Growing Software

This week Darby and Ethan talk about fishing, Ethan's upcoming training, different seasons of working, SEO optimization, and artificial intelligence.

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What is Growing Software?

Two software engineers exploring the facets of developing SaaS businesses while working their day jobs. Hosted by Darby Frey, co-founder of Lead Honestly, and Ethan Gunderson, founder of Glean.

Ethan: good afternoon, Darby.

Darby: Good afternoon.

How you doing?

Ethan: I'm doing good.


Darby: Yeah.


Ethan: lots of, yeah, lots of travel.

Darby: anywhere fun.

Ethan: last week we were in
Dora county, Wisconsin, which

is like the thumb of Wisconsin.

Darby: Right.


Ethan: it's fun.

We go a week, every year with
my extended family, basically,

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: hang out at a
lake house for a week.

Seism salmon fishing,
which was a lot of fun.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: Never done that before.

I actually didn't know there
was salmon in lake Michigan.

Darby: there's a lot, I think.


Ethan: I don't know why.

Yeah, I guess I never thought about it.

Darby: There I've only ever
gone fishing one time, ever.

And it was in, it was like a
thing in like Michigan out.

we left from Chicago and I think, I don't
know, would we catch like 15, like salmon?

It was all, it's all the same fish.

Like you hang 'em up on a rack and
they just they're all the same.

Ethan: yeah.

Darby: So yeah, that's all it was.

Ethan: Yeah.

I was surprised at how big they are.

They were like 20, 25 pounds.

Darby: Okay.


Ethan: I'm surprised
at how strong they are.

Like those things they
definitely did not want to die.

So they just struggled.

it was fun though.


Darby: did you, was this kind of
like a, like a chartered boat or?

Ethan: yeah.

Darby: Okay.


Nice that's yeah, that's what I did too.

Ethan: Yeah, it was crazy.

There was two guys on the boat and they at
any given point had 12 lines in the water

Darby: okay.

Ethan: and were just like doing
all sorts of fishing stuff that I

frankly don't understand, but then

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: catch one and then give one of us
the pole to reel it in, which I think was

actually like the easily, the worst part
of fishing is trying to reel that in.


Darby: yeah.

Ethan: yeah.

Darby: that, that sounds
exactly like my experience.

It's kind of fun.

I don't know if, we can cut
this out if it's terrible.

when, when we did ours, they
like the fishermen guys will,

will like come the fish for you.

So like, I didn't want to
do that in our apartment.

and so.

They basically, they put the boat on,
you know, cruise control to go back to

the area, to the Harbor or whatever.

And, set up this little tray in the back
start like cleaning and getting the fish.

And by the time we got, like, by the
time they got done, there was, I don't

know, 60 like Seagul, just following this
boat, like catching all of the . Yeah.


Ethan: The same exact thing.

Yeah, it.

Wild, like

Darby: yeah.

Ethan: one guy went up to drive the
boat and just gunned it for sure.

Just like, man, just hauling back.

And as soon as the boat picked up speed,
it was like, the seas knew, like that was

their calling card and they just started
swarming the boat and yeah, the guy.

Whipped out this table very quickly
and efficiently, just clean these

fish and would toss it up into
there, like the car or whatever up

from there, air these fish, the seas
would just catch it then it was wild.


Darby: circle of life, I guess.

that's awesome.


Sounds, sounds exactly like,
like the time I did it, so cool.

So you're having fish for
the next, three weeks,

Ethan: Oh, yeah.

I think we could have fish like
once a week until next year when

we go again, we got lot of fish

Darby: nice.


Ethan: yeah.

Darby: Well, I don't have any good
fishing stories, have been home

for over a week, which is nice.

we've been doing a lot of traveling
this summer, too, so it was good to

have a weekend at home for a change,
just sat around and did nothing.

It was great.

Ethan: Are you traveling this weekend?

Darby: no, unfortunately
because the air and water show

is here this weekend and it's

Ethan: Oh, right.

Darby: Yeah.

next weekend I'm traveling.

but yeah, be around this weekend.

Ethan: Nice,

Darby: All right.

What's what's happening in your world?

Ethan: Not a lot, actually.

I've been really low on both
motivation and discipline, which

has not been a great combination,

Darby: End of summer.

Ethan: end of summer and
vacations have really, yeah.

Left me feeling lazy, which is not great.

Cause I have to give that training soon.

so actually, do you remember back in,
I dunno, it was probably like 2011 when

everyone was obsessed with the Pomodoro.

Darby: yeah, I think I do.


