How To Perform SEO For SaaS Startups
As a SaaS startup, it can be very difficult to get noticed at first. You find yourself among a sea of competitors looking to get a piece of the rapidly growing SaaS market.
But more than that, you’re competing with well-established giants who have already been in business for years. They have built their brands over time. And even as the demand for SaaS rises, the bulk of the new market turns to them anyway.
How do you, as a SaaS startup, succeed in such a fiercely competitive playing field?
But one of the things that a SaaS startup can take advantage of is search engine optimization (SEO).
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization is essentially a digital marketing practice that helps your website rank higher in search engine results. It takes advantage of key factors that search engines use to determine their rankings.
You see, search engines have these “web crawlers” that browse the whole world wide web. It indexes all the content found on each individual website.
The goal of SEO is to allow these web crawlers to index your content and show them that you have the best and most relevant content on the web, in relation to your target keyword.
SEO is an ever-changing landscape which means search engines may change the criteria by which they rank pages as time goes by. You may have to adapt and take up new practices in accordance with these changes.
If you have the right SEO strategy, you may just find your web pages on Google’s search results for your target keywords. At best, you will find yourself at the first three results.
Ranking first on the search engine results pages (SERPs) will surely boost your traffic. More than 25% of people click on the first search result.
How awesome would it be to have that place?
Now, there are three major types of SEO strategies: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.
Let’s talk about them one by one and discuss some specific strategies for each.
On-Page SEO Strategies
On-page SEO refers to tactics you put in place directly on your site’s web pages. It involves improving your content so that web crawlers can better index the content on your pages.
But of course, you still should optimize your content for your readers’ sake.
Here are some strategies you can do for your SaaS website’s on-page SEO:
- Do your keyword research
- Provide high-quality content
- Include your target keyword
- Add internal and external links
- Optimize your meta titles and descriptions
Do Your Keyword Research
Choosing your topics and your content should be data-driven. You can’t just write about anything that pops up in your head. You need to make sure that it’s a topic that a lot of people want to read about.
So, to choose your topics and content, you need to do some keyword research.
These tools can show you the search volumes, keyword difficulties, and other metrics that show the quality of your target keywords.
What’s more, these SEO tools can show you the top-performing pages on your competitors’ websites. They can show you what keywords are in play for these pages.
Knowing what keywords your competitors are targeting could give you some insight as to what they see as opportunities in your target market.
Provide High-Quality Content
This one’s pretty obvious. People are drawn to the web because of the vast amount of information they find here.
Users are hungry to learn and seek answers to their questions. That’s why content marketing has been one of the most effective digital marketing methods for SaaS brands.
With that, your SEO campaign will be futile if you provide low-quality content that doesn’t answer these questions.
Your users should get their answers from your website. And along with those answers, they should also continue to engage with your website through your blog posts, webinars, and other useful content.
Don’t make your content sound too formal, though. Write articles that are engaging, fun, and interesting to read. That’s how you will attract and retain your readers’ attention.
By providing high-quality and valuable content, you can establish yourself as an authority in your niche. You could even become the “go-to resource” for this sort of information online.
If you get recognized as a topical authority in your niche, other websites will begin to link your pages to theirs. This will further advance your own SaaS website’s SEO.
But that’s under another type of SEO strategy. We’ll talk more about that later.
Include Your Target Keywords (Within Reason)
Adding your target keywords in your content will help Google’s web crawlers understand what your content is about. But don’t overdo it. Keyword stuffing can hurt you more than it can help you. Google penalizes it by keeping your rankings down or even removing your page altogether.
Moreover, people will notice that you are writing your content just for the sake of SEO instead of providing them with the information they are looking for.
A few well-placed keywords should do it. And make sure that they don’t sound forced. Otherwise, it may put your readers off.
Add Internal And External Links
Internal links are links that lead to another webpage within your own website. While external links lead to pages on other websites.
These are important in SEO because they tell Google that these linked pages are related to each other. What’s more, it shows the web crawlers that you have a good understanding of your content and your niche.
Not to mention that it is a good way for your users to access other pages without leaving your page.
Just a note for external links: make sure they lead to high-quality pages. If your external links include trustworthy websites, Google will recognize the credibility of your website as well.
The flipside is also true. Adding low-quality links will hurt your SEO performance. If your links lead to substandard and spammy pages, Google also won’t consider your website credible.
Optimize Your Meta Titles And Descriptions
The meta title is the title shown for your page in the search results. It is usually displayed in bold in the results.
The meta description is just a sentence or two that shows up below the title label. They are meant to tell the web crawlers and readers what your web pages are about.
Google uses these SEO elements to determine if your page should show up in the search engine results at all. If it thinks that there are more relevant pages out there, yours won’t be included.
So make sure you put your target keywords within your meta titles and descriptions so they can be indexed by Google’s crawlers.
