We define SaaS SEO strategy as the process of selecting keywords that indicate people are looking for (or need) your product, and then creating content (or optimizing existing website content) to rank for those keywords.
Over the past 5 years running our agency, we’ve helped to create and implement SEO strategies for dozens of SaaS businesses and acquired page one rankings for hundreds of valuable keywords for our clients (as we’ve demonstrated in case studies like this).
During that time, through speaking with many different software companies who’ve done SEO previously (either in-house or through an agency), we’ve learned that companies and SaaS marketers often struggle to achieve the SEO results they’re seeking.
- They (usually unknowingly) don’t go after the most high-buying-intent keywords.
- Their feature and solutions pages often don’t end up ranking for their intended keywords.
- They don’t see meaningful increases in trials, demos, and product signups as a result of their SEO efforts.
In our opinion, these are strategy problems, not issues at the tactical level (e.g. choosing the wrong backlink strategy or failing to fix some meta tags). To fix these problems, you need to fix your SEO strategy.
In this article, we explain why these problems are so common among SaaS businesses that try to do SEO. And then we walk through a 5-step process that you can follow to create a SaaS SEO strategy that solves these problems, based on the process we use at our agency.
The 5-step process we’ll cover includes:
- Identifying High-Intent Keywords: Prioritize finding keywords with high buying-intent, that is, those that indicate people searching are looking to buy or solve a problem your product solves, instead of only prioritizing search volume.
- Producing a Unique Piece of Content to Rank for Each Keyword: Create dedicated pages or blog posts for each keyword that deeply satisfies search intent instead of simply sprinkling SEO keywords throughout a bunch of blog posts.
- Selling Your Product Through Your Content: Talk about your product extensively in these articles including outlining your unique product features and differentiators. Don’t worry about common content marketing myths about not selling your product.
- Technical SEO: Fix and monitor for technical SEO errors.
- External Link Building: Generate backlinks to boost domain authority and keyword rankings.
Curious about having us do SEO for your business? You can learn more here. Or, if you’d like to learn the SaaS SEO strategy that we share below, we also teach our content marketing strategy and process in our course and community.
How Most Businesses and Agencies Approach SaaS SEO Strategy
As we mentioned above, we’ve spoken to many SaaS companies about their past experiences doing SEO. And through those conversations, as well as what we see in our day-to-day work at the agency, we’ve observed that the typical SaaS SEO strategy consists of 2 key parts:
- Optimizing Core Website Pages: Optimizing the core pages of their marketing website (i.e. home, feature, solutions, pages) for high-intent, software category keywords (e.g. “accounting software”).
- Producing Blog Content: Creating and publishing some form of blog content on an ongoing basis loosely guided by SEO keywords or that use the “sprinkle” method of asking writers to sprinkle certain keywords throughout the posts.
There may also be some link building or technical SEO tactics that happen. But these are really the 2 key parts to the strategy.
Let’s take a closer look at each, and then below we’ll discuss the flaws of how this approach is typically executed in practice.
1. Optimize Home, Feature, and Solutions Pages for High-Intent Keywords
Most SEO agencies and SaaS businesses focus the majority of their SEO efforts into optimizing their core web pages — homepage, feature pages, and solutions pages — for a handful of target keywords.
The standard process for this involves:
- Selecting primary target keywords for each page. These are generally the most obvious, high-value keywords that describe exactly what your product is (or what we call “software category keywords”) like “accounting software” or “enterprise CRM”.
- Selecting supporting keywords for each page. These are generally pulled from a list of keywords that keyword research tools suggest including in your page in order to rank for the primary target keyword.
- Optimizing each page for their target keyword. Adding the target keyword or keywords into the title tag, page headings, and page subheadings throughout each page. And then sprinkling the supporting keywords throughout the body copy. This is called “on-page SEO.”
For feature pages, they’ll often optimize for software category keywords (e.g. lead generation software, marketing reporting software, etc.).
For solutions pages, they’ll often optimize for a particular industry or vertical they serve (e.g. marketing agency operations software, enterprise CRM software, etc.).
Homepages will often be optimized for either a brand keyword, a software category keyword, or a mix of both (e.g. QuickBooks accounting software).
This is the base-level strategy that SaaS companies and SEO agencies implement. Once these pages are optimized, they build links to them in an effort to boost their rankings. But often they don’t end up ranking, for reasons we’ll explain below.
2. Create and Publish Some Form of SEO Blog Content
The second core part of the typical SaaS SEO strategy is to publish some regular cadence of blog content. And there are a few common ways that companies approach this:
Outsourcing content is more common for SaaS startups, while larger and more established SaaS companies often opt to hire in-house. But regardless of which option you choose, usually one of the following two content strategies is used:
- The “Sprinkle” Method: Create blog posts haphazardly and “sprinkle” keywords throughout the articles, hoping they’ll rank for something. (Note: We’ve learned from speaking to clients that a lot of SEO agencies do this. This is not an effective way to do content.)
