Yours Free: A Step-By-Step Case Study on Growing a Bootstrapped SaaS to $10mm ARR.
In this guide, you’re going to learn the exact strategy that we used to grow our saas site, Time Doctor, from 0 to 168,000 organic visitors per month.
So let’s dive right in.
Before getting started with any SEO content strategy, you’re going to want to run a quick technical SEO audit.
Technical SEO is often an overlooked part of most marketing implementation strategies.
This doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds.
To do a technical SEO audit, you can simply use Google Search Console to get started.
For instance, in the “Coverage Report”, there are 8 pages with errors.
And when I dig a bit deeper, I can see that 4 of those pages are redirect errors.
Definitely something that I’m going to want to get fixed.
Another report in Google Search Console that I like is the “Core Web Vitals” report.
It turns out that this report is showing that I have quite a few pages that are having long load times (>4 seconds).
This is something I’m going to want to invest some time in fixing in order to improve my rankings.
Saas SEO Strategy
Now that you have some of your technical issues solved, it’s time to build your saas seo strategy.
Your saas seo strategy is going to be built around the three layers of your marketing funnel:
- Bottom of the funnel content
- Middle of the funnel content
- Top of the funnel content
When creating an SEO for your saas, you need to consider two things.
Thing 1: What type of content will attract people who need your product?
Thing 2: What type of content will convert your audience into user?
Once you’ve answered these two questions, you can then create the necessary content to fill out the three levels of your content funnel.
Bottom of the funnel
Whenever I begin a new SEO campaign for a saas, I always start by creating content at the bottom of the funnel.
These posts aren’t going to bring in the highest volume of traffic, but they will bring in the most qualified traffic of people interested in your MVP vs POC.
People searching for this type of content have their credit card out of their wallet and are ready to buy right now.
Best Category Posts
Let’s say a prospective customer is for a timesheet software.
And they’re not really sure where to start looking.
One of the first things they might do is Google “best timesheet software”
So you can create a blog post called “Best Timesheet Software Tools”.
And simply put your tool first on the list.
The next type of post that you can create is comparing your app to your competitor’s app.
A person who’s ready to buy might be thinking: “Which app should I get, App A or App B? Let me do some comparison research.”
At Time Doctor, one of our biggest competitors is a company called Hubstaff.
One of our most successful blog posts is a post called Timedoctor vs. Hubstaff.
We provide an honest, in depth review, of both apps so people can judge for themselves which is better.
The last bottom of the funnel post I want to talk about is the “Alternatives post”.
If you’re in a space with a large, well funded, big named competitor, this is the best way to syphon users away from them.
For instance, the 800 pound gorilla is our space is Toggl. So, we’ve created post called Toggl alternatives.
Middle of the funnel
After you’ve gotten your traffic engine going with the bottom of the funnel posts, you can get started in the middle of the funnel posts.
These are posts that help people solve a problem that your
How to Posts
Time Doctor is a productivity tool for remote teams.
So, a lot of our middle of the funnel posts center around “how to be more productive”.
For instance, this guide “Employee Productivity Tracking Guide” talks about how to help your employees be more productive.
Now, one of the things we do mention in this guide is using Time Doctor as a strategy to help your team be more productive.
So a person arrives at this post looking for a way to make employees more productive, not necessarily to buy an app - even though we are able to feature our app in the post.
Top of the funnel
Top of the funnel posts are those that help your audience solve a problem, but don’t really have anything to do with the actual software itself.
These posts tend to drive the most traffic, but usually require a lead nurturing sequence
Industry Insider Posts
The most used type of post that I use for the top of the funnel is what I call the “industry insider post”.
This is an all encompassing term that I use to describe a post that talks to your ideal audience about your industry, but doesn’t really sell your product in a meaningful way.
For instance, our product helps entrepreneurs manage virtual teams.
So we have a post all about virtual team building activities and a virtual happy hour gif.
This post requires an email sequence to nurture someone who is searching for “virtual team building activities” to buy a productivity app.
Now that you have an overall strategy and understand where your content is going to fit into your content funnel, it’s time to identify some keywords.
One of the easiest, and most popular ways to find keywords is to steal your competitor’s keywords.
Caveat: There are going to be keywords that your competitor ranks for that simply don’t make sense for your business. Heck, it might not make sense for their business. So, don’t just blindly steal the keywords, make sure they fit with what you’re trying to do.
Steal Your Competitor’s Keywords
I’m going to show you how to do this in Ahrefs. But you can use Moz, Ubersuggest, SEMRush or any number of tools to do this.
Step 1: Identify your competition
The first thing that you should do is identify your competition.
This is going to be apps that you directly compete with as well as websites that are in your same industry.
For instance, my friend Robin used to run a site called ManyPixels.com. They are a design service. While they may not compete with Adobe for customers, they will compete with Adobe for ranking keywords in the design space.
