If you run a SaaS company and are looking to get into SEO as a growth strategy, it may seem on the surface that SaaS SEO is no different than an SEO strategy for any other business type; You’ll want to be mindful of everything from content to technical SEO to backlinks.
But SaaS business models are also subscription-based, which differentiates this market niche from other, more traditional business types.
It means that your ideal customers are with you for the long haul, staying subscribed to your service for many months or years.
With that in mind, you really have to put special effort into the buyer’s journey here, and what your perfect customer wants from you over time.
For this reason, your SaaS strategy has to make room for a laser-focused content strategy that will support customers at every turn, particularly as you improve and make other changes to your product.
In this guide, I’ll explain what SaaS SEO is and what you need in your strategy. Then, I’ll present a four-step strategy for using SEO to grow your SaaS business.
SaaS SEO uses online marketing to boost the visibility of software-as-a-service (SaaS) company websites, so more users will find them and ultimately become customers.
As you’d expect, SaaS SEO relies on organic search for its attention.
By optimizing the pages of a SaaS website for relevant keywords, those pages will ideally be found on Google’s SERPs when someone searches those keywords.
If the keyword targeting was accurate, then the people who eventually find their way to your website will be primed to consume your content and maybe even check out a free trial, and become clients.
As with SEO for any type of business, a SaaS company’s SEO strategy will rely heavily on setting the business apart from all its competitors in the field.
Chances are, if you’re offering software as a service and want people to find you organically on Google, then your competitors are doing the exact same thing.
Surpassing the competition in Google’s SERPs comes down to a few things, including:
I mentioned above that SEO for SaaS businesses is quite similar to SEO for any other industry, and that’s true for probably 90% of your SaaS SEO strategy.
The other 10% of your strategy has to be about selling the one unique quality about SaaS businesses: the fact that you’re actually offering both a product and an ongoing service – and to users who are going to be at many stages of the sales funnel.
That’s the business model of SaaS – once you get someone to sign up and start paying to use your product, you also have to manage that account indefinitely with software support and customer service.
This means your audiences include new users just entering the funnel at the informational phase, commercial-minded users looking to compare your product and service to your competitors, and existing customers who rely on you to provide ongoing product excellence and stellar technical support.
This is why SaaS SEO is different. It’s down to you to be in a constant state of attracting new customers to convert and keeping current subscribers happy indefinitely.
To split your SEO efforts in this way, you have to focus first on the traditional SEO approach of nurturing leads all the way down the funnel.
You then have to focus your content strategy on a mixture of evergreen content about your product, service, and industry, and timely updates and support.
Basically, create whatever content will be valuable to the leads you’re looking to capture and those already paying for your service.
Evergreen content is an investment you make now for your future, since, when it’s truly timeless, it will continue to perform for you.
Meanwhile, the more timely and updated content will serve your current subscriber base, who will look to you as their main source of knowledge about the service.
Putting in all these efforts as a SaaS company is a real investment; all SEO strategies are, and that never really stops.
Like all good investments, though, they pay compounding returns over time.
Eventually, you’ll have a formidable stockpile of evergreen content, a massive portfolio of authoritative backlinks, and a loyal customer base nourished by your ongoing content resources.
That’s the importance of SaaS SEO.
By the way, while your SEO strategy will be driven primarily by website content, you may also want to expand into marketing that content on social media and through email.
You can call this content stacking or content repurposing, but it helps to get yourself out there on as many platforms as possible if you really want to find leads and current subscribers in the places where they are spending time.
If you want to use the most cost-effective method of SEO to grow your SaaS business over time, you’re going to need an approach that works – one that takes into account your own goals, and what your competition is currently doing better than you.
Any SEO strategy worth its salt, in any market niche, really should start with you knowing your whys.
You can’t direct a strategy of any kind without knowing specifically what you hope to achieve with it.
SaaS companies are typically after the same general goals, which could include growing subscriber bases, increasing revenues, and securing more mentions on social media. But those are big-picture goals.
You may be constantly working toward new subscribers, but set a goal just for the year of increasing your monthly revenue by a specific number. In that case, you have something to focus on for the year, and a specific sense of direction for your SEO strategy.
Try to avoid going into these efforts with nothing more than a vague notion of what you want.
For example, “increasing website visibility” may sound specific, but what does it mean? To increase its visibility how, and by what metric?
It would be better to say that you want to increase the clickthrough rate (CTR) of each of your main software sales pages by 5% this year.
You would then be able to focus on the things that are known to increase CTR on webpages.
The next building block of any good SEO strategy is to research the keywords that you’ll need to target on all of your most important pages.