- The “Top of the Funnel” Volume-Driven Method: Intentionally choose and prioritize keywords based on those that have the highest search volume, and write articles to rank for those keywords. These keywords are typically loosely related to the business’s target audience, but have no buying intent (and do not indicate people searching are looking to buy).
The second method is the more strategic of the two approaches. However, in our experience, neither of these methods are effective at generating trial or demo signups (as we’ll explain below).
Let’s look at why.
3 Flaws with the Typical Approach to SaaS SEO Strategy
Flaw #1: It’s Difficult to Rank Home, Feature, and Solutions Pages for High-Value Software Category Keywords
As we mentioned above, SEO agencies and SaaS companies tend to focus the majority of their SEO efforts into optimizing the core pages of their marketing website for high-intent, software category keywords.
But there are fundamental attributes of these pages that make it difficult for them to rank for highly competitive, purchase-intent software keywords.
- Core website pages have limited space to include relevant SEO keywords. It often takes including 50+ supporting keywords (worked in naturally — not “stuffed” in) to rank for a given target keyword. And typical home, feature, and solutions pages don’t offer enough space in the headings and body copy to naturally include this volume of keywords.
- Core website pages are first and foremost meant to explain your features and solutions (not meet the search intent of specific keywords). The purpose of feature and solutions pages are to explain your features and solutions! There’s only so much you can modify them to address search intent. And yet, satisfying search intent is the key ranking factor used by Google and other search engine algorithms. Therefore, these pages have difficulty competing with other page types, such as dedicated landing pages or in-depth blog posts, which can leverage longer form content to address topics more deeply, and better satisfy search intent.
- Core website pages do not typically mention competitors, but ranking for software category keywords often requires including lists of software options. The intent of people searching for SaaS category keywords is often to see lists of SaaS solutions. And most SaaS businesses aren’t going to include lists of their competitors on their core website pages (that would make no sense!). So their pages aren’t going to outrank the SaaS review sites and list-style blog posts (often from direct competitors) that better meet search intent.
This is why, despite their efforts, many companies never see their core website pages rank for their intended keywords.
Aside: We’ve talked to (or are actively working with!) multiple SaaS companies who have had such bad experiences working with SEO agencies that they’ve concluded they simply “can’t rank” for their top keywords. They’ve literally concluded that “Google just won’t rank us” on the first page. This is obviously not true and a shame.
By all means, companies should be strategic about optimizing these marketing site pages. But they should be aware that, as we’ve explained, they can be difficult to rank. And if these are the pages you put the majority of your SEO efforts into, you’re unlikely to see great results from SEO.
In addition, as we’ll demonstrate next, you’ll leave a ton of high-value keyword opportunities on the table — even if you get those pages ranking for their intended target keywords.
Flaw #2: There Are Way More High-Intent Keyword Opportunities Than You Can Reasonably Rank for with Feature and Solutions Pages
How many feature and solutions pages does a SaaS marketing site typically have? In our experience, with the exception of “all-in-one” platforms that offer extremely large feature sets, it’s less than 10.
Of those, maybe 2 to 5 of them have enough relevant content to be morphable into something that could rank for a valuable, competitive target keyword (per the issues we discussed above).
So, at best, most SaaS websites can only rank for a handful of “Bottom of the Funnel” SaaS category keywords with their feature and solutions pages. And yet, as our work has shown, there are often dozens upon dozens of keywords with good conversion potential in your space!
Many of our SaaS clients have 50+ keywords that indicate people searching are potential customers looking to buy. And if you only use your feature and solutions pages to target high-intent keywords, you’ll leave all of those remaining opportunities on the table.
This is where companies can leverage blog content to go after these additional high-intent opportunities (as we do at our agency), but most do not.
Flaw #3: Blog Content Isn’t Used Strategically to Rank for Valuable Keywords and Drive SaaS Product Signups
Of the two common methods to SaaS SEO content that we mentioned above, the “Sprinkle” method and the “Top of Funnel” method, neither are well-suited (or even intended) to rank for high-intent keywords (i.e. all of the purchase-intent keywords that your core website pages don’t end up ranking for).
As we’ve explained in our post on SEO content writing, ranking for keywords with blog content requires a much more strategic approach than simply “sprinkling” in keywords. So the “Sprinkle” method is wholly insufficient when it comes to ranking for keywords that have actual business value.
The “Top of Funnel” (TOF) method — which is the predominant method used by agencies and companies that are genuinely trying to be strategic about content — can work great for driving organic traffic. But as we’ve argued in many articles such as those linked below, it often doesn’t end up producing many leads.
