The AARRR metrics framework, additionally referred to as pirate metrics or the AARRR funnel, is a set of metrics used to trace and affect important consumer habits that may result in enterprise development. The acronym stands for acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and income.

Startups all around the globe have been utilizing this framework to be taught whether or not they’re on a development monitor and what particular phases of the funnel want optimization. And traders watched these carefully too. For a few years, AARRR was the golden normal of metrics till somebody proposed to flip the script.

On this article, you’ll be taught:

Who’s the AARRR metrics framework for?

The AARRR framework was devised by investor and entrepreneur Dave McClure (founding father of 500 Startups) out of necessity for a easy, common resolution that any startup can use to:

  • Develop a mannequin of buyer habits that results in enterprise development.
  • Enhance advertising and marketing and improvement efforts by specializing in metrics that actually matter.

Naturally, the pirate affiliation is only a coincidence, stemming from how the metrics are pronounced. It has nothing to do with operating a startup like a pirate ship. The objective of utilizing this metrics framework is to create a sustainable and scalable enterprise by leaving all of the self-importance metrics behind and specializing in what makes a enterprise develop.

Due to this fact, the pirate metrics aren’t just for entrepreneurs. CEOs, entrepreneurs, product managers, and traders can use them too.

How does the AARRR metrics framework work?

As I discussed earlier, this framework is sometimes called a kind of selling funnel. It’s because acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and income are proposed right here as subsequent phases of a simplified purchaser’s journey.

Potential clients ideally begin on the acquisition stage. A few of them are activated by way of experiencing the product, and solely a share of these preliminary guests will arrive on the income stage and turn into clients.

As in any advertising and marketing funnel, the concept is to maneuver folks from the primary stage to the final. Due to this fact, these phases turn into steps it’s essential take as a way to make what you are promoting develop. Let’s illustrate that:

AARRR funnel. From top to bottom (acquisition, activation, retention, referral, revenue). Arrow pointing from referral to acquisition

So on this part, we’re going to speak about how we are able to have interaction every stage of the funnel, plus measure every stage of the funnel.

1. Acquisition

Or, in different phrases, appeal to folks to what you are promoting? Learn how to make them discover your message (or have your message discover them) and go to your web site or your app? And lastly, measure all that?

With out folks studying of your existence and coming to you to find what you supply, what you are promoting gained’t make any cash—regardless of how nice it’s. That’s why it’s essential take into consideration the advertising and marketing techniques and channels that can carry your message to your target market.

Typically, the extra folks you appeal to within the acquisition stage, the extra paying clients you’ll have within the final stage of this funnel.

For this stage, you’ll possible use a whole lot of completely different advertising and marketing techniques, spanning varied advertising and marketing channels. To indicate you what I imply, let me listing a few issues we do to draw guests to Ahrefs:

  • Product-led articles for our weblog
  • Product-led movies for our YouTube channel
  • Free instruments 
  • Social media
  • Partnerships with influencers in our area of interest
  • Promoting on Twitter, Quora, Google Adverts, and many others
  • PR

In selecting your techniques and channels, it’s essential to know who your target market is and the place you possibly can attain them.

For instance, our target market consists of people that do search engine optimization: skilled SEOs, content material entrepreneurs, enterprise homeowners, and bloggers, amongst others. Understanding what they’re considering and the search demand for these subjects, we are able to resolve what content material we should always create to leverage search demand on Google and eventually appeal to them to our web site.

Matching terms report results

Utilizing a device like Ahrefs’ Key phrases Explorer, you possibly can routinely generate hundreds of key phrase concepts by simply figuring out just a few subjects your target market is considering.

This method is known as search engine optimization content material: creating content material that’s designed to rank on search engines like google like Google.

Moreover, we are able to measure the efficiency of that content material by trying on the natural search site visitors:

Site Explorer overview of beginner's guide on keyword research

An acquisition metric will be something that informs you of individuals coming in from “the skin” to what you are promoting. So your metrics for this stage will rely in your channels and what you are promoting mannequin. These will be referral site visitors from opinions, affiliate hyperlinks from companions, app retailer visits, app downloads, and extra.

Key data that helps track acquisition in the form of bar graphs, line graphs, and table

Monitoring acquisition is pretty straightforward in analytics instruments like Google Analytics 4. You may get a breakdown of your highest quantity and best-performing channels and monitor particular campaigns, mediums, and sources.

Measuring acquisition doesn’t essentially imply monitoring homepage visits. You possibly can maintain monitor of visits to any touchdown web page/display that, in your opinion, acts as a gateway to what you are promoting—for instance, varied touchdown pages utilized in your PPC campaigns.

