Keyword research is the foundation of any successful SEO strategy.
SaaS businesses are no different.
In fact, SaaS-based businesses have a better opportunity than traditional companies to build a solid organic presence online.
Good keyword research is key for SaaS because it allows you to find specific search terms that your ideal customers are using to learn and find solutions that are directly related to your service offerings.
For example, a company like Jasper.ai will choose to target keywords related to AI content generation. For example, “AI writer” and “AI content tool”. Jasper is a great example because they are doing an awesome job with their SEO. This all starts with good keyword research.
By understanding the language and the intent behind the searches of your potential customers you will be in a pole position to target keywords that are most likely to convert. Having a solid keyword research strategy in place will give you a much better chance of building topical authority, ranking higher in the SERPs for high-intent keywords, and ultimately attracting more qualified leads.
We will do a deep dive into keyword research throughout this article, but if you are to take one key tip away from this article. Take this.
Don’t just target keywords that are loosely related to your niche because there is a large number of searches (denoted as search volume in most SEO tools).
Do this instead.
Choose keywords that are hyper-specific to your business goals, regardless of competition. Obviously, you shouldn’t try to compete with established authority brands for every keyword. However, by producing content that fits around a very specific topic e.g. accounting software for landlords you will be able to build a significant amount of topical authority.
For newer SaaS businesses this is the best way to rank without spending a lot of resources on SaaS link building.
Importance of Keyword Research For SaaS Businesses
So, we have already talked about topical authority and how it is the best way for newer SaaS businesses to outrank the more established authority sites.
Don’t believe me. Take a look at this.
In this example, the website Digital Olympus has been able to outrank sites that are way more authoritative e.g. CrazyEgg, Wordlift, and even Search Engine Land.
If you’re wondering why this is the case, it’s because Google wants to rank websites for keywords that have a lot of content about a specific topic. In other words, sites like Digital Olympus have lots of topical authority.
Suppose you wanted to rank for the keyword “accounting software for landlords”. Then part of your keyword strategy should include identifying loads of related topics. For example:
- Why do landlords need accounting software?
- How can accounting software save landlords time?
- What is the best accounting software for holiday let?
You get the idea…
The goal here isn’t to write tons of articles in the hope they will all get loads of visitors organically who will buy from you every month. The real aim is to build a level of credibility in the eyes of search engines.
This will enable them to look at your business and say (metaphorically, of course):
“Wow, this business is the go-to resource for everything related to landlord accounting software”.
Following this topical authority strategy will allow SaaS businesses to be more targeted with their keyword research efforts. Of course, the end goal is to drive more traffic and revenue. But, for the time being, you will be building content that is genuinely valuable to the people who come across your website. Oh, and at the same time building tons of credibility with the search engines.
Keyword research for SaaS businesses also opens up another avenue. The ability to identify low-competition, high-conversion keywords.
These keywords will often be long-tail keywords, meaning that although they are less searched, they are much more specific and targeted than generic niche terms.
By targeting these less competitive keywords and ranking your content you can expect much more relevant traffic – relevance means more leads and customers for your SaaS business. Also, getting some of your content ranking quickly is an excellent way to attract organic backlinks. Although it’s unlikely that you will earn really authoritative backlinks this way, relevance matters too in link building.
How to Conduct Keyword Research (SaaS)
Conducting effective keyword research for SaaS businesses isn’t hard, but you don’t want to oversimplify the process either.
Many SEOs will share their affiliate link to Ahrefs and say that’s all you need to do keyword research, and they are not entirely wrong. Ahrefs is a great tool, but no matter what tool you are using the strategy I am suggesting will take a bit longer…
For significantly better rewards (hopefully).
The first part of the process is entirely free, and that’s brainstorming keywords.
Once you have brainstormed a few initial keyword ideas. This is the time to be using more complex keyword research tools… you can use Ahrefs, but we prefer Semrush.
In Semrush you can head to the keyword magic tool.
This is the best way to do second-level brainstorming. Here you can find low-competition keywords that you want to target as well as higher-competition keywords you would like to build content silos around.
Once you have identified a keyword you want to write a blog post about, simply add it to an Excel document with the relevant metrics.
For this example, we chose “accounting software for landlords”
This is a slightly higher competition keyword, but one that would be extremely profitable to rank for.
The next thing that I like to do is head over to Answer The Public. This is a freemium tool, but the free version is absolutely fine, to begin with as you can do up to 3 free searches every day.
Unlike other SEO tools that are very data-driven, Answer The Public is a breath of fresh air. When you conduct a search you won’t be overwhelmed by different metrics, instead, you will get a wheel of answers, like this:
This is a great way to do keyword research because you now have an extensive list of different questions that people are asking which are directly related to the “money keywords” you are targeting.
Remember, credibility and topical authority, yeah answering these questions all over your company blog is the best way to build that status level in the eyes of search engines.
After doing this for 2-5 different primary keywords you will have a huge list of content ideas for your company blog. These will all be highly relevant and allow you to rank higher for the main keywords you really care about.
The next part is implementing your keyword research into a go-to-market content strategy for your SaaS brand.
