For any business with an online presence, there’s always a case for SEO to be a part of its marketing strategy. In the case of SEO for SaaS, however, the playing field is a lot different, and makes it just that much more crucial for a number of reasons.
- For one, the SaaS industry is extremely competitive. We don’t mean to sound unduly dramatic, but the survival strategy requires utter dominance over as many possible niches, to even get in with a fighting chance. Jason Lemkin of SaaStr, who terms the competition as the “SaaS Oligopoly”, says that more often than not, this competition comes down to the fact that most top players in the industry usually have the capital to disrupt as many verticals as they can and that makes it difficult for newcomers with a lesser budget to compete.
- High development costs and low market potential: SaaS development costs can often outweigh the market demand, especially in the beginning. Even if, over time, the markets emerge, the available potential for a large number of new competitors within a specific niche can be really low, especially when that niche is already dominated by players with bigger capitals.
- Keyword competitiveness is hardly a fair game: This is especially true when you consider that all short-tail keywords are almost certainly going to be dominated by those who have been in the game longer than you. Furthermore, this competition is exacerbated since owing to its very nature, it forces SaaS companies to bleed keywords into niches they don’t even service just so that they can snag as many potential customers as possible.
- Most SaaS-related keywords show little to no buyer intent: The majority of the search volume associated with most of the dominant keywords in a given cloud-computing industry doesn’t show any “buyer intent”. Most users searching for those keywords aren’t purchase-ready.
SEO for cloud-based-software companies goes beyond attracting users; it’s a brand awareness building-kit.
Given the above reasons, it makes sense that you’d get in on the competition by making the search engines love you right from the get-go, i.e. factoring SEO into your design and development process. If your designers and developers are aware of the importance of SaaS SEO, you can start gaining, and eventually increasing, your exposure and ranking to earn more customers even in the face of stiff competition.
In this article, we’re looking at 6 ways in which considering SEO during your design and development process can help your SaaS business stand out from its competition.
1. A Clean Website Design Means More Backlinks
Believe it or not, a clean, well-planned website design that takes into account readability, user experience and aesthetic, can make a significant difference in a brand’s perceived value. The better designed your website, the higher the chances that prospective customers will be drawn to it, interact with it and more importantly, talk about it. Rather than creating a website with bells and whistles the visitor may not care for, trust the data at your disposal and apply Smart Web Design for SaaS best practices.
As more people start talking about your product, either through social shares or links from their own blogs or websites, you’ll see an increase in the number of backlinks. The more high quality backlinks your site earns, the more Google and other search engines will treat these as trust signals for relevant content and customer value, which in turn, will result in an increased ranking on your site.
2. Organize Your Website Navigation Intelligently
When it comes to organizing your website’s navigation, not only do you need to consider how visitors will handle it, you also need to consider how Google’s bot handles it.
To ensure that your pages are indexed correctly on the search engines, you need to make it easy for the bot to do its job. This means:
- Setting up the robots.txt file accurately to tell the bots which links to index and which ones to ignore.
- Creating succinct, keyword-rich anchor texts for your internal links which are useful, descriptive and relevant.
3. Target the Right Keywords Specific to Your Audience
As we’ve said before, given the competitiveness of short-tail, generic keywords in the SEO for SaaS world, a good developer will understand the need to factor this challenge into the design. This means creating content that incorporates both mainstream and long-tail keywords. In the latter case, especially, you need to focus on keywords that are specific to the buyer personas.
Creating on-page SEO design elements, such as your H1, H2, H3, H4, H5 & H6 tags, title and URL, targeted towards long-tail keywords can ensure that your site ranks well for those terms, and in the long run, for the mainstream terms as well.
4. Keep Your Meta Title and Description on Track
The meta title and description tags are used to specifically tell the search engines what to display when your page appears on the SERPs.
Your page titles should be planned with your readers and users in mind: every new page on your website should have a unique title, and should tell your users exactly what they can expect when they click on that result. Don’t sacrifice quality and readability in the favor of keyword spamming; instead, focus on how you can convert a prospect into a customer.
As for your meta descriptions, they are essentially a free piece of real estate that you can use to your advantage by crafting copy that will intrigue your users. Meta descriptions don’t count as direct ranking factors, however, they can still be effective indirectly in contributing to ranking by increasing the number of clicks.
Character count: Both title and meta-descriptions have set character limits of 60 and 160 characters, respectively. Search engines truncate titles and descriptions that exceed this limit; so ideally, you want to stick to the limit, and keep your primary keywords close to the beginning of the tags.
5. Page Speed Considerations
Not only is page speed one of Google’s crucial ranking factors, it is also crucial to user experience. Pages with longer load times typically have higher bounce rates and lower on-page times. In consequence, it could result in poor conversions and higher acquisition costs. Faster load times can result in higher engagement and retention.
HubSpot recommends 1.5 seconds as the ideal page speed; anything higher than that needs to be optimized.
1. Images: Image size is major contributors to poor page speeds.
- Scaling down an image dimensions using CSS won’t be effective, at all. Instead, trim the image sizes in tools like Photoshop to retain the quality of the images.
- Try to use PNGs for graphics that have fewer than 16 colors, and compressed JPGs for other images.
- Use CSS sprites for images that are frequently loaded on your website, such as icons, buttons and logos. By creating one large image with all these elements, you will reduce the number of requests to the server.
2. Caching: Leverage your users’ browser caching to reduce loading times by enabling it on your server.
6. Broken Links and Redirects
Since backlinks are such an important element of SEO, broken links in your website can have a serious effect on your PageRank. When a search engine encounters a broken backlink, it removes it from the search index and removes the backlink PageRank associated with it. So, any link juice you got through that broken link is basically lost and your page rank will drop.
If you have changed your URL, restructured your links or changed your website structure, then:
- Create 301 Redirects for any pages from the old URLs, so that all the link juice associated with the old links are directed towards the new pages.
- Avoid leading your users to 404 error pages as much as you can, especially if those are pages that receive the most traffic. However, if they do land on a 404, make sure this page is not a “soft 404”, which is the generic error code response generated by the server. Instead, Google recommends that you create custom 404 pages.
Keeping your team on top of the specifics of SEO for SaaS tactics can help you breach the tough competition right from the get-go. A SaaS marketing strategy as a whole is different from any other business, search ranking included. You cannot afford to dismiss Search Engine Optimization as a secondary marketing technique; rather, it’s a core element of your lead generation stack, bringing your business visibility, relevance and traffic. Here are some more B2B SaaS marketing tips to increase your chances of success.