Podia serves over 20,000 creators by helping them sell online courses, memberships, and digital downloads.
In a previous article, Spencer Fry shared his growth ramp how Podia got their first 1,000 true fans. But what tactics worked then does not always work now.
Let’s take an inside look at Podia’s growth strategy to help you find untapped growth opportunities in your startup.
Take a look at Podia’s backlinks to their website:
This hockey-stick growth started around November of 2018. And two months later, they reaped the rewards with more organic traffic:
Looking at Ahrefs, most of Podia’s referring domain links to the text “Powered by Podia,” “Terms,” and “Privacy.” How do they do get so many links?
When content creators use Podia to host rather than their own website, Podia places three links on the home page. It looks like this:
This is a fairly common link building tactic for platform tools.
I could say Podia should “build more links.” And it’s true. Even big brands like Hubspot are constantly building links. But let’s get into more specifics.
At this stage, Podia should consider quarterly experiments on large content projects. Podia has started building free tools to generate leads, such as their Digital Download Generator and their Sales Page Copy Generator.
I’d then do link campaigns to these pages to get the links to attract to each page faster.
Calculators and surveys are an excellent link magnet (here’s how Orbit Media’s survey got 430 links in six months).
Quizzes are another prime opportunity. Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich (IWT) uses quizzes as the main lead magnet on his website.
Buzzsumo found quizzes to be some of the most engaging and shared content too. On average, a quiz gets shared 1,900 times. The top 5 quizzes all had well above 1.5 million shares.
Podia’s CMO is Len Markidan. He’s formerly worked with clients like Prudential, Jet, Chegg, and Groupon. Before Podia, Markidan was pioneering the content growth at Groove. So it’s no surprise that their blog is also top-notch.
The majority of their articles are thorough and in-depth. As you see on the blog home page, their topics are well-structured. This is helpful for users and for increasing organic traffic.
Sure, I would flesh out a couple articles more. But they are solid end-to-end resources.
With all their content, I would invest in repurposing.
First, I’d look into doing more mini-site with their articles.
Podia started doing this early on with “How to create, sell, and profit from an online course” and “How to create an amazing membership website”. To my knowledge, they haven’t done any since creating these two guides.
Second, I’d look into turning their content into ebooks and selling them on Amazon.
This can make Podia some money. But more importantly, the ebooks will do two things (possibly three):
When someone buys anything from you, it increases the likelihood someone will buy future products. For Podia, that’s their tool.
Google, Youtube, and Amazon are the three biggest organic traffic sources (sorry Bing). Podia has mastered Google. They’re testing Youtube. But they haven’t tapped Amazon and it takes very little extra effort to do so.
Books are an amazing opportunity to increase your brand and reach new audiences. But they also are a lot of work. An ebook is a solid way to test the value of this channel first.
You need to be careful doing affiliate/referral programs before you hit product-market fit. Otherwise, you’ll have high acquisition costs with massive turnover.
But this isn’t the case for Podia, who has product-market fit.
For Podia, this is even more powerful as their audience are content creators. These creators have large audiences. And some have mastered a channel that Podia has yet to perfect, such as Youtube or a Podcast.
I would improve their affiliate ready-made kit. Podia has a lot of beautiful images and assets for affiliates to use. But the kit lacks any key selling points.
By adding these in, it will become even easier for creators to promote their product.
Podia has built a suite of landing pages to convert comparison shoppers. Most likely Markidan borrowed this playbook from his days at Groove.
This has led them to rank for their competitor’s brand names. Here is an estimate of Podia’s top keywords:
Positioning is important. Not only do you need to position yourself against the competitive landscape, but also against each competitor.
I’d also explore A/B testing the pages with information why a Podia customer switched from each competitor to them. These specifics will help them a stronger position against each competitor.
To avoid potential legal issues due to inaccurate claims, I would use direct quotes from customers to highlight the pain points.
While Podia has some comparison pages, there are many more they could build. Since these pages can convert into the double digits, it’s worth building more pages with lower traffic.
Most of Podia’s alternative pages rank for “[competitor] pricing” almost by accident. If you look at their Thinkific alternative page, it ranks for the keyword “Thinkific pricing:”
However “pricing” only appears three times on the page. And the one time it’s used on the main page, it isn’t marked with a header tag.