Do an awesome job with the content and your off-page SEO (link building is really important for SaaS companies) and you will start to rank better in organic search.
Competitor Analysis For SaaS
What are your competitors doing?
This is an integral question that needs to be asked when it comes to your SEO keyword strategy.
Is there specific keywords your competitors are ranking for, but you aren’t? Are their websites a similar or lower level of authority? If so, target these keywords. Not only will you be able to get a slice of the pie, but you will be directly reducing your competitors’ organic traffic.
This may sound brutal, but it’s a genuine strategy. If you can target similar keywords, produce better content, and build better links you will have a huge advantage over other SaaS companies in your space.
Additionally, competitor analysis is a crucial way to identify new opportunities and understand your position in the market. It’s not always about what your competitors are doing, but also about what they are not doing. If you can find new “untapped” keywords directly (or even indirectly) related to your SaaS business, then you should explore that.
In SEO, the first company to write an article on a specific keyword or a new trend is at a huge advantage when it comes to ranking, it’s also a good way to attract lots of quality organic backlinks.
But, how do you actually go about doing competitor analysis? There’s a lot of different information online, but here are a few tips that we personally suggest:
- Start by identifying your top competitors in the market. Most likely you will already know who these companies are, but if not, use Semrush or Ahrefs to find other companies ranking for the same keywords as you.
- Look at their sitemaps. Most SaaS businesses will have a sitemap.xml file that will contain all their blog posts. Be sneaky and have a look at what your competitors are writing about.
- Use SEO tools. As we said, we use Semrush. Plug in your competitor’s domains and see what pages are driving traffic, and which keywords they are ranking for. Specifically, look at whether your competitors are ranking for keywords that they are not even directly targeting. These phrases have high-ranking potential.
- See if your competitors have “one-off” blog posts that are performing well organically. These are keywords that they only have one or two articles about. If these keywords are performing well you could consider trying to write 5-10 articles on the sub-topic in order to build topical authority.
Although it is not directly related to keyword research, another important aspect of competitor analysis for SaaS companies to look at is the backlink profiles of the competition.
We won’t dwell on this as we have a lot of content about the importance of link-building, but the websites that are currently linking to your competitors’ content should also be prime targets for your link-building efforts.
Competitor analysis is not a one-time task, but rather an ongoing process. You should opt for a system where you can regularly monitor what your competitors are doing in regard to their content strategies, keyword targeting, and of course, their backlink profiles.
Don’t treat your competitors as threats looking to harm you, use them as a source of innovation and creativity. Underestimating other companies is a huge mistake in SEO. Search engines follow patterns, but if a company is doing well organically they are doing something right.
Keyword Optimization For SaaS
All businesses have specific keywords that they want to rank for – SaaS businesses are no exception.
Ranking for certain keywords can offer your business a host of benefits. For example, it means more visitors, greater brand awareness (and association), and of course, increased credibility and perceived trust.
Optimizing your website for these “priority” keywords is important, and the process of doing so will be decided between on-page improvements and off-page optimization.
The on-page side of SEO is important with many SEO experts suggesting that content is between 50% and 70% of a website’s ability to rank well in search.
But, what exactly is on-page optimization?
Simply put, on-page SEO is all about the content and structure of your website’s pages and blog posts. For example, you will have a target keyword that you are trying to rank for in this blog post, “SaaS Keyword Research”. Your job is then to perform positive actions – on the page – that give the page a better chance of ranking for said keywords.
Some key parts of on-page SEO are writing keyword-rich meta titles and descriptions, providing descriptive header tags (and using a good header structure), and, of course, providing in-depth and useful content that is rich with semantic keywords and comprehensive topic coverage.
Doing some research into rich snippets, and schema markup will also make your life much easier when it comes to on-page SEO.
Also, keep in mind that deliberately over-optimizing your website for keywords can actually hurt your search engine rankings. Keyword stuffing is a black hat SEO tactic and it will be an ineffective way of improving your rankings. Simply repeating your target keyword will have no positive effects. Just write naturally and make a conscious effort to stay on topic… that is enough.
So, you know that on-page SEO is important and that it all starts with keyword research. But, did you know that you can also optimize your website for specific keywords with off-page SEO?
We are of course talking about backlinks. Backlinks are critical for ranking and building them the right way can actually help you rank better for specific keywords you are targeting.
Because of anchor text. Anchor text is simply the words on a page that the hyperlink is on. It’s a difficult concept to explain, but if someone is linking to your blog post on “How to use a CRM?” with the anchor text “guide on using a CRM” this tells search engines exactly what your page is about. As such, you will have a much better chance of ranking.
Thus, the phrase off-page optimization.
Building strong, anchor-rich backlinks like that may sound impossible, but when you properly utilize outreach and guest posting it’s surprisingly simple.
Guest posting involves creating valuable content for free on more authoritative websites, in exchange you get a backlink. If possible try to make the anchor text of this backlink directly related to your target keyword.
However, don’t overuse the same anchors in multiple guest posts. This looks unnatural and can raise the metaphorical eyebrows of the search engine algorithms.
SaaS companies can incorporate their link-building efforts with their keyword research. Aligning the two will help you to create a much more succinct SEO strategy for your SaaS business.