only can you rank for a number of different search terms, but if you’re lucky you can appear in Google’s Quick Answer box.

Google Quick Answer box

Not only have WordStream secured a Google Quick Answer box listing, but this webpage alone has had over 200 links from 48 different domains.

When you scale that across the rest of the articles in their glossary, that’s a lot of links!

Link metrics

Bringing it all Together

The techniques and approaches that I’ve discussed here are just a sample of the work that has been done to take BuildFire from zero to one million pageviews in less than 12 months.

This should be enough to use as a blueprint for any campaign as the majority of the strategies will work with some slight tweaking towards a different audience and industry.

As usual, if you have any questions about anything I’ve discussed, drop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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Follow through my case study on how I grew a brand new startup from zero to one million pageviews in under one year. I'll be outlining all of the tactics in very specific details you that you can directly apply them to your own campaigns.

The specific growth tactics that I'll be outlining within the post are as follows:

  1. Parasite SEO: hijacking the rankings of bigger sites to drive traffic to yours.
  2. Product Hunt: how we hit the front page and how you can too.
  3. Influencer Outreach: build the right relationships with the right people.
  4. The Blog Strategy: sourcing a network of writers that will push content for you.
  5. Sponsorships & Discounts: how to use incentives to drive growth.
  6. Journalist Outreach: find out my techniques for getting in top tier publications.
  7. Ranking for Links: ranking content for terms specifically to earn you more links.

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About Matthew Barby

Global Head of Growth & SEO at HubSpot, award winning blogger, industry speaker and lecturer for the Digital Marketing Institute.

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67 Responses

Dave At NinjaOutreach

Hey Matt – very nicely done. I have a few things in mind for NinjaOutreach having read this. Just curious what the budget was for all this work?

Matthew Barby

Hey Dave, I can’t release that info publicly but to help give you scope – BuildFire get ROI within 1 month of MRR.


Hi Matt – I mus say that I started following your work just recently, maybe a few months ago, and I am really surprised. I love it. Your articles, advices and e-books are really great. Very actionable, straight to the point and very useful. There aren’t many so in-depth resources on the web with real, true advices that you can implement immediately. Just keep up with great work!

Matthew Barby

Thanks, Oleg – that means a lot. I do my best to try and give people as many things that they can do away and try themselves as possible. I’m glad that’s coming across!

Joshua Hardwick

Great post as always, Matt!

The only issue with the “ranking for links” concept is that in most cases, you’ll need a fair amount of links to rank in the first place, thus creating a (sort of) paradox. Ha!

Nothing a bit of good ol’ fashioned outreach can’t fix, though!

Matthew Barby

Hey Joshua, thanks for the comment.

Well, this is where this tactic works well because you’ll be chasing after low competition tail keywords that are a LOT easier to rank for than your main keyword groups. This means less links to hit number 1 but larger volumes.

Joshua Hardwick

Good point, Matt!

Also – despite the fact that I’m somewhat sick of seeing them (poorly designed ones, at least) – I reckon you could essentially supercharge this tactic with infographics.

Here’s my thinking:

– You’d probably attract even more links over time (as you’d have the added benefit of having an embeddable form of content, plus I’m sure most people would prefer to link out to something visual – I know I would).

– You’d have something tangible to outreach with in the beginning, thus making it easier for you to get the initial influx of links required to acquire your top 3-5 ranking.

Obviously, if the keyword you’re targeting is particularly uncompetitive/easy, this might be overkill (and a total waste of time/money).

But for the slightly more competitive keywords (e.g. “facebook organic reach” – 63% keyword difficulty according to Moz), I think it could work well.

Just a thought anyway, you’ve got me thinking too much now!

P.S. Upvoted on GrowthHackers +!

Matthew Barby

It’s a good idea but I’d start by understanding what format your target audience wants to see. By target audience, I’m referring to those likely to link to you, not convert (these are usually be two separate groups).

If they’re used to linking to infographics then you could validate your idea, however just having an embed code doesn’t mean people will use it. Truest me, I’ve learnt this the hard way.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks for the upvotes 🙂

Joshua Hardwick

Definitely agree about the target audience point, Matt!

