SaaS marketing is quite unique due to several different factors. However, the fact that SaaS is an exclusively online business—with virtually no offline presence—will mean we also have to rely mainly on digital or online marketing.
So, SEO as one of the most effective and cost-efficient digital marketing channels is very important for SaaS businesses.
Here, we will learn how to implement SEO in the SaaS environment in a step-by-step guide. Yet, let us begin by discussing the basic concept of SEO.
What Actually Is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and as the name suggests, is the term used to describe any optimizations on a website to rank higher on the search engines’ results page—especially Google’s.
SEO has been around since the earliest days of the search engines. Archie was the very first internet search engine—although very different than our modern search engines—, introduced in 1990. Many other search engines from Lycos to AltaVista to Yahoo bloomed on those early days of the internet.
However, it was the launch of Google back in 1996 that really triggered the start of SEO. Google was the first search engine that ranked websites based on relevancy and popularity rather than alphabetically (and paid listing), essentially allowing the possibility of SEO.
While the search engines have continued to evolve over the years, the main principle of SEO is the same: optimizing all the possible aspects of your site so the search engines will perceive it as more relevant and more popular.
How SEO Works?
There are three key areas that are essential in SEO:
- Technical Optimizations: making sure the search engines can ‘crawl’ the website easily and efficiently and properly understand the content of the website.
- Content Optimizations: the content must be understood by the search engines—mainly by optimizing for target keywords—, but on the other hand must bring value for the human audience.
- Backlinks: when your site is linked by other sites, the search engines will consider your site as more relevant—even more so when the backlink came from a high-quality site—.
SEO is a Long Term Game
It’s important to debunk the common misconception that SEO is ‘cheating’ the search engine, somewhat mystifying SEO as a get-rich-quick scheme or a holy grail secret tactic.
Instead, nowadays there’s nothing so secret about SEO. SEO is solely about optimizing the three factors we have discussed above, and be consistent.
It’s important to understand that SEO is a long-term game and will take at least 6 to 12 months before you see significant results. However, not only SEO is relatively affordable than other marketing channels—so it can be used to lower your overall marketing expenses—, the results will be worth it in the end as you’ll get a sustainable, long-term source of leads.
So, it’s better to start your SEO efforts as early as possible.
Why Do We Need SEO for SaaS?
While arguably SEO is important for any businesses, SEO in SaaS deserved a special import due to two main reasons:
First, SaaS businesses are exclusively online, and so we have to rely on online or digital marketing. SEO, as mentioned, is among the most affordable, accessible, and effective digital marketing channels available.
Second, content marketing—or inbound marketing—is an integral aspect of SaaS marketing, and SEO remains the most effective way to promote your content.
SEO is a very important digital marketing channel for SaaS, and again, it’s better to start early.
Starting Your SEO for SaaS Campaign
So, how can you start an SEO campaign for your SaaS business? Admittedly, if you don’t know anything at all about SEO, this can be confusing. Combine that with the fact that starting and running a SaaS company are already difficult, so you might not have the time to start your own SEO campaign.
In this case, outsourcing to an SEO company is probably your best bet. However, it is wise to still learn about the key steps of SEO—which we will discuss below— so you can make a better informed decision in choosing an SEO agency.
SEO for SaaS Strategy: Step-By-Step
Here, we will discuss the necessary steps in formulating and executing an SEO strategy for SaaS, starting with the first and most important one:
1.Defining Your SEO Goals
What is the goal of your SEO efforts? No, SERP ranking is not the end goal, but rather just a means to an end. There’s no use of getting the no.1 rank on Google if SEO doesn’t bring you more traffic, more leads, or more conversions.
So, define clear and specific goals for you SEO campaign, such as:
- Increasing website traffic by X%
- Getting more people to sign up to your email newsletter by X%
- Increase sales by X%
Your goals should be specific and realistic—that is, achievable—. It’s okay to have big goals and visions, but in that case, break them down into smaller, more achievable milestones. This is important to maintain a sense of progress and the morale of your team.
A very important aspect of SEO is finding your target keyword(s). In general, there are three main principles in keyword research for SEO:
- The keyword must be relevant for your business/product/service. For example, you should be able to expand the keyword into a topic that will boost your brand’s relevance or pull more people to purchase your product/service
- The keywords must be relevant for your audience. That is, they are often searched by your ideal audience (a high monthly search volume). The higher the search volume, the better.
- The competition for the keyword must be manageable, according to your budget and timeline.
U can use various keyword research tools to find your target keywords according to these three principles. There are free options like Google Keyword Planner and UberSuggert, and there are also advanced, paid options like SEMRush and Ahrefs, among others.
Make a list of your target keywords and take notes of key metrics (search volume, keyword difficulty) if necessary.
