How Lukas & Liz Hermann turned SEO into Stagetimer.io’s biggest acquisition channel
If you were to ask me who my top Indie Hacker crush is, the award has to go to Stagetimer.io: a a web-based timer and cueing tool designed for live events and productions.
What I love most about Stagetimer.io is that if you had asked me if people would pay a monthly subscription for a product like this I would have said, “I really don’t think so.” Thankfully, naysayers like me are proved wrong everyday by smart entrepreneurs who know exactly what problem they solve and for who. It doesn’t matter if other people don’t get it.
Another reason why I love what the team over at Stagetimer is doing is their lead generation. Despite being in what you’d call a “blue ocean” market, the good folks over at Stagetimer have found a way to really nail their SEO. Typically speaking, it’s tougher to do SEO for a blue ocean market category because people aren’t solution aware and may not be searching actively for solutions like yours.
I caught up with founders Liz & Lukas Hermann to ask them a few questions about their SEO strategy and what I got in response is absolute gold. If you’re an early-stage startup hoping to reap the benefits of SEO to generate more sign-ups then listen up and pay attention.
First up, tell me a little about your company. What problem were you trying to solve when you started your business? When did you come up with your idea? Did you dive right in or was it a slow burner side hustle at first?
Sure, my company is Stagetimer, a web-based timer and cueing tool designed for live events and productions. The problem we are trying to solve is that during live events, there are often a lot of moving parts that need to be synchronized, and timing is critical. Stagetimer helps to keep everyone on the same page and ensure that events run smoothly and on time.
I came up with the idea for Stagetimer when I visited a friend’s recording studio. He uses an old laptop with some outdated Win XP app as a timer. So before hitting record I see him running into the recording room just to press “Start” on that timer manually before running back to his video mixer.
“Surely there is a better solution out there”, I thought. Well, there wasn’t. There were some native apps, but nothing browser based.
The problem was so simple that I wrote the first version on a single weekend.
Since then our customers, mainly video and event production companies, have kept us busy with feature requests. As industry outsiders we had to learn everything from our clients, how they use our tool, how they would like to use it and what are deal-breakers for them.
It was a slow burner at first. I worked on it part-time while still working at my full-time job. It took about 6 months before I earned my first dollar from it. But eventually, I was able to dedicate more time and resources to it, and it has since grown into a profitable business.
Who are your customers/target market?
Primarily professionals in the event and video production industry who require precise time management during live events.
A good example is the “World Summit AI” conference in Amsterdam. They used Stagetimer as feedback for their presenters on stage.
But we have oddballs in there like a professor who uses it in a classroom setting or racing track.
As a company in a “blue ocean” market solving a very specific problem, a lot of people would have focused more on outbound efforts. However, Stagetimer has had great success with SEO. Did you have any framework for deciding the best acquisition channel or was it a bit of blind faith and experimentation?
As a technical founder I just lacked the sales and marketing experience. So my first approach was Reddit where we literally got our first customers from. Then we tried YouTube sponsorships and the biggest channel told us “we love using your tool, but we don’t do sponsorships”.
It made us understand that this industry values good quality products and just look how many customers give “Friends” (aka. word of mouth) as a source, that’s crazy.
So we focused on discoverability and positioned ourselves as a professional tool with good documentation and technical tutorials. The search volume around our keywords is very low, but it’s offset by a high conversion rate.
So a bit more trial and error than an actual framework to be honest.
What’s your current workflow for identifying good keywords to target, optimizing your content and measuring the results?
When it comes to SEO strategy, I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to identify good keywords to target is by searching my competitors’ keywords. By doing this, I’ve been able to find out which keywords are worth targeting and which ones are not.
Since most of Stagetimer users are very tech-savvy and ask more technical questions, I’ve started optimizing our content by using technical queries that they might use. This has helped us create content that speaks their language and engages them better.
To measure our SEO efforts, we keep track of metrics for each page or blog post and also collect data on the entry points for each user. By doing this, we can find the pages that lead to people creating a Stagetimer account. This has been a useful way for me to gauge the success of our SEO strategy and improve it over time.
As a small team prioritization must be important. How do you prioritize what content and pages to build out for the most SEO juice?
One thing that’s been really working for us lately is prioritizing creating pages and blog posts that answer the recurring questions that our main customer segment has. By doing this, we are able to provide them with helpful content.
To make sure that these pages and posts actually get seen, I first do some keyword research to figure out which keywords and queries are relevant to our customers. From there, I target these keywords with blog posts and use cases that address the questions our customers have. This approach has helped me get more traffic to our website over time and tends to get the right people to come to the website.
How did you understand your market well enough to write content you knew they’d be searching for?
First comes the low-hanging fruit with landing pages like “Timer for presentations” etc.
But we didn’t know what to do next. We created some articles that didn’t get any traffic. As outsiders to our niche we had to learn the vocabulary they use, the tools they prefer and the things they value. I joined a Discord community and we visited a broadcasting trade show.
After understanding our audience it was obvious what they would search for. So we are writing guides like “How to use a countdown timer with Tool X” or “Integrate a timer with Workflow Y” … because we know what they use and how they work.
On SEO tools the search volume for most of these is shown as 0. But the conversion on good technical articles is so high that it’s worth it.
Beyond rankings, how are you measuring the impact of your SEO? How are you attributing SEO with new sign-ups?
We ask our customers after checkout how they heard about us. It’s not mandatory to answer but most do. That’s how I got that pie chart above. And then we have the UTM parameter from Google Ads so we know how many are paid vs. organic. In our case we get ~50% of our customers from Google of which ~20% are paid the rest is organic.
Just because a keyword has a low or even 0 search volume doesn’t mean it isn’t worth going after. As Liz & Lukas mentioned, a lot of their low volume keywords are offset by the high conversion rate they’re getting on those pages. They’ve also understood the most fundamental thing about SEO that I think most companies miss: using the language of your target audience.
It’s easy to be driven by keywords alone. However, if those keywords aren’t actually being used by your target audience, then pouring time and efforts into ranking for them isn’t going to yield the best ROI.
Thanks so much to Liz & Lukas for sharing their wisdom and I have no doubt that Stagetimer is going to the moon 🚀.