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Instead of talking about “X tips to grow your traffic by veryspecificpercent this year”, let’s talk about some proven SaaS SEO strategies that will give you incredible leverage off of which to continue building your company.
What is an SEO strategy?
Strategies are different from tactics.
A SaaS SEO strategy is a long-term campaign in which you aim to build your website’s visibility online over time. An SEO strategy in elevator pitch form could be something like this:
We will increase our organic visibility in the search engines through onsite technical SEO, quality and ongoing keyword research to identify potential high-converting and high-traffic keywords relevant to our business.
That includes consistent competitor tracking to identify opportunities and vulnerabilities in our competitors and ourselves– as well as consistent content development. From there, we focus on external distribution of our content to earn links, and the vision towards becoming the go-to resource for [topic] in order to build brand awareness.
All things considered, that’s pretty straightforward–right?
But that’s just the synopsis. At this stage, no more than an idea needs to be implemented and then executed.
In order to actually drive change for your business through SEO, you need to go deep in each of the areas mentioned above:
- Onsite technical SEO;
- Ongoing keyword research and competitor insight;
- Content marketing;
- Distribution/outreach for links.
The Core Pillars Of SaaS SEO
These are the core pillars of SaaS SEO:
- You do solid onpage SEO;
- Identify your top keywords for your product page;
- Conduct ongoing research for potential content upgrades that to widen the top of your customer funnel;
- Create consistent, high-value content to satisfy the needs of your potential customers;
- Aim to become a trusted resource hub of information in your industry.
SEO Is a Marathon–Steady, Consistency Wins
SEO is not one-and-done. Like most anything of value, it takes time but pays off in the end. And then some.
You do not “do my site’s SEO” any more than you develop a new feature for your software, set it live to your users, and then move on to developing the next one.
You simply don’t do that. You do the research into what your customers need, you build that and get feedback along the way, then you release it. You have to nurture your SEO. Think of SEO as your garden–the harvest is coming!
After you release the new feature, you monitor it for bugs, fix those as well as you can, and have a plan set forth for the adoption of the new feature. SaaS SEO works exactly the same way.
And in a SaaS business like yours, scalability is key. You need to drive more and more traffic through the door to keep things growing and meet important KPIs. A consistent SEO strategy is a great way to get you there.
Strategy 1: Get specific with keyword targeting
Most SaaS companies I speak with are not clear on who their ideal audience is or the kind of business with whom they best work. They really have trouble nailing down their customer persona and target audience.
At this point, you know whether you are going for enterprise (big ocean, fewer fish) customers and thus require a sales team, or whether you are able to make the self-service model work at scale.
Both have their positives and negatives. If you are approaching a million in ARR (annual recurring revenue), you know which one you are targeting. If not, drop us a line–we have just the team to give you that leg up!
Now that you know who your audience is, you can target those ideal people with content on your site.
Say you run a “financial intelligence” software company. Basically, you provide a platform for them to plug in all of their data and get a one-shot view of their finances.
We’re talking personal finances here, not business finances. It’s a crowded space, but you have a special sauce that will let you overtake the incumbents.
At your core, you are a financial dashboard software company, not a services company.
So your messaging needs to be around that and who you do it for.
You look in SEMrush and see that [financial dashboard] has 380 exact searches per month, with a lot of long-tail traffic around it.
And when we go to Google.com and enter “financial dashboard for”, you see the opportunities for individual pages off of that first search query:
Then you can go deeper using SEMrush (paid tool) or Moz Explorer (paid tool).
Google’s Adwords tool can get you started, but their volume ranges are not to be trusted.
Your goal is to end up with something like this that takes these ideal customers deeper:
Strategy 2: Consistent content development coupled with big launches
You can rank for semi-competitive keywords without links from other websites–but it’s damn near impossible.
We’ll talk about links in the next section. The best links start with consistent content development that builds your brand in the space as a thought leader and provides outsized value across the conversion funnel.
Then the content is used for bigger brand launches that earn attention, social shares, press (links), email addresses, and search traffic all on its own. It goes without saying that organic traffic is the best traffic.
This is called the ‘rule of thirds’–in marketing speak.
We talked about defining your personas and market above, so you should know who your best customer is now.
