SEO for SaaS: Actionable Tips on How to Grow Traffic for Your SaaS Company
by Mike Khorev
Marketing for SaaS businesses is fairly unique compared to other businesses: the sales cycle is surprisingly fast, with an average of just 40 days for SaaS products priced below $5,000. Meaning you don’t have a lot of room to nurture your prospects.
The biggest challenge in SaaS marketing, however, is arguably about generating leads. SEO remains one of the most effective ways to generate more SaaS prospects, and in this guide, we will learn how.
First, we will discuss the right mindset in implementing SEO for SaaS.
Content is Definitely King, If Not Everything
First, we have to emphasize that nowadays, SaaS SEO is all about a good, if not excellent, content marketing game.
In the past, we can get away with aggressive optimizations like keyword stuffing, SEO cloaking, and other tactics to rank in a matter of months, if not weeks.
Nowadays, however, both Google and the customers are getting smarter: Google, with its various algorithm updates and especially the Google RankBrain can now better recognize content that will be valuable for the respective audience—and those that simply won’t—. Rankbrain, Google’s A.I. machine learning software, can for example, learn which content that is bounced immediately, and the ones that are actually consumed with significant dwell time.
On the other hand, customers are also smarter. They can immediately recognize content that is not professionally made and sound scammy. With so much information and content available on the internet, some of your visitors can even recognize duplicate content.
So, to succeed in SaaS SEO in 2020, there’s no shortcut to actually having relevant, valuable content published regularly. Both quantity and quality are equally important here. While this might mean bad news for some of us, this will ultimately create a better environment for everyone: the ones that actually know about their niche wins, while those who are only looking for quick bucks will be naturally eliminated.
Thankfully, content is already an integral part of the SaaS industry. However, this will also mean that you will compete with more content.
Even then, simply publishing good content regularly won’t cut it. There are over 4 million blog posts published daily. So, it’s getting harder and harder to get noticed nowadays. Think of good, relevant content as a prerequisite to successful SEO for SaaS companies.
On the other hand, if our content didn’t get noticed, we can’t get backlinks, which are also a very important ranking factor in SEO strategy for SaaS companies. Promoting our content is just as important as the content development process, if not more important.
The tactics and strategies we will discuss below will be based on these facts: publishing good content regularly and promoting them properly.
Important Ranking Signals in 2020
To be successful in SaaS SEO, we have to understand the ranking signals and adjust our tactics to leverage this knowledge.
Google’s search algorithm is always evolving, and thus the ranking signals have evolved over the years.
However, it’s important to understand that Google’s (and the other search engines’) main aim is to provide better results for the audience. Understanding this fact can help us understand that SEO is ultimately about optimizing our SaaS site for the human audience, and not for the search engine bots.
With that being said, here are 5 of the most important ranking signals in 2020:
1. Technical Factors
There are three key technical factors that are especially important for SEO: secure and reliable site (including HTTPS utilization), mobile-responsiveness, and optimal site load speed. In short: having a site that is up to par to today’s standards.
This is fairly basic, but also very important. If your site isn’t perceived as secure by Google, you won’t rank. If you get a high bounce rate because your site is slow to load, you also won’t rank.
2. Domain Age and overall authority
Yes, age matters.
More than 55% of the sites that are ranked on the top 10 spots of Google SERP are at least three years old.
Obviously there’s not much you can do about this if your site is fairly new, besides probably purchasing an old domain and make it your own.
You can, however, optimize other factors like having more high-quality backlinks to improve your authority.
3. Content Optimization
We have discussed content and its relations to SEO fro SaaS above, and how optimized your content is both for human readers and for Google’s algorithm will be an important ranking factor. Keyword optimization still matters, although Google is getting smarter in detecting keyword stuffing. Generally, if you use your keywords naturally and use semantically-related keywords, you are good to go.
The content must also be relevant according to the user’s search intent. Different keywords will relate to different intents:
- Navigational: the user is aiming to find a specific site, often related to brand keywords
- Informational: the user is looking to get an answer for a specific question.
- Investigational: the user is comparing different products or searching for a product
- Transactional: the user is looking to make a specific purchase
We have to develop content for each of these search intents.
The goal of content optimization is to provide better information for human audience: focus on being relevant and valuable, and include your keywords naturally. Also, focus on being a thought leader for a certain topic.
4. User Experience
User experience metrics are now important ranking signals, thanks to the introduction of Google RankBrain. With the A.I.-based algorithm, Google can recognize whether a search result is relevant for the users. For example, a top-ranking content that is not getting a high enough click-through rate (CTR) will be deemed irrelevant, and thus demoted.
There are three main user experience metrics to focus on:
- Click-through Rate (CTR): how many people are clicking on your link when it appeared in the search results.
- Bounce Rate: the number of people who immediately exit your site after just a few seconds. This will be perceived by Google that your site is not relevant to the search query
- Dwell Time: how long the user stays on your site after they made the visit. This will often be related to the relevancy and quality of your content.
5. Link Profile
Yes, backlinks are still very important in 2020, although some things have changed. In a nutshell, when a site links to your site, Google will perceive your site as more relevant.
