Over the years helping SaaS companies rank on Google we've spotted a few trends you can use to guide you in your own SEO strategy. This is your blueprint to getting your SaaS in front of your customers on Google.Download the guide
It is estimated that there are 30,000 software as a service (SaaS) companies worldwide.
I wonder if that includes the hundreds (or thousands) of new projects sprouting up on platforms like ProductHunt or Indiehackers.
Add the fact that Google indexes millions (if not billions) of pages per day, and to say that SEO is getting extremely competitive is an understatement.
Does SEO still work for SaaS companies?
Yes. It definitely still works.
I’m not just blowing smoke either. We’ve helped many SaaS companies beat the odds and rank on Google and we have the case studies to prove it.
In this guide I am going to share our findings and very best tactics with you.
This is your survival guide to succeeding at SEO and getting your SaaS company in front of your customers on Google.
Include these 5 things on your website and you will see results and improve your rank on Google
Before we dive into the nitty gritty, let’s take a step back to look at how your customers are probably using Google to solve their problems and buy your product.
Over the years building SaaS SEO strategies, I’ve found that there are three primary types of queries your customers are probably asking on Google:
In the SEO biz, we call this ‘search intent’.
Search intent attempts to describe why someone might search for a certain keyword. It turns out that in certain industries, search intent can be pretty predictable.
For SaaS companies, I’ve seen these trends ring true in how potential customers use search.
These queries are “informational” searches. In the buyer's journey we might consider these “awareness stage” queries (they are aware of a problem, but not aware of the solution). Some examples might include:
These questions are not tool-specific, but they very well could lead to a tool-specific question further down the funnel so they are worth addressing. We’ll get to how to address them with content later on.
Once we get past ‘awareness’ stage queries, customers tend to start looking for specific solutions to their problems. These queries are usually looking for a specific capability of a software product, or software for a particular use case.
Examples might include:
Your job with your website is to guide visitors from “how to do your job better” to “this tool will help you do your job better”.
There’s another tools-based type of question you need to be aware of: competitor alternatives.
The tools-based queries are pretty straightforward, but the alternatives queries present a host of interesting opportunities.
That’s because not every alternative is a direct competitor.
Not only are your customers searching for alternatives to other software products, but non-software alternatives they may currently be using. For example a CRM company would want to consider:
Addressing these three types of queries on your website is the recipe for SEO success for any SaaS company.
Your SaaS website needs to address the above three types of queries through your content. It's as simple as that. If you aren't answering the questions your customers are asking, you won't rank.
Here are the 5 ways you can address these queries on your website. We'll do into more depth on each one below.
Let’s go through each of these elements in depth.
You’ve got an awesome SaaS product, so now it’s time to tell your site visitors, and Google, what it does.
You’d be surprised how many SaaS websites don’t clearly articulate what it is that their product does (or gloss over details).
I don’t just mean buzz words like ‘data lake analytics’ or ‘Neural network AI’. I mean the specific things that your customers are searching for in order to do their jobs more effectively.
Things like a CRM that can send automated drip campaigns or a plugin for Shopify that can send abandoned cart emails.
Your customers have real problems and they are researching tools that can solve those problems for them. Whatever it is that your SaaS product does, you need to have a page for every single feature.
It’s tempting to gloss over your features here, but resist that temptation and do not be afraid to be as specific as possible. My favorite example of this is Canva. Canva is a design platform that allows you to design just about anything. That’s the beauty of their tool, and one of the most powerful assets to their SEO strategy because Canva has a page for literally everything their tool can create:
Canva could have trimmed down the menu to the bare minimum, but they knew better than that (and good for them that they did!).
They could just list “social media” but instead they have a page for every single network. The team at Canva knew that people would be searching for a tool to make graphics for Facebook or Instagram, and created pages to match each query, and that’s exactly what you need to do.
Take a moment to list every single feature of your software. Of those features, what would your customers be searching for? Create a page on your website for each feature (I recommend putting this in a dropdown under ‘Features’ in your main menu) and make sure the title matches the search query, and you’ve got a bit of text, images, or even a demo video describing what that feature does.
This will be similar to the features pages, but it’s subtly different and is worth calling out.
