SEO Guide for SaaS Products

Ivan Paliy
15 June 2020

For three years, our team has bumped search traffic for our three SaaS products up to 520,000 unique visitors per month. 90% of visitors have come from organic Google search. In this article, I will share the strategy we used to achieve these results.

This post originated from my speech at the Nazapad online conference last year. You can also access the material in video and presentation formats.

But this version is more in-depth and detailed. Today, six months after we approached our strategy, we’re still gaining more and more traffic, and some of our hypotheses have finally proved their effectiveness.

We applied a similar search engine optimization methodology for all of our three products (SitecheckerCopywritelyKparser). Therefore, I think the practices described further will drive the desired results for any SaaS product.

Just to remind you, SaaS (software as a service) is a subscription-based business where you sell access to your program as a subscription for a selected period.

Methodology Basics

The methodology is based on two axioms:

● your product will change, and you don’t know what the final version will be over years;

● you don’t know whether it’s your pages or external sites that will lead the most traffic, backlinks, and sales.

Based on these axioms, we can get the key task of SEO-strategy for the first one-two years.

Fully cover the semantic niche and test as many ways to drive traffic and backlinks to your website as you can.

If you knew how to address these issues in advance, your approach would be much different. But, most likely, you do not. Thus, you need to develop a framework to select the most relevant pages and external sites as soon as possible. Here’s how you can build it.

1. Map out your target audience needs

Your product always takes place in a value chain, among others. Think about other tasks that your user solves before finding your product and after he/she starts using it. Doing this, you will get more ideas for building your website and ways to monetize your audience.

Example of mapping your audience needs

2. Create pages fast

You need to build all the necessary pages and fill them with content as soon as possible so that:

● you had the place to attract traffic;

● users had what to share;

● you could improve selected pages;

● internal linking began to work, and your domain age started its count as soon as possible.

Creating pages asap means approaching them like MVP. There’s no need to make them perfect from the very start – it will be enough if you create well as many pages as possible.

3. Find how to use the same content on different sites

Creating quality content is an expensive and time-consuming task. Create high-quality onsite content, and then think about how to differentiate it for the use of external sites. We created illustrations for our blog posts and then promoted them on Pinterest; we also wrote articles for our blog and used the content to provide answers on Quora queries.

4. Measure web analytics from the very start

Post pricing, set up goals, and/or e-commerce in Google Analytics as soon as you start. This will help you to select pages by potential revenue within the shortest timeframes.

Now let’s move on to the key points of the strategy.

Ideas for creating pages.

1. Pick up ideas from competitors’ pages

In this case, the competitor is any website with high rankings in the context of your semantics. The product doesn’t need to be similar to yours.

Your competitors may have a different site structure, another content type, but they all will cover related semantics.

The best option would be to cover similar to market leaders’ semantics. When we have just started, we grasped ideas from Moz pages.

Top Pages on moz.com Ahrefs Report

But note that approaching the semantic core of market leaders is not always enough. This is for two reasons:

● Services like Ahrefs, Semrush, Similarweb don’t always cover all relevant semantics.

● Your competitors don’t always fully cover all valuable semantics.

2. Split your product into mini-products

We did it too late. And it was crucial to start from this point. During our first year in business, our main product was an SEO page-analysis tool.

An analysis like that comprises a lot of elements. Each element brings its value to users. And users search Google for every separate element.

The value of mini-product pages lies in four parameters:

● you don’t need a lot of content to be well-ranked;

● lower competition in keywords;

● ease of creating multi-language pages;

● high lead-conversion rate.

Example of our mini-product, a part of the main product

3. Create related mini-products

These mini products should:

● have a semantic core available;

● be quickly developed by your team;

● be thematically-related to your main product.

Example of our mini product, not a part of the main product

4. Create mini-products based on the API of other products

This point is a bit similar to the previous one. But here you need the performance of product managers and designers more than the developers.

It is crucial to understand that the same data can be visualized in distinct ways. And market leaders of any niche may have the most valuable content though not presented in the best possible form.

Example of our traffic check tool based on another API product

5. Search for alternative ways to use your product.

At some point, we noticed that traffic from the YouTube pages cluster works great with kparser.com. I researched other YouTube pages of competitors that are not related to our product at all.

