Updated October 12, 2021
Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about making sure your website is search engine friendly. A lot goes on behind the scenes of your website that can either help or hinder your rankings in Google, Bing, and other popular search engines.
In this blog post, we’ll be digging into the nitty-gritty of doing SEO for your SaaS company. We’ll go over the basics of SaaS SEO, essential SEO practices you should be aware of, and how you can bring it all together into an organized SEO strategy.
What Sets SaaS SEO Apart?
The main difference between SaaS SEO and SEO for other industries depends on what a business wants to achieve. For example, most companies use SEO to promote their individual products. And while that’s a part of SEO for SaaS companies, there are more nuances to it.
First, SaaS companies are obsessed with generating leads. Therefore, leads will be front and center in this SEO guide.
Second, SaaS companies are protective of their brand voice. Like, super protective, meaning anyone in charge of SEO may be met with a lot of resistance as to what keywords they can and can’t use.
Finally, SaaS companies are web and user experience savvy. But all too often we’ve noticed they fail to abide by Google’s search ranking factors. Your website might look cool, but Google doesn’t rank you based on your cool-factor alone.
But none of these elements are necessarily a bad thing. It’s a good thing that you care about leads and that you’re overprotective of your brand. We can use this passion and web expertise into crafting an effective SaaS SEO strategy.
Let’s get started.
SEO Essentials for SaaS Companies
Before we dive into actionable items, there are some SEO basics every SaaS company should use in its strategy. We’ve divided them into five key points:
1. Keyword Planning and Integration
Doing solid keyword research will give you a strong foundation for all your SEO efforts. Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into a search engine when they’re looking for an answer to their problems, a specific service near them, etc.
You want to rank well for keywords that are relevant to your business because it will drive an enormous amount of qualified traffic to your website. Remember, these people are searching with intent—they have a question or problem, and you want to be the best answer or solution to their dilemma.
There are several different tools that you can use to help with your research. Some of the most useful ones are:
- Moz Keyword Planner: This planner lets you put in a broad keyword and will give a great list of keyword suggestions for you. These suggestions range from related terms to long-tail keywords (longer, more specific phrases) you can target.
- Semrush: Semrush is our favorite tool to use when looking at competitors and where they’re ranking for specific keywords. The interface is pretty self-explanatory to use, but let’s walk through the organic keyword section.
- Google Search Console: Google Search Console tells you what keywords people are currently clicking on to get to your site. If you have keywords that are already performing well, you can look to optimize them even more or find underperforming keywords to target.
2. Engaging and Responsive Websites
Your website’s design and functionality are an incredibly important part of SEO. That means developing a website that is easy for new visitors to navigate and is responsive to whatever device they use to discover your site.
For example, your website should be optimized for mobile, meaning that its format easily adapts from a desktop layout to one that’s compatible with mobile devices. Since so many people primarily search on their phones, this is imperative.
Your website should also follow basic marketing funnel principles, comprising content that is targeted at newly interested leads, informed leads, and leads who are ready to convert.
One reason you should be so concerned about developing an engaging website is to maintain low bounce rates. A bounce rate is a metric that search engines use to determine whether or not your website was helpful for the visitor.
A high bounce rate means that a lot of visitors that click on your link quickly navigate back to the search engine results page (SERP) instead of navigating through your website. A low bounce rate means your website is engaging enough that it entices visitors to continue exploring your site. So, you want to make sure the content on your website targets your audience’s pain points so well that they want more help directly from you.
3. Properly Placed Technical Elements
Along with an engaging website, you also need to ensure the technical elements of your site are in place. An error on this front can lead to increased bounce rates or a failure to rank for keywords at all.
While most issues with this step will be brought up during a site audit (we’ll get to that later), here are some variables you should be aware of:
- Sitemaps: Sitemaps are files on your site that help search engines scan and understand your website, showing exactly where each page is and which pages have a higher priority. This helps web crawlers index your website, which makes it discoverable.
- Structured data: Structured data helps web crawlers understand the content of your web pages, helping search engines categorize them with relevant search results.
