Many software companies assume the “if we build it they will come” marketing plan. All that matters is creating an amazing product that people can’t live without, get a few beta users, and you’re off to the races. At the dawn of the software era, this may have been true as the good old fashioned business development approach would go a long way. However, in modern-day, just about every SaaS company imaginable has a competitor and there are multiple channels of marketing that every company can pursue, so staying within one isn’t competitive.
Inbound Marketing – The Holy Grail of SaaS Customer Acquisition
Truth is, many startup SaaS companies don’t have the sales and marketing team in the early stages of the product, and many turn to roll up their sleeves as the method of getting customers. Without a large amount of venture capital, its a lot harder to get your software off the ground. The best method, and one you should focus all your resources on, especially if they’re limited, is inbound marketing.
Why inbound marketing? It’s one of the most effective ways to attract customers to you, rather than chasing them. Of all inbound marketing channels, the holy grail of those is a little something called SEO.
Search Engine Optimization(SEO) is the art of getting your website ranking for key phrases within the organic portion of the search results. This means that you will not have to pay for anything when people start visiting your site, unlike the paid ads on Google, where you pay per click.
In comparison to other marketing channels, SEO provides the best return on investment(ROI) by far. This is because as you continue to scale the campaign, your results will increase exponentially. If done right, every ranking you get, you keep and continue to reap the benefits of. Then, you just use the authority you’ve built for your site to create more content and rank for more key phrases.
The more you do it, the easier the rankings will be to achieve because of the increased trust you’ve received from the search engines. SEO can provide truly exponential growth for your SaaS business. Occupying search real estate for buyers keywords will grow your annual recurring revenue to new heights while keeping acquisition costs low.
SEO for SaaS, Getting the Job Done Right
Now that you know why SEO is beneficial, let’s dive into why you’re here: to figure out how to run an SEO campaign for SaaS and to take on the strategies that will help you with customer acquisition.
It All Begins With Keyword Research
The one thing you want to avoid is going two guns up and writing about everything that comes to mind. I know you think to talk about all of your software updates on your blog is a really exciting way to get customers engaged, well you’re wrong, it’s not. In fact, there is a 99% chance that will do absolutely nothing to bring in new customers. That is because that piece of content is talking about something that people aren’t searching for. The only way to find out what people are searching for is to do keyword research.
How to Do Keyword Research
Before we get to what you should be researching, you will need to know what tools to use.
Here are a few recommendations.
1. Google Keyword Planner – this is a free tool given to anyone who has a Gmail address. The Google Keyword Planner will give you data on keywords you type in, but also provide you with potential keyword ideas around the topics that you are searching for. You will get the volume of each keyword along with relative keyword ideas.
2. Keywords Everywhere – this is now a paid told but very affordable, $10 can get you a long way. This tool generates keywords right within Google search and tells you the volume of that keyword, as well as any related searches.
3. SEM Rush – you can use a tool like SEM rush to check what your competitors are ranking for and see if any of those keywords are of interest to you. You can also use this tool to track all your efforts.
Doing the Research
When it comes to starting to look for keywords, here are a few things you want to focus on.
For one, you want to make sure you first create a list of all the “money keywords.” That is something you’re going to want to focus on first. The thing with SEO is that it’s not about traffic, but about conversions. You can have an article bring in 5,000 visits and no sales, or an article bringing 500 visits and 10 sales. What you want to do is focus on those keywords
These keywords will be of people who are further in the buying process. For example, someone that Google’s “what is SaaS?” is probably not your target customer. However if someone Google’s “(Your Niche) software reviews”, then that’s probably one you’re going to want to go after.
Once you get all those keywords tackled, you want to focus on keywords that have to do with problems you are solving. For example, if you developed a proposal software for mobile mechanics, you want to write things that relate to that business, and some problems that you may be solving that these customers are searching for. For example “How to Get More Sales as a Mobile Mechanic.”
Writing the Content
Once all the keyword research is done it is time to put the content together. Just writing is usually not enough. You want to take a certain approach if you’re going to get your content ranking in the search engines.
Research Competitors Content
The first thing you want to do is to search the keyword you are targeting and see what all of the competitors on the first or second page have written about the particular topic. Look at what they discussed, what they may have missed, and what about their topic is being snippets in the search. What you then want to do is to hit a target to go way above and beyond every article that is there. Expand on everything they hit on, and include everything they missed.
