In the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) space, search engine optimization (SEO) functions as a truly unique linchpin within your marketing strategy.
To illustrate this, we’re going to cover the nuances of SEO that’s specific to the SaaS industry, unpack the tangible benefits it brings to the table, outline stage-specific strategies, and share our handpicked resources and tools.
If you're a marketing leader navigating the evolving relationship between SEO and SaaS in 2024, this article serves as your detailed guide.
SEO for SaaS is the strategic optimization of a software company's online presence. It’s aim is to improve your rankings and visibility of your important web pages on the top of the search engine result page (SERP) for keywords that will drive high-quality traffic to your website.
This strategy of generating significant amounts of organic search traffic by solving users problems that exist at the intersection of your company’s subject matter expertise, unique POV, and the product solutions, you’re able to convert these users into subscribers, free-trial sign-ups, demo requests, webinar attendees, and ultimately, revenue.
The intricacy of organic search in SaaS marketing lies in its three-fold balance between brand, product, and content.
- You’re looking to build brand reputation and recognition by having a longterm strategy that provides value-based, insightful content with a consistent tone and voice and necessary visual cues (colors, graphic styles, logos).
- You’re marketing a product that requires more than organic clicks to your website. You’ll need to offer experiences and content topics that tangentially relate to your product and invite the use of CTAs and product marketing assets within them.
- You’re creating content that, as a body of work, aids both of the above bullets. It also requires your team to know when to offer more educational content, when to not promote your product, and when it’s time to aggressively help out sales to drive more potential customers.
This stands in contrast to a few other popular industries that leverage SEO.
SEO for ad-based publishing companies, news websites, or affiliate websites make their money by generating large amounts of traffic. This means they’re most concerned with publishing mountains of content, generating clicks, and maintaining those visits. Quality, accuracy, and integrity aren’t always required for this type of strategy as these websites often remain faceless.
Comparatively, SEO for eCommerce or online retail sites often places a significant emphasis on product pages and category pages, structured data, and targeting keywords tailored for transactional, short-term customer interactions.
Like a legendary rock band constantly rumored to be on their farewell tour, SEO has been “dying” for years. Yet, just as those bands keep managing to churn out hit songs, SEO continues to play an integral role in the content mix of every successful SaaS company in 2024.
The benefits of SEO for SaaS companies are as follows:
Supplies predictable traffic & conversions to your website
A major advantage of SEO is that it provides a steady, predictable traffic flow to your SaaS company’s website. Unlike paid campaigns that can fluctuate, SEO delivers consistent results.
It's like a reliable faucet, steadily pouring prospects into your marketing funnel. This predictability enables effective planning and forecasting for your business.
To see this in action, check out our Visible case study, where we transformed SEO into a dependable source of website traffic and conversions.
“Since we started with Ten Speed, we’ve seen a nice-looking chart up and to the right for trials. Before that, it was super lumpy - We’d maybe have one post that happened to be bringing in traffic for a short period here and there. It’s pretty easy to predict now how many trials we’ll get from our organic traffic.”
- Matt Preuss, Marketing Manager @ Visible.vc
Brings traffic in based on their pain points and JTBD
Another key advantage of SEO for SaaS companies is its ability to attract traffic based on user pain points, goals, and their 'Jobs To Be Done' (JTBD). This is incredibly powerful because it aligns your product features with their needs and interests.
Aka, you're not just driving traffic — you're driving targeted, high-intent traffic.
Attracts & moves prospects across your website
SEO's power extends beyond attracting prospects to a single page or single piece of content.
By strategically creating contextual CTAs, embedding content assets (webinars, podcasts, annual data reports, surveys), invitations to learn about product features, and retargeting traffic via other distribution channels, you can be the architect of a user's journey through your site.
Allows you to target different search intents across the funnel
SEO offers a unique capability to hone in on various stages of the buyer's journey. By leveraging customer research and product usage metrics , you can align content with specific search intents across the funnel — from completely unaware to brand and product awareness, consideration, and finally to decision making.
