Here is an interesting quote form the above piece:
“As we introduce more MUM-powered experiences to Search, we’ll begin to shift from advanced language understanding to a more nuanced understanding of information about the world.”
In other words: Google is moving away from keywords in search.
It is more and more trying to understand the overall context of a search - the overall topic.
For us in SaaS SEO & Content Marketing, it means 3 things:
We need to stop thinking about keywords
We need to stop producing low value content that only matches a specific keyword intent
We need to write great content that satisfies a variety of intents, and provides deep information and expertise.
All the signals that Google has been giving in recent years, from EAT, product reviews updates and MUM, point in the same direction: we need to build great content that people ACTUALLY want to read.
This is great news, because that’s also how you drive revenue.
And you know what the best part is?
90% of people are not doing it.
Why the SaaS Keyword Research Game Is Changing, And What You Can Do To Win
All of this means that we need to approach our SaaS keyword research process differently.
Our #1 job is to identify problems that the product solves.
To do this, I like to use two methods in conjunction:
The Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) framework
User research and interviews
The former can be used without access to actual customers or prospective customers.
You need them for the latter.
1. Using the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework for SaaS keyword research
The Jobs-To-Be-Done framework was initially developed as a means to drive product innovation.
By focusing on the “jobs” that users have to perform, you can design a product that fits their needs.
However, we can divert it from its original purpose to use it for SaaS keyword research and content ideation.
The idea behind JTBD is that people buy products and services because they help them do their jobs.
Here is how Tony Ulwick defines these jobs in this article on the topic:
People buy products and services to get a “job” done.
Jobs are functional, with emotional and social components.
A Job-to-be-Done is stable over time.
A Job-to-be-Done is solution agnostic.
Success comes from making the “job”, rather than the product or the customer, the unit of analysis.
A deep understanding of the customer’s “job” makes marketing more effective and innovation far more predictable.
People want products and services that will help them get a job done better and/or more cheaply
People seek out products and services that enable them to get the entire job done on a single platform
Customer needs, when tied to the job-to-be-done, make innovation predictable
In other words, people don’t want to buy shovels, they want to buy holes.
The shovel is just a means to an end.
“Jobs” range from simple tasks to overarching individual goals:
Close the company’s books for the quarter
Educate a team on the benefits of content marketing
Keep a remote team productive
Become the best saas marketer on the planet
Ok, the last one is a stretch, but you get the point.
By identifying your customers’ JTBD, you will be able to ideate effective content that caters to their needs - what they need to get the job done.
You can go and read about Jobs Theory - it’s quite fascinating.
Let’s take an example.
Time-tracking: an example of Jobs Theory applied to SaaS keyword research
Let’s say you need to design a content marketing strategy for a time-tracking solution like Toggl, Everhour or Hubstaff.
Your Ideal Customer Profile is a manager of a team of 5+ people.
Here are some of the “jobs” you can ideate for that ICP:
Keep accurate count of what people spend their time on
Keep accurate count of project hours
Keep accurate count of client hours
Report time & resources to upper management
Invoicing clients based on time spent
Reporting hours to clients
These are all time-tracking related.
But you can go further:
Keep track of project expenses
Ensure deadlines are met
Ensure projects are correctly scoped out
Setup & maintain a project management tool for the company
If your ICP includes a small business owner, like an agency founder, you can include:
Understanding company profitability
Making sure the company stays profitable
Hiring and laying off people
In a few minutes, you should be able to ideate a lot of “jobs”, which you can then group into larger pillars.
In our case:
You KNOW that your users are interested in these topics, because they relate directly to their needs.
2. Using customer touchpoints teams for SaaS keyword research
The Jobs-To-Be-Done framework does have a downside, and a big one: it’s all abstract.
It’s great, but it’s all based on assumptions, nothing more.
Which is why I recommend pairing that with actual user data.
In our experience, there are 3 ways to gather user data effectively for SaaS companies:
What we call “customer touchpoints.”
Sales teams will provide valuable insights on the needs of the customers. What they need from the product, but also what they need to actually buy. The type of content you should produce.
Support teams will know what people like and dislike about the product, and additional features they may want. This will give you ideas of other “jobs” you might not have thought of.
Successteams will know why people may be inclined to stop using the product, and what they find appealing about competitors.
The simplest way to act on this is to jump on calls. Either alone, or with a team member.
Jump on call, listen, and ask why.
The more you ask, the better you’ll be able to ideate content.
From topics to actual keyword research for SaaS
I hope that, by now, you understand our keyword research framework for software companies:
Start with your users
Ideate from Jobs-To-Be-Done
Ideate from real-world user data
Research keywords that fit the intent.
This is where we are. Number 4.
By now, you should have a pretty good idea of the broad topics you need to focus on.
In our previous example:
It’s time to flush out these general topics into actual content ideas.
This is where the keyword research tools come in.
But remember: at this stage we want high intent, BOFU keywords.
Content that is actually going to drive conversions.
Here are a few examples of this type of content:
Alternative keywords Competitor + alternative
These keywords are typed by people who are interested in finding the best software - they are ready to try something out!
Comparison keywords Competitor vs other competitor
Another example of people at the conversion stage: they need to understand the best fit for their needs
Best product category keywords E.g. “best project management software” or “best accounting software for agencies
Same thing here: the more granular you can get, the better. This depends on what your product does, and how good your positioning is.
Integration type keywords E.g. “Mailchimp CRM integration” “ClickUp time tracking integrations”
These are typed by people looking for a very specific solution to their very specific needs.
Once you are done with these types of content, you can go broader, with Middle-Of-The-Funnel content - more educational.
Something like this article that you’re reading.
I know you’re not going to buy from us 30 seconds from now, but I hope you’ll remember us if it comes to considering an agency for your SEO needs.
This is a good time to look at content based on features. This is something Everhour does well: they have an article on “best time tracking practices”.
Their content is a prime example of great SaaS content: it’s transparent, informational, actionable, and they’re not afraid to mention their competitors.
And you see, great content just earned them a backlink, for free!
At this stage, there are 3 things to remember:
Don’t be afraid to tackle jobs that may feel “far” from your product. If your product can help solve them, then please do. For example, Everhour has an article on ClickUp integrations, or Notion alternatives.
Prioritize revenue-generating content. Think about JBTD and how close to converting people are when they search for this. “best time tracking software” > “best jira plugins.”
Don’t build a content strategy for the next 12 months. Go bit by bit. Identify ONE pillar, and flush it out first. You can see how Everhour’s quarterly goal is to focus on project management software:
Once you’ve flushed out your actual articles, you need to decide what they’ll look like:
How long they should be
What they should include
What type of content should be created (Expert Guide, Listicles, Roundups, etc.)
This isn’t part of the keyword research process, but it can help prioritize content.
If you don’t have the resources to produce the best content on a specific topic, it may be better to address it later down the road.
How To Win At SaaS Keyword Research in 2022 And Beyond
The answer to that question is pretty simple:
Focus on your users and prospective customers
Create content that helps solve specific problems
Create the best content you can on the web.
In order to do that, you will NEED to spend some time on audience research - there is no way around it.
You will NEED to focus on topics rather than keywords.
You will NEED to think about people.
People, not keywords.
That's how to do SaaS Keyword Research.
I'm the CEO & founder of ScaleCrush. You can often find me ranting way too much about BS marketing advice, fluffy and regurgitated content, and calling out gurus. I also happen to have my very own unoriginal thoughts about the stuff we're going through.
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