How you can use your product as the foundation of your SEO strategy
How to use SEO to reduce churn, increase LTV, reduce CAC/CPA, and drive more MQLs.
In this article, you'll learn strategies used by great, successful companies like Biteable and ClickUp.
We'll go in-depth with lots of practical examples.
Let's dive in.
A Founder's Definition of SaaS SEO
In the rare case you don't already know what SaaS SEO is, let's start with a brief definition.
SaaS SEO is the branch of Search Engine Optimation focusing on improving the search performance of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies.
It’s also sometimes used as a way to describe SEO for B2B and B2C software companies, as most software companies have now pivoted to the SaaS business model.
Well, now that the introductions are over, let's dive into the good stuff.
What Makes SEO for SaaS Companies Different?
I told you this already: I could go on forever telling you to choose the right keywords and optimize for the 200+ ranking factors that Google sometimes magnanimously bestows upon us mere mortals.
But that doesn't really help you, does it?
Let's start with this: the SaaS business model is quite unique. Mainly so because it’s based on a theoretically infinitely scalable product.
SaaS brands can have an infinite amount of clients, an infinite amount of features, an infinite amount of touchpoints, etc.
Quite frankly, one could argue that a lot of SaaS solutions are over-engineered.
They have lots and lots of features, and product teams keep adding more as customers request them.
This stems from the fact that SaaS companies can target as many audiences as they like - providedthey have the budget to develop the features.
The abundance of features, target audiences, and the like can also be seen as a blessing, at least from an SEO point of view. We'll get into that later.
Content-led SEO for SaaS Brands
Most SaaS companies should adopt what some call a "content-led" strategy.
That sounds super fancy, but it's just a simple way to say that your SEO efforts are driven through written content.
This is opposed to sites like eCommerce websites, which often focus on the more technical aspects of SEO (there’s a case to be made that eCommerce SEO is more than that, but that's for another article).
For most brands, and especially SaaS brands, producing content can feel like a black box (we have a solution for that).
A lot of SaaS founders I talk to don’t really know what to write about.
Or how to go about writing that content.
We're going to dive deeper into that later, but the secret to SaaS SEO is to understand your funnel, and build content for each stage.
Not all users (and searchers) are ready to buy today. Buyer's journeys and sales cycles are (way) more complicated than that.
You need to:
Capture people looking for your brand (Branded Queries)
Educate people who don’t know your solution exists (Attention)
Raise awareness of people who know the solution, but not your brand or product (Awareness)
Help users understand your solution and how it can help them do their job(s) (Consideration)
Help them understand why your solution is better than your competitor's (Conversion)
Keep existing customers engaged, and turn them into referrers (Customer).
This "funnel" magic happens for all brands, but SaaS companies face two major differences:
They need to keep their customers engaged to maximize LTV (by reducing churn).
Unless bootstrapped, they need to delight investors and gain market visibility for future funding rounds.
Look at this image comparing Hubspot's all-time traffic growth to the all-time performance of the S&P500:
You can see that the two graphs look very much alike.
Now, this is a real-world example from one of our clients:
Most very successful SaaS companies use content marketing as a growth lever.
But this tactic only works if you:
Build content based on research, not intuition
Create the right kind of content for your specific audience
Don't half-ass it.
Compounding growth is built off of great content. I'll show you a few examples of that later.
3. SEO helps tame CPA/CAC
Another way SEO helps successful SaaS companies is with acquisition costs.
As you know, the SaaS business model allows SaaS companies to spend more than other types of companies on acquisition, thanks to a higher Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
This implies that the Cost per Acquisition (CPA) and the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) can be quite high as long as there’s a return on investment .
Up to a certain point.
SEO can help reduce CPA and CAC in a few ways:
Increasing the amount of organic MQLs/PQLs
Educating the market on your solution to create more demand
Providing a great source of retargeting material from organic traffic (users who visit your site can later be targeted with much more focused ads)
Increasing visibility and brand awareness leads to more brand equity, leading to higher engagement rates on ads.
But don't take my word for it.
Here's HockeyStack CEO Emir Atlı sharing his growth on LinkedIn:
In order to achieve a CAC/CPA decrease, SaaS brands need to determine:
Content topics to address to attract people who are ready to buy or sign up
The type of content needed to answer these people's questions.
One cannot go in blind - that's a recipe for disaster.
And that's why so many brands fail at content marketing and SEO.
4. SEO Content helps reduce churn by keeping existing customers engaged
Another great way to scale in the SaaS industry is increasing Lifetime Value or reducing churn - these are both sides of the same coin.
Existing customers are prone to churn when they search for new features, alternative tools or alternative ways to ease their pain.
Take my example.
As an agency owner in 2022, I have quite basic invoicing needs.
I need to be able to create basic, compliant invoices (I live in France and my business is registered there).
I went with Quickbooks, one of the biggest players in the market.