If you’re not as familiar with SEO, header tags help tell Google what keywords are important on each page. This is a key part of on-page SEO.
Once Podia adds header tags to rank better for “[competitor] pricing,” I would do 3-way comparisons between them and two competitors. This would help them rank for phrases like “Thinkific vs Teachable.”
After finishing these pages, Podia can also target “[competitor] reviews.” They can do this by buying each competitor’s product, using it, and giving an honest review in comparison to Podia. Here is a quick list of competitor keywords Podia can target.
Let’s assume Podia cannot rank any higher for “[competitor] alternative” and “[competitor] pricing.” Podia is leaving a lot of money on the table. How much money, you ask?
I estimate Podia is missing out on $121,680 in added annual revenue by not targeting all competitor comparison keywords.
I made 3 assumptions to get to this number:
According to Ahrefs, all the pages they are missing would get 12,070 searches/month. This does not include longtail keywords or any other traffic it happens to get. If these pages get an average search position of 3, they will get clicked on about 9% of the time. (12,070 searches X 9% = 1,086).
A near-perfect landing page will convert as high as 10%. Or higher. But 2% is a solid starting benchmark. At 1,086 clicks/month X 2% X 12 months, that’s 260 customers a year.
The typical SaaS churn rate is 3-5%. This means the average customer lifetime is 20 to 33 months. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that their customers will stay on for 12 months. With Podia’s Mover plan at $39/month, the annual revenue would be $121,680 (260 customers X $39/month X 12 months = $121,680). This also doesn’t account for anyone who buys or upgrades to their Shaker plan at $79/month.
And that’s the reason why I recommend most startups start by targeting comparison keywords, followed by product keywords. Even after covering most of their comparison keywords, there is still a $121,680 in annual revenue for Podia to tap into.
Right now, Podia is not investing in pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
It’s possible they are using display ads, but it’s unlikely when you look at other analysis tools.
Yes, PPC will help them get customers faster. But it’s also a threat if their competitors target potential Podia customers. Thankfully for Podia, none of their competitors are targeting Podia-related keywords.
Unlike most PPC agencies that create custom landing pages and offers, I would recommend Podia sends paid traffic to their pages that have high conversions. I would bet their comparison pages and guides are excellent candidates.
As long as you track conversions goals separately, it’s almost always better to start a test with a proven winner.
There’s nothing glaringly terrible about Podia’s growth strategy.
That said, I’d bet dollars-to-doughnuts their weak positioning is causing growth to lag.
Take a look at this positioning statement on their home page:
“The easiest way to turn your passion into income.”
How does that statement make them different than any of their competitors? If I were to tell you this photo was from Thinkific, Teachable, or Gumroad, would you be able to tell the difference?
If you cannot tell the difference between competitor positioning statements, neither will your customers.
A big piece Podia is missing is giving specific claims and backing those up with data.
For example, one of Podia’s differences is their fast customer service. Perhaps they could say:
“The average membership platform takes 2 hours and 12 minutes to resolve an issue. Last year, our team closed a case in 17 minutes.”
Then underneath this statement, they show a snapshot from their Intercom dashboard. Finally, they could add, “If your platform isn’t making money for 1 hour and 55 minutes, the average Podia creator would lose $175.”
While I made these numbers up, you can see how these specifics are more persuasive. Also if I were to place a second bet, Podia’s primary position should not be fast customer service. By doing customer experience interviews, they can find out why they matter to customers and double down on that position.
Once they’ve taken a position, Podia should add this messaging into their blog content.
Part of Growth Ramp’s services is to help early-stage entrepreneurs establish their positioning. This is a key part when establishing your growth strategy because you need the right messaging to rise above the noise.
For more on positioning, read: Positioning Strategy: Why Brand Messaging Makes or Breaks Startups.
Every business is unique. But as you read about Podia’s growth strategy, some of these principles also apply to your business.
I’m going to share an unpopular opinion: you need to stop chasing every shiny marketing object you read in articles like mine. Instead, you need to focus by choosing one area to invest in improving.
Once you’ve concluded your experiment, come back to this article or another article in our growth strategy series. Wash, rinse, and repeat until you’ve created a scalable startup.
A systematic approach is a better way to grow than throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks.
This growth audit is a sample of our full Growth Ramp Gap Analysis™. Click here to learn about our Gap Analysis Procedure™.