SEO for SaaS businesses: A winning commercial approach
SaaS (software as a service) SEO is the practice of leveraging SEO strategies to get users not only onto your website, but also further down the buyer’s journey with a view to purchasing or subscribing to your product.
As with other digital acquisition channels, SEO plays an important role in enhancing the visibility of your website and its SaaS product on search engines. This can be done via the practices that fall under the umbrellas of technical SEO and content SEO, such as performance optimisation or targeted keyword research.
There are some important differences and considerations when it comes to SEO, what with the sign-up and subscription-based model of SaaS products. Let’s take a look.
Why is SaaS SEO different to traditional SEO?
The foundational SEO work (getting your website technically sound and user-friendly, with a solid content backbone) is still important. However, with the SaaS model — which is often subscription-based and loyalty-reliant — in mind, you need a really precise approach when it comes to content and the overall buyer journey.
Any SaaS business in any industry will have a list of competitors they are trying to outperform. A quick search for a software service, such as an “instant messaging provider”, will render a host of results with familiar players such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Rocket Chat, and WhatsApp Business. If you’re trying to vie for space in this niche, you’ll need to consider ways to set your product apart from these suppliers by conveying your USPs in your content offering.
You’ll also need to establish a content strategy that takes the stages of the buyer funnel into account. Looking at the various types of search intent, you’ll need to create a content offering that caters for users in the initial informational stage, as well as users who are further down the purchase funnel in the buyer consideration or commercial stage. A lot of this will hinge on what makes your product different from the others on the market and what pain points it solves in comparison to other SaaS solutions.
Alongside attracting new users and buyers, you’ll also need to consider an SEO content strategy that keeps existing customers engaged and loyal. While this area of the buyer journey may largely hinge on email and social media marketing, your content will need to address any new feature offerings of your product or special offers to keep your customers subscribed and, ideally, to upsell.
When it comes to devising such a multi-faceted, funnel-based content strategy, you’ll need to take a different approach to your keyword research.
How to approach a content strategy for SaaS SEO
For non-SaaS businesses, the content strategy process may entail analysing keyword opportunities bucketed by topical categories relevant to your business. You may also identify a series of low-hanging fruit search terms that could be quick-win traffic drivers. This is still relevant when it comes to the everyday approach of SaaS SEO content enhancement, though you will need to form a separate strategy that caters for buyers existing and potential.
Talk to your product team first
While your SEO teams will be readily able to gather a list of potential search terms to target that are based around your SaaS product, your content strategy for the informational buyer will need to consider USPs and pain points. Ensure your SEO and content teams are in dialogue with the product teams or the engineering teams behind the SaaS tool. There should be a company-wide understanding of why the SaaS product was created and what it does differently to its competitors:
What features does the product have that outperform competitors or simply don’t exist elsewhere?
What common feedback do the product or customer service teams receive when it comes to how the software is solving their common pain points?
Why did the founders create it in the first place and is there a passionate brand story involved?
This will give your SEO and content teams some great initial ideas for early buyer-stage content.
Assess how other channels are approaching their marketing
Aligning your content strategy on a cross-channel basis is always a good approach. While the formats of social media or email marketing are vastly different in their content styling to SEO, there will still be a series of common topics, touchpoints and targeted selling points of your SaaS product.
Social media marketing may highlight video demos with a list of key features that set it apart from the rest.
Paid search, for example, may prove a useful source of strategic learning points for SEO, with the types of keywords being targeted to capture new customers looking for certain product features or solutions.
Talk to your colleagues and try to get an understanding of what works and what doesn’t in driving engagement and conversions. This will be useful when you devise a series of keyword types to target in your content strategy.
Map out your keyword strategy from buyer personas
Armed with everything you need to know about your SaaS product’s USPs, pain point solutions, and what’s working across other channels, a good way to map out your keyword strategy is to start by devising buyer personas. These personas can be made to reflect different stages of the consumer journey, all the way from right at the start of the exploration phase to existing consumers whom you want to retain. Taking the persona of a user who is yet to discover your brand, start brainstorming. Consider their demographics, passions, likes, dislikes, and where they are professionally.
If you are a SaaS provider that offers solutions in project management automation for example, consider your buyer persona and devise a series of problems and blockers a potential buyer may be facing in their role, and how this relates to your product. Many SaaS products offer solutions for various industries, with a project management product potentially suitable for any professional persona who works in an office-related role. What might be their common blockers and how might they be searching for this? Search terms like “project management efficiency” or “saving time on project management” may be prescient, so build out a buyer persona-based keyword strategy from there. Make sure your buyer persona keyword strategies account for various stages of the purchase process, from awareness to consideration and beyond.
