It’s no secret that for SaaS companies, content marketing, and SEO as a way to boost organic traffic to your content are the most important ways to market your SaaS business.
On the other hand, getting more high-quality backlinks remain the most important SEO ranking factor even now in 2021.
So, the formula to improve your SaaS business’s SEO performance is relatively simple: get more backlinks, and make sure they are coming from high-quality, relevant websites.
The reality, however, can be easier said than done: link building is a very challenging thing, especially in the SaaS environment.
Why? Backlinks for SaaS websites very rarely come naturally, and with more and more people starting SaaS companies in 2021, this is only going to become even more challenging.
In short, proper link building is necessary, and in this guide, we will show you how you can plan yours.
Let us begin, however, from the very beginning.
What Is Link Building?
Just so that we start on the same page, let us first discuss the concept of link building itself.
Any efforts of getting backlinks to a website (in this case, our SaaS website), can be categorized as link building.
Link building strategies have dramatically evolved throughout the years, mainly caused by how Google and other search engines shifted how they value the backlinks.
In the past, it’s all about quantity: the more backlinks coming to a website, the higher the site will rank on the SERP. This has allowed various blackhat link building strategies including private blog network (PBN) to flourish.
However, the search engines especially Google are getting better at determining the relevance of a backlink, the quality of the source, and its context, and so now the quality of the backlinks is just as, if not more important than quantity.
So, our link building approach must also focus on getting links from high-quality websites that are also relevant for our website. For example, for our SaaS website’s “guide to digital marketing” content, getting a backlink from a golf-related site won’t bring any value, even if it’s the #1 golf site in the country, quality-wise.
With that being said, most link building efforts can be categorized into three different approaches: outreach, broadcast, and paid:
Outreach is about reaching out to a potential source of backlinks manually, building relationships with website owners and influencers relevant to your website. You will introduce what your business/website is about and after a relationship has been established, you can ask for a backlink. Outreach efforts can come in many different forms from an email, a social media mention, a comment on their blog post, and so on.
This is essentially the cold-calling of link building: you broadcast your request for backlinks to as many people as possible, hoping that some of them (or one of them) will give you those backlinks. For example, promoting your content via your e-mail newsletter with 10,000 subscribers belong to this category, as well as linking your content in a press release or blog post (in guest posting).
Pretty self-explanatory, here we use various paid promotional channels like Facebook/Google Ads to promote our content with the aim of getting backlinks.
When planning our link building strategy below, we will also consider all three approaches.
Dofollow VS Nofollow Links
Before we continue with how to plan our SaaS link building strategy, we have to understand that there are two different types of external links: dofollow (or followed) and nofollow.
Dofollow links are links that pass link equity and will help the website it links to rank better. So, our link building strategy should focus on generating more dofollow links from high-quality and relevant websites
By default, links are dofollow, so when attempting your link building tactics (i.e. outreach), typically you won’t need to ask your source for a dofollow link.
Nofollow links, on the other hand, are links that are deliberately tagged with <a rel=”nofollow”, so that they won’t pass any link equity. Why? There are actually various reasons a website may link another but don’t want to pass link equity. For example, for links that are paid or considered as advertisements, and it’s also worth noting that links coming from major social media networks like Facebook are Instagram are always nofollow links. Links from blog post comment sections nowadays are also commonly nofollowed.
While nofollow links won’t bring any value, SEO-wise, every natural link profile nowadays should have a healthy amount of nofollowed links, especially those coming from social media networks. In fact, if a website doesn’t have any nofollow links pointing to it, then Google might suspect the site and so it’s more prone to be penalized.
To summarize, nofollow links should be a natural part of your website. While you should focus your link building strategy on getting dofollow links, it’s perfectly okay if you get nofollowed ones every now and then.
Remember that our objective is a healthy and natural link profile.
Link Building Tactics for SaaS Companies
Obviously, we can target as many high-quality links as we can in our link building effort, but since our resources and time are limited, we have to prioritize our ‘targets’.
So, as a SaaS company, what kinds of links should we prioritize? While it may vary depending on the product you sell and your niche, in general, you should pursue three main link building tactics:
- Content-based: producing relevant and high-quality content that will naturally attract links
- Public-relations: using your own company and its founders to generate backlinks through PR efforts
- Partnerships: partnerships with other non-competing organizations, especially those with a similar audience to yours
1. Content-Based Link Building Tactic
The most important mindset to have in your link building is that the best way to generate links is to actually publish something worth linking.
No amount of tactics can help generate links to content that is inherently bad, and on the other hand, even without any efforts a great content can go viral on its own and generate lots of backlinks.
So, above anything else, your strategy should be centered on creating great content that can establish your position as the credible thought leader of your industry.
You have to give people something worth linking for in your content, such as:
- A new, unique insight regarding a certain topic (i.e. a totally new idea about something)
- A piece of unique information/data, for example, a research report, white paper, data round-up, etc.
