Ryo Chiba is an entrepreneur who started the multimillion dollar SaaS company, TINT, in college using SEO and content marketing. He bootstrapped it with his two co-founders to 40 full-time employees, with $5 million in annual recurring revenue. After successfully selling the company in 2018, he is now working on his new business, Topic, to help others achieve similar marketing success for their businesses.
In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how to increase organic traffic to create a product that markets itself.
The Intersection of Products and Marketing
Ryo was an engineer who turned into a marketer, so he is very passionate about the intersection between products and marketing.
“Back then I had the idea that if you build a great product, people will just come out of the woodwork and buy it. But after a decade of being an entrepreneur, it’s very clear that it’s not the case,” Ryo said. “[It’s] not only [about] building products that market themselves but also building products to help marketers.”
While Ryo was still a student in college, he and some friends started TINT, a venture in aggregating social media to help businesses. At first, they had no idea what they were doing, so they spent nine months trying to figure it out. On a whim, Ryo decided to learn basic SEO and applied it to their business. Luckily, this allowed them to gain their initial traction that helped them grow to 40 people. They realized SEO was a remarkable channel for them to leverage. As they increased their organic traffic, they found more success in their business.
“It really opened my eyes to the power of organic search,” Ryo said. “One of the key aspects of that growth was turning our product into something that could market itself. . . . Most businesses have that unique angle, or a unique superpower, where they can leverage something inherent in their business in order to help them in search marketing.”
Ryo and his team created an embeddable product that people could put onto their own websites. Their product was powered by a TINT sticker at the bottom, so the product essentially marketed and sold itself. When their product started to become more popular, they could build their domain authority and rank for important keywords. Instead of just creating a great product, they designed a great product in a way that would allow them to optimize organic search so it could market itself. They found the intersection between the product and marketing.
Later in his career, Ryo consulted for a company that rented out venue places for events and corporate meetings. The company’s primary growth strategy was letting venues feature themselves on their website in exchange to have that venue link back to their company’s directory of venues. By recruiting their own customers as advocates of their business, they grew their site authority and traffic. They found a way to let their service (renting out venues) market itself (having their clients link their venue directory on their website).
Over the years, one of the biggest challenges Ryo and his team dealt with was putting together a scalable content marketing program. They struggled with finding skilled writers who would write about marketing technology, their niche. Then, when they did find a writer, it was hard to provide them with the right research so they could effectively create good content that would rank on search. Through research and time, Ryo learned how to create a scalable SEO program. When he sold TINT in 2018, he started Topic, his next venture focused on this strategy.
Topic is a research and optimization tool for content marketers to help them create better quality content at scale. It analyzes the top results in Google to identify what key things our audience wants to learn about, so we can cover that in the content we’re putting together. Essentially, it helps find the connection between our products and marketing so we can create products that market themselves.
When we create a great product that markets itself through SEO, we create a recurring marketing strategy. Instead of paying for an ad campaign, we can use keywords and optimize organic search so that our products are marketing themselves for us every day instead of once a month.
Ryo explained that his best monetization strategy he puts into practice is leveraging high-intent keywords and organic search. It creates credibility since it is organic, and it is recurring so we can gain the most ROI. “Organic search is a channel that just keeps paying out once you are able to establish authority and trust,” Ryo said.
How to Increase Organic Traffic
Here are three steps to increase our organic traffic to build a recurring marketing strategy:
1. Find High-Intent Keywords
To rank high in Google, the first thing we need to do is intensify our high-intent keywords. These are the keywords our ideal customers search when they are ready to buy. One category of keywords relates to our competitors.
“Take a look at your competitors and see if people are searching for alternatives to those competitors,” Ryo said. “People who are looking for an alternative are often at a further end of the purchasing decision spectrum than somebody who’s just looking for general advice.”
