What It Is & How It Works


The AARRR metrics framework, additionally known as pirate metrics or the AARRR funnel, is a set of metrics used to trace and affect essential consumer conduct that may result in enterprise progress. 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 progress monitor and what particular levels of the funnel want optimization. And buyers watched these carefully too. For a few years, AARRR was the golden commonplace 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 answer that any startup can use to:

  • Develop a mannequin of buyer conduct that results in enterprise progress.
  • Enhance advertising 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 working 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 vainness metrics behind and specializing in what makes a enterprise develop.

Due to this fact, the pirate metrics will not be just for entrepreneurs. CEOs, entrepreneurs, product managers, and buyers 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 is because acquisition, activation, retention, referral, and income are proposed right here as subsequent levels of a simplified purchaser’s journey.

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

As in any advertising funnel, the concept is to maneuver folks from the primary stage to the final. Due to this fact, these levels turn into steps it’s worthwhile to take to be able to make your enterprise 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 will interact every stage of the funnel, plus how one can measure every stage of the funnel.

1. Acquisition

Or, in different phrases, how one can appeal to folks to your enterprise? make them discover your message (or have your message discover them) and go to your web site or your app? And lastly, how one can measure all that?

With out folks studying of your existence and coming to you to find what you provide, your enterprise gained’t make any cash—irrespective of how nice it’s. That’s why it’s worthwhile to take into consideration the advertising techniques and channels that may 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 seemingly use numerous totally different advertising techniques, spanning numerous advertising channels. To indicate you what I imply, let me record 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 so on
  • PR

In selecting your techniques and channels, it’s essential to know who your target market is and the place you’ll be able to 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. Figuring out what they’re fascinated about and the search demand for these subjects, we will 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 instrument like Ahrefs’ Key phrases Explorer, you’ll be able to routinely generate hundreds of key phrase concepts by simply realizing a couple of subjects your target market is fascinated about.

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

Moreover, we will measure the efficiency of that content material by wanting on the natural search visitors:

Site Explorer overview of beginner's guide on keyword research

An acquisition metric could be something that informs you of individuals coming in from “the surface” to your enterprise. So your metrics for this stage will rely in your channels and your enterprise mannequin. These could be referral 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 will 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 hold monitor of visits to any touchdown web page/display that, in your opinion, acts as a gateway to your enterprise—for instance, numerous touchdown pages utilized in your PPC campaigns.

Really helpful studying:  Use & Cut back Buyer Acquisition Price (CAC)         

2. Activation

The activation stage is about figuring out, partaking, and measuring the actions you need folks to take to expertise your services or products. These embrace signing up for a free trial or a free instrument, filling out a contact type, signing up for a e-newsletter, watching a product demo, and so on.

Page about AWT

Ahrefs Webmaster Instruments is a free search engine optimization instrument that we regularly promote in our content material. It’s a good way to activate our guests as a result of they will use a number of the product options without spending a dime 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 worthwhile to “activate” your guests is that mere visits to your web site will not be 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.

In fact, it’s practically inconceivable to activate 100% of your newly acquired guests. This study revealed that the typical conversion charge on touchdown pages within the SaaS business in 2021 was 3%.

Some folks will simply go away for numerous causes (not the appropriate time, simply searching, and so on.). This doesn’t essentially imply you’re doing one thing incorrect. You possibly can exactly goal essentially the most related key phrases, promote to area of interest audiences, or be an knowledgeable in advert focusing 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 will depend on elements like:

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

3. Retention

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

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

You can too take a look at it this manner. In the event you’re activating customers by means of a free trial of your product and your customers come again to truly use the product, they’re displaying a behavioral sample much like that of paying clients: coming again a number of instances to make use of the product.

So by encouraging folks to return again, you might be fostering that behavioral change. And by measuring this stage, you’ll be able to extra simply forecast which customers/cohorts are more likely to turn into clients.

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

  • Expectations vs. actuality – In the event you’re overpromising within the earlier levels 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 attempt it. In some instances, folks discover the worth of their buy doesn’t match the cash they spent.
  • Product training – If folks don’t know how one can 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 will do one thing or the place they will discover some perform, and it’s one other to encourage. Your clients may have a product like yours, however they might not know what to make use of it for or how one can match it into their workflow.
  • Tire-kickers and hitchhikers – Some folks whom you may have efficiently activated by no means meant to purchase your product. Some folks may wish to browse round, and that’s it. Others could join that one explicit factor you supplied in your free trial with out the necessity to use it commonly.

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

At Ahrefs, we use product training as a approach to hold 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 how one can 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 training in your first e mail as a result of folks truly anticipate these. (On common, welcome emails get a 91.43% open rate.)

Primarily, that e mail gives a shortcut to all of the product training we serve in different places: this weblog, Ahrefs Academy, Ahrefs Insider group on Fb, and academic movies on YouTube.

As you might 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 experiences are accompanied by tutorials.

In relation to measuring retention, the easiest way to do it’s by measuring product engagement (in fact, for those who’re providing some sort of free trial). For instance, you’ll be able to monitor what number of customers log in at the least 3 times in a seven-day interval. (You need to use instruments like Mixpanel or Heap.)