Advisable studying: Learn how to Use & Cut back Buyer Acquisition Price (CAC)         

2. Activation

The activation stage is about figuring out, participating, and measuring the actions you need folks to take to expertise your services or products. These embody signing up for a free trial or a free device, filling out a contact type, signing up for a e-newsletter, watching a product demo, and many others.

Page about AWT

Ahrefs Webmaster Instruments is a free search engine optimization device that we regularly promote in our content material. It’s an effective way to activate our guests as a result of they’ll use a few of the product options free of charge so long as they need. And if in some unspecified time in the future they want extra, they’ve the choice to improve that very same account they’ve been used to.

The rationale why it’s essential “activate” your guests is that mere visits to your web site aren’t sufficient to make somebody purchase from you. With out encouraging your guests to be taught extra about or expertise your product, they may stay simply that—guests who by no means turn into clients.

After all, it’s practically not possible to activate 100% of your newly acquired guests. This examine revealed that the typical conversion price on touchdown pages within the SaaS trade in 2021 was 3%.

Some folks will simply go away for varied causes (not the appropriate time, simply looking, and many others.). This doesn’t essentially imply you’re doing one thing incorrect. You possibly can exactly goal probably the most related key phrases, promote to area of interest audiences, or be an professional in advert concentrating on. However you’ll nonetheless be visited by individuals who aren’t prepared to purchase from you. It’s simply a part of the recreation.

Effectiveness in changing folks from the acquisition stage to the activation stage relies on elements like:

  • How “certified” are your guests after they first come to your website? Do they already know your model? Are they simply studying in regards to the resolution, or are they able to make a purchase order?
  • How compelling is your worth proposition?
  • How a lot friction is there earlier than you possibly can activate your guests? Have you ever set the bar too excessive/too low?
  • The UX and UI of your web site, e.g., aesthetics, website velocity, and knowledge structure.

3. Retention

This a part of the AARRR framework is about encouraging activated customers to come back again.

The concept behind that is if folks repeatedly go to what you are promoting, it’s an indication that they need extra of what you supply—presumably even sufficient to purchase from you. Conversely, if folks don’t come again after activation, it’s possible they’ve misplaced curiosity in making a purchase order.

It’s also possible to have a look at it this manner. If you happen to’re activating customers by way of a free trial of your product and your customers come again to really use the product, they’re exhibiting a behavioral sample much like that of paying clients: coming again a number of occasions to make use of the product.

So by encouraging folks to come back again, you might be fostering that behavioral change. And by measuring this stage, you possibly can extra simply forecast which customers/cohorts are prone to turn into clients.

Listed here are some elements that may affect this stage of the funnel:

  • Expectations vs. actuality – If you happen to’re overpromising within the earlier phases of the funnel and underdelivering right here, folks will drop off massively.
  • Low worth for the cash – Typically, there is no such thing as a different approach to see if one thing is definitely worth the cash till you strive it. In some circumstances, folks discover the worth of their buy doesn’t match the cash they spent.
  • Product schooling – If folks don’t know use your product or the place to search out sure options, they may really feel confused and even annoyed.
  • Lack of a use case – It’s one factor to indicate folks how they’ll do one thing or the place they’ll discover some operate, and it’s one other to encourage. Your clients may have a product like yours, however they could not know what to make use of it for or match it into their workflow.
  • Tire-kickers and hitchhikers – Some folks whom you could have efficiently activated by no means meant to purchase your product. Some folks could wish to browse round, and that’s it. Others could join that one explicit factor you provided in your free trial with out the necessity to use it usually.

With some idea out of the way in which, let’s have a look at an instance of influencing the retention stage.

At Ahrefs, we use product schooling as a approach to maintain our customers knowledgeable and engaged. So when folks join an Ahrefs account, we ship them three onboarding emails with an outline video of our toolset and a few recommendations on get across the interface.

Ahrefs' "welcome" email with introductory video and list of our 5 main tools, each linked to more resources

It’s a great way to ship product schooling in your first e-mail as a result of folks really anticipate these. (On common, welcome emails get a 91.43% open price.)

Primarily, that e-mail supplies a shortcut to all of the product schooling we serve elsewhere: this weblog, Ahrefs Academy, Ahrefs Insider group on Fb, and academic movies on YouTube.

As you will have seen within the screenshot above, we additionally present assist contextually proper contained in the product. Each metric that customers discover contained in the toolset has a touch explaining what it’s for, and all reviews are accompanied by tutorials.

