A Chicago-based SaaS SEO agency

Okay—so you're about to start working with a SaaS SEO agency to amplify your search marketing efforts. Your team has a budget to start an SEO campaign (let's call it anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 per month) but you have no idea on where to start...

Well, perfect. Read this before you start with any other service—because our experience failing at this will help you succeed. And cut through the noise of all the classic SEO services that might not actually work for you.

Before we start, our own experience with this...

SaaS marketing can be tough—there's a lot of tools out there! Especially if you're targeting evergreen subjects. Let's take for example, an evergreen niche of time management and project management.

These tools still bring in a wonderful amount of revenue. But there's at least 50 different time tracking SaaS solutions on the market.

Well, we were one of these companies—a highly saturated area. But a great piece of software. Our first attempt (back in 2013) brought us to very cheap link building services. We're talking $50/m cheap.

Our thought about this was... well, SEO is just a mediocre channel for us. We're pretty sophisticated with digital marketing and at the time—Facebook audiences was all anyone cared about.

Once we started those services, we fell further into this trap of "it doesn't work" (SEO—that is). Our conviction for it dropped.

And ultimately, our rankings dropped as well—since, well... We worked with an out of the box service provider that had no idea what they were doing.

Flash forward 8-years, looking at best-in-class companies...

It really wasn't until years later that I started to look at companies like HubSpot and G2 as prime examples of how SEO could be done correctly.

Both companies raised a significant sum of capital and scaled their businesses to what they are today (there's zero chance you've not heard of either G2 or HubSpot—and that's what the power of SEO can do).

Don't take my word for it, let's look at their explosive growth:

HubSpot.com and their organic search growth
G2.com and their organic search growth

Envy sunk in... And it took our team about 3-years to really dig in and figure out what Google was trying to do with their search engine. And how SEO plays a role in this.

For SaaS companies—organic traffic and non-branded SEO (people who are searching for things that aren't your company directly) play a major role in influencing all of your marketing channels and marketing strategies. Don't make our mistake of treating the channel like it's subpar to others.

Let's dig into what you should know before you work with any SEO agencies or SEO specialists (who are still "hustling" most of the traditional search engine optimization strategies).

What the top SaaS SEO agencies can do for you

The very top SEO agencies will focus on a select few things to create a winning SEO strategy. It's not link building services, I can tell you that! If you're seeing this being hustled left and right—walk away!

New, high-quality content that's highly informative

When I say "new"—I mean, bringing new insights into the ecosystem of the internet. And that helps link building. Primarily, when you become a thought leader in the space that you're in, other companies reference these materials.

And link building happens quite naturally. Especially if you're bringing new insights like marketing statistics, industry statistics, or other informative content.

This is why link building SHOULD NOT be a primary goal. Rather, running research studies alongside partner firms (or within existing audiences or customer bases that you already have) and promoting those new insights.

That's what we do—primarily, we work alongside companies like Nielsen and invest the time and dollars to become true thought leaders in the space we're targeting.

Not only does this show high domain-expertise—which is a strong influencer in the customer's decision to work with you (think MQL's or Marketing Qualified Leads) and brand awareness (branded searches—usually, where your paid search marketing is focused).

Some "old" SEO tactics still work

Sure, some old tactics still work. For example, it's still very important to but together a list of relevant keywords that have the ideal customer profile (or ICP) of the person we're targeting. But in reality, Google is working way differently today (at least in 2023)—where new insights are still going to surface to the top of the list. But with the same search intent behind the article.

Thinking through search intent

Sounds obvious—but it's worthy of a quick explanation...

Let's presume these are the search results:
  • Best Lawn Maintenance Software
  • 15 Best Tools for your Lawn Care Company
  • 25 Best SaaS Tools for Lawn Care
  • Growing a Lawn Care Company (+25 Best Tools!)

That last result is the same search intent as the others on the list, but it has a slightly different approach to the subject matter. We can see this happen most frequently in entertainment content.

The best SaaS SEO agency will keep a pulse on how Google interprets intent. Because it's always changing. More and more people put questions into Google—we really don't have to prove this because you've probably done it yourself!

And with that—comes a change in how search engine optimization works and adapting to what your target audience is looking for—and how they're looking for it.

