For any Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, mastering your online presence is crucial. The internet plays an integral role in the distribution, accessibility, and scalability of any SaaS solution. Therefore, prioritising the optimisation of your website to ensure discoverability on search engines is essential.
Leveraging our expertise as an agency with a proven track record working with SaaS companies, we’ve compiled a complete step-by-step guide that will provide you with all the tools required to develop your own bullet-proof SaaS SEO strategy and generate sustainable organic growth in 2024.
SaaS SEO is a specialised approach to optimising the online presence of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies. It involves strategic techniques carried out to increase organic traffic by acquiring top rankings for the most relevant keywords.
This process is crucial for SaaS companies to understand what their target market is looking for, where they are looking for it, and how as a company they can ensure that it is their content that potential customers discover in their searches.
Whilst there are some factors that make SaaS SEO unique, as we will discuss below, the fundamental SEO principles are still equally applicable and important for all types of business. Therefore, the top SEO practices that must be adequately addressed by any SaaS company are:
Beyond these fundamental SEO practices, what is it that makes SaaS different?
Primarily, this revolves around the unique customer journey inherent in the extended sales funnel of the SaaS business model. In addition to the initial product offering, there is also a continuous service element provided to customers. This dynamic results in multiple sales touchpoints, both in the acquisition of new customers and the delivery of the required service to retain existing ones. Learn more about what makes SaaS marketing unique.
What’s more, due to the scale of investment required with SaaS products, the research stage can often be more lengthy: potential SaaS customers will likely consume more informational content around what they’re looking for, as well as seeking out comparisons between your product and its competitors. And then, even after your product is identified as a viable option, the next stage in the journey is likely the introduction of a free trial or demo, which again, requires a unique content approach.
All in all, this extended customer journey clearly demands a bespoke SEO strategy that is tailored specifically to the different points of the sales funnel to ensure no customer is left behind.
We’ve covered why the SEO process for SaaS companies is unique, but why is it so important for achieving growth and success?
The growth of the SaaS industry in recent years has been immense, with an estimated growth of over 500% in just seven years between 2015 and 2022. With this exponential trend expected to continue, it’s clear that this is a booming industry with great potential for success.
However, these figures also indicate a highly competitive market, with an abundance of aspiring competitors looking to utilise the latest technology to fuel their ambitious growth targets. And from our experience, many of these SaaS competitors are adopting extensive SEO strategies in an attempt to dominate the online space.
So it’s clear: a mediocre, generic approach to creating content simply won’t cut it in this industry. A comprehensive, bespoke SEO strategy is an essential requirement for any SaaS company looking to push beyond competitors and stand out amongst the crowd.
As already established, the SaaS industry has some unique elements that make it a little more tricky to optimise your online presence. The extended sales funnel means that there are customers – or potential customers – at a variety of different stages, each with their own interests and requirements.
As such, to effectively reach all of your customers, a much more varied and extensive strategy that guides them through each of the different stages will be required.
In the early stages, content such as blog posts will be necessary to gain the initial awareness of potential customers and introduce them to your brand. The creation of lead magnets can then be a great way to capture the interest of these potential customers who have shown curiosity about your product, along with case studies or success stories to help inform their decision.
A key stage in the SaaS sales funnel is the offering of a free trial or demo. Here, landing page optimisation, including the appropriate usage of keywords and Call-to-Actions (CTA), is fundamental to encouraging users to take the next step. SaaS companies will then have to consider how they can convert these users into paid customers, and ensure they have a smooth transition when getting started with the product, before finally exploring customer retention and opportunities for upselling.
All in all, it’s clear that optimising your online presence for this extensive customer journey requires the careful consideration of a comprehensive SEO strategy to identify the different types of content and other resources you’ll need to create.
As well as this extended sales funnel, the multifaceted features and functionalities of SaaS products and services tend to bring a level of complexity that requires a further nuanced and strategic SEO approach.
Therefore, a range of different content will be required to address this complexity and demonstrate the value of your product in a way that resonates with your target audience.
As many of the concepts that are fundamental to SaaS solutions may be new or unfamiliar to potential customers, wider coverage of the industry as a whole can help to provide some additional context. Due to the magnitude of the investment with SaaS products, they will also likely want to compare the features of your product against competitors, seeking to understand which is more applicable to their needs.