Just as there are many functions to your product, there are many different reasons someone might use your product. Take video editing software for example. With video editing software you could make:
And that’s just scratching the surface. Just as people will be looking for SaaS products that can do a specific thing, they will also be looking for SaaS products for a specific use case. With so many competitors in every niche it’s not always about picking the best, as much as it is the best for my use case.
MailChimp, HubSpot, and ConvertKit all do the same thing: send email. But Convertkit ranks #1 for ‘email software for creators’. Know your niche, and target them with your site.
List out the different use cases where your personas could use your product, don’t go quite as crazy as with the features, but definitely try to niche down. Create landing pages on your website that target these different use cases. I recommend putting these under a 'Use cases' dropdown, though feel free to play around with other names for the nav ('create' is a common one, for example).
Your customers are not only looking for tools to solve a specific job, they are also seeking alternatives to their current solution.
Think creatively here - this could be a direct competitor or a non-SaaS solution. Either way, brainstorm all the alternatives to your product and create landing pages or blog posts for each (test out different forms of content to see what works best, I’ve seen either forms of content perform well).
I like to niche these down if possible, for example modifiers like “best alternatives for small businesses” or a niche function of your product are great ways to stand out in search, and improve your chances at ranking.
Using Canva as an example again, we see a “free alternative to PowerPoint” landing page:
While Canva’s primary competitor would be Adobe, they readily acknowledge there are a host of other products (many of them free) that they are competing with and are worth addressing with content.
If, like Canva, you have a product that can be used for a variety of different reasons, this is a great way to capitalize on the breadth of what your product does.
Remember the 30,000 SaaS companies from the start of the article? Use that as a strength. If you are in a crowded space, that just means there will be lots of frustrated customers of your competitors looking to switch
List out your competitors and competing solutions. Try to aim for 10-20 (really push yourself, it should not be hard to find that many alternatives to your product).
By now you’ve got a website that meets your customers at the middle and bottom of the funnel when they are looking for tools or alternatives to their existing solutions. You’re making great progress!
Let’s broaden things out by moving up to the top of the funnel. When your customers are asking questions on Google about how to do their jobs better they are not necessarily ready to buy, but they do need help, advice, and guidance.
You can provide this expertise with informational content, usually in the form of blog posts.
Most websites treat their blog like a content graveyard, or a news reel all about their company. Don’t do this. Treat your blog like a library. Tag posts in categories to make them easy to search through and reference, and make sure you are answering real questions your customers are asking.
Few people are asking “How to use Centori for keyword research”, but they are asking “What to include in my website to rank”.
List out 50 questions your customers are asking at the top of the funnel. Use a mix of keyword research tools (we’ve got a good one!), as well as forum websites (like Quora or Reddit) to brainstorm questions and jot them down on a piece of paper, a white board, or wherever you like to brainstorm.
You should see patterns emerge, allowing you to group these questions into topic groups. This is the foundation for your blog.
Back in 2005, an active blog was all you needed to be successful.
Now though? It’s getting crowded.
The best way to level up your blog and build topical authority is to collect like-minded blog posts into pillar pages on your website.
The “how do I do my job better” queries are usually best served by blog posts. A great way to enhance your blog is to collect and reformat blog posts into massive resource pages called pillar pages.
Pillar pages are massive resource pages that link out to related pieces of content. You’ve probably come across these before if you’ve ever read any “ultimate guides”. These super-resources do two things:
Oh and they double as great eBooks which you can gate behind a form, making them a triple threat for SEO, customer education, and lead generation.
I like to consider pillar pages to be a sort of content neighborhood. Remember those topical groups (also called topic clusters) above? Those make for excellent pillar pages. The more content neighborhoods you have on your website, the more authoritative you will be seen as.
I like to link to pillar pages from either the main nav menu (under a ‘resources’ tab for instance) or from the footer menu.
Pick one topical group from above and come up with an “ultimate guide” for your first pillar page. Map out 5-10 blog posts which will be grouped under this page and schedule them out on your content calendar. Once you are done writing them, pull content from each and use that for your pillar page.
We’ve seen time and time again, if you include these 5 elements on your SaaS website, you will rank on Google.
Now all you need to do is put them into practice.
If you’re short on time, here’s how I’d prioritize things:
With consistent effort and a good strategy, you will see results.
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This is your survival guide to getting your SaaS company in front of your customers and ahead of your competitors on Google.