If you have been a keen player in the world of Search Engine Marketing, then you already know about Ahrefs.
Ahrefs, is a suite of SEO tools, that internet business owners and webmasters use to build links, perform competitor analysis, track their rank on the SERPs, audit their sites, and perform a lot more data-driven analytics, which is required for better performance on the search engines.
You can even do keyword research and analysis on Ahrefs.
In fact, Ahrefs is poised to be the new competitor of Google, according to the founder Dmytro Gerasymenko.
In 2019, he had mentioned that he and his team were working on an anonymous search engine, which would give back 90% of its revenue to content users.
Content creators generate a lot of revenue for search engines like Google, through running adverts on blogs and websites; however, they get very little back.
The reason for this may be personal since Dmytro has been a fierce critic of Google and the way it handles user data.
But that is an issue for another day.
Today, we shall look at the life and times of Dmytro Gerasymenko, and how he built Ahrefs over the years.
A little about Dmytro Gerasymenko
Dmytro was born in the city of Nizhyn, in Ukraine. Currently, he lives in Singapore, and this is the base of his company Ahrefs.
According to Owler, Ahrefs is estimated to be bringing in a revenue of 4.4 million dollars a year.
The search robot included in the Ahrefs tools, is now the second, when it comes to search engine user activity, after Google, which tops the list.
When Dmytro was just 6 years old, his father put together the first computer that he ever owned, and as a result, he became interested in programming at a very young age.
Dmytro later attended Kyiv Polytechnic University, and then started Ahrefs, in the year 2010.
In the year 2012, Dmytro relocated to Singapore, and the reason for this was that Singapore offered him an excellent business environment, in which to continue building Ahrefs.
He had happened to be traveling through Asia and spent a few days in Singapore, and found it to be an excellent place to grow a business.
Ahrefs Singapore Office Tour
Dmytro Gerasymenko and The Birth of Ahrefs
Dmytro began his career as a PHP and C# developer for a web design company in Kyiv.
After that, he did a stint as a freelance programmer and project manager at a company based in the United States.
It was after his stint as a freelancer that he decided to become an entrepreneur.
For a long time, Dmytro had been interested in the search world.
When he was still in school, he started his first Internet project, which was a simple documentation search engine.
He used it to look for programming databases, networks, and languages.
Actually, his small search engine did generate some search traffic, and he was able to sell some books online and make a little money.
However, something happened to the server that he was using and he lost everything. At the time he was developing his search engine, students did not know how to create backups of their data.
It was 10 years after he had left the University, that he decided to recreate his search engine baby. He wanted it to be a crawler that could be used to look for PDF documents online.
He needed to create a web crawler that could index PDF files, and that is how he started Ahrefs.
Today, Ahrefs has grown into a set of online tools that can help people market their businesses online, It handles a wide variety of tasks, from choosing keywords to analyzing the performance of the business or website.
Ahrefs grew based on the quality of the data that it picks. Whether a person is looking for high-quality links, best keywords, or simply looking for errors on a website, Ahrefs always uses the best data in performing its tasks.
This has made it one of the best SEO tools on the market.
Dmytro Gerasymenko and the First Years of Ahrefs
Dmytro had a very interesting way of building his business.
He took all the risks and did not want to have partners or investors putting up their money in Ahrefs.
Dmytro had a team to work with, but they were not his partners. He paid for everything and reinvested aby money that he made.
He began the company while working remotely, and all he had to do was take a little money for his basic needs from the proceeds and would reinvest the rest in paying freelancers and financing other aspects of the business.
Ahrefs actually started off using freelancers and as the projects became more complex, he built a core team to run the business.
It was in 2010, that the team decided to come up with a system that would gradually crawl and index the internet.
At this time, he was working with a former university classmate called Igor Pikovets. Igor is the one who convinced Dmytro to use OCaml, a programming language that has been the core of Ahrefs ever since.
After building Ahrefs for a year, Dmytro and Igor decided to launch a paid service, which was based on link indexing.
Today, Ahrefs has already indexed over 300 billion web pages, and it continues to do so at a whopping rate of 8 billion pages a day; this is about 100,000 pages per second, which is quite fast and powerful.
When the links are found, they are made available to users after about 20 minutes.
Dmytro Gerasymenko – Steering Away From Investors
As mentioned earlier, Dmytro unconventionally built Ahrefs.
After launching their paid services, Ahrefs started making money very fast. As a result, many investors wanted to come in and inject funds for the growth of the company.
Dmytro says that he would get a lot of emails from Venture Capitalists seeking a piece of the pie, but he always declined their requests.
Dmytro did not want to spend a lot of time in board meetings to discuss investments.
All he wanted to do was focus on the developments of products that Ahrefs could add to its growing set of tools.
