Software as a Service (SaaS) is a rapidly growing industry that is expected to grow further to reach $232.3 billion in 2024. But one scary aspect many companies don’t get right is SaaS SEO.
Let’s take an in-depth look at where you should start with your SaaS SEO efforts, so you get a noticeable headstart from your competitors. The overall workflow is:
- Keyword Research and Discovery
- Content Creation
- On-page optimisation
- Technical SEO
- Link development
Keyword Research and Discovery
Target Keywords for everybody
Keywords will allow you to target specific words and phrases that your target audiences are using to search for solutions like your SAAS. With organic search being keyword driven, not all of the people searching for these target keywords will be your target customers. That doesn’t matter, Google and search engines, are for everybody and your site must cater for them otherwise your brand won’t succeed in SEO and will forever be confined to paid search media like Google Ads.
Search engines rank content, so by finding the correct keywords and creating content for them, search engines are given a URL they can include in their database and rank them as a web result.
Below are useful data sources to find valuable target search keywords:
Google Search Console (GSC)
A free 1st party tool provided by Google showing which keywords get impressions. This relies on your site having content to show up for those keywords in the first instance. You could use SEMRush/AHREFs data to create prototype content to test the impressions generated and infer the maximum impressions based on your prototype’s rank. However, if you’re a startup with limited visibility, GSC will be more useful to you as a visibility reporting tool than a rich source of keywords compared to other data sources. If your site visibility is reasonably well established then GSC is a great data source of keywords to help you stay ahead of the competition. For more detail, read our guide to Google Search Console.
Also known as Google Autocomplete, is a feature of Google Search that offers real-time search query suggestions to your would be search audiences when they search for your services and content your SAAS offers.
Google Autocomplete suggestions are predicting the searcher’s intention based on popular queries, their user search history (if signed into) among other factors.
Thus Google Suggest can be a good source of finding relevant and higher volume keyword variations either by manually typing in target keywords into the search bar and examining the auto-suggested phrases.
3rd Party Competitor Analytics
Tools such as SEMRush and AHREFs provide keywords that your SAAS competitors are visible for. The value add of the SAAS SEO is not merely to download such lists and present these to you as target keywords for your business. Instead, they should be using data science (more specifically set mathematics) to find the near-intersect of these keywords, which will form the basis of your initial SEO campaign to get into the search conversation. Afterall, if virtually all of your competitors have content to be visible on these keywords, it’s like search engines expect any SAAS brand operating in that space to have content covering those keywords also.
SaaS ICPs & Personas
Your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) outlines the key characteristics and attributes of customers who are most likely to benefit from your company’s SAAS product. One way to determine your ICPs is to analyse your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
to find customers grouped by common characteristics, which can be aided by machine learning using unsupervised classification. By that point you’ll end up with a number of ICPs, so the next step will be to see what defines those ICPs and therefore differentiates them from other ICPs i.e. what characteristics do the ICPs over or under-index on?
Those characteristics can then help you ideate, create and publish content to connect with that ICP via various stages of their online search journey and generate the GSC data to reveal the keywords you should be optimising for.
Once you have your ICP, you can start to set up a marketing funnel. Consider the different stages of the marketing funnel and slowly move people closer to the buying stage. The different stages of a SAAS buyer’s journey with examples are:
Awareness (employment laws in Germany) >
Interest (How do I want to employ someone in Germany) >
Consideration (employer of record vs opening limited company in Germany) >
Intent (employer of record Germany) >
Evaluation (Boundless vs Multiplier, Boundless Reviews, Pricing) >
Conversion (Boundless) >
Loyalty (Boundless Denmark)
Keywords that align with each stage to capture users at various points in their search journey for your SAAS as shown above. Thus it’s imperative to build physical availability by having visible content that covers every stage of your audiences’ search journey as not all customers are ready to buy.
If you don’t nurture, your brand’s lack of physical availability in your buyers search results also lacks mental availability as buyers will forget your brand towards the more advanced stages of their search journey. This results in lost opportunities for revenue and brand growth.
A great way to promote SAAS brand growth via organic search are searches on your vendor integration brands as your audiences are likely to search for them online and a proportion of them will be interested in your products.
SAAS Content Strategies
With the keywords mapped to your audience funnels, you can start creating content that caters to your buyer’s searches at every stage of their journey, of which there are several content types:
These are guides that address specific problems your target audience may be experiencing, create this content to help people solve these issues.
