SEO for SaaS: The Complete Guide

SEO for SaaS: The Complete Guide

Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Jun. 22, 2020

SEO for SaaS

This is a comprehensive guide to SEO for SaaS companies.

In fact, this is the same SEO strategy that software companies like HubSpot, Intercom and Drift have used to get millions of targeted visitors from SEO.

So if you want higher Google rankings for your SaaS website, you’ll love the actionable techniques in this guide.

Let’s dive right in.

Step #1: Run an SEO Site Audit

Your first step is to run a quick SEO site audit.

Don’t worry: this doesn’t take long.

And it’s not super complicated.

But it IS important.

That’s because technical SEO is the foundation of SEO.

Technical SEO Is The Foundation Of SEO

And if your technical SEO is off, your site won’t rank (no matter how great your content is).

For example, we recently started an SaaS SEO campaign for my site.

Exploding Topics Homepage

And the first thing I did was make sure our technical SEO was in check… BEFORE we worried about content or backlinks.

Sure enough, I found some major problems (like duplicate content). And once we fixed those technical SEO issues, our organic traffic instantly started to improve.

Exploding Topics – Organic Traffic Growth

With that, here’s how to quickly find and fix your SaaS site’s technical SEO issues.

First, login to your Google Search Console account.

Then, head over to the “Coverage” report.

Google Search Console Coverage

This report shows you how many pages your site has indexed in Google.

Google Search Console Indexed Pages

There’s also a “Details” section that shows you errors that Google has run into.

Google Search Console Details

As you can see here, we have URLs that we submitted to Google that have the “noindex” tag.

Google Search Console Noindex URLs

That’s not a huge deal. But it’s definitely worth fixing. And it’s one of those errors that you’ll only find in the Search Console.

If you want to dig DEEP into your SaaS site’s technical SEO health, you can use an SEO tool like audit tool in Ahrefs.

Ahrefs – Site Audit Exploding Topics

This is completely optional. Google Search Console is more than enough in most cases.

Which leads us to our next step…

Step #2: Find 10 Informational Keywords

Now it’s time for keyword research.

Specifically, you’re going to find a set of 10 informational keywords.

So: what are “informational keywords”?

Like the name suggests, they’re search terms that people use to look up information.

For example, let’s say that your company sells productivity software.

Informational keywords in that space would be things like:

  • “How to be more productive”
  • “Morning routines for entrepreneurs”
  • “Productivity tips”
  • “How to get more done after lunch”

In other words: you’re not going after keywords that are specifically about your software.

Instead, you’re targeting keywords that your potential customers search for when they’re not searching for what you sell.

And that, my friend, is the key to succeeding with SEO for SaaS.

You see, most SEO noobs say things like: “We sell an app to help people with their intermittent fasting. Therefore, I want our homepage to rank for: fasting app.”

That sounds good… in theory.

But in practice, that’s a HORRIBLE strategy.

Here’s why:

First off, VERY few people search for your exact software product.

For example, according to Ahrefs, only 1.4k people search for “fasting app” every month.

Ahrefs – Fasting App Search Volume

On the other hand, 18k people search every month for the informational term: “what is intermittent fasting”.

Ahrefs – Intermittent Fasting Search Volume

That’s 12x more searches.

So even if you were able to rank #1 for “fasting app”, it wouldn’t bring you that much search traffic.

Second, informational searches are usually less competitive than product searches.

For example, the Ahrefs Keyword Difficulty score for “SEO audit tool” is:

Ahrefs – SEO Audit Tool Keyword Difficulty

But the informational term “how to do an seo audit” is significantly less difficult to rank for.

Ahrefs – How To Do SEO Audit Keyword Difficulty

Let’s look at a real life example of this keyword research approach in action: HubSpot.

As you may know, HubSpot is a massive B2B SaaS business that sells a popular CMS.

Hubspot – CMS Hub Page

According to Ahrefs, HubSpot currently ranks in Google for over 3M different keywords.

Ahrefs – Hubspot Organic Keywords

And of those 3 million keywords, only 12k are about CMSs.

Ahrefs – Hubspot Keywords CMS

The rest of their keywords (literally 99.9%) are informational keywords, like:

  • “best time to post on instagram”
  • “small business ideas”
  • “business plan template”
  • “how to use github”

And those informational keywords have helped HubSpot grow from scratch into one of the biggest B2B SaaS companies on the planet.

So: how do you find informational keywords?

Here are 3 techniques that are working great right now.

