618,000 ₽ per month. SaaS in Russia. We share our experience, graphs and figures. Dedicated to those who hope faster

Short description

The co-founder of ClickFraud.ru, Maksym Kulgin, shares his experience of developing a SaaS service in Russia without venture capital investment or paid advertising. The clickfraud.ru service offers protection against Yandex advertising. The service began development in the latter half of 2019, and Kulgin shares the growth in traffic, sources of customer acquisition, retention metrics, and conversion rates. Organic traffic accounts for 70% of the service’s traffic, and blog articles in translations of interesting foreign SEO/PPC publications, and free publications on VC/HABR sites work well for SAAS businesses. The retention period of ClickFraud.ru is currently 137 days, but Kulgin states that more needs to be done to maximize profit, and 1% of all new visitors become customers or register on the site. Contextual advertising did not suit the needs of ClickFraud.ru, and so switching to blogging proved beneficial, with high-quality translations of foreign SEO/PPC publications, competent linking, titles, etc., as a winning strategy.

618,000 ₽ per month. SaaS in Russia. We share our experience, graphs and figures. Dedicated to those who hope faster

I will frankly tell you about our experience of developing a SaaS service in Russia from zero to a stable income of ~600 thousand rubles per month without venture capital investment, ChatGPT and paid advertising (boring already, right? :)). To some, the victory may seem modest, but we rejoice like children. I say right away – it won’t happen quickly, especially if you work “on your own”, but there will be many graphs in the article.

My name is Maksym Kulgin, and we are developing the clickfraud.ru service — protection against Yandex advertising. Direct. In March 2023, we received a record win for us in the entire history of the service (we are still a young startup). I will share our experience of the most interesting and significant moments in development. I made the article in the form of points, so it is possible to highlight the main points more systematically. I will say right away – we still need to improve a lot on all “fronts” – protection algorithms, ux/ui of the site, personal account, reports, etc. The result is an endless process of improvement that has no end in sight.

Since we are developing with our own funds, without venture investments, everything is not going very quickly, to put it mildly. We registered the domain name at the end of 2019, in fact, we have been actively developing the service for 2 years. In October 2022, we received a grant from the FSI (4 million rubles, can be spent only on FOP), became a resident of Skolkovo, and this accelerated us (we were able to strengthen the team of developers, mathematicians – identifying bots that call advertising is a purely mathematical task, and if to be precise – II detection of anomalies in mouse movements). I have already written about our detailed experience of receiving a grant and how we became a resident of Skolkovo with an analysis of the application.

Domain registration. End of 2019

Now I want to focus on our sources of customer acquisition (or rather traffic) because that is the most important thing for any SAAS (although it is the most important thing for any business). I will write how we do it and immediately emphasize that I am sure that we have a lot of mistakes and everything can be done better. But what is, that is.

I am not teaching any of you, this is just our experience. Plus, we are still learning ourselves, testing various hypotheses and trying to feel what works well for us (it is not a fact that it will be good for you as well). We don’t have cold sales, we tried several times, but the efficiency was extremely low, so we decided to focus on conditionally free traffic. I will talk about this in detail.

So…

1. Traffic. If you have SAAS, traffic to your site is your “everything”. After all, you will then transform traffic into registrations and paying customers. I will focus on this and show our analytics (Yandex metrics data). It can be argued for a long time that traffic should only be targeted, but our experience shows that even blog article search traffic converts to signups.

Our traffic dynamics for 2 years is below in the image. During the entire life of the project (~2 years), we did not do anything innovative at all. We blog on the site (mainly translations of interesting foreign SEO/PPC publications) and periodically publish articles on this resource. The paradoxical growth of traffic is very pleasing to us, but a little surprising, because we are doing the same thing as we have always done (and yes, we do not give paid advertising – more on that later).

Traffic for 2 years

You can see the distribution of traffic: 70% – search (organic traffic). I will not separately indicate the distribution of organics between Google/Yandex – in half plus or minus. 13% are links – this is where our articles on this resource work, where we talked about what convocation is, how we fight it, etc.

Traffic sources for the year

If we talk about organics (search traffic), then according to the target query, our articles come immediately after blocks with advertising (first page, 3rd position and below). For us, this is free traffic that converts quite well into registration. You can see that VC/HABR sites are ranking higher than our site and the reason is that their ranking in the eyes of search engines is higher. You can carefully advise such an approach if you are developing SAAS. It should be noted that the publications are free and work for quite a long time. Here it is impossible not to say a big thank you to the editors of VC for allowing you to leave active links to your resource in articles.

Search output based on a query that is key for us

2. Retention metrics. There are guys who really like to “juggle” different, undoubtedly smart, terms for SAAS – Churn rate, MRR, LTV, CAC, LTV Ratio, Engagement, CHI (happiness index), etc. I, to my shame, not all I can decipher and only recently decided to count (more for myself)customer lifetime“(This is probably LTV?) . Today it is ~137 days. And here I sit and think – is it a little or a lot? If it is little, then how much should be, and if it is a lot, nothing else needs to be done? :). If we are serious, then 137 days does not make us happy, because Obviously, we want to keep customers as long as possible, but this is achieved by maximizing profit. We still have to work with this.

