SEO is the cornerstone of digital marketing.
It’s how industry titans like HubSpot, Shopify and BigCommerce built their reputations online and continue to reach millions of visitors each month.
Needless to say, your SaaS business shouldn’t ignore the power of SEO. Few other marketing channels offer the same long-term value and returns as SEO. Here’s what we mean.
What is SaaS SEO?
“SaaS SEO” simply refers to when a SaaS company uses SEO (search engine optimization) to their advantage. SEO in and of itself is the process of improving the quantity and quality of traffic to your site through search engines like Google.
The key difference of SaaS SEO is that your keyword strategy, content plan, and other tactics may look very different from another business’. It’s similar to how B2C and B2B SEO strategies compare; one tends to be more straightforward than the other because of how the buyer journey works.
How do search engines work?
When you type something into Google’s search box, a lot of things happen in the background in order to generate the list of results that you’re expecting to see.
First and foremost, Google’s web crawlers (aka, search engine bots or spiders) digest tons of web pages each day and use backlinks to discover new pages to add to its search index. The search index acts as a library of content, from which Google extracts its search results.
Google’s search algorithm then ranks content according to various on-page and off-page factors. These factors include keywords, site speed, navigational structure, and more that all help to determine how relevant a webpage is to your query.
The ultimate goal of search engines like Google is to predict user intent and deliver the highest-quality content based on a user’s query.
SEO benefits in SaaS
SEO is a particularly useful strategy for SaaS companies, which face longer, more complicated sales cycles. The path-to-purchase is nowhere near as simple as a traditional B2C marketing funnel and involves multiple stakeholders who each choose to research different things.
By publishing high-ranking content, you can keep your brand top of mind and appear in front of each stakeholder, whether he/she is searching for a product like yours or asking questions that are related to your field of expertise.
Three of the greatest benefits of SaaS SEO include:
- Increased brand visibility – Billions of searches happen on Google each day, and earning a first-page position for a keyword means your brand could receive 75% of organic traffic to a term.
- Cheap, “always-on” lead channel – SEO isn’t a pay-to-play channel and is always working in the background to bring more visitors to your site. It is the gift that keeps on giving, even when you’re not actively publishing new content.
- More quality leads – Unlike a billboard on the side of a road that’s displayed to anyone who drives by, a Google search result is strategically shown to people with a clear need or interest for a product like yours.
4 key components of SEO
In the SEO world, the rules of engagement are constantly changing, but there are several fundamental components of any successful strategy to keep in mind.
Keywords are the words and phrases that people enter into search engines. You’ll want to include them in your content so that search engines can easily tell what your webpage is all about.
However, there are a lot of misconceptions involving keywords. For example, back in the day, you used to be able to stuff keywords into your content in order to boost your rankings. Needless to say, search engines are much smarter today and will penalize sites that use keywords unnaturally.
In another instance, many business owners make position number one on a specific keyword their north-star metric. In actuality, there’s a lot more that you’ll want to consider before going all-in on a keyword(s). Just because a keyword gets tens of thousands of monthly searches doesn’t mean it’s the right term for you—nor will you necessarily be able to rank on it, depending on its competitiveness.
The best keyword strategies are created after careful consideration of the search intent behind queries, as well as the criteria for ranking on them. Most SaaS companies will wind up targeting long-tail keywords for this reason, sacrificing search volume for more focused, higher-quality clicks.
Your content drives your ability to rank. This includes everything from your homepage to your subpages to your blogs. Without great content, you don’t stand a chance of being recommended by search engines.
When it comes to content, you’ll want to pay attention to…
- Consistency – Google favors “fresh” content for certain queries that warrant frequent updating, like content involving tech. While publishing frequency doesn’t necessarily impact your ranking, it’ll affect how many times Google crawls your site and indexes your pages. In general, you’ll benefit from following a consistent publishing schedule that enables you to grow your content library and rank for a variety of terms.
- Depth – The ideal blog post length should be between 2,100 and 2,400 words, according to HubSpot, though that number may vary depending on the topic at hand. Google typically favors posts that are longer because they signal a deeper, well-researched understanding of the subject.
- Topics – Identify the topics that matter most to your customers and leads. Some of the best inspiration can come from your internal sales or support team members, who interact with your buyer every day. Consider using topic clusters to guide your keyword strategy and maintain an organized editorial calendar.
- Formatting and media – Make sure your content is easy to understand. Use headers, bulleted lists, and other types of formatting to make your content more digestible. Include rich media, such as images and videos, as well to keep readers engaged on your site for longer.
3. On-page SEO
On-page SEO encompasses all the elements of your webpage that affect your rankings and are within your control. Examples include (but are not limited to) your keywords, meta descriptions, meta titles, alt text, and page speed.
Of these, your meta description and meta titles are some of the easiest (and critical) components to customize and improve. While neither your meta title nor description directly impacts SEO—they have an indirect benefit. Compelling meta descriptions can improve click-throughs to your site, which, in turn, signals to Google that your page is a legitimate result. Google, of course, has the ultimate say in whether or not they show your custom copy, but it never hurts to provide them with your own suggestion.
Similarly, there are many best practices that you can enforce whenever you publish a new page. Between using your header tags thoughtfully and condensing the size of your images (as examples), you can improve the quality of your content and make it easy for Google to discern the purpose of your page.
4. Link building
Link building is one of several off-page SEO techniques that you should have a good grasp on. In fact, the top results on Google’s first page have 3.8 times more backlinks than those below them, underscoring the importance of having a strong link profile.
Link building means exactly what it sounds like: proactively earning links back to your site. These links (called backlinks) help to show Google that your content is trusted by other sites. Not all links are created equal, though—the best backlinks come from high-authority sites that Google already trusts.
Keep in mind that you could get penalized if you try to game the system through things like link farms. Black-hat tactics like this are a surefire way to get blacklisted by Google and destroy your ability to rank.
Should I hire an SEO expert or agency?
There’s a lot to bear in mind when it comes to SEO, but the answer to this question largely depends on your bandwidth, budget, and familiarity with SEO.
An SEO expert can help you to build the right foundation for your business and train your team on SEO best practices. Alternatively, an agency can put you in touch with a whole team of experts to handle on-page, technical, a/b testing, and other powerful initiatives.
If you’re on the fence about either, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Sign up for a free 45-minute strategy session with our RankScience team to see how you can optimize your site, and what you need to do to get there.