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SEO for Saas Companies: Driving Downloads and Conversions

Let’s get started. As a software vendor, you recognize the significance of your product, be it off the shelf, customized software from a big company, or a software solution at the consumer level. You see the industry moving away from conventional offline solutions and recognize that the majority of software solutions being developed today will only be viable for a few years. Your objective is to create ongoing revenue via a solution you developed years ago. How can you ensure that consumers are constantly finding and exposed to your solution, especially when new competitors crop up each day? As buyers conduct increasing amounts of research prior to a software purchase and often bypass the salesperson altogether, there is a massive need to ensure optimal product exposure. Search engines have become the primary tool for individuals seeking software solutions. SEO for software companies is the art and science of getting your company in front of your target audience for the various phrases they are entering into search engines. It’s knowing exactly what your buyers are looking for and delivering a solution to them that satisfies their needs. Now I’d like to clarify that SEO service for software is no walk in the park. As with all industries, there is a level of competition that must be met in order to realize any significant results. The software market is global; with the internet, you’re literally competing with the best software developers in the world. Regardless of your software solution, there are a number of high authority domains with aged domains and killer backlink profiles that have been established for 10 years or more. You must know how to compete, and although the following often sounds grim, it’s about setting realistic expectations for the level of effort and budget required to compete. SEO is a long-term marketing solution and often has a higher ROI in comparison to paid search or display advertising. However, for the first year, it’s largely an investment when the various costs of implementation are factored in.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a form of online marketing that increases your website’s visibility in the organic search category. The two main components of SEO are on-site and off-site. On-site SEO is the process of improving website content, HTML source code, and site architecture. This is achieved by targeting keywords that your potential audience would use to search for software to solve their problem. Off-site SEO is defined as the process of increasing your website’s relevancy through link building. Link building is the process of acquiring incoming links to your site from other websites. This can be achieved by submitting your site to directories, creating link bait, and forging relationships with other webmasters. The importance of SEO comes from the fact that the majority of search engine users are more likely to click on the first few organic results in a search engine. And not to forget, more often than not, search engine users are more likely to trust a site that is on the first page of SERPs (search engine result pages) than the site that is on the 7th page of Google. In the long run, SEO is a very cost-effective solution for software companies aiming to increase website traffic and raise awareness of their product.

Importance of SEO for Software Companies

In the same vein, software companies often have highly complex products to explain – products that may involve a unique concept or a new solution to an old problem. Common marketing wisdom says that any offer should be repeated to a prospect at least seven times before he’ll take action. This is a challenge for the software company, as the simple truth is that most site visitors won’t stay for seven viewings of a page. SEO helps to meet this challenge by enabling companies to present a single version of a given message to be found by a highly targeted group by virtue of the page’s rankings and visibility. If a page that properly explains a complex concept can be successfully “said” in a single viewing by a visitor who found it through a search, then by driving many such search visitors to that page again and again, the company can likely persuade those visitors move on to other stages of the sales process.

When it comes to software companies, the importance of SEO cannot be overstated. For many software companies, the internet is the primary forum for interaction with potential customers. Prospects are busy people, and when they seek out software solutions, they demand information quickly and clearly. If they can’t find the information they’re looking for, they won’t invest the time to dig for it – they’ll just go somewhere else. By using SEO to increase their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), and by targeting the language of their site content to reflect the terms and phrases prospects are using to search for information, software companies can increase their chances of being found by those seeking solutions to their problems.

Optimizing Website for Search Engines

Now that you know how well your website is performing, you can begin to identify goals for improving your site’s effectiveness. You’ll create efficiency objectives for the moderate and weak points. For example, if your site is not sticking visitors for very long, you may revamp the landing page. Or, if your bounce rate is high, you may consider redeveloping your information architecture.

Optimizing website content begins with an assessment of how well your website is currently performing. There are various metrics you can use to measure how effective your website is. Which metrics are most important to your company will depend on your goals. You can get a good high-level view of your effectiveness using measures like page views, average time on site, referrals, bounce rate, and conversion rate.