On a aspect notice, for those who uncover a novel sample of product utilization amongst your paying clients, you’ll be able to later use that to switch your retention metrics to raised establish customers who’re almost certainly to improve their accounts.

In the event you’re not providing a direct product expertise within the activation stage, you’ll be able to 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 crew.

Professional tip

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

In actual fact, in this talk about the pirate metrics, Dave says that “folks bounce off your web site as a result of they didn’t imply to return there. … These aren’t the parents that you just’re actually taking a look at.”

This isn’t completely correct.

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

Second, it might take a number of touchpoints for a brand new consumer to be fascinated about your product.

So regardless of the unique idea, it’s possible you’ll wish to contemplate techniques that may encourage your inactivated customers to return again, e.g., retargeting, running a blog, being lively 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 advocate us, and the way can we affect that?”

Referral is simply one of many many acquisition channels. Nevertheless, 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 persons are able to pay for it. In startup lingo, this implies you’re getting traction.

One more reason why it’s worthwhile to take consumer suggestions severely is it’s some of the efficient methods to amass new clients. In line with a Nielsen study, 83% of individuals belief suggestions from family and friends, and 66% of individuals belief client opinions posted on-line.

Because of referrals out of your glad 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 how one can make customers advocate your product to others? Nicely, there is no such thing as a different manner round it than to construct one thing really worthwhile and supply a fantastic consumer expertise. How? Begin with researching your market to know what the market wants and the way properly the competitors serves that demand. Subsequent, ensure your enterprise concept can obtain product-market match.

You possibly can search for indicators of constructive (and unfavourable) 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 constructive phrase of mouth organically is absolutely the basis. However not all your customers will probably be prepared to share their experiences, and that’s fully regular. However there are some methods you’ll be able to affect phrase of mouth to provide it a further push:

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

In relation to measuring this stage of AARRR, one concept is to make use of social media instruments like Brand24 to watch the online for mentions of your product/model. You can too hold monitor of your opinions and search for any vital adjustments within the common score scores.

If you wish to go even deeper and measure the referral stage extra completely, you’ll be able to gauge how prepared folks are to advocate 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 could be influenced) after a consumer turns into a buyer. One may even argue these kinds of referrals are extra essential to enterprise progress.

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 conduct.” Dave advises startups to determine what a part of their services or products needs to be monetized.

For instance, the extra you utilize Ahrefs, the extra you pay for it. However you don’t pay for each click on you make. This can be a poor monetization conduct concept. For us, it makes essentially the most sense to tie the worth of our service to sure tiers of knowledge utilization and knowledge replace frequency.

Table of different pricing tiers with corresponding information

Totally different knowledge utilization for various pricing tiers.

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

In fact, monetization conduct for your enterprise could be one thing fully totally different. You might even hold your service fully free for customers and monetize by way of advertisements or in-app purchases (e.g., social media platforms).

In relation to influencing your income, you might have already guessed that income is an consequence of the entire earlier levels of the funnel. The extra guests you appeal to and successfully activate, the extra gross sales you get within the finish.

Let me offer you 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 how one can put our product into follow to enhance their search engine optimization.

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

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

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

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

A couple of takeaways from the image above I’d wish to notice:

  • Discover how conversion drops as you go down the framework. That’s regular. All advertising funnels are leaky by design. (They most likely shouldn’t be known 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 levels at every stage. For instance, activation consists of those: glad 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. You can too go deeper and use a extra granular manner of measuring (be taught extra about advertising KPIs right here).

If I haven’t harassed 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 may most likely be utilized by any startup). It goes like this:

  1. Retention – Give attention to making a product that individuals will wish to come again to
  2. Activation – Let folks expertise the worth of your product (aka the “aha second”) as quickly as potential
  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 may have clear indicators that persons are prepared to return again to your app (essential!)

As you’ll be able to see, this framework consists of the identical levels that we’ve mentioned to this point. So the query arises, “How is RARRA totally different from AARRR?”

For my part, the primary distinction between these two frameworks is that RARRA emphasizes sure metrics, whereas AARRR is only a mannequin for figuring out the essential levels in a purchaser’s journey.

Or let’s put it this manner. The AARRR framework is solely proposing that activation is the primary stage in a purchaser’s journey. However studying the RARRA framework the identical manner 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 a substitute of activation) as a result of it tries to emphasise that cellular startups ought to construct merchandise with retention in thoughts. The unique framework, then again, doesn’t specify that it’s worthwhile to focus extra on one stage than the different.

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

In fact, I totally encourage you to develop your personal opinion about these two frameworks. And even develop your personal modifications if you’re prepared. For extra data on RARRA, begin with Why Focusing Too Much on Acquisition Will Kill Your Mobile Startup.

Closing ideas

Probably the most correct definitions of a startup comes from Eric Ries: “A human establishment designed to deliver one thing new below situations of utmost uncertainty.” That aspect of uncertainty is what makes specializing in the appropriate issues completely essential for startup success.

And that is what AARRR provides: specializing in the metrics that actually matter to construct a sustainable enterprise. This framework might not be full or good, as RARRA proponents declare. Nevertheless it’s a very good begin for those who use it correctly.

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

Bought questions or feedback? Ping me on Twitter.