I would identify 10-20 competitors to start with before moving on to step 2.
Step 2: Enter domain into a tool like Ahrefs
Once you’ve determined your competitors, you just enter the domain into the domain evaluation tool. (Again, this is called something different in every app you use.)
For us, we’ll enter in our competitor Hubstaff.
And what we’re looking for are the organic keywords that they have indexed.
Hubstaff has 129,000 organic keywords. So we’re bound to find a good topic.
Step 3: Filter by difficulty and search volume
Once you click the organic keyword link, it’s time to apply some filters.
Three filters that I like to use are:
- Search volume: I set the minimum number of searches per month to 250.
- Keyword Difficulty: I am trying to find easy keywords to rank for. So I set the difficulty to something that is fairly easy. In Ahrefs, that’s about 20 or so.
- Exclude Branded Terms: Finally, I’ve excluded all keywords that are branded “hubstaff”. For instance “hubstaff login” or “hubstaff pricing”.
Step 4: Which keywords work for your saas?
After we apply these filters, we can start to see which keywords work for our saas.
And right off the bat we got a bit lucky.
The first one on the list is “Remote Work Software”.
That’s literally what Time Doctor is. A remote work software.
Seems like a great post to start with.
If you’re new to SEO, SERP stands for “Search Engine Results Page”. Basically, it’s the first page of Google.
There’s a saying in boxing:
“If you wanna beat the champ, you have to knock him out.”
Same is true with SEO.
If you want to rank higher than the incumbent, then you need to create content that is better than what is already ranking.
And a SERP analysis is the best way to do that.
A while back, we wrote a post about “online collaboration tools”.
Let’s take a look at the SERPs for online collaboration tools.
As you can see, there are lists of 20 tools, 9 tools, 24 tools, etc.
Zooming in on each post, you can see that these posts are no joke:
Many of the posts have images associated with each of the tools. All of the posts have a review or write-up.
One of the posts has a table of contents.
And each of them are really well done.
Now, we could have done what any newbie blogger would have done and wrote a post called “Top 10 Online Collaboration tools” and acquired as many links as possible.
But getting a post that is basically exactly like the others will make it harder to rank first… (and that’s where we want to be… first!)
So, in order to make my content better, we implemented 4 key features. (Brian Dean calls this the Skyscraper Technique):
Feature 1: Made a list of 50 tools, more than double what was the previously highest list of tool. Creating a longer list is one way to clearly improve upon what is already ranking.
Feature 2: Wrote a comprehensive review of each tool. This doesn’t exactly make our post better as each of the other posts has a write up as well. However, we like to think our post is more comprehensive.
Our post is over 4,000 words. Just a word of caution: Longer doesn’t necessarily mean better, but more comprehensive does.
Feature 3: We categorized the types of collaboration tools and added a little table of contents at the beginning of the article. Adding this feature helps improve our user experience. Since only one of the posts in the top ten had a table of contents, this was something we could easily add to improve it.
Feature 4: We added images to each tool. Again, this doesn’t exactly make our posts better, it simply keeps up with the status quo of what is already ranking.
On their own, these four features that we added to the post don’t make it better.
For instance, a longer list post without a write up or review of each post won’t make a great post.
Nor will adding images without increasing the number of tools we write about make it a great post?
However, the sum of all four of these features together make this a powerful post for both search engines and humans.
In some less competitive industries, on page seo is a cherry on the cake.
You write a great piece of content that’s better than what’s already ranking. You promote that content and get a few links, and your on page one.
Optimizing the post will be the thing that gets you into the top 3.
That’s not the case here.
If we didn’t do some basic On Page SEO, I don’t think we’d ever make it on the first page?
Because all the other posts are both well written and optimized.
Here are a few ways that we optimized this post to make sure it makes it to the first page.
Believe it or not, we didn’t always have clean URL’s.
I wasn’t going to even mention this because I think it’s common knowledge. Until I remembered that we used to have url’s with all kinds of dates and extra words.
By clean URL, I mean that the suffix of the page or post contains the main keyword that you’re trying to rank for.
In this case, it’s “online-collaboration-tools”.
Keyword in the Title
Adding your keyword in the beginning of the title or “h1” of your post will help search engines know exactly what your post is about.
Who wants to read outdated posts?
I sure as hell do not. And I’m guessing you don’t either.
That’s why we make sure that this post is always current. The title tag of this post always has the current month and year ensuring that
the title always remains relevant to people searching for the keyword online marketing tools.
Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Install and Activate Yoast SEO on your blog if you’re using WordPress.
Step 2: Below your post, you’ll see Yoast SEO. Click on the “Keyword” tab.
Step 3: Click Edit snippet and type in your headline (or whatever you want people to read when they search for). Be sure to include your keyword in your title.
