The King of Tools

How VEED gets 4.8M users/month by building free tools.

Hey — It’s Nico.

This is another edition of Failory’s Behind Tactics 🧠, the newsletter in which I analyze the different strategies startups use to get ahead in their markets.

A few months ago, I analyzed how the video editing platform VEED attracted hundreds of thousands of users with a custom GPT they built. 

However, this is not the only time they have done something like this. In fact, VEED consistently develops free tools to acquire new users.

Today, I want to explore this strategy further and understand how VEED has managed to attract 4.8M monthly organic users by creating a variety of free video editing tools.

Let’s dive in.

The Strategy

The King of Tools

In just a few years, VEED has managed to get a large number of organic users, surpassing many of its competitors. This impressive growth is primarily attributed to one strategy: Engineering as Marketing

I've previously discussed this strategy when analyzing how Wise created hundreds of calculators to gain thousands of monthly users. However, VEED stands out as one of the most successful startups that are leveraging this approach.

So, what is Engineering as Marketing? Essentially, this strategy involves developing free tools related to your niche that could interest your potential customers. For example, one of VEED’s many tools is the GIF Converter.

By offering this tool for free, VEED attracts significant traffic from people searching for terms like “GIF to video.”

More importantly, these searchers are potential VEED customers. If someone is converting a GIF into a video, they might be interested in further video editing. Thus, this tool effectively brings in bottom-of-the-funnel traffic, which has a high conversion rate.

The Secret to Success

Why is VEED so successful with this strategy? 

First, they have implemented it more extensively than any other company I know. VEED has created over 90 tools, 200 file converters, and over 50 templates for various video types.

This is a lot of resources spent on building free tools that are not always a core part of VEED’s platform, but if we take a look at the traffic they are obtaining from each tool, we can see the strategy pays off:

In addition, VEED has taken its Engineering as Marketing strategy to the next level by incorporating programmatic SEO to create multiple variants of each tool.

For instance, the GIF converter mentioned earlier is actually a variant of a more comprehensive tool called the Video Converter. VEED developed a single tool capable of converting between all video file types and then created specific pages for each conversion combination. The GIF to MP4 conversion page is one such example.

These pages are not just simple title changes; they are carefully optimized for SEO. Each page features:

  • Appropriate headings, meta titles and meta descriptions.

  • Content focused on the specific file types being converted.

  • FAQ sections addressing common questions about the specific file types.

By developing just one tool and programmatically creating multiple tailored pages, VEED can easily rank for various long-tail keywords. This works because ranking for “GIF to MP4” is much easier than for a broader term like “Video Converter.”

Finally, all these pages are well-optimized for conversions. Attracting many users with free tools is only beneficial if you can convert them into paying customers. To achieve this, VEED includes several call-to-actions (CTAs) that encourage users to try the editing platform and consider a subscription.

For instance, some tools have a button that takes users directly to VEED’s main tool.

And other tools, like the TikTok Downloader, suggest users try the VEED editing platform.

Once users are in the editor, they encounter various premium features and CTAs designed to entice them to upgrade to a paid plan.

Should I?

Why This Works

  • Programmatic Production: Programmatic SEO allows VEED to quickly generate thousands of pages so they can get the most out of the tools they build. If you consider that some of these tools are just a link to their video editing platform and didn’t even have to be developed in the first place, then it’s easy to see how cost-effective this strategy is. You can also replicate this in many languages, instantly making thousands of new pages.

  • Bottom of the Funnel Traffic: The tools attract people actively looking for a video editing platform like VEED. This means their conversion rate from website visitors to paid customers is high. However, not all tools have the same conversion potential. For example, the TikTok downloader likely has lower purchase intent than other tools.

  • Diversification of Traffic: VEED's 4.8 million monthly organic users come from a wide variety of pages and countries, spreading the traffic across thousands of pages. This diversification mitigates one of the primary risks of SEO: competition. If a particular topic becomes more competitive and a specific page sees a decline in traffic, it won't significantly impact VEED's overall organic traffic.

  • Marketing In Disguise: Users are good at recognizing traditional marketing tactics, even the most cleverly disguised ads. However, Engineering as Marketing stands out because it doesn't feel like marketing to the user. This approach provides immediate value through useful tools. Instead of telling users what your business can do for them, you first help them solve a problem. Once they've experienced this benefit, you can then show them additional features and services they might find valuable.

How to Apply It

  • Identify Specific Use Cases: Determine specific tasks that people perform with your app. For VEED, an example is "Add Emoji to Video."

  • Verify Search Demand: Use SEO tools like Ahrefs or Semrush to see if people are searching for solutions like yours on Google.

  • Expand Your Ideas: If you can't find a specific feature that people search for, think of other useful solutions for your target users. For VEED, an example is the "TikTok Downloader."

  • Build SEO-Optimized Landing Pages: Create landing pages optimized for both SEO and conversions to rank for your target keywords.

  • Template Creation: If feasible, develop a template for these landing pages. This allows you to generate multiple tools in different languages efficiently.

  • Make It Frictionless: Do not ask the user to create an account before they can use your tool. You should aim to satisfy user intent as quickly and smoothly as possible. Once they have gotten value out of the tool, you can try to prompt them to create an account or consider subscribing.

Yes, But

  • It requires engineering resources. Engineers might be needed to develop the tools or the landing pages. Other forms of content, marketing, and SEO don’t require engineering resources.

  • It could be challenging to come up with good tools. If your business is in a specific niche, you might not be able to generate tool ideas that have a high monthly search volume.

  • It might drive visitors but not customers. People searching for things like “TikTok Downloader” might use VEED’s tool but will probably not be willing to pay for a video editing platform like theirs.

Keep Learning

Others Playing It

  • Kapwing: Similar to VEED, Kapwing is a video editing platform using the same strategy of building numerous tools and leveraging programmatic SEO to create different variants. Their tools include a Subtitler, a Dubbing tool, and even a Meme Generator. Kapwing achieves 1.2 million organic visitors with 3,534 pages.

  • Shopify: They apply a similar strategy, developing tools that are not part of the Shopify App but are particularly useful for business owners. Examples include a Business Name Generator and a Slogan Maker. Shopify garners 995.3K monthly organic visitors with 1,024 pages.

  • Ahrefs: Ahrefs offers a variety of SEO tools such as a Backlink Checker, a Traffic Checker, and a Keyword Generator. They also provide AI-powered writing tools to help create content for your site. These pages get them 500K monthly organic users.

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