The SaaS industry has grown by almost 500% over the past seven years.
As of 2023, the SaaS space is worth over $195 billion!
While this growing space presents many opportunities to give your idea life, it also indicates high competition - especially in the search engine results.
But don't worry! We've got your back.
We've compiled a list of everything you need to know about SEO and how it works for SaaS companies.
What is SaaS SEO?
SaaS SEO refers to optimizing a SaaS website so that it performs better in search engine results. This includes both on-page and off-page SEO tactics that help a SaaS business appear in the search results for targeted keywords that help them reach its target audience at its research stage.
SaaS SEO aims to make your company visible at the critical milestones of an online research journey before a prospect finally interacts with your website.
For example, here’s us searching for online meeting software - the website showing up at the start of the search indicates how well optimized their web pages are:
Why is SEO for SaaS important?
SaaS companies usually invest heavily in product development, advertising, sales, and support. But here’s why going back and focusing on search engine optimization is important:
1. Gets you noticed where most buying journeys begin
Did you know that over 65% of all online experiences begin with a quick Google search today? Of these, only 0.78% of searchers make it to Google's second page!
We're not just talking about people who are already familiar with your product and want to know more about you. We're also talking about people who may need to learn what SaaS stands for, much less what your SaaS product does.
To reach your potential customers, you need SaaS SEO.
2. Helps you fuel the sales pipeline for growth
SEO is the art of getting found online.
SEO for SaaS helps your business grow by increasing your online visibility. And when done strategically, it introduces your product to the right people at the right time.
With a good SaaS SEO strategy, you can ensure that the people who find your site are presented with content that addresses their concerns (with a solution). This way, you'll get more qualified visitors convinced to buy your product immediately, fuelling your sales pipeline.
While there's no exact science to determine a good ROI of SEO or the sales you generate from it, the 5:1 rule of marketing for marketing and sales applies here. This means if you execute the right strategy, you will get back $5 in return for every dollar you spend. Another way of saying it is you can potentially drive an ROI of 500%.
3. Reduces the customer acquisition costs (CAC)
With a high-quality SaaS SEO strategy, you are focusing on a ‘pull’ strategy as compared to ‘push’ to acquire customers.
When you drive organic traffic to your website, you start making an audience aware of your company's offerings. Even if these visitors don't convert on the first go, you can always set up retargeting campaigns to nudge them toward conversion.
And research has found that retargeting ads cost less than first-touch campaigns.
4. Enables marketing across other channels as well
A good SaaS SEO strategy includes creating content for various on-page and off-page strategies. Every content piece can be used for more than SEO purposes, from creating more web pages, blogs, and guest posts to answering more questions on communities.
Let's say you have a blog post describing your product's XYZ feature. You can use that same content to write a landing page for paid ads or an email campaign or even repurpose it into a social media post!
For example, InBeat created a blog on how to find influencers to guide brands in setting up successful campaigns.
This also translates into a feature page which summarizes the information in a crisp manner, showcasing how InBeat can help:
And then there's video content.
Video can be used on your website (which is proven to drive up to 86% conversions), YouTube channel, Facebook page, and even in emails!
But SaaS SEO is easier said than done.
It's not just about shortlisting a batch of keywords and creating content for search engines.
You want to make sure that people can find your product when they search for it, but you also need to ensure that people know why they should use your product when they find you.
And to do that, you need an exceptional SaaS SEO strategy.
How to get started with SaaS SEO?
Search engine optimization has several moving pieces. Companies often start creating their SaaS SEO strategy and then lose track of the things they need to cover.
This is why we've created a SaaS SEO checklist to help you navigate the waters methodically:
1. Run an SEO audit
Look at where you stand - even if you have just set up a website and never published a piece of content. Your brand could have been listed on directories, mentioned in forums or other websites; take note of what phrases have been used to describe what you offer.
If you do have a website, this step should include evaluating its pages, titles, meta descriptions, and content.
The SaaS SEO audit will tell you:
- where you stand in terms of ranking,
- what you need to do to improve your ranking, and
- how long it will take for these changes to take effect.
You can run an SEO audit with the help of tools like Semrush, Ahrefs or Ubersuggest.
2. Do a competitor gap analysis
Do a competitor gap analysis - not just keywords, type of content, channels used, search engine result page (SERP) features they use (like images, videos, people also asked, etc).
You can do this using SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs; here’s a screenshot from the former:
Your competitors are likely doing everything they can to get the best rankings in search engine results pages. So you need to figure out what they're doing that's working and what isn't!
Once you know the gaps between your competitors and yourself, it will be much easier to figure out where to focus your SaaS SEO efforts—and how best to fill those gaps.