Step 4: to put the current month in the title simply add “%%currentmonth%%. To put the current year in the title add “%%currentyear%%”.
Now your title will automatically change with the month and year making sure your post is relevant to readers no matter when they search for it. 🙂
This will give you a significant boost in click through rates and help your rankings!
Your meta description is the blurb below your title and url that describes your post.
If you don’t fill this out, Google will do it for you, grabbing the first few sentences of your post without regard to what the text actually says.
This is a mistake as your meta description can help make the difference in ranking your post higher… especially in a competitive industry.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: In Yoast SEO, click edit snippet.
Step 2: Go down to the meta description and add between 50-300 characters to describe your post. Make sure that your keyword is toward the beginning of the description.
Now that you have a fully optimized article that will help you get users for your Saas, it’s time to build some links so it ranks.
There are several ways to get links for your article, but I’m going to share two of my favorites: Guest Posting and stealing competitor backlinks.
Guest posting works great because it’s a way to add value to the person with whom you’re trying to acquire a link.
So, here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Find a blog to write your post
So, the easiest way to find a blog to write for is to use Google.
You can simply enter the terms:
- “Name of niche” and “guest blogger”
- “Name of niche” and “write for us”
- “Name of niche” and “guest writer”
And you’ll wind up with dozens, if not hundreds, of blogs who are accepting guest posts.
For instance, if I type in “Marketing” and “write for us”, I get pages and pages of blogs looking for guest posts:
Step 2: Pitch the editor
Now that I’ve found a blog to write for, it’s time to pitch the editor.
The first thing I do is look for blog posts that have been successful and come up with an idea around how to spin a new angle.
For instance, if I notice a blog post called “10 ways to nurture leads” gets a lot of shares and comments, then I might do something like “A Case Study on How I Nurture Leads”. (Totally made up and a bad example, perhaps, but you get the point. I’d write my article around lead nurturing.)
Then, I’d pitch them using this script.
And it works almost all of the time!
Quick Note: Make sure that you include a link back to your article in the body of the post, not just the author bio. Google tends to give more weight to body links than bio links.
“Steal” Your Competitor’s Links
We’ve always called this strategy stealing our competitor’s links, however, I don’t know if we’ve ever once actually stolen one of their links.
Typically what happens is that the blog puts on the site along side of our competitor. The thinking is: if the person was linking to your competitor, then there is a chance that they’ll also link to you.
Either way, here’s how it works:
(Note: I’m going to show you how to do this in Ahrefs. However, you can also do this using a tool like Ubersuggest, which is free.)
Step 1: Identify Your Competitors
In the Keyword Explorer, you want to enter in the key word for which you’re trying to rank. In our case it would be Timesheet Template.
Then scroll to the bottom of the page and see who’s ranking in the top 10.
This will give you a list of all of your “competitor’s” who are ranking on the first page in Google. If you want to identify even more competitors because you need more people to link to, you can just click show more. This will give you the top 100 or so sites.
Step 2: Filter the Domains
Now we want to see who is linking to these pages. In the domain’s column, you’ll see the the number of domains that are linking to these pages. (These numbers are clickable.)
Click on the the first number to bring up a list of domains. And use the filter in the top left corner to see only the “dofollow” links.
Step 3: Export the Domains
Now it’s time to Export the domains into a spreadsheet. This will make it easier to add to a bulk email finder, if that’s the route you want to go.
Otherwise, you can find the email addresses manually.
Step 4: Email people asking for a link.
Now it’s time to email people. We are constantly testing this template out to improve it. So instead of showing you an exact script, I’ll give you an idea of what’s working for us right now.
Subject: A better resource for your post
I came across your (post name). I liked the part where you mentioned (insert thing you liked)
I also noticed that you were linking to (competitor post name).
I think we may have a better resource for you.
Would you like me to send it over for you?
Like I said, this is sort of a template we’re using. Not a script. A few things to notice:
- We want to show people we’re reading the posts. And we want to customize it right up front. Again, we’re creating templates and not cookie cutter scripts. I get pitched so many times by cookie cutter scripts that I can spot them a mile away.
- We list the reasons why our post is better. Hey, we worked hard on our post… we should point that out!
- We didn’t go in for the hard ask right away. We ask people if they’d like to see the post.
This strategy doesn’t work nearly as well as it used to, but it can still be effective.
Now it’s your turn
Now that you have the strategy to grow your Saas SEO, it’s time to execute.
Start by doing a quick technical seo audit.
Then lay out your saas seo strategy by thinking about the different levels of your content funnel.
Steal your competitor’s keywords to get some content ideas.
Then optimize your content.
And finally build some links.
Do this consistently and before you know it, your SaaS will get 100,000 organic visitors per month and you will become a SaaS SEO Expert.