- Content example: ‘How to employ someone in Germany?’
Vendor Integration Content
Provide information about how your software integrates with 3rd party solutions to build upon a customers existing tech stack including overviews on their company. If you can get the vendor to provide a backlink to it, then even better.
- Content example: ‘Salesforce Webinars Integration’
Industry overviews are linkable assets that explore industry trends, challenges, best practices, which help acquire backlinks from prestigious and high traffic publication websites on the internet. Your target audience may be looking for stats to write a business case, while influencers and journalists are looking for research to help them write their story. Such overview content helps lend credibility to your expertise in your customers’ field.
- Content example: ‘Key trends in SAAS’
Product Feature / Solution-Aware Guides
It’s quite common for SAAS websites to present a single page summarizing the features of their product. The trouble is most buying audiences usually have a singular pain point they’re looking to resolve and usually search on that pain point alone – either for a solution or a guide to solving the problem.
Thus the SAAS SEO play is to produce product feature (which can double up as a solution aware) guides that expound on the individual capabilities of each SAAS product feature by way of use cases, and step-by-step tutorials on the SAAS feature solves that particular problem.
- Content example: ‘fatigue monitoring solution’
You vs Competitor Comparisons
At the more advanced stages of your target audiences’ search, search will inevitably evolved towards your brand vs your competitor brands. The search traffic has high buyer intent as by this stage the majority of searchers are prospective buyers trying to decide which SAAS is the best fit for their circumstance.
The search results for these keywords tend to be dominated by software vendor comparison sites such as G2, Capterra, Source Fourge, Craft, Software Advice, and CB Insights mainly. Their content follows the formula of a side-by-side comparison of your brand versus your competitor’s software, across a number of product and company features.
With your SAAS company being in the industry, it’s likely to have an advantage of being more relevant due to EEAT criteria, especially if your brand is featured among those in the vendor comparison sites. Even if your vendor comparison content follows the same formula, your site has the advantage of being the originator of your brand.
- Content example: ‘ON24 v Zoom’
Case Study Articles
Often people including those in your target audience, are searching for case studies on how a problem got solved using a solution like the ones delivered by your SAAS product.
Publishing content that demonstrates real-life success stories of your SAAS solution can be written up and optimised for searches by industry, use case, product or a combination of.
- Content example: ‘Pharmaceutical Webinars Case Study’
With enough content, your site will require taxonomy labels to organise the content, the question is what are those labels? Google Search Console in combination with data science models can help you identify those labels that get the search volumes. Once identified, simply use those labels create blog categories to show up for searches such as:
- Content example: ‘embedded payments news/guides’
You could create comparisons between your product tiers where you’d highlight the key differences and show potential buyers what is unique to differently priced tiers within your SAAS. However, unless your startup is a defacto market leader like salesforce, this is a low priority.
- Content example: ‘[Product A] vs [Product B]’
Technical SEO For SaaS Companies
As SaaS businesses typically offer guides and offer pages, a key challenge lies in strategically determining which content should be made discoverable to search engines.
Of content made discoverable, the next challenge is to decide which content should (and should not) be displayed in search results.
Below are the typical issues I’ve seen happen repeatedly on SAAS websites:
Orphaned pages are those which have no eventual path from the home page. Such pages can be intended (by way of PPC landing pages, gated content assets etc) and unintended (content that dropped off the site architecture).
From a SAAS SEO perspective, we’re concerned about the unintended orphans because this content will be perceived as relatively much less important than other content on the website. The impact is that they will have a lower authority score, not only having lower rank positions for their own keywords but also being unable to help other content on the site rank higher for their own respective keywords.
404 Errors on SAAS sites are usually broken links, or links to retired content such as a blog. Some of these will require addressing otherwise if not dealt with correctly then not only does it present a poor UX to search engines, other site pages will not benefit from increased authority which helps them rank higher.
Whatever you do, please avoid auto 301 redirecting all your 404s because while it was best practice 20 years ago, it’s not best practice today and if anything will reduce performance for both browser and server.
Similarly, redirecting URLs on SAAS sites are usually links to content with updated URLs such as blogs or menu URL structures that have changed. Most will require addressing otherwise it’s a poor UX for search engines and just like 404 errors other site pages will not benefit from increased authority to rank higher.
Poor Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals is a performance metric proprietary to Google concerned with speed, load stability and time to interactivity. Best practice would dictate scores be 95+, however to be more data driven and pragmatic, it’s more important to be +1 ahead of your leading direct competitor.
