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Implementing a winning SaaS SEO framework can help you scale fast.
Whether you’ve just launched and are looking to go from 0 to 100 MQLs, or you’re head of an established SaaS product and looking to hit the next level and grow from $10M to $100M+ ARR, this guide is for you.
After helping dozens of SaaS businesses build their search engine optimization efforts, we’ve found the most often-asked questions and pain points and compiled this in-depth guide to help you during your search engine optimization journey.
Let’s dive in. 👇
Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing a website in order to allow for it to rank high in search engines, to drive visibility and search traffic which eventually translates into leads for the business.
But what is at the core of search engine optimization, and why is it important for helping your SaaS organization to grow?
If we peel away all the layers when it comes to SEO and truly boil it down to the 80/20 rule, the following three areas are where you should be focusing your efforts:
Let’s dive a bit deeper into each of these three core categories.
On-Page SEO includes the process of optimizing all of the elements on a page for best practices when it comes to ranking in search engines.
Let’s take a theoretical example to demonstrate the specifics of On-Page SEO.
Imagine for a moment that you’re a Digital Marketing Manager for a SaaS platform that allows for the hosting and promotion of virtual events.
You’ve done a bit of research and determined that you want to create a landing page that ranks on the first page of Google for the term “virtual events platform”.
What do you need to do next in terms of bringing this page to fruition, and giving it the best chance of rankings from an On-Page SEO perspective?
For starters, you’re going to want to include the following items:
Now, these are only a few of the many items which make up On-Page SEO, but certainly are some of the most important.
As you start to become more familiar with the important aspects of On-Page SEO, take a look at some of your competitors that are ranking for keywords that you also would like to target.
Type the primary search term into Google, open up their pages, and examine what they’re doing when it comes down to focusing on primary and secondary keywords, or what type of questions and topics they’re covering within their content.
This is always the starting point for both on-page SEO and content marketing – examine what is already working and what Google is already rewarding and create pages/content that are 10x better.
That’s how you start to win.
Running on Chrome, and want to easily get a snapshot on a page-by-page basis?
Check out Glen Allsopp’s Detailed SEO extension – it gives great, quick insights into the elements on a page, including links, schema, and all of the important on-page SEO items you’ll want to be looking at (even for your own pages):
If you want to dive deeper in, check out our On-Page SEO guide for a comprehensive overview of what you need to be watching out for on a page-by-page basis.
Content marketing is a pretty self-explanatory term at an initial glance, but also has many sections that roll off the back of it.
In the broadest sense, content marketing is the process of marketing your company by creating valuable content for your potential customers.
Content marketing has two main objectives when it comes to SEO:
When we talk about content marketing, it’s about having a strong focus on not only the money or purchase pages of a website, also known as “landing pages”, but also on the top-of-the-funnel informational content that helps to drive brand awareness and slowly push users through the funnel.
If again, we take the example of the keyword “virtual event platform” and look at top ranking pages in Google, we will notice a few brands doing a great job at creating landing pages to answer this query:
Cvent is not only creating service landing pages related to the features and functionality of its product where there’s a clear intent for the user’s searching for bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, but they’re also focused on creating great informational content around the same topics to hit top funnel keywords as well:
To summarize this topic in one sentence:
Conduct keyword research and topical analysis with the end goal of creating excellent content and copy which speaks to your target audience, and targets what they’re searching for in Google at the different parts of the funnel.
Having an authoritative website in the eyes of Google and other search engines is going to go a long way when it comes to ranking high in the results pages, and being able to drive inbound leads for your business.
Backlinks have always been important when it comes to SEO, and will continue to be one of the key ranking factors for search engines.
If you’re not already familiar with backlinks, the term refers to other websites which are linking to your website.
In the most simple of terms, you can imagine that every time another website links to your business’s website, this counts as a vote.
Over time, votes add up and signal to search engines that your website is worth of receiving search traffic.
Backlinks are meant to be acquired in a natural way.
Related Content: Link Building for SaaS
As you build great content which provides value to the searcher, as outlined in the previous content marketing section, other websites will naturally link to your website over time.
You should always be aiming to create the best resources out there related to your industry and service’s offering in order to become the go-to SaaS authority in your area of expertise.
When you’re creating the best value through content that helps others, you will naturally build backlinks over time.
You might also be interested to find out where your competitors are linked from, which you can do using a tool such as Ahrefs.
Simply enter your competitor’s URL, and click on “Backlinks” from the left-hand menu:
You now have a full list of your competitor’s backlinks, including to which page on your competitor’s site the link is going to.
This will give you a ton of insights into which type of content is being linked to the most, and how you can replicate competitor strategies to also put a link-building campaign in to place.
If you’re not familiar already with the inner workings of SEO, the process for ranking high in the search engine results page for a particular keyword might seem a bit complex.
When we stick to the 80/20 of SEO and focus on what truly moves the needle, then you truly start to see the magic happen.
Most SaaS companies are focused on one single objective, which is building a great service – and that’s great.
