People are searching for answers to their most pressing problems, and your app or software solution may be exactly what they’re looking for. But, how do you ensure your solution gets found by the right prospect at the right time? Implementing SEO best practices for Software as a Service (SaaS) is a crucial step in SaaS marketing. By understanding your audience, conducting specific keyword research and organizing your content into pillars and clusters, you give your solution a fighting chance to appear high in organic search results.
Start with Your Audience
The key to any successful digital marketing effort is identifying and understanding your primary audience. From demographics to psychographics, behaviors and intent, the deeper you go with understanding your target buyer persona, the better your chances of reaching them. When planning SEO for SaaS, the first place to start is with the people you know will benefit from the solution you offer.
Try asking yourself some of the following questions:
- What are the basic demographics of my ideal customer?
- What specific problems or pain points does my SaaS offering solve for that customer?
- What is the buyer’s journey like for this potential customer?
- What are my competitors doing?
- What does my ideal customer value most?
- Where can I connect with my ideal customer?
SEO Keyword Planning
Once you have your intended audience in mind and you’ve got some details figured out about who they are, what they want and how your solution can best serve them, it’s time to start brainstorming keywords and phrases they might be likely to use when searching for solutions to those pesky problems your app or software can easily solve. This is a process of putting yourselves in the shoes of your potential customers, and thinking about the phrases they may be using. Be careful about using insider jargon, or engineering-specific terms that your target persona might not yet know. You’re attempting to meet them at their search.
Buyer-Focused Keyword Planning
One way to approach SEO keyword planning is to start with one of your buyer personas and brainstorm keywords and phrases for each stage of their buyer’s journey. As a reminder, that journey typically involves the following stages:
In the Awareness stage, your potential customer is normally searching for their problem. They may be typing in things like, “How do I know what keywords to use for SaaS SEO?” (Maybe that’s how you found this article!) Try thinking about the problems your SaaS offering solves, and how a typical customer might phrase those problems when searching.
In the Consideration stage, keywords and phrases may shift into solution-oriented language like “app for sorting photos,” “best software for small business accounting,” or “keyword planning tools.” This is where you start to think about the specific functions of your SaaS solution, how they might relate to those problems in the first stage, and the language your ideal prospect might use to search for your solution.
In the Decision stage, your customer has identified their exact problem, found possible general solutions, and is now in the process of deciding which solution best fits their needs. This is where you can get more granular about your brand and the benefits of your solution. This might include searches like “Is Ahrefs really a good SEO tool for SaaS companies?” or “Ahrefs vs SEMrush.”
This type of planning helps you to approach the process with your user’s intent in mind. The Awareness stage usually means people are coming in at the top of your funnel (ToFu) seeking education and information, and as your potential buyer moves along the stages of the buyer’s journey, the keywords and content you serve based on those keywords will be more of a bottom of the funnel (BoFu) experience, designed to convert.
Product-Focused Keyword Planning
Another way to come up with your initial list of target keywords is to focus on the different parts and pieces of your solution or offering. In the case of a marketing agency like ClearPivot, we can choose to divide our keyword strategy into groupings of topics based on the verticals we serve, or even the services we provide.
The same strategy applies for thinking about what your ideal customer might search. In this type of keyword brainstorming, if we use ourselves as an example, we might see search terms like “SaaS SEO agency” or “help with SEO for software company.”
Keyword Research for SaaS Companies
Once you have your initial list from either of these methods of brainstorming, it’s time to get into some detailed research. Use a tool like Ahrefs or Google’s Keyword Planner to get a sense of how often people search for the particular keywords or phrases on your list. There’s a sweet spot to aim for between a term with enough search volume and one for which you can effectively compete.
Let’s walk through what it’s like to use the Keywords Explorer tool from Ahrefs. Once in the tool, you simply select “Create a New List,” name your list, and copy in your list of keywords from your brainstorming process. The keywords will be separated by commas. The tool then reveals a report showing key stats on your keywords, and also whether your keyword selections are even in the Ahref’s database (hint: if they aren’t, very few people are searching for the term, and so you might want to tweak that term by using a synonym or other way of phrasing the concept).
The Keywords Explorer will show you how many searches your terms are getting per month, and provide a Keyword Difficulty score that indicates how hard it might be to rank #1 in organic search results for that term. You can also explore numbers like estimated Cost Per Click and Return Rate, and even click on SERPs (search engine results pages) to check out top ranking content on that keyword.
Content and Topic Clusters for SaaS SEO
Once you decide on your best keywords and phrases, it’s time to start planning the content you’ll serve connected to those keywords. The best thing you can do for SEO results is to plan and execute your content in a hub-and-spokes format, also called pillar content and topic clusters. What this looks like in a practical sense is:
First, decide what your core, central topics will be. Each core, central topic will become its own pillar content page Your pillar page on each central topic should be comprehensive, extensive, and in-depth. It should be the best page on the internet for its particular topic. For example, this article is part of our topic cluster for SaaS Marketing.
Don’t plan out too many pillar pages right from the beginning! Pillar pages take a lot of work. Start with one, then maybe build out to three or so pillar pages. Then stop and re-assess your SEO results at that point before building more pillar pages.
Then, arrange your related topics around that in a hub-and-spokes format. Some of our additional topics for our SaaS Marketing pillar page include B2B SaaS Marketing and SaaS Marketing Budget. The important piece of this is to make sure each of your cluster’s subtopics in the link back to their corresponding pillar page, and vice versa. This helps your content to gain traction, because it organizes your site content into semantic clusters, improves your internal linking structure, and also helps users more easily browse through your site and absorb all the information on your topic that they want. Google will notice all of these things and gradually begin to reward your website accordingly. By creating a cluster of detailed articles around well-chosen pillar topics that your potential customers need most, you are setting yourself up for SEO success!
SEO for SaaS: It Doesn't Have to be Complicated
If this all seems overwhelming, you’re not the only one who has ever felt that way. There are entire companies and teams of people that focus on SEO keyword research, topic planning and content execution. It’s an area of expertise that takes years to build. The good news is, finding a great team to help with your SEO strategy is right here. Our team here at ClearPivot has been building out high-performing SEO campaigns for our clients for over a decade.
Let’s start getting you into the #1 search position today!
Originally published May 2020, updated Sept 2021 for accuracy.