Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most significant sources of attracting users and increasing traffic, especially for SaaS businesses. SEO can bring 1000% + more organic traffic to your website than social media. That’s unbelievable how much power lies in good SEO strategies.
Since SaaS business models rely on the digital medium, understanding and implementing SEO is extremely important to boost traffic and increase sales.
In this SEO guide, we’ll review various SEO strategies that are particularly useful for SaaS businesses and can become an integral part of your digital marketing.
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2. How is SaaS SEO different from other models?
3. SaaS SEO is a place where psychology meets technology
4. Tracking your SaaS SEO success (KPIs
5. Overview of SEO strategies for SaaS
6. Keep your eyes on the target with SEO – your SaaS KPIs
What is SaaS business?
To fully understand how the SEO strategy for a SaaS business model differs from others, let’s take a look at what SaaS is.
Software as a service (SaaS) is a business model in which customers pay to use the software remotely, usually based on a subscription. SaaS business is designed to solve a problem with its software.
The products are usually modified, updated, and improved by developers within the company to meet the needs of a variety of cases and industries. Additional features are regularly added to the main product or service to target new markets or audiences.
How is SaaS SEO different from other models?
SaaS companies due to the nature of their business rely almost entirely on digital marketing since their product doesn’t exist outside of the online plane. Hence, for SaaS companies, SEO is the key element of any marketing strategy. SaaS’s main goal is to solve problems with their software, something that regular e-commerce stores, for example, oftentimes don’t do. Therefore, keywords and SEO optimization as a whole will be geared toward questions and answers, problems and solutions.
The relationship that SaaS companies have with their customers is by definition expected to be long-term. This translates into initial investment and retention costs as well as customer support. SaaS companies invest a lot in the initial stages of product development, but once that phase is over, they can reap the benefits through the subscription model. That’s why customer retention and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is so important.
SaaS SEO is a place where psychology meets technology
When we think of SEO strategies, keywords, and page optimization, all we hear is algorithms and technology. But actually, these are only tools that are trying to better capture human behavior because, at the end of the day, it’s all about people. And we shouldn’t forget that.
SaaS companies’ main goal is to solve problems that people might have. And since this problem affects a substantial number of people, this digital solution can be monetized and business created. But without that human need, there’ll be no SaaS, and that’s the right lens to look at many SEO strategies.
The keywords are simply search terms that people put into the Google search bar to find answers. And since we aren’t all alike, people will use different words and phrases to mean the same thing. Then the algorithms will try to categorize and measure the volume of those various keywords. This large amount of data can then be pulled into a single document using specialist software to direct SEO strategy for your business.
The same situation applies to technical SEO like page loading time. How fast pages load matters only because people tend to leave pages that load too slowly for their liking. This metric reflects the user experience (UX) and matters for the SEO strategy as much as it increases the possibility of a user staying on your page, reading its content, and buying your product.
Of course, that’s not true for every single SEO strategy that’s out there, but the above connection between human psychology and technology gives a good framework with which to look at SEO for SaaS.
Tracking your SaaS SEO success (KPIs)
Before you start your SEO optimization, first conduct the site audit to understand your website performance. Data-driven improvements come naturally to most SaaS founders, so the idea of identifying target key performance indicators (KPIs) and measuring them on an ongoing basis should be understandable.
Here are a few aspects you’ll want to pay attention to – organic rankings, organic traffic volume, backlinks, the value of traffic, amount of keywords, and more.
A few important SEO metrics for SaaS success and strategy are:
- Year-over-Year traffic and users: Once you’ve been doing your SEO for more than 12 months, start measuring YoY traffic. Tools like Google Analytics can help you track traffic easily.
- Revenue/signups from organic traffic: You’re doing SEO to boost your SaaS business’s revenue so regularly check your conversion rates.
- Lead-to-customer conversion rate: The lead-to-conversion rate helps you figure out how many new organic visitors, email subscribers, and free trial users are converting into paying customers.
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Calculating CLV will help you figure out how much you’re spending on SEO to acquire new customers. If you don’t know the CLV, then you won’t have enough data to show whether your SEO strategy is profitable or not.
During the implementation of your SaaS SEO strategy, you or your SEO specialist will regularly track these metrics to see the impact of new adjustments and steer the strategy course when necessary.
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Overview of SEO strategies for SaaS
SaaS SEO comprises many different techniques and strategies. To make this overview easier to navigate, we’ve divided it into different modules. However, SEO is like the internet – it’s interconnected, creating a web of feedback loops. So even though you’ll see sections devoted to technical SEO or content SEO, it’s all part of a larger system, and division is made only to aid understanding.
Module 1. Define your target audience for your SaaS product(s)
It’s essential to know the market you want to target: who your actual and potential customers are, what they’re looking for, and how you can solve their problems. Defining your target audience helps ensure that you won’t miss out on any opportunities during keyword research and market exploration.