In the case of measuring retention, one of the best ways to do it’s by measuring product engagement (after all, when you’re providing some sort of free trial). For instance, you possibly can monitor what number of customers log in a minimum of 3 times in a seven-day interval. (You should use instruments like Mixpanel or Heap.)

On a facet be aware, when you uncover a novel sample of product utilization amongst your paying clients, you possibly can later use that to change your retention metrics to raised determine customers who’re almost definitely to improve their accounts.

If you happen to’re not providing a direct product expertise within the activation stage, you possibly can attain for different metrics like:

  • Repeated visits to your web site (or sure pages in it).
  • Newsletters being opened.
  • A continued dialog along with your gross sales group.

Professional tip

 So far as I’m involved, the AARRR framework doesn’t say something about encouraging your inactivated customers to come back again. It focuses solely on repeated visits from activated customers.

The truth is, on this discuss in regards to the pirate metrics, Dave says that “folks bounce off your website as a result of they didn’t imply to come back there. … These aren’t the parents that you just’re actually .”

This isn’t totally correct.

To begin with, the “bounce price” metric most frequently paints a skewed image of consumer engagement. That’s why it has been fairly lately changed in Google Analytics 4 by one other extra common and extra “delicate” metric.

Second, it could take a number of touchpoints for a brand new consumer to be considering your product.

So regardless of the unique idea, you might wish to take into account techniques that can encourage your inactivated customers to come back again, e.g., retargeting, running a blog, being energetic on social media.

4. Referral

The referral stage in your AARRR metrics ought to reply the query, “How do we all know folks like us sufficient to suggest us, and the way can we affect that?”

Referral is simply one of many many acquisition channels. Nonetheless, when somebody likes your product sufficient to inform others, that may’t be a greater signal that you just’ve created one thing of nice worth and individuals are able to pay for it. In startup lingo, this implies you’re getting traction.

One more reason why it’s essential take consumer suggestions significantly is it’s probably the most efficient methods to amass new clients. In response to a Nielsen examine, 83% of individuals belief suggestions from family and friends, and 66% of individuals belief shopper opinions posted on-line.

Because of referrals out of your completely satisfied customers, you get extra prospects to “gasoline” the acquisition stage of the funnel (therefore the arrow pointing from referral to acquisition in our illustration of this framework).

However make customers suggest your product to others? Nicely, there is no such thing as a different means round it than to construct one thing really helpful and supply an ideal consumer expertise. How? Begin with researching your market to know what the market wants and the way nicely the competitors serves that demand. Subsequent, make certain what you are promoting thought can obtain product-market match.

You possibly can search for indicators of optimistic (and unfavorable) phrase of mouth about your services or products in:

  • Social media shares and conversations.
  • Business surveys.
  • Evaluate websites.
  • Communities in your market phase.
Poll showing majority of people chose Ahrefs as their go-to SEO toolset

Receiving optimistic phrase of mouth organically is absolutely the basis. However not your entire customers shall be keen to share their experiences, and that’s fully regular. However there are some methods you possibly can affect phrase of mouth to present it an extra push:

  • Referral applications
  • PR
  • Useful content material that solves your customers’ issues
  • Encouraging customers to share their experiences on assessment websites like G2 or Capterra
  • Consumer-generated content material (e.g., footage with branded hashtags on Instagram)
  • Optimistic experiences (e.g., sending customers free swag)
  • Social sharing widgets

In the case of measuring this stage of AARRR, one thought is to make use of social media instruments like Brand24 to watch the net for mentions of your product/model. It’s also possible to maintain monitor of your opinions and search for any important adjustments within the common score scores.

If you wish to go even deeper and measure the referral stage extra completely, you possibly can gauge how keen folks are to suggest you utilizing the NPS rating.


Initially, referral is positioned earlier than income within the pirate metrics, i.e., earlier than a consumer turns into a buyer. However in actuality, referrals additionally occur (and will be influenced) after a consumer turns into a buyer. One might even argue some of these referrals are extra essential to enterprise development.

5. Income

And eventually, after your guests turn into activated customers, a few of them turn into paying clients.

A considerably extra technical time period for that’s “monetization habits.” Dave advises startups to determine what a part of their services or products ought to be monetized.

For instance, the extra you employ Ahrefs, the extra you pay for it. However you don’t pay for each click on you make. It is a poor monetization habits thought. For us, it makes probably the most sense to tie the value of our service to sure tiers of information utilization and knowledge replace frequency.