Much has been written on how to perform keyword research the right way, but let’s get into some specifics about how to do it for your SaaS website.
Keyword research must also take intent into account the intent of the keywords and your target audiences.
Whether you’re working on your product pages or customer support pages, know that the slant of such pages should be to sell things to people.
You, therefore, need commercial-intent keywords to target those main pages.
You’ll want to gather a list of key phrases that are important to you, and then test them out by searching them in Google to see what turns up. That’s called mining the SERPs.
Make sure the intent of your keyword and the SERP results match what you want to accomplish on your page.
If you’re selling project-management software and want to target that phrase as a keyword, but find that most of your competitors are targeting “project management platform” instead, you’ll have to weigh whether it makes sense for you to do the same on your page.
Take into account the search volume of the keyword, how your competitors are using the keyword, and what would be the most logical for the customers you want to capture.
If your competitors are using your target keyword, but the content on their pages is severely lacking in quality, then you know you stand a chance of ranking higher by outperforming them in the content game.
That’s a keyword strategy that will work for your commercial sales pages and your more informational, top-funnel posts meant to draw users into the funnel.
In the case of keyword research for blog topics, remember that your intent is to build a reservoir of evergreen content, so you’ll want to target higher-level terms that are relevant to your industry so you can create useful content around them.
The same methodology applies here as on your sales pages: Build a blog topic keyword list, compare metrics such as search volume and difficulty, and then mine the SERPs to see how your competitors are employing the terms.
If you feel you can do better, then it would make a good keyword target.
Remember that in the SaaS space, you’ll have to do all this for every part of your business, including for the product itself, and the customer and technical support you offer.
Understanding the sales funnels and customer journeys associated with these niches will inform the keyword research you perform.
Once you’ve done your keyword research and know what type of audience each keyword should be targeting, it’s time to create the actual content that will get your SaaS webpages the rest of the way.
As you’ll know from mining the SERPs earlier, you’re probably going to have heavy competition in the SaaS space, no matter what you offer specifically.
That means your competitors will be creating content, as well, and that’s partly to your advantage. Any content that’s ranking for your keyword targets on the SERPs was created by competitors who have already shot their shot.
If you’re looking to create new content or optimize what you already have, you can draw from your competition’s existing content to do so.
It’s always a good idea to examine existing content before beginning your own; that way, you know what user needs are already being met elsewhere.
The thing to remember is, just because your competitors have already created content around certain keywords doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the best content.
All you need to do is create content that more comprehensively addresses the intent of the target keyword. It could be difficult or relatively easy to do this based on what’s out there already.
For the sake of being serious about your SaaS SEO strategy, though, assume that your most formidable search competitors have their content game down pat.
Even when that is the case, it won’t be impossible to create amazing content around your keywords.
Examine competitor content pages to see where they might have skimped on information.
Or, maybe you’ve come across a handful of relevant keywords that they aren’t targeting that you can take advantage of.
In your content, focus also on user experience (a significant factor in Google’s rankings today). If your competitors aren’t creating content with images, graphics, jump links, or anything interactive, then this is your chance to be better than they are by leveraging those elements in your work.
You can silo off all the individual areas of your SaaS business when you plan your content. Maybe you create topic clusters around SaaS product details, customer support, and real-world applications for your software.
Each segment of your business would then get an ongoing series of posts focusing on that.
This is something you would have planned at the keyword research stage of your SEO strategy, but having these silos could be the major difference between your competitors’ SaaS content strategies and your own.
Finally, the same principles of on-page and off-page SEO that apply to all websites also apply to SaaS websites.
No matter what type of website you’re running, technical SEO elements such as meta tags, H1s, sitemaps, image compression, and load times are all vital factors to consider when you’re optimizing your SEO.
Problems in any of these areas could pull down your ranking power and encourage Google to award higher rankings to your competitors, rather than to you.
You also can’t forget about your off-page SEO, which refers to your link-building efforts.
If content is the bread and butter of SaaS companies, then you’re going to need a solid link-building strategy to give that content the social proof it needs to surpass the competition on Google.
You want to focus on links from relevant and authoritative domains to your content, and the quality matters more than the quantity.
Full disclosure: You’re going to employ a lot of resources to build natural links to your content, but remember that backlinks have long been one of Google’s primary ranking factors, so don’t give up on this area.
SaaS will remain a relevant market now and well into the future, and with so many companies out there looking to capitalize on their superior product and service, SEO is going to become even more important over time.
By following the four-step SaaS SEO strategy outlined above, you can get (and keep) a leg up on your competition and ultimately come out on top.