SaaS SEO

SaaS SEO: an Actionable Guide to Building a Growth-Driven Strategy

We've transformed SEO to be a top-performing customer acquisition channel for so many SaaS, and there's no stopping you from doing the same.
SaaS SEO: an Actionable Guide to Building a Growth-Driven Strategy
Jake Stainer
by Jake Stainer

SEO is one of the most effective channels to invest in for your SaaS. It’s highly scalable, and in the long-term beats payback periods of other channels, such as PPC or outbound marketing. As SaaS moves from growth at all costs to sustainable growth, SEO is a must for driving new biz MRR.

Search Engine Optimisation isn’t just about reaching #1 or seeing a huge increase in website traffic- it’s also about real-world impact on your business. We see this every day with results for the SaaS brands we work with, like:

If you’re looking for a scalable way to increase SQLs, activations, and long-term SaaS growth, SEO is the way to go. That’s why we created this guide, complete with actionable techniques you can use right away. 

But first, let’s cover the basics:

What is SaaS SEO?

SaaS SEO is aimed at helping Software as a Service brands create a recognized customer growth engine. It combines various techniques such as the four customer awareness stages, growth loops, jobs-to-be-done framework, switch moments, and more.

Why invest in SEO for your SaaS brand? 

You want to drive new MRR through SEO, not just vanity metrics like clicks or rankings. SEO is probably the best channel you can invest in for long-term ARR growth for your SaaS, for a multitude of different reasons.

SEO Compounds over time

The efforts you put in today will continue way into the future. This is different to investing in paid ads because once you stop investing, you stop getting the benefit. 

Take a look at the graph below. SEO starts slow but exponentially gets better, both in terms of more customers and a lower Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), whilst PPC ramps up faster but has a CAC and number of customers glass ceiling—it’s finite. . 

Long-term “investors” are those who win the market they are operating in over time. 

SEO doesn’t require a huge capital investment

You don’t need a huge amount of capital investment to start your SaaS SEO channel compared to other activities—like investing in paid ads. 

For example, one SaaS we work with is investing over $400,000 per month in Google Ads, and they achieve the same results for less than 5% of this cost through SEO. As a result SEO has the lowest payback period.

Your SEO content is recyclable  

The content you create to build an SEO growth engine can be repurposed for other channels. 

For example, you can share the same content on social media, via email marketing to your user base, on online communities, repurposed into other types of content like YouTube videos and infographics. 

The biggest benefit of investing in SEO is that it compounds over time, and outweighs the possibility of spending millions on paid advertising. 

See some of Skale’s biggest SEO wins

Read SEO success stories, and see what Skale can do for your SaaS

Read our Success Stories

How is SaaS SEO different from other types of SEO? 

SaaS SEO is different from other types of SEO for many reasons. Here are a few that stand out in my experience.

First, SaaS has 3 different key go-to-market motions: 

  • Self-serve
  • SMB
  • Enterprise 

You need to prioritize one and build your SaaS SEO strategy based on your go-to-market strategy. If not, you risk creating a frankenstein content strategy with ambiguous leading success indicators

For example, going after Enterprise deals is not the same as going after freelancers.

Second, compared to other industries like ecommerce, there are longer sales cycles, so the way you attribute success is different—and the type of content your produce needs to support the entire sales cycle, from lead generation to influencing opportunities in the sales pipeline.  

Normally, there is also a larger top of the funnel that can be opened, vs. content just focusing on transactional search intents, so you can focus on the key pain points of your target audience. 

Depending on your go-to-market strategy, generally there are two funnels: AARRR funnel (pirate), and a sales GTM funnel. Each one has different lagging and leading indicators of success. 

💡 Learn more about the different SaaS funnel types in our comprehensive guide here

Third, people are using your software with a job-to-be-done. You really need to map your product features and benefits to the JTBD framework to understand the jobs people have (AKA use cases), and which of these jobs correlate to higher ARPA and lower MRR churn rates, and thus higher LTVs. This will enable you to focus on jobs where you have better PMF and can therefore grow faster and more efficiently.

Check out the jobs to be done canvas:

Fourth, people buying SaaS are often switching from one solution to another. It can be from a cloud or non-cloud based solution. 