The complexity of these products does not end at the point of sale either – in the later stages of the sales funnel, effective communication of any updates is necessary for existing customers, along with adequate support for any issues they are having.
Whilst investment in Paid Media (PPC) can be a great route to acquire new customers – particularly in the early stages – it would be foolish to think that this alone will be an adequate digital marketing strategy.
A key benefit of implementing SEO practices is the ability to reduce your CPA in the long run.
With paid channels, CPA tends to rise over time as you repeatedly target the same audience and the most receptive individuals have already engaged with your content.
SEO, on the other hand, tends to work in the opposite direction. Initially, costs are higher as an in-depth research phase is required before executing any strategy. Additionally, it invariably takes time for the growth from implemented SEO practices to begin taking effect. However, consistent SEO efforts, in the long run, can deliver exponential results as the growth in keyword rankings sees compounding returns on traffic.
When considered in unison, an SEO strategy complements paid media investment by balancing out your CPA over time, creating a synergistic benefit to this cross-channel approach.
We’ve seen now that a comprehensive SEO strategy is essential for any SaaS company looking to establish itself in the online space.
The competitiveness of the industry, along with the inherent complexities of both the SaaS products and customer journey, create a landscape that is too difficult to navigate without an extensive, bespoke strategy carved out by SEO experts.
Thankfully, we have you covered with our seven-step guide to creating a SaaS SEO strategy:
Establishing clear and measurable goals is the cornerstone of any successful SEO strategy. Without clear visibility of what you have set out to achieve, it’s impossible to determine whether progress is being made in the right direction.
However, given the intricacies of the typical SaaS user journey, extra detail will be required to ensure success is being measured at each stage of the user journey with the appropriate KPIs.
Beyond the usual goals of an SEO strategy, such as increasing organic search visibility and keyword rankings, SaaS companies must also focus on directing traffic to free demos, increasing the number of demo requests, and improving the rate of conversion to paid users.
When setting out these goals, it’s important to ensure they are specific, usually represented by a specific number such as “Achieve a 15% increase in demo requests over the next quarter”. This provides the clarity required to focus on what needs to be achieved within the given timeline and sets out a tangible goal to measure your performance against.
A critical task in developing a successful SaaS SEO strategy is defining exactly who it is you’re seeking to target. Before any other step is taken, you must intimately understand your target audience so that you can meet their concerns and present your product as a solution.
By developing personas that accurately reflect your target audience, you will be able to select the most appropriate keywords with more confidence and create the content that addresses their needs with more precision.
Start by collecting data on your current customers and leads, with methods such as surveys, interviews, and web analytics. If you’ve already gathered some data, analyse it to identify patterns and characteristics, looking into aspects such as demographics, behaviour, and any available feedback.
And remember, given the nature of the SaaS customer journey, you’ll need to build out as many different personas as possible. Each should be segmented and mapped out to the relevant stage in the customer journey.
The defining of your customer personas will flow naturally into building the foundations of your keyword research approach.
You should now already have established a nuanced understanding of the language, preferences, and pain points of your target audience. From here, you can start to draw up a list of questions that these personas may have, challenges that they face, and any related topics they would be interested in.
An effective way to ensure that you’ve gathered all the possible keyword combinations is to create a ‘seed’ list – an initial set of keywords used as a foundation to identify and expand relevant search terms.
As an example, let’s consider a SaaS company specialising in document management. Here, our ‘seed’ term could be “document management”, which we could then combine with other terms to create keywords such as “document management software”, “document management system”, “document management platform”, and so forth.
Similarly, to discover informational keywords on our seed list, we could again combine “document management” with other terms to create “what is document management”, “why is document management important”, or “how to create a document management strategy”.
With your seed list complete, you can then make use of a keyword research tool to identify the search volume for each of our keywords, as well as the difficulty of ranking for each term.
At this stage, you can opt to ‘bulk’ out your existing list of keywords by using these tools to gather any related keywords. This is a great way of ensuring that you haven’t let any potential terms slip by during your research process, however, you must also keep in mind the customer personas you’ve already identified.
It can be tempting to continue to gather more and more keywords, all the while drifting further away from the preferences and pain points that you’re trying to address. Always ensure that any further keywords gathered are relevant to your target audience.
