SaaS (software as a service) is rapidly growing in popularity due to its scalability (benefit to the brand) and usability (benefit to the buyer). But with this rapid growth comes an influx of competing SaaS providers. How do you ensure your SaaS brand stands out from the crowd?
Search engine optimization is your first line of defense between your ideal buyer and the competition. Here we'll give you all the insight and actionable advice you need to understand SEO for SaaS, how to create a SaaS SEO strategy, and how to look for SaaS SEO services to help your brand thrive.
What Is SaaS SEO?
Like all SEO, a SaaS approach to search is focused on making your brand discoverable to your target audience. Driven to scale quickly, many SaaS brands want to focus on PPC alone for rapid customer acquisition. However, that strategy neglects long-term, sustainable growth, which you can only achieve through SEO — and which is necessary to increase a SaaS brand's ARR (annual run rate).
Done well, SEO works in tandem with your other marketing channels, like content and outreach, to push your brand in front of the right audience and lead them to convert.
To do this effectively, you’ll need a strong SaaS SEO strategy. Ready to get started? Let’s do this.
Top SaaS SEO Ranking Factors
With 3.5 billion searches happening each day on Google, there are many opportunities to get your brand seen. But as we know, the vast majority of clicks only happen on the first page of SERPs (search engine results pages). The exact formula and algorithm Google uses to rank pages is shrouded in mystery, but there are many ways you can help your website stand out and boost your chances of making it to the top spots.
How do visitors interact with your site? That’s what Google’s looking for when it measures engagement. This includes dwell time (the total time a visitor spends on your site), what they click on and how they interact with your content, and how soon they leave (bounce rate). An engaging site demonstrates that your brand provides great user experience (UX) and quality content and is free of technical issues. Engagement may also look at how well your site is optimized for mobile and voice search and how it utilizes semantic search (connections between keywords and phrases that clarify search intent).
Though it isn’t confirmed by Google, anecdotally, we can see that pages with more backlinks consistently rank higher. Surprisingly though, a majority of web pages have zero backlinks. If you want to improve your rank, you’ll need a linking strategy that includes both external and internal links.
- External: These are links that come from outside websites. It’s important that backlinks come from reputable sites with high domain authority.
- Internal: These are links from one of your brand’s pages to another. It’s important to carefully craft anchor text using keywords when possible, and link from high-authority pages to low-authority pages.
Content and SEO are BFFs. Sure, you can have one without the other, but they’re always better together. When it comes to content, there are several factors that contribute to how your page is ranked:
- Keywords: How and where they’re used (H1s, H2s, meta tags, etc.)
- Length: Generally, the highest-ranked sites have long-form content, with the most effective being just under 2,000 words.
- Interlinking: How your pages are linked together with content from high-authority pages linking to other relevant pages. Topic clusters are ideal for this purpose.
Most of the time, technical SEO is one of the first pieces of your SaaS SEO strategy you’ll want to tackle. Technical SEO addresses the issues that impede search engines from crawling and indexing your pages. If they go unnoticed or unaddressed, they will ultimately pull down your rank. Fortunately, technical SEO problems can be detected with a website SEO audit, and most can be fixed relatively quickly.
Domain authority (DA), otherwise known as domain rating (DR) or trust flow (TF) depending on the SEO tool used, is a scoring system that looks at the content and quality of your backlink profile. Pages with higher DA simply rank better. You can increase your DA score by acquiring high-quality backlinks and by linking your high-performing pages to those that need a boost.
Why Do SaaS businesses Need SEO?
Marketing your brand without an SEO strategy is a bit like screaming into the void — it might feel good for a little while, but ultimately, accomplishes nothing. For all intents and purposes, your brand doesn’t really exist without a SERP presence, and even then, you’ve got to be near the top to get real results. So why do SaaS businesses need SEO? The better question is: What are you missing out on without it?
If you’re in SaaS, you know scale. Scaling your business is the ultimate goal, but it won’t happen without SEO. It takes well over a year for the most successful SaaS brands to reach $100K. From there, the milestones come quicker, but you’ll need an airtight strategy to get over the $100K hurdle.
The goal of any growth-focused strategy is to push through the so-called “blade years” and reach the curve that leads to hockey stick growth. But in order to get there and sustain that upward trajectory, you need an SEO strategy that brings consistent organic traffic and offers the content that pushes your audience through the funnel.
