You run marketing for an early-stage SaaS company, and you've committed to investing in SEO as a customer acquisition channel.
This guide will help you feel confident that you have the proper budget, business, and time horizon for SEO to be a good investment... or maybe convince you to hold off on SEO until later.
Should I Invest in SEO?
There are no golden bullets in marketing. You should always invest in the channel that will get you customers at an acceptable CAC in an acceptable time frame. An investment in SEO is competing against budget for paid ads, social, sponsorships, events, and direct mail.
You don't want to be the person who put all their eggs in the wrong basket.
SEO, for the most part, is a demand capture channel. That means there is existing demand — potential customers with problems who are in market and searching for a solution.
By ranking on Google, you're essentially answering their questions and, in the process, putting your solution in front of them.
(and if you want to pay to play, Google gives you a shortcut, and you can buy those impressions with ads)
Prospect has a question → searches for solution → you answer the question better than anyone else → you get in front of them → you now have an opportunity to sell them
When is SEO not going to work for you?
If no one is searching for anything related to what you sell (ie. there's no search demand to capture), you're out of luck. I usually see this when selling to a market that is not very online or older clientele with low search penetration.
SEO gets a bad rep because most people think of it as spammy, low-quality content written for Google to drive traffic and nothing else. If this is what you do:
You're not going to rank given how SEO is changing with AI and Google's SGE
Site visitors will bounce immediately if your content is poor, so you will never get a chance to further them along in their buyer journey
Which Companies Use SEO to Successfully Capture Demand?
Despite people trying to jump on the "SEO is dead" train for clout on social media, we've seen the highest investment in SEO in 2023 (19% compound annual growth rate valued at $74.76 billion.)
Here are some companies that are doing really well with SEO:
Zapier's blog brings 1.6M organic visits every month, which is traffic worth ~$3.7 million
NerdWallet generates $84 million from their topic-clustering SEO strategy
14 % of Letterdrop's pipeline is directly attributed to SEO
Who Should Follow This Playbook?
If you have a vested interest in building pipeline for a SaaS business with content, this playbook is for you. You might be a:
Head of Marketing
Head of Content
Head of SEO
CEO or Founder
I promise that if you follow this guide, you will:
have a better understanding of what SEO actually is to drive impact and pipeline
have created an evergreen source of pipeline for your business
Part 1: Understanding SEO
So you should be investing in SEO for the right reasons, and first and foremost is demand capture.
You can capture demand at different phases of the buyer journey, aligned to different marketing funnel stages. These are:
Unaware (TOFU): The prospect is looking to educate themselves on the space and isn't aware of your product yet
Problem-aware (TOFU): The prospect is aware of a problem
Solution-aware (MOFU): The prospect is aware of solutions and is weighing up their options
Product-aware phase (BOFU): The prospect chooses a solution and becomes a buyer
If you successfully rank and get prospects on your site, you need a clear next step and a CTA.
Here's what CTAs look like for the different funnel stages:
TOFU: Subscribe to Our Newsletter, Read Related Articles
MOFU: Sign up for a Free Trial, Download our Template
BOFU: Book a Demo, Talk to Us
You need Clearbit or a similar app to de-anonymize your traffic, figure out potential target accounts, and send your BDRs after them.
What Is Bad SEO?
Today, 99% of companies get SEO wrong.
Lots of SEO agencies and marketers think traffic is what matters. It doesn't. Qualified traffic is what you should care about.
They're creating pages answering questions that:
Bring in unqualified traffic and people who will never be buyers. For example, suppose Gong (who sells to B2B sales teams) writes a guide called "Freelancer's guide to prospecting"
Are at the wrong stage of the funnel versus what they need. An example would be a company like Metadata.io creating content titled "what is demand gen", which is unaware and very far from buying their product
They're also lacking:
A next step or nurture strategy. This means people visit their site and bounce, which is pointless
A minimum value of content. Publishing once a week won't cut it for most companies. More reps help you create a process for SEO to make it a channel that works. You need this since it's difficult to figure out what will work ahead of time using search volume data, which is often inaccurate
Should I Outsource SEO to an Agency?
While good and full-service agencies are worth the premium, they're not a good fit for SaaS startups.
They don't understand the business as well as in-house writers do. That means it's less likely they'll be helping generate content that is actually helpful to customers, which leads to lower CTR and conversions.
Agencies are expensive. SaaS startups tend to hire them off the bat, which is a drain on resources early on.
You can take care of SEO yourself and drive incredible results without an agency. Invest in growing your in-house SEOs to become experts instead.