The youtube name generator cluster queries were very frequent and low-competitive. Having thought about how to solve this type of user needs with our product, I created this page.

Today, this page takes the first place in terms of traffic attraction and remains in the top three in terms of backlink generation.

The instruction is merely simple:

● create an idea-list of the most incredible ways to use your product;

● research the content of other products that are not your competitors yet;

● create several testing pages;

● if any of them ranked well, there’s a chance you discovered another big niche for your product.

Kparser.com / youtube-name-generator statistics from the Google Search Console

6. Create product comparison pages with competitors

These pages are valuable as they bring you most of your target customers with related search entries. Most likely, they have already tried the competitor’s product and did not like anything about it.

While comparing, your task is to highlight by which parameters you are better than a particular competitor.

Create pages comparing you against small but growing competitors. The more they grow, the more traffic they boost to your pages.

Kparser.com/answer-the-public-alternative/ statistics from the Google Search Console

7. Translate webpages into multiple languages

We didn’t translate the product itself, but we translated webpages into other languages. This solution helps to attract:

● users who know English and are ready to use the product in English, but who are searching for your product in their language;

● users who don’t know English but can satisfy their needs with English-language products.

According to our data, a substantial number of non-English-speaking users use Google’s auto-translator inside our product, and that’s enough for them.

How to translate pages correctly:

● translate into Google Translate a list of English-language queries that already bring traffic to the selected language;

● look for the theme-related sites by translated requests in the search query (your competitors in this language);

● upload semantics according to the found competitors and the country with most native speakers of the selected language to the Ahrefs;

● group semantics into clusters and translate English content into the selected language with Google Translate;

● add keywords exactly as from previously collected semantics;

● after a while, evaluate the page traffic engagement and hire a native-speaking copywriter to provide the correct translation from English.

Google Data Studio report of popular Japanese search entries for sitechecker.pro

8. Expand the semantics by one- and two-word entries

After the kparser.com/youtube-name-generator page brought us the most traffic, we started looking for what other pages with the “generator” entry we could create based on our tool.

So, we created a domain name generator, a business name generator, and an email name generator.

When you have enough data accumulated in your Google Search Console, search for one- and two-word patterns that rank you faster and higher in Google search. Expand your semantics with the word patterns you found.

Keyword statistics for the “generator” entry on kparser.com

9. Make your pictures and infographics unique

Visuals like that will be recognized and generate backlinks. The toughest decision you need to make comes first – whether you should brand them or not.

We decided to leave them unbranded. Such pictures are often downloaded and used across the Internet. Moreover, if we use exact numbers, the websites usually backlink for the initial source. Besides, when your product and blog become popular, your brand will be recognized simply by your visual’s style, wherever they are found.

At this point, it is important:

● to have a single design concept;

● your pictures are not only eye-catching but also valuable;

● to have a designer who can quickly grasp the main idea of ​​the article and convey it with a picture.

Design of a category page on a sitechecker.pro blog

Ideas for generating links and traffic

You want external sites to boost your: sales, traffic, backlinks, brand mentions. Right, just in that order.

1. Blog Commenting

These were the very first links we learned to build. The approved comments conversion was really low. But the approved links were mostly from top blogs with an active audience.

To-do guide:

● visit each of the top-ranked 50 search queries related to your product;

● on well-built sites, you can leave comments even without a link, only with a domain name;

● a perfect comment is in-detail, complements the article topic, and demonstrates that you carefully read the article.

Example of a comment with a product link

2. Tool kits

Some toolkit lists contain a form for adding a new tool, but most of the time, you will need to contact the site owner with a request for placement.

Building organic links like that is beneficial both for you and for the page owner since they will make the toolkit list more complete.

As for us, the most beneficial website was tools.robingood.com. After its author, the Italian, published our tool and shared it in all his social networks, he has started a wave of shares and likes, among other Italians.

If you need a list of similar sites, leave a comment, and I’ll share it with you.

Example of online tools selection

3. Business listings and sites of reviews

Being represented tool kits and business listings are becoming more and more relevant with the latest Google update. Now the utter importance of link-building lies is not all about growing link mass, but rather about building your brand reputation on external platforms.

