When I work with a B2B SaaS Company, I always need to build a team of contributing writers. I like to start with the top keywords that we focus on...
A guide to SEO for CEOs in SaaS
A highly technical topic, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential aspect of gaining visibility and rankings in a world that looks at you mostly through a digital search filter.
But to keep it simple, we've created this guide, SEO for CEOs, to cover what's important to know as a company leader looking to improve your organization's online presence.
Starting with the basics: Why SEO?
During the commercial journey of B2B SaaS purchases, your prospects typically begin with an online search. When people need a solution, their first instinct is to ask a search engine on their nearest device. In these scenarios, on-page SEO brings your website content into visibility and, when done correctly, your ideal customer persona (ICP) can easily find your content and offerings.
84% of search traffic contains individuals searching for solutions, showing how prospects enter into the inbound marketing funnel. Looking at your product or services through the eyes of a digital filter can be challenging, and may not be as straight a line as it seems.
What shows up 'on Google's search engine results page (SERP) through your device is filtered through an algorithm that crawls across all digital content. If you’re not showing up correctly or consistently, your potential prospects will miss out. This happens when the algorithm can't index or recognize your content's similarity with the search terms entered.
The CEO's role in SEO
Search engine optimization usually falls within the responsibilities of the your Marketing leader. As the CEO of a B2B SaaS company though, you also play a role in making this the right focus. Consider challenging your team in these 5 areas:
- Focus on your personas. Understanding, defining and enforcing a laser-clear ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and the personas who make up the buyers journey is key to any SEO success. As the CEO, you can "pressure test" if your team is clear on the relevant pain points, fears and dreams and questions your audience asks as they go through the journey. This will be core to create valuable content. Make sure your team aligns keywords with a high intent to take an action with the right persona, and where they are in the buyer's funnel.
- Provide value. Google will decide how to rank your organic content depending on relevance to your readers. Start by focusing on what your ICP's fears and dreams are, not with the more technical side of SEO like competitive density or share of voice. What are the questions they ask that you can answer? Push your content team to strategically align each piece of content's focus with your ICP to ensure that you're answering a relevant question. It never hurts to take a step back and reassess who your content is for, what it's for, and if you're actually creating something of value (rather than adding to the noise).
- Value first, format second. Writing is a finnicky subject and different stakeholders will have different preferences surrounding style, tone, and formatting. Don't get too bogged down with the technicalities behind the writing and instead focus on creating high-value content that's relevant for your ICP. If you answer an important question for your audience, they will not care as much about style, formatting, or even grammar and spelling. As long as you are adding value.
- Publish everything. Inspiration is everywhere (if you're looking for it). Turn your conversations with coworkers, emails with clients, and questions from your chatbot into content. If you find yourself answering a question in email that could be relevant to others, consider turning it into a blog. Do the same with answers you provide an a slack channel with multiple people, if the answer could be relevant for others. If you're addressing a valid question in a fresh way, Google's algorithms will do the work for you. If you by mistake publish something that is not as relevant, Google will probably not show it in the results often, so you're fine.
- Measure your performance. Ask your team how your organic content is performing. Frequently. Inspect what you expect. Good metrics to monitor include pageviews, form submissions/new contacts, time on page, and CTA clicks. Notice what's working with your ICP and improve what's not. If you're not currently tracking your content marketing efforts, download our free content marketing dashboard:
Measure the impact of your content marketing
Download our content marketing metrics template to set up your own personalized dashboard and start measuring success.
As a leader within your organization and your marketing function, expect your CMO to be a 'T-shaped' marketer with a wide range of experience and familiarity across the different functions of marketing. A strong understanding of SEO is highly useful, and can drive long-term growth and success for your SaaS organization.
Now, let's dive into the different tools that elevate SEO for marketing professionals at B2B SaaS companies or B2B SaaS Marketing Agencies.
Top SEO tools of 2021
There are a variety of available SEO tools that do the hard work for you. These SEO tools will conduct an audit of your entire website, saving you time and effort. Here are some tried-and-true SEO offerings within this category:
These tools crawl your website and uncover any issues blocking SEO visibility, allowing you to focus on specific issues that can be considered low-hanging fruit for your teams to target.
Keyword research tools
We use Semrush for our SEO operations. Although Google is still a good way to conduct research on specific keywords, Semrush shows useful metrics to consult during your keyword selection process to ensure your marketing performs as desired.
For example, when you type in B2B SaaS CMO or B2B SaaS marketing agencies in Semrush, the results look like the following image:
And, as a successful SEO strategy promises, Kalungi shows up on the first page of google for B2B SaaS CMO and the second page for B2B SaaS marketing agencies.