But here's the catch: I need to be able to create invoices in USD because 90% of our work is done globally.
Quickbooks FR doesn't allow that.
So, what did I do?
I searched for a new tool with that feature (also compliant with the French law).
Even though I'm an existing customer, I’m still looking for alternative ways to ease my pain.
As you can see in the screenshot above, Quickbooks and major invoicing software platforms are nowhere near the first page when searching for "multicurrency invoicing."
Your existing users are the same: they may be using your tool, but they will churn the second a better opportunity presents itself.
Now imagine for a second that Quickbooks had showed up when I searched for "multicurrency invoicing software."How different would that story be?
You need to be there when your existing customers search.
The good news is that, as my previous example shows, the type of thing your existing customers search for (apart from support-related stuff, which you should also definitely have) is very close to the "Attention" stage of the funnel.
So you can "kill two birds with one stone" here - but you need to make sure you cater your content to them as well.
4.1. Content Topics, Keyword Research and Search Volume
I want to take a moment here to discuss a very important topic.
When you read the above section, you may have had the following reaction:
"Why on earth would I spend resources writing content on keywords that have such a low search volume?"
In a sense, you'd be right: these specific search terms have a low search volume:
This is what so many brands get wrong: you don't write a content piece because a tool tells you to.
You write about something because it keeps people up at night.
In other words, you need to know what keeps your users up at night - or at least what prevents them from doing their job properly.
In my case, it was invoicing in multiple currencies.
You need to determine what that is for you! :)
Read our full guide on content strategy for SaaS companies for more information.
4. SEO & Content Marketing help all channels
Successful SEO campaigns have a secret effect - an almost invisible one: they boost the effectiveness of your other marketing channels, such as:
I won't go too much into detail here, but the mere exposure effect is quite simple: the more we humans are exposed to something, the more likely we are to like it - or at least view it in a positive manner.
This is one of the reasons advertising works.
In other words, the more people see your brand, the likelier they are to buy from you (huge shortcuts here).
SaaS SEO & content marketing lead to increased brand awareness, and thus to increased brand equity, especially if you make the effort to write great content.
That in turn leads to more effective marketing campaigns overall.
Another big plus is that you can upcycle your SEO content into a lot of things:
Social media posts
Something else! There’s an infinite number of possibilities.
5. Great content marketing supports the sales cycle
Last but not least, SEO can help support your sales cycle.
This will have a different impact depending on the type of SaaS company you own.
Not all SaaS brands have a free plan and a $10 pro plan. Some have much higher barriers to entry.
And those will have longer sales cycles:
Plus, some SaaS companies have an enterprise version.
For example, subscribing to Hubspot as a Freelancer might be an instant thing, but deciding between Hubspot and Salesforce as a 50+ people business is going to take longer.
In this case, it's very important to show up to help your prospective customers decide.
SEO and content marketing will help you get in front of them daily while your sales team is working.
And if your competitors are there and you're not ... well, you see what I mean.
6. Investors love visibility and rankings
I have often spoken to founders who wanted me to "improve their SEO" to rank for highly competitive terms to impress current and potential investors.
This is obviously the wrong approach - you should now understand that most business results come from focusing on very high-intent queries.
Investing in SEO for the sole purpose of ranking for the most competitive search terms in your industry is going to leave you with a bitter taste in the mouth.
With that said, SEO can help funding rounds in two ways:
Revenue driven by organic search is highly valuable and scalable,
Ranking for competitive search terms is impressive.
Anyone can drive revenue with ads, but everyone knows it’s very expensive, and not that scalable.
SaaS Content Marketing: How to Build Across the Funnel
We need to demystify something now: Search Volume and Keyword Difficulty should not drive your SaaS SEO Strategy.
As I've highlighted earlier, we usually divide the typical SaaS funnel/buyer's journey into 6 stages (your mileage may vary here):
Branded - People specifically looking for your brand: "hubspot free crm", "salesforce alternative", etc.
Attention - People who don’t know your solution exists, but express a problem: "how to accept online payments," "how to optimize content for SEO," etc.
Awareness - People know the solution exists, but don't necessarily know your brand: "what is a seo content optimizer," "how to choose accounting software," "is a learning management system right for me," etc.
Consideration - People know the solution and your brand. They are trying to understand whether/how it can help them: "multi-currency accounting software."
Conversion - People have decided to go with this solution, and now they need to choose a provider: "best employee productivity software," "clickup vs asana," "freshdesk alternatives," etc.
Customer - People are using your solution, but they’re still looking for alternatives and specific features.
This high-level funnel is great, but we can simplify it to be more "actionable."
You should now have a better high-level understanding of SaaS SEO.
I've built this guide to be as helpful as possible in giving you valid business reasons to start putting an effort into SaaS SEO.
We have many more chapters on specific areas of SaaS SEO that we explore in much more detail - I suggest you read them.
And before you go, remember: the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now.
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.
Marketing gurus are lying to you. Am I?
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