Technical SEO and whether it still works

Technical SEO still works. Using technical SEO audits to identify "easy wins" is still a great strategy. For example, making sure pages have proper meta descriptions and titles. And ensuring that there's a correct internal linking strategy as part of the website.

Yes—these still work. And that's because the way that search engine crawlers work hasn't really changed. Most SaaS SEO experts will agree—you'll need to make sure a few components of your website are in place before you can really start to scale.

Those would include:
  • A proper sitemap (helps Google crawlers find your content)
  • Optimized page titles and meta descriptions to search intent
  • Internal linking structure (helps Google understand topics, subject matter, and ultimately—builds you as an authority in the space because you comprehend that Subject A is related to Subject B).

Are we seeing the patterns, here—even from the technical SEO work—it's about establishing your SaaS company as an authority in the space that you're focused on. Once again, much similar to what G2 and HubSpot did for marketing and software vendors.

This is great—but let's talk about what exactly the difference is between old and new SEO strategies

We've covered a few of the "good old things" that still work. Notice, I didn't really talk too much about link building (remember, impactful and almost 'viral' content will always bring in more links than simply reaching out to 1000's of people—in fact, there might not even be 1000's of people to reach out to—but I digress).

Google search console and how CTR are always dropping

If you're really putting together a comprehensive SaaS SEO strategy—here's what you should know:

  1. CTR is dropping: Click through rates are always dropping. And they have been within Google for a historical amount of time. Google is devouring more and more organic traffic. And with the dawn of SGE (Search Generative Experience), we will see this happen even more. Pull open Google Search Console for yourself and look at the click-through rates. Typically, you'll see anywhere from 0.5% to 3% from what you're getting in organic search visibility (or impressions). That's pretty low!
  2. Search intent is ever evolving: We've already covered this, but it's critical to remember that search intent is always changing—meaning, what works today might not work tomorrow.
  3. Google is the only place you need to be: Anyone who has scoured through Google Analytics will know—no other search engines really matter. Any SEO team that tells you otherwise, isn't well informed.
  4. Your SEO strategy should influence other marketing channels (omni-channel): Any B2B SaaS company probably has a comprehensive retargeting tactic built into their tactics. A great SEO agency will know how to recycle those visitors into other channels (like LinkedIn, Facebook, and more).

All of this is to come to a couple of key conclusions that you should know about before your marketing team jumps into this...

You won't be able to win on a small budget

With all of the above, you're not going to win and dominate the market with 30 blog posts. That's just not going to cut it.

In fact, in order to have become a true authority in your space, you might have to cover hundreds or potentially thousands of relevant topics in your space. This is called topical authority. And it's a very real thing.

A small budget, won't get you there. SaaS companies that are looking to take this seriously should consider the cost of partnering with market research agencies, US-based and authoritative writers (usually, people who know the space their writing about), and much more.

What type of budget we're talking about...

While we can only speculate... A company like G2 or even HubSpot, probably put about $1.5M (per annum) into their organic traffic acquisition strategies. They most likely partnered with an SEO agency (we don't know which) to guide the team.

And they most likely took a very long-term picture for their forecasted growth projections (1 to 5 years for total ROAS or to get a comprehensive ROI).

We can certainly help you to model this out. Our team has a comprehensive way of determining market value of SEO. And it's not just looking at keyword research—rather, the pace of growth of your industry and how you can grow alongside that expected return on GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

In general, we always suggest to target about $100,000 per year, per SaaS business you're trying to grow. This is more than enough to see early results from any SEO efforts and then take the return on that digital marketing strategy and reapply it to the business.

We're going to need a lot of content

We've discussed changing intent in search. Well, here's the trick—when we have 100s if not 1,000s of pieces of high-quality content (queue the link building strategy baked into this!) when search intent does change—we often see one page swapped for the other.

This is the biggest change that has happened in the SEO industry—basically, the requirements to get into the game and what it might cost.

Any marketing team will know this is pretty common—even in paid search, the more players there are in the game, the higher the CPC bids will drive upward, and the cost of running the business gets more sophisticated. This is happening in search, too.

How much content we're really talking about...

A key SaaS SEO growth strategy should be building out a topical authority map (essentially, all the questions that your ideal customer profile is looking to get answered) and a comprehensive way of scaling into thousands of pieces of content.

It's about quality and scale. And that's what other SaaS SEO services fail to do. We have plenty of example of how other services are going to fail you based on the fact that they repurpose the same writing team for different niches. And don't think holistically about the space they're entering.

The ROI for SaaS businesses

Presume everything is in place—a great search engine marketing strategy, SEO strategy, and even conversion rate optimization that's happened on the SaaS website... Okay, so everything is in place.

The question becomes—is it worth it for SaaS companies to invest all of this time into this?

Well, yes.. And here's why—where else are your target customers going to learn about you? Sure, you can do other forms of traditional marketing (mailers, TV campaigns, and other marketing channels that still work).

But at the end of the day, when someone goes to the internet to get a question answered within the industry that you service—you're building an incredible amount of trust.

That trust might not have immediate return. For example, that person who lands on your website might not immediately book to become a lead. But over time, they're going to want to use your software because you know the most about the industry and the space.

The goal is to truly become a thought leader. And not to just simply drive MQLs. I can prove this.

Think about your own path to making decisions...

Think about the last time that you signed up for a service that wasn't driven by word-of-mouth (exclude things like Hulu, for example). Think about how that company was discovered...

Most likely, your channel development went something like this:

  1. Searched the internet for a question that you had.
  2. Scoured through search engine results for something that looked like it could answer your question.
  3. Got your question answered and saw a new company name.
  4. Left and went about your business.
  5. Thought about that question that you had once more (maybe shared it with a friend or coworker).
  6. Went back to that business or website.
  7. Investigated what they offered.
  8. Told internal colleagues about the software or looked up reviews.
  9. Signed up to get a demo or became a trial user.

This fits with the SaaS marketing funnel that you're accustomed to when you think about retargeting. The "cold reach" is the first part—then the retargeted reach is usually what has the most return.

Any SaaS SEO companies that aren't thinking in this way—should be avoided, in our very strong opinion.

Statistics that you probably know, but still reign to be true...

  1. Organic search traffic dominates: Organic search traffic typically accounts for a significant portion of website traffic for SaaS companies. On average, organic search can drive over 50% of total website traffic.
  2. Keyword targeting is vital: Keyword research and optimization remain fundamental for SEO success in the SaaS industry. Approximately 70-80% of all clicks in search engine results go to organic results, with the majority coming from the first page of search results. Therefore, targeting the right keywords is crucial.
  3. Mobile optimization is critical: With the increasing use of mobile devices, mobile optimization is essential for SaaS companies. Google's mobile-first indexing means that Google primarily uses the mobile version of the content for ranking and indexing. Over 50% of searches are now conducted on mobile devices.
  4. Content marketing wins against all else: SaaS companies that regularly publish high-quality, informative content tend to perform better in SEO. Companies that blog generate 97% more inbound links, which can boost their search engine rankings. Additionally, long-form content (over 1,000 words) tends to rank higher in search results.
  5. Local SEO is still very relevant: For SaaS companies targeting specific geographic areas or regions, local SEO is important. Around 46% of Google searches have local intent, meaning people are looking for local businesses or services. Optimizing for local SEO, including creating and maintaining a Google My Business profile, can be a competitive advantage.

Choosing the best SaaS SEO company...

Yes, okay—here comes our pitch...

You're a sophisticated marketer. Look, if you reach out to us—you're not going to talk to an advisor. You're not going to get a "free analysis," what you'er going to get is one of us—one of the founders of this business.

And we're going to talk to you like a real person. We want to know what's working, what's not working, and how we might be able to fit in.

This includes, talking to us about which companies you've tried in the past and how that's worked and how that's failed.

We'll show you our proven track record of creating results through content marketing—and how the increase in online visibility turned into an effective SEO strategy... but we'll still come at this from the angle of—you're a real person and we're real people, too. Let's help each other.

You can reach out to us for:

  • Comprehensive SaaS SEO strategy.
  • SEO forecasting and analytics.
  • Technical search engine optimization analysis and implementation (yes, our engineering team will fix what we see).
  • Content optimization (sometimes referred to as on-page SEO) and scaled content marketing.
  • And much, much more.

Head over here and start increasing your search rankings!

Insights prepared by Joshua Davis — VP of Platform
Updated: September 11th, 2023

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