But what if you have an extremely niche market and can’t find relevant keywords?
These SEO tools don’t track every keyword, and sometimes when you have keywords with no data, you’ll need to manually add them in. Once you’ve added those keywords or a combination of keywords into Semrush, you’ll be on your way to uncovering data as you create content.
Three types of keywords to track
Publishing candid, creative and helpful content is a great start,. Next, sprinkle in powerful keywords throughout your content to ensure it aligns with your business strategy and your prospects can easily find it online.
There are three types of keywords you should focus on: branded, non-branded and high-intent keywords.
1. Branded keywords
Branded keywords refer to when you’re adding your brand's name into the search term, as well as the type of product or solution your business provides. For example, when you type in [your company’s name] + software into your SEO tool, you’ll see results or “branded keyword phrases” that indicate the number of people that know about your product.
Doing this informs you about your “brand’s awareness”, and how often that specific keyword is searched for. Over time, make sure to compare the differences in your branded keywords’ search volumes to see how your brand awareness evolves over time.
These are extremely important keywords to rank for because when a prospect types in the name of your brand and software (or your product name), you want to make sure you’re showing up at a higher search position than your competitors.
Next, we’ll explain the uses and benefits of leveraging non-branded keywords.
2. Non-branded keywords
The purpose of non-branded keywords goes hand-in-hand with marketing demand generation. These keywords strive to bring awareness to the solution people are looking for, and that your company offers. It’s vital to show up on google search results for keywords that tie into your solution or services, as this enables your company to compete within your relevant industry.
For example, if your B2B SaaS product provides services for Accounts Payable (AP) automation, you’d want to show up on the first page of keyword variations or combinations that tie into AP automation, such as “optical character recognition” or “AP KPIs”.
Whatever solution you provide, you need to ensure that the right phrases fit squarely into the value proposition(s) you provide to fulfill your customers needs. These keywords should have a level of intent behind them, which tells you that people are looking for your specific solution.
3. High-intent, niche keywords for B2B SaaS companies
Lastly, you want to make note of niche keyword combinations that signal high purchasing intent. If you target keywords such as “AP automation software options” or “AP automation software alternatives,” it tells you that your audience is signaling buying intent and are looking for features or comparing options.
When selecting niche keywords, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about the intent of the searcher and what stage they’re in within the buyer’s journey.
Now that we’ve gone over keywords and their importance, let’s cover the important metrics and KPIs involved with SEO tools.
4 important SEO metrics for CEOs
SEO metrics are essential to understand how different keywords and content will perform for your company. However, you don’t need to be an SEO expert to drive results.
Below are the most important SEO metrics to monitor, along with examples to help get you started:
1. Keyword volume
Keyword volume is the average number of searches a keyword receives in a month. If you pick a keyword with a volume of 10, this keyword was searched for an average of 10 times throughout the month.
When starting with SEO, select keywords that have a volume of 10 to 20 because these will be easier to rank for than keywords with a higher volume. Once you begin gaining a larger online presence, you can create content that ranks for keywords with higher search volumes.
Still, this doesn’t need to be a strict process. Building out great content will result in higher SEO ranks, no matter the keyword’s volume and competitive difficulty.
2. Visibility index
Visibility index (or visibility trend) is a zero sum game. This metric indicates that out of the total search volume for a keyword or combination, every competitor will get a set percentage of it. For example, if there are 100 online searches for the search term “salesforce,” out of these 100 searchers, one company will account for a certain percentage of rankings.
Based on visibility index, you can determine the percentage of search volume that you're pulling for certain keywords compared to your competitors and over time.
Because it’s a zero sum game, if a competitor publishes an article containing a very specific, sought-after keyword phrase within the content and metadata, it will likely perform very well and possibly outrank your content (or vice versa).
However, visibility index can be temporary as Google likes to consistently show new, fresh content and bumps new content rankings for a few days. If this happens, your rankings may return to normal within a week because Google rewards long-term content marketing strategies that's displayed strong performance over time.
3. SERP features
To deliver valuable search results for their audience, Google now makes certain keywords eligible for a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Feature, or featured snippet. These snippets outrank all other search results on their respective pages, making them highly sought after.
Google introduced these features to make SERPs more rich, interesting and dynamic. As pictured below, an example of a SERP feature is an instant answer featured snippet referring to when the SERP references other commonly-asked questions related to your search. By doing this, Google can lead you to explore other results:
An instant answer feature snippet is only one of many SERP features. From knowledge panels that display industry expertise to top story snippets that inform searchers of time-sensitive news, SERP features come in many different formats. Depending on what keywords you're ranking for possibility for featured snippets, make sure that your content is tailored to fit into that snippet.