Stand Out from Competitors
At the start of this article, we mentioned the SaaS industry’s rapid growth. That means you’ve picked the right field to be in, right? Maybe. But it also means that every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a software programmer is thinking the same thing. No matter how amazing your product or how slick your website design is, if you aren’t beating your competitors in search, you aren’t beating them — period.
It’s not enough to out-think or out-design them in your product space. You’ve got to outrank them. And the only way to achieve that is through SEO.
Reduce Customer Acquisition Cost
We’ll be honest with you: PPC works. It’s a fantastic way to get your brand in front of a large crowd and drive quick traffic. But here’s the problem: The more successful your PPC campaign, the more your customer acquisition cost rises.
PPC offers a great growth injection when you’re launching a new campaign or featuring a new product, but as you tap your audience of ideal buyers, you’re eventually going to get more traffic that converts less — costing you more money.
SEO works in the reverse. There’s a bigger investment upfront, but once you have your strategy crafted and implemented, it should start driving organic traffic — which means free traffic. Your CAC goes down, while your traffic and conversions go up.
Support Other Marketing Channels
One of the great benefits of SEO is that it plays well with others. Other marketing channels, that is. In fact, in many cases, those marketing channels will depend on SEO for their continued success. We’d go so far as to say that you can’t have an effective SEO strategy without a great content strategy and vice versa. Good SEO will get your content seen. It will get your lead gen forms filled out and your emails opened. Without SEO, the rest of your marketing channels will not reach their full potential.
Convert Customers Across Multiple Channels
For SaaS brands, conversion is the endgame. Once you get leads, the conversion rate for qualifying them and closing the deal gets higher. But the conversion rate from visitor to lead is dishearteningly low.
Fortunately, SEO will work to get your conversions across your marketing channels. It will help ensure that the content you’re delivering hits the right audience with the right message, improving the chances of conversion. It will also ensure that your website offers an unparalleled user experience so your visitors want to stick around and won’t have to deal with technical issues that will drive them away.
Improve Customer Relationship
By now, you know that your customers aren’t just a number — each one represents a relationship between them and your brand. Great SEO helps define the relationship, and if they like it, you’d better believe they’re going to put a ring on it (or at least shell out their credit card info). As we’ve mentioned, SEO will improve your website, which improves the user experience — that means visitors won’t have a reason to stray.
Why You Should Partner with a SaaS SEO Agency
Okay, so by now, you’re probably wondering how you make all these changes that will get you more traffic, more conversions, and more growth. You might also be wondering if you can just DIY your SaaS SEO. To which we say — yes, but at your own peril. Good SEO takes years of experience to master. Great SEO takes even more.
You might be reluctant to invest a ton of money into SEO while you’re still working to scale your brand, and we hear you. But when you consider the time and effort needed to truly commit to effective SEO, you’ll likely find the best ROI from working with a trusted SaaS SEO partner. Why? Let’s explore.
Scale Quickly within Budget
We don’t want to sugarcoat things here, so we’ll be blunt: well-done SEO isn’t cheap. However, a trusted and reputable SEO agency will look at your budget and craft a strategy that doesn’t stretch you too thin. And since SEO is proven to provide fantastic ROI, you’re pretty likely to come out on top. Best of all, when you go with an agency, you’ll get a more robust strategy that drives more meaningful results — not just upon the initial investment but for years to come.
And while SEO isn’t really known for its speed (hint: it’s the tortoise, not the hare), it is known for its efficacy (spoiler: the tortoise wins).
Early tactics, like technical SEO fixes, can mean a quick lift in certain KPIs. They might even take your brand from search engine obscurity to at least being on the map. And when it comes to value for the money, SEO’s results can’t be beat.
Get Access to SaaS Seo Specialists Who Have Driven Results for Similar Businesses
One of the first things you should look for when vetting prospective agencies is familiarity with your industry and your particular niche. You want to make sure their portfolio includes other SaaS clients so you know they understand industry trends and best practices and they’re able to show proof of performance.
Often, you’ll want just a single point of contact who can communicate strategy and tactical implementation to you. But you also want to know that there’s a team of specialists behind them, supporting your brand through technical, on-page, and off-page SEO.
Save Money Spent on In-House Hiring
So DIY isn’t your jam, but you aren’t sure about an agency, either. One alternative is to hire in house. But there’s a lot you should consider before making that kind of decision. Specifically, what it will cost you YOY.
