SEO for SaaS needs some core elements to be successful. We talk you through how to center UX, optimize site structure, find meaningful keywords, build topical relevance, scale content, build links, and more.
SEO for SaaS Companies
There are a lot of SaaS companies out there, which means that rising to the top of the SERPs can be especially challenging. Other challenges? Converting search engine traffic, whether through PPC or organic search results, into paying customers. If you manage that, you then have to successfully scale your efforts so your traffic — and conversions — keep growing. While there’s no magic bullet that can guarantee the wins your software as a service company is after, there are usable tricks of the SEO trade. Here are a handful of SaaS SEO strategies that have been proven to work for our SaaS clients at LOCOMOTIVE Agency.
1. Center Experience(s)
Even before Google’s much-touted Page Experience Update entered the collective search engine optimization consciousness, good SEOs knew that centering a user’s experience (UX) made for happy search engines, happy website visitors, and happy customers. A mobile-friendly site design, safe browsing, a secure HTTPS, and no annoying pop-ups have been part of Google search’s ranking factors for a while now. The Page Experience Update will expand these to include what are called Core Web Vitals. There are three of them:
- How fast a page loads, measured by Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). LCP is the amount of time it takes for the largest visual element on a page to load.
- Speed of interactivity, measured by the First Input Delay (FID). FID is the time that passes between a user’s action on a page — like when they click a button — and the browser’s response to that action.
- Visual stability, measured by the Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). CLS is how stable or unstable a page’s elements are when a user scrolls through it.
2. Optimize Site Structure
Pay Special Attention to Your Homepage
For many SaaS businesses, especially startups and others that are still getting established, the marketing site’s homepage deserves special consideration. In addition to the fact that any PR efforts, backlinks, and the like are probably going to point directly to your homepage, newcomers and potential customers are going to land there first, too. It’s vital that they’re helped to quickly understand what it is your company offers and why they can’t live, work, or play without it. But search engines need that fast understanding, too. For more in-depth information on the importance of the homepage for SaaS SEO, check out Pawel Grabowski’s Search Engine Journal article on the subject.
3. Conduct Meaningful Keyword Research
The idea of keyword research is so ubiquitous that most of our grandmothers probably have an inkling as to its meaning. However, performing keyword research that’s competitive, effective, and actionable, i.e. finding the right keywords, is decidedly more than just a general idea.
You need to take a multi-pronged approach to keyword research that considers more than just long-tail keywords, common search queries, and search volume. Here’s a look at a couple ways to get started.
Competitive Keyword Analysis for SaaS: A Quick Overview
Assuming you have a good grasp of your product and product category, start with answering a general question along the lines of, “What search queries would we like our company to rank on the first page of Google (or Bing, or YouTube, etc.) for?” Plug each search query into a search engine, and record the SaaS companies that are on the first page of the search engine results. From there, it’s time to engage in a little Competitor Analysis.
Digging in with SEO Tools
Enter each of these competitors’ domains into a tool like SEMrush, Moz, or ahrefs. Download their keyword reports into a spreadsheet, and then combine those spreadsheets into a single spreadsheet. Deduplicate your data (you can do this in both Excel and Google Sheets). The result is a highly relevant — and lengthy — batch of keywords that your higher-ranking competitors are utilizing.
From here, you can prioritize keywords with high search volume and low competition (also called keyword difficulty) for both paid ads and content.
While search queries are certainly some of the primary markers by which search engines locate and rank content, how those queries live on your website matters a lot. Using search queries in a way that results in search engines’ rewarding higher rankings is called “topical relevance”. Topical relevance is about expertise and trust. It’s about your entire website and whether or not the words and phrases you’re using and trying to rank for are actually a part of thorough, sophisticated, and authoritative content throughout your site. Ideally, your SaaS business has some topics that you can really, really talk, write, podcast, video, and webinar about. Content that’s inside of and connected to these topics (that’s also of high-quality) will give your queries and keywords the environment they need to improve your ranking.
Here are some ways to juice your topical relevance:
- Make good connections. The pages and topics on your site should relate directly to the products and/or services you’re offering, and those topics and pages should interlink and connect to one another in a way that enhances understanding of the different topics.
- Go deep. Comprehensive, expert coverage of topics related to your business will help with rankings. Don’t just skim a subject. Be the source of information on it.
- Stay fresh. Regularly adding unique content and updating it so it stays fresh will raise your stock in search.
- Cater to use intent. Google wants to keep its customers happy, so it works very hard to make sure its results can answer a user’s search query — no matter how complex, broad, or specific. If your site contains robust and thorough content, it gives Google the confidence that your site can answer a user’s query and keep that user, i.e. Google’s customer, happy; ergo your page will get the higher ranking.
4. Content Marketing Strategy, Production, and Scalability
Speaking of content, all that keyword research can help form the basis of a solid content marketing strategy designed to improve your organic search traffic as your company grows and changes. There are a lot of content marketing strategy guides out there. We won’t rehash those offerings here. We will, however, mention a couple pitfalls that SaaS companies, in particular, need to be on the lookout for.
