SaaS SEO is one of the best ways to boost the online presence of your SaaS product. It’s a complementary route to paid advertising that pays dividends well into the future.
This article will reveal how to run an effective SaaS SEO strategy. I’ll cover this in two categories, first discussing the best SEO strategy for SaaS startups before looking at SaaS SEO for established brands. But first;
What Is SaaS SEO?
SaaS SEO is the process of using search engine optimization techniques to rank and drive relevant organic search traffic to a SaaS website. SaaS SEO relies on a combination of high-quality content production and on and off-page SEO practices to promote organic growth.
The main goal of SaaS SEO is to boost the SaaS website’s search engine rankings for relevant keywords so that it’s one of the first results search engines show to potential customers. Higher search rankings ensure a SaaS website receives consistent traffic from relevant search queries.
Why SEO Is Important for SaaS
What do HubSpot, Monday.com, and Mailchimp have in common? They all rank highly for relevant search queries within their industries. In other words, they’ve all invested crazy amounts of resources into SEO. There’s a reason behind this.
So here are some of the reasons that make the strongest case for running an SEO campaign for your software company:
1. SEO Is Scalable
SEO is one of the most scalable customer acquisition strategies around. Think about it. With PPC, there’s only so much you can pay for the clicks until you reach a point of diminishing returns. Plus, the more lucrative a keyword, the higher the competition and the more you’ll have to pay per click.
That’s not to say SEO is easier. It’s not. It’s not quick either. SEO takes time to produce results. But here’s the thing. Once those results kick in, you’ll experience exponential growth rapidly.
Every piece of content you publish will rank almost instantaneously, pulling in tons of qualified traffic. That’s how big SaaS brands like Monday.com manage to attract millions of site visitors per month.
Aura is another example of a SaaS company that has grown tremendously thanks to a robust SaaS SEO strategy. The company focused on building topical authority by producing quality content around its core product offerings.
They then partnered with our SaaS SEO agency to secure powerful backlinks. Aura saw its organic traffic grow from 10,000 to over 130,000 within 18 months.
This kind of scalable growth can only come from a good SEO strategy.
2. SEO Is Cost-Effective Long-Term
SEO is a cost-effective SaaS marketing strategy. As mentioned above, SEO does not kick in right away. It takes time to convince Google that your site is an authority in your niche.
Therefore, in the early stages of your SEO campaign, it typically feels like you’re investing a lot and not getting much out of it. But as the results trickle in, your entire investment starts paying off.
What’s more, you end up spending less while still driving more qualified leads to your website – a perfect snowball effect. Even the content you produced in the early stages will start to rank. That’s the compounding effect of SEO. And you can expect this to lower your customer acquisition costs considerably.
This is in contrast to other marketing techniques like PPC. Paid campaigns can get you leads and customers as soon as the campaign goes live. But then it won’t be long before you’re pulled into more competitive keywords and forced to spend more per click. This is not very sustainable, right?
3. SEO Supports Other Marketing Channels
Finally, SEO can support your marketing efforts on other channels. For example, you may be using LinkedIn to promote your software company to B2B decision-makers. After coming across your LinkedIn content for a while, a prospect may search for topics related to your industry. Some may even go as far as doing branded searches.
If you have a good SEO strategy in place, your brand will show up in the search results. The increased online presence of your brands makes you appear as a leader in your niche.
It doesn’t stop there, either. A good SEO strategy can boost your paid campaigns too. Consider Google ads as an example. These ads typically appear at the top of the SERPs. If you’re able to rank for the keywords you’re also bidding for, you increase the chances of capturing even more traffic for that keyword.
Remember that 80% of the people who recognize search ads refuse to click on them. Your SEO efforts can help you capture this traffic. Plus, it’s always good to have a strong presence on the SERPs. Being able to rank organically for the keywords you’re also bidding on can only benefit your brand.
Enough with the importance of SEO. Let’s now see how to prep for your SEO campaign.
Consider Your Situation
Before you get into the nitty-gritty of SaaS SEO, take a minute to consider your situation. Here’s what I mean.
Scale Up Vs. Established Brand
Let’s do a little exercise:
Imagine that your SaaS sits on a scale between one and ten. On the extreme left of the scale, you have a brand-new website. On the extreme right, you have a well-established website with thousands of blog posts.
Right away, isn’t it obvious that the two websites will need different approaches to things like keyword research and internal linking?
An established website may enjoy a higher domain authority, meaning it can target competitive keywords. In contrast, the new website will place a higher priority on long-tail keywords with lower keyword difficulty to increase its chances of ranking.