What Is Not an SEO Strategy?
An SEO strategy is not:
Copying all your competitor's pages. You don't know whether they have a strategy, whether any of the pages they're ranking for actually drive any real revenue, or whether they have a nurture strategy in place to follow up on leads
Getting a list of keywords from an agency sorted by keyword difficulty and search volume. You don't have the resources for this right now — you can think about doing this once you hone in on a specific topic
In B2B, you don't need high search volume. You can rank for niche questions with "zero search volume" that keyword research tools can't pick up.
This is because even if only a few dozen people search and click through every month and are qualified buyers, that can be a meaningful pipeline for you.
This has happened at Census and at Letterdrop.
For example, here we searched "Webflow internal linking" in Semrush and got zero results.
But this is simply not true. We've recently written a post for this keyword, and are currently sitting on 277 impressions and 11 clicks. We've also booked a demo from this piece.
Part 2: Executing Your SEO Strategy
What Are the Types of SEO Strategies I Can Follow?
There are two main streams of SEO strategies:
Content SEO. This is what most SaaS companies should do, and all of this content should be very focused on your buyer. The quality should be high enough that you wouldn't be ashamed to share it directly with customers
Programmatic SEO. If you have lots of integrations or location-specific queries you'd like to rank for along with data for it, try this.
Setting Up Your SEO Strategy
Your strategy will depend on what stage you're at. If you're reading this, I assume you're just starting out.
Answer these questions before getting started:
Who is your ICP buyer?
What is your category?
Who are your competitors?
What problem does your product solve?
1. Segment Your Content Into Buyer Stages
Divide up your content into the four stages of buyer awareness as shown in the infographic in Part 1
Ignore unaware-stage content for now and for the foreseeable future
Focus on problem-aware and solution-aware content. Here are some topics you should look into:
"Best X software" — write unbiased, high-quality, WireCutter-style reviews and interview actual customers
b. "Competitor A vs Competitor B" — when people are searching your competition, you want to capture that and interject with yourself as a third option
c. "Competitor X alternative" to help searchers in weighing up their available options. It's the perfect place to add your offering as an alternative.
d. "Guide: How to" to help your prospect problem-solve and present your offering as a natural solution.
4. Only introduce product-aware content when you have prospects who already know about you and are already researching you. This includes case studies and use cases.
2. Collect Your Ideas and Gather Search Data on Them
Once you have an idea, you can try Googling around it and identifying a target keyword to center that idea around. When using a keyword research tool, you can prioritize by search volume and difficulty.
It's also important to talk to customers on sales calls or online communities like LinkedIn and Reddit to confirm that these ideas will be helpful to real buyers.
You want to try to get through this phase quickly. Don't drag it out. Put resources into creating really great content and publish fast so you can start seeing what's working.
Collect all these ideas automatically in Letterdrop. Make it easy for your team to suggest ideas based on sales conversations from Slack by typing /idea.
3. Outline Your Content
Now you have a list of ideas and each of them has a target keyword. It's time to execute.
In Letterdrop, go to the CMS → SEO Optimization and enter your keyword
Generate an outline using the "Generate Outline" feature. This will give you a whole bunch of research from top pages. Use it to inform what you cover — don't use it blindly. It's just collecting data for you. We have a guide on outlining for SEO
Use the SEO Optimizer to understand search intent and format
Now it's time to start fleshing out your outline into a full-fledged article.
Here are the steps to take:
Use the Letterdrop SEO Optimizer to figure out what to cover and for suggestions on adding net new information. This is very important for information gain scoring
Make sure you answer search intent and are using a format most likely to get you ranking
Think about being genuinely helpful to a visitor. If you don't know what you're talking about, people will know and bounce
Add first-party perspectives. Ideally, every article you write should also have an embedded YouTube video showing an actual expert talking about the topic. For example, a real user of a particular software in a comparison article OR a practitioner in a how-to-guide
Interview experts if you're not one. Don't be shy to reach out to people and ask them to answer a specific question for you. Get a recording of them saying it, too. Offer to cite them or give them a backlink in exchange
Include proprietary data when you can. Charts and diagrams are helpful assets that are easy to share across platforms
Use media arbitrage to your advantage. Use a repurposing tool like Letterdrop to take podcasts and webinars and extract information from them. Turning videos into blogs also makes you more viible on search
Use the Letterdrop stats search to find stats and make your content more unique
Here's what to do once you've finished writing:
Use the SEO Optimizer to make sure everything looks alright and to make automatic technical fixes
Add internal links using the Optