SEO for SAAS (Software As A Service) is not as easy and straight-forward as you might think. There are unique challenges associated to doing SEO for an SAAS business. Doing SEO for SAAS is totally different from doing SEO for traditional markets like consumer products, traditional software products, and even for B2B businesses. But before we talk about the technical aspects, let’s talk about what’s going on behind the scenes, how to look at the big picture and so on.
Understanding SEO and How to Measure Results
First thing. What we want to achieve with SEO is not rankings. Being ranked first on Google doesn’t mean anything. We want conversions, as many as possible. The way to achieve conversions is described by this equation: Total search volume * Your share * Average conversion rate For example: 10,000 searches per month * 20% share * 3% clickthrough rate = 60 conversions If you have a total of 10,000 searches per month for all your keywords, and you currently have 20% share of the traffic, with an average clickthrough rate of 3% (this means 3% of the traffic that comes to your site will convert into something that makes sense for your business – i.e. phone enquiries, contact form fill ups), you’ll get 60 new conversions every month for your SEO activity.
For the searches per month, which in this case is 10,000, you can’t do much about it in the short term. In the long term, you can educate the market, build up the awareness for your sort of thing and hence increase the search volume. But short term wise, we treat this is a fixed number. The 20% share here, is the main number here that we could increase by doing SEO. This is the reason why we do SEO, to increase the percentage share of the traffic that comes to our website from the keyword volume.
As for the conversion rate, if you’re doing SEO correctly, targeting the right keywords (not all keywords with high search volume are good) and the right people, you should be able to have a decent conversion rate. How you increase this part is by optimising your website design and content, saying relevant things, having your main call-to-action buttons prominent on the site, and split testing between different aspects of your website (this is called conversion rate optimisation, which is for another time). And then at the end of the equation, you end up with your conversions. This can be your free trial sign ups, number of purchases for your product, number of phone enquiries etc depending on whatever your businesses is interested in now.
Total Search Volume
How to define search volume?
- how many people are searching for things relevant to your business?
- the answer is total search volume (TSV) in your market. This is measured in total number of searches per month for all your keywords. You can use Google’s free keyword tool to find your TSV.
- your TSV limits the maximum potential for your SEO campaign.
Now here’s the thing about SEO for SAAS businesses. For the SAAS/technology market, the TSV is typically smaller than your total market because:
- Most of the people are not searching for your subject. They might be using other offline channels to search for your kind of product/service. Or they might be using other online channels like LinkedIn, Techcrunch etc.
- If your business is a new field, there might not be many people searching for keywords that are relevant to your business, and hence, SEO might not be suitable for you.
- You might just be a small player in the market. There are the IBMs and Oracles of the world. You might not have much chance of winning the keywords competition
Your Share of Searches
Now we move on to the next part of the equation. Typically, if you’re ranked number one on Google, you can expect about 20-35% of the clicks. If you’re second, you can expect around 10-15% of the click. If you’re third, around 7%. The lower you are, less percentage of the share you’ll get. In most cases, you want to be in the top 3, otherwise, it might not be worth your while to do SEO. To increase your share of the market through Google organic searches, you have to do SEO. There are various factors that affect your SEO rank. Take a look at Moz’s blog for a list of factors that affect your SEO score. Having gone through the elements of the equation, let’s talk about how SEO for SAAS businesses is different from SEO for normal businesses. Below is a table that summarises the differences.
|Consumer Products||SAAS Products|
|1-5 Keywords||50-150 Keywords|
|High search volume
||Low search volume
|Highly competitive organic results||Organic results are not so competitive|
|High chance of intent to buy||Low chance of intent to buy|
In mainstream consumer product businesses, typically you only have 1-5 keywords for each product. But for an SAAS product, you have between 50-150 keywords. To do SEO for that number of keywords is not practical. That is not to say you can’t, you just have to find the highly converting keywords and do SEO for those. Mainstream consumer products like laptops, portable speakers etc have higher search volume per keyword. However, for an SAAS product, you can have about 100 keywords for each product yet the TSV is only in the tens of thousands range as you can see from the above examples. The upside to doing SEO for SAAS products/services is that the keywords are not as competitive to rank compared to mainstream products/services. But SAAS related keywords have a low chance of intent to buy.
Think about it. People who are searching for cheap laptops, there’s a high chance that they are looking for a laptop with a reasonable price. To summarise the unique challenges of SEO for SAAS businesses:
- Many keywords, many niches, complex campaigns. You’ll run out of money soon if you target all the keywords in your SEO campaign.
- You need to focus on conversion rate optimization. Targeted traffic is more difficult to come by, and when they come by, you have to make sure they convert into customers. The only way is to test and increase the conversion of your website.
- A big plus is that keywords are often not competitive.