Companies and agencies using the TOF method don’t choose keywords based on searchers’ intent to buy. They choose keywords based on how much traffic a given search query can drive to their site. And as a result, the majority of traffic they receive isn’t from people who are in the market looking to buy the type of software they sell, and conversion rates from their content tend to be very low. We’ve had countless conversations with companies who say “We have all this blog traffic but it barely converts” — this is why.
You might think, “Well, even if the conversion rates are lower, doesn’t the increased search traffic make up for that?”. It’s a good question, but in our experience, the theory that TOF traffic eventually leads to conversions down the line (through email marketing, PPC remarketing ads, etc.) isn’t always true.
In fact, as we’ve explained and demonstrated in numerous articles and B2B SaaS case studies — such as our foundational article on SaaS content marketing, our article on Pain Point SEO, and our Geekbot case study — not only do BOF, high-intent keywords produce significantly higher conversion rates, they also tend to produce a higher volume of overall conversions.
Graph showing the number of total conversions from BOF content vs. TOF content, based on the articles we’ve produced for our client Geekbot.
By choosing and prioritizing keywords based on purchase intent instead of search volume, companies can:
- Strategically go after all of the remaining high-intent keyword opportunities that their core website pages don’t rank for.
- See significantly higher conversion rates and conversions from their blog content.
- Drive meaningful increases in trial, demo, and product signups as a result of their SEO efforts.
In the next section, we’re going to walk through how you can execute this for your business and how we approach this at our agency.
Our 5-Step SaaS SEO Strategy: Use Blog Content to Tackle All of the High-Intent Keywords That Your Core Site Pages Won’t Rank For
We have written at length about every step of our SaaS SEO strategy. So here we’re going to list and describe each step in our process, and link out to the individual articles that dive deeper into each step.
At Grow & Convert, our SaaS SEO strategy consists of the following:
- Step 1: Do keyword research to identify high-intent keywords.
- Step 2: Create a dedicated blog post for each keyword that deeply satisfies search intent.
- Step 3: Sell your product in each piece of content.
- Step 4: Fix and monitor for technical SEO errors.
- Step 5: External link building.
Let’s look at each.
Step 1: Do Keyword Research to Identify High-Intent Keywords
The most fundamental part of a SaaS SEO strategy is keyword selection. If you don’t pick the right keywords (ones that, if ranked for, will drive demos and trials), then nothing else in your SEO strategy matters:
- Your technical SEO doesn’t matter. (It doesn’t matter how well your site is optimized if it’s not ranking for keywords that bring in customers.)
- Your link building doesn’t matter (same reason).
- The number of blog articles you write doesn’t matter.
Thus, keyword selection is the most important thing to get right.
We’ve written about how you can approach this step effectively in our article on SaaS content strategy.
In that piece, we cover:
- High-Converting SaaS Keywords: The specific types of keywords we choose and content we create to drive customer acquisition for our SaaS clients (categorized by bottom of funnel, middle of the funnel, and top of funnel topics).
- Live Article Examples: For each content type, we link to examples of live articles we’ve written for clients that you can go and read, find ranking in Google, and use as inspiration to build your own equivalent content (following the structures used in those articles).
- Topics We Prioritize for Our SaaS Clients: The mix of content that we typically prioritize for our SaaS clients in the first 3 months of an engagement.
Check that article out here to kickstart your keyword research.
Step 2: Create a Single, Dedicated Blog Post for Each Keyword That Deeply Satisfies Search Intent
As we mentioned earlier, ranking on the first page for a high-intent keyword requires a very strategic approach to content creation. You can’t just sprinkle in keywords and hope that your post will rank, especially for high-intent terms which are valuable and highly competitive.
When it comes to Step 2 of creating your content, there are 2 key factors to be successful:
- Create a dedicated page for each keyword
- Deeply match search intent with each piece of content
Create a Dedicated Page for Each Keyword
One of our key learnings (and a differentiator of our agency’s strategy) is that the best way to get top positions for high-intent keywords is to create a dedicated page for each one — even when keywords are nearly identical and have similar meanings.
As we discussed in our conversation with Bernard Huang of Clearscope, you only get one SEO title, one H1 heading, one meta description, etc. — and these are key ranking factors for getting top positions.
If you try to rank for multiple target keywords with one piece of content, often it will only end up ranking for one of them (or worse, you won’t match the intent of any individual keyword, and you won’t end up ranking for any of them).
Deeply Satisfy Search Intent with Each Piece of Content
Satisfying search intent begins with analyzing the search engine results page (SERP) for your target keyword to understand a) which topics need to be covered in your article for it to rank and b) how you can differentiate or improve on existing results to get a top ranking position.