For emphasis, this article will focus on websites that fall on the extreme left and right of our imaginary scale. Your SaaS probably falls somewhere in the middle, but you probably want to start thinking about what well-established websites are doing.
Factors to Review
Here are the other factors you need to consider:
- Existing Website Traffic: How much monthly traffic is your website getting? What are your most-visited pages? Having the answers to these questions can help you adjust your SEO strategy accordingly. For example, if you’re an established website with dozens of published articles but low traffic, you may want to start by optimizing existing content.
- Branded Search Percentage: A branded search query refers to a search query that includes a company’s name or branded product. You need to know the percentage of these search queries because it speaks to search intent and brand awareness.
- Site Domain Rating and Authority: Your site’s domain rating (DR) and authority (DA) are key metrics you need to review. Measured on a scale of one to a hundred, these metrics tell you how likely your site’s domain, subdomains, or pages are to rank on a search engine results page (SERP). The lower its DR and DA, the harder it is to rank for competitive keywords.
- Quantity of Content: How much content have you published around your topic of interest? You must cover your topic as thoroughly as possible if your site is to establish topical authority.
Reflecting on the above-described factors is essential because your situation, i.e., whether you’re starting from scratch or have some skin in the game, will dictate your approach to SaaS SEO.
How to Run an SEO Campaign for a SaaS Startup
Follow the eight steps below to create an effective SEO campaign for a SaaS startup.
Step 1: Define Your USP & Target Audience
The first step to implementing a successful SaaS SEO strategy is to define your SaaS product’s unique selling point (USP) and target audience.
List out the quality or qualities that differentiate(s) your SaaS product from its competitors. Is it its price? Perhaps, it has more product features?
Whatever the case, identifying this information will help you sell the benefits your SaaS product provides to its target audience.
Speaking of audiences, you must define who you’re targeting before putting your SEO team to work. Your audience shapes everything from your branding to the user experience your SaaS product provides.
In addition, knowledge of your audience ensures you deliver the right marketing message to the right people. Get this step wrong, and you’ll end up communicating with customers who have no intention of traveling deeper into your sales funnel.
So how do you define your target audience?
An effective way to do it is to create a customer persona, i.e., list out a collection of the demographic and psychographic data that best represents who you’ll market to.
Demographic data will include your persona’s age, gender, and occupation. Psychographics will include the persona’s values, lifestyle, interests, and so forth.
There are several ways to gather the data needed to create a buyer persona for your SaaS. You can create a survey for people who fit your persona. You can also use existing market research to determine your target audience.
Competitor analysis is another option. Who is your competitor targeting, and how are they doing it? This can give you insights into your target audience.
Step 2: Conduct a Technical Audit
After defining your target audience and unique selling point, your next step is to conduct a technical audit of your site.
Search engines like Google rely on hundreds of ranking signals. Many of these signals relate to how well a site is optimized for search. A technical audit will reveal your site’s optimization level and hence, your ability to rank.
As a newcomer in the SaaS market, it’s likely your site won’t have as much content. So, you won’t need to focus too much on ranking signals like inbound links or backlinks. Neither do you need to worry about factors like duplicate content and broken links.
Therefore, focus your optimization efforts on the following factors:
- Site Speed: According to Google, the probability of users bouncing from your site increases by 32% when page load time moves from 1 to 3 seconds. When enough people bounce off your site, it signals to search engines that your site provides a bad user experience. Search engines will respond by dropping your rankings.
You can check your site speed using a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
The tool provides suggestions on how to improve your site’s performance. Aim for a page load time of under two seconds.
- Crawlability and Indexing: When you publish content, search engines send out robotic spiders to “crawl” your content and index or file the page for later retrieval. It’s how they can present billions of search results in response to a search query.
For the above reason, you need to check any indexing issues when doing a technical audit.
Since you have a new website with few pages, you can use Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool to confirm whether each page is crawled and indexed. The report should look like this.
If the page is not indexed, click the “Request Indexing” button.
- XML Sitemap: Your website’s XML sitemap is a file that consists of all the pages you’d like search engines to index. You can create this site map using SEO tools like Yoast SEO. Check this document to ensure none of the pages you want to rank on the SERPs are missing.
The reverse is true as well. You should check your XML sitemap to ensure that restricted content, login pages, and so on are on your Noindex list.
The above list isn’t exhaustive, as there are several other factors to consider during a technical SaaS SEO audit. However, it’s an excellent starting point for SaaS Startups.