3. Conversions from traffic to registration. Brought to the graph below for registration every day for the year. There is a clear correlation with the growth of traffic to the site. I cannot say that the relationship is linear, but it is noticeable.

Dynamics of registrations by day during the year.

The chart below shows conversions. I guess we didn’t set the targets very precisely, but a quick check showed that the data looks like the truth. For a quarter it turns out that ~0.23% All visitors are converted into customers.

Here it is only important to consider what we have only Yandex counter. Metrics on the website and in the personal account (the account is made on a subdomain), so it is not entirely correct to count the conversion from joint visitors, because there are already regular customers who enter the site and immediately go to the account. If they are taken into account (or rather subtracted), then the conversion will be ~1.08%. How did I think it was? new ones there were 30,519 visitors to the site for the quarter, 330 conversions (I won’t show graphs for confirmation), just believe that I’m not imagining things.

So, it turns out that ~1% of all new visitors to our site become customers (to be precise, they register). I was told in the Telegram channel that the SAAS conversion figure should be ~5%. If you look at this article, then for SAAS, which work according to the freemium model (and this is our option), the conversion is from 1 to 10%.

Further research led me to this very good article stating that the average B2B SAAS conversion rate for organic (search) traffic varies from 0.7% to 5.9% depending on the industry. At B2B Tech, the average conversion rate is ~1.0%. Conclusion? We are neither better nor worse than the market average. But, of course, I want more 🙂

If you are interested, the table below shows the distribution of conversions (in % and absolute values) depending on the source of traffic for the 1st quarter of 2023. If we are searched for by targeted queries, it gives the maximum number of registrations.

Conversions by sources per quarter

4. Blog on the website. We used to advertise in Yandex.Direct and … no, no one called it, but we spent about 60,000 rubles. and received 2 registrations for the entire time. An excellent specialist adjusted advertising for us (the price of adjustment is 15,000 rubles), and there is no reason not to trust him. We concluded that contextual advertising is not very suitable for us (or we never learned how to “cook” it) and concentrated on blogging. Here we are not original at all – we look for interesting English-language articles and translate them to the site, trying to make competent linking, titles, etc., in order to get the maximum effect from SEO traffic.

Whether it worked or not – judge for yourself. Below, for March 2023, visits to blog posts from search (yellow bar color, 90% are search visits).

90% come to blog articles from search. Here are the best posts for March 2023. The time on the site is 1 minute, I don’t know if it’s too much or too little. They probably read quickly.

This will be clearer – the distribution by sources of transitions (see below). I can make a neat conclusion that the blog works and allows you to collect traffic. Of course, blog traffic is worse converted to registration, but it is conditionally free for us (our expenses are 35,000 rubles per month for translations with publication), if compared with other paid channels.

Visitors by source of conversions to blog articles. Yandex is the leader, don’t ask why 🙂 – SEO is a “dark forest”.

5. Average check. Now it is at the level of ~ 3700 rubles. But we give each new client free bonus rubles on the account, so the number of new registrations does not directly affect revenue.

What does a personal account look like? Registrations for March 4 are partially visible (this is not all, about 20 at the time of publication).

6. Partner program. It’s a very interesting tool that I strongly recommend to all SAAS services. We pay 35% to our partners and now their growth rate is 1 partner per week. We do not impose any restrictions on how partners will attract traffic – there is no desire and resources to control them. This leads to the fact that such affiliate sites appear on new domains, which … lead to our main site clickfraud.ru with an affiliate link 🙂 No problems, it doesn’t bother us, people earn money – everyone is happy. We make payments by non-cash settlement, we were able to automate it.

The partner site on the domain click-fraud-off.ru 🙂 is not our domain

7. DAY. We have set up automatic publication of articles from the blog on the website to the DZEN channel. Our site is built on WordPress and there are ready-made (free) plugins that help with the issue of republishing. The statistics are given below, but my personal opinion is that it is not working well for us. On the other hand, we do not waste time and energy on DZEN, because all materials are published automatically. I proceed from the fact that it “doesn’t hurt”.

Statistics by DZEN channel, for 30 days of March.

In the Telegram channel, they wrote to me that the publication of materials in DZEN could harm the site, because DZEN has a higher rating in the “eyes” of search engines, but we keep internal linking between articles, so hopefully, eventually, a person will come to our site.

Linking between articles. Clicking on it will take you to the blog article on the website.

8. And what’s next? For 2023, we do not plan any innovations to attract customers. That’s it, short and simple:) but it’s true. We will emphasize what works – content. Last year in August 2023, we want to try to apply for a new FSI grant in the form of ~12,000,000 krb. (Co-financing is already required), and there, under the terms of the grant, you can spend money on marketing (advertising). I assume that we will try new channels (sometimes we think about advertising in VKontakte, where advertising specialists communicate to offer them an affiliate program).

The article turned out to be a bit boring, I understand that. After all, few people are interested in tinkering with “schedules”. Our experience may not be relevant to yours, but I do not see any “silver bullet” in the development of an IT business if you are limited in financial resources and forced to find the most effective promotion tools. If I missed something, write – I will try to answer in the comments!

ps If you are interested in learning a little more about the experience of creating IT in the Russian Federation, I host the channel “Russian IT Business”, where I talk about the “inversion” of our activity without embellishments.

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