*This comprehensive guide to SaaS SEO has been updated for 2023
By the end of this guide, we hope to leverage your team’s time and resources and implement SEO best practices and strategies in order for your SaaS company to grow. As always, if there are any gaps or items you’re unable to perform yourself, you can always reach out to SimpleTiger for any questions related to SEO.
In order to fully understand what SEO (search engine optimization) is and how it applies to SaaS (Software as a Service) companies, we need to define two things:
In short, a SaaS business model is one that charges customers for access to a software product, tool or suite of tools for a specific purpose. SaaS companies are unique from other business models because they are based on a product that is not tangible or has limited use. It can be modified, updated, improved, and pivoted for a variety of cases and industries. Features can be added in order to create new markets and categories and this gives SaaS companies a unique opportunity to compete in the organic search space with SEO. Overall, this is a powerful marketing methodology for scalable, exponential growth.
SEO can be complicated, but SimpleTiger likes to keep it simple. For this reason, we’ve developed a framework that we’ve used for over a decade which has helped SaaS companies achieve massive growth through SEO. We work hard to educate our clients on this framework so they can understand how SEO works and how it can be used to drive results.
While the SaaS business model can be explained in a few sentences, the concept of SEO is a bit more complex. There are many factors that impact the way a given site ranks on Google. With an artificially intelligent search engine, these factors are changing all the time. This is why it can be essential to have some understanding of the industry in order to see results. Here are some of the most influential factors that can influence how your site ranks on Google according to importance:
1. User Engagement Metrics - This includes how visitors engage with a site and is measured by like dwell time (how long someone stays on your site), clicks and interactions with your content, page views (the number of pages on your site that are viewed), what page visitors exit on and if they hit the back button or bounce from your site early. Google considers how engaged users are and how they find content as the most important metric. The higher-quality the engagement, the better the experience for users. This means your content must be written well and easy to find with a Google search. Google benefits with higher ad revenue and user engagement metrics have recently influenced the way sites are ranked within the search engine since 2017.
2. Link Metrics - These metrics have been used by SEO professionals for many years as the most reliable way to increase rankings. Link metrics include strategies such as:
You’ll also want to be aware of the nature of no-follow vs followed links and how they point back to your site, as well as the placement of the link on the source page. There are several other metrics that determine the success of a link building strategy, but these are the most essential.
3. Onsite Content - This is a broad category of ranking factors, but it can be narrowed down to some critical factors. These might include:
Of course, other factors relating to onsite content can also influence whether or not a page might rank. Quality is important for readers, and you should be providing them with helpful information about your product or the industry. Not only does this encourage traffic through other channels, but it also increases the likelihood of return visitors and shares--all good things that Google recognizes.
4. Technical Structure and Usability - While these factors influence user engagement, they also have some impact on the way your site is crawled, indexed and how quickly it can rank. The fewer resources and time Google has to spend crawling and indexing a site, the faster it is likely to rank. The technical structure of your site includes factors such as how quickly pages load, which can also be an important consideration when it comes to user engagement. Google also looks at how well your site’s link architecture is constructed and the amount of HTTP status errors present (404s, 500s, 30Xs, etc.). These are discovered when Google crawls your site, as well as any configurations to robots.txt, sitemap.xml files, or the way your site handles CSS and JS files. Your CNDs are also scrutinized for how quickly they are rendered.. All of these items, while technical in nature, ultimately affect user engagement, search engine rankings, and traffic. Most of all, they are a good foundational base for a well-built site.
Once we have considered these SEO ranking factors, we can utilize SimpleTiger’s framework in order to organize our efforts into actions that benefit a SaaS SEO project. Over time, Google will evolve the SEO industry will discover new ranking strategies, tactics, and actions we can employ that lead to positive results. Our SEO framework has been built with this in mind and will continue to provide value even through the changes Google makes.
Keyword research for SaaS companies consists of determining what keywords users search within Google and other search engines in order to find the SaaS product or solution they’re looking for. There are many different facets to the way searchers use keywords when using Google and understanding searcher intent can be the single most important aspect of keyword research and building a strategy
The idea behind searcher intent is predicting what the results searcher expects to see when using a search engine. SimpleTiger likes to take an in-depth approach to keyword research and what the overall results are for a given term. It also can help to keep in mind why a potential customer might be searching for that particular keyword, especially if your product falls under a highly competitive niche. This is why we like to perform the same search ourselves. We closely analyze the first several results in order to get an idea of what sort of content Google “thinks” is relevant for the chosen keyword. You’ll begin to see what sites users are engaging with and the types of content that are ranking well.
After building a list of keywords, we pull research data from a variety of tools. We’ll talk about the tools we use and keyword volume and difficulty later in the guide. Finally, we finish our framework with a targeted keyword list. It can be refined and expanded on, but even a basic list can serve as a solid foundation as you start on building your SEO strategy.
Keyword research is one of the most foundational aspects of technical structure in SEO. Technical structure is important because if the foundation of your site is broken or flawed in some way, it could negatively impact any links or content you build in the future. We tend to address the technical areas of a site in order to make sure we’re building quality content assets and that your site is a stable enough platform to handle it.