Dmytro handled all the costs, which initially ran up to the tune of $400,000, mainly for product development and servers.
But one can ask what exactly helped Ahrefs survive without seed capital from investors.
Well, Dmytro attributes this to the unique quality of the data that they collected.
Ahrefs had the data that SEO specialists wanted. It was that plain and simple.
There were other competitors in the industry, but Ahrefs always had the upper edge when it came to giving SEO specialists a better product.
The competition would update their index once or twice a month, and sometimes once every two or three months; Ahrefs updated their index every 15 minutes.
Yes, every 15 minutes, Ahrefs would update their index, and provide data that every SEO specialist wanted. A way to keep updated on the happenings within the SEO world.
This is what gave Ahrefs the upper hand and as a result, the company grew very fast.
Another interesting thing about the way Dmytro grew the company, is the fact that a major portion of his initial customers came from word of mouth.
Dmytro only needed to get a few customers to start with, so he created advertisements on SEO forums.
He did not think about becoming a conference sponsor or purchasing ads. That was not his initial target.
Dmytro is famously quoted as saying that they managed to come up with a product that promoted itself. He says that in their first years, they focused mainly on product development, and the company grew without the help of a marketing team. Actually, to this day, Ahrefs does not have a sales team.
Dmytro Gerasymenko and Client Relationships
As you may have seen, up to this point, Dmytro had an unconventional way of building and marketing his business, Ahrefs.
Well, when it comes to clients, Dmytro also sets an unconventional standard.
Most companies have what is referred to as “Flagship” clients. These are the major clients, who are sometimes given preferential treatment in the provision of products or services.
Dmytro says that this is not the case with Ahrefs.
Dmytro wanted to build a company where all clients were equal and would get the same kind of attention from his team.
Everybody got the same data and the same speed.
The company has more than 25,000 customers, some of which are large online stores, banks, airlines, and other popular brands, but they all get the same access and speed as the small “mom and pop” stores.
Dmytro Gerasymenko – other unconventional approaches
Dmytro has built an unconventional company, using unconventional methods, here are others that you may not know about:
The team at Ahrefs consists of about 45 people, coming from more than a dozen different countries.
15 people in the team are Ukrainians another 15 or so speak Russian, but the main language of communication is English.
Singapore vs The Valley
For many tech startups, The valley, San Francisco is the place o be.
However, Dmytro decided to base Ahrefs in Singapore.
Yes, he did have one office in the Valley, but he shut it down since he “did not like it there”.
His decision to shut the office in San Francisco was due to personal preferences.
He said that Singapore was clean and orderly, whereas San Francisco was inconvenient.
San Francisco is very well known for breeding many of the top tech startups of the world to this day. However, the public infrastructure of San Francisco is somewhat dull and can sometimes become quite terrifying, compared to other cities.
Actually, the main reason that Dmytro started an office in The Valley, was to try and get specialists to join his team. However, industry behemoths carried out a strong headhunting competition, which he could not meet.
He realized that many companies that settle in The Valley, are companies that are looking for investors, and this was not his business model, so he closed the San Francisco office and kept the one in Singapore.
Ahrefs’ genius moves to replace Google
Dmytro Gerasymenko – Going Against Google
Dmytro has had his misgivings about Google, and he has turned them into a mission to become a major competitor of Google.
He says that there are two things that he does not like about Google; Privacy and Revenue Sharing.
When it comes to privacy, you should know that Google stores all your activity, based on how you use the Internet. If you actually consulted with Google, you would be shocked to realize just how much the company knows about you.
Dmytro feels that Google doesn’t have to store so much information about its users.
· Google monitors the websites you visit, through the advertisements that you click on
· Google knows where you are going through Google Maps
· Google is in your Pocket, through Android
· Google knows what you chat about, through Gmail and Google Chat.
· Google knows a lot more about you than you think.
There are a lot of things that Dmytro finds offensive about the way traditional search engines give out information, with the new “EU Code Of Practice on Disinformation” being one of them.
When it comes to revenue sharing, Google is tied up to its origins; its relationship with VC Investors, and this is why Dmytro steered away from them.
Content creators who create ads that run on the sies cannot get as much revenue sharing as those who do so on YouTube.
Basically, investors have a stranglehold on Google, which means it cannot share as much revenue with content creators as it should.
YouTube, although a Google company, does a better job at revenue sharing with content creators.
Dmytro’s issue with Google can be summed up by his statement which paints Google as a parasite in a certain way.
He says that Google tracks the best content on the web, builds search results around that content, serves adverts on those pages, and then takes in the biggest share of the revenue. If anyone tries to block Google from indexing their site, then they will not get any search traffic, and will not be discovered.
It is with this in mind that Dmytro wants to build a new search engine to compete against Google.