Once you have established a content strategy, identified your audience, and are producing valuable content, you can now focus on website optimization. This is the process of structuring your page so it is found, read, and indexed by search engines in the most effective manner possible.

Keyword Research and Analysis

The core of SEO work existed at the time of the Destination Unknown article, and although there were various methods and strategies by which to attempt to game the system, there was still plenty of white hat work to be done. Keyword research and analysis was an important step in optimizing a site for search, and its importance remains to this day, although the methods by which to achieve success have changed. The old approach to keyword research was to identify a targeted keyword for each page of a site, and then optimize that page based upon the individual keyword. While this basic concept is still valid, the specific execution of it has changed quite a bit. As we were working through an analysis and optimization of the Polar RS200 product page, it was clear that it is very difficult to identify a single keyword that was both highly searched and relevant to the content of the page. The primary keywords “heart rate monitor” and “Polar heart rate monitor” have search volumes that are far too high for a small ecommerce site to be competitive, and even if they did achieve high rankings there is no guarantee that the traffic would be highly targeted or result in conversions. A generic term like “heart rate monitor” is also very broad, and could be an indicator search, considering the intent of the user searching for that term is unclear. A term like “buy Polar RS200” is much more targeted, but is not one that a significant number of people are likely to be searching.

On-Page Optimization Techniques

Having a good site structure is very important for on-page optimization. Try to make the pages reachable within 3 clicks from the home page preferably. Having a sitemap which links to all the internal pages can also aid in boosting the rank for the internal pages. Using breadcrumb trails for all the pages on the site is also effective in great site usability and also for the search engines.

URLs for the pages also play a critical role in on-page optimization. Making sure that the URL has static text and not query string parameters is very important. Try to use hyphens to separate the keywords and keep it as short as possible while at the same time describing the page content. This technique goes a long way in determining the success of the on-page optimization for that page.

On-page optimization involves using the keywords in the right places and in the correct density. If the keywords are placed in HEAD, H1 tags, and used in the first paragraph of the copy, the page has a high probability of getting indexed for the keywords used.

Technical SEO Considerations

Technical search engine optimization is concerned with the structure of a website’s code and the way search engine spiders can easily navigate through the site. As search engines are still improving in recognizing dynamic URLs compared to static URLs, it is essential to use such technologies to achieve higher rankings. It may be advantageous and sometimes necessary in certain situations to develop a static rewrite of a page. If this occurs, it is crucial that the dynamic URL is 301 redirected to the static URL. This guarantees that search engines know where old links and spider traps have been eliminated, while also ensuring no traffic or PageRank is lost. Server-side technologies, plugins, and other coding may make your website more visually appealing and functional to developers, but it is important to ensure that your site is both user-friendly and easily accessible to search engine spiders.

Creating High-Quality Content

Content Strategy for Software Companies

Another important thing to note, especially for smaller companies, is that the effectiveness of marketing material can be heavily affected by the image and reputation of the company. For example, a company like Microsoft has already established itself as a leader in the industry and has a large following of customers. Given this situation, Microsoft can get away with more direct promotion of products in their marketing content because their target audience is essentially the consumers of any software product. On the other hand, a smaller company does not have the advantage of a large target audience that is already interested in what they are selling; therefore, their marketing content needs to be much more compelling in order to reach potential customers.

So how do we even define what good marketing content is? There are many possible answers to this question, but the most common theme is that it should be interesting, useful, and relevant to the target audience. Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing software products, this is easier said than done. Software is generally not considered interesting by average consumers, and selling points are typically generic or technical in nature, so it is often difficult for marketers to develop software-related content that is both appealing and targeted.

First off, SEO experts should know that having an informative SEO-driven website is not the same as having a website with good marketing content. Marketing content is there to promote and sell a product to a target audience and is a highly effective way to build relationships with potential customers. With great marketing material, the customer will initiate contact because the proper message was delivered at the right time. A user-initiated action is the perfect time to present the offer of a product free trial or demo, which is essentially the start of the sales process for software products. After this, a follow-up email campaign can be initiated and contact from sales can be made. This is much more effective than the unsolicited approach of going straight for the sale on a website with no prior contact from the potential customer.

