I launched Link Whisper to the world on July 8th, 2019, 143 days ago.
Over the past 4 and a half months, a lot has happened with my new software business, and even more is planned for the future. However, the truth is that starting Link Whisper started long before July 8th with planning, development, and more.
Today, I wanted to share a brief history of Link Whisper and where I hope to take it in the future.
I’ve built a few software businesses from scratch (all bootstrapped!) and I thought you might find it interesting to hear a bit more about the journey.
Finally, at the time of writing this, it’s just about Black Friday and Cyber Monday…so I’ll let you know what the deal is for that (yes, there is a Black Friday deal).
You can check out Link Whisper right here, including the Black Friday deal (if it’s still active).See the Link Whisper Black Friday Special Offer!
Idea for Link Whisper
The idea to develop a WordPress plugin that made internal linking much faster and easier came out of my own need. I’ve always known that internal linking is extremely important for SEO, but it can be SO time consuming that I would often just never get around to it.
I’ve always kept a spreadsheet of small business ideas, and this was one that I added about 2 years ago.
I don’t remember exactly the moment where I finally decided to get it off my “ideas” list and finally put it into production, but I’m certain it was another time I was trying to manually build internal links.
I also discussed the idea with a few other people that are actively building websites, and they thought the idea was a solid one as well.
Development Attempt #1
In March of 2018 is when I finally posted a job on Upwork to find a developer to build Link Whisper.
I feel like I need to explain my mindset at the time, before I explain why I made an avoidable mistake in hiring a developer. I decided that I wanted to build 2 or 3 really small software applications that I thought could be “base hits”.
I wasn’t planning to build anything that could grow to a “retirement” exit, but if I could build a couple of WordPress plugins that would generate a few thousand dollars a month each, I would be happy.
So, when I went to hire a developer, I had the mindset that I wasn’t looking for anything complicated to be developed, just a simple application that shouldn’t be too big of an investment.
As a result, instead of looking for the best developer, I just tried to find a good budget developer that could get the product out the door.
I should have known better; especially, since I’ve had other applications built.
I hired a developer from India for pretty cheap. He did get the initial version of Link Whisper developed over a period of about 8 weeks for a couple thousand dollars.
It wasn’t great.
I could tell a few weeks into development that I wasn’t going to be happy with the result, but I had him finish up the job since I had already agreed to his bid and took it as a lesson learned.
When I tried to use the software, I was embarrassed with how bad it was. I knew there was no way I could sell it in it’s current state.
As a result, I shelved the idea of Link Whisper and decided to work on other projects.
Development Attempt #2
I didn’t do anything with the idea for 8 months! I was once again building internal links and REALLY wished I had a working copy of my vision for Link Whisper.
I went back to Upwork (there really are some great developers here) in January of 2019 and found a much better developer. I paid over 10x what it cost me to build the first version, but it was well worth it.
By this time, I was mentally prepared for the fact that this was a way more involved idea than I initially thought. I still didn’t know if it was a big idea or not, but even if I could build something that was making $5k or $10k a month that also met my own needs, it would be worth the investment.
Development, beta testing, reworking versions, and everything else that goes with developing a piece of software that the public can use took about 6 months. By the end of June, the software tool was ready to launch.
I was MUCH happier with the functionality of Link Whisper and it was much closer to matching my original vision than my first development attempt.
I won’t bore you with all the details that goes into launching a WordPress plugin, but it’s a TON of work.
On July 8th, 2019 (a year and 3 months after I hired the first developer), I launched Link Whisper to the world. In preparation, I had done several calls with potential users to get their feedback throughout the development process.
I also had dozens of beta testers helping me find and fix bugs.
I had also been building a “wait list” for people that were interested in being the first to know when the software went live. So, I knew that there was interest in Link Whisper, but you never really know how much until you open the cart.
I won’t share exact numbers, but I was very happy with the launch results as they exceeded my expectations!
I will also say that I have been blogging for about 10 years now, so I have a large audience. With my audience and the reach I’ve built over the past 10 years, I certainly have an advantage over someone else trying to launch a software tool without an audience.
For the launch, I had set the price at $20/year lower that I was planning to normally offer it (and I made this clear at launch). So, I was a bit worried that all the sales would die off after the first week when I raised the price back up to it’s “normal” price.
Again, I was pleasantly surprised to see that people continued to buy Link Whisper at the full price after the initial launch!
The Dip and Bug Fixes
After a big launch, always comes a dip in sales. This can be frustrating unless you are prepared for it (like I was).
I mentally knew that a big drop off would occur when I raised prices and wasn’t promoting as much to my audience. My hope was that this “dip” after the initial launch would be the lowest point in sales for the life of the business.
I viewed the couple months following the launch as the floor, or the starting point. If I could just build consistently from there, I could build a good business.
Again, here’s what that dip looks like using the actual sales data from Link Whisper:
Also, if you are not prepared for bug fixes and customer support (which I was), it can be incredibly frustrating to see sales drop from the dip AND to have customers finding bugs with your tool.