What keywords are your competitors targeting?
You may already know what sets your product apart from the rest in terms of its USP features, but outside of targeting this, you’ll still need to keep up with your competitors and spot gaps. Specific search terms and a persona-based strategy will work, though you’ll still need to mark in ground in the more general keyword types that your product attaches itself to. There will, of course, still be a lot of search volume opportunities for broader terms like “project management tools”, “project management solutions” or “efficient project management”. While some of these may be tough to rank highly for in search results, you will still need to be in the mix for them. Look for gaps where there might be broader search terms your competitors aren’t ranking well for and assess opportunities there.
What’s the role of link building and digital PR for SaaS SEO?
Outside of content strategies and ongoing on-page optimisation, the off-page considerations of a SaaS SEO strategy carry huge weight. Even with a strong content offering that celebrates a product with USPs that solve particular pain points, you’ll still need to build authority and improve visibility and recognition in your industry. Link building activities will depend on your budget breadth, though there are a number of areas to consider.
Unlinked mentions/brand reclamations
A common low-effort, high-reward link building strategy is to scour the web for mentions of your brand or SaaS product, where the site isn’t linking back to yours. This may be in the form of comparison articles, listicles or press releases. There are many tools which your SEO teams can use to help automate this process and generate a list. Similarly, there may also be plentiful instances where there are backlinks going to your product’s site that are broken, either by mistake or by pointing to out-of-date URLs. Use this as a chance to reach out to these webmasters to improve your backlink profile.
Review site features
It’s important to work on your entity SEO as a part of your link-building and digital PR efforts for your SaaS product. Outside of larger review platforms such as Trustpilot, there will no doubt be review sites that are specific to your industry. Sign up to these and grab a spot for your SaaS product, encouraging users to discover your product and subsequently review it. If your SaaS product does what it says it will, then the positive reviews will start coming in and overall brand awareness will improve.
General digital PR tactics
There are plenty of ways to increase your brand visibility and obtain potential backlinks, many of which don’t require huge budgets. Looking for more coverage? Reach out to platforms that interview business owners in your niche, whether it’s podcasts or blogs. Start your own podcast or video series too. Publish studies and whitepapers reflective of the work in your industry and how this relates to your SaaS product, and get these featured in relevant publications. Consider partaking in webinars, applying for speaking slots at industry conferences and, if possible, sponsorship opportunities too.
What is the role of schema markup and structured data in SaaS SEO?
For businesses involved in eCommerce SEO, reviewing structured data markup on your SaaS product pages, if this is relevant, can be a great way to stand out from competitors in the search results. If you’re confident your current users love your product, then encourage them to leave reviews on your website (as well as on third-party platforms). Configuring review schema on these pages will give your product a strong chance of its star review score being shown in search results. Not only does this encourage trust and a good reputation, but will ensure you stand out in search results, encouraging a higher potential click through rate.
How do I measure success in my SaaS SEO efforts?
Keyword rankings and organic traffic to your website are important metrics to track. However, given your ultimate goal is to get users to convert, you’ll need a better way of assessing the commercial success attributes of your work.
This can be done by grouping certain keyword rankings into commercial or transactional intent buckets. This can relate to keywords that strongly signify an intention to purchase, subscribe or download.
Moving further down the funnel, you’re going to want to take a more in-depth look at how users are behaving on your site once they’ve clicked through from these rankings. Are they spending more time on your site? Is there a clear improvement in terms of engagement and are you seeing clear signs of increased conversions via form submissions, email sign-ups, and subscriptions?
Setting up a clear set of goal frameworks in your analytics suites is the best way to measure the success of your SaaS SEO efforts. From here, you will also be able to calculate important acquisition metrics such as CPA, CLV, and churn rate, among others, and how your SEO campaigns perform in these areas.
SEO plays a vital role in the growth of any online SaaS business. As we’ve detailed, there are many tactics that you can undertake to grow the visibility of your product on search engines. Getting users past the awareness phase and into the consideration and then purchase phase is the tricky part.
This is where you really need to devise a tight content marketing strategy that touches on what’s unique about your product, while answering those questions commonly asked by your audience base, as highlighted by your keyword research. Create a clear buyer journey through your content offering while highlighting the USPs of your product and keep on producing great features and content to keep your user base engaged.
About the author
Michael Carden-Edwards is SEO Strategy Lead at Reddico. A seasoned SEO and digital marketing expert with 13+ years of experience, Michael has directed SEO strategies for major brands like British Airways and O2 as well as conducting countless public and internal SEO training sessions. Based in Sevilla, he joined Reddico in 2021, enjoying the flexible working and unique culture from a sunnier climate.
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