SaaS SEO and Link-Building, Interview with Sergey Aliokhin

Sergey, thank you for this interview. Let’s start with your background. Where did you start and how did you end up doing what you do?

Sergey Aliokhin: First of all, I don’t consider myself an SEO professional. I do marketing where SEO is a part of the entire process. Therefore, I am not an SEO geek who is aware of every aspect of search engine optimization 🙂

I started my marketing journey back in 2016. I didn’t know anything neither on marketing, nor SEO. I had about 5 months of “test period” doing some tiny tasks for Ahrefs right after my full-time job hours. It was a pretty tough time for me but I knew that I must push the limits and get to the business for sure. Thanks to my persistence and content writing skills I got a position at Ahrefs.

At Ahrefs I have learned lots of things related to marketing. My primary task was to build links via guest posting. During writing lots of articles on SEO and marketing I started to understand these things far better.

Afterwards, I decided to move forward and try myself by doing content writing and link-building for other companies.

We keep hearing the term “Growth Hacker”. Do you consider yourself as one? Can you tell me what a SaaS marketing manager does for a living?

Sergey Aliokhin: No, I don’t consider myself as a “Growth Hacker”. I keep on learning marketing each day and I don’t feel that I can create miracles in terms of SEO/marketing. Now I am working with a SaaS company that offers software for coworking spaces all around the world. My position embraces all aspects of marketing that help push the business forward. In my free time, I do link-building for other different companies as a freelancer.

Are SaaS websites different from other websites? What success/failure metrics are helpful and how do you setup and track those?

Sergey Aliokhin: Yes, SaaS websites stand out from other websites (eCommerce ones, for example). But those SaaS websites that I’ve seen, have almost the same structure – main page, features(solutions) landing pages, pricing page, and blog. However, if you want to offer something special for the market, you must work on your branding.

The metrics that I keep on track are our target keyword positions, backlinks, traffic, and conversions. I use Google Analytics and Ahrefs mostly.

Let’s talk about building links for a second. How is link-building for a SaaS company different from link-building for other types of businesses?

Sergey Aliokhin: When I joined andcards and research our main competitors in terms of their link-building activity, I noticed that they don’t pay lots of attention to this aspect of SEO. They are pioneers in the market and gets leads via social media channels and word-of-mouth. I realized that the only way to come to a level is by building a strong link-building profile. Thanks to this decision we could come into the spotlight and crash one of our competitors. Now, we are getting backlinks on auto-pilot but I still keep on gaining links as I used to.

When you’re building links – what metrics do you care about? Please describe a perfect link.

Sergey Aliokhin: I pay attention to its type and a domain rating of the website I am going to acquire a backlink. An ideal link is “do follow” with DR60+.

And can you make a list of link-building techniques that work really well for SaaS companies? Remember – we really need the gold here!

Sergey Aliokhin: Guest blogging, broken link-building, outreach (link suggestions per content), and content collaboration.

Sergey, what can SaaS companies do to reduce their dependence on Google? As a marketing manager you’re interested in growth. What channels work really well in the SaaS space?

Sergey Aliokhin: I, personally, rely on direct communication mostly. Especially, when you work with a startup product where it is important to increase brand awareness and stir up an interest in the service you offer. Hence, I spend lots of time emailing our potential customers trying to find a common ground and how our product can help solve their issues.

How do you hire your staff? What qualities do you look for in a link-builder?

Sergey Aliokhin: I do link-building by myself. However, if I need to hire someone for this position, I would ask to share the techniques preferred and the list of the resources this candidate could gain backlinks from.

How many links are you happy with building in a month?

Sergey Aliokhin: If we’re talking about high-quality backlinks with DR60+, I would be satisfied with 5-8 per month.

Do you ever pay for links?

Sergey Aliokhin: No.

What do you think of nofollow links?

Sergey Aliokhin: I believe that any website should have an organic backlink profile. Consequently, I don’t think that “nofollow” links would hurt my link-building efforts dramatically. Nevertheless, my main priority is “dofollow” links for sure.

Sergey, in a perfect world, in a world without guest posts and reciprocal links – what SEO signals would count most? If you were in charge of the secret formula – what would it be?

Sergey Aliokhin: It is a very complicated question. I believe we would count on those SEO signals, that lead to conversions and sales. I don’t believe in the “secret formula”, I believe in hard work.
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