For example, if we are in the insurance industry, the terms “health” or “insurance” are keywords but they are too broad to be high-intent keywords. These keywords may signal interest, but it doesn’t signal that the customer is ready for a purchase. Instead, we want to look at more specific and targeted terms. We may look for people who are searching, “United Healthcare alternatives, or “best healthcare insurance in Minnesota”. When customers get more targeted and begin to look for a specific solution, they are typically closer to the buying stage.
High-intent keywords are also very few. We may have 100 keywords related to our business, but only have 10 or 20 high-intent keywords. One thing we can do is find content optimization tools to help us search for the best keywords and use that data to write our content around.
2. Turn Keywords into Content
Once we have found the high-intent keywords, we can turn them into content.
“Dive into the research to identify what the search audience is asking,” Ryo said. “Look for patterns in the headings that other articles are using so that you can create content that’s answering what your search audience cares about, and then on top of that, layer on extra value.”
We can ask ourselves, “How can I go above and beyond to create better content than my competitors? What unique value can I provide in my content?” This may mean creating content in different forms so our audience can consume blogs, videos, and podcasts.
With recurring marketing we also need to be very aware of churn rates. This may mean how fast someone is clicking off our page.
“Even if you have a really amazing marketing system built out, it won’t matter if people are churning out,” Ryo said. “I think the key thing is working with whoever’s in charge of retention at an organization and putting marketing efforts behind that, whether it’s to use marketing skills to sell existing features that people might not know about or get people excited about being customers of a specific product.”
3. Create Credible Content
Ryo explained that the biggest tectonic shift he sees is content marketing and organic search. As part of that, he also explained that we need to really focus on making our content trustworthy and credible.
“In a broader sense, one big shift is the big change in consumer behavior in terms of who they trust and where they’re going to be making purchasing decisions,” Ryo said. “It’s no longer good enough to put out a radio ad or a TV ad, and expect your audience to trust you and make a decision based on that. People are looking for authentic content that is not only intelligent and answers those questions but is also trustworthy and comes from an authoritative source.”
One way we can create better credible content is by making sure we include credible research. For example, companies such as WebMD in the health industry enlist teams of doctors and researchers to back up everything that they say in their content. They have a panel that reviews all the content that they produce and they make them very clear on their site.
This concept can be applied to other industries as well. We can find credible people or credible resources to include in our content. For example, one of the clients Ryo has worked with targets athletes. They had an Olympic gold medalist skier write a guide on how to buy your first pair of skis. By getting help from credible sources, our content will improve.
Ryo explained that simply ranking high in organic search can increase our credibility as well since we can’t pay to be in the top spot unless it is an ad. “60 to 70% of clicks are going to organic search results because people trust those more, and because more people are going to those channels, it’s getting more competitive,” Ryo said.
Give Content Writers Access to Our Research
If we aren’t writing the content ourselves and we are hiring content creators to do it for us, we need to make sure they have the necessary research and information to create good content to optimize SEO. We should give them the keywords and show them popular topic options.
“Enable writers at your business to have the information they need to do those things,” Ryo said. “One of the biggest challenges that we see when we’re consulting with clients and working with clients is that their writers aren’t experts in the niche that they’re writing about, whether that’s credit cards or travel or health. . . . They’re not being empowered with the research necessary to allow them to create high-quality content.”
As we leverage keywords and organic search, we will begin to create a product that is credible and markets itself.
Thank you so much Ryo for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- 1. We should try to find the intersection between our products and marketing so we can create products that market themselves.
- 2. When we can create a great product that markets itself through SEO, we create a recurring marketing strategy.
- 3. Organic search creates credibility because it is organic, and it is recurring so we can gain the most ROI.
- 4. To increase organic traffic and create a recurring marketing strategy, we should start by finding high-intent keywords.
- 5. Once we have found the high-intent keywords, we can turn them into content.
- 6. One big shift is the big change in consumer behavior in terms of who they trust and where they’re going to be making purchasing decisions.
- 7.We can increase our credibility by ranking high on organic search results.
- 8. We can gain credibility by including credible sources in our content.
- 9. We need to make sure they have the necessary research and information to write good content to optimize SEO.
Connect with Ryo
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