I’d say it also depends on whether or not an infographic is the best type of content for the job; sometimes a simple blog post is a better option for sure!

Anyway, great post! I’ll stop commenting now, before we enter some sort of 2-pixel wide uber-nested comment section of doom!


pure awesome. I am looking at crossing the devide and moving to company growth hacking (from agency seo), and the blogs a gold mine of ideas. thanks.

Matthew Barby

Glad it’s been useful, Stuart. There’s more on the way soon 🙂

Andrew Johnston

Great article. You mention acquiring referral traffic and links via offering discount codes to bloggers/sponsorship of events, etc. Do you think these links should be no-follow, and what risks do you think come with this if not?

Matthew Barby

I personally wouldn’t no-follow these links. The risk comes with scale and how they’re linking to you.

If they add a link in their sidebar or footer across every page on their site then forget it – try to get it from just one/two pages max. Also, use this technique in moderation. If 70% of all the links you have are acquired using this method then it can leave a huge footprint in your link profile. Diversify and you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Tom Blackshire

I sincerely hope that you have shares in this business.

Pierre Lechelle

Absolutely amazing content Matthew. It’s nice to have some SEO strategy as detailed as this one. Most people keep it to themselves ;)! Keep up the good work!

Matthew Barby

It’s my pleasure, Pierre. I’ve always said that I’ll be transaprent in my content and try to give away as much actionable information as possible. Hopefully I’ve done this here!


Nice info, thank’s for sharing.

Codrut Turcanu

Matt, thank you for the mention and great insights you’ve shared!

I hope to see another BuildFire update next year and how they took expert roundups next level 😉

Matthew Barby

Hey Codrut – thanks for the great work you did.

I’m about to launch a free tool that is geared towards expert roundups that you’ll find really useful. I’ll drop you an email to be a beta users once it’s ready 🙂


Hi Matt, it’s an awesome post. But I rather feel that it worked since app building is very very hot at the moment. I don’t think if the Saas is in a not so popular niche it will enjoy the same level of success. That said, any updates on your pescetarian blog. I was hoping to see something on that too

Matthew Barby

Hey Joseph, that’s a fair comment but I have to disagree (slightly). Yes, running the campaign within a popular niche and for a genuinely good product will help. I mean, if the latter is an issue (i.e. you’re product is rubbish) then SEO is the least of your worries. That to one side, this is the model that I spanned across all kinds of niches and believe me, I’ve worked in some BORING niches!

On the note of the food blog – I took a break from it for around 6 months (due to a ton of other commitments) but started back up again two weeks ago. I’m testing out some exciting stuff with it right now so there will be a huge follow up case study near the end of the year – I’ll also analyse the impact of low activity for 6 months as well.

Faheem Bakshi

Nice, I will use some of your points.

LINQ Business

Hi Matthew, this is a really good post with some great ideas – our new startup has an awesome webpage but its having trouble getting traffic. Can you offer any further advice for single page websites?

Matthew Barby

I’ve just checked out your site and to be honest, I’d recommend bolting on some kind of blog to it. You need somewhere to be able to create new content. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but nothing on your website is immediately linkable – think about how you can develop some content that will encourage people to link to you.

Shaheen Adibi

Awesome work as usual man. Can’t wait to read the eBook this weekend.

BTW link to your KW research bid missing.



Matt, I’m intrigued with your Buzzfeed parasite seo appraoch. Have you always published on buzzfeed? Is it possible to get on buzzfeed for a newbie on buzzfeed?

Matthew Barby

Hey Rob, I haven’t always published on BuzzFeed. In fact, the first post I did that hit the front page (last year) was the first ever post that I’d published on BuzzFeed. So yes, it’s completely possible for a BuzzFeed newbie to hit the front page.


Man. I love it. It’s been awhile since I read anything I bookmarked and emailed to myself so I don’t lose it 🙂 surprised I haven’t read your stuff before! Superb content!!


I actually came to this website though a testimonial of yours about hosting at kinsta.

But what a wealth I have found. What a great article to begin with. I love the details you have put in.

This will help me a lot in learning. Thanks mathew.