Ethan: I was sitting around yesterday,
trying to think of like how I

could like have a little bit more
discipline of like my like day to ah,

I remember like the Pomodoro thing.

I'll try that again.

I worked pretty well

Darby: yeah.

So how did you implement.

Ethan: I went to the app store
and found a free app that just

sits on my phone and says work.

And when it's not work time, it says.

Break it's I just tried
really hard to stick to it.


Darby: nice.

how, like how often do you do.

Ethan: so last night I did, eight cycles.

So 25 minutes of work, five minute break.

I did that eight times

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: Yeah.

And so I did that to just
knock out some of the training,

exercises that I'd love to do.


Darby: Okay.

yeah, like, so this is
not for the day job.

This is for after work.

like to work on other things.

Ethan: so last night, this was
first side project work today.

I U I used it again.

I had a bunch of just like things to
review today, like doc, like documentation

and poll requests and stuff like that.

that worked well for that as well.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: Focus on the thing.

And then break time is like when
I would go and check slack or

Twitter, whatever I wanted to do,

Darby: Yeah.


Ethan: I definitely don't think it works
for, like actual development, like 25

minutes is just not enough focus time to

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: get into something
without having my focus broken.


for like other task type
of stuff, it worked well.

I mean, I've only done,
this is like day two.

So maybe by day three, I'll give up on it.

I don't know.


Darby: You know, like I, so I, I
was the reason I was asking, if this

was for kind of side project time.

like, I think it's a really hard shift
to make back into kind of, if you take

a break from nights and weekends to
shift back into doing it, I feel like

that, that, and I've done that several
times, where it's like, alright, I've

kind of fallen off and you know, all
right, I'm just not gonna work for

this evenings this week or whatever.

And then getting back into it, it's
like, all right, I gotta really.

discipline myself, cuz it's easy to just
go back into the, whatever I'm gonna

take it easy tonight kind of mindset.

and so like whether it is, using a
tool like that or, you know, some

other technique, it's just like,
it's a little bit of an uphill

climb to, to get back into it.

But then once you get the momentum

Ethan: once that discipline gets
broke, it's really hard to get it back.

it's so easy just to sit down and
read or watch movies or the other

things I do to procrastinate, but.

Darby: Yeah.

I always like, it's definitely
seasonal for me too.

Like summertime is the hardest,
cuz there's just stuff going on.

And then when the winter gets
here, it's like it's dark.

it's cold.

I don't really feel like going
anywhere, so it's easy to get.

just like I'll naturally
fall back into that cycle.

Just, just because of the.

Ethan: Yeah.

That's fair.

Darby: yeah.


I'll bringing back to Palmora.


Ethan: Yeah.


I don't even know what made me think.

Like what reminded me of all, like I
swear for that like year and a half or

whatever, instead of everyone's first
project being, you know, build a blog in

rails, it was build a por timer in rails.

like, it was hot, just hot.


Darby: can never have too many timers.




So working on the training.

Ethan: Yep.


I'm giving that, or we're giving that,
next week, Thursday to some as like

an internal session at the day job.

And then the following Tuesday is
when I have to give it for real.

So that is definitely all I'll
be working on until it's done.

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: So, yeah,

Darby: I know how that goes.

so is that conference in Denver?


And you're going to it.

It's not a remote.



All right, cool.

Ethan: And so I'll be there
all of the week of the first,

I think, summer around there.


Darby: Yeah.

well, enjoy having all of your
time monopolized by the, the

run up to, training like that.

Ethan: Yeah.

What about you?

How's it going?

Darby: things are good.

I've I have, she's been working
on the new marketing site.

Not showing me a lot of it.

but the other day he gave me
kind of a sneak peek on it.

It looks really good.

So I'm pretty excited.

it's you know, it's taken of course
taken a little bit longer than we want,

but I think it'll turn out really nice.

So I'm kind of doing some of the prep
things that we'll need to do to get

ready for being able to launch that.

It might still be a few more
weeks, but, things like.

Like, we're gonna be splitting
the marketing site out.

So the app needs to run
in a different sub domain.

So there's gonna be like a bunch of
changes that have to happen for that.

Like all of our email links
need to go to a different place,

like, all of that kind of stuff.

So, I'll be working on
prepping the app for that.

and so, but I think that's
probably the main thing.

And then I'll, I'm just doing
a little bit to help here and

there on like copy stuff for.

for the new marketing site.

And it's kind of interesting because
we are taking a little bit different

approach now based on the stuff we
learned doing the story brand, project.