- Robots.txt: Robots.txt files tell web crawlers whether or not they can index a web page. This is a great tool to use to show search engines what pages you want indexed and which ones you don’t (for example, if a certain webpage is under maintenance).
- Canonical URLs: Without canonical URLs, your web pages may start to produce slight variations to their URLs. This is not good. Google uses this as a sign of an unhealthy website. Establishing a canonical link element keeps this from happening.
4. 21st Century Link Building and Acquisition Practices
Including links in your content allows web crawlers to search through your website and discover new pages. And, if other high-authority websites have links that direct to your website, your search engine rankings can go up.
These two link methods make up the practice of link building and acquisition, which is any action aimed at increasing the number of quality inbound links to your website and webpages. Google sees quality inbound links as votes of confidence; the more votes you have, the more likely the search engine will give you a good ranking.
Sound complicated? Well, it is and it isn’t. The most complicated part of link building is figuring out how to gather inbound links in the first place. Fortunately, we have a few ideas of how to accomplish this for your SaaS company:
- Co-marketing with related businesses. This includes writing guest blog posts on other websites. Or, it could be more involved, like a webinar your company and another SaaS company put on together.
- Creating valuable content through your content marketing strategy. An indirect way is to create content that is truly valuable to the industry your software serves. If you do a good job, other companies may link to your article because of its high value.
- Creating resource pages. Going along with the last point, resource pages are a simple but effective type of content you can create that many companies may want to link to.
- Finding unlinked mentions to your company. As you scour the websites of your competitors and other SaaS companies, you may find mentions of your company or products. Most of the time, these mentions will not actually link to your website. You can reach out to these companies and ask them to add your link to those references.
- Offering your resources to web pages with broken links. While looking through websites that are related to your industry, you may also find broken links (links that lead to non-existent web pages). If you have a resource that covers what the content was meant to link to, you can again reach out to the company and offer your link as an alternative to their broken link.
5. Measurements and Metrics of Success
“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” That nifty little phrase is known as Pearson’s Law and can be applied to virtually every function and process in the world today, including SEO.
A great tool to get a grasp on your success indicators is Google Analytics (GA). But for performance measurement and reporting to be effective, you need to know what metrics to look for. For example, you should be familiar with the difference between goals and events on GA.
But for our purposes, here are the most important ones to keep an eye on:
- Organic traffic: The number of visitors to your site that came from organic search. Organic traffic is a pretty good indicator of whether or not your SEO strategies are working. If you see an uptick in organic traffic after implementing some SEO, you’re probably on the right track.
- Keyword rankings: This metric will show you how your website fairs compared to other websites targeting the same keywords. Ideally, you want to be in the top 10.
- Clickthrough rates (CTR): A CTR indicates what percentage of searchers visit your site after seeing it on the SERP. For example, if 20 people see your result but only five people click on it, you would have a CTR of 25 percent.
- Bounce rate: We’ve already mentioned this one, but bounce rates indicate whether or not people stay on your website after clicking on it.
- Domain authority (DA): Your website’s DA score indicates its level of authority in Google’s eyes. This metric is usually a good indicator of how your link-building strategies are working.
7 Steps SaaS Companies Should Take to Tackle SEO
Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get cooking. Here are the seven steps every SaaS company should take to ensure they’re on top of their SEO.
1. Establish Your Goals
Before you even think about starting an SEO strategy, you need to get your goals in order. Without goals, you’ll just wander aimlessly through the world of digital marketing without much success.
Ask yourself: what do I want SEO to do for my business? Where do I want to implement SEO strategies in my digital marketing approach? Knowing the answer to these questions will help you identify the purpose behind your SEO strategy and help you develop a clear roadmap towards those goals.
Here are some SEO goals you may consider adopting for your SaaS company:
- Generating more leads: Your sales team is well-equipped to handle new leads; you just need more of them.
- Driving traffic to your website: You’re not getting a lot of traffic on your website, and you think more traffic could lead to more conversions.
- Building a bigger email list: You want people to find your website so they can subscribe to your email list.
You can choose multiple goals at once for your SEO strategy. Just make sure they are both specific and measurable.