We tried a lot of sites. The most efficient proved to be g2.comcapterra.comcrosdesk.comtrustpilot.combetalist.com. The list also includes Product Hunt, but we still weren’t published there.

How to cooperate with sites like this:

● fill your product profile to the maximum;

● use your customer base to receive feedback;

● use reviews on your website.

Example of the “product + reviews” query ranking after being added to the business listings

4. Google Chrome & Mozilla Firefox plug-ins

The approach here is similar to mini-products creation.

To-do guide:

● highlight a small but valuable product’s function with good retention;

● create a plug-in to perform this function;

● carefully verify the title, description, and icon;

● translate the plug-in into other languages;

● start to lead the traffic to the plug-in from the site and email newsletters;

● plus to satisfied customers, you get another page in the search query.

Up to date, our plug-in was installed by 25,000 users. We also did not expect that the search traffic that goes to the plug-in and then leads to our site will be so high. As you can see in the screenshot, almost plug-in versions in other languages are at the top of relevant search queries.

Google Chrome search statistics of all translated versions of our plug-in.

5. Interviews with experts of the field

What such an interview gave us, will probably work for you too:

● traffic from Google Discover;

● links from expert blogs;

● traffic form brand surname queries, experts’ names, and their companies;

● traffic from social networks and telegram channels of interviewees;

To-do guide:

● design a list of interesting questions;

● write down the offer (why the interviewee should spend time for your interview and how many links he/she can place on your sites);

● create a database of specialists (conference sites, issuing on request best … experts, best … blogs, LinkedIn, etc.);

● start with the ones you’re familiar with and middle-level experts; doing this, you will be able to demonstrate the traffic of your readers to famous guests;

● After you have interviewed some famous guests, use it as social proof when sending the following offers.

Interview Backlinks from Sitechecker.pro Blog

6. Help Center Pages

Another dark horse. When the Help Center was hosted on the Zendesk subdomain, our rankings were particularly high. But, for some reason, we relocated to HelpScout. Search visibility went down, but we still regard these pages as another source of traffic that needs to be approached.

You will write instructions for your customers and answer the FAQs about all elements of your product. So why don’t you optimize these pages straightaway?

To-do guide:

● write unique and useful content;

● lead users from the site and newsletters to guides;

● track pages that ranked in the top and boost them, adding links and expanding content.

Help Center Page Snippet

7. Reviews from specialized bloggers and experts

You’re the lucky one if you managed to find a blogger who writes for external sites except for his/her blog site. If he/she likes your product, it is very likely to be included in his/her future blogposts.

We had a similar experience with  Ann Smarty. We did not order her review. She somehow got on our search tool kparser.com and started recommending it in her articles on authority sites.

I recommend you to:

● have fewer reviews, but with higher quality;

● evaluate sites not by their link-structure and traffic only, but also by the activity of blog readers (whether they comment), the interface and navigation quality;

● ask your product review to be an objective one;

● have a budget for review: from $100 to $600.

One of our very first purchased reviews at woorkup.com

8. Freelance exchanges

At first, freelance sites added our links spontaneously, without any attachments other than the product itself. But it was our omission. It’s better to think in advance where and how users will add your product links and simplify the process to the maximum.

To-do guide:

● create a tool with data that would act as a reference point for customers and contractors;

● inform customers that they can delegate work to freelancers (you can give a choice of a list of exchanges within the product).

To consider how the participants of exchange will appreciate your product, create some tasks as a customer and add a link to your product.

Jobs at freelancehunt.com with a link to the sitechecker.pro report

9. Quora

Users are searching for the same query entries on Quora. And many questions with Quora answers are top-ranked by Google. Therefore, you can regularly attract traffic from Quora, unlike from most other external platforms.

Keep in mind that:

● not all topics are equally important;

● use blog content but ensure you have added new thoughts and demonstrate that you delved into the user’s query;

● estimate the response performance with Quora statistics and with Google Analytics (report source/medium, secondary dimension “referral path”).

My top-performed answer was this one. You can use my instruction for selecting topics.