Building the best service out there to help your users accomplish their tasks is why the business is alive.
But without putting a focus on marketing your actual service, you certainly won’t be found as easily or by as many users as you could be.
This is why investing time and resources into SEO (as well as other digital marketing channels) is essential to driving leads, sales, and revenue for your SaaS business.
Start by doing the basics right when it comes to SEO, and then move on to more advanced tactics as you grow your organic traffic:
When you do these basics right, you’re bound to rank high and be found by your target audience in the search results.
Remember – we want to focus on doing the basics right, and a great starting point is ensuring that we have a website that is accessible to Google’s crawlers.
A lot of SaaS websites run the front-end marketing side of their business off of WordPress, and the back-end using their own technology.
This is an example of a great way you can utilize a customizable CMS that plays great with SEO, without overcomplicating things with a custom-built out website with the newest technology.
Having a website that is SEO friendly and allows for easy crawling and indexation is going to go a long way in helping to drive search rankings.
Imagine you’re building a new house. You want to get the foundation right to avoid any problems down the road.
If marketing is a priority for your business, you want to ensure that the foundation is set, and gives you the best chance of success.
If you’re a small business or startup just getting your initial SaaS product to market, stick with the tried and tested technologies that are known to play well with SEO – we’re big fans of both WordPress as well as Webflow.
If you’re working for an established SaaS company that’s running on a custom-built or more advanced setup – that’s fine – you simply want to make sure you’re crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s when it comes to Technical SEO.
The process of Technical SEO refers to both website and server-size optimization which allows Google and other search engine bots to crawl and index a website more effectively.
We’ve broken these out into individual sections to explore the most-important overarching topics.
Getting a 30,000-foot view of the crawl depth and internal linking structure of your website is an important starting point for any audit.
There are plenty of crawling tools available such as SiteBulb which not only crawl your website but also provide detailed insights into potential architecture-related issues of the website itself.
Related Content: The Guide to Technical SEO for SaaS
One of the most important factors to consider when it comes to technical SEO would be how you’re linking to other pages on the website in order to get the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to passing what’s called link equity.
In the most basic sense, you want to link to important pages from your homepage, and you also want to be creating a spider-web effect between your related content topics.
If you’re just entering the world of SEO audits and technical SEO, you’ll want to get started with this website audit checklist to get started.
Site speed matters for both rankings, and the overall user experience.
If a website takes too long to load, users are going to click back from and return to the search results page, which is an obvious red flag when it comes to rankings.
Generally, you want to ensure your website is loading under 3s flat.
You can test your site speed using tools like Google Page Speed Insights to get both an idea of potential issues causing slowdowns, and suggestions on how to resolve each of those issues:
Additionally, you’ll want to run your website through Pingdom to check the overall load time for both the homepage and individual pages of the website.
We prefer generally to look at the overall load times versus the scoring GPSI provides.
You want to ensure that you’re allowing your website to be easily crawled by Google, and that’s where the XML sitemap comes in.
Overall, you want to ensure that you have a sitemap set up with all of the pages which you want to be found in Google.
Once you have that in place, you want to submit that via Google Search Console to notify Google where to look when it comes to crawling your website’s pages:
Make sure to follow best practice when it comes to XML sitemaps, and you’ll be on your way.
Link building is in and of itself essentially a whole category underneath of the SEO umbrella.
Links play a crucial role in pushing high rankings.
Generally, high-quality links include the following qualities:
There are really three ways links can be built:
Create great content that provides value.
That’s it – it’s that easy.
Now truly, it’s not that easy, especially for smaller businesses with less authority. It takes time to build a link profile naturally and requires a lot of work.
Natural link building comes through the promotion of your content assets to encourage linking and shares.
Just created the best piece of content on the internet in your industry with an impressive case study and new never-seen-before data?
Share it with your audience via social channels.
Promote it via your network, and others in the industry you know.
Work to get the content out there, circulated, and in front of your audience.
Eventually, as you start to build more great content and links over time, your content will be found and linked to.
Link outreach is the process of prospecting websites you want to get listed in, and pitching them for a link.
Now, there are plenty of great guides out there on conducting link outreach that lands results, so we don’t want to dive too deep into this topic in this post.
Paying for link placements on third-party websites has been around for years, and will continue to be well into the future as long as links continue to hold their overall value in the ranking equation (which, most likely they will.)
Long story short, paying for backlinks goes against Google’s ToCs.
Does it happen on a constant basis? Yes.
Are your competitors doing it? Probably.
However, you want to look at it, paying for links works and it’s going to continue to work.
There are a handful of vetted platforms out there where you can buy relevant high-quality links from within your industry:
With that being said, there are definitely risks and considerations to look at prior to paying for links (marketers generally ruin everything!)
That’s a decision each business needs to make on its own.
There are a lot of vanity metrics out there when it comes to SEO, and for that reason, we really want to boil down and make sure that we’re focusing on monitoring and measuring metrics that truly matter.
Which position are we ranking in this week for “keyword xyz”?