SaaS Content Should Be Tailored to Paying Customers
It’s common practice for software as a service businesses to offer trials to convince users to become customers. While this may be a good sales tactic, it can muddy your content waters if you’re developing content for trial users — most of whom will never become paying customers. To stay on track, stick to creating content for your Buyer Personas — semi-fictional representations of your best or ideal customers. Create topically relevant, keyword rich content that understands their pain points and makes their lives better.
Scalability in Content Production
If you’re a massive SaaS (think HubSpot or Salesforce) with great brand recognition and a loyal and increasing customer base, scaling your content production is something you’ve likely already mastered. For smaller SaaS businesses or startups, it can be tempting to try and do too much when business begins to boom, which can lead to poor quality content and content that no longer serves larger or changing business goals. To avoid this, it’s essential that your content creation cadence from the start be a scalable one.
To do that, you need to re-envision your content calendar. Most content calendars include the following information: the date when a piece of content needs to be completed, the person assigned the content, the publish date, the editor of the content, the title, the content format or medium, word count, and other applicable information. To create a more scalable content calendar, add the following:
- Additional formats. Most content can be repurposed into other formats or mediums. Have a great blog post? Assign another writer or graphic designer to create a slideshare based on the blog. Did a subject matter expert on your team knock it out of the park on an industry podcast? Assign someone to craft the transcript into a blog you can publish in a few months’ time. Did your team host a webinar filled with juicy data? Get your graphic designer to create graphs, charts, or infographics from it and publish them over the next few weeks. Utilizing the same material in different formats can save valuable research and production time, which, as you scale up, will become more and more precious.
- Refreshing content. New content ranks higher in search engines because it’s likely to be more suited to what users are currently looking for. To that end, be sure to never let your new content grow old. Every time you publish a piece of content, assign a date (at least 6 months in the future but no more than a year) and a writer to go back over it and update it with new information.
- SaaS product-centered content. Long before you need to scale your content production up, work with your product team to develop a workflow that includes them participating in content creation. That way, the product team will already be a working part of your content team when it’s time to grow.
5. Get to Link Building
Link building is one of the most difficult and most powerful SEO efforts your company can undertake. Any SEO strategy worth its salt will include it, and unfortunately, some SEO agencies and SEO freelancers cut corners to get links. Links that are poor quality or acquired in a questionable manner will almost always yield trouble down the road, so be wary when choosing a link building partner.
In order for links to be high-quality, they need to come from websites and domains that are trusted and have authority, and in order to get links like that, you need to have something worth linking to. Here are some strategies to help with quality link building:
- Fix broken backlinks. Sometimes links you’ve gotten in the past break and point to a web page that no longer exists, eroding your trust score with Google. Be sure your link building strategy includes finding broken backlinks and reaching out to webmasters to update them.
- Create linkable assets. From calculators and widgets to infographics and other visual forms of data-driven storytelling, creating content that other sites, individuals, and businesses will want to draw attention to will yield good linking opportunities that you might not even have to chase after.
- Great content plus outreach. Link building is relational. Creating great content isn’t enough to build high-quality links (but you can’t build high-quality links without it). Outreach to other sites, including blogs, news sites, and the like, is also necessary.
While an SaaS SEO campaign conducted by a reputable SEO company will likely involve much more detail than what’s presented here, these SEO elements are essential to your software company‘s success.
A SaaS Case Study Example
At LOCOMOTIVE Agency, we’ve been helping SaaS businesses improve their SEO for over ten years. One of our customers, 3dcart, a leading ecommerce software platform with big name competitors like Shopify and Big Commerce, sought our services to increase organic traffic and revenue. The result? Our efforts increased their revenue by 182% and their user growth grew 40%. Here’s a sampling of what we did.
Maximized Crawl Budget. Even Google’s resources aren’t infinite. To maximize the search engine‘s crawl budget and ensure it was crawling 3dcart’s most important pages, we optimized the robots.txt file, fixed broken links, improved internal linking and navigation, and removed orphan pages.
Improved URL Structure. Page URLs can affect search rankings, so we optimized the URL structure for web pages that needed it.
Improved User Experience. Users on the site had trouble navigating away from sub-categories and deeper pages, which negatively impacted user experience. We recommended using breadcrumbs, which also helped improve category pages’ authority.
Enhanced Mobile Usability. Our standard SEO audit includes a mobile audit. When conducting 3dcart’s, we noticed several design elements, that, if changed, would improve user engagement on mobile.
Improved CTR. We used an in-house, proprietary tool to find pages with high rankings and low click-through-rates. We improved on-page SEO to enhance their click ratio.
Built Comparison Pages. We created new landing pages that could function as hub ( or topic) pages and connect related content together in an effort to build topical relevance and authority. We also used another proprietary tool to find out whether or not all pages were fully optimized.
These are just some of the SEO services we provided 3dcart. If you’d like to learn more about the work we did with them, you can read the full case study here.
The Value of SEO for SaaS
SEO for SaaS must be a core component of your company’s digital marketing efforts for you to succeed in today’s business environment. There are real, shifting, and complex search engine algorithms, guidelines, and metrics to understand and work with, and there are real people looking online for an experience that can convince them to try one product over another. A good SEO strategy can ensure they find you and help in convincing them that the right product to try is yours.
If your SaaS company or SaaS marketing department is in need of technical SEO help, reach out to LOCOMOTIVE Agency today. We have proven experience and expertise that can help your company succeed.