What I have learnt of 10 years building SEO software

Created: Viktar Khamianok
Categories: CEO talking

Over the last 20 years software has merged into all spheres of our lives. Early in the morning we’re being woken up by a smart alarm clock that has been following our sleep cycles and phases to ensure perfect wake-up time.

Before we get up, many of us would already pick up their tablets to check Facebook and email. Toothbrush software is sure to pick the right mode for brushing your teeth. Your car’s navigation system would select the right route to get you to work avoiding traffic jams.

Most people reading this blog spend 90% of their time at their computers working with dozens of apps. And even when they have a spare moment, they would download a game, which is also software.

Hundreds of thousands of apps have been developed to date. Not all of them are perfect, which is a good thing, since it creates market opportunities for people who have software development skills.

It is very often that, being users of some app, we see its weak points and want to change the app, make it better. Sometimes a way out is to email the developers, who might see you’re right and improve their work.

But at times the tools are so poor that you see there’s no option other than developing it from scratch.

Great products would often appear as a result. Even more often, products won’t be born, or, having been born fail to get popular, and die.

So how do you tell if you should be up to developing the best software product in the world?

The checklist below includes 8 things I believe will let you see if you’re all set for your software development journey.

1. Are you truly keen on software development?

Development of an awesome product is a marathon rather than a sprint. First you go with the first idea to the first line of code, moving over to the first user and first income.

It’ll be a marathon filled with ups and downs, with euphoria followed by moments of despair. And you’ll be able to “run” this marathon only if you really like “running.”

I love creating products. I’m thrilled when I manage to make a product even slightly handier or smarter than it used to be.

If asked what I would like to do without even being paid for it, I would say, “develop products.”

And that’s what I do.

If I’m tired of developing my own products, I switch to developing some open-source products, which I’m not being paid for.

If your aim is developing best software products, expect an exhausting marathon. Still, the more challenging the marathon is, the happier you’ll be when crossing the finish line.

2. Do you have enough knowledge in the field?

It is quite often that when you look at fitness software, it’s apparent the developer has never been to a gym. Or when you use a cooking app, you see the guys behind it have never cooked in their lives. You see this because these apps are unpractical, inconvenient and are just a make-belief they provide a solution to some problem.

To create software that resonates with your target audience, you need to be an expert in your field.

I believe you should have 3+ years of experience in the field you create your software in.

I’ve seen it many times when newbies just entering an industry see multiple faults with other products at once.

Sometimes it means that a newbie has a true vision and perspective that allows them to create genuinely breakthrough products. Even more often, however, it would mean that the newcomer doesn’t see all the industry peculiarities.

I’ve been in internet marketing and SEO business for almost 10 years. And the more I learn, the more I realize how much is left to explore.

3. How well do you know your customers?

The most disappointing thing that can happen to a software developer is when they create a product no one, accept them, needs.

It’s a common tendency for developers to envision themselves as target users. Back in 2005, when we were developing our first software product, LinkAssistant, we pictured our user as an English-fluent tech-savvy guy in his mid-20s, who is promoting his own site. That was the guy we created our product for.

And you can imagine our surprose to receive emails from men and women, young and senior, Americans and Asians, tech nerds and folks who had no idea how to restart their computer, heads of SEO companies and people who didn’t know what <title> was about.

When you realize that the world is far more diverse than you could imagine, it is for the first time that you start being more specific about your target users.

Creating a product that could be of great use to professionals and easy-to-understand for beginners is an extremely challenging, yet next to impossible, task.

With that in mind, I’d recommend you starting with a small segment of your target audience, subsequently expanding to larger segments until you cover the whole market.

4. Do you have experience dealing with big data?

Present-day internet marketing and big data are almost synonyms. To analyze and predict users’ behavior, billions of lines in log files need to be processed.

Day-to-day storing of top 30 rankings for 1,000 keywords in 3 search engines creates gigabytes of data in relational database each year, and even 10 times more if you choose to store snippets.