However, while in the past it’s more about quantity: the more links, the merrier, nowadays it’s more about quality. Google will check whether your site is linked by sites that are: 1) already relevant and 2)related to your niche and keywords. For example, if you are a site about digital marketing, getting a link from a high-quality golf site is deemed irrelevant.
6. Social Signals
While Google themselves have declared that social shares are not counted as inbound links—and thus not a direct ranking signal—, the more people that share your site, the higher the chance of getting these links.
We can see that the top-ranking pages on Google usually have a lot of shares, so getting more social shares can significantly help in improving your ranking.
SaaS SEO Strategy in 2020
Based on the factors discussed above, here are the key optimizations we should focus on to succeed in SEO as a SaaS business:
1. Optimizing Your Content
As we have discussed above, the most important key to success in SaaS SEO is your content— both in quantity and quality. Here are the key areas to focus on when optimizing your content for SEO:
- Above all, focus on optimizing for human audience: delivering value and relevance. Don’t focus solely on pleasing the search engine algorithms
- A proper keyword research is very important. In general, you should aim for three things:
- Keywords that are relevant for both your SaaS business and your audience
- Keywords with high enough search volume (will vary depending on your industry’s size, etc.)
- Keywords with manageable competition
- Use the topic clusters approach, where a more in-depth, longer “pillar” page is targeting the main keywords, and other, shorter content pieces are covering related keywords. All these pages are linked to the main page. For example, the pillar page can be an in-depth content about “digital marketing”, while smaller articles can cover “SEO”, “social media marketing”, and more. This approach can help in building your credibility and authority over a certain topic, which is Google’s preference nowadays.
- When approaching keyword density, the important thing is to include your keywords naturally for human audience. This will include using semantically-related keyword (LSI keywords) to develop a more natural content.
2. On-page Technical Optimizations
The second aspect to focus on is the technical optimizations on your site. There are two main goals of this optimization:
- Optimizing your site so that it’s easily crawled and indexed by Google and other search engines
- Improving your site’s user experience from mobile responsiveness to fast loading speed to other factors that will keep your audience on your site longer.
Technical SEO optimization for SaaS can be a very broad (and deeply technical) subject, but this checklist by Search Engine Journal—designed for non-technical marketers— can help you.
In the SaaS niche, technical optimization is arguably even more important, since all your competitors are already tech-savvy with properly functioning websites.
3. Optimizing For Rich Snippet
Relatively new to Google is how they now include rich snippets in some queries. According to SEMRush, almost 12 % of all search results now feature rich snippets.
Rich, or featured snippets are positioned above the top ranking position, and can steal a lot of traffic. So, how can we get featured as a rich snippet? There are three main factors:
- The keyword itself must feature a rich snippet. Tools like Ahrefs can show keywords with rich snippets opportunities.
- More than 99.5% of rich snippets are from pages that already rank on the first page for the keyword.
- The page is properly formatted with structured data markups, which is essentially assigning attributes and properties to all the elements on your page.
Find opportunities for rich snippets, and optimize your page accordingly. This guide by Backlinko might help you further in this aspect.
4. Link Profile
SaaS SEO is not only about backlinks—or inbound links—, as there are three key components of your site’s link profile:
- Internal link: links within your domain from one page to another. A good internal linking structure will allow Google an easier time to index your site, among other benefits.
- Outbound link: Links from your site pointing to other sites. This will help Google in perceiving your authority over a certain topic/niche, as well as helping with overall indexing.
- Inbound link: backlinks coming from other sites to yours. The more backlinks coming to a certain content, the more relevant the content is.
However, it is true that backlinks remain one of the most important ranking signals in SaaS SEO, and here are some effective tactics in getting more backlinks:
- There’s no shortcut to actually having good content. Good content will naturally get linked, and bad, irrelevant content will have a hard time just getting one link.
- Remember that the quality of the inbound links matters more than quantity. Build relationships with relevant sites and influencers of your niche. Guest posting is the common—and still effective— approach here.
- Building backlinks—quantity-wise—is still effective. We just have to be careful in getting backlinks from spammy websites that can be counterproductive for your SEO results and can compromise your SaaS SEO strategy. Integrate all your content promotion tactics with getting backlinks. That is, besides aiming to get more traffic by promoting your content, aim to also get links. For example, when implementing influencer marketing, you can also ask the influencer to link your content.
5. Voice SEO for SaaS
More and more people are using voice search today, where more than 40% of adult users perform one or more voice search every single day.
It is worth noting, however, that most of voice search queries are done in searching for local businesses, and it can be hard to implement this in the SaaS environment.
We can, however, still find opportunities for voice SEO for SaaS by targeting conversational search queries or Q&A queries, and there are three important factors:
- Google tend to feature voice search results from content that already ranked in the top 3 spots, so follow the usual SEO optimizations
- For keywords that also feature-rich snippets, generally the rich snippet is also featured as the voice answer
- Focus on questions that are commonly asked in your niche, and include this question in the content (as a subheading or in the middle of the content). Attempt to answer this question better than your competitors, and aim to get featured as a rich snippet.
To reiterate, your content quality and quantity remain the most important factors in achieving SEO success for your SaaS company. This is even more true in the SaaS environment where content marketing is already a very important aspect. So, work on your content game, and the rest of SaaS SEO tactics will be far easier to implement with better results.
June 6, 2020