First, we analyze the technical structure of your site by performing a technical audit. This allows us to get an idea of any and all issues that pertain to SEO and could be impacting how users and Google access content on your site. We’ll offer more information on how we perform technical audits later in this guide, but keep in mind that we usually analyze the site using a few tools. Which ones we use depends on how thorough we want the technical audit to be. Once we have determined which areas need to be repaired, we create priorities of what to fix first.
At SimpleTiger, we prioritize the repairs that need to be made on several factors: time vs impact and cost vs impact. If you’re a mature SaaS company, you likely have a team of people managing different parts of your company’s website, including a team of developers who keep it running smoothly. They’ll know pretty quickly how difficult it is to implement these changes and can give you a timeline for fixing these issues. Other SaaS companies may hire out implementations to a contracting developer who will charge per project for repairs. We like to focus on the repairs that will have the greatest impact and the most value for the time and money you’ve invested. After that, we usually address lower-priority items.
We’ll continue monitoring your site’s technical structure because it’s common to have pages on a site move or break. If this is the case, we like to know as soon as possible so we can quickly work to fix those issues.
Now that we have explained some of the more technical aspects of SEO, the more creative and people-oriented components start to emerge. This is also the area where we start to get into more impactful SEO actions--unless your site still has technical issues to address. Content strategy consists of looking at the target customer you’re trying to appeal to, their intent when searching for keywords, the actual keywords they’re searching for and what content is available to provide them information so they make a purchase. Building a good content strategy requires us to take an objective look at your website and determine where the target keywords should be placed. Additional pages may need to be created in order to target keywords that don’t currently have corresponding content on the site. Lastly, we’ll need to look at how content should be organized and structured so it creates a relevant hierarchy structure built for user engagement.
A good content strategy doesn’t just look at the existing pages already on your site or the pages that need to be created for increased user engagement. Content strategy also includes looking at the longer-term production cycle of content around targeted longtail topics. This ensures that you’re covering every base when it comes to keywords associated with your industry and that you’re establishing yourself as an authority within that space. Over time, this will allow your site to rank better for your targeted keywords. This can take a significant amount of time and most content writers find themselves in the all-too-common “wandering in the desert” analogy by producing blog articles and site content without relying on any objective.
Because this is such a common problem, we've developed a content production strategy that allows us to look deeper into the ongoing content needs of a client’s site. We craft a plan based on relevant data and trends in your target market and determine what content needs to be produced and added to your site. We’ll go deeper into the content strategy components of a SaaS SEO project later in this guide.
Finally, we create an offsite strategy to determine what types of links need to be built to your site. We consider which page(s) we want to link to, which sites to build links from, and what authority is needed in order for your site to rank. There are many areas of SEO that have been plagued with corrupt optimization tactics and link building remains one of the most common SEO tactics guilty of this offense. This is because for many years, links to pages were the main factor in rankings and there was much to gain by taking advantage of Google’s algorithm. The true purpose of link building is to create a strong, reputable link profile that shows Google and potential visitors that your site is an authority in your industry. Trust and authority are intertwined when it comes to how a site is analyzed by Google, and it should be carefully considered by anyone looking to achieve results through SEO.
While there are a number of link building techniques and tactics that have come and gone, SimpleTiger stands by an authentic and intentional process of PR when building links for our clients. Our team reaches out to contributors at various publications (both generic and niche to our clients’ industries) and pitches content ideas based around a single piece of content on our client’s site. We typically provide exclusive information or a sensational story we’ve created exclusively for this piece of content. Interested contributors are usually happy to link to our clients’ content as resources and use it as a reference for the story they are trying to tell. This works as a win-win: the publication is given easy access to exclusive, interesting data and stories while our clients receive a quality link back to their sites in the process.
Building links is exciting because your company isn’t spending the same budget on ads which eventually will be taken down as soon as you no longer have a budget for it. Instead, a link goes live and continues to add more and more value over time. Google loves to see old links that have been around for years. The longer they’ve indexed the link relationship, the more we often find search engines trust the site the link is pointing to. As you build these links, they will continue to serve as assets and will compound over time in order to help your site. Not only will you begin to rank better for your target keywords, but that ranking will remain over time. A good link profile is difficult to build and your competition will have to work hard in order to outpace your rankings.
We’ll go into more depth on our link building process and how it is done for SaaS companies later on in this guide, but in short, this portion of the SEO framework is often the most time consuming. However, an excellent link building and content production strategy will eventually drive your desired results.
Hopefully, this framework has provided you with an understanding of how the components of SEO work together to influence your site’s ranking on Google.. As we move forward through this guide, we’ll explore each category in more depth. We’ll explain how this framework complements specific SEO strategies and tactics that you can employ in order to help your SaaS company succeed at SEO. These strategies are completely specific to SaaS companies and should not be applied to other business models such as e-commerce, publishing, service companies, and more. Finally, we’ll get into tracking and reporting SEO results and what a realistic timeline to expect these results will look like.
Now that you know our basic framework we can proceed!