And so instead of the typical thing that
you would think about is like, here's

the product, here's the features like
let's talk about each of the features

and have a product page for each of the
features, what we're actually doing.

reframing it around the, kind of
the results that we talk about

in the story brand framework.

So instead of it being like, you know,
a one-on-one meeting agenda builder,

it's, you know, easy meeting O automated
meeting agendas, like consistent

scheduling, Some of, I can't remember
all of the things now, but basically

like we're framing it around that
instead of just like a list of features.

And so I think it's gonna kind
of speak to the needs of people

more than, what it's doing today.

So those are entire new,
like landing pages too.

That'll have to be written.

So a lot of copy.


Ethan: A lot of copy.


Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: That'll be fun though.

I think you mentioned this
before and I totally forget.

Why did you split out the
marketing site from the main site?

Darby: because, the basically like Google
lighthouse scores, that's like the SEO

kind of scoring mechanism that they have.

It's kind of a hassle to do all the
things that they want in a rails app.

So like, a lot of it is like around image
formats and, like page speeds type stuff.

And so, it'll actually just
be easier for us to do that.

If we stand up a new static generated
site, instead of having like a server

rendered site, increase this page speed
a ton, and then like the tool that we're

using has a bunch of plugins for doing.

Image generation and like all the
different formats and doing like,

responsive images and all those things.

So, yeah.

so hopefully that gets our scores way
up so that, like none of that dumb stuff

is dinging us from an SEO perspective.

Ethan: Yeah.


That makes sense.

Darby: so that's kind of the main focus.

And then the other thing
that I've been working on is.

getting, getting some more
blog posts in the queue.

And so we had worked with the
company a while ago, a few years

ago now to do some writing for us.

And, so wanted to get a few
more of those out there to try

to drive a little more traffic.

And we talked about this, I guess, one
or two episodes ago, about like keyword.

and I was getting a little, like
annoyed with the tools that I

was trying to use to do this.

and then you shared something
with me, a tool that I tried

out and it works way better.

It's actually, you know,
surprise if you pay for it, it's

actually like pretty useful.

and so, so I went into it kind
of like just with a few ideas for

things and not like really trying to.

to gain the system in any way, but
just like, all right, well, let me,

here's a few topics that I think
would make for useful blog posts.

let's see what they've got in there.

and so was able to find kind of keywords
that fit in there that are gonna be

easier to rank for and have decent amount
of volume and, you know, still are kind

of staying true to the thing that I
want to talk about, which is hopefully

going to still provide value that way.


so kind of, kind of working my
way through that, but kind of,

I liked how that turned out.

I think that tool is pretty helpful.

and then, so kind of putting together
all the guidance that we need to hand off

to the company that's gonna write those.

so hopefully we'll get those submitted, I
don't know, later this week or something,

Ethan: nice.

Darby: so.

Ethan: What were maybe you don't
wanna talk about it, but what were

some of the, like, like you had an
idea going into it, of what the topic

would be like, do you have, like, do
you remember like how the topic like

slightly changed to fit the keyword or

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: tool helped you?


Darby: Yep.

Yeah, I can, let me pull
up the, the thing here.

Give me a second.


let me find a good example here.



One of the things I wanted to do
was talk about our pulse feature.

So the feature is, doing P be able to do
pulse surveys with your team, ask them

questions every week or two weeks that
have a one to 10 answer and you get,

numeric score back, and then you can
watch those numbers change over time.

and you can, you know, sort of see the
trends in how your team is feelings.

Like what is their
morale like or whatever.

and so I kind of went in and was
searching for things like that.

and what it actually, GA what I got
back was a keyword that was employee

satisfaction index, which is not the way
that I would've framed it, but it's got

like a pretty high volume and a pretty
low, they call it score, which is.

I guess the difficulty
score that they use.

and so like that is actually one
of the keywords that we're gonna

optimize on for that blog post.

So like, I wouldn't have said it that way.

I wouldn't have said employee satisfaction
index, but, that, that's totally

what the feature is, so we can use it
as a way to communicate that thing.

And if that's the way that people are
searching for it, then, That's great.

I think the, like the other
ones that I found were like,

pulse check, and what is it?

pulse surveys.

Those were lower volume and like
higher competition, I think.

So like harder to rank for, and then
actually lower overall search volume.

Ethan: Okay.

Darby: and, but I think that's
because within like the scope

of these tools, that's the way
that the products talk about it.

Cause they talk about pulse as a
feature and they don't like, I think

employee satisfaction index is more of
like a generalized like business term

that, that is maybe more broadly used.

Ethan: that's.

Yeah, that's interesting
that the term that has more

searches is easier to rank for.