We’ve documented the exact process we use when analyzing search engine rankings for target keywords in our post on SEO content writing. Check that out here to view examples and learn how you can approach this.
Step 3: Sell Your Product in Each Piece of Content
In search engine optimization and content marketing, there tends to be an aversion to selling products and services through blog content. Blogs are considered to be primarily for generating traffic and brand awareness, and most marketers think that you shouldn’t be too salesy in content.
But when you design your content strategy to go after high-intent keywords, where people are at the purchase stage of the buyer’s journey, a key part of meeting search intent is discussing your product! This is what people are literally searching for. They want to know about what your product does, how it solves their problems, and how it’s different from other products and services on the market.
Therefore, an additional key step to writing your content is that you need to discuss the details of your product features and differentiators. And this has implications on how your content is produced — the person writing the content needs to know these things.
This is why we urge companies not to fully outsource their content to freelance writers or agencies, unless those freelance writers or agencies have a process for developing deep expertise in your product or service and its differentiators (most do not).
At Grow & Convert, we solve this by interviewing the experts at our clients’ companies for each piece of content we create. This allows us to express the company’s expertise on each topic to create truly high-quality content. This is in contrast to doing what we call “Google Research Papers” — learning about topics in Google and regurgitating what everyone else is saying (what many digital marketing agencies and freelancers do).
To better understand how you can approach selling your product through your content, check out our post on SaaS content writing which walks through an example. Also, check out the SaaS content strategy post we shared above, which has links to a bunch of articles we’ve written for our clients. (We discuss our clients’ products in every article we produce.)
Step 4: Fix and Monitor for Technical SEO Errors
Technical SEO — the process of resolving any technical website issues that might hurt your organic search performance — is a necessary part of SaaS SEO.
However, while we occasionally run into larger site architecture issues with our SaaS clients, the need for ongoing technical SEO support is more common in eCommerce where sites can have hundreds of product pages that target tons of long-tail keywords (very specific product queries).
For SaaS companies with largely static marketing sites, you should think of technical SEO as a baseline housekeeping item. If you notice sudden drops in rankings (which can be monitored in tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, along with other SEO metrics), then it’s worth looking into whether technical SEO might be present. But otherwise, technical SEO for SaaS websites can usually be taken care of with a one-time SEO audit and occasional follow up.
Step 5: External Link Building
Link building — the process of generating backlinks to pages on your site — is helpful for supporting your website’s domain authority and keyword rankings.
However, it’s key to understand that link building is a supporting element of a good SaaS SEO strategy. Sometimes agencies or companies think that link building is the thing that gets content ranking. But in our experience, it’s not.
If you don’t get the key steps of creating your content right (i.e. creating dedicated pages for each keyword, and deeply matching search intent), no amount of outreach and link building will get your content up to the first page. So, link building is something to do and pay attention to, but don’t expect it to be a magic bullet for your SEO campaign.
We’ve found that building links to individual articles can often give them a boost in rankings, and help support content in getting up to the first page. Each month, we build links to different articles we’ve published as an ongoing effort.
To learn more about our approach to link building, check out our article on content distribution strategy.
Measuring Traffic, Keyword Rankings, and Conversions
To measure SEO performance, see what’s working and not working, and spot additional keyword opportunities, we track and report on a variety of metrics for our clients with the following tools:
- Conversions: We track and report on conversions using the Model Comparison Tool in Google Analytics.
- Keyword Rankings: We use Ahrefs rank tracker to monitor rankings progress for each article’s target keyword. (You could also use Semrush, Google Search Console, etc.)
- Overall Pageviews and Organic Traffic: We set up traffic dashboards in Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) that measure overall pageviews and organic traffic to our articles.
The most notable of these three is conversion tracking. Most SEO teams (in-house or agencies) don’t hold themselves accountable to leads generated from content. In fact, most don’t even report on this. But without conversion data, you are essentially conceding that your SEO strategy is traffic focused (because everyone tracks traffic).
Check out our article on content marketing attribution to learn more about how to measure conversions from SEO content.
Want to Work with Us or Learn More About How We Approach Content Marketing?
- Our Agency: If you want to hire us to execute content marketing in this way, you can learn more about our service and pricing here.
- Join Our Team: If you’re a content marketer or writer and would love to do content marketing in this way, we’d love to have you apply to join our team.
- Our Content Marketing Course: Individuals looking to learn our agency’s content strategy and become better marketers, consultants, or business owners can join our private course, taught via case studies, and presented in both written and video content formats. We include several details and examples not found on this blog. Our course is also built into a community, so people ask questions, start discussions, and share their work in the lesson pages themselves, and we, along with other members, give feedback. Learn more here or watch this video walkthrough: