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The $1M ARR Bootstrapped Startup Competing Against Google

Plausible is a lightweight, open-source, and privacy friendly alternative to Google Analytics. Completely bootstrapped and earning over $100k/mo

It’s hard to go up against Google.

It’s even harder going against Google while bootstrapping your product.

But that’s exactly what Plausible Analytics has been doing. They’ve been creating an easy-to-use, lightweight, and privacy-friendly alternative to Google Analytics.

Today, Plausible Analytics does over $1M in ARR with only four team members and no paid marketing costs. They serve over 120,000 websites and have over 10,000 customers.

But for the first year after launching, Plausible only reached $400 MRR. Just 12 months later, they increased this to $13,576 MRR.

Here’s how they bootstrapped a Google competitor to $1M ARR👇

Building a better analytics

Back in late 2018, Uku Taht had to integrate Google Analytics into his website. While doing so, he noticed a few things:

  • Google Analytics has a steep learning curve. There’s a lot of complexity in finding a simple page view.

  • The code snippets to install GA on your website were quite large and affected the performance

  • Alternative solutions seemed to be barebone and lacked enough features

  • Uku valued privacy and didn’t want analytic tools to track user data

He shared his thoughts on building an analytics tool that can solve these issues and shared it with the Twitter and Indie Hacker community. Within hours, 20 to 30 people responded suggesting they would be interested in something similar.

His side project was validated.

Four months later, Uku prototyped and launched the first version of Plausible

From $400 MRR to $13,576 MRR in 12 months

There is so much noise now that getting the word out there about what you do and showing the value of the product is more crucial than ever

Marko Saric

Despite the positive reception early on, it took Uku nearly 12 months to go from 0 → $400 MRR.

Uku knew one thing, he wasn’t great at marketing and wanted to focus his time on product development.

This led him to ultimately partner with Marko Saric to handle the marketing side while Uku continued to focus on shipping features.

When Marko stepped in on March 16, 2020, he noticed one thing immediately: there weren’t enough people visiting the site consistently.

To change this, Marko did a few things:

  1. Revamp the product brand’s positioning by directly comparing it to a Google Analytics alternative instead of a “new analytics tool with XYZ features”.

  2. Get the brand in front of people’s eyes via Twitter (which has a strong presence of “tech” people).

    1. Marko set up a TweetDeck with 10+ columns and would actively engage in conversations surrounding topics related to Google Analytics.

    2. Keyword monitoring for sites like Reddit and Hacker News with tools like F5Bot.

A clear brand positioning from their “revamp”

But the biggest was their investment in content marketing. The first blog post published titled “Why you should stop using Google Analytics on your website” brought in over 25,000 people onto their website in a single day after reaching the top of HackerNews.

They more than doubled their MRR and received the most traffic and trial signups they have ever seen.

We don’t plan to change anything for now. We don’t need to force any growth as we don’t have to answer to any investors, and we don’t need to strive to reach their goals. We will continue to focus on things that have worked well for us and see how it goes. It’s not a guarantee that things will continue working, but we’ll do our best

Marko Saric

And they continued to invest nearly all of their marketing efforts around this. Here are some of their most popular posts (all traffic is public which is super cool!):

  • Plausible: Self-Hosted Google Analytics alternative (124,000 views)

  • How to pay your rent with your open source project (110,000 views)

  • What makes Plausible a great Matomo alternative (75,000 views)

  • 58% of Hacker News, Reddit, and tech-savvy audiences block Google Analytics (60,000 views)

  • How we bootstrapped our open source Google Analytics alternative to 500k ARR (30,000 views)

  • Cloudfare Web Analytics vs Plausible (29,000 views)

  • Comparing website speeds using different analytic tools (19,000 views)

  • Client-side vs server-side analytics (15,000 views)

After 3 years, Plausible reached over 11 million page views and had over 3 million unique visitors. While their main source of visitors is now direct traffic, their commitment to publishing content provided great early traction/SEO

Learnings from Marko and Uku’s Journey

Marko and Uku are very transparent about their journey and some of the things that work and didn’t work. Here’s a summary of some of the most helpful advice:

  1. Focus on building new features that add value and people will want to recommend. Product-led growth is the end goal.

  2. There’s no need to invest in every social channel. Plausible Analytics only had Twitter and Mastodon.

  3. You don’t need a big following to produce viral content. Share every post, update, etc on forums and socials.

  4. A free trial is important when the main competitor, Google Analytics, is free. People aren’t used to paying for this product. Plausible’s trial doesn’t even require a credit card.

  5. There’s a global opportunity because Google Analytics is on 90% of the websites. Each update to Google Analytics, such as privacy or changing features, is an opportunity to convert users (their Google-related blog content did really well). Brand positioning against GA was extremely important.

  6. Simple pricing based on page views and traffic allowed for minimal support overhead and easy conversion.

  7. The only way to build "valuable features” is by handling customer support. No AI/chatbot is used and the team tries to answer every question.

  8. You don’t need to create a unique idea. You can just improve a current one.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helped you or you found it interesting! If you want to give some feedback, you can either respond to the poll or reply to this email. This greatly helps the newsletter!

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