<aside> 💡 Roberto Robles is a head of a successful SEO agency and a founder of KatLinks — a SEO-related tool that helps startup founders improve their SEO metrics and rank better on Google Search. Roberto also issues a newsletter Rankmakers.net that covers all SEO-related topics and delivers them to your inbox once a week.  You can follow Roberto on Twitter @robertodigital_


10 questions to ask and answer to improve your free-to-paid conversion

1. Freemium or free trial?

For us, freemium was not an option. Katlinks.io uses a lot of API data consumption and costs money. If I had a free plan, even a very simple one, it would cost me about a couple of dollars, or a little bit more per user per month. So it is simply not sustainable financially — because as a bootstrapped founder, I’m very revenue-focused. Maybe big software tools or VC-backed startups can get away with that, but for indie-makers it's not financially viable. On the other hand, if I had enough resources to burn, I would definitely go with a freemium. Why? It just takes longer for SEO-related tools to start making any visible impact. If I could keep a free user stick around longer I would definitely gain from that and my free-to-paid conversion would probably improve.

So, my advice to every founder: before choosing what to go with (free plan of free trial) consider the following aspects:

because of the ongoing costs. And I mean, it's not  just  the data consumption. You also have to support a lot of people for a long time when these people are not paying. So you also have to take that into account.

2. Opt-in or opt-out?

When I first launched KatLinks.io, I went with opt-out. Then I started getting a lot of feedback from people who were like, I want to try the software, but I don't know you or I don't know your software, so I don't want to give you my credit card. And it kind of made sense, right? I'm not a famous person that people would just immediately trust and put their credit card in. So I decided to switch to opt-in instead, and obviously the sign ups went up immediately.

So, the general advice would be: if you have a strong personal brand you might probably get away with the opt-out option. People would trust you and your product from the get go. If you don’t have a wide social presence, better go with an opt-in framework. At least, you’ll have some users, and you’ll be able to analyze their behavior and work on improving your free-to-paid conversion.

3. Onboarding tours or data pre-population?

When I launched KatLinks.io, I did not have a very impressive conversion rate. I obviously started wondering how I can improve it. Someone suggested a tool that allowed us  to create in-app tours for the news users — you know, when you first sign up, some services show you around and explain all the relevant features and sections with the pop ups. I tried several of them but it did not make any significant difference. It remained like this until I realized my mistake. It was not about the tours. It was about the fact that when new users signed in they were redirected to the dashboard with not a single piece of data. It was an empty canvas and they immediately lost interest in the tool.

We implemented a change in the onboarding flow: now when you log in first or when you sign up for the trial, the first thing I ask you is your domain. Once I have it while they're signing up and getting to the dashboard, I'm already pulling information: how many pages they have their backlinks, I'm running a page audit for their homepage, I'm also finding if they're already ranking from some keywords organically. So when they hit the dashboard, hopefully they have some data (depending on how big the website is obviously, if it’s something very new and very small the dashboard will still be empty as there’s no data to pull). But if there’s something that should be interesting for the user. And once they're there and they have some data, then they might see the tour that will explain what they can do with this data, they are more eager to take it a step further.

So my advice is: you might use onboarding tours but track data on what people are doing with them. Do they actually take the whole tour? If they don’t and still convert — you’re doing great. But if they lose interest in the tour and don’t use the tool — you probably need some additional steps in the onboarding that would allow users to see the value of your service straight away. The most obvious step here is to offer ready-to-use templates or pre-populate your service with their data.