From here, you can put together a comprehensive plan to create content that matters, get in front of your audience with new material, and use this to build links that help your content rank so that others can discover you as well.
It’s a virtuous cycle–and circle.
Audit Your Content
Let’s talk for a minute about the content you’re developing and the topics you’re covering, going back to when your company started.
As a SaaS company, your marketing likely initially focused on launching, funding, and whatever else pertains to your brand. You do whatever is needed to get it off the ground, and that includes telling your or your founder’s story to anyone who would listen. You ground it out to get those first 100 customers and 1,000 true fans.
As your company grows and matures, things start to change.
You’re becoming a player in your vertical. Maybe you’re still the only player (wildly rare–enjoy it while it lasts!), and thus you have some genuine name recognition in your industry.
Now you get to build a content strategy that is consistent, targeted, and efficient at being spread.
Since we are talking about SaaS SEO in this article, I’m not going to go deep into email marketing strategies. But I would be doing you a disservice to not mention that email is one of the best ways to spread your content to pre-qualified leads who have said that they are specifically interested in hearing from you.
But I digress. Now back to your content strategy.
Consistent Content Is Key
Think about the content that you consume online.
A few years back, subscribing to an RSS feed was normal and what most of us did. You could expect consistent content from them, and read everything. Google Reader was my regular stop, not Twitter.
Those days have passed and people now follow other people instead of entities, for the most part. But, the content that gets spread and shared tends to be content that is regularly produced and comprehensive.
As I wrote about, the number one reason marketing fails is lack of implementation.
That is to say, consistency is the key to a committed audience.
I’m not talking about content for the sake of content here. The idea of “SEO content” should have died years ago, because it doesn’t work. Rarely do you conduct a Google search and come across some 500-word article that some random company wrote on their blog for the sake of “targeting SEO keywords”.
Content works for SaaS SEO when applied over time–nice and steady. And because the content is hard to make on a consistent basis, you should try to block off time and get on a regular publishing schedule.
Otherwise, you likely fall behind schedule. Believe me–I’ve been there and blocked time really does help.
Some of you are like me and write/publish because you love it, but I’d also bet that many of you are not that way and need some external motivation (traffic, money, peer pressure, accountability) to do it. That’s good. That comes through in your writing in most cases, and your audience appreciates candid and helpful information.
How Often To Publish Content
When it comes to content frequency, there is no correct frequency. There is no evidence that publishing more or less encourages Googlebot to crawl you more often, so let go of that idea if you’ve heard it.
Instead, focus on what is sustainable for your business. If that’s one long-form piece of content per week, then commit to that. This has been shown to correlate positively to increased traffic and conversions from SEO simply because content equals more keywords targeted equals the potential for more links acquired equals more traffic.
According to research, just declaring that you want to do something or watching motivating videos, or even planning something out doesn’t correlate to a stronger likelihood of success.
What does correlate to better success?
Declaring your intention to do it and committing to a schedule. So pick a day of the week (or two days per week) and publish on those every week, rain or shine.
Target Your Audience
We’ve already talked about defining your audience and learning who your best customer is. As you’re planning out and creating, you should have one specific audience or person in mind. Write directly to that person.
Don’t try to reach every potential person when you write. Write for the person at the company that you are trying to acquire–such as a VP of Marketing at a SaaS company doing a million or more dollars a year in revenue.
Getting really specific with this. It’s unimaginably helpful and generally makes the writing process much easier.
Focus On Brand Awareness
It should go without saying, but you can’t just write content and expect it to be found.
These are the days of pay-to-play. “Build it and they will come” does work these days so stop playing on a field of dreams. Instead set up content to be spreadable–that is helpful and helps build your brand awareness.
Brand awareness and brand-building is the goal here.
Build an email list and be in contact with them consistently (see creating content consistently above).
Have influencers you email to spread the word.
Have a group of friends who will promote your stuff.
Protip: Try to acquire answer boxes in Google
This is one of my favorite strategies currently for companies investing in content for SaaS SEO purposes.
Check out this opportunity:
This random website has the Featured Snippet for [how to write a resume], which has 90,500 exact monthly searches in Google! This article is probably receiving ~75% of the clicks for this query.
That is a lot of traffic, and this success can be replicated!