This strategic approach ensures that wherever a prospect is in their journey, your SaaS solution is there to meet them with the best message at the best time.
Supports your paid retargeting campaigns
SEO can't operate in a silo — it forms a key part of an integrated marketing strategy, particularly in supporting your paid retargeting campaigns.
By organically attracting ideal customer profile (ICP) visitors to your site through SEO, you create crucial touchpoints that can be leveraged in retargeting efforts.
This ensures your paid ads reach an audience that is already familiar with your brand, (which they are more likely to engage with), on platforms where they spend their time, and on landing pages more targeted to their needs. This synergy between organic SEO and paid advertising maximizes your return on investment.
Creates an effective engine and fuel source to build your entire content program around
SEO serves as a powerhouse engine and fuel source for your entire content program.
It demands the creation of valuable assets and long-form content. This all acts as the center for which you can efficiently reuse, recycle, and repurpose across other marketing channels such as:
- Email promotions
- Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit)
- Medium, Substack
- Customer support calls
- Sales calls
- The Juice and syndication platforms
- Sponsorship channels
- Paid ads
This symbiosis also ensures consistent, unified brand messaging across teams and distribution channels since everyone is drawing from the same core content pieces.
Helps build your SaaS pipeline
SEO plays a pivotal role in building and bolstering your SaaS pipeline. By attracting targeted traffic, guiding prospects through your website, supporting retargeting efforts/nurturing opportunities, and fueling a multifaceted content program, SEO works holistically to shorten customer journeys.
This integrated approach not only enhances the user experience but also drives more prospects into and through your funnel.
The results? An improved pipeline volume, lower CAC, more conversions, and ultimately, a stronger, more sustainable SaaS business model.
Additional benefits of SEO are available here:
How SEO Content Benefits Your Business Beyond Organic Traffic
When it comes to SaaS SEO strategies, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution.
The plethora of tactics available can be broadly segmented into two high-level strategies: starting from scratch and scaling an existing program.
Whether you're just dipping your toes into SEO and content waters or looking to accelerate a program that's already in motion, understanding and implementing the appropriate strategies for your particular company stage is crucial.
An early-stage SaaS startup’s SEO strategy
As an early-stage SaaS startup, you’ll likely have limited content on your website. This stage is often characterized by a small team, constrained resources, and a primary focus on product development and initial market penetration.
Here is where your SEO priorities should be:
Bring in foundational ICP and persona data
In the initial stages, it's crucial to build your SEO strategy around ICP data rather than starting with keyword research. Why? Because understanding your ICP helps ensure your content resonates with the right audience.
For more insight into ICP research, check out our comprehensive blog post on the topic.
Audit and ensure a healthy technical SEO foundation
Before embarking on a content creation spree, it's imperative for SaaS companies to ensure a healthy technical and on-page SEO foundation. This means having a website that's in line with Google's preferences: fast-loading, easily crawlable, and set to indexable.
Skipping this step could undermine all future SEO campaign efforts.
For a detailed understanding of common technical SEO issues and how to address them, refer to Kevin's informative blog article.
Do keyword research focused on capturing existing demand (MoFu & BoFu)
In the initial stages, your keyword strategy isn’t about finding the queries with the most search volume. It should focus primarily on capturing existing demand with relevant keywords, particularly aimed at the Middle of the Funnel (MoFu) and Bottom of the Funnel (BoFu) stages, with a sprinkling of Top of the Funnel (ToFu) topics. This approach quickly taps into users with a higher potential to convert.
The additional benefit to identifying a list of keywords that overlay onto the later stages of the buyer journey is that you’ll tend to include search terms that are more specific in nature. This means search queries that are longtail keywords (longer phrases) that are easier to rank on page 1 and more directly about your searchers’ problems related to your product.
Our newsletter provides more details on how to include your product in SEO content.
Note: It’s also very valuable to start creating link-attracting content to bolster you off-page optimizations — like templates or stat-based pieces — to build authority faster and decrease the need for additional, manual outreach for link-building efforts.
Ensure SEO compliments the product
Ensuring that your SEO strategy complements your product is key. The nature of your SaaS offering can greatly influence the kind of SEO approach you'll build.