For example, a cloud-based solution could be Google Sheets, or it could be another SaaS software they are looking to migrate away from. A non-cloud based solution could be using paper, and we want to convince people they should instead be doing this in their computer browser.

Want to learn more about switch moments? Jump right to the relevant section here 

How to get started with SaaS SEO Growth in 11 steps

 Hopefully you’re now convinced that investing in SEO for your SaaS is an important pillar of your got to market strategy. 

Where do you get started? 

Here’s a few basic steps you can take in order to kick-start building your SaaS SEO growth channel. 

1. Align internally on your go-to-market motion & SaaS SEO goals

Align internally on which go-to-market motion you are primarily focusing on : self-serve, SMB, or Enterprise. It will directly correlate with your ACV. This changes your whole approach so you need to align on this first. 

You can also use this to set the correct SEO metric. E.g. Are you aiming for qualified signups and activations, or qualified pipeline and closed won deals? 

2. Map out your product’s use cases and jobs to be done. 

Interview customers to understand how they are currently using your product. Gather as much data as possible. Work with your product team, PMM, sales and data teams to establish the most important use cases.

💡 Pro tip: check out yours and your competitors’ G2 profiles and read customer reviews. More often than not, they’ll tell you what jobs they are trying to get done, and the different use cases that they value.

💡🔥 Pro, pro tip: analyze product metrics for each use case and track the E2E funnel so you can analyse ARPA, MRR Churn and ultimately LTV by use case/job to be done. 

💡🔥🚒 Pro, pro, pro tip: Take it even further and track sales velocity to create exponential revenue growth by focusing on the right topics.

3. Use the customer awareness framework 

Map out content ideas based on your research using the customer awareness framework. Product aware, solution aware, problem aware, and problem unaware (ICP content).

4. Perform in-depth SaaS keyword research 

This keyword research will form the basis of your SEO strategy and content roadmap. 

You can do this in a multitude of different ways, such as:

  • Focusing on switch moments: what is your ICP current using to solve their job to be done? Paper? Excel? Another SaaS solution?
  • Sales call n-gram analysis: get all your successful sales call audios and transcribe them. Now run them through an n-gram analysis and understand what common words they are using to mine for keyword ideas.
  • Customer support tickets: similar to the above tactic, but with customer support tickets.
  • Software review websites: check your own reviews and your competitor reviews on G2. Analyse both positive and negative and understand jobs to be done, pain points, motivations, etc. 
  • Competitor PPC data: use a tool like Ahrefs to see what keywords your competiton is bidding on in PPC, and consider if they are interesting to form part of your SEO for SaaS strategy.

💡 You can check out different SaaS keyword research methods in our free guide

5. Cluster together all your ideas into topics. 

Based on our experience here at Skale, Google ranks topics and not keywords. This is key to driving sure-fire growth through SEO because you can’t easily rank singular keywords. Figure out which topic makes the most sense in relation to product-market fit, ease, and KPI potential. 

6. Build an SEO model in Google Sheets 

Here you’ll want to outline all the possible pages that can be made, their traffic potential, awareness stage, map potential conversion to demo rates, and referring domains needed to rank each topic. 

Now augment with ICE prioritisation by topic in order to prioritise where you first put efforts for the biggest MRR upside.  

7.  Reverse engineer each page you’re creating

Part of your content marketing strategy should include digging into the top results in Google. Spend at least 2 hours on each page understanding concepts such as search intent, content structure patterns, NLP keywords, featured snippet & schema opportunities, etc. 

8. Create E-A-T worthy content 

You can do this by interviewing experts in your niche and working with top-league SaaS-experienced content writers.  Here’s how Maze is doing it: 

Maze Guide: Usability Testing

Don’t cut costs on content creation at all—it’s a core part of growing a long-term SaaS SEO channel. 

9. Kick start an always-on strategic SaaS link building program 

You need to build authority to the content you’ve published, by having other websites link back to yours. Without links you will not be able to build a scalable SEO growth engine. 

We’ve proved this a multitude of times at Skale by securing 1000s of links to a myriad of different SaaS brands. Check out how we managed to get a €1 cost per signup for HappyScribe through strategic SaaS link building. 