You’ll also want to consider the additional overhead that comes with FTEs, like benefits, retirement, and PTO. And keep in mind this doesn’t include the SEO tools and resources you’ll need to even get started or any costs associated with implementation.
An SEO agency for SaaS won’t be the right option for every brand. But for those that have a budget to work with and aggressive revenue goals, it’s the surest way to find success.
Focus on Your Core Specialty While a SaaS SEO Agency Handles Your Marketing
You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, right? Eighty percent of your efforts only provide 20 percent of your results. The flip side is that 20 percent of your effort — the percentage you work hardest at — drives 80 percent of your results. To succeed, you need to focus more on the 20 percent that delivers growth.
Still following? Now, just imagine you decide to DIY your SEO strategy. How much of that productive 20 percent will be eaten up by all the knowledge and practice you need to acquire to effectively launch an SEO campaign?
Instead, outsource your SEO work to a reliable agency where all the effort they dedicate to you as their client drives a majority of your results.
How to Build a SaaS SEO Strategy That Generates Traffic and Leads
No, we can’t give away all our industry secrets. But we can tell you the general guiding principles that any solid SaaS SEO strategy should have. Whether you decide to do some of the heavy lifting yourself or find a trusted agency partner, here's what you should be looking for:
First thing’s first: You can’t know how your SEO strategy is working if you don’t know what you’re measuring against. Lay out your goals at the start, and get a good handle on how you’re currently performing. Find the opportunities for the most growth, and start building your KPIs.
Once you know what you’re working toward, you can build a strategy that will focus on meeting those goals, and you’ll know exactly which metrics to monitor to be sure you’re on the right track.
Know Your Customer
If you don’t already have a detailed buyer persona, now is the time to create one. Your buyer persona is different from your target audience in that it has more detail and offers an in-depth look into your customer’s psyche. Even if you’re a relatively new SaaS brand or startup, you can still put together a buyer persona with a little bit of digging.
- In-house interviews: Talk to team members about their perceptions of your existing customers. Since sales typically has the most interaction, that would be a great place to start.
- External interviews: Take your questions directly to the consumer. Send out a survey or conduct in-depth interviews with a handful of your top customers.
- Data analysis: The numbers don’t lie, so turn to them for information on your existing customers’ demographic data.
Remember that you may have several buyer personas, especially if you offer different services or packages. Additionally, don’t limit your persona to demographic information only. You’ll want to include psychographics and behavioral attributes as well.
Run a Site Audit
An audit is the best way to determine where you are so you know where you want to go. Site audits will uncover technical SEO issues, along with inconsistencies in on-page SEO. You may want to break your audits down into different segments to keep them more manageable. A technical SEO audit is a must, but you’ll probably also want to look at on-page SEO. A content audit is also key to understanding your current content offerings and identifying any gaps that need to be filled.
Understand Search Intent
Keywords are critical to SEO, but the days of picking the highest-volume keywords to appeal to the largest audience are behind us. We now know that low-volume keywords can be even more effective if they’re aligned to search intent.
You’ll need to understand the search intent for each of your buyer personas, wherever they are in the funnel. Once you have a good grasp on that, you’ll be able to select low-volume, high-intent long-tail keywords that get you in front of the exact right audience.
Conduct Keyword Research to Solve Problems at All Stages of the Buyer Journey
As mentioned above, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of your buyer personas and where they tend to enter your funnel. As you’re looking for keywords, make sure you map them to where they fall in the buyer’s journey and outline the search intent for each.
Top of the Funnel Informational SaaS Keywords
At this stage, the buyer is typically aware they have a problem. They may not know at this point what the solution is, but they’re ready to start seeking out information.
Middle of the Funnel SaaS Keywords
When buyers reach this stage, they know the problem and they are starting to understand the possible solutions. At this point, they want to know which solutions best align with their specific needs. This is the time to highlight your brand’s USPs and distinguish what you offer from the competition.
Bottom of the Funnel SaaS Keywords
Buyers at this stage are ready to pull the trigger. They know about your product, and they’re pretty sure it’s the right choice for them.
So, you’ve got your buyer personas through the funnel — your work here is done, right? Not exactly. Especially in the world of SaaS, a loyal customer is the best customer. What’s better than the best? A loyal customer who refers others to your brand. See, the funnel goes down and ends in conversion…except it doesn’t actually end there. The post-purchase funnel goes in the opposite direction, expanding according to how you nurture your new customers.