Even though I did my best to fix all bugs with beta testing, live customers will always find things that had never come up before.
So, in reality all of August and September were spent fixing bugs, nothing new was really added to Link Whisper at all during that time. I think this is a fairly normal evolution of a software company.
A home for entrepreneurs turned investors
A hodgepodge of investing, startup, and online business discussions
- high-value email newsletters
- tips on sites for sale
- a podcast
- networking opportunities
- with more planned for the future
I appreciate all of you that stuck with me through those first couple of months of bug fixes, tweaks, and updates!
Traction and New Features
Looking at the daily data and getting feedback from customers, I knew that there was still lots of demand in the marketplace for Link Whisper, so I doubled down with marketing and development efforts in order to gain more traction.
I hired a full-time developer in September and I now have 2 developers working on the project (one part time) to get new features and improvements taken care of.
I also hired a part-time affiliate manager to help get the word out about Link Whisper. Then of course, I also continue to make my own marketing efforts through my blog and other connections that I have from being in the blogging space for so long.
As a result, I’ve been able to pull out of that dip in sales from August and September. I’ve now gained some traction in October and November.
Again, I know these screenshots don’t show you the actual sales numbers, but just look at the relative growth over the past couple of months:
As you can see, November is already more than double the sales from September, and it’s only 26 days into November. (These November sales don’t include Black Friday, which hasn’t started yet…but I hope is huge!).
I attribute this growth to constant product improvement, additional outreach and marketing efforts, and just more people in general learning about the product for the first time.
While I don’t expect sales to double every couple of months, I do hope to see positive growth trends each month.
If July, August, and September were spent mostly fixing bugs, then October and November have mostly been spent working on new features.
I wanted to make you aware of a few new features that have come out in the last month or so. In fact, some of these features are not even yet listed on the sales page they are so new!
Keyword Search for Inbound Internal Links
You can now search by keyword phrase to build inbound internal links. What does that mean?
Well, if you have found an article that doesn’t have any links (orphaned content) and you want to find all the articles on your site that mention a specific keyword or phrase, you can now do a simple search, and Link Whisper will display all those potential links.
Like all links with Link Whisper, you just click and add…that’s it! See it in action below.
Skip Sentences at Beginning of a Post
Some people had expressed that they don’t want any link suggestions from Link Whisper for the first few sentences of their post. Well, that’s now an option in your settings!
The default is set to 3 sentences, but you can select anywhere from 0 to 10 sentences to skip if you don’t want links in the beginning of your articles.
Here’s a screenshot that shows that (this also shows that you can create links to custom post types or categories, but that has been a feature for a couple months):
Build Inbound Internal Links to Category Pages
We had a number of people request that you have the ability to build links to category pages. Some people optimize their category pages to rank for certain keywords, so this makes perfect sense.
You can now get link suggestions to category pages (if you want) and you can build inbound internal links to those category pages directly from your reports.
Again, it’s optional to see the category page data or to build links to these pages. I personally don’t build links to these pages, so I just select my screen options and uncheck the box so I don’t see it.
The option is yours.
New Link Suggestion Algorithm
Even though the new link suggestions algorithm wasn’t technically a new “feature”, it was a major improvement made in the last month that is worth mentioning.
Link Whisper seeks to understand what your content is truly about and tries to make those relevant connections. The first couple months of Link Whisper was sufficient at making these connections; however, I always want it to get better and better.
As a result, we spent a significant amount of time making adjustments and I truly believe that Link Whisper is giving much better link suggestions than it was a month ago.
In addition, I have a few additional ideas on how to improve this algorithm even further that I hope to come out with in the next month or two.
Bottom line is that the tool will simply just continue to improve.
Overall, since Link Whisper was released, we have released a total of 39 updates!
So, there have been a total of 39 versions of Link Whisper in under 5 months, and I have a lot more updates and new features I plan to release over the next 5 months and beyond.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday
When you sell a digital product, you are almost obligated to join in the discount celebration known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, who I am to go against tradition?!
As a result, Link Whisper will be $30 all plans from Black Friday through Cyber Monday! And to clarify, yes, that is $30 off per year.
In addition, I’ll be offering a new 50 site license plan that has never been offered before. Previously, the largest site license was 10.
The 50 site license will be offered at a great price and truly is something new that has never been offered before.
If you want to take advantage of this Black Friday Special Offer for Link Whisper, you can go right here.Get the Link Whisper Black Friday Deal!
Overall, I have much more planned for Link Whisper including:
- A Shopify App version for eCommerce store owners
- Improved Link Suggestion functionality
- More advanced site/links reporting
- Additional keyword search and linking functionality
- Non-English language support (Spanish, German, French, and others).
- and much more…
Thanks for reading the brief history of Link Whisper so far. The journey of building a software application can be long and difficult, as I think this story shows.
However, I’m happy with the results that I’m starting to see as Link Whisper gains some real traction. I hope and expect that Link Whisper will continue to perform well as a business, but also continue to give individual users the results they want to see on their sites.
Perhaps in 143 more days, I’ll share additional details about the progress of Link Whisper!