So are these like other, like competitors
just like fighting each other then, like

Darby: I mean, this is within, yeah.

This is within, a, you know, I don't
know, there's maybe other words that I'm

leaving out when you do the search in
these, in this tool, like you get back a

list of like a hundred different keywords.

And so like some of like, I kind of
really ignored even the real high ones.

they're really high score ones.


We could probably spend like an hour,
like digging through the results of

just like one of these keyword searches
and trying to like, make sense of it.

but I, you know, it's like, it's
a pretty fast process to like

type in a thing, look at kind of
the keywords that they give you.

And then just like, all right,
I'm just gonna pick the ones that

are, you know, that make sense,
but are, you know, a pretty low

Ethan: Right, right.

The ones that are gonna be yeah.

Worth the, worth, the
effort for you to put.

Darby: Yep.

So, so yeah, that's kind of,
kind of what that was like.

I'm trying to see if there's another
one in here that is like interesting.

I think that, yeah, that employee,
the pulse one really had the

biggest variation in like, like the
score and, in volume searches is.

Yeah, the other one, the other one
that I looked at was of around morale.

So like, just like kind of having, I
don't know, being able to talk about

morale is a thing to focus on and
how like a one-on-one meeting can

influence the morale of an employee.

and the, like that is
a bit more competitive.

I think the volumes are lower.

Like the variations in like phrasing.

is very different too.

It's like, you know, morale, boosting
ideas, morale, boosting activities,

things like that, but all the
search volumes were like pretty low.

So the, the keyword that I landed
on was just morale and motivation,

which is kind of a generic one.

But the, the volume was kind
of highest for that one.

that there was another one that came
up, which was, boost morale quotes,

which actually had a lot of volume.

but I don't think that would make for
a very good blog post and that's just

like, that just makes me think of, you
know, those, those posters that they

put up in offices, like, you know, that
are just like intended to boost your

morale with a quote in a picture of
a, whatever, a picture of the outside

that you can't see, cuz you're at your

Ethan: I was thinking of the cat
hanging from the clothes line.

Hey, hang in there.

Darby: Yeah, exactly.


yeah, so I don't know.

It's been interesting to, to kind
of dig into this a little bit more.

I feel like I can kind of see a process
evolving for how, you know, if we wanted

to do this on like a more regular basis.

it wouldn't be too terribly hard to
like put this information together.

Like writing blog posts is still
something that takes me away too long.


I'm yeah, I think I would be happy
to outsource that for forever.

Ethan: So, is this like the, is this what
you would call a content strategy then?

Darby: I guess

Ethan: Yeah, I like, I see people
using that phrase, but I don't

think I actually know what it means,

Darby: I could, yeah, I
don't actually know either.

I think there's probably more
like, like, you could be more like

expansive with the content strategy.

Like I think you could tie in.

a blog post to social media content,
to your like homepage copy and your,

and the, and like the copy in your like
emails, like your drug emails or whatever.

and so you could, you probably
could be like pretty expansive and

holistic about that if you wanted to.

but, yeah, this is just a tiny bit of that
and like, there's probably going to be.

Some amount of, I, I feel like some
amount of work that I would want to do

to sort of tie the content that gets
created for these posts to the story

brand a little bit so that we're not
like totally off on two different,

like worlds, like, well, the blog
posts kind of sound like this, but then

the homepage copy sounds like that.

Like think it'd be good
to tie that together.


Ethan: Do you mean from like a
voice perspective or like, the

way that you talk about things?

I guess maybe even both

Darby: yeah, it could
be a little bit of both.

I think like the, in the, like
the homepage copy that we rewrote

through store brand, you know, we
talk about, well, I'm trying to think

of some good examples, but like you
could easily like have phrasing be

different, where like, let's see.

Ethan: I mean, even in the way that
you just in the post that you describe,

like changing the thing you're talking
about to match the keyword in the blog

post, even though like EV everywhere
else, you like might reference it

as like, you know, something else.

Is that like, okay.

Darby: So I pulled up our homepage here.

Like one of the phrases we use a
lot is like authentic relationships.

And like, I.

you could phrase it differently or
like the content that comes back from a

blog post might be phrased differently
kind of meeting the same thing.

But I think I'd wanna like tie that
together, just so that it's a little

bit more cohesive, so that we're kind
of like talking about the same things,

assuming it's like not gonna hurt the
keywords too much or whatever, but, yeah.


I'm just looking through here to
see if there's anything else that

jumps out at me like, oh, yeah.