Or take creating backlink index, for example. Creating one requires storing and processing hundreds of terabytes of data. This, in its turn, requires dozens of servers and hundreds of hard drives. Hundreds of search engines available require considerable effort to support viability of databases that extract data from them.

It is the matter of past when a single developer could create a powerful product. To come up with one today, you need a collaborative team of highly-professional developers.

Often when your product just enters the market, creating such an expensive system to support data analysis is too expensive to afford.

Luckily, there are multiple providers now who can provide all the necessary data to your software.

The majority of providers give only part of data an internet marketer really needs. For example, some can supply only rankings. Others can equip you only with backlinks. Still, some, like WebMeUp API provide a well-rounded solution, which lets you get more varied types of internet marketing data.

Even insignificant failures in data supply may have a negative impact on your product’s reputation, so when choosing the data supplier, pay attention not only to the price, but also to the company’s background and reviews.

5. How appealing is your UI/UX?

Making a software product today isn’t enough. You need to make it pleasant to work with. It means that you should pay great attention to how the software looks and interacts with the user.

If users don’t see how they can work with your tool, they won’t read manuals or watch video tutorials. They’ll close your program and look for another one that’ll solve their problem.

Although we pay huge attention to UI/UX testing, there’s a secret test I run each time a significant update is added to our software.

It’s called Mom’s Test and I conduct it on a person, who has very little tech and internet marketing knowledge when we started 8 years ago. Unluckily, this person has become quite savvy in SEO and online marketing, which gives her such a head start over the rest of our users that I believe I should be looking for another secret tester.

6. Are you good at marketing?

You will need to find one unique selling proposition (USP) of your product as early as possible. Best of all, you need to know your USP before you start developing your product. And then you'll have to present it - with a very strong focus - to your audience. If you don’t know how your product is better than others, you shouldn’t have developed it at all.

Now matter how awesome your product is, it won't sell itself. Only few products and the stars that get the ball rolling immediatly. In most cases, you will need to work hard day after day to get your happy customers and influencers talking about you in their own space.

Be ready to work person-to-person with every user at the early stages, helping them around and listening to them - to finally put word of mouth to work.

This may sound basic, and it gets more interesting (and more complicated, in a way) afterwards. But I believe we wouldn't get anywhere with our products without these two basic things: UTP and personal contact with every paying or non-paying customer.

7. What pricing model do you use?

So, your software product is ready. Will you sell it or give away for free? If you do sell, how much do you charge: $10, $100 or $1,000?

There are multiple approaches to pricing, still the two basic ones are (1) watching competitors and (2) analyzing how much your target users are ready to pay.

Anyway, you’ll need to experiment with the price and see how it alters the demand. In the end, you’ll be sure to find the price that’ll make both your customers and you happy.

I personally don’t trust 100% free products much as I’m not sure that the developer has enthusiasm to support it.

On the contrary, if the developer charges a payment for their program, I view it as their commitment to support the software in the long run.

8. Are you ready for success?

Often success comes totally unexpected.

One morning you wake up to seeing your inbox jam-packed with thank-you notes, questions and feature requests, while it was just the day before that you considered abandoning your product.

Suddenly, a simple server becomes no longer enough for your app, and you set up an extended cloud infrastructure.

Now you also need to hire staff to handle your email feedback, tech experts to help you develop the product and full-time accountants to manage your income.

You also see that Google search for your product name brings up more results every day, and things around you start happening faster than you can expect.

Still… it’s a part of another no less interesting story I hope everyone of you will be living through.

Create new products, make the world around better and success won’t take long to come!

is WebMeUp's owner and CEO. He's been into SEO for 10 years and into software design and development as long as he can remember himself. Besides being a business person with a strong analytical mind, he sees himself as a passionate programmer, while he codes for business AND for fun every day. One of Viktar's dreams is to create a 100% ideal SEO software tool. He says that, independent of potential profits, out of self-respect he would never agree to release crappy software.