SEO for SaaS Companies, Advanced Strategies
The business of software-as-a-service is bigger than ever. As people all over the world make digital services, in-browser platforms, and day-to-day apps a bigger part of their lives – the range of competition for SaaS companies is growing too.
The natural next step, then, is to use SEO for SaaS companies that want to take advantage of organic traffic flow.
So how’s it work? How do online business use SEO for SaaS as part of their digital marketing strategy?
Growing an SaaS businesses can be difficult because it’s a business model that – unlike many retail or service-based businesses – has to exist entirely online without a physical product. These sort of businesses have to grow online and find ways to grow organically with high-quality multi-channel strategies. Without quality digital marketing – your SaaS business or software start-up could run into trouble quickly. There’s also a lot to be said for how heavily data is important to the SaaS business model – since all forms of digital marketing, but perhaps especially SEO, are built on the foundation of data analysis. After all, SEO is the most important source for attracting new SaaS customers – with more than 75% of organic traffic for SaaS companies being driven through this segment. And, as the SaaS market continues to grow, revenue is expected to grow to $113.1 billion by the year 2021!
Search optimization is the best option for taking advantage of the enterprise SaaS world, since it historically outpaces in ROI against other cornerstone strategies like even PPC, email marketing, and social media marketing. How SEO equals ROI comes from the fact that it’s relatively low cost (not requiring an ad budget) but can passively boost site traffic for years to come.
We’ve outline best practices and SEO strategies for SaaS companies to follow.
Read through our guide or click on a link below to go to a specific section:
- Keyword research and targeting audiences at the top of the funnel
- Good content with EAT and “needs met”
- Meta data optimization for inbound growth
- Data focused strategies with analytics
- Technical SEO for SaaS companies
- Site structure and hierarchy
- User sessions and behind the scenes of SaaS platforms
- UX based SEO and Google’s Core Web Vitals
- Link building with inbound marketing
- Outsourcing to an SEO agency
Keyword research and targeting audiences at the top of the funnel
Keyword research is one of the most important practices in SEO for SaaS – for both consumer products and B2B segments.
The ability for service-software based companies to target high-level and high-value search traffic starts with targeting the right keywords. SEO strategies for SaaS businesses means being able to discover these keywords and incorporate them into other areas of SEO including meta-data, on-site content, anchor-links, h-tags, and all areas of inbound marketing.
This also means understanding search behavior and the way that search engines display results for important keywords. High traffic head keywords are highly competitive, and SaaS companies will rely on the strength of their content, not their brand. For key search terms (head keywords) brands/sites are not what appear in search results. Instead Google is going to show info pages and guidance for searchers. Blogs, definitions, research, etc.
Take a look at the example below, there are very few “brand” results.
For a simple keyword like “sales software,” Google shows that most results are for blogs and listicles offering info on products, and not products themselves. For head keywords like this search engines – without more info – don’t know precisely what the “intent” of the search is and offer broad results first.
Keyword research allows SaaS focused companies to spread their target keywords for specific strategies – including high-traffic keywords for top-of-funnel marketing, long-tail keywords for high-value traffic, and “intent” driven keywords for marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
- High-traffic keywords offer lots of opportunity for business growth, but are much more competitive and offer a lower conversion-rate (largely due to the lower amount of signaled intent by the searcher). As mentioned above, info pages are more likely to rank for these if they help capture customers at the beginning of their shopping journey.
- Long-tail keywords are often easier to rank for and less competitive. These keywords also tend to be more precise in their message so these can be useful for blog content that’s designed to grow brand awareness and authority.
- Search intent – sometimes referred to as keyword intent – represents the primary goals of internet users when they enter a query into search engines like Google or Bing. SaaS marketers should keep intent in mind when considering how things like information queries, transactional queries, and navigational queries fit into their brand’s content. The more clear the intent, the easier to engage people toward the end of the conversion funnel.
Good content with EAT and “needs met”
Most businesses already know that content is king. SEO for SaaS companies relies especially on content since it’s traffic won’t come through product landing pages they way that eCommerce sites do.
A page with quality content is more likely to receive backlinks, which is one of the strongest ranking factors for search engines. Producing quality content that people will refer to can take time and effort, but as backlinks build over time, so will your rankings. Search engines crawl a page’s content to know what it’s about, find keywords, and to figure out how high to rank it in the search engine results page (SERP).