Phrases like active conversations,
mutual accountability, confident

relationships, like, like these phrases
are actually like really, I think

they're really well written, and concise.

And, so if, like, if we need to I
don't know, Massage the blog content

to, to fit that a little bit better.

I think I might do that.


Ethan: That makes sense.


Darby: yeah.

there's a, there's an interesting feature
in that, that tool that, it's like this

content analyzer, so you can take a
blog post, the keyword that you wanna

rank for throw the content in there.

It gives you a bunch of other
keywords that should appear in the

co in the copy, kind of analyzes
the length of it and everyth.

So, so that's like a
nice, sanity check there.

Ethan: I used that for the blog
post I'm working on for like,

why you should track net worth.

It was interesting though, like
probably like 20 keywords that I didn't

have in the post, but like I used
words that were very similar anyways.

And so just like slightly changing some
copy around and grabbing a bunch more

keywords was, it was pretty easy to do
without like sacrificing anything really.

Darby: Yeah.


like that's super interesting to
me because it's so easy to, you

know, to miss out on that stuff.

If you're not actually
like trying to identify it.

and then like, it totally tells me
it totally helps me to understand.

Like all blog posts are so long nowadays
because it's like 1500 words is what

you need to be like on the first page of

Ethan: Right.

I think that the joke everybody makes
about this is, like recipe blog posts.

Darby: Yep,

Ethan: You know, you have to get like
the entire 3000 word backstory for,

you know, like a two ingredient post,

Darby: Yeah.

I still don't know why they're
search engine optimizing recipes.

I don't get it.

Ethan: don't get, ah,
I don't get it either.

so, something I wanna do, I might, I
actually might, I might just do this.

so I like, I have that blog post,
mostly done for net worth tracking, but

there's another, so like I wrote that
thing, so, you know, dubious quality.

there's another tool called copy dot.

Which is like a, an ML
model built on G P T three.

Is that the letters in there?


So you can like give it, like a
subject and you can tell it what

tone and everything, and it will
just like generate stuff for you,

Darby: Yeah.

Ethan: entire blog posts.

It would just write for you.

I'm very tempted to.

Like an equivalent blog post of why you
should track net worth, then throw it into

the content analyzer for the SEO tool,

Darby: Yeah,

Ethan: see how many keywords it ranks for.

And like, see if I could just
like programmatically generate

a ton of copy, kind of goes
against what I was talking about.

The other episode of like,
I wanted to be valuable.

this is totally just like how much can
I game out of generated content, but.

Darby: I mean, I don't know, that's it I'm
really interested to see how that works.

It looks like there, like you can do like
one post for free on their free tier.

Ethan: yeah, I have a, I think
a legacy account with them.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: signed up when they
were in early beta stages.

it's a really good tool for coming
up with ideas for like head.

Like header content or even
like little blurb stuff.

Darby: Okay.

Ethan: it's a well done tool.

Darby: Interesting.

I mean, I don't know it like, is this the
way everything's gonna go pretty soon?


Ethan: Yeah.

It's but

Darby: get ahead of the curve
and save some time and money.

Ethan: yeah.

I wonder if I could run an experiment.

I mean, I don't have, I don't have
anywhere near the traffic to do it,

but like have a set of blog posts that
are written by humans and a set of

blog posts that are written by machines
and see which one converts better.

Darby: you don't have enough traffic
now, but you totally, you know,

like that's how you would grow it,

Ethan: yeah.


I'm saying like, I wouldn't
know the result of this for

Darby: Sure.

Ethan: a while.


Darby: I think that's, I think even
if you did have a lot of traffic,

it would still take a good amount
of time to really do a test on that.

Cuz it's all like organic, SEO anyway, so,

Ethan: true.

That's true.

All right, fine.

Darby: I think I wanna try this too.


I think I talked about this
before, but we have, we hired our

store brand folks to do another.

to do an email drip campaign for us.

and so that is being delivered, I
guess this is two weeks out still.

but hopefully within a couple weeks,
maybe three more, three more weeks, we'll

have an actual like campaign hooked up
to our, lead generator, which is still

getting five or six downloads a week,

Ethan: not bad.

Darby: doing nothing with.


so looking forward to that, and I
think we've, we have seen a little

bit of uptick in like signups too.

like over the last couple months.

So, probably we'll say it's
related to the new content

Ethan: why not?

Darby: yeah's

Ethan: do you know enough to say
otherwise, no, take the credit then

Darby: yeah.


. Yeah.


All right.

Well, I guess, I guess
that's about it then.

Ethan: All right.

I will talk to you next week.

Darby: All right.

See you.

Ethan: See you.