My SEO Journey: Jane Portman from – Producing content shouldn’t be a founder’s side job

Author: Jane Portman
Date Published:
Reading Time: 5 minutes. (985 words)

My SEO Journey is a series where entrepreneurs and Indie makers share their honest SEO Journey filled with failure and success, and most importantly proven results. Episode #83 features Jane Portman from Userlist.

Jane Portman from share her SEO journey

Hey everyone! I’m Jane Portman, co-founder of Userlist. Userlist is an email automation platform built specifically for SaaS companies, and our special sauce is matching your customer data — such as company accounts

I’m a UI/UX designer by trade, and my co-founder Benedikt Deicke is a software engineer. We started this product in 2017 as an alternative to bulky enterprise tools, and it’s taken us to some wonderful places. The journey has also been full of challenges: getting new users to switch email tools (not a walk in the park), explaining what the product does (which took a few iterations), and much more.

Since launch, what has worked to attract more organic traffic?

For the first few years, we were completely unintentional with our SEO. We have been “building in public” and simply sharing the updates. We did our best to make them helpful, but we never even considered any keywords or search intent.

Along the way, we gradually built a large knowledge base and produced a handful of useful articles.

Then we launched our own podcast show, Better Done Than Perfect — which, by the way, has epic show notes. Just take a look at one of the episodes with Marc Thomas.

In 2020, we brought our docs under the main domain, which was supposed to help with SEO. And we bought the dot-com domain in the fall of the same year.

But not much more, until 2021.

That’s the year we doubled down on SEO content, with the help of our trusted advisor Pawel Grabowski of Smashing Copy. He audited our website, researched industry keywords, and put together a giant content plan for the next few years. He also delivered 20+ SEO articles over the course of the last 6 months.

And it started to work! Our top keyword is still “userlist” but individual content pieces have started to rank as well. Domain Rating (Source: Ahrefs)

Have you learned anything particularly helpful in your SEO Journey?

We had neglected SEO for so long because it was intimidating, and we also considered our industry to be “too complex” to have promising keywords.

That’s a great excuse to do nothing. We should’ve started much earlier.

Another mistake was to do everything on our own, without getting help. Only later we realized that producing content is not a founder’s side job, but requires a dedicated person. We’re glad that we found a content partner.

These days, we’re also working with industry experts to create even more specific, “niche” content.

There’s more…

Now it’s time to discover the other 102 steps that will get more organic traffic flowing to your website. Get the SEO Checklist here.

Want to get a sneak peek of what it looks like?
Enter your email and get a free demo version of the SEO Checklist.

What SEO tools do you use for your business?

Our core tool is Ahrefs, which needs no introduction.

We also use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to track the impact of our efforts.

My personal favorite is the Ahrefs browser toolbar, which shows the domain rating for each website you visit.

It’s a great research timesaver for our entire marketing team.

Can you share your efforts related to Link-Building? Referring Domains Growth (Source: Ahrefs)

We’re intentional about link-building, but don’t do any proactive cold outreach.

Here are some methods that work for Userlist:

  • HARO / Help a B2B Writer — our marketing manager monitors the queries, and forwards good ones to me.
  • Reverse-engineering inbound requests for podcast appearances and guest posts — if there’s a good fit, we try to turn them into indirect link collaboration.
  • Podcasting — it’s a good way to naturally disseminate links. There are many websites who republish episodes including the shownotes. Occasionally, we also score great links from our guests’ websites.

As you see, there is no magic bullet. But consistent effort pays off.

Do you want hundreds of easy-to-get backlinks?

The Link Chest is a collection of high-quality, easy-to-win backlink opportunities. It’s the smart way to kickstart your SEO mission and improve the rank of your website in Google.

Reveal The Link Chest
Jerome Berman | Link Chest customer

“This is such a simple idea but very well executed. I’ve been powering through this giant list of backlinks for a few hours and already have loads pointing to my site. Link Chest is an essential tool for early stage link building.”

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The famous Ahrefs Academy was a fantastic starting point. We can also recommend this guide on link-building for SaaS which includes many not-so-obvious ideas.

What’s the next step in your SEO Journey?

There’s more great content to come. Now that we’ve covered the majority of high-intent keywords, we’ll be producing less content, while doubling down on quality.

We’ll be also promoting the content more in the organic way, such as participating in community discussions.

What advice can you give to our readers?

Don’t neglect SEO. There a so many arguments that your industry is complex or competitive, but every business can succeed with SEO. You shouldn’t be neglecting this channel.

Start today. Consistency pays off, but it has to be years of work. The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, and the second best time is today.

Enjoy the ride. It’s all about the journey. So you have to pick the format you enjoy, and make sure you don’t burn out. For some people, it’s all about writing; other folks may prefer audio or video — it’s all up to you.

Reuse and recycle. You can produce multiple deliverables based on the same key content. One workshop recording can be turned into a blog post, or even multiple posts. And you don’t have to do it all on your own — there are many ways to scale your content effort using assistants or copywriters. Sure, they may have trouble coming up with new “know-how” content, but derivative work is much more doable.

Nurture and groom. Make sure you don’t abandon your old content. Make it a tradition to update your most successful articles, and bring some “good but old ones” up to speed. Your blog is your little zen garden. The more you nurture it, the more you enjoy the process, and the better results are.

Where can we go to learn more?

Thank you for following our journey! Welcome to learn more at our website. Here are some examples for the formats we follow at Userlist: workshop recaps, long-form guides, tool listicles, podcast interviews.

You can also follow us on Twitter: @uibreakfast, @benediktdeicke, @userlist.

about the author
Jane Portman

Co-founder of Userlist

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Jane Portman is the co-founder of Userlist — an email marketing tool for SaaS companies. She also raises three kids, enjoys scuba diving, and runs two podcast shows: UI Breakfast and Better Done Than Perfect.

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