You have found a loyal visitor 🙂

Ersan Saribal

Holy crap! Moz’s email blast. You hit the jackpot. Beautiful article btw. PS: I still think great guest posting (yeah, even now; especially now) is incredibly undervalued.

Matthew Barby

Hi Ersan, I’d agree with you there. I’ve regularly used guest posting as an traffic generation tactic in a number of campaigns that I’ve ran.

Matt Banner

Matthew, I know I I’m not alone when I say this, but you’ve done a smashing job with this post. I’d even go as far as to call it an “instant classic” or even an “essential bookmark”.

You’ve transparently outlined actionable strategies from your hard work and I aim to present the same transparency in detailing my personal tactics to my audience.

It’s all about clarity and “ah ha” moments and you’ve certainly captured that here. Well done!

Matthew Barby

That’s great to hear, Matt. My goal has always been to give complete transparency in my content. Hopefully this gave you enough ideas to start putting them into action 🙂

Saj Devshi

Hey Matt,

Great post. Been following some of your work since you launched your food blog and outlined its success there. Have subbed to hear more of your strategies!


Nox Lux

Thanks! This is what we needed to help start a radical SEO campaign.

Fast Track Sites

This is a great blog post. With the amount of information out there I was surprised how much of this I hadn’t seen before. SEMRush has been a favorite tool of mine for a long time but I haven’t used BuzzSumo before so thanks for mentioning it.

Matthew Barby

BuzzSumo is one of my favourite tools – it’s awesome.


Wow. This is really impressive! Well done Matt.

Matthew Barby

Glad you liked it 🙂


I don’t get the inbound linking strategy… So you link to the most relevant site and expect in return for them to link back at you?

Matthew Barby

The idea here is that when someone is looking for an article that they can reference in their piece of content, your content will be ranking for the phrase that they search for.

For example, I’m writing an article about Twitter growth and I’m looking for stats on the growth of the Twitter user base over the past two years. If you had published a piece of content that talked about these stats and it ranked for a term like, “Twitter growth stats” then I would find your article and likely link to it from my article.

Make sense now?


And by the way Matt, all this stuff is so advanced and makes so much sense, I really appreciate you taking the time to write such a comprehensive and detailed guide.

Thank you.

Thank you.

And thank you again!


Hey Matthew, this article is absolutely one of the best reads I came across during the last couple of month. I am now hesitating to weather I should share this article with others or not, ha-ha (just kidding) because your case-study is box-full important information. What is more important – your article is really inspiring.
I understand this content piece is to share the success, but what about the lessons you’ve learnt? You (and now we) know some things work, but do you have anything do share about the challenges and losses you faced? Thank you.

Matthew Barby

Thanks for the positive feedback, Alexander. Now in terms of challenges and lessons, here are a few things:

1. Great content isn’t enough. You need to spend about 20% of your time on content creation and 80% of it on promotion – only then will you even come close to gaining traction.

2. Don’t be fooled with how well this campaign went. For ever one of these I’ve had 5 that haven’t went to plan. The reality is that SEO is unpredictable at times. I’ll be the first to admit that. The big difference is that when projects I’ve worked on have started to go wrong, I’ve identified them early and we’ve pivoted to a new approach. This is what makes your campaign a success.

3. Don’t focus too much on one thing. If you look at the amount of techniques that were applied in the BuildFire project you’ll quickly see that I don’t put all my eggs in one basket. There’s two reasons here – the first is that more varied approaches will yield better results and the second is that it drastically reduces risk.

4. Organic search traffic takes time to build. Even though we hit one million pageviews, just take a look at the growth curve in the graph I shared at the start of the post. For the first few months there was slow growth and then all of a sudden, one big link hit that caused a chain reaction of ranking increases – this spirals from there. If you plan for a big growth burst in your first 5 months of a campaign then you’re being too ambitious. Be prudent and plan for the worst.


Thanks Matt,

Three golden nuggets for me:

1. Finding where influencers are most commonly posting via Tweeter and creating a presence there – In order to get on their radar.

2 – Ranking for links (i.e. Glossary pages ect)

3 – Bringing in influencers to create blog content and share with their audiences.