Create customer profiles or cohorts of your SaaS users
The cohorts who are already using your product don’t have to be the same as the ones for whom you’d like to create a new SEO strategy. The evaluation of your current clients reflects the kind of marketing strategies you’ve already done and the type of clients they brought you. This data-driven cohort analysis isn’t speculative but is based on your actual client data, specific to your business only.
From that, you can separate your clients into groups or cohorts. Going a step further, you can create a profile of a typical client in each of those groups. That of course, is an amalgamation and not a profile of a single client. Depending on the data you collect at onboarding, through emails or surveys, you’ll have a rich profile that can help you target this type of client better (anything from location, demographics, pain points, reasons for subscribing, etc.)
Caution about gathering customer data
While it makes sense to gather as much data about your customers as you can to better inform your marketing strategies, it always comes at a cost. No one likes to fill out endless forms and answer questions that might feel irrelevant or too long. So when collecting this information, think carefully about the type and number of valid questions that you’ll have during onboarding or in post-purchase surveys.
The questions, such as ‘Where did you hear about us?’, give you a good idea of the marketing channels that work for your SaaS business. But above all, we feel that the richest data that can trickle down not only to marketing but many other of your operations are pain points.
With questions about pain points, you’ll get the problems your customers are facing, the actual keywords they use to describe their problems, and also the level of needs and understanding they have. That’s a valuable material that can drive your strategy for customer support, social media posts, your product development team, and your blog content.
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Create customer profiles of potential SaaS customers
There are always new groups of people who’d benefit from your SaaS product or service. As with any SaaS business, your software will be regularly updated, new features will be added, and as a result, you’ll be broadening your offerings.
Each time a significant change has been done, reevaluate your target audience. Use customer feedback that your sales and support team get about common pain points. You might discover a new niche or a new need that your software can help fulfill.
So if new groups of potential customers could take advantage of your product, why aren’t they coming? Maybe you haven’t used the keywords specific to the unique group of possible clients so they never land on your page. And if they can’t find you, they’ll go to your competitors.
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Module 2. SEO competitor analysis
At this point, you can perform an SEO competitor analysis. Note that if your site isn’t on the first page in SERP (Search Engine Results Page), your organic competitors can be the sites with higher SEO traffic. Thus, you have to look at both: your current organic competitors and the sites that perform best in your industry or niche.
To find your competitors, you can also use a tool like Semrush. With this software, you can find the competitors using the Competitive Positioning Map where you can see the traffic volume and the number of keywords. These are general terms that describe your competitors, but you can go further and research the 4 P’s of marketing, i.e. product, pricing, place, and promotion. Those results give you a lot of rich data to create competitors’ profiles and draw conclusions regarding their strategies.
You can also perform a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). This will highlight the most important aspects of your competitors’ business which you can then use to compare and contrast with your own SaaS company.
Another helpful software is Similarweb which can check and analyze any website as long as you have its URL. There, you can compare many metrics of your own website against your competitor’s.
Module 3. Keyword research
Keyword research for SaaS companies boils down to finding the keywords that people use to search for SaaS products in Google and other search engines. It’s important to understand a user’s intent while searching for a solution. It can be one of the most important aspects of your keyword research and the building block of a successful SEO strategy.
As we’ve discussed above, keywords are simply words and phrases people use to find solutions to their problems. We also know that different groups of people might use different words to reach the same solution.
What’s more, the way you and your team see your software and the problems it solves might be quite different from the way potential customers would. While you can always put a search term in Google and see what long and short-tailed keywords are generated, that’s not really an efficient solution.
That’s why the best way to generate keywords and perform keyword research is to use professional software designed for this purpose. With it, you get a compressed view of people’s behavior in terms of the keywords they use. Some of the popular solutions are Semrush and Ahrefs.
Keywords inform your SEO content
Keywords are the bread and butter of many aspects of your online presence, and should be used in the following places:
- Product descriptions;
- Blog content;
- Landing pages content;
- Titles, headings, and subheadings;
- Photo descriptions;
- File names on the page;
- Meta description;
- Title tag;
- Alt text (alternative text).
That’s a lot of places where keywords can be used on your pages! This only underlines how crucial keyword research is for SaaS SEO and content marketing in general. But also that investing in an SEO strategy that’s based on keywords will improve many metrics of your page increasing the chances of conversion.
We’ll look closely at the longer types of content in the next sections, but here, let’s touch upon the shorter elements like URL names, photo descriptions, file names, and alt text.
All the above pieces should be both keywords rich and also relatively short. That means that all files or URL names on your site shouldn’t contain any random strings of self-generated letters, numbers, and signs but meaningful descriptions that contain the right keywords.
