How SaaS CMOs Should Think About SEO
Nick Brown is the Founder and CEO of accelerate agency, a SaaS SEO & content agency. Working with enterprise and scale-up brands.
Is SEO some horribly complicated process that no ordinary human can possibly understand, like rocket science or tax law? A lot of people assume this is the case and, to be fair, a lot of experts make SEO sound incredibly technical and mysterious. At its root, the basic principles of SEO are straightforward and will sound familiar to any CMO (especially if they work in the SaaS sector).
SEO For SaaS: Difficult But Not Complicated
When I explain SEO to someone for the first time, I compare the process to running a marathon. The basic principles of running 26 miles aren’t complicated—you just put one foot in front of the other as fast as you can. How about actually running 26 miles? Now that’s hard!
The basic principles of SEO are, in reality, much less complicated than most people expect them to be, and translating those principles into a good SEO plan is relatively straightforward. How about executing that plan well enough to succeed, especially in the highly competitive world of SaaS SEO? Now that is extremely difficult!
The perception that SEO is complicated poses a danger for decision-makers because they can end up focusing on the wrong thing. They might think what they need on their team is someone who understands SEO. But just hiring someone who understands SEO, or bringing in an agency to draw up a plan, isn’t enough on its own. Someone has to have the capacity to execute that plan.
I’ll explain what’s needed for good SEO execution in a moment, but first, here’s a quick guide to the basic principles of SEO.
Think Of Search As A Form Of Marketing
Google’s most important customers are not the people buying ads. The people Google really focuses on are the ones using Google to search for things. Like any good service provider, Google wants to do three things for its customers: identify their problems, offer them solutions and provide the best customer experience possible. This makes sense, right? Google has been providing such a great product and customer experience for so long that it’s easy to forget that it is a service provider for search users.
If you want Google to recommend your website (which is the ultimate goal of all SEO campaigns), all you have to do is help Google help its users as much as possible. Google decides to recommend a webpage after looking at various factors, including the content of a webpage itself, considering endorsements from other websites (in the form of links), and the technical aspects of the webpage (will this page load properly and how quickly will it do so?). Do these things well and better than other websites, and Google will recommend your content.
These are the basic principles of SEO. It’s possible to delve into a lot more detail, but most of SEO boils down to helping Google’s users get what they want. It’s not rocket science or tax law. The truth is that a good SEO plan is no more complicated than a plan for any other marketing channel. But actually executing the plan well enough to rank in key SaaS search terms is a different matter.
Winning In SaaS SEO: Helping Google More Than Anyone Else
In a highly competitive SEO niche like SaaS, there are a lot of companies providing Google with good content, high authority links and smooth loading times. Only a handful of SaaS companies will rank toward the top of any given search and, of course, Google can only list one website at the very top.
This is where a specialist SaaS SEO agency can help. To compete in the big leagues, your SaaS website will need hundreds of well-written blog posts, with hundreds of high-authority links pointing to the right webpages, and everything needs to be structured just right and able to load on browsers with lightning speed.
As I explained in a previous article, doing this well enough to compete in any SaaS niche using only in-house resources simply isn’t possible for most SaaS companies (not without a really inefficient allocation of marketing resources, at least). A good agency can help you design an effective SEO strategy for SaaS, but finding an agency that can execute that strategy can be a much bigger challenge.
The key to finding the right agency is knowing the right questions to ask and knowing what you’re looking for. What KPIs do they suggest working toward? If it is traffic or number of links, that’s a red flag as this type of target can be manipulated. Do they have the capacity to produce content in quantity? Ask how many writers and editors they have (look for a number above 50). Do they produce good quality content? Ask to see a sample content plan, and make sure it stretches several months into the future and includes lots of detail to guide the content production team. Yes, a good SEO strategy is an important first step, but can your agency deliver?
Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, and don’t be put off by overly technical replies. SEO isn’t complicated; it’s just hard.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?