Step 3: Conduct A Competitor Analysis
When rolling out your SaaS SEO strategy as a newcomer, you can’t operate in a vacuum. You’ll have competitors offering similar products targeting the same audience and keywords. You need to know who they are and what they’re doing. More importantly, you want to know what they’re doing right.
Analyzing your competitors’ SEO strategies will provide a wealth of useful information.
You can learn about the types of keywords they’re targeting, the level of content quality you’re up against, and things like their internal linking strategy. You can use keyword research tools to get a sense of keywords to target.
Use tools like Ahrefs and Moz to discover keywords your competitors rank for.
Examine their backlink profile strength to determine the sites they’ve received links from.
This information will prove insightful when building your SEO campaign. You’ll know exactly the content quality you need to beat and the links you can try to acquire.
Step 4: Create Your Target Keyword List
Once you’re through analyzing your competition, your next step is to build a keyword list.
Start by deciding what it is you want to be known for. Next, you’ll need to identify all the relevant keywords around that topic. This will help you establish topical authority, helping you rank better and faster.
Use keyword research tools and other techniques, like customer interviews, to uncover your target keywords and content ideas.
You can use various free and paid tools to conduct keyword research. Popular ones include Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Mangools. These tools collect keyword data using Google’s API, so you can look at factors like a keyword’s monthly search volume, competitiveness (keyword difficulty), and so on.
Another popular way to do keyword research is to use Google’s features. For example, the auto-complete feature and the “People Also Ask” sections are always rich in keyword ideas.
When you type keywords into Google’s search bar, its auto-complete capability kicks in, and it suggests related keywords people are searching with.
Hit enter and scroll down the page to see more keywords in the People Also Ask section.
This is especially helpful later on when creating your article outline. It gives you relevant questions related to your target keyword.
Check out this SaaS keyword research article for more keyword research methods.
As you build your list of keywords, you’ll need to group terms and prioritize keywords with low difficulty. When you’re new, targeting the most difficult keywords is unwise, as it’ll be impossible to rank for them. Start small and gradually increase the keyword difficulty level as your rankings improve.
Step 5: Create Your SOP
Chances are your SaaS SEO strategy involves hiring an agency or building an SEO team. In that case, you need to give them guidance on how to do their jobs right. This brings us to the next step involved in running an SEO campaign for your SaaS startup: creating a standard operating procedure (SOP).
A typical SOP provides clear and concise instructions on how to complete a task. Therefore, your aim when creating one is to minimize errors and ensure consistency.
For our purposes, the SOP for your SaaS SEO campaign will likely take the form of editorial guidelines that instruct your writers and editors. It’ll cover factors like content format, keyword density, tone, regulations on including internal and external links, and so on.
It’s entirely up to you how you structure your SOP. You can use videos, text, or interactive courses, as long as it leaves your team in no doubt as to how to do their work.
For example, at Crunch Marketing, we use a combination of text and video to create our editorial guidelines. This guideline shares details on our target audience, the tone of voice, and formatting rules. It also contains login details for crucial writing tools like Frase and Grammarly.
You’ll need to create something similar for your brand.
Step 6: Create Your Content Calendar
After you’ve created your SaaS company’s SOP, your next step is to create a content calendar. Your content calendar is a schedule of every piece of content you plan to publish during a specified period.
SEO agencies, solo content creators, and other businesses use content calendars to stay organized and publish consistently. In addition, content calendars help to keep large teams in sync by giving them a point of reference when working towards individual goals.
When creating your content calendar, include the following information:
- Unpublished content and their scheduled publishing dates
- Notable dates in a calendar year around which you can create themed content (e.g., holidays and anniversaries)
- Any content-related status updates
- Scheduled reviews of existing content (where applicable)
You can create a content calendar using Google Sheets or dedicated project management software like Notion and ClickUp.
Aim to publish at least four to five blog posts a week.
That publishing frequency lets you “maximize organic traffic.”
But ultimately, the number of posts you publish per month will depend on your niche and how fast you want to scale. For example, Aura produced 15 articles a month to compete with SaaS brands that had dominated the online safety market for years.
Step 7: Build Quality Backlinks
Backlinks remain one of the most crucial search engine ranking factors. With enough of them, it’s much easier to rank and drive organic traffic to your SaaS website.
The easiest way to think of backlinks is as a vote of confidence. When an authority website links back to your SaaS site, it signals to a search engine that your content is trustworthy.
Thus, the more reputable backlinks your SaaS site earns, the more rankings and visibility it’s likely to get. That makes SaaS link-building super important.
There are several methods for building backlinks. Some effective ones include:
- Guest Posts: Using cold email outreach, you can contact relevant sites and offer to guest post or write content their visitors will find engaging. The industry expectation is that the site you write for will let you include a link that leads back to your website in exchange.