Think about SEO beyond optimizing content for search engine rankings and consider how you can provide value through a potential SERP feature.
How to pick keywords for content
When you're just starting with SEO, start by targeting lower-volume search phrases that are relevant to your ICP. Even if there are 10 or 20 people searching for a specific term or question each month, it's important to start small.
To measure your progress over time, track the number of keywords you're ranking for (and what position you're in). By doing this, you can find strong keywords that point to what your company does and signifies a prospect is shopping around online.
Some high-volume keywords may be broad and although they may not be relevant to your ICP's commercial journey. If people find value in visiting your website and that content leads them there, they'll help you rank for high-intent keywords you do care about because the aggregate of your website’s search optimization will accrue site authority within Google over time.
Be careful not to consider these broad, high-volume keywords as successful SEO targets because although they're specific to your industry, they'll likely not result in any direct customer conversions.
Deciding when to bid on keywords
Why are some keywords so important that paid search marketers are bidding on them, and why are people paying to remain competitive?
Google offers an additional search feature that shows which keywords are being bid on in AdWords. This is a great resource when informing your organic performance with paid search data, which gives you extra insight into what might be very valuable keywords to rank for organically.
Do cookies affect my search results when using SEO tools?
The short answer is yes. If you perform searches using your browser rather than an incognito window, you’ll get a skewed SERP because you have cookies rom your IP address and location.
To avoid this, use an SEO tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to perform all queries within an incognito mode. Semrush uses IP addresses that are a good representation of the public you’re targeting, allowing you to get as much of a neutral view as possible.
You can also pick your geographic view within these tools, such as country, city, state or county. Google allows you to pick the view you want that's most representative of your ICP to help you get the most out of your tools.
Competing against ads for your SEO rankings
Often, keywords you want to rank for may become buried under ads. To compete with this when you're using a SERP feature, top advert bits will tell you when specific keywords are competing with paid search ads. There's no way to completely remove this risk, but it's helpful to know if you want to perform well against them.
However, it's still valuable to pursue these keywords because people are willing to pay for them. If you get results organically, you can save a lot of money over time. Still, you can avoid competing against paid ads by optimizing for keywords that don't include paid ads.
SEO KPIs to measure your progress over time
Tracking the results of your SEO efforts is essential to success. But how can you, as the CEO, create meaning from the numbers?
There are two main key results your SEO should be driving: the number of ranking keywords, and the number of MQLs that find you through your organic content.
The first KPI you need to track is the actual search ranking positions of the keyword combinations that you care about.
To do this, first pick 10 strategic, high-intent keyword combinations and determine the average ranking in the search result for that set of keywords. Then, filter out everything with a search volume below 10 and branded keywords. Now, you can see all the keywords you have ranking content for in the top 10 and use this number of rankings as a benchmark.
Measure your keyword rankings every week or every month, depending on how granular you'd like your results. Notice how many of your desired keywords are in the top three, top 10, top 20, and top 100. You can track this leading indicator in a manual spreadsheet to gain insight into the site authority Google gives your website.
Still, the best lagging indicator of SEO are the number of MQLs that you get from your organic performance.
Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and customers
Organic MQLs are the ultimate SEO outcome to monitor because they show how your company's content marketing is nurturing your prospects.
An even better outcome to measure are customers. Over the last two years, 360 of our blogs have led to seven new customers (shown by HubSpot traffic metrics and lead tracking). Most of this activity came within the last seven or eight months, indicating that our organic search results are starting to attract MQLs that turn into customers.
Calculate the LTV of your customers and you can determine how much revenue your organic content has delivered. The customer acquisition cost isn't complete when you only look at the cost of doing organic, but it's cool when the majority of your website's traffic is from organic, high-quality keywords, you can lower your CAC more and more.
How to brainstorm content for keywords
When you're planning content around the keywords you want to rank for, don't worry about the technical analysis or SEO data. Instead, consider what your audience is looking for.
- “What do our prospects ask us in sales conversations?"
- "When we talk with customers who are using our product, what are they using it for?"
- "Why is our product important to them?”
Some of our best performing blogs have the highest amount of entrances, representing the first time someone came to our website through a piece of content. Many of these are utility topics that answer a specific, practical question. For instance, the blog “What questions to ask when I hire a CMO?” is a very popular blog that provides a specific answer to a specific question.