Focus on One Keyword
A lot of SEO’s make the mistake of trying to rank one page for multiple keywords. Sometimes that works, but most of the time it doesn’t. An article that talks about shirts and includes subheading of blue shirts, yellow shirts, etc. might rank for “blue shirts” but it won’t ever rank as high as an article that is strictly about blue shirts and not just shirts in general. So pick one keyword and stay on topic. Make sure to include it in your heading, preferably towards the beginning of the title.
Make It In-Depth – Don’t Hold Anything Back
When it comes to writing content on the internet, you want to make it as educational as possible. A lot of people are afraid of saying too much so that their competitors might learn something, but that is the wrong approach. What you want to do is give out all the industry info about any particular topic that you can. This will help position you as the expert in this particular field and will help you earn the trust of your customers, and if you can earn their trust, you will earn their business.
When writing the content, don’t forget to link out to your own content within your website. This will help you emphasize what keywords you want those other pages to rank for with the anchor text, and help you pass some juice to other pages.
Last but certainly not least, is the shameless plug. This is also known as a call to action or conversion optimization. You don’t want to have just a pretty article with great information on your site that will make your visitors happy enough to go take your advice and use it somewhere else. What you want them to do is be so happy with the content and know that you are the right solution. But if you don’t tell them that you are, you will lose out on a huge portion of your traffic.
What you want to do is mention yourself at the end of each article and talk about what you do and how your product can help. You also want to include a call to actions around the article, like on a sidebar, or as a popup sliding modal, that tells them about an offer or has a lead capture form for more information. This will help you convert your traffic and turn them into leads.
You also want to include an email capture form on every post so that you can market your future posts to future readers.
Types of Content to Write
Coming up with content ideas can be tough. Sure, it revolves around keyword research but you will need a starting point of ideas to begin researching keywords. Here are some ideas to help you get going.
1. Solving Your Users Problems That Your Software Doesn’t Solve
We’ll use the sales software for this example. If you’re a sales software then obviously you will help your potential customers with their sales, but if you’re sales-focused, you’re targeting business owners, who have other problems to address outside of sales. So what you want to do is think about their queries and what educational content you can provide for them to help address it. Perhaps they are looking for new ways to market their business, or maybe need help with their project management process, provide that information for them. Drive valuable and in-depth content around their problems and don’t forget to also mention that if they’re looking for help with sales, there you are.
2. Teaching Them About a Problem They Don’t Know They Have
Maybe they know they want to improve their sales, but not sure what or how to do it. Many business owners want to know how to “increase sales” or “revenue” and you can put together an entire campaign of content addressing those types of questions, and once again, mentioning your software as some sort of CTA at the end of the post.
3. Persona Driven Content
Once you maximize your customer at a macro level, i.e. the call center, you can also move on to target the individual rather than the entity. Think about the person who would make that buying decision. What would they need to know about or are currently wanting to learn? Maybe its a management hack, maybe its a productivity tip, or finding work-life balance working in (insert industry). Think about the person you are targeting and teach them something.
Education is Key
If you can educate your customers, you will earn their trust and their business. People never forget where they learned something, and if you can be the source of information for someone, they are likely to come back to learn more. This is the method by which thought leaders are made, trust, and thus revenue is generated.
Link Building – The Most Important Thing You Will Do
All small technical details like “robot.txt” aside, SEO is about quality links and quality content. The thing is, no matter how quality your content, it won’t rank without quality links.
What is a Quality Link?
Here is what makes a good link:
1. Make it a contextual link. The best type of link is located in the fresh and original content on other websites.
2. It should be on a relevant website within relevant content. The relevance has to do with whatever your niche is, whether its the software or the service side of things.
3. It should have an optimized anchor text. This means that it should either have a keyword or your brand name as the hyperlink text. Make sure to vary it and not make it look intentionally spammy.
4. A high domain authority site is a must. You can use the Moz tool to measure it. Moz has a good rating system of what makes a website authoritative from an SEO perspective. Make sure you’re using this tool to gauge the worthiness of a website.
How to Link Build
Now that you know what makes a good link, let’s dive into how to do it.
It’s All About Outreach
Since the best link is a contextual one, then what you will want to do is offer high-quality content to other websites, and in exchange, only ask that they allow you to link back out to your website. This will involve you reaching out to websites and pitching topic ideas. This is a majority of what link building is about.