2. Perform a Site Audit
There are hundreds of different things to look at in a site audit. At Big Leap, our in-depth site audit examines over 200 different aspects of a website. However, for this blog post, we’ll cover some of the more general site audit areas:
- Current keyword rankings
- Status and error codes (404, 4XX, 5XX, etc.)
- Page speed
- Sitemap errors
- URL architecture
- Broken links
- Bounce rate
- Average time spent on page
Some tools that make your site audit easier include Screaming Frog, Google Search Console, Pagespeed Insights, and GTMetrix.
3. Make Changes and Optimizations
Once you’ve audited your website for coding errors and current SEO best practices, you’ve probably discovered an entire checklist of items to complete. Start working through those items until you’ve resolved all the errors on your website.
During this phase, you should also look for ways to improve your website’s keyword optimization. You don’t even need to have a lot of content on your site to do this—even a small amount of content can go a long way for SEO.
While there are a lot of nuanced ways to optimize, you should at least cover the following areas:
- The H1 (main headline) of every webpage has the primary keyword you’re trying to target
- Meta titles and descriptions contain keywords for that webpage
- The body copy of every webpage contains the primary keyword and any additional keywords at least once
Make sure you use all of these keywords naturally. Otherwise, web crawlers can tell when content is overstuffed with keywords and will flag your content as unhelpful.
4. Develop Consistent Link Building Efforts
Inbound and outbound links are critical for improving SEO. They are the connecting fibers that connect your webpage to other reputable websites and articles. And when web crawlers observe these highly-valued connections, your rankings will go up.
But how do you develop these consistent link-building efforts? By applying the 21st-century link building practices we mentioned before:
- Co-marketing with related businesses
- Creating valuable content through your content marketing strategy
- Creating resource pages
- Finding unlinked mentions to your company
- Offering your resources to web pages with broken links
5. Track Your Traffic and Visitor Activity
After implementing all of these optimization strategies, it’s time to see if they’re working the way you want them to. Using a Google Analytics account makes this significantly easier, allowing you to see how many visitors are coming to your website.
You should also pay attention to what your visitors are doing—it’s not enough for them to just show up. They also need to convert and do whatever it is you want them to do. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is what ensures this happens.
You also need to refine the user experience as much as possible. For example, consider tweaking your copy so it flows well, creating longer landing pages, or experimenting with different colored call-to-action (CTA) buttons.
By implementing strategic CTAs throughout your website and refining the user experience, you can much more easily sway visitors towards a conversion.
For this step, think back to the goals you established in the first step. Are you generating more qualified leads? Are more visitors coming to your website? Have you developed a robust email list? If the answer is yes, then congratulations! If the answer is no, then you still have some work to do.
6. Rinse and Repeat
Search engine optimization is not a one-and-done type of thing. You have to continually work at it to maintain your rankings and remain competitive.
As a general rule of thumb, you should audit your full website once a year, with smaller audits happening at more regular intervals. For example, Big Leap’s SEO teams regularly conduct:
- Metadata audits
- Content value audits
- Featured snippet audits
- Site speed audits
- CRO audits
- Keyword cannibalization audits
With each of those audits, you can find new technical concerns to address, keywords you can start ranking for, and ways to improve the value of your website.
Additionally, if you ever change your overarching goals, then you’ll also need to change your approach to SEO.
7. Stay Up to Date on SEO Changes
SEO is an ever-evolving beast, meaning companies need to stay up-to-date on all of the latest changes to the process. For example, Core Web Vitals has been a big push during 2021, with Google using it as a primary indicator for quality signals.
Google Webmaster Guidelines and Search Engine Watch are two excellent resources you can use to stay updated on all recent and upcoming changes to SEO best practices. Or, you can rely on experts to stay updated for you.
It’s Time to Plan Your Strategy
There you have it! This is everything you need to know to get started with your SaaS SEO strategy. So, all that’s left is to develop that strategy.
It’s okay to take your time to think up your strategy. Getting all the elements right the first time means less need for clean-up when/if things don’t go well in the future. While you’re preparing if you find that an SEO partner could help, consider what Big Leap can do for you. We’ve been in the business since 2008, and we’re ready to share our expertise with you.