“SDR versus BDR”, another popular blog on our site, was written because clients found the two different goals to be confusing. Nobody had answered the simple question on how to compare the two. When we published a blog that directly answered this question, it performed well almost immediately.
To answer the right questions and provide value to your customers, consider the following methods of gathering information:
Start a brainstorm session with the people in your team who have high levels of customer interaction, know how your product is used, and why your service is important to your customers. Leverage this brainstorm session to really understand what the people who are using and buying your product are looking for.
Consider the questions customers are asking your sales team during demos, emails, and other interactions. When they’re on a sales call, you can ask them to include extra questions that help you understand your customer and why they're seeking a solution to their problem.
After your customer success team solves a problem for a customer or provides technical support, let them ask, "Why is this important for you? What is not working for you when our product is not doing what it is supposed to do?". When you ask your customers or ICP questions, you get to the core of a great content opportunity.
Leverage forms and lead magnets to capture contacts
Once a piece of content is optimized, include forms to gain contacts and measure content performance and value for your audience. How many submissions a piece of content yields a submission can provide further insight into your customers and what they desire.
The importance of knowing the buyer’s journey
To understand how content submission forms play an important role in bringing your prospects down the buyer’s journey, you need to fully understand their journey.
The awareness stage
The first part of the journey refers to when prospects don't quite know about you, your product or the solutions you provide. They're still asking themselves, “Why do I need to change?”
Awareness-stage content should go after what your audience worries about and what they would like to be able to do. Determine the language that they use, and then write content about those pain points, and the deep-level problems behind the pain.
The consideration stage
The second stage of the buyer's journey occurs your prospect asks themselves, “Why you?”
When they're considering their options, leverage your high-intent keywords to build content that helps them compare their options.
This content should strive to show that you're an expert in your field. Here, you can capture contacts by offering gated resources, from a ROI calculator to a checklist. You want to provide resources that show your credibility.
Another way to think about consideration-stage content and gated resources is to focus on removing barriers and making it easy for people to understand the ROI of the investment. Show them what they stand to gain, or spark a fear of missing out (FOMO).
Sometimes, consideration-level content is about making it easy for your prospects to take the next step. Leads in the consideration-level typically say, "I may make this purchase next year, I know that I need it, I know you can help me with it, but I don’t think I’m ready to invest right now." Because of this, your job is to show them what they're missing out on if they don't act now.
How-to content is great for this stage of the buyer's journey, especially if prospects are worried about a barrier your product may cause. For B2B SaaS providers, this could be something as simple as the difficulty of implementing or using your product. This way, you can show that it's not that hard, or walk them through the process with small, manageable steps.
At Kalungi, we gain contacts by creating lead magnets, or gated content that is so valuable that readers will give you their contact information through forms to download a resource. Examples of these resources Kalungi offers includes items such as:
- A quick cheat sheet
- A competitor pricing comparison
- Budget templates
- Funnel or ROI calculators
- Interview guides for hiring marketing team member
- High-production content like webinars and whitepapers
The goal is to create assets that your audience needs daily to make decisions and build a strong company. Since you may already have many of these resources prepared, simply build customer-focused versions and share the knowledge to create strong lead magnets.
If you're helping people make decisions by educating them with information and data they cannot find elsewhere, they will value you and your knowledge.
Need help creating lead magnets?
CEOs are busy. If you don't have time to build lead magnets yourself, there are great websites available to help you. For instance, OutGrow is a SaaS company that sells lead magnets. By simply inputting a couple of data points, questions about your solution or things your customers are looking for, the software will turn it into resources like quizzes, ROI calculators, assessments, etc.
The decision stage
When your prospect has reached the decision stage, you must make them feel comfortable taking that final step.
Sometimes, it takes a guarantee or a performance commitment. Alternatively, you can make the commitment a smaller step like a one-month discounted subscription to your software. No matter your strategy for closing the deal during this final stage of the buyer’s journey, know that the crossline is within eyesight.
Lead your company's SEO efforts
Content is king, but there are technical elements of SEO many people get wrong.
First, make sure your website is actually visible and ensure that links are not broken, your meta data is correct, and that images have alt tags so the search engine’s crawlers can index the content. Ensure that your site is at a healthy level of visibility is your first order of business because if your site is invisible, then it doesn't matter what content you put on there.
However, don't let that stop you from thinking about the questions your audience has, and how you can build good content in response. Content creation is all about driving interest and SEO is simply a way to ensure content gets to the right readers at the right time so it helps them.
To learn more about implementing SEO within content, check out our recent blog on building out your SEO strategy in 8 simple steps.