A key part of SaaS digital marketing with SEO is building out top level pages (like the home-page, and nav-bar pages) with cornerstone content that is designed to be informative and authoritative. Google give’s some guidance on what makes good content with it’s acronym “EAT” or Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Writing content that has EAT mean’s it’s more likely to rank higher, and more likely to be shared with backlinks, meaning better SEO results for your company.
Plus, content should be written with the end-goal of customers in mind. Write lower level content like blogs with the mindset of being able to funnel site visitors through to your cornerstone content and onto conversion. Think realistically about what people actually want, what sort of information they need, and what sort of questions they might have about your software – and produce quality, high EAT content that addresses that.
Content meant for SaaS SEO strategy should follow Google’s webmaster guidelines:
- Write content that is meant primarily for users, not for search engines. Again, the best content will actually help your customers get where they want to go, and hopefully guide them to your intended conversion (like a download or an app-store purchase.)
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
- Think about what makes your software website unique, valuable, or engaging. SEO for SaaS companies specifically, means making the website stand out from competitors.
Meta data optimization for inbound growth
One of the other most important SEO strategies for SaaS companies includes meta-data that is optimized with target keywords and curated for better search engine CTR.
Search engines use meta page titles as ranking factors, and meta-descriptions (though not a ranking factor) are a key method of boosting clicks based on presence in the search results. This means that keyword research and following title-tag best practices will be important for businesses that want to put themselves on top for software and SaaS search queries.
Title tags appear as the page title shown in Google and Bing search results, they give people the first impression of your site, so making a good impression is important. The best title tag will fit within the maximum character limit (roughly 60 characters for Google), will be accurate, honest, and will include the target keywords.
For example, many sites choose to include 1 or 2 keywords separated by hyphens or straight pipes:
- Target Keyword 1 | Target Keyword 2 | Branding
- Target Keyword 1 (and Target Keyword 2)
A better method for meta titles is to write them with both search engine bots and humans in mind. Remember that ultimately your target customers will be reading your titles in the SERP, and you want them to actually click. A good SaaS SEO strategy is to write key-word inclusive titles in style that reflects natural language and also emphasizes your product.
This image below shows an example of a good title that’s descriptive and succinctly mentions the primary keywords.
Data focused strategies with analytics
Because SaaS is a business model that operates inherently online, data feedback is a big part of success.
This is where there’s a big overlap between SEO and the natural digital marketing conversion funnel for software sales, digital downloads, platform signups, etc. Being able to track and optimize conversion rates requires the ability to measure site traffic, user behavior and of course, custom KPIs.
For SEO, the most common way to track data is with key tools like Google Analytics and Google’s Search Console. Analytics provides options and in-platform reports that are ideal for tracking the shopper journey through the website, including options for goal-completion/conversion tracking, landing page traffic, and more.
Enterprise level SaaS SEO can take advantage of this data to fine-tune a site for better success using the KPI reports that are useful for gaining and helping new customers. These analytics reports include information:
- Reverse goal-path URLs
- Top conversion paths
- Landing page metrics for organic traffic
- Goal completions and conversion rate
- Estimated goal values for measuring revenue
- Plus a lot more…
Since Google’s Analytics platform is also compatible with a range of other channels (including mobile web traffic, mobile-apps, and even off-line systems) it’s useful for tracking KPIs across a range of business needs. Businesses that already use analytical data for finding marketing qualified leads (MQLs) can extend their data to improve their SaaS SEO performance as well. Finding MQLs means being able to incorporate better flow into a site with strategies like nav-bar design, intuitive site hierarchy, and even inter-page anchor links – all of which double as SEO ranking signals.
Google’s Search Console is also another option for tracking a site’s performance. Google offers Search Console as a free platform for monitoring how visitors arrive to a site from search results and it provides helpful information on SaaS SEO performance by helping track top performing search queries, measuring visibility in search, and measuring click-through-rate (CTR) from search.
The Performance Report in Search Console is an important part of SEO for SaaS companies since it allows brands and business to fine-tune their keyword research. Not only can websites see how they are performing for existing keywords, they can optimize inbound site traffic by finding long-tail keywords and optimizing meta data to improve CTR.