He says that there are search industry professionals who share his same thoughts and he has invited them to work with him in building a search engine that will give the major share of advertising revenue to content creators (90%)
At first, he thought that Google was doing a great job of keeping content creators in the business, but after Wikipedia placed a huge banner to raise infrastructure fees every year, and news agencies created Paywalls to generate revenue, he felt that they were shortchanged by Google.
All these sites have lots of ads running around their content, placed by Google, yet they get very little revenue in return.
In 2022, Dmytro Gerasymenko released the search engine, that ensures privacy and gives 90% of advertising revenue to content creators.
The search engine is known as “YEP“
Dmytro Gerasymenko Awards and Honors
Although Dmytro has not earned awards on a personal level, Ahrefs has been given several awards over the years, and here are some of them:
In the early years, Ahrefs was given the “Quality Choice”, “Trusted Vendor” and “Happiest Users” Awards.
In 2017, Ahrefs was given the “SEO & SEM Software” Award, second only to HubSpot.
In 2020, Ahrefs received the “SEO & SEM Software” Award once more, and also the “Marketing Analytics Software” Award.
Ahrefs has continued to get featured in the same SEO & SEM awards and also the Marketing Analytics Software Awards for the years 2021 and 2022.
Notable Milestones in Dmytro Gerasymenko’s Career
Dmytro Gerasymenko has operated behind the scenes, in unconventional ways, to impact the world of SEO.
Here are some of the milestones that he has achieved in his career:
In 2010 – 2011, he started developing Ahrefs, with a team of freelancers.
In his unconventional way, he has built the company to become one of the most sought-out SEO suites of tools, used by SEO professionals and businesses to grow their presence on the search engines.
The company has won several awards in the short time that it has been in existence and can be hailed as one of the few big SEO tools that were developed without investor input.
Between 2016 and 202, Ahrefs had a revenue bump from 11.5 million dollars to 63.3 million. This is an annual growth rate of about 50% per year, which is amazing.
Conventional growth rate measures such as revenue and churn rate have never been used to measure the success of the business, but instead, use metrics such as the reach of its educational materials. Customer impact and community reach are the metrics that Ahrefs uses to measure success.
According to Dmytro, the main reason he avoided the use of VC funding is the fact that he did not want any pressure to grow the valuation of Ahrefs. This would have violated his vision to make the company ethical in its operations.
Customers could easily unsubscribe from their services, no cookies were used by the company to target customers, and they did not track customer behavior at all.
As you have seen in this article, the growth of Ahrefs has a lot to do with the odd way in which Dmytro looks at the search marketing industry, and this approach has also led to the development of an unconventional search engine, Yep.
In 2022, Dmytro launched the new search engine, Yep.
The idea behind the development of the search engine is that big search engines, like Google, have issues to do with user privacy and revenue sharing.
Yep! is not the only search engine that has been created to compete against Google; here is a list of other search engines that you can use should you wish to avoid Google.
The search engine was developed to store very little information about the people who conduct searches on it and also share 90% of revenue with content creators.
What does this mean?
Companies like Wikipedia, have a lot of useful content, which is provided by independent content creators. Wikipedia has to pay these people, and this is the reason why the company always runs a donation campaign to raise funds for operations.
With Yep, companies like Wikipedia will be able to run without such donation campaigns since 90% of the revenue earned from running Yep ads will be given back to the company.
This also means that there will not be any need for affiliate links and paywalls for companies to raise funds.
People can now start creating content, without thinking too much about how their businesses will survive.
The search engine is quite good and a search query will bring up a list of trusted sites.
However, it is still in its infancy, and you will get fewer results than you would get from Google.
There are a few things that Yep has to look into, otherwise, it may end up being another failed search engine.
The search engine is a little too slow when compared to other search engines.
When you type a search query on Yep, it can take as much as 4 seconds to display results.
Although this may not be such a huge downside, it will affect how many people use the search engine and may lead to people preferring not to be indexed on it.
This is an unconventional biography about an unconventional visionary who created an unconventional, yet successful business, Ahrefs.
He still wants to build an unconventional search engine, in a bid to compete against Google. The search engine, Yep, is still growing, but given the way that Dmytro grew Ahrefs, then there is a possibility that YEP could become a powerful, yet fair search engine too.
There is a lot to be seen in this venture.
One lesson that you can take away, is that there is an advantage to taking the unconventional route in any business venture.
If you have a great product or service, and then use a unique and non-conventional way to market your business, then you may also get remarkable, and unconventional success in your venture.
Similarly, if you are a tech person who wants to get involved in the development of a new search engine, which may become a major competitor to Google, then you can head on to the official Yep website and sign up to become a contributor.
Actually, you may also see how you can earn money from your presence on the search engine if you are a content creator too.
If you know of any other unconventional entrepreneur who had topped in his or her business niche, please share with us in the comments below.