Strategy 3: Templates not pages
One mistake I see a lot of SaaS brands make is constructing a website that is organized to lead to optimal traffic and conversions. Often, there is also very little focus on UX (user experience) and UI (user interface).
In my experience, many SaaS companies are started by developers who know how to build technology but are not focused on the user and their needs.
Consequently, I then hear from these companies about their “marketing site.” If you’ve ever worked inside a tech company, then you probably know that marketing teams are rarely respected by the other business units.
Here’s looking at you, sales teams. Joking, of course–mostly.
In many cases, developers don’t want to work on things pertaining to audience acquisition. Designers think they’d be stuck designing visual marketing materials, and–because analytics and attribution can be tough to track–business units within companies think marketing is a waste of money, time, and effort.
As a brand, you can’t lose track of the importance of constantly and consistently growing your content–including more pages on your site.
Instead of thinking about “marketing pages” like specific landing pages (which have their place for campaigns, but often are fairly worthless for SaaS SEO), think about the types of pages that you have on your site.
Do Your Pages Cover All the Bases?
Of course, you have your homepage, your About page, and other basic pages.
But what about your product pages?
Your persona pages?
Your demo pages that hit different stages of the funnel?
For instance, we have a lot of different taxonomies on the Credo website like services, business verticals, and more in addition to blog posts, guides (email and ecommerce), and conversion-oriented pages.
These are the pages that rank and drive traffic, so don’t neglect them. A one-page website may convert well, but you miss out on so much “free” organic traffic that the conversion rate means very little.
Blow open the top of that funnel.
Strategy 4: Improve clickthrough rates on low CTR pages
With all that said, let’s keep focus on improving your SEO–with extra focus on the optimization part.
After all, you can’t optimize what you don’t have.
Hopefully, the above helped you learn to swim first. Now let’s do some swimming!
Let’s assume that you have a couple of hundred pages on your site. Let’s also assume most are targeted to specific terms in your industry.
Using Google’s Search Console, you can identify the terms for which you are ranking but have relatively low clickthrough rates. These pages are in danger of not ranking as well since they are not satisfying the user intent.
Here’s what you might see (this is from my personal website) when you go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics and select Impressions and CTR (click-through rate) as well:
I have a few terms there that are not super relevant for the audience I might be targeting e.g. “long URL example”. But there are some there that are very relevant for my business, such as “how long does SEO take” and “how to find clients for consulting business”. I could improve my clickthrough rates to get more traffic on these.
There are many ways to improve your clickthrough rate, including:
- Rank better. This is usually possible to do and improves CTRs almost immediately;
- Optimizing your titles and meta descriptions for clicks;
- Use relevant keywords for your content so Google bolds them;
- Entice the click with your title;
- Get the Featured Snippet (mentioned above).
The key to this strategy is prioritizing the keywords that are relevant to your business while you ignore the terms that are not relevant to your business.
I rank for some relatively random terms (like “meta author”) with old posts, but they’re not relevant to my business now because they’re targeted to the wrong users. So I won’t waste time trying to increase those, but terms like “how to get consulting clients” are very relevant to my interests.
Once you have this list of keywords, then you can diagnose any issues with your CTR.
Strategy 5: Break down team silos internally
Often when we’re talking about SaaS SEO strategies we talk about creating content, optimizing your site structure, and all the typical “SEO” things.
But as your brand grows, communication becomes hard and people have competing interests.
This presents major challenges for SaaS SEO as SEO involves your whole company, including:
All of these are required, so getting everyone on the same page that audience acquisition is important is one of the best things you can do to drive SEO forward.
At companies I’ve worked for in the past, SEO only really worked when we had buy-in across the company and a dedicated team working on it.
This meant that budgets were allocated specifically for SEO (for content primarily), engineers and designers were assigned to help with SEO tasks (both front end and back end technically), the analytics and business teams understood the purpose and helped to measure the return on efforts, and sales understood that they were the front line of communication with clients. A well-oiled machine.
The point is, getting your whole team onboard is key to SEO success.
This means the educational time around SEO for the company, consistent messaging about SEO’s importance in all-company meetings, and consistent reporting on the progress made.
Break down the silos and you’ll be more effective than building a few more links or writing some more content.