Technical SEO for SaaS companies
Search optimization can easily be broken down into two main forms: content optimizations, and technical SEO. Technical SEO means optimize a site’s technical elements to perform better in search engine algorithms – usually this mean’s important code/HTML based elements like site-speed, crawlability, mobile-friendliness, HTTPs security, and more.
SaaS marketing in SEO means optimizing these elements to help improve rankings in search engines like Google and Bing. Since software based businesses and SaaS lead generation lives online, it’s important to make sure that a website is not only set up right for better UX, but also for SEO performance.
Many businesses opt to go through a technical SEO audit checklist – either regularly, or at the start of their SEO campaign. Optimizing a site with keywords and title-tags is one thing – but if your site is technically faulty your SEO can suffer, or you could be subject to a manual action penalty.
The processing of auditing and optimizing technical SEO usually involves these main topics:
- Regularly check for and fix broken links, 500-level server errors, and on-site 404s. Broken, deleted, or missing pages mean that SEO rankings can be lost. For SEO SaaS strategies that rely on blog content in particular – making sure that broken links are fixed is important to content-based inbound marketing.
- Design and optimize a mobile-friendly site that is suitable for mobile phones and tablets. Mobile SEO is a complex topic, but usually involves a few key elements such as meta viewport tags, page-load speed, mobile friendly UI, and indexability for mobile-first indexing.
- Crawlability based off of optimized sitemaps, URL canonicalization, proper meta-robots’ commands, and accurate robots.txt files. These tools all work together to help search engines understand cornerstone content, avoid duplicate content, and improve presence in the search index.
- HTTPS protocol security and mixed content. In recent years Google has emphasized the importance of site security, which means that in SEO for SaaS in particular, making sure that your site (both desktop and mobile) is secure, is very important. HTTPS security is a big deal in circumstances where users input personal information (particularly info like credit card info, home address, email addresses etc., such like they might when signing up for in-browser services or using paid software services).
Technical SEO for SaaS sites can involve lot of factors that relate to these topics; site design, speed, and optimization usually falls within the realm of the site’s developers or whomever the business puts in charge of web design.
Many companies opt to coordinate between their SEO team and their web developers to make sure that important technical issues are caught and fixed rapidly.
Site structure and hierarchy
Online businesses can improve their SEO by setting up an intuitive site structure that not only improves user experience and makes site navigation intuitive, but can also help search engines understand the site and improve rankings.
The pyramid format is the most common style and starts with the primary content on the hompage, which acts as a sort of an entry way into the rest of the site. Next, a business’s most important, cornerstone content is usually placed in the nav-bar with information pages, conversion-pages, and sub-categories. Blog posts and lower-level info pages may come last – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Understanding SEO for SaaS business means knowing that site-structure should incorporate with other important SEO strategies, like keyword research. It also means that content is critical to funneling traffic to more important pages.
For sites with blogs, the way that people navigate through a site can look a bit like this: arrive on blog-posts > navigate to higher-level informational pages > navigate to a “conversion” page for a signup/purchase/download, etc.
This is why blogs are an important and popular part of content and site structure – and also why blog-level optimization and keyword research is a big part of SEO for SaaS businesses – they are a huge part of inbound marketing!
The best strategy here is to find long-tail, intent-driven keywords for lower level blogs, and to find high-traffic “head keywords” for top-level cornerstone pages (which will have more URL ranking authority, and will rank higher for more competitive keywords).
User sessions and behind the scenes of SaaS platforms
Businesses in software-as-a-service and sites that are focused on digital platforms, online services, and in-browser application face specific challenges in SEO and digital marketing. Mainly that their website is usually split into front-of-house content available to visitors and the back-end content that’s only available to customers (usually behind a login page or through an app).
Most businesses know to keep their marketing materials on the front-end of their site – but it’s worth emphasizing that search engine crawlers and indexing bots aren’t able to access account pages and parts of a digital platform that require paid access or login-in. If these parts of your site can’t be accessed then they cannot be a part of your SEO campaign (whether good or bad).
Likewise, a good SEO strategy for SaaS sites should consider how to measure users on the front of the site and on the back of the site. A common mistake is to include user-sessions and session-based URLs in Google Analytics data (making it much harder to measure inbound marketing/SEO success).
For the Landing Pages report, or for other important Analytics reports, consider either filtering out URLs using session IDs or consider setting up a custom Property/View designed for this.
SEO for SaaS is easier to measure with analytics data that doesn’t include things like:
- In-platform, session-ID based URLs that make it harder to measure total traffic for static URLs.