3. Competitive Analysis
In SEO, your ‘competitors’ are especially those who are ranking on your target keywords.
The simplest, most affordable way here is to do a quick Google search for these target keywords and check those ranking on the first page (at least the top 3 results).
Alternatively, you can use various tools like Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Moz Pro among others to perform a competitive analysis.
There are a few key areas to pay attention to here:
- Their approaches with the content: their content quality, technical optimizations, keywords usage, etc. Your goal is to create a better (or different content) than these. We will discuss this again further below.
- Their backlinks profile. The idea is that the sites that gave backlinks to these competitors might also be willing to give yours.
- Their content promotion. See how they are using social media, are they investing on paid ads? If it’s a fairly old content, tracking the data can be difficult, but always possible.
The better you understand your ‘enemy’, the better you can develop your strategy. The main principle? If there’s something you can improve upon, do so. If some aspects are already really good if not perfect, emulate.
4. Develop Your Content Strategy
Develop a content strategy based on your keyword research and competitive analysis.
As mentioned, the idea is to develop a better content compared to the top ranking competitors, especially the top-3 pages of your target keywords. There are two different approaches in doing this:
- Create a content significantly better in all the different aspects: longer and more in-depth, newer information, better images and videos, better structure, more engaging tone, and so on.
- Find a unique angle and cover the topic in a different way. You can even argue against the facts presented in your competitor’s content, the controversy might attract readers.
The thing is, a little bit different is usually better than being a little bit better. If you want to take the former approach, you have to be better in significant ways. However, that’s not saying finding a unique, different angle is always easier, as sometimes it can be really difficult.
The principle, however, remains. If you can find a unique angle, do so. If not, aim to create a better content. Remember that you must always use valid information in your content, and cite your sources.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of media diversification. Use images, infographics, and videos to enhance your content.
What about keyword optimization? Isn’t that the key to SEO? It was, back in the day.
However, Google’s—and other search engines’— algorithms have dramatically changed over the years. Over-optimizations of keywords, in fact, can get you penalized.
Our advice is not to put too much attention on keyword optimizations: include your target keywords naturally, use semantically-related keywords, and focus on delivering a valuable content for human readers.
5. Backlinks Building
Backlinks are the most important commodity not only for SEO, but for the internet in general. We can think of backlinks—or inbound links—, as votes of confidence. The more sites (and the more credible the sites) that give you backlinks, the more relevant and credible your site is in the eyes of Google and the other search engines.
So, backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors.
Yet, it’s important to understand that nowadays, quality is more important than quantity in link building. Getting just one link from a high-quality, relevant website in your niche can boost your ranking better than getting a lot of links from spammy, low quality sites.
In fact, getting too many backlinks at one time can get you penalized.
So, focus on getting just 2 or 3 backlinks from high-quality sites every month:
- The best and most effective way to get backlinks is to actually develop relevant, valuable, and high-quality content. There’s no shortcut around this.
- However, how we promote our content is also important. Promote your content for two-fold benefits: getting more organic traffic and getting more backlinks.
- Build relationships and strategic partnerships with key influencers, press, and businesses in your niche.
- Give before you ask. Cite relevant websites in your content and give them backlinks. Let them know about it (via email outreach or social media conversation), and they might return the favor in the future.
6. Technical Optimization
Technical optimization—or often called on-site optimization— for SEO has two main goals:
- Making sure your site is easily and properly indexable by Google (and other search engines).
- Making sure your human visitors have an optimal experience on your website
Both aspects will significantly affect your ranking. If Google can’t properly crawl your site, you won’t get ranked.
Also, due to the advent of Google’s Rankbrain—its A.I.-based algorithm—, user experience metrics like bounce rate and dwell time will also affect search rankings.
Technical SEO optimization is a very broad and deep subject, and you might want to check this guide to help you further.
However, here are some key areas to focus on:
- Website speed. More than 50% of visitors will leave a site that loads more than 3 seconds.
- Mobile-friendliness and mobile-responsiveness are must-have
- Optimize robots.txt, XML sitemap, and other aspects of your site to make sure it is properly indexed
- Check broken links regularly and fix them
7. Evaluation and Further Optimizations
It’s important to remember that SEO is not a short-term tactic, but rather a long-term game where you’ll need to spend at least 6 to 12 months before you can see significant results (i.e. ranking on the first page of Google).
The key here is maintaining consistency of all the previous steps. Evaluate your progress using various SEO audit tools, track the improvements of your ranking, backlinks profile, traffic, and so on.
Re-optimize your content and website accordingly, and keep building your links while publishing more content.
SEO is a very cost-efficient and effective tactic for any SaaS businesses. However, it’s also a long-term strategy that will require patience and consistency.
The key to successful SEO is a strong content marketing game: consistently publish high-quality and relevant content, and you’ll reap the sustainable long-term results.