- An interesting story worth sharing (i.e. how your company was founded, if it’s interesting)
- Aesthetically pleasing assets (i.e. images, photos, infographics)
And so on.
So, basically, create high-quality content that features something worth linking within it, and promote it heavily using the three approaches above (outreach, broadcasting, paid options). You can, for example, reach out to a relevant influencer in your industry and share your content. A useful trick is to mention/link this influencer/website first in your content, so you can say something like, “Hey, we’ve mentioned you in this article, check it out!”
Here are some additional tips on how to leverage your content to build more links:
Guest posting is, as the name suggests, posting your content on other websites as a guest author. Then, in this guest-posted content, you can simply link your own website within the content to get your backlinks.
If you’ve previously published high-quality content on your site, then you can simply reach out to other websites in your niche that accept guest-posting and show them your published articles.
There are many SaaS companies that have successfully utilized guest posting as their link building strategy. Groove HQ, for example, has reached over 1 million people with guest posting alone, and the social media SaaS tool Buffer has successfully acquired more than 10,000 users in just 9 months.
As you can see, guest posting is not only a great link building tactic, but also a great way to build awareness, generate more leads, and even gain more customers.
Provide original data useful for your industry
We have briefly discussed this above, but one of the best ways to build high-quality links quickly is by creating content that provides unique data and insights into the niche you are in. This includes survey results, original research/studies, in-depth guides, or even valuable tools (i.e. if you are selling a SaaS tool for health, then you can share something like a BMI calculator).
While creating this content can be easier said than done, when executed well it can be very powerful not only in generating more links, but also to establish your credibility as a relevant player in the industry.
So, research your niche/industry, and figure out how you can provide value to this industry even to your competitors.
2. PR-Based Tactics
Even if you can publish high-quality and relevant content, it might take some time before you’ll get noticed by your backlink sources.
So, an effective strategy especially if you’re a relatively new company is to have a persona, ideally your founder, as the public face of the company. In this age of social media, this can be a really powerful link-building approach when done right.
For example, you can have your founder as a guest star in relevant podcast shows or even YouTube channels. While you might not get a dofollow link directly from this approach, you can reach more people and build awareness for your brand, getting placements and links in the long-run.
If necessary, you can outsource to SaaS SEO agency or consultants to help you with this strategy, but again, if your company has published noteworthy content and genuinely doing something valuable, getting these contacts and appearances can become much easier.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, partnerships with other companies (ideally non-competing) with customers who might need your SaaS product can be a very sustainable way to build more backlinks.
For example, if you are selling a SaaS tool for web design, then you can partner with digital marketing agencies that don’t offer web design so that they’ll link your content in theirs (and you can link theirs in yours). Obviously, they can also help recommend your SaaS product to their existing clientele.
Common Mistakes in SaaS Link Building
Now that we’ve discussed the important tactics we can use in developing your link building strategy, we have to also discuss some of the most common misconceptions and mistakes with link building for SaaS:
Mistake 1: Overoptimization
A very common mistake especially by those who’ve just learned about SEO is overoptimization, especially on your homepage. A very common practice is to do stuff the homepage with the company’s target keywords, hoping that Google will pick this up.
Instead, this can be counterproductive and you might get penalized instead. Besides, this practice will make link building even more difficult as your link sources might perceive your website as spammy or fraudulent.
Just optimize your pages (keyword-wise) naturally and sparingly, and focus on delivering comprehensive information for your target audience.
Mistake 2: Targeting the same keyword over and over again
Yes, there may be keywords that are going to be really valuable for your business if you can rank for them, but if they are too competitive and ranking for them is too difficult, they may not be worth pursuing.
Embrace the fact that some of your link building efforts will fail, and there will be cases where you’ve built enough links on a page with great, optimized content, but it gets stuck on the second page of the SERP.
In such cases, it’s best to just move on and target other keywords, and be creative. Remember that ranking is not your final objective, but rather organic traffic. There are other ways and other keywords that you can target to generate traffic to your site.
Mistake 3: Not building links to your homepage
Too often many SEO practitioners focus on building links to content pages, but not the homepage.
In truth, if you don’t have enough links to your homepage, Google might suspect that you are not a credible brand, and it might hurt the chance of your other (content) pages to rank.
You can build homepage links via guest posting on relevant, high-quality sites so Google can perceive your site as an authority site in the topic. This will boost the performance of your other pages.
An important thing to remember when attempting link building for SaaS is to diversify your strategy.
It’s definitely unwise to try the same strategies over and over again. Not only you’ll see diminishing returns, but your audience will realize that you are using the same tactic again and again, and it may hurt your reputation.
Instead, you can diversify your link building strategy by:
- Diversifying your targets: attempt to get backlinks from different sources, as getting links from the same sites over and over again will produce diminishing returns.
- Nofollow links: you can use nofollow links on your guest posts every now and then to ensure your link profile stays healthy and natural.
- Pages: don’t focus on building links to just one page (i.e. your homepage), but mix up the pages you link to. This will become second nature the more high-quality content pages you publish.