1. Use the Google Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is Google’s free keyword research tool.

Google Keyword Planner

That said: this tool isn’t designed to help you find SEO keywords.

Instead, this tool is 100% geared towards Google Ads.

That said, you can still use Keyword Planner for SEO. In fact, most SEO pros do.

To use it, just pop in a keyword idea into it.

Google Keyword Planner Search

And check out the suggestions:

Google Keyword Finder Ideas

If your site is still new, I recommend going with keywords that have relatively low search volume.

These keywords (sometimes called “long tail keywords”), tend to be less competitive than super popular keywords.

2. Find Trending Search Terms

I LOVE targeting trending keywords.

That’s because you can “ride the wave” as that keyword’s popularity grows.

The question is: how do you find keywords that are trending up?

Well, you can use Google Trends.

Google Trends – Homepage

Google Trends is great for confirming if a keyword is trending up, down… or is flat.

Google Trends – Keyword Interest

The only downside of Google Trends is that it’s tough to find keywords that you don’t already know about yet.

So if you’re still sort of brainstorming keyword ideas, you can check out Exploding Topics.

Exploding Topics Homepage Repeat

It’s a free SEO tool that curates trending topic and keyword ideas from around the web.

And you can use filters to find growing topics in a specific category. Or in a specific timeframe. Or both.

3. Use a Pro-Level Keyword Research Tool

If you have the marketing budget, I recommend investing in a premium SEO tool, like Moz Pro, Ahrefs or SEMrush.

I use them all the time.

But you really only need one.

Why are these tools helpful for keyword research? Because they give you the ability to spy on your competitor’s keywords.

So instead of typing random words into a keyword research tool, you can get a list of the exact terms that your competitor ranks for.

Research Tool Competitor Term Ranks

With that, let’s get right into our third step.

Step #3: Write SEO-Optimized Blog Content

So now that you have a list of 10 informational keywords, what’s next?

It’s time to create 10 blog posts that are optimized around each of these 10 terms.

Here’s how:

First, search for the keyword in Google.

The SERPs will tell you what people searching for that term want to see (also known as “search intent”).

For example, if you search for “SEO tips”, you’ll notice that most of the results are list posts.

SEO Tips SERPs List Posts

This tells you that the content that you write should be a list post… not a case study or ultimate guide.

Next, create a piece of content that gives people everything they need to know.

And I do mean “everything”.

My team and I recently analyzed 11.8M Google search results. And we found that content that is “comprehensive” (according to Clearscope), tends to have higher search engine rankings.

Content topic authority (Marketmuse data)

For example, take a look at this list of content marketing tips from our blog.

This isn’t a typical list post. Instead of a bland list of items, this post is a SUPER thorough list of content marketing tactics.

Including steps on how to execute each of them:

Content Marketing Tips Post Contents

In fact, this blog post weighs in at 2,537 words.

That’s the kind of depth that you want for your content.

Finally, optimize that content for SEO.

In other words, add your target keyword in:

  • Your page’s title tag
  • In an H1 and H2
  • 3-5x on your page
  • 1x in your meta description
  • At least 1x in your post intro and conclusion

That’s really just scratching the surface of on-page SEO.

If you want to learn more about optimizing content for SEO, I recommend checking out this video:

Step #4: Publish a Power Post

The bulk of your content should be thorough content that’s optimized for search intent. And for Google.

But around 1 out of every 10 posts that you publish should be a Power Post.

Power Posts

A Power Post is a piece of blog content that’s engineered to get backlinks, social media shares, and traffic.

These Power Pages are an important part of your SEO strategy for two main reasons:

First, they build up your website’s Domain Authority.

SEO industry studies have found that your site’s overall link authority helps all of the pages on your site rank better.

Domain Link Authority Ahrefs Domain Rating

So if your site is brand new, you’re going to have a tough time ranking for anything remotely competitive. Even if your content is legit.

But when you build up your Domain Authority with a Power Post, it will improve rankings across your entire site.

Power Posts Can Increase Ranking Of Other Pages On Your Website

Second, Power Pages allow you to get the most out of internal linking.

Specifically, you can link from your authoritative Power Post to pages that need a boost.

Link From Power Posts To Pages That Need A Boost

Let me show you an example of a Power Post in the SaaS space: This page speed report from Unbounce.

To date, that single Post Post has 735 total backlinks.

Unbounce – Page Speed Report Backlinks

Which has helped Unbounce rank #1 in Google for tons of competitive terms, like “landing page”.

