20 Nov

Monitor Backlinks looks to replace the notepad and spreadsheets that SEOs use to keep track of their backlinks, checking their status regulary and notifies when they get removed or nofollowed.

We had a lengthy and insightful interview with the sharp entrepreneur Mr. ‘Razvan Girmacea‘; CEO of the Romania (Iași)-based start-up “Monitorbacklinks.com”.

“Monitorbacklinks.com” is an easy backlink checker tool that notifies you via email or in your changelog if someone removes your links or makes them nofollow.

Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Girmacea’ regarding his start-up company “Monitorbacklinks.com”;

1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Monitorbacklinks.com” is all about?

I have 9 years of SEO and Web developing experience and I know some of the problems SEO developers and Agencies face. 

Monitor Backlinks looks to replace the notepad and spreadsheets that SEOs use to keep track of their backlinks, checking their status regulary and notifies when they get removed or nofollowed.

2. When has “Monitorbacklinks.com” been founded? And what stage is “Monitorbacklinks.com” currently at?

It was founded in Novermber 2011 and it has been improved on a weekly basis. The more users we get, the more feedback we receive so we are improving the tool continually.

We have built a lot of features, but all help the user to either check, add and manage backlinks easier.

There are about 3000 users that are using our tool.

3. What is “Monitorbacklinks.com”’s business model and how does it work?

Our revenue comes from monthly subscriptions. We have a simple payment plan, based on the number of links you use. All plans include all features and there is an unlimited number of sites that you can monitor.

There is a free package with a limited number of backlinks that user can monitor and there is also a 30 days trial with 500 links limit.

Subscription prices starts from $4.95 / month and up to $69.95 / month and also a 30% off on yearly plans.

4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?

I first started the tool by my own, this beeing my second business and having experienece in the field, it just required a lot of hours to build, communicate to the users and promote the tool.

Daniel Damian, a real life friend, joined after a few months and he is in charge of communication and PR. He succesfuly built communities arround other businesses and has been a real help here.

I am in charge of setting the business directions and improving the tool and he communicates with the users, bloggers and press.

5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?

There are lot of SEO tools out there that offer a lot of features, but that comes with a high cost.

We focus only on one feature, the monitor of backlinks, and that makes our costs more affortable and for us to build a powerful and easy to use product for our users.

We already got great feedback from most of our premium users.

6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Monitorbacklinks.com” achieved so far?

We have a constant advertising budget and we are using all channels available for getting the word out.

As a result, we grow constant, we get constant feedback and we improve the product with each user we got.

We got 1000 users in just 3 months after sign-up and we are are targeting 5000 users by the end of the year.

7. Who are your competitors? And what is “Monitorbacklinks.com”’s competitive advantage over them?

There are two types of competitors:

– Big SEO Tools that offer a lot of features, but monthly cost starts at around $75 / month. They are not affordable for a lot of SEO freelancers and are quite complicated to use just this monitor feature.

– Other monitor backlinks tools that are built by a small team usually. Our advantage is that we have one of the most easy to use product from our niche, and our users agree.

8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest obstacle is TIME: time to handle every task, in every side of the business (development, marketing, pr, business).

Second, is getting the word out, because we have a lot of users that happily use Monitor Backlinks and I am sure that are a lot of others SEO and Agencies that will find our tool very useful, just that they don’t know about it.

We focus on two directions now: getting the word out and constantly improving our product.

9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?

Offering a great user experience for our clients is not an easy task and it takes numerous versions of the product untill you get it right. Even changing a color, or adding a shadow can take a lot of time, because noone is telling you what to change, you have to figure it out.

I am very passionate about user experience and have been studying it for over 3 years and implemented with success in other projects, that is why Monitor Backlinks is such an easy to use tool.

10. Why are you going to succeed?

Before we started building the product, we made a long-term strategy, a very rigorous business plan and enough bootstrap money to makes us survive the first months until the product can survive on its own.

The starting team is small and our costs are low at start. Watching the costs is very important when you build a good product that is focused on the user and not on the money.

11. If “Monitorbacklinks.com” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?

We already have ideas of other features and side products to implement after Monitor Backlinks will be mature, but for now we don’t want to spread our attention in other directions.

What will always be important for us is building the product around the user needs. We will continue to provide value to all the SEO’s in the world.

12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Monitorbacklinks.com” based on?

When doing SEO myself, I know part of the SEO process is link-building, and I think that is the hardest part. There are all kinds of link management software’s, but either too expensive or very unfriendly and without all the required features needed for this.

After using Excel for years to keep track of the links, I realized that the process to verify the backlinks I got in my campaigns was time consuming and boring.