- Subdirectories and pages that are only accessible to platform customer or account owners. For SEO and marketing data it’s not even necessary to include the Google Analytics tracking code on these pages – to keep data clean, consider installing a separate tracking code, uninstalling the Analytics/Google Tag Manager code on these page, or simply filtering them out.
- Avoid a site structure that relies on dynamically generated URLs or non-static URLs (like URLs with query strings or parameters that reflect session info). To be clear these URLs do not hurt SEO performance – they just often make Analytics data confusing.
UX based SEO and Google’s Core Web Vitals
Recently Google updated some of its web design and marketing tools to reflect new measurements that emphasize user experience in search.
Their “core web vitals” are meant to measure a key few metrics based on UX and will become part of Google’s ranking algorithm – meaning that optimizing a site for better CWV scores can improve search engine rankings.
These metrics consist of: LCP (Largest Contentful Paint), FID (First Input Delay) and CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift):
- Largest Contentful Paint: This is the amount of time it takes to render the largest content element on the page.
- First Input delay: This is the time from when a user first interacts with your page (when they clicked a link, tapped on a button, and so on) to the time when the browser responds to that interaction.
- Cumulative Layout Shift: The measure of the amount that the web page’s layout shifts during the loading phase.
Even though these concepts are new, they give a way of boosting SEO for SaaS companies and provide businesses in edge for signals that most competitors will still be struggling with.
Link building with inbound marketing
A crucial part of SEO is backlinks. Ranking algorithms heavily favor backlinks as a signal for authority, but the backlinks are notoriously hard to get and there’s no way to artificially boost them.
This is another reason why high-quality content is crucial for SaaS SEO growth. Content that appeals to shopper interest and is expert, authoritative, and trustworthy (EAT) naturally bring in visitors and the more content gets shared – the more it will naturally collect incoming links. This is the reason why blogs are such a popular strategy for search engine marketing, they can appeal to a wide range of needs and are a crucial part of inbound marketing and SEO.
Inbound marketing refers to strategies that target people who are already interested in your businesses niche. It means that they’re already actively looking for services or products in your niche.
Inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing in that it’s not necessary to pay for ads to push your brand indiscriminately to audiences.
Since inbound marketing hinges on exploiting shopper interest, it can help improve your SEO through backlink growth.
- High-quality content naturally brings in search traffic and is more likely to be shared or linked to across the web.
- Social media content and brand presence can help engage with customers and increase brand awareness. It can also increase the reach of your site’s content by spreading it across off-site platforms.
Outsourcing to an SEO agency
It’s possible to make SEO adjustments in house, but because SEO often means coordinating a lot of different strategies, many businesses see the value in hiring an SEO service or agency that can handle this style of digital marketing for SaaS companies.
So why hire an outside service for SaaS SEO?
The main benefit of hiring an SEO company is that they handle, track, and measure all of the strategies that we’ve talked about above. For companies that don’t have the time, resources, or expertise it’s tempting to put something as important as SEO in the hands of experts that can promise results.
SEO professionals can perform keyword research, customize a strategy to your specific KPIs/business goals, build out professional meta-data optimization, and optimize content with keyword strategies that help maximize conversions. They can also perform a technical site audit and help work with a company’s devs to optimize a site for better results in Google/Bing ranking algorithms.
Organic traffic is so important that 44% of companies now make SEO a part of their marketing strategy. They also discover that SEO offers the best return-on-investment out of any digital marketing strategy. In polling, 32% of marketers say that out of all their strategies, SEO offers the highest return on investment.
The other main thing that SEO agencies bring with them is experience – they offer businesses a background in SEO experience with previous case studies that allow them to start off with SEO strategies for SaaS that are proven to work.
They also can utilize Analytics data and Search Console data to use as feedback and can make adjustments designed for maximizing traffic and revenue. Finally, SEO/SEM agencies offer special services and products that make outsourcing digital marketing even more tempting:
- A dedicated team and account managers.
- Proprietary technology for site analysis.
- Detailed reporting and monthly campaign data.
- Multi-channel strategies and coordination with paid search.
Learn more about SEO for SaaS companies or our available services for search engine optimization. Our team can help your business grow online with proven strategies designed for success.
Contact us today to get more information or check out our client testimonials to see what we can do.