Here’s some SaaS link building tactics to get you started: 

  1. Unlinked brand mentions. Research websites who have mentioned your SaaS but they didn’t add a link back to you. Outreach to them and ask if they can include a link back to your SaaS website.
  2. Guest posting. This involves researching high quality websites in your niche and pitching topic ideas for their blog. You create high quality content for them for free, in exchange for adding a relevant link back to your website which helps boost your search engines results position. 
  3. Conferences & podcasts. Get active speaking at conferences and podcasts, and more often than not when you’re published online as a speaker, you’ll get a link back to your website.
  4. Product reviews. Reach out to experts & influencers in your niche and offer them 3 months of your SaaS product for free in exchange for a review, and a link back! 

💡 Want the full list? Check out our SaaS link building guide here. 

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10. Ensure your website is technically sound

This step is critical, because if you don’t have a strong foundation to build upon, then you won’t be able to scale your SaaS SEO channel. Alongside improving on page SEO and pff page SEO, you need to work with a Technical SEO expert and get your website into serious shape.

A few things you can do are:

  • Perform an in-depth technical SEO audit, and fix all the key things. Do not use an online tool to do this like Ahrefs or SEMrush as they won’t find all the issues. Instead work with an expert who can dig deep manually and with custom tooling.
  • Perform an internal linking audit in order to improve the overall architecture of your website and internal linking structure. This will seriously improve your search engine optimization, because internal links count but are often overlooked. 
  • Performan a cannibalisation audit to find what content is competing with each other with the same search intent and thus hindering their ability to effectively rank in top positions. 

💡 Lucky for you we’ve put together a technical SEO guide for you to get this job done. Take a look at it here.

11. Effectively measure SaaS SEO ROI. 

This is important because your marketing budget is being scrutinised and it’s finite. You need to prove to your CEO or the Board that not only can you drive positive results, but that the payback period or CAC:LTV ratio is within an acceptable range. 

Once you’ve hit this, it’s then about ramping up. This said, do understand that on average with every SEO action there is a 3-month lag to it impacting—so keep this in mind when measuring your SaaS SEO channel’s ROI

💡 You can learn more in our guide here.  

Well, there’s a few steps to get started—but in reality there are many more things that you need to do. So below we’ve put together 7 SaaS Growth Tactics you can start considering today. 

7 SaaS SEO Growth Tactics

We’re working with some of the biggest names in SaaS to drive serious growth through SEO, and we’re going to let some secrets out of the bag.

Here are 7 things to keep in mind if you’re serious about using SEO as a business growth tactic. 

Psst, keep them a secret! 🤫 

1) Don’t forget BOFU keywords 

Don’t simply spend all of your time creating content for problem-aware and problem-unaware audiences. Ensure you’re also building out content for solution-aware audiences who have an almost-immediate need to use your SaaS product. 

These pages will not just have high signup rates, but the signup-> customer conversion rate will be higher both in terms of rate and velocity. 

Examples of types of keywords you can include:

Keyword typesExamples
Maker/Creator/BuilderSurvey makerForm builderPresentation maker
TemplatesSocial media templatesSign up form templateEmail templates 
Software/ToolsGenerative design softwareEmail marketing toolsOKR software 

2) Build a SaaS SEO growth model 

As mentioned before, the only way to seriously grow a customer acquisition channel is to design a growth model. So you need to do the same for SEO. 

How? Here’s the simple version:

  1. Map out all existing pages with an SEO value. Identify the head term for each page. Ensure pages aren’t cannibalising each other.
  2. Add on your keyword research ensuring each keyword is a page (this is a page-level model). Keyword research can come in many flavors such as customer interviews, PPC data, spending hours going through your sales CRM, etc. 

🏹 See how to conduct a full SaaS Keyword Research here.

  1. Augment this with the following data:
    1. Clicks past 30 days
    2. Traffic potential 
    3. Topic cluster
    4. Current RDs
    5. RDs needed
    6. Intent (low-mid-high)
    7. Signup->Paying CVR % 
  1. Include the following calculations:
    1. Click uplift
    2. Visit -> Signup CVR (based on intent) 
    3. Signups
    4. Customers
    5. RDs Needed

Now you have the growth model built, you can find where the growth opportunities lie by selecting which topic is the easiest to rank, has the biggest upside, and is most closely related to your product (ensure high signup and signup->customer conversion rates). You can use some basic statistics on the data set you just created. 