So Monitor Backlinks came from this, to just add the links online, access from anywhere and get notified if something happens to your links.

13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?

This is my first international start-up so I had a lot to learn and I am in a continues process and I love it.

There is a lot more addressable market, but a lot more competition. Competition is a good thing, you can always learn from them, as long as you keep your main differentiation unique.

Also, the interaction with a lot of different users, different countries, different needs is really interesting and keeps working interesting all the time.

14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?

Six months from now we might need a bigger marketing budget and some team budget to keep track with the growth. The product should be mature by then.

We know we have a great product, so we will just try to reach a wide audience as possible. There are companies that don’t do SEO for clients, but do for themselves and they found our product really useful and we will try to reach those types of companies.

15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?

Our users get one of the easiest to use backlink monitoring solution. We can say half of it was built by our users, giving us feedback all the time and implementing requests at a really fast rate.

The user can forget about sing spreadsheets like Excel to keep track of his backlinks. For a really small fee, he can get automated notifications of his link status.

Monitor Backlinks is also used as a link management software by SEO freelancers or SEO agencies who deal with a lot of link building.

16. How did customers/users find out about you?

We first launched at a local start-ups event, getting a lot of feedback and good exposure, and after that we went to promote on all channels: we started with adwords, getting on forums and approaching bloggers.

Now we have a lot of users that write on forums about our tool and from there we have most of our traffic.

17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?

We have users that are SEO freelancers, but also SEO agencies that manage a lot of backlinks and found Monitor Backlinks really useful.

We started getting interest from other types of businesses, that do SEO only for their website, but because any website in a competitive market requires a lot of backlinks, those users use our tool to monitor their SEO progress.

18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?

Getting into start-ups websites is getting us a lot of visitors interested in SEO.

We have dedicated a lot of time making video guides for our tool, screenshots and testimonials that makes the visitors turn into users, and after users try our product, some will find out that it is exactly what they need so they become premium users.

19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?

Users that need this kind of service and try Monitor Backlinks, usually stay with us for a long time. Some even register for the yearly plan payment. We only have good feedback from our paid users and that is what really counts.

Of course our product is not suitable for everybody, everywhere, so we want to make the people that need such a service stay with us as long as possible. We are very happy with the reviews from our users.

20. How are you going to scale?

We have built the tool from the start, thinking of the resources consumed by the user, so additional servers will be easy to integrate and they can support hundreds of thousands of users.

The costs of the servers nowadays are quite cheap, the human resources are more expensive.

Scalability will come with the users, we are prepared. Now, first things first: users and a good product.

21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?

After we first launched, we got a lot of users requesting to find their current backlinks to their website.

After finishing rounding up the main product, we’ve built a free backlink checker ( http://monitorbacklinks.com/seo-tools/free-backlink-checker ) for the users and integrated very nice with the monitor tool. They can now check their links and monitor in 2 easy steps.

For now we will focus on this features to make them better.

22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?

We are already targeting countries world wide, but for now we focus on countries like US and UK.

The product can be used by anyone, from any country, but you can not reach all at once. 

We see users that write about Monitor Backlinks in forums, so this way is easy to get to any country in the world.

Supported by targeted paid advertising, reaching all the audience we need is not that hard, just that have to be very careful how we analyze to ROI.

23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?

We don’t want to be #1 as a SEO Tool, we just want a very good product that users all over the world will use it and we want to be a self sustaining business.

I always plan in small steps, don’t dream to big, but dream at a reachable in the near future goal.

There are tens of thousands potential users out there and I want to know that they have least seen and tested our product before they made their choice.

24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?

We will see at the end of the year how the product is doing, if we achieve all the goals planned and then we will hire good people that will help us make the product one of the best of it’s kind.

We are actively looking for interns that need practical experience on promoting and developing an international project in a very competitive market.

They can use the contact form on the site: http://monitorbacklinks.com/contact or send me an e-mail on my personal address: girmacearazvan [at] gmail.com

25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?

Until now we bootstrapped, because we wanted to test if Monitor Backlinks is actually a viable business, testing on few users.

We are now opened to talk to Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors or Mentors. I am pretty sure that combining forces with an experience entity will be a win-win situation.

If anyone is interested in a Partnership or Collaboration, I can be reached at girmacearazvan [at] gmail.com or by using the contact details on my personal website: http://www.razvangirmacea.ro/

26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?

I think that anyone that is driven enough in becoming an entrepreneur, can either find a job and learn at the job at least for few years, and when they are ready they can start their own business, either in a team or alone, depending on the style.

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