Table of different pricing tiers with corresponding information

Totally different knowledge utilization for various pricing tiers.

In observe, because the utilization of our product grows, so do our prices. However our revenue grows proportionally as nicely.

After all, monetization habits for what you are promoting will be one thing fully completely different. Chances are you’ll even maintain your service fully free for customers and monetize through advertisements or in-app purchases (e.g., social media platforms).

In the case of influencing your income, you will have already guessed that income is an consequence of all the earlier phases of the funnel. The extra guests you appeal to and successfully activate, the extra gross sales you get within the finish.

Let me provide you with an instance. The extra we educate folks with product-led content material, the extra knowledge folks use of their accounts. And since that’s the primary driver of income for us, the extra knowledge folks use, the extra we revenue. And it’s a win-win. If folks use extra knowledge, it means they know put our product into observe to enhance their search engine optimization.

As for measuring this final stage of the framework, listed here are some common income metrics:

  • Buyer lifetime worth (CLV or CLTV)
  • Annual or month-to-month recurring income (ARR, MRR)
  • Income development price

Let’s conclude this part with Dave’s authentic AARRR dashboard instance.

Table of AARRR's stages, along with corresponding info on user state, conversion, and estimated value

Just a few takeaways from the image above I’d wish to be aware:

  • Discover how conversion drops as you go down the framework. That’s regular. All advertising and marketing funnels are leaky by design. (They in all probability shouldn’t be referred to as “funnels” within the first place.) However don’t deal with these numbers as benchmarks, as they’re simply examples. 
  • Discover that there are a number of micro phases at every stage. For instance, activation consists of those: completely satisfied 1st go to, e-mail sign-up, and account sign-up. However you don’t have to border it this manner. You possibly can simplify this dashboard utilizing only one metric per stage. It’s also possible to go deeper and use a extra granular means of measuring (be taught extra about advertising and marketing KPIs right here).

If I haven’t pressured the significance of retention sufficient, right here is another metrics framework that’s actually primarily based on this stage.

RARRA is the pirate metrics “remixed” by Thomas Petit and Gabor Papp with cellular startups in thoughts (however might in all probability be utilized by any startup). It goes like this:

  1. Retention – Give attention to making a product that folks will wish to come again to
  2. Activation – Let folks expertise the worth of your product (aka the “aha second”) as quickly as doable
  3. Referral – Get your customers to speak in regards to the app and share it
  4. Income – Discover methods to monetize the product
  5. Acquisition – Scale and optimize your acquisition channels; do it solely after you could have clear indicators that individuals are keen to come back again to your app (essential!)

As you possibly can see, this framework consists of the identical phases that we’ve mentioned to date. So the query arises, “How is RARRA completely different from AARRR?”

In my view, the primary distinction between these two frameworks is that RARRA emphasizes sure metrics, whereas AARRR is only a mannequin for figuring out the important phases in a purchaser’s journey.

Or let’s put it this manner. The AARRR framework is just proposing that activation is the primary stage in a purchaser’s journey. However studying the RARRA framework the identical means is incorrect as a result of retention can’t be the primary stage in a purchaser’s journey.

The remixed framework leads with retention (as an alternative of activation) as a result of it tries to emphasise that cellular startups ought to construct merchandise with retention in thoughts. The unique framework, alternatively, doesn’t specify that it’s essential focus extra on one stage than the different.

I’d say that RARRA is an efficient commentary to AARRR that’s made 10 years later. And weirdly sufficient, you should use each. You must construct easy-to-use, helpful merchandise that customers will wish to come again to, however you must also work out appeal to these customers. And what’s extra, you’ll need to amass much more customers on the high of the funnel than you wish to have clients on the backside of the funnel.

After all, I totally encourage you to develop your personal opinion about these two frameworks. And even develop your personal modifications while you’re prepared. For extra data on RARRA, begin with Why Focusing Too A lot on Acquisition Will Kill Your Cellular Startup.

Ultimate ideas

One of the vital correct definitions of a startup comes from Eric Ries: “A human establishment designed to carry one thing new beneath circumstances of maximum uncertainty.” That component of uncertainty is what makes specializing in the appropriate issues completely important for startup success.

And that is what AARRR gives: specializing in the metrics that actually matter to construct a sustainable enterprise. This framework will not be full or excellent, as RARRA proponents declare. But it surely’s a very good begin when you use it correctly.

As you go alongside and discover ways to construct and market a startup, you’ll see a whole lot of the-only-thing-that-matters sort of stuff. Take all that with a grain of salt. I imagine it’s best to strive issues your self and see the place they take you.

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