I hope to use these on a site I plan on launching next year.



Hey Simon,

Quick question – How do you entwine your KW research into content creation?

Ciaran H

Hey Matt,
I only recently found this site and just have to say your posts are fantastic. I can honestly say I’m better at my job than I was two days ago because of them. Thanks so much for putting so much work into this and for sharing your knowledge in such an accessible way. Best of luck in HubSpot

Brian Jackson

Wow, this is pure gold Matthew! I just switched jobs to a marketing position with a SaaS company, and this will come in very handy 🙂 Couldn’t have come at a better time.

Eugene Mota

Hey Matt, awesome share. I particularly liked the influencer outreach angle of focusing on contributors.

Given the nature of this project, i.e. building an audience from scratch, what are the promotional strategies with the highest contribution to the end result? Hard to say probably, but I would suspect leveraging the sources that gate big audience already (influencers, journalists etc). Is this the case? 🙂

Thanks again for the awesome post,

Matthew Barby

Hi Eugene. The biggest factor for rapidly growing the audience was probably the features within top publications. These came as a direct result of influencer engagement and opened up the site to tens of thousands of relevant visitors that could become part of the community.

Rachel Alexander

Wow. Awesome content. You’ve given me a whole lot of ideas for improving our ongoing link building efforts. Tremendous read, and very generously shared.

Jahanzeb Malik

Man Nice post indeed ! first time visiting your site ! man best design ever 🙂 that blue comment section in love =D

Michael Kawula

Tons of awesome ideas here and I’m also a huge fan of Codrut Turcanu. Such a great genuine guy. Product Hunt is on my radar and appreciate the tips here.


Just finished watcing your keyword search video and have to say it was one of the most informative, easy to understand tutorials I’ve ever watched. Thank you for putting the effort and for providing such a great resource to us.

Matthew Barby

Thanks, David. Glad you found it useful 🙂


hey Matthew, fyi. the site menu on Samsung tab 4 doesnt work. cheers stu

Robert Giacomelli

Hi Matthew,

Great post! The information and tips you have shared is just awesome. As i am new to you site and i found very useful ideas. Loved the way you write the content. Awesome post once again.

Thanks for sharing this with us. Cheers!

Krystian Wlodarczyk

That’s a very interesting read and a very nicely executed way of getting some traffic.

To be honest, I think it’s the best piece you’ve written so far.


Matthew Barby

Thanks, Krystian.


The glossary tip is a quick win, i might try that. Theres no substitute for writing though, fresh content = traffic soaring especially if you base content from google keyword planner

Thedore Nwangene

This is a very wonderful post Matthew,

Its filled with lots of useful information for a better SEO practice and i really enjoyed every bit of it.

Thanks for sharing.

Richard Hammond

Hi Matthew,

This is amazing stuff thanks for sharing.

I was wondering if you could share a little bit about how you approach getting an article like the 18 best apps ones onto the major sites? Do you provide them with the content or do you just give them the idea and a list of sites and let them write it?



Matthew Barby

Hi Richard, this is less about ‘getting someone to write something for you’ and more about understanding who would write something like this and then getting your product in front of them. We didn’t specifically ask anyone to write about BuildFire but we would give free access to influencers so that they would test out the tool and it often resulted in them mentioning us. We built out some free apps for people as well.

Richard Hammond

Ok thanks for the advice much appreciated.

I guess it’s all about relationship buildingn and having a good product of course!

Do you ever use any of these press release services to get the product in front of Journalists?


Great post as always, Matt!

The only issue with the “ranking for links” concept is that in most cases, you’ll need a fair amount of links to rank in the first place,

Marta Calligaro

Hi Matt
I’ve been studying this and found a real goldmine. However, I don’t understand #7 Ranking For Links.

“…I choose the most relevant and credible webpage and then link to it within my article…
Now, if you could scale this over a larger number of keywords then you’ve pretty much created a continuous flow of new contextual links.”

I understand why content already on Pg1 of Google gets links. But why would linking to it from your article automatically earn links for your article?

Juned Munshi

Thanks for taking time and sharing journey. It will be very helpful to many startup as “How to do ” framework for marketing and SEO.