For instance, Zapier's product inherently supports programmatic SEO due to the functionality and usage of the product itself. People use it to connect apps so having pages for every possible app connection is where they generate their most valuable organic traffic.
Check out this article for other PLG and SEO examples:
8 Must-Have Content Types for PLG Companies Investing in SEO [+184 SaaS Marketers Told Us Which They’d Build First]
Start with easier-to-build content types
Starting your content journey with easier-to-build content types is a pragmatic approach. Blogs, articles, spreadsheets, and checklists require limited development and design resources, yet they can drive significant SEO value.
This allows you to quickly start building your content library and establish your online presence, paving the way for more complex content types down the line.
Know the main goals of SEO at this stage
At this early stage, a SaaS company's SEO strategy aims to strike a balance between seizing immediate opportunities and laying the groundwork for long-term success. Here are the main objectives:
- Attacking Short and Long-Term Opportunities: Start by focusing on MoFu and BoFu content to tap into existing demand, while also keeping an eye on future growth areas.
- Establishing a Suitable Workflow: Find a content production pace that aligns with your team's bandwidth to ensure consistency without overwhelming your resources.
- Building Authority: Create content around topics tied to your unique expertise to position yourself as a thought leader in your field. Additionally, aim to create content that most naturally attracts links from peers and industry-insiders
- Growing Traffic and Search Visibility: Increase your online presence and attract more targeted traffic - in the early stages, it’s more about building than converting
- Aligning SEO and Content Strategy with Marketing Strategy: Ensure that your SEO efforts and content creation align seamlessly with your broader marketing objectives, fostering an integrated approach.
- Establishing a Healthy Technical Foundation: Before scaling your content efforts, make sure your website aligns with Google's technical SEO preferences to maximize your efforts. Whether using an SEO agency or doing so in-house a technical SEO audit should be standard practice as technical flaws can prevent all of your content from being crawled and indexed.
These goals, when achieved, pave the way for sustainable growth and robust SEO performance.
SaaS SEO strategy for content programs ready to scale
As we transition to the next stage, let's picture your SaaS company once it’s primed to scale its SEO efforts. You already boast a substantial content library on your website — think over 100 pieces — with a variety of content types spread across multiple subfolders. Your team has a robust content creation process in place, and the technical SEO foundation of the website is solid.
Now, you're ready to take their SEO game to the next level, by focusing on the following:
Audit existing content for decay, stagnant results, and pruning opportunities
When scaling SEO efforts, it's vital to audit existing content for decay, stagnant results, and pruning opportunities. All content experiences decay over time, which can impact its performance and your site's overall SEO health. By understanding how your content is currently performing, you can pinpoint areas for optimization and consolidation.
For a deeper dive into content decay and consolidation strategies, check out our resourceful articles on these topics:
What Is Content Decay? How To Identify & Fix To Unlock Organic Growth
Content Consolidation: How to Reduce The Number of Articles on Site To Grow Organic Traffic
Prioritize and perform content updates for quick wins
Integrating content updates into your regular schedule will provide the quickest SEO wins for your team — sometimes in as little as a couple days. This is because Google has already indexed that particular content and doesn’t need to fully restart it’s understanding of the page and your authority on the topic.
Updates can be as small as performing minor on-page optimizations like adding a new section to a piece of content or updating title tags & meta descriptions for a better search intent match. They can also be large as performing a full-blown rewrite or breaking a topic into multiple articles.
For a detailed understanding of how to effectively update your content, have a look at our newsletter that delves into this topic:
How to update existing content to win back rankings and conversions [step-by-step instructions]
Organize site structure and internal linking
As your content library grows, it can become unruly if not properly managed. That's why organizing and clustering content is crucial, both for user experience and SEO. By strengthening your site structure and internal linking, you enhance the usability of your website, making it easier for both users and search engines to navigate.