When it comes to these SEO elements, you need to watch out for the number of characters you put in them. They should be concise.
Meta titles are ideally no more than 60 characters long. While meta descriptions can range from 150 to 160 characters.
Most importantly, don’t forget to make your meta titles and descriptions engaging to the readers. After all, these are the first things they will see in the SERPs.
The meta title and description should effectively communicate that your page has the right content for its corresponding target keyword.
Off-Page SEO Strategies
Off-page SEO mainly involves link building or having other websites add a link to your page on their pages. These inbound links are called “backlinks”.
If you have such backlinks from other sites, it shows Google that you are a credible source of high-quality content. It’s sort of a “vote of confidence” from these websites, saying that they trust you.
However, link building is not just about the quantity of these referring websites. It’s also about their quality. Organic links from relevant and trustworthy websites would greatly boost your SEO performance.
As we discussed earlier, creating great content would get other websites to link to your pages.
Well, it’s the best and most organic way to get backlinks. You’re writing content so good that other sites can’t help but mention it on their blog posts.
Still, there are other off-page SEO strategies you can do to get more backlinks.
For your link building, you can do the following strategies:
- Guest posting
- Find unlinked mentions
- Use external links to form partnerships
Guest posting is a classic organic way to get inbound links.
It’s a win-win for both you and the website. You get your links out there and gain exposure to a new set of readers. In return, they get great content to share with their audience.
Not to mention the fact that you get to build partnerships with other relevant content producers.
Just make sure that these websites are reputable. Remember that you need to have backlinks from credible sites in order to be recognized by Google.
It’s also worth mentioning that you need to go beyond asking them to post guest posts on their blog. You can offer your content in other forms like infographics, slideshows, or videos. Then ask them to add your links to these graphics.
Find Unlinked Mentions
This SEO strategy is about finding any mention of your website in other websites’ content.
After finding such unlinked mentions, you should reach out to those websites and ask them to turn these mentions into SEO-optimized backlinks.
So does that mean you have to browse other websites one by one just to find these unlinked mentions?
SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Analytics, and other tools also offer features that enable you to find brand mentions. These tools can send you alerts on new mentions in real-time.
Use External Links To Form Partnerships
As you write SEO content for your brand, you and your writers may find yourselves frequently linking to some sites.
Those could be potential partnerships.
You can ask them to add your backlinks in their content as well. And in return, you do the same for them.
However, there is no guarantee that they would say yes to the partnership. They might have their own criteria in choosing who they partner with.
Some may look at the traffic you are contributing to their websites. There’s really not much you can do about that, since you yourself are aiming to get traffic to your website.
But others may be looking for high-quality content regardless of the traffic. That’s why you need to produce excellent, relevant, and engaging SEO content every step of the way.
Technical SEO Strategies
Technical SEO, as the name suggests, has something to do with the technicals of your website.
The goal of technical SEO is to help web crawlers more easily index your content and show them that you have a high-quality website.
Here are some possible strategies you can use for your technical SEO:
- Ensure that your website loads fast
- Optimize your images
- Fix broken links
- Organize your site structure
- Make your website mobile-friendly
- Monitor your SEO analytics
Ensure That Your Website Loads Fast
Did you know that more than 27% of users expect a page to load within two seconds? If your SaaS website takes longer than that to load, you can expect your visitors to close the tab.
That would greatly lower your returning visitors and traffic. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
But here’s the thing. It’s not just human visitors that get inconvenienced by slow-loading pages. Web crawlers do too.
If a website loads too slowly, it limits the amount of content that the web crawlers can index. As a result, your SEO rankings will suffer.
But here’s the good news: you don’t need to hire a webmaster for this SEO strategy.
Of course, a webmaster would help a lot. But there are online tools that can help you diagnose your website and identify issues with it.
Optimize Your Images
One of the biggest reasons why a webpage would load slowly is bulky image files. And like slow pages, slow-loading or broken images cause a lot of inconvenience to your website visitors.
So how can you optimize your images?
One way is to resize your photos. If you have an image that is very large in file size, you can sometimes reduce its size to a few megabytes without reducing its quality.
Lastly, use the right format for your images. JPEG and PNG are the most common image file formats. You can use either of the two depending on the case.
PNG files support transparency. However, they come with a loss in quality every time you compress them. That’s why websites keep them in large file sizes if they have to use that format.
JPEG files are generally smaller in size. You can compress them and still maintain most of the quality of the image. But they do not support transparency.
So if your images contain transparent backgrounds, you can use PNG. If they don’t, then JPEG is your best option.
Fix Broken Links
Another SEO strategy is to fix all broken links on your website.
Broken links are those that lead to non-existent pages on your website. They are disappointing both to website visitors and web crawlers.
Web crawlers don’t like seeing broken links because they make no sense. They fail to index your content. And that may lead to your pages falling behind in the SERPs.