A good competitor analysis will give you an overview of keywords used by them and the type of content, marketing channels, SERP features, and their respective effectiveness.
3. Create customer personas
When it comes to SaaS SEO, the goal is not just to increase organic traffic. It is to drive the right set of people to the website organically and to do this, you need to know who they are.
A buyer persona is a detailed description of your ideal customer based on research, data, and intuition. It should be able to answer the following questions:
- What is your product?
- What is the main problem your product solves?
- How does it solve this problem?
- What steps does it take to reach the solution?
- What tools/resources are needed to implement your product?
- What prior education/experience is needed to implement your product?
- Who is your product best suited for?
- Who is your product not fit for?
You can then think about the users of your products:
- Who are they?
- What's their pain point?
- What do they want?
- What do they hate?
- How do they make buying decisions?
The more you can identify what your customers are looking for when they come to your site, the better equipped you'll be to give them the desired experience. This will help you determine how to approach your SaaS SEO strategy to get the best results.
Here’s an example of a buyer persona:
4. Set your goals and KPIs
You can't improve what you don't measure, so knowing what you're trying to accomplish with your SaaS SEO efforts is essential.
Are you looking to boost your brand awareness? Do you want to build an audience? Or are you seeking better engagement on the website and more leads?
Once you've got that figured out, it's time to set up your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Some of the key metrics we do recommend measuring include the following:
- Conversions (Sales and Leads)
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
- Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)
- Return on Investment (ROI)
- Organic Sessions
- Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic
- Keyword Rankings
- Google Business Profile Metrics
- New and lost backlinks
- Organic CTR
- User Engagement
5. Create a customer journey map
A customer journey map is a visual representation of the steps that a person takes when they interact with your brand.
It spans from the moment they first find you through organic search until the time they become a paying customer - the number of touchpoints, types of content they consume across platforms and how you will nudge them to conversion.
This will help you streamline the keywords you target at each funnel stage in your SaaS SEO strategy and create targeted collaterals for the platforms you will need to use.
For example, if you’re an email marketing automation software, at TOFU (top of the funnel) level you will need to educate your audience about the importance of sending emails and automating them. Your keywords will hence be focused on ‘email marketing ROI’, ‘how to automate emails’ and similar.
But at the MOFU (middle of the funnel) level, you will be focusing on keywords that are more focused on the email marketing automations you enable - for example ‘how to set up welcome emails’, ‘how to automate cart recovery emails’, etc.
And at the BOFU (bottom of the funnel) level, you will have to focus on keywords like ‘email marketing strategy examples’, ‘email marketing case studies’ and create content that focuses on sharing the successes.
6. Identify your key pillars
If you're new to SEO, it can be overwhelming to decide which keywords to target and which ones may not be able to drive relevant traffic to your website.
In this case, we suggest following the pillar approach implemented by HubSpot. By defining their target audience, they identified the challenges and goals their product can address meaningfully - this resulted in the three categories you see today: Marketing, Sales, and Support.
Using these as overarching themes, HubSpot created a set of keywords to target under each pillar. This today serves as guardrails on what they should create online collaterals on and what they can partner with others for - from blogs, web pages, and guest posts; everything is now aligned to their overall business capabilities.
This also ensures they can track their keywords methodically as they expand the site map, and today they rank for almost all the phrases even close to their product.
7. Keyword research
Keywords are the words and phrases people type into search engines to find products, services, or information they want.
It's also the most time-consuming and tedious part, but it's how you'll find the right keywords to target and ensure that your efforts address the concerns and queries of the right people on the internet.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started:
Find a batch of informational keywords
Informational keywords are terms that users search for when they want to learn more about a subject.
For example, if you run a recruitment CRM software company, your informational keywords could include the following:
People will search for perfectly valid terms, but they aren't directly related to your product. You can find out what people search for in Google Keyword Planner.
But keep in mind that these keywords may not convert well. But they're still necessary for SEO purposes. Informational keywords are great for building your website's authority because they give Google a reason to include your site in SERPs.
Create a set of keywords per pillar
For example, you might have a product that helps people find and apply for jobs. The first would be "finding a job," and the second would be "applying for jobs." You can begin with 25 keywords for each of these pillars. This will make attribution and keyword growth mapping easier.
Find the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel keywords
Look at your funnel and determine what keywords are used for searches at each stage.
Ideally, these will be broad enough to help bring in new customers but specific enough to help convert those customers into loyal users.
- Top-of-funnel keywords are broad terms related to your product or service (e.g., "marketing software") with high search volume but low competition. They help bring in new leads who aren't necessarily familiar with your product yet.
- Middle-of-funnel keywords are slightly more specific than top-of-funnel ones (e.g., "marketing automation software") but still broad enough that they're not overly competitive.