For more insights on effective internal linking and content clustering strategies, do check out our dedicated blog posts:
Internal Linking for SEO: A Comprehensive Guide
Building Topic Clusters That Reward Your Readers and Showcase Your Authority
Expand keyword research to content topics & types that are more top-of-funnel
As your content matures and covers the most apparent topics associated with your SaaS product and its features, it's time to venture into more ToFu territories. This involves expanding your keyword research to include target keywords that are less directly tied to your product but still within your area of expertise and you audiences’ interests.
These might be demand generation or current event-related ideas, which can attract a broader audience and stimulate further interest in your offerings.
Integrate content types and distribution channels for greater impact
SEO can serve as a powerful unifier for your diverse content types and campaigns, breaking down silos and enhancing overall effectiveness. By integrating different content formats and distribution channels, you ensure that your marketing efforts deliver a consistent message and experience, driving greater impact.
This integration ensures a cohesive strategy, where every piece of content supports and amplifies the others, maximizing your SEO and content marketing ROI.
Know the main goals of SEO at this stage
When scaling, a SaaS company's SEO goals evolve to focus on accelerated growth and optimization. Here are the primary objectives at this stage:
- Achieving Higher Publishing Volumes: With solid foundations in place, it's time to ramp up content production to accelerate growth and expand your online presence.
- Preventing Content Decay: Regular content audits and updates keep your content fresh and relevant, preventing performance drops over time and signaling to your readers that you maintain an always-up-to-date website.
- Growing Conversions and Pipeline Opportunities: CRO improvements at this stage become more valuable as you reach statistically significant volumes of traffic and you have more content experiences to offer your prospects.
- Closing Content Gaps and Moving Up the Funnel: As you've covered most product-focused topics, start moving up the funnel to reach a broader audience. Fill content gaps with subjects that appeal to a wider audience while still showcasing your expertise.
- Distributing and Repurposing Content Beyond Search Engines: SEO doesn't stop at search engines. Take advantage of other platforms and channels to repurpose and distribute your content, extending its reach and lifespan.
With these objectives in mind, you'll be poised to maximize the impact of your SEO efforts and sustainably grow your online visibility, traffic, and leads.
If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into all things SEO & SaaS, here is a list of recommendations we have curated for you:
- Ahrefs keyword tool - A go-to, full-service SEO product for keyword and link data
- Semrush keyword tool - Another great, all-in-one SEO tool
- Ahrefs blog - particularly insightful and applicable blog articles
- Ahrefs YouTube channel - educational video content for SEOs at SaaS companies
- Sitebulb tool - Website crawler that gives technical insights and recommended fixes
- ScreamingFrog - Website crawler that provides technical details about your site
- Ten Speed newsletter - Tactical SEO advice based on our SaaS clients
- Ten Speed podcast - SaaS content discussions and SaaS leadership interviews
- Ten Speed blog - All About SaaS content marketing and SEO
- SEOFOMO newsletter - Weekly list of important SEO-related news and articles
- Google Search Console tool - The go-to SEO tool for your first-party data
- Google Analytics 4 - Free tool to help see all your first-party marketing data together
- Google Search Central - Where Google keeps its SEO documentation
- Clearscope - Content platform that helps qualify topics and optimize how its written
- Letterdrop - Content research, management, workflow, and distribution platform
- Content Harmony - Content workflow & optimization tool (from research to writers)
- Google’s PageSpeed Insights - Tool to gain insights on loading speeds
- Lighthouse - Tool to help audit and resolve technical performance issues
- Siteliner - Duplicate content tool
- Copyscape - plagiarism checker
There is no one-size-fits all SEO strategy for SaaS companies
While there are universal components of SEO, such as content, backlinks, and technical optimization, it's important to remember that every SaaS company is unique.
Your products, target audience, company stage, and overall goals dictate the shape and emphasis of your SEO strategy. Crafting a tailored approach that aligns with your unique needs and objectives is the key to driving impactful results.
Are you trying to understand if it makes sense for your SaaS company to be invested in SEO and content based on your current stage? Book a free call with us and we’d be happy to help if now is the right time.
Also, for regular insights and updates from the world of SEO and content marketing, don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter using the banner below. Let's grow together!