Module 4. Optimize your on-site SEO content
Your site’s long content plays a big role in your SEO strategy. Here are a few elements of this type of content that you should evaluate for SEO:
- On-page structure: Check that all your pages have the correct heading structure (h1-h7).
- SEO title tags and meta description for Google search: Use your target keywords in your meta description, but make them as appealing as possible since they’re generally what’s displayed below your page’s title in the search results. Interestingly enough, the Google algorithm changes the actual title tags in more than 60% of cases.
- Headings, subheadings, and body copy: Ensure they’re optimized for keywords.
- Image names: Verify that images are properly named on your site and in the file name. Provide alt text for all your images.
Module 5. Content marketing and strategies with SEO for SaaS
First, fill your site with content that solves the problems of your users, ideally using your product. You can start with shorter blog posts that are built around the target keywords on your list and afterward dive into longer articles.
Content marketing with a blog isn’t a fast game. It’s best to wait 3-6 months to see what gets traction, and then expand successful pieces into larger resources. Writing longer pieces of content is always beneficial as it ranks higher in Google algorithms as they usually are seen as having more authority and information.
Once you’ve established your position as a strong knowledge-based place for your readers, you can provide more comprehensive pieces like e-books or guides. You can also conduct research in your area of expertise which gives another reason for users to visit your website and provides you with backlinks by quoting your research.
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How to come up with ideas for your blog posts?
A great place to focus on when designing your SEO content are the pain points that we’ve mentioned earlier. These descriptions give you a starting point to build content for your blog. Your team has a plethora of knowledge to share with your audience that’s based on their experience with the product and your customers. Make sure to translate that knowledge into interesting and informative content.
While there’s always evergreen content that you can produce all year round, and whose ranking will most likely be climbing up as time goes by, there’s also room for trending content relevant only for a specific period of time. That content can still bring you a lot of traffic and sales so it’s worth capitalizing on it. Google Trends and other similar solutions are great for tracking such kind of topics.
Social media and SEO
Social media marketing strategies are governed by the same principles as any digital content you create for your business. And SEO plays a crucial role in it. Any text, descriptions, image files, or URLs you use have to contain the right keywords.
Each platform has its own set of rules and guidelines that help you optimize your material to reap the largest benefits. So make sure to read what are the best practices on your chosen social media platforms and include that in your content strategy.
It’s important to stress that those sites, such as Pinterest for example, function as their own search engine. So when conducting keyword research, you need to pull the data from those sites for the keywords rankings and their volumes.
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Module 6. Clusterization with SEO
It’s important to use the topic clusters approach, where a more in-depth, longer “pillar” page targets the main keywords, while other shorter content pieces are covering related keywords. All these pages are linked to the main page.
You can divide your pages in this manner:
- Product category – basic keywords;
- Solution/industry – more specific searches that identify the buyer’s persona or industry;
- Features – specific features that the user is looking for in a solution;
- Integrations – how the software integrates with the other tools;
- Implementations – specific use cases that the user is researching.
Clusterization helps your pages not to compete with each other and bring the right user to the correct page. If people can reach the right information quickly and efficiently, it increases the possibility that they’ll make a conversion (sign up for a trial/demo) or a purchase.
Module 7. Technical SEO and optimization
The next module covers technical SEO optimization, as it plays a vital role in your site’s ranking. This is indeed a huge layer of work, as technical factors not only influence user engagement but also have some impact on the way your site is crawled, indexed, and how quickly it can rank. The fewer resources and time Google has to spend crawling and indexing a site, the faster it’s likely to rank.
You can follow this checklist to improve your technical SEO:
- Check files: sitemap.xml, robots.txt files.
- Improve site speed: Since you’re promoting a technology-based product, the least your audience expects is a fast website! Besides, page speed is a direct ranking factor. One of the popular and helpful tools is PageSpeed Insights to discover elements that are affecting your site’s speed and get actionable tips to improve it.
- Make your site mobile-friendly: Mobile traffic accounts for more than half of web traffic globally. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check the mobile-friendliness of your website.
- Fix broken links: When it comes to technical SEO, broken links can be one of your biggest enemies. Screaming Frog can help you make broken links audits. If you’ve recently removed a page from your site, make sure you create a 301 redirect that automatically redirects your visitors to the new content.
- Compress images: This decreases the loading speed of your pages.
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Module 8. User experience and behavior
User experience metrics are important ranking signals. With the A.I.-based algorithm, Google can recognize whether a search result is relevant for the users. For example, content that isn’t getting a high enough click-through rate (CTR) will be deemed irrelevant.
Here are some user experience metrics to focus on:
- Click-through Rate (CTR): how many people are clicking on your link when it appears in the search results;
- Bounce Rate: the ratio of single sessions to all sessions;
- Avg. Session Duration: average time users spend on your pages;
- Page loading time;
- Easy navigation;
- Mobile phone optimization.