When pitching ideas make sure they are:
- Relevant to their site
- Relevant to your site
- Not something they already have
- It’s 100% original, meaning its never been published anywhere else. Make sure to write a new piece of content for every site.
While it’s tempting, avoid writing thin content when guest posting. Try to put in the same level of effort you will put into your own posts.
Take Advantage of Their Traffic
When it comes to being a SaaS company, there are a ton of websites out there that review SaaS products. What you want to do is reach out to these websites and ask to be included in these reviews alongside your competitors. Not only will this earn you a link, but you will show up in their rankings and to their visitors. This allows you to capture real estate in the search rankings that you would not have otherwise.
Tools You Can Use
There are a few tools out there that can help you build links, most of them are CRM style tools. You can use a simple tool like Link Prospector or a more advanced tool like Ninja outreach which gives you the ability to find websites but also to email blast them. Tools like that will save you a bunch of time on outreach and help you get out to the right people faster.
Make sure to have your topic ideas ready and be clear about what you’re looking to do. Most good websites get a ton of these emails and would rather not spend their time going back and forth with you.
Types of Links to Go After
If you’re a SaaS company, you have quite a few opportunities to go after with link building. Let’s dive into how you can make your campaign a fruitful one.
As mentioned earlier, one of the low hanging fruits will be software review websites. They are always looking for fresh content and software to review. You may have to work with them like provide the details or let them use your software for a week or two. Most review sites will be open to reviewing your product, all you have to do is reach out, tell them a bit about yourself and why their audience may benefit from the review. This is one of the best links you can get because it is going to be relevant and will also help you a ton with reputation management. Now when potential customers Google your software reviews, it will be more than just the customer reviews that they see, which gives you more credibility.
2. Software Round-up Posts
We’ve all seen when websites that write posts like this one: “The top 10 (service) software you should be using.”
A lot of these websites are high authority and can mean great backlinks for you. Many people read that article and think it’s static. What we do for our software clients is we reach out to the writers and pitch them on why we should be added to the roundup and even provide the write-up to save them time. Outside of a link this also has the benefit to allow you to show up in the search results for that keyword, which can act as a lead generation tool, as well as a reputation management tool.
3. Service-Related Websites
The majority of links you get should be in this category. Find websites that help the same group of customers that you do. For example, if you are marketing software, then reach out to high authority marketing blogs and pitch them on a guest post that you’re willing to write for them based on some unique knowledge, experience, or data that you have being software in your space. They almost always will welcome you with open arms as long as you’re willing to create a high-quality piece of content for them. This will get you a good link and once again, expose your software to their audience who can potentially use you as a solution.
4. Other Software Companies
Another good strategy is to reach out to other software companies that have active blogs that aren’t directly competing with you. Most software websites will be happy to hear from a peer and will likely even offer to publish a piece of content on your website. The key here is to reach out to businesses that compliment you without being competitive.
There are many SaaS and business podcast out there that are eager to speak to entrepreneurs and learn about their experience. While this will require you to be able to do some public speaking and taking some time out of your day. This isn’t something you can outsource to your content team. The good news is that, like most things on this list, it will also have the benefit of potential lead generation outside of getting a link that will help you rank.
Outsourcing Can Make Sense
This may sound like a lot of work and that’s because it is. Even a full-time SEO person wouldn’t be able to do all this work efficiently. This is one of those things that can actually be more cost-effective to outsource to an agency (depending on the agency).
Think of it like this, if you hire an SEO person they would need to:
- Do Research
- Write On-site Content
- Do outreach
- Write Offsite Content
- Manage the Website
Content creation is a full-time job when done right, let alone adding outreach, another full-time job, on top of it. Not to mention, if you hire an SEO person, you will have to:
- Pay their salary
- Pay for their tools
- Pay for anything you need outsourced (and you will)
- Pay any publishing fees for outreach
- Give them weekly, if not daily time to provide information, feedback, and manage them.
- Cost of Trial and Error
This will be a big drain on resources that can be allocated wisely. We personally run campaigns that our clients find is much more efficient than the cost of an employee because we already have all the infrastructure set up to do content, outreach, and research. If you hire the right agency, the set it and forget it approach can work well, the trick is vetting multiple places and picking the best bet.
Get to Work
There is some really good potential for a SaaS company to grow its user base through SEO. Not only are you getting free traffic, but you can grow exponentially. All that’s left is to put this to practice and see what it does for you.
If you’re looking for someone to help you with your efforts, get in touch with us today!