Unbounce – Top Of Landing Page SERPs

I’ve also used Power Post to help build up the Backlinko blog to 400k+ monthly visitors.

Backlinko – Monthly Visitors Growth

For example, our Power Post about video marketing is 5k+ words.

This post has a custom design. Lots of visuals and illustrations.

Plus, it covers everything you need to know about video marketing. From filming, to editing to promoting your videos on YouTube.

It covers it all.

To be clear: creating a Power Post like this isn’t easy (in fact, our video marketing guide took weeks to put together).

Which is why you don’t want to make every post a Power Post. Instead, these should be around 10% of your content. That’s more than enough for most sites to start building up their domain authority.

Now: Power Posts are great for link building and SEO.

They’re one of many link building strategies that SaaS companies can use.

Our last step is to build backlinks to your SaaS website.

Here are 5 link building techniques that are PERFECT for Saas:

1. Free Tools and Web Apps

In other words: create a free webapp version of your SaaS product. Or just an awesome free tool.

For example, CoverageBook is a SaaS company that helps PR professionals report their results to clients.

Coveragebook – Homepage

And a while back they created a free keyword research tool called Answer The Public.

Answer The Public Homepage

This tool isn’t super related to their main business. But it’s close enough.

Plus, they were a SaaS company. Which meant they had plenty of developers on staff that could create an awesome tool.

So: how did it go?

Well, that tool now has 77.6k total backlinks.

Answer The Public Total Backlinks

The entire Coverage Book website only has 15k backlinks.

In other words: this single tool has brought in more links than the rest of the entire business.

That’s the power of creating a super helpful web app.

2. Broken Link Building

Broken Link Building is one of my favorite link building strategies for SaaS companies.

Why?

Because there are a lot of resource pages out there that link to helpful tools. Here’s an example:

Helpful Tools Resource Page

And many of those pages have broken links.

For example, Google recently retired one of their old web apps.

Google Trends Correlate Broken Link

So I found resource pages that still linked to that old web app. And reached out to the people that ran those pages. I politely suggested that they swap out their dead link with a link to me.

Sure enough, that little campaign netted us a handful of really high-quality backlinks.

Broken Link Campaign Email

3. Guest Posting

Guest posting is kind of a grind.

But it can help you get a handful of solid links when you’re first starting out. And you can switch to more scalable approaches later on.

In fact, that’s exactly what I did with my blog.

In the early days of my blog I guest posted like crazy.

Guest Posts Collage

Which landed me some solid links.

But I quickly realized that guest posting did NOT scale.

So I switched to the other strategies that I’ve talked about in this post (like Power Posts).

4. Publish Unique Data

Bloggers and journalists LOVE linking to unique pieces of data.

For example, we ran one of the first industry studies about voice search SEO.

Voice Search SEO Study post – Referring domains

And because that post was packed with unique data, it got linked to like crazy.

In fact, that single post now has over 1.87k backlinks.

Voice Search SEO Post Backlinks

Your SaaS company might even have this data lying around.

For example, BuzzSumo uses the data in their platform to publish super interesting data sets, like this:

BuzzSumo – Interesting Data Set Post

For BuzzSumo, putting together this post wasn’t a big deal. They basically just had to scrape their own platform. And write about what they found.

But for people in the digital marketing world, this content is SUPER valuable. Which is why 1,341 different sites have linked to it.

5. Podcast Interviews

Podcasts are an untapped marketing channel for SaaS companies.

The right podcast can get you a surge in visitors and free trial signups. And a solid backlink too.

Backlinko – Mentioned In Podcast

As someone that’s appeared on 100+ podcasts, I can tell you that they’re well worth the effort.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years that can help you get on legit podcasts:

  • Invest in a high-quality mic. Kinda pricey (mine cost about $400). But worth it if you plan on appearing on lots of podcasts.
  • Treat your podcast like an audio guest post. You’re not there to talk about how your software is “disrupting” an industry. Instead, you want to focus 100% on providing value.
  • Have your founder go on. Unless you’re DropBox, no one wants to hear from your head of growth.

So yeah, if you follow those 3 tips you should be GOLD. And have no trouble getting on dozens of podcasts.

So, What Did You Think?

That’s it for my guide to search engine optimization for SaaS.

Now I’d like to hear from you.

What’s your #1 takeaway tip from this post?

Are you going to start going on podcasts?

Or maybe you want to focus on informational keywords.

Either way, let me know b in the comments section below.

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