In SAAS, this is less costly to achieve than ecommerce or comparison sites as there are less data feeds that need to load. Most CWV issues center around cookie notices and over reliance on CSS sheets.
The Google Pagespeed offers some diagnostic with free advice on how to improve scores. A more data driven and effective approach would be to segment your scores by content type, and drill into the browser logs to yield more targeted impactful development fixes that speed up the pages.
Another phenomena commonly observed across SAAS sites are dynamic URLs which occur due to analytics campaign tracking and blog category URL handling. This will dilute page authority presenting the same content to search engines across different URLs, inhibiting the overall site’s content rank position potential in Google and other search engines.
Insufficient Internal Links and Misaligned Site Architectures
Most blogs and guide content will get an average of 1 link, while sales offer pages are likely to be heavily internally linked by virtue of being included in the main navigation. However, no all content is created equal so some work will need to be done to align the internal link architecture (and subsequent internal links) to ensure the most important content such as guides are reprioritized for ranking in the search engines.
Data science can answer this by modeling the PageRank and the traffic distribution, to reallocate links accordingly, ensuring SAAS content strategies make the intended impact.
On-Page SEO For SaaS Companies
The importance of on-page SEO is often over estimated in terms of its importance, and SAAS is no exception. Yes, your content now needs to be optimised on-page to maximise its relevance to your audience search queries, but also to perform well on algorithms like Google’s RankBrain which incorporates UX feedback. You can do this by following the below points:
Google has been a mobile 1st search engine since September 2020 and over 58% of SAAS user traffic is mobile according to Statista. So ensuring your SAAS website is mobile friendly by having appropriately sized and spaced buttons is critical, Most SAAS CMSs are mobile responsive so this isn’t a common issue, however on the front end the content layout can be optimised further to:
- Break up text into smaller paragraphs to avoid the dreaded mobile screen wall of text
- Use indices to help users jump to their most desired sections
While search engines rely on meta <title> tag for content to display in the search results, users rely on headings to inform them of what the content is about. These are critical and search engines expect title tags and main headings (HTML coded as <h1>) to be consistent such that what is displayed to users in the search results is what the users see when they click through.
Ensure your headings are organised by a hierarchy such that there is only 1 main heading (h1) followed by sub section headings (h2) and so forth.
FAQ Content and Schema
The nature of SAAS audiences is that they will have questions so any FAQ content you have can be marked up using schema for potential additional exposure in the search results as well as performing well in RankBrain.
E-E-A-T and original content
To perform well on generic guide searches, it’s highly recommended to include screenshots, original illustrations, data tables and charts to help qualify your site as an authority on the content you’re publishing.
SAAS Backlink Building using Digital PR and other methods
SaaS websites will often start out have low link-worthy content as external websites are very unlikely to link directly to your product offer or pricing plan, especially if they don’t even know your brand exists.
The most obvious and low cost opportunities are to use your network to establish content collaborations which means backlinks from your:
- Industry peers and influencers
- Trade associations
This could be achieved by way of:
- Podcast interviews
- Opinion pieces
- Research projects
- Partnership news or profiles
Beyond these, the more anti-fragile and scalable means to produce backlinks are to engage in digital PR campaigns where you produce content that journalists and influencers are interested in and therefore would link to (Artios provide this service).
Summary and Conclusion
Most SAAS is B2B and for most startups, the main challenges for SAAS SEO specialists will be to:
- Determine the most important keywords to target
- Research, publish and create content ensuring your SAAS brand connects with your target audience users at every stage of their search journey
- Creating content that maximises existing vendor integrations, competitors and otherwise
- Ensure the on page elements are optimised
- Build authority and backlinks with Digital PR and other means
SaaS SEO: Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is SaaS SEO?
A: SaaS SEO is the practice of optimising your Software as a Service (SaaS) company website to increase your presence and rankings within search engines.
Q: How is SaaS SEO different from traditional SEO?
A: SaaS SEO considers the unique aspects of SaaS products, such as subscription-based pricing models, feature-driven marketing, and the importance of trial sign-ups.
Q: How important is content creation for SaaS SEO?
A: Very important. Content creation for SaaS companies helps establish thought leadership, educates potential customers, and attracts organic traffic. Creating valuable blog posts, guides, tutorials, and resources related to the SaaS product can drive targeted traffic and increase brand authority.