- Bottom-of-funnel keywords are highly relevant to a product feature or use case (e.g., "email list builder").
8. Identify the type of content you need to create
Some experts say you should primarily create blog posts. Others say that video is the way to go—that's where all the eyeballs are. But still, other experts recommend that you focus on creating long-form content like ebooks or white papers.
It means you need to figure out precisely what kind of content your target audience wants—and then give it to them in a way that best suits their needs and interests.
When doing so, ensure to consider every SERP feature - blog post, images, video, etc. This will help make the SaaS SEO strategy work better.
9. Work on technical and on-page SEO
You could be doing everything right on your website, building the right backlinks and targeting the right keywords - but unless your technical SEO is taken care of, you will lose out.
Technical SEO refers to ensuring that your website meets modern search engines' technical requirements. This ensures that search engines can quickly and methodically crawl and index your website.
Some of the aspects your technical SaaS SEO strategy needs to look into include the following:
- Website architecture
- Content hierarchy
- URL structure
- Site map
- Internal and external linking
- Page load speed
- Fixing site errors (404s, 201s and others)
- Setting up 301s
10. Create a distribution plan
Creating content for on-page and off-page SEO is never enough, regardless of its quality. Getting it noticed is as important and will help drive organic traffic.
You should start by thinking about your ideal customer or the person who would most benefit from your product or service. Then, think about where they hang out online.
For example, if you write an article about "how to get started with SaaS SEO, " who will you distribute it to? How are those people going to find your article? Are they going to search for it on Google? Or go directly to your site?
Here are a few tips for creating an effective distribution plan:
- Make a list of all the channels you can include in your SaaS SEO strategy
- Map out how each channel affects the growth of your business, how many of your current and potential customers use it, and what your goals are for each channel
- Take note of the content you will need to create or the content you can reuse on these channels
- Create a workflow for all the SEO tasks you create, including distribution to these channels - this could be as simple as creating social bookmarking
The more visible you are, the more effectively you get indexed by the search engines - the best example is how Quora still ranks for most 'what' and 'why' queries, even if the answer links to another website.
Here’s an example for when you search ‘email marketing for ecommerce’:
11. Get high-quality backlinks
While it's true that quality backlinks are the most important factor to consider when it comes to SEO, it's also true that quantity matters.
You don't want to spend your time on sites that will give you a link for free just because they like you or want to help out. Instead, you want to focus on sites that are relevant and will give you a link because they want their readers to see it.
But how do you get them? Create a solid outreach program:
- Share your website content on social media
- Promote guest posting
- Publish unique data like statistics that multiple blogs around that topic can link to
- Host podcasts which usually have much lesser competition for SaaS companies
- Target online directories and comparison websites
- Partner with complementing solutions in the industry
- Set up a link building outreach strategy
Remember that as you do build backlinks, you have a well-defined anchor text that is relevant to the keywords you’re targeting.
Also, ensure that all the backlinks are not just built to your homepage; they can be to your feature pages, pricing or even blogs - relevance is key.
If you have been struggling to find the right websites to build high quality backlinks from, book a demo with Breeeze today.
12. Monitor and optimize
You must keep an eye on the results of your SEO efforts to see if things are moving in the right direction.
Keep identifying keyword trends, patterns, and changes - this helps include new terms early in your SaaS SEO strategy, giving you the first-mover's advantage.
You can iteratively optimize your SaaS SEO tactics with simple things like:
- Keeping a close watch on do-follow and no-follow links
- Maintaining a high backlink quality
- Ensuring updated on-page content
- Using long-tail keywords across collaterals
- Optimizing website speed for desktop and mobile
- Updating internal and external links
- Keeping the sitemap updated
Pro tip: Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs!
Here’s an example of how HubSpot keeps their on-page SaaS SEO tasks - including blogs, updated:
Today, most SaaS companies turn to performance marketing channels (PPC, social ads, etc.) to boost new customer acquisition.
But along with increasing ad costs, this marketing technique comes with a significant setback - the traffic is momentary. When you reduce or stop paid ads, the traffic also stops.
SaaS SEO, conversely, taps into the current interests, intent, and searches of an internet user that come more naturally and consistently - even if the way the searches are made changes.
For instance, blogs and web pages created and optimized strategically can drive traffic for years after publishing. They can also become the source of building an audience that lowers your customer acquisition costs across campaigns.
But only when done right.
The fact that the SaaS sales cycle still includes multiple decision-makers holds. That is why a SaaS SEO strategy needs to work with marketing, sales, and support functions to cover all ground comprehensively.
Does your SaaS SEO strategy fuel business growth, or are you targeting organic traffic alone?
Speak to our SEO experts today to get a thorough audit of your strategy.