Interview With Rick van Haasteren
Describe your product or service:
“SiteGuru is an SEO tool that helps marketers and agencies to improve their website, get more traffic from organic search, and monitor their performance. Our SEO audit gives marketers an actionable to-do list, helping them succeed even without in-depth SEO knowledge.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“It's our mission to make succeeding in search engines attainable for everyone, without having to become an SEO expert.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
“We haven't looked for any funding. We're bootstrapped and funded by the revenue from our customers.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“It's just me as a founder working full-time, with some mentors helping me improve the messaging and conversion.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“It's always been a dream to [have] my own online business. I love the freedom and the opportunity to build something that I think is great for my customers.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“I was working at an online marketing agency and noticed how often there were issues with a website that no one was aware of. Doing an SEO audit required all these complex tools that weren't really inviting or helpful. That was super challenging for most of our customers: they just didn't understand the complex reports, and I can't blame them.
I wanted to build something better that my customers would understand, so they could improve their online presence without having to work with complex tools or learn all these new skills.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“To me, a guru is someone friendly who has a lot of knowledge and wants to help you. That's exactly what I wanted SiteGuru to be: a helpful friend that guides you.
“To me, [SiteGuru is] more than a name: all our messaging and functionality is designed around the idea that we're friendly and want to help.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“Apart from the technical challenges that come with building an SEO tool, the biggest challenge was reaching the right audience. ‘Build it and they will come’ just doesn't work. So next to building a tool, I'm spending a lot of time reaching out and building a brand name.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“It's a great product for SEO specialists, but I noticed that online marketers who aren't specialized in SEO are most delighted with the simplicity of the tool.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“I'm mostly focusing on content marketing. I have a large SEO knowledge base that does well in Google (as an SEO tool, that's kind of a thing), which brings in a lot of traffic.
I've also built good relations with various influential online marketers who include the tool in their blog posts. That drives a lot of traffic.
I did some advertising, but at this point, we're mostly focused on content.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Mostly from people reading the SEO content and signing up for a free trial. They liked the product, got hooked, and became a customer.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“At the top of the funnel, I focus on organic traffic, especially non-branded traffic. Next, it's all about conversion to free trials. I especially monitor whether people remain active after signing up. And then it's about whether they convert to a paying customer.
It's not just about KPIs: I really try to get a feel of how people are using the app, what they see in their reports, and how it helps them. Having real conversations with customers is often more valuable than looking at [the] dashboard.”
What's your favorite entrepreneurial book and podcast?
“I'm a big fan of ‘The Art of Product’ podcast. It's basically two startup owners talking to each other about their challenges and how they run a business. I can take a lot of their lessons and apply them directly to my own business, which is super valuable.
A book I love is ‘Start Small, Stay Small’ by Rob Walling. I love the opinionated approach of avoiding outside capital and keeping things simple.”
What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?
“Building a great product and a big audience takes a lot of time. You never get it right the first time. The skill to just keep going is underrated for entrepreneurs.”
Who is your support system?
“It always helps to share my plans with my wife. It forces me to make things clear for myself, and her feedback always helps make things better.”
How do you stay motivated?
“Start early and do some work before the sun comes up. Have a walk or workout during the day. Variety helps a lot.
Next to that, feedback from happy users is super motivating.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Before, I just started working on my to-do list and did mostly what felt good at that moment. Now, I have much more structure in my week. Every Monday morning, I start by looking back at the week before and make plans for the coming week. It's a great way to evaluate, sharpen your mind, set priorities, and get energized for the week ahead.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“Building an SEO tool from scratch that hundreds of people say makes their life so much easier.”
More on SiteGuru
Using feedback and data from real customers, Rick van Haasteren's plan for SiteGuru is to, ultimately, provide the most exceptional and effective SEO services possible.