At this point, you want to focus on customer adoption and support. Consider long-tail keywords that use phrases like “how to use X product feature” or “X brand troubleshooting.”
Use Comparison Keywords to Poach Unhappy Customers from Your Competitors
As we mentioned in the bottom of the funnel keyword section above, when your buyers get deep into the funnel and are aware of their problem, the solution, and how your brand’s product delivers, they’re ready to start comparison shopping. At this stage, they aren’t just looking for the best brands — they want to know what sets your brand apart from the crowd.
This is where you’ll find you get the most out of comparison keywords, such as “Your Brand vs. X Brand.” Aim for keywords that target any areas in which your brand shines. Do you offer the same service at a lower price? “Your Brand vs. X Brand Pricing.” Jam-packed with features no one else has? “Your Brand vs. X Brand features.” You get the idea.
Identify Low-Hanging Fruits
If you’re wondering where to begin tackling your keywords to improve your rank, go for the easy pickin’s. Sort all your pages by current rank, and look specifically at those ranking from the bottom of page one through the bottom of page two.
This is the low-hanging fruit, and it presents an opportunity for quick growth. Since these pages are already ranking for your priority keywords, they have built up some authority. That means search engines are taking notice, and a few simple on-page adjustments could be exactly what’s needed to push them up in SERPs.
Adopt a Topic Cluster Approach
Think about the keywords you want to rank for and the specific topics these represent. A topic cluster is a group of content structured around a central pillar page, with content pages radiating out from the center.
Internal links connect all of these cluster pages to the pillar page and to one another. This helps build authority and lets search engines know exactly what your content is about. For example, you might have a pillar page around the keyword “Pizza.” Your cluster pages, connecting back to the pillar page, could include “Pizza Recipes,” “History of Pizza,” “Deep-dish vs. Thin Crust Pizza,” and more.
Update Existing Content
This is a great approach for brands that are short on time or budget (or both). You don’t have to recreate the wheel to have high-quality, high-ranking content. In fact, refreshing and repurposing old content is one of the most reliable ways to give your brand a boost in search. It’s nearly always quicker and more effective than starting from scratch.
The big question is how “fresh” do you want your updated content to be?
Map Your SEO Strategy to Your Marketing Funnel
We’ve already talked about choosing keywords for each section of the funnel. But you really want to make sure your entire SEO strategy follows the different stages of the funnel and answers your buyer persona’s needs wherever they are.
Remember that mapping your strategy to the funnel means mapping your content as well. You don’t want to push mid-funnel content to a user who doesn’t even know what their problem is yet. And you don’t want to push top-funnel content to someone who’s already in the decision stage.
Conduct Competitor Analysis
Remember — this isn’t just who you think your competitors are — you need to understand which brands are out there offering the same services to the same audience. Start by looking at the keywords you’re targeting and identifying the brands ranking for the top three spots. You can also use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to help identify your competitors.
Once you know who they are, it’s time to get out your magnifying glass and start sleuthing. You want to look at:
- Their content: Find out the kind of content they offer. Look at quality, length, and whether it’s aligned to search intent.
- Their distribution: Where they’re pushing out their content is just as important as what the content says. If they’re distributing in places you aren’t, you’re missing an opportunity.
- Their backlinks: Who’s linking to your competitors? Are there opportunities for you to acquire backlinks from those same sites through guest posting or other methods?
The goal of your competitor analysis is to uncover gaps you can fill with content, distribution, or outreach that is done better and answers the pain points and needs of your buyer persona.
Create Content That Goes Deeper Than Everyone Else
If you want to compete, you need to be on your A-game when it comes to content. But what does better content really mean? We can tell you what it doesn’t mean — more. In this case, just pushing out a massive volume of content will use up your resources without driving meaningful results. It’s better to have 100 great blogs than 1,000 mediocre blogs.
Here are some of the factors that contribute to content quality:
- Length: When it comes to length, your goal should be to hit the sweet spot. Generally, that’s just shy of 2,000 words.
- Multimedia: Incorporate images, infographics, video content, and more to create a more engaging experience.
- Layout: Break content into easily digestible segments. Use H2s and H3s, bullets, and lists to make the content scannable and snackable.
- Detail: This doesn’t just mean longer. Go in-depth on a very narrow topic, and give more information on it than your competitors.
This is where understanding search intent will help you craft content that is more meaningful and more likely to convert.