Pro tip: you can automate the model so it’s up to date through different Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Ahrefs data connectors. 

3) Do thorough competitor analysis to reverse engineer tactics

There’s no point reinventing the wheel or failing for the sake of failing. Get a head start by digging into competitor strategies through tools like Ahefs, SEMRush, and Google itself. 

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself: 

  • Who are my direct and indirect competitors?
  • What solutions were my customers using before signing up to my SaaS solution? 
    • E.g. paper, google sheets, a competitor, etc. 
  • Who’s an SEO authority on the subject at hand, but necessarily not another SaaS or product? 
  • How are these websites acquiring links, and at what speed? 
    • Are they creating content collaborations, doing digital PR, being mentioned in roundups, speaking at conferences, or did they create a link building growth loop?
  • How have they architected their website to scale SEO?
    •  What are the key sections on their website which have the most traffic? (Remember traffic and revenue aren’t correlated!) 
  • What key SaaS content tactics are they leveraging? 
    • Guides, alternative to pages, software listicles, glossaries, free tools, maker pages, integrations, etc. 
  • What CRO techniques are they hiring to push people through their customer journey all the way from top of the funnel content, to bottom of the funnel content aimed at getting people to get a demo? 
  • Are they focusing on specific industries within their total addressable market? 
    • What personas are they speaking to, exactly ?

Remember, what you find should be insights and used as inspiration. You cannot assume all these websites have it figured out—and traffic doesn’t correlate with revenue! It’s a quality game at the end of the day. 

💡Oh, and we wrote a guide on it here. Check it out! 

4) Rank for key switch moments

Think about where people are switching from before using your SaaS solution for the job to be done. 

We can look at two main categories of switch moments:

A) Switching from other competitors. 

These are customers unhappy with their current SaaS solution so they begin searching for alternatives. For example, if someone is unhappy with Mailchimp, then they’ll search in google for “Mailchimp alternatives”. This keyword has a search volume of 9,100 globally per month! 🤯

💡 Pro tip: you can even rank for “your SaaS brand alternatives”, to dissuade your own customers from churning. Take a look at what Zendesk did – they created a band called “Zendesk Alternative” and ranked it for this search term!

B) Switching from a non-software solution. 

There are still prospects using a pre-cloud solution to solve their current job-to-be-done. For example they might still be doing everything in Excel, so “job + excel templates” would be an interesting angle to look into in order to capture these people and educate them there is a better way. 

How to find these switch moments? 

Spend time interviewing your customers and ask them how they used to do their job before using your SaaS solution. You can also take a peek at your own and competitor G2 reviews. 

5)  Build a link building loop into your product 

Links are really hard to earn nowadays, and there’s a couple of ways you can do this, apart from forming content collaborations, with your SaaS by building in growth loops. 

Here’s a few examples of what other SaaS brands are doing with their link building strategies:

First, Mixpanel is giving away free usage of their product if you embed a Mixpanel badge somewhere on your website. Not only are they getting a link back to increase their DR, they are also getting a tonne of brand exposure for their product. It’s not just a link growth loop, it’s also a brand marketing growth loop. 

Source

Second, Typeform is adding a link outside of their form embed code. So as people embed a typeform on their website (e.g. a contact us form), they are automatically getting a link back. 

Not only are they getting links to their website, they are personalizing the link so it relates to a core use case: forms, surveys, quizzes, or polls. 

Third, Oliva, a mental health SaaS, is asking customers to mention them on their careers page when they’ve signed up as a customer. They promote Oliva as a benefit to their current and future employees.

 If your SaaS has a direct benefit to another company’s employees, then you could leverage this tactic in partnership with your Customer Success team. 

💡 Itching for more SaaS link building tactics? Check out 22 of them here. 

6) Leverage your user base (AKA community) 

Here’s an underutilized tactic, which when you read seems pretty obvious. 