All-time stats of my Quora responses

10. Facebook

In the niche of SEO, Internet marketing, and the development of SaaS-products, Facebook is a priceless source of publics and groups with an active audience. Sometimes, I also find complete answers to my questions (which I can’t find in Google) in Facebook groups.

To-do guide:

● join all thematically-related publics;

● regularly provide in-detail answers for user questions related to your product;

● do not skimp on words and time for carefully studying user problems.

If you lack a list of such groups, leave a comment, and I’ll share it with you.

Example of an answer to a user’s problem in one Facebook SEO group

11. Reddit

A strategy like for Facebook works here as well. Similarly, it is necessary to find relevant subreddits, subscribe to them, and remain active in helping users.

Note that some Reddit topics also top Google search queries. Regarding this, we advise you to invest enough time to provide detailed answers and participate in discussions.

Log of my Reddit comments

12. Pinterest

We’ve been active Pinterest members for several months. The results didn’t leave us satisfied. In this case, though, a lot depends on your niche and your efforts. More importantly, with the latest Google search update, there are even more Pinterest pages top-ranked.

Alternatively, you can also track your pins’ performance in Google Analytics.

Pinterest Page Performance Report Analytics

13. LTD sites

I already discussed our experience of launching on AppSumo six months ago. Besides sales growth, the campaign has also boosted our SEO results. Our brand search entries increased x4 times, we received a bunch of reviews, references, and backlinks.

Along with AppSumo, there are also Stacksocial, Lifetime Tech Deal Fans, and other less-known or more narrow-specialized sites.

Reviews after the AppSumo campaign

Untested by us, but still valuable ideas

There are still ideas that I have not tried for myself, but which, according to competitors and my 6th sense, will bring great results.

1. Product Hunt

Lifetime Deal (LTD) sites – business-resources aimed to sell lifetime subscriptions for your service.

In the articles on Product Hunt that I investigated, I perceived this platform to be hardly sufficient when it comes to sales growth. But if you want to get a valid backlink and low-cost traffic, why not. Moreover, the checklist is already completed.

Considering the points mentioned, we plan to run a campaign on Product Hunt soon. Add me to friends and drop me a message if you need to vote for your product.

2. Medium

In this case, I like the Tim Soulo blog case and the idea of ​​publishing informative and interesting articles that should be avoided publishing on site’s blog as it’s hard to adapt them for a semantic search.

As far as I know, the secret of blogger outreach here is not just in cool content but also being supported by The Startup community, which includes more than 600,000 subscribers. If any of you have an interesting experience, either recommendations on Medium, please share them in comments.

3. Twitter

From a user’s perspective, I’m not a Twitter fan. But when you officially start cooperating with English sites and communicate with foreign specialists, you comprehend that this is a huge part of English cyberspace. Both individual and brand Twitter activity are just like another good manner.

4. YouTube

“To optimize your video for YouTube” and “to transform it into a regular source of traffic” are completely different tasks. Yes, you can convert a part of your text materials into a video format.

But regular video shooting, editing, design, and distribution will take so much time to reach the results you can notice that you will be required to hire a worker to manage this staff. Still, it is necessary to delve into the field of video creation.

Video content format makes it easier for the user to perceive the information, represents your face, and, thus, creates a feeling of trust in the product.

5. Podcasts

Tom Hunt, a marketer who builds a business content marketing strategy based only on podcasts, once messaged me on Facebook. I examined the issue and discovered that podcasts form a separate, extensive traffic channel, which demands substantial time and money investment as well. We have not tested this channel yet, but if we try, I will share our experience.

All of the above-discussed approaches and tips are not the end of the list. We are constantly experimenting with new platforms and content ideas, but we don’t start working on each of the experimental fields.

If I had a similar SEO blueprint at the beginning of my business path, I would have achieved the same results 2 times faster. But there is still one more nuance.

The constant growth of organic traffic requires money. If you have no external investments, then the only way you can get the required funds is to successfully convert the leads attracted with your initial efforts into your customers. Therefore, if you’re unsuccessful in marketing and product management, don’t build expectations to succeed in SEO in the long term.

I will be very happy to receive your questions and recommendations, as previously mentioned.

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