Writing SEO-friendly Blog Posts and Articles

The most important and mildly complex aspect to writing SEO friendly articles is constructing a keyword map. You’ll want to assign 1-2 target keywords that a page will be focusing on – these are the keywords you’ll optimize the page for. Next, assign 2-5 relevant keywords – keywords that are similar or an extended version of your target keywords and can be incorporated naturally into the content. Finally, with an open-ended list of LSI keywords (a list of terms you’d like the page to be found for) you can now more easily write an article fitting the criteria of the main on-page optimization basics of writing for both the user and search engines.

During an early stage of a site it can be beneficial to evade non-competitive short-tail keywords and go for the low hanging fruit; longer and less competitive keywords often bring a higher converting traffic. But as your site gains authority you’ll be able to target more competitive search terms.

By default, Google loves long and informative articles. Longer posts will rank more easily, but if you know you are writing on a dry or uninteresting topic, your job is to keep the reader engaged. You should try to mix it up a bit with media, even if it is just a bunch of screenshots.

When you’ve got a list of topics you’d like to cover, you can then research keywords that have a good chance of bringing traffic to the topics, and on a micro level (writing blog posts and articles) the search intent is usually informational, so Google will largely prefer topics where the keyword can be the title.

Ideally, your blog posts and articles should closely match the interests of your target market: these are the topics you’ll want your site to be found for. This requires a bit of strategic common sense, but you can learn a lot about what topics to write about from your own site – a great source of keyword data are the search keywords that brought visitors to your site. Writing about popular topics in your industry, or the kind of how-to content that people have found you through before is a good foundation.

Incorporating Visuals and Multimedia

In the modern age of the internet, attention spans are decreasing and people want information rapidly. For this reason, a growing trend in SEO is turning towards incorporating multimedia and visual content into an article. In many cases, using multimedia can improve the reader’s understanding of the text. Anything that is hard to explain in words can often be explained much better with a simple picture. Moreover, elements such as images and videos can improve an article’s credibility and professionalism when done correctly. Images and graphs from reliable sources can add to the supporting evidence of an article, and having a professional-looking video can show that a company means business. Like everything in SEO, incorporating multimedia is a strategy that needs to be done in an intelligent way to achieve the best results. Step one is to think about whether the article actually needs multimedia to improve it. Articles with simple topics might be better just being left as text, and multimedia can sometimes detract from a complex article when it is portraying the wrong message. Once it is decided that an article does need multimedia, it is important it is added with relevance in a way that improves the article, not just for the sake of it. Lastly, it is important to remember the SEO aspects of the multimedia. Images should always have an alt attribute with relevant keywords to the article for image searches, and it might be an idea to submit a video sitemap to Google, allowing the video to bring traffic from universal search.

Off-Page SEO and Link Building

A strategy for a software company is to seek out the competition, yet it is not a head-to-head market arrogance play where companies are constantly battling it out to be the best. When a software company analyzes competition in the same market, they can determine which companies have more authority and trust and look at studying their backlinking. An effective tool to use is the Yahoo Site Explorer. By typing in the URL of the competition’s website, you can see all the backlinks pointing to it. This, in turn, opens opportunities to seek out the same backlinks to pass on authority and trust to your website. It is important to note that even though a backlink may lead to a good opportunity, it is not beneficial to spam the same anchor text or build backlinks too quickly. This is something similar to the scenario where a student cramming for an exam, hoping to learn and retain the knowledge yet rush it all off before the test. The student probably won’t remember as much compared to studying over a period of time. In this case, it is best to gradually build backlinks using a diverse range of anchor text, and doing so will increase organic rankings.