- Create Linkable Assets: You can build linkable assets like infographics and free online tools to earn backlinks.
- Influencers: You can send your SaaS product to an influencer in the same industry to do a sponsored review that links back to your site.
- Broken Link Building: Another way to earn backlinks is by finding 404 error pages on other bloggers’ websites and informing them about the dead links. You can then ask the bloggers to replace those dead links with relevant links to your site.
We have a nice guide on SaaS link-building. Check it out for more insights, including outreach email templates that can win you guest posting opportunities.
Step 8: Monitor Your Results
You must monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) throughout your SEO campaign to know where you stand.
KPIs are quantifiable metrics that help you measure how effective your SEO efforts have been over a time period. They provide insights into factors like your site’s visibility, rank, how well it converts the visitors that stick around, your customers’ behavior, and so on.
The SEO KPIs to review as a new website include:
- Organic Traffic: This KPI can tell you how well your SEO campaign has performed. A high amount of organic traffic is the clearest indicator that your campaign is on the right track.
- Average Time on Page: The average time on page reveals how long a visitor spends after landing on one of your website’s pages. When visitors spend a long time on the page, it indicates a high level of engagement with the page’s content. In addition, a visitor spending that much time on your site is more likely to convert than one who doesn’t.
- Conversion Rate: This metric measures how many people convert from site visitors into leads or customers after landing on your SaaS website. Tracking this KPI will tell you how effective your marketing content is in convincing customers to take the call-to-action specified on your website, e.g., “Get a Quote.”
- Keyword Rankings: Keyword rankings tell you how high your SaaS website ranks for its target keywords. Higher keyword rankings mean more visibility and traffic from search engines.
- Click-Through Rate: Your site’s click-through rate tells you how many visitors click through to your site after seeing it on a SERP. Your content’s title and meta description can affect your click-through rate, as they are what search engines present to a potential visitor.
Use tools like Google Analytics and Search Console to track these KPIs.
How to Run an SEO Campaign for an Established SaaS
Follow the steps below to get your efforts off to a roaring start if you’re running an SEO campaign for an established SaaS.
Step 1: Conduct a Technical SEO Audit
The first step to running an SEO campaign for an established website is to conduct a technical SEO audit. That involves making the site more search-engine-friendly using several on-page SEO techniques.
The first thing to check is your site speed. Remember, a slow-loading website can wreak havoc on your rankings by increasing your bounce rate. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how quickly your site loads and correct errors.
Next, you’ll need to use Screaming Frog or Website Auditor to analyze your site. Look for 404, 301 redirects, indexing & crawlability issues, broken links, and other errors.
Here’s an example of a site audit report for Writer.
Larger websites are also likely to encounter crawl capacity limits. Each site has a crawl budget which dictates the number of pages the Googlebot can crawl from your website within a given timeframe.
Check your Google search console to see your crawl budget. The search engine also provides a guide on how to improve crawling efficiency.
If you realize that some parts of your site aren’t getting crawled, consider checking server logs using SEMrush’s Log File Analyzer. Analyzing log files will help you identify the underlying issue.
Something else you may want to pay attention to is duplicate content issues. For this, you can refine the site search function and add “-inurl:https.” This will return all pages that may be indexed under the HTTP version of your website. Here is an example from HubSpot.
If these pages are important, redirect the URL and send users to the secure https:// version of your URL. Use the rel=“canonical” method to do this.
Finally, analyze your SaaS site’s backlink profile. You can use SEMrush’s Backlink Audit tool to assess the quality of the backlinks your site has earned.
Read our guide on technical SEO for SaaS for more information.
Step 2: Conduct a Content Audit
After conducting an on-site audit, review the data Google Search Console provides. Review the content on your site by focusing on impressions and clicks.
There will be a lot of content here to delete, update, or upgrade.
Next, analyze your targeted keywords: are there two or more posts targeting the same keyword? If yes, compare their traffic statistics to determine which is more valuable.
Also, check for lost traffic over time. For example, you can compare the last three months to three months a year ago. Google Search Console can show you which pages have had a huge drop off in traffic. Root them out and learn why.
Once you have this data, you’ll need to prioritize the pages to work on. For example, you can start by deleting unwanted pages. Next, update the underperforming content.
Step 3: Conduct Competitor Analysis
Being an established SaaS website doesn’t warrant resting on your laurels. You need to be constantly vigilant. That entails analyzing your competition and staying on top of what they’re doing.
Competitor analysis for your level of growth will look very different compared to if you were a brand new website.