The most fundamental concept you need to understand when optimising your landing pages is search intent. This refers to the specific goal a user has when entering a search query (as determined, ultimately, by Google).
Understanding the user’s intent behind each search term enables us to precisely map each keyword to the appropriate page. Whilst this sounds like a relatively simple task, attempting it without the right expertise can lead to a muddled approach and a failure to optimise your content for the requirements essential to rank effectively.
Whilst there are many tools available that can outline the intent behind each keyword, the best method is to analyse the search engine results page (SERP) for the keyword. Evaluating which type of content is ranking best for the search term
will allow you to accurately determine whether your keyword has a transactional or informational intent. Those that are transactional should be mapped onto product pages, whilst informational keywords are ideal for blog-related content.
Now that you’ve completed the keyword research and determined what type of page each keyword should be assigned to, the time has come to put everything together and create the optimised content that will acquire the organic traffic you’re looking for.
But with so many potential keywords to target, how do you know where to start?
Well, as with many SEO practices, examining the existing competition is a great starting point. From here, you can identify the areas that competitors already cover effectively and other areas where there may be a good opportunity to focus on.
Given the highly competitive and ever-expanding nature of the SaaS industry, it may be sensible to steer clear of topics that are already heavily saturated, particularly if you are a smaller company. Instead, consider targeting niche keywords where the potential to achieve a higher ranking is more attainable.
Additionally, ranking highly for any of these keywords will require creating content that surpasses that of existing competitors. Therefore, evaluating the standard that has been set by these competitors can provide you with the framework for what’s required to outperform them.
When it comes to actually writing the content, it’s easy to be fooled by the idea that you just need to stuff the page full of your target keyword and ensure that the word count exceeds that of competitors. Maybe in the early days of the internet that could’ve worked, but search engines are smarter now, and much more capable of understanding content.
Instead, the focus must be placed on producing high-quality content that is fluently written and provides an engaging user experience. Again, pay attention to competitor pages that are performing well. How are they formatted? Are they interactive? Are there any multimedia elements in use, such as images or videos?
Many blog articles perform well when structured as a numbered list, whilst others, particularly those of great length, can benefit from the use of infographics to break up the text and improve user experience.
Whilst we’ve discussed the content side of SEO in great detail, mastering your technical SEO should not be neglected.
For any SaaS company, as with any other industry, it can be particularly frustrating if, despite producing some of the highest-quality content, your pages struggle to rank due to some technical issues holding the site back. Therefore, it’s important to remain on top of the technical performance of the site and to act quickly when any issues arise.
As user experience becomes more and more central to search engine ranking algorithms, technical issues that impede the user experience tend to be those most necessary to address.
The most prominent of these is page loading time. Often, the most impactful practices to improve page speed are to ensure that image files are compressed and any unused code is removed. To understand the impact this can have, consider this Amazon study revealing that each additional 100ms in page load time costs the company 1% in annual revenue, equivalent to $5.5 billion in 2023!
Other key technical SEO strategies to implement include:
To identify any technical issues that may be holding your site back, a technical SEO audit is recommended. This allows you to establish which issues are causing the most harm to your website and provides you with a roadmap for implementing the required changes.
With relevant keywords gathered to create high-quality, optimised content and a technical audit performed to ensure peak technical performance from your site, the final piece in the jigsaw is effective link-building.
Without backlinks, even the best content won’t rank. And whilst it’s true that high-quality content can naturally acquire links from others wanting to reference it, this can’t be relied upon, particularly in the early stages. You must be proactive and conduct a comprehensive link-building strategy centred around obtaining authoritative backlinks from relevant sources.
These backlinks provide a signal of authority to search engines, indicating that your site is a trusted source of expertise that would be appropriate to rank highly for relevant search terms.
There are many areas where SaaS companies can find opportunities to acquire backlinks, such as:
Overall, link-building can be a long, arduous process. It’s important not to lose sight of the key objective of acquiring high-authority backlinks from relevant sources, even when growth feels slow. If you lose patience, targeting suboptimal links may seem desirable, but these will have little impact on the site’s overall performance. The goal should always be to maintain a steady growth of authoritative backlinks.
With our seven-step SaaS SEO guide, you should now be fully equipped and ready to execute your own strategy to build organic traffic and achieve steady growth for the foreseeable future.