In the world of SEO and link building, the concepts of trust and authority are still prevalent for software companies to obtain high organic rankings. An effective strategy for software companies is utilizing the market of potential prospects and sitter looking for critical software to replace their outdated run-of-the-mill system. These prospects have a problem and your software just may be the solution for what they seek. When looking at the consumer aspect seeking out software, typically they are seeking one that is reliable, has a good reputation, and will solve the problem at hand. Therefore, this is where trust and authority play a critical role in providing confidence in your software to the prospects. In addition, obtaining backlinks from trusted and authority sites in the same market can, in turn, pass on trust and authority to your software company website.

Building Backlinks for Software Companies

Reaching out to and obtaining linkbacks from high-quality domains is a central aspect of off-page SEO. However, building an effective backlink campaign is a laborious and delicate task. It is important for software companies to take the time to thoroughly research and make judgments on potential linkback sources. The relevance of a linked site is a key factor; a software company who has created an educational math game to help young children learn addition should seek and ensure that obtained linkbacks come from a site related to education and not from a site related to online gaming. The methods in which linkbacks are built can make or break an off-page SEO campaign. Linkbacks that are bought will likely be removed or no-followed by the linked site upon detection by search engines. White hat link building methods such as producing relevant and well-written content are strongly advised. Writing articles to be featured on ezines, creating informative videos, and running webinars can all seed both interest and backlinks from various sources. Finally, tracking and managing linkbacks and the corresponding anchor text is a necessary final step to the off-page SEO process. A record of all successfully acquired links should be kept and monitored to ensure they are not removed or changed. Anchor text is part of a growing movement towards semantic search and can have a strong impact on search ranking. A mixture of anchor text types is desirable, and it is good practice to occasionally vary the requested anchor text for a link from the same source.

Guest Blogging and Influencer Outreach

Blogging is a great way to spread information about a product to a wider audience. By producing high-quality blog content for other sites, software companies can significantly boost their referral traffic, potentially resulting in increased downloads and conversions. It’s important to remember that building links through guest blogging is not a numbers game but rather a game of producing high-quality content and forming long-term relationships. Guest blogging done right can yield great results, whereas the wrong approach can be a waste of time and have damaging effects on your brand. The wrong approach would be seen as submitting low-quality content to as many blogs as possible in order to get as many links back to your site as possible. This black hat technique is not beneficial in the long run and could potentially damage your brand. Instead, concentrate on forming relationships with higher authority sites in your niche and offer to write content for them. High-quality blog content on authoritative sites can, in effect, build your brand’s image and send referral traffic of higher amounts of potential customers. This, in turn, can increase your software’s conversion rate and attract more customers than your direct traffic at a lower cost. Building relationships and creating high-quality content is the key to success in guest blogging. Influencer outreach within the software industry, although it should be approached with caution, has the potential to significantly increase downloads and conversions. An industry influencer is someone that has authority in a certain industry and is able to influence other people’s purchasing decisions due to their knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience. This could be anyone from the CEO of a software company to a blogger or analyst. Getting an industry influencer to endorse your product and having them spread the word through their network can be very powerful and achieve results relative to the influencer’s authority and the quality of the product endorsed. The caution in influencer outreach lies in ensuring that you are endorsing a high-quality product. If the influencer’s audience has a bad experience with a low-grade product, it is possible that the influencer could receive backlash and damage their own image or relationship with their audience. A successful endorsement from an industry influencer would build the image of a software brand and send traffic of pre-sold customers at a higher rate than any other method.

Lead Generation for SaaS Companies

Effective SaaS lead generation is crucial for SaaS companies aiming to drive downloads and conversions. By leveraging SEO strategies, SaaS companies can attract highly targeted traffic to their websites, ultimately converting visitors into leads. This involves optimizing content around specific keywords that potential customers use during their research phase, ensuring that your solution appears prominently in search results. Additionally, creating valuable, informative content such as blog posts, whitepapers, and case studies can establish authority and trust, encouraging visitors to provide their contact information in exchange for these resources. Integrating strong call-to-actions (CTAs) and offering free trials or demos can further entice visitors to engage with your product, thereby increasing the likelihood of conversion from a lead to a paying customer. By focusing on these SEO-driven lead generation tactics, SaaS companies can effectively grow their user base and drive sustainable business growth.

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