SaaS companies are different.  The sales cycle is different, the product offering is different (because you are selling both the product AND the service), and the longevity of a SaaS customer is typically long-term…different.  Therefore, the marketing at a SaaS company must be different, right?

Despite the obvious differences, you don’t have to turn your link acquisition strategy upside-down to be successful in your marketing for a SaaS company.  Here are my suggestions on what to include in your off-site link building strategy:

1.    Startup Directories

Many SaaS companies are startups and a large percentage of those startup companies are involved in some stage of the VC funding process.  There are a variety of authority directories that list startup companies, their business information, and website.

You can use an aggregator of startup directories like Startuplister. For a fee, they will get your business listed on over 80 startup directories. When we’ve used this service, we noticed that not every business fits each directory’s niche, so be sure to investigate how your company fits.

You can also go the old-fashioned way and do manual outreach and submission to these sites.  Twoodo’s blog post has a good list of startup directories to get you started.

2.    Pay to Play Sites

The organic search results that SaaS companies operate in are riddled with software review sites, and these sites are heavy hitters that compete for many top organic keywords.  These sites exist to provide the public with software reviews but often they are “pay to play,” meaning that any relationship with them will cost you money to get in the game.

Many of the SaaS companies that we work with engage in a paid relationship with these sites because it can offer significant exposure to the brand. Instead of seeing them as organic search competition or just a paid relationship, you should leverage them for powerful links.  These software review sites have blogs and put out content on a regular basis. As such, there are frequent opportunities to contribute content. All you need to do is ask.

3.    Influencer Marketing

Each industry has those key individuals who have a strong voice or have sway with that industry segment. Influencer marketing involves marketing products via these influencers and the results can be powerful. Adweek said it best in their article on influencer marketing: “There are few things that drive a sale more effectively than a warm word-of-mouth recommendation.”

Reach out to influencers in your industry, schedule a conversation in person (perhaps lunch if proximity allows), and build a relationship with them.  You can start by interviewing them. An interview with influencers and experts on your topic or product can be used or re-purposed into a variety of content pieces.  Use the audio for a podcast episode, develop slides and use the audio to narrate a video, or transcribe the audio into a blog post.  The content list is long and the relationship with the influencer will enhance your promotion of the content and lead to links.

4.    Co-Marketing

This form of marketing helps similar brands piggyback off each other and their respective audiences.  Often it is a collaboration to create a piece of content – eBook, webinar, an online event, etc. – that will generate leads each company can share. The main goal is the lead generation, but through the promotion of the co-branded content, you can end up with several solid links from your partner and their unique audience.

Co-marketing will produce results, but be sure to find a relationship that has mutual benefits and will work well with your goals. Hubspot gives some great tips on how to find the right partner here.

5.    Event Marketing

SaaS companies frequent tradeshows and other similar events to peddle their wares.  There are many links to be had in the promotion of these events.  You can use services that have event networks like SpinGo or use popular event registration sites like Eventbrite or Eventful.

6.    Content Marketing

In a later blog post we’ll expound on the benefits of content marketing or why it is important to your strategy. In the meantime, here are some examples of content that can pack a punch for SaaS companies and attract links.

1. Comparison Content

No SaaS company operates in a vacuum; there are competitors that are trying to acquire the same customers and the same links. Type your brand name into Google and then type “vs” after it.

Also, Google will provide suggested searches for competitors that searchers are comparing to your brand.

Competitive Google Suggest

Structure your comparison content in a user-friendly way so that your comparisons are clear and useful. Use appropriate imagery and user-generated reviews to support your comparisons.  By creating content that fills this consumer need, you control the conversation about your brand and can rank for important comparison keyword phrases.

2. Skyscraper Content

Brian Dean of Backlinko coined the phrase and outlined this content technique a few years ago; Big Leap has achieved tremendous results with skyscraper content ever since.

The gist of this strategy is to create content that will outperform other content that is ranking for keyword terms that you wish to rank for, and then to promote it like crazy. For SaaS companies, this sort of content performs well for two reasons:

  1. The content you are looking to outperform usually comes from popular publishers and has a large number of backlinks pointing to it. You can use these same backlinks to promote your new and better piece of content.
  2. You can crowdsource a lot of content from influencers in the industry. Use industry influencers and resources like HARO to make your skyscraper piece powerful.

Skyscraper content is in-depth and laborious enough that it shouldn’t be used as an everyday blog post.  Take the time to hone your strategy for the content – backlink outreach and social promotion will be key – and make sure to make it a long-term initiative.  This isn’t content that should be posted and promoted in just a few days.  Take the time to promote it over several months and backlinks will be sure to flow.

3. Content that solves a problem

Your sales team is always talking about pain points, right?  Google likes to help solve those problems, too! “How to” posts, product guides, and tutorial videos are all examples of content that will benefit your customer and can perform in the search results.

The SaaS companies that we work with usually already have some awesome case studies from their customers.  Structure your customer case studies so that they answer the important questions common in the industry. Get your customer success and support teams to use this content as a resource in their customer interactions.  Lastly, promote the content in relevant online communities that you are a part of. You will get some good social interaction and links will follow.

Link acquisition for SaaS companies doesn’t employ different strategies than other industries, but it does take patience and a long-term focus. Let us know in the comments below if you have a strategy that could also fit into this list!

Derek Smith