Everyone who’s signed up to your product or newsletter could be your community—but they need nurturing. Perhaps you’ve heard the new “community driven growth” buzzword, it’s got something to do with this. 

You can leverage your community to create content in different ways. 

Here’s a few of our favourite examples:

1. Maze leveraged their community to create 100s of templates to help people activate in their product. They also rank in Google for longtail keywords, and capture people with a high motivation to sign up and pay for their product. 

Other examples can be seen with Miroverse and Airtable Universe

2. Pitch are working with their community to create presentations on different topics. These presentations don’t just create brand awareness through social sharing, but they also rank in Google for a range of different topics. 

Not only are they leveraging their user base to create content, they are also doing co-marketing with other brands in the space where they have an ICP-overlap, where they create presentations and Pitch promotes. 

3. Maze are also working with their community to gather expert quotes. Not only does this improve the quality of the content they are producing, but it also helps with E-A-T metrics so that Google sees them as an expert and authority on the subject they are publishing content on. 

Gone are the days where you can simply outsource a piece of content to a freelance writer who has zero subject matter expertise. You need to speak to and include experts in all content you create. The best and easiest way to do this is through your community. 

7) Measure ROI correctly

If you’re investing in building an SEO customer acquisition engine, you need to be able to measure ROI correctly. 

Why?

Because sooner or later your finance team will come knocking on your door asking you to defend your SEO investment budget, and understand the results you are bringing to the table.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind when effectively measuring your SaaS SEO channel’s efficacy: 

1. SEO itself has a lag.

When you do something (secure a link, publish a piece of content, optimise an existing page, etc), it takes on average 3 months to see an impact. So you need to factor in a 3-month lag from action -> result.

For example, if you’re a SaaS company looking to increase organic traffic—you’re unlikely to bag the top spot on search engine results pages in the first month of your SEO campaign. 

2. B2B sales cycles are long. 

You cannot look at a snapshot data view of customers in the same month of SEO investment. Instead, you need to start doing a cohort analysis looking at how signups or leads convert of a period of time of up to 12 months from signup creation date. 

The easiest way to model this is to predict number of customers each month, having gathered data from an organic search cohort from > 12 months ago.

3. SEO is compounding. 

It’s not like PPC where you cut your spend and the whole channel collapses. You need to be able to articulate this in your model and tell the story to your senior leadership team, that the effort you invest in to day compound and stick around in the long run. 

💡 Want a template to measure ROI? Swipe the one we made here. 

Effectively measure your SEO ROI today

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To conclude

SaaS SEO is a great channel, but it combines a myriad of disciplines to make it work effectively. You need a team of tech, content, growth, and outreach experts to truly make it work. 

In order to reap the full rewards of SaaS SEO, you must remember:

  • It can take time to see the full results of your efforts
  • Without a team of experts, you’re unlikely to achieve the best results

However, if you follow the tactics we’ve given you, SEO can be an incredible way to power growth and generate leads for your SaaS. Creating content your users love is also a great way to connect with them and encourage further engagement with your business.

And if you need help getting started, you can always enlist the help of a SaaS SEO agency along the way.

SaaS SEO FAQs

How can you calculate the value of SaaS SEO?

There are several key SaaS SEO metrics you can track to stay on top of your KPIs. The top four are revenue (for overall performance), organic ROI (for measuring returns), visibility & search engine rankings (for measuring keyword strategy effectiveness), and conversions (for measuring strengths and weaknesses). By tracking all four, you can be sure you’re getting the most value from your SaaS SEO strategy.

How important is SEO in a SaaS business?

SEO can be the number one demand gen channel for most SaaS brands where there is already demand to be captured. It’s a compounding growth channel, so the investment today still impacts the bottom line years into the future. The ROI is, therefore, much better than investing in other growth channels such as in paid acquisition (PPC). 

How does SEO content marketing benefit SaaS companies?

Content marketing is a great way to build a connection with users, even before they officially sign up to use your product. SEO content is simply content which is optimized to connect with the right audience in the right way, by offering them information they were already looking for. By answering FAQs and providing users with informative posts related to your product offering, you can build brand awareness and showcase your product in an organic way.

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