In addition to examining the keywords they rank for, you’ll research your competitors’ SEO strategies, strengths, and weaknesses. The information you gather will help you improve your content to outrank them in the future.
There are several benefits to conducting competitor analysis. It helps you to:
- Discover and replicate your competitors’ winning strategies
- Identify and capitalize on your competitors’ weaknesses
- Measure your SEO performance against your competition
- Envision your niche’s competitive landscape
In essence, conducting competitor analysis lets you know who and what you’re up against and gives you the weapons to triumph.
You can analyze your competition by
Identifying and Filling Keyword Gaps
During your analysis, you may notice that your direct competitors rank for some keywords you don’t:
These gaps present the opportunity to boost your rankings. Create content around the keywords to close the gap between your SaaS and its competitors.
Here’s an example of how we conduct content gap analysis by comparing what keywords a site is ranking for vs that of its competitors.
You need to use some standardized system for reviewing how you’re doing.
Identifying Their Strengths and Weaknesses
Use factors like authority and content quality to appraise your competitors. For example, it’ll be considerably harder to outrank websites with a higher authority than yours, so don’t bother trying. At least not right now.
In summary, the saying “no man is an island” applies when doing B2B or enterprise SaaS SEO. Learning from your competition and developing better strategies is an excellent growth strategy that pays dividends.
Step 4: Create Your Keyword Strategy
A good keyword strategy is vital for startups and established SaaS brands. The strategy helps you:
- Identify opportunities for quick wins
- Prioritize your SEO tactics
- Set expectations for keyword ranking and organic visibility results
- Organize your content into topic clusters
- Measure your efforts
Organize your keywords by search intent and ranking difficulty. Your content should be a good mix of commercial and informational keywords relevant to your SaaS.
Also, being an established website means you’ve built domain authority over time. You can leverage that status to target keywords with higher difficulty.
Next, group related keywords into topic clusters. A topic cluster is essentially made up of multiple pieces of content produced around a pillar page. These content pieces are hence related and interlinked.
G2 used topic clustering to establish domain authority by developing a keyword strategy it dubbed the hub and spoke model. Under the model, G2 focused on building out a topic comprehensively “using a single hub and multiple articles that act as spokes.”
It worked, and the company was able to ideate, publish, and rank its articles faster than when it used a generalist approach to content creation.
Step 5: Create Your Action Plan
Only move on to this step after completing steps one to five above.
At this stage, you already know all the technical issues holding your site back, the content needing to be deleted or updated, and the gaps you need to fill. So it’s now time to create an action plan.
I recommend starting by fixing your technical issues. Fixing these issues sets the stage for the rest of your SEO campaign. It’s also a somewhat low-hanging fruit that can give you immediate results.
For example, fixing your site’s load speed, crawlability, and indexing issues can help boost your rankings and traffic within a few days or weeks. So spend the first one or two months on this.
As you resolve the more serious technical issues, initiate your content update campaign. You can do this in the latter half of the first month all the way to the second month. This should help you revive the pages that had dropped in rankings due to outdated content.
In the third month, direct your resources into producing new content to fill those keyword gaps you identified earlier.
Step 6: Review the Results
After making the necessary SEO adjustments, your final step will be to review the results. That means tracking some of the SEO KPIs mentioned previously.
The ones to watch are organic traffic and keyword rankings. A rise in rankings will confirm whether your SEO strategy is helping you outrank the competition. Meanwhile, increased organic traffic will validate your keyword strategy’s effectiveness.
SaaS SEO FAQs
SEO is important for SaaS companies because it helps potential customers find their websites organically, i.e., without relying on paid advertisements. SaaS SEO is also cost-effective and supports other marketing channels for optimized ROI.
The best approach to SaaS SEO would depend on where you are with your SaaS. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to get fundamentals like your USP and target audience down before moving to conducting technical audits, building keyword lists, etc.
SaaS SEO is essential for all software companies. It presents a cost-effective way to attract and retain customers for years to come.
In this guide, I shared a step-by-step plan on how to implement a SaaS SEO campaign for both startups and established brands. You can follow either guide depending on where your SaaS stands at the moment.
If you need help planning and executing your SaaS SEO campaign, get in touch with our team. Our full-service SEO agency can help you with everything from technical SEO audits and keyword gap analysis to content planning and link building. So book your consultation today, and we’ll get you started with a free SEO audit.
Nico is the founder of Crunch Marketing, a SaaS marketing agency. He works with enterprise SaaS clients like Writer, Right Inbox, and Surfer SEO, helping them scale lead generation globally across EMEA, APAC, and other regions.