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Ahrefs Built A $10M Acquisition Channel By Giving Away Their Best Features

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Showing someone the value of your product.

How it will make their life easier. 

And why they should buy it. 

All in about 30 seconds is…TOUGH

Especially in SaaS these days. 

Trust me, I have been doing it for 7+ years. 

But, it’s not impossible. Thousands of SaaS brands are building amazing solutions and companies as we speak.

One of the ways they get around those difficulties is by offering a free tool or freemium membership.

This helps the new user see the true value of the product by actually experiencing some of the best core features.

But what if you gave away all of your best features for free without requiring a sign-up, a trial period, or even a lead gen form?

Sounds a little crazy, right? 

Hubspot even requires an email address to use their free tools!

Well, Ahrefs has been giving away their best tools for free for the past few years.

And they have used that strategy to build a $10M content moat and an unmatched acquisition channel.

Let me show you how. 

 

13 Tools, $858k in Monthly Traffic Value

There’s no hiding the fact that I love when brands use simple tools as an acquisition channel. 

They are a fantastic way to drive a consistent amount of traffic, links, and leads back to your website, especially when trying to rank on ultra-competitive but rewarding keywords. 

Grammarly has its plagiarism tool that likely drives thousands of sign ups each day. Right now, it’s worth about 500k in traffic value and drives 1.8M in monthly organic sessions. The main keyword “plagiarism checker” has 338k searchers per month but has a keyword difficulty of 94! 

I have even written a teardown on how one tool, Shopify Business Name Generator, can take over and dominate an entire content cluster. 

However, I have never seen a SaaS brand dominate a very competitive niche with a collection of tools, or give away so much functionality and value, for free. 

That was until I found Ahref’s collection of SEO tools. With just 13 of these free tools, they drive around $858k in traffic value each month. 

search scorecard for Ahrefs seo tools

They’ve used this collection of SEO tools to not only build a content moat that ranks on 532k keywords, but also a very strong acquisition channel. Mainly because these tools are positioned perfectly to give value to their ideal customers, but we will talk more about them in the next section. 

Additionally, these tools drive about 40% of all organic sessions and almost 50% of all traffic value to the Ahrefs domain. 

To put this in perspective, with just the Backlink Checker and Website Authority Checker, they are driving about the same number of organic sessions as the whole Ahrefs blog!

search scorecard for Ahref's blog

It’s truly an impressive collection, and I don’t think it took much extra effort to build them out, especially because the tools are based on core functions found in the Ahrefs product. 

The tool that drives the most organic traffic is the Backlink Checker, which drives around 253k monthly sessions but only ranks on about 7.9k keywords.

Search scorecard for Ahrefs backlink checker

I think it’s important to talk about both the keyword volume and difficulty that these types of pages rank on. Sometimes a big number can seem impressive, but the keywords provide no value to the business. 

The Backlink Checker is not one of those pages. The main keyword, backlink checker, has a difficulty of 87 and they are ranking number one. And there are 100+ other very difficult keywords that Ahrefs Backlink Checker is ranking in the first spot.

Keyword difficulty chart for Ahrefs backlink checker

The SEO niche is extremely competitive and mature. I have talked about how hard it is for newcomers to break into the industry for this exact reason. A cost per click of $7+ on the keyword “backlink checker” is a great indication of how competitive it really is.  

This is not an isolated incident, either. Most of the tools that they have created are ranking on very difficult but very rewarding keywords. 

For example, the tool that drives the most traffic value, the Website Authority Checker, only ranks on about 4k keywords but drives $377k in traffic value.

Search scorecard for Ahrefs website authority checker

The main keyword for that page, “domain authority checker,” has a keyword difficulty of 84. And that page is ranking on over 200 keywords with an 85+ difficulty.  

Even their tools that don’t drive a ton of organic traffic still rank in the top few spots of pretty competitive keywords. 

For example, the Keyword Difficulty Checker drives only about 3k sessions per month. But those sessions are earned. The main keyword “keyword difficulty checker” has a difficulty of 70!

So why am I telling you all of this? 

Well, I wanted to make sure you know how impressive it is that Ahrefs has captured this success over multiple tools.

And dominated an entire category of tools and solutions, while creating a solid acquisition channel. 

That said, how they position these pages is really the most impressive part.  

I think people who hate on free tools like this really don’t understand who the tools are actually for. 

It’s usually not who you think. 

 

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