Don’t get lost in SEO metrics
It’s so easy to get entangled in the SaaS SEO metrics and strategy that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Let’s take an example of the bounce rate, which is usually represented in percentages, where low means a good bounce rate and high means the opposite. In other words, you don’t want users to come to your website and ‘bounce’ – you want them to stay exploring different sites. That’s a simple explanation. However, as you can imagine that can’t always be a good thing.
If users are looking for your contact information, they should have a very easy time finding it. The bounce rate for contact pages can be close to 100%, hence technically speaking, that’s a very poor bounce rate, but we logically assume that it isn’t bad for the site. Users came to the contact page, got the contact, and left. That’s what you’d expect and that’s a good result and will score highly on UX.
Another element is poor navigation. If users keep circulating around your site bringing the bounce rate low, this isn’t really a good thing. They’re confused and can’t find what they’re looking for and the UX here is poor, regardless of a good bounce rate.
All in all, every metric has to be seen in the larger context of the entire framework in order to draw reliable conclusions that’ll actually improve your digital presence.
How SEO metrics translate into actionable insights for UX
People might use Google to search for a particular query and find themselves on one of your pages. How they interact with your page and its content defines the UX.
Most of the pages don’t have videos that’ll show how to navigate their website. Hence, the navigation process should be simple and intuitive. If you have a lot of valuable content but the users can’t seem to get to it once they find themselves on your website, that’s a big problem. That’s why focus groups can be so helpful as they can point to the place where they feel lost on your website.
For a technology-based solution, you can use apps like Dynamic Heatmaps that show exactly how a user behaves on your page. The ‘hot’ areas represent those places on your page that users interact a lot with, while the ‘cold’ areas are those that users don’t seem to be interested in. If your key sale points or other important information happens to lie within the cold area, your page asks for a tune-up.
Module 9. Link building
One essential aspect of your SaaS SEO is link building. At your disposal you have internal and external link building.
If you have a blog, it’s easy to always have several links directing users to the other parts of your websites, primarily, your landing pages, trial, and demo pages as well as other relevant blog posts. This will help both visitors and the search engines indexing tools find their way around more easily.
As for the external links, they can be inbound and outbound. The outbound links will contain those links that come out of your site, such as references to other websites and to your social media sites. Be careful to link out to reputable resources. Links to external authorities bring more credibility to your content and help your site be associated with “better neighborhood” sites – this is what you need for your SEO performance.
The inbound links, also called backlinks, are references that take users from an external site to yours. These are considered the most precious in link building as they contribute significantly to Google search rankings. Not surprisingly, they aren’t easy to obtain outside of using a link building service. So here are some ideas:
- Directory listings: First, list your product on SaaS directories like G2 and Capterra. Being featured on ProductHunt and similar sites is also very helpful.
- Integrations listings: If you’ve built any integrations, make sure your company info is listed on the integration partner’s side and a backlink to your site is included.
- Co-marketing: There are plenty of ways to do this. One of them is to figure out what other non-competitive businesses are already reaching your target customers and see if there are any opportunities to exchange promotions. If all goes well, you may want to build a deeper relationship by developing future resources or helpful articles together.
- Guest post: Creating content for other pages lets you redirect users back to your own page.
Keep your eyes on the target with SEO – your SaaS KPIs
It’s easy to get lost in optimizing your pages and tracking multiple metrics. But at the end of the day, if your sales aren’t improving, your tactics need some revision.
There are many vanity metrics that don’t translate into your sales. Some can be informative and evaluate what’s actually useful for your SaaS company. If a high increase in your social media traffic only brought you a fraction of new users, maybe a change in social media marketing strategy is required.
But remember that the pendulum may swing too far the other way. Some techniques bring conversions only after a specific period of time, or once it reaches a certain volume. So take some time to see if your strategies are worth keeping or you really need to change them
Last but not least, remember that not every part of your content needs to convert to sales. In fact, each element, each button of your website has a different purpose. Assess their functionality based on what they are supposed to achieve. The only true conversion place is the place where a person hits the ‘buy’ button, everything else creates a funnel.
Other elements that show different types of conversion:
- Requesting a demo;
- Contacting sales;
- Downloading an ebook or a guide;
- Signing up for a free trial;
- Subscribing to your newsletter;
- Registering for an account.
Search engine optimization is essential for every SaaS company. Actually, without proper SEO strategy many SaaS businesses wouldn’t be able to stay afloat. Moreover, SEO helps to attract good traffic to your website, spread the word about your brand or product, and reduce your dependency on paid ads.
At the same time, since SaaS companies are deeply rooted in technology and the digital world by definition, they understand its importance and possible impact. To ensure an increase in traffic and sales conversion, SaaS businesses should focus on implementing SEO and updating it to the ever-changing demands of the market and Google algorithms.