You might think this SEO strategy is difficult to do. But it’s actually pretty simple. All you need to do is find broken links, check if they have an alternative link, and then update the old broken link with the new one.
If you can spare some time and energy, you can do it manually. Or you can use other SaaS solutions to help you find and fix broken links. These tools include Google Search Console and Xenu’s Link Sleuth.
Organize Your Site Structure
Organizing your website structure can also help your pages rank in the SERPs.
A well-organized website will make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your pages. Also, it makes navigation easier for visitors since they know where to find specific content on your page.
That being said, it is very important for you to establish a logical site hierarchy so that both the crawlers and your visitors can easily navigate through your site.
One of the hottest debates when it comes to website structure is the subdomain VS subfolder debate. Which one is better in terms of SEO?
Generally, websites with subfolders rank better than those with subdomains. Subdomains use different servers as the root domain, while subfolders use the same servers.
As a result, subfolders are generally easier to crawl than subdomains. What’s more, their URLs are easier for human readers to track.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should never use subdomains. They still have their uses.
For example, in the future, you would want to set up a variant of your website in a foreign language. Having a subdomain for it would be a good idea.
Or perhaps you have another niche that is also rich with content. Having a subdomain for it would be less confusing for the web crawlers and users alike.
Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
Mobile devices have become an integral part of people’s lives because they let people access online content anytime and anywhere.
Their small screens might pose design challenges for someone who is building a website. But it’s definitely better than not being able to reach your audience at all.
That’s why you should make your website mobile-friendly.
But how do you actually optimize your web pages for mobile screens?
First, to state the obvious, you need to check if it’s actually mobile-friendly. The good news is that you don’t have to check each of your pages one by one.
Instead, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and Google Search Console. The latter can check all the pages in your entire domain. If it finds any non-mobile-friendly pages, it separates the URLs and groups them according to their issues.
And when you have identified the issues, you can fix them.
One of the best ways to make sure that your pages fit mobile screens is by making them responsive to different screen sizes.
Responsive design is having your web page adapt to different screen sizes. You can achieve this by adding CSS styles to your webpage so that it automatically scales down if it detects a mobile device.
Monitor Your SEO Analytics
SEO is just one part of your content marketing strategy.
If you want SEO to work for you, then it’s crucial for you to monitor SEO analytics so that you can know the current SEO state of your SaaS startup.
The most common SEO tracking tool is Google Analytics. It shows your keywords, how much traffic they sent you, and how well they performed in terms of clicks, time on page, and other metrics.
You can also use Advanced Segments to filter out paid traffic or backlink traffic if needed.
Third-partySEO analytics tools such as Ahrefs and Moz can also help you track SEO issues. They offer useful data including on-page SEO factors, referring URLs, inbound links, and a lot more.
You may want to look out for these key SEO metrics:
Organic traffic: Let’s start with the most obvious. Organic traffic refers to the number of people who entered your website from unpaid sources. It has a direct correlation with the strength and effectiveness of your SEO efforts.
Keyword rankings: This refers to your page’s exact position in the SERPs for a specific keyword.
You can also monitor both branded and unbranded keywords. Branded keywords show you how many customers know your brand and are ready to buy your SaaS product.
On the other hand, your rankings in unbranded keywords represent how well you are attracting customers in the first stages of the buyer’s journey.
New referring domains: These are new domains that have links to your website. There is an emphasis on new domains because it carries a lot of weight with Google compared to websites that have already linked to you in the past.
Impressions: This refers to the number of times your page has appeared in a Google search result. It’s an indicator of your visibility in the SERPs. A higher ranking leads to more impressions.
Click-through rate (CTR): This is the percentage of impressions that have led to a click going to your page. For example, you have 100 impressions. If 20 of those impressions led to clicks, then that’s a CTR of 20%.
The CTR is an indicator of an even higher ranking in the SERPs.
Domain authority: Just to be clear, this is not an official metric from Google.
But third-party SEO tools use this to rate the strength of your website. It is based on different factors, like backlinks and the quality of referring domains.
This rating could range from 0 to 100.
Bounce rate: This is the number of users who left your website right after visiting it. Now, this is a metric that you want to keep low.
It’s not exactly related to your ranking. But a high bounce rate could indicate a problem with your website, like slow-loading pages or broken images.
Final Thoughts About SEO For SaaS Startups
SEO is one of the most important tools for building your brand awareness, and online presence in the SERPs.
However, it can be hard for a SaaS Startup. As mentioned before, you are competing against well-established companies that have been in business for years.
But with the right SEO strategy and the right content for your SaaS website, you can get a boost in visibility in Google’s search results.
As you grow your SaaS business and brand, you can move up the SERPs. If you play your cards right, you may even find yourself in the top three places for your most valuable keywords.
For more strategies on promoting your SaaS business, check out our SaaS marketing blog.