Publish Evergreen Content
Much like SEO, the results of good content compound over time. Creating evergreen content is a fantastic way to maximize impact as traffic and engagement will continue to grow. You’ll probably want to regularly update this content and refresh the date in order to balance timelessness and timeliness, but overall, well-done evergreen content is the gift that keeps on giving. Wondering what makes the best evergreen content?
Generally speaking, top-of-the-funnel content is well-suited to be evergreen. However, some bottom-funnel content, like how-tos for existing customers, can also continue performing well into the future.
Optimize for Technical SEO
You might see technical SEO referred to as low-hanging fruit, but that’s no reason to neglect it. Technical SEO issues are often easily detected through a website audit, and an experienced tech SEO expert can make adjustments that can give your SERP rank a boost.
Remember, like all SEO, it’s not a one-and-done approach. The biggest investment (in time and money) will happen at the beginning, but you’ll want to continue regular monitoring and maintenance so nothing falls through the cracks. Technical SEO issues can be easily remedied, but if you don’t know they’re happening, they can set back your strategy and delay your results significantly.
Optimize for On-Page SEO
The same is true for on-page SEO. It’s tempting to think that making a few tweaks to your web pages means you’re all set, but that’s not reality. It’s important you continually keep an eye on what’s happening on your pages, including site structure, content, CTAs, and much more.
Both on-page and technical SEO tactics will provide a better user experience. As we now know, this is one of the most important things Google is looking for when crawling and indexing your site. Making these adjustments regularly will ensure your site makes it higher on SERPs and gets in front of the audience you want.
Create a Content Distribution Strategy
As we’ve noted, where your content lives is almost as important as what’s in it. You want to create a content distribution plan that is holistic and robust and delivers the right content to your audience, wherever they are.
List out all of your owned, earned, and paid channels, and build a strategy to ensure your content hits all of them. This may include using PPC for a quick growth injection at the start of a campaign, using digital PR to get prime media placement, or coming up with a content delivery schedule for your blog and social channels.
Remember that some content formats perform better on different channels, so consider that carefully when you’re building out your content strategy.
Backlinks are an important ranking factor, but they take a lot of legwork. It helps to have a dedicated outreach expert, but there are tactics you can start implementing now to get high-quality backlinks that build your domain authority and increase your traffic. Some of those include:
- Using HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to contribute to journalists and writers looking for your industry expertise
- Guest posting for industry publications and blogs
- Listing your brand on directories geared toward your industry and niche
- Conducting research and publishing it as a primary source
- Looking through your competitor’s backlinks to find opportunities
- Auditing your existing business and industry partnerships and requesting links
Once you’ve identified opportunities to obtain backlinks, there are some considerations, especially when it comes to guest blogging:
Ultimately, when it comes to backlinks, you want quality over quantity. External sites that link to your brand should be high-quality, high-authority, and reputable. Make sure when you’re seeking outreach opportunities, you keep those qualifiers in mind.
Consider the 70-20-10 Rule
We mentioned the 80/20 rule previously, but there’s another breakdown that can help guide your approach to SaaS SEO strategy.
Following this breakdown, your SaaS SEO strategy should be weighted as follows:
- 70% Core Tactics: These are the daily, on-going tasks that will drive the biggest part of your results. This should include your content strategy, distribution and management, and keeping tabs on on-page SEO.
- 20% Supporting Tactics: You won’t carry these out as often, but these tasks will address issues as they arise, like fixing broken links, optimizing for technical SEO, internal linking, page load speed, etc.
- 10% Heavy-Lifting Tactics: These are the tactics that take a lot of time, often with delayed results, like backlink building and outreach, social media strategy — anything that requires a slow, methodical approach.
A Comprehensive SaaS SEO Strategy Unlocks Growth Opportunities
At the end of the day (or at the end of this very long article), you want your SaaS brand to grow. And we want that for you! While many SaaS brands are focused on the here and now, we recommend you take a long view and start working now on an SEO strategy that will bring you long-term, sustainable growth.
If you truly want to scale and want to ensure you get past those blade years and onto hockey stick growth, SEO is an effective way to achieve your goals. But you don’t have to do it alone. You can rely on FPS and our team of SEO experts to drill down and uncover hidden opportunities to take your SaaS brand to the next level.
The only thing left to do? Reach out. Let’s start a conversation and see how we can take your brand to the next level!