How many backlinks did we build this month?
Did we hit a 50 domain authority yet?
All of these questions include vanity metrics that truly don’t map back to showing the clear progress as well as the success of an SEO campaign.
We want to be tracking matters which show the real picture:
Year on Year Organic traffic is a growth-focused metric that provides insights directly into how your campaign is performing when it
comes to generating traffic.
You want to be tracking back year-on-year numbers because most businesses are seasonal, including B2B SaaS.
This metric is going to give you insights into the overall health of your business, and whether you’re seeing growth, decline or simply sustaining traffic.
Now, this is a metric you can really chew on.
With proper tracking in place, we can map back how much revenue we’re generating from SEO, and make decisions from there on whether the campaign is providing ROI, or not:
Within Google Analytics, we can track both conversions as well as revenue for SaaS businesses that are directly taking online
payments via the website.
Now we can even calculate LTV and ACV, which really allows us to boil down our efforts and make decisions moving forward.
There are plenty of marketing channels and strategies that you can choose to invest in as a business for driving growth for your SaaS company.
What makes SEO the right choice for our business?
Why should our business invest in a marketing initiative that won’t return results for 6-12 months?
Great questions, followed by a great answer:
By focusing on SEO, you’re creating an evergreen, predictable and scalable SaaS growth strategy.
If you take a look at any of the most successful SaaS companies, you’ll find a strong SEO and content marketing initiative which is at the forefront of driving growth to their businesses.
There are two key reasons why your business should be focusing on leveraging SEO:
The results that come from SEO and content marketing efforts compound over time.
By putting a proper search engine optimization strategy in place, you will continue to see consistent growth.
Since we also generally know the organic search volume behind terms that are being targeted, this makes organic traffic predictable, and easy to calculate ROI against a campaign.
Paid advertising can be extremely effective and attractive, there’s no doubt about it.
Setup a proper PPC campaign, and you can start seeing the lead funnel fill up pretty quickly, and without the need to wait for the time it takes SEO to really start to kick in.
The issue is that almost always, the cost to acquire a user through paid advertising increases gradually over time.
Over time, costs will rise as more competitors enter the market and bid on the same target keywords, as you’ve already started to exhaust your audience.
Paid advertising is a pay-to-play game, and as soon as you stop spending, growth immediately comes to a screeching halt.
SEO works in the exact opposite way.
With SEO, your invest upfront and slowly start to yield results from a campaign over a 5-6 month timeframe as you start to gain clear, measurable results and traction from internal leads.
The marginal cost to the business to acquire a new user using organic traffic will decrease over time as your organic traffic grows and continues to compound.
This makes SEO the right long-term growth strategy for SaaS businesses that are looking to slowly turn off the paid advertising funnel, and focus on an evergreen traffic driver with minimal maintenance and a diminishing cost.
Starting a campaign is going to depend on both where your company is currently at as well as your marketing budget.
If you already have an internal team in place and you’re not ready to hire a full-time SEO, working directly with an experienced consultant can be a great way to set strategy and direction for your internal team when it comes to an SEO imitative.
When you’re looking for help with the heavier lifting of both SEO strategy and SEO services, a well-vetted SaaS SEO agency can be an excellent option.
Working with an agency definitely has a higher cost than with a solo consultant, but if you’re looking for a full end-to-end option, the agency model is generally the way to go.
There are definitely a lot of “SEOs” and “Agencies” out there that give the industry a bad name, so you want to know what you’re looking for when selecting either a consultant or agency:
These are just a few key things to keep in mind during the search.
Mileage definitely may vary, but you’re looking to pay normally $80-$100+ p/h for a top-notch consultant, and anywhere between $150-$200+ p/h for working with a great agency.
It probably goes without saying – but as with most things, you usually get what you pay for when it comes to hiring a consultant or agency.
Struggling to improve your SEO and book more demos/trials from search? If you’ve been stagnant and lacking growth over the past quarter or two and want to start growing faster, our team can show you the exact strategy to make that happen based on your current situation. Book a Free Grow Faster Session and learn how we can help you to start driving more demos and trials from SEO.
SEO is only one of the many marketing channels out there when it comes to driving SaaS growth strategy.
Top companies rely on a strategy that consists of different channels to drive both traffic and leads to their businesses, including SEO, PPC, Referrals, Social, and Email Marketing Campaigns.
The great news?
All of these channels play well together:
Stimulating growth through targeted organic traffic is an acquisition method that will continue to pay off over time, and plays well into other marketing initiatives your business is already running or might be running in the near future.
SEO is definitely not a one-stop shop, but it is a means to generating consistent targeted traffic which can big huge gains for your SaaS company.
A Few More Things to Know:
There’s nothing that we love more than helping SaaS companies to smash their growth goals, and scale MRR faster.
Here are two more ways we can help you grow faster:
Founder of Rock The Rankings, an SEO partner that helps B2B SaaS brands crush their organic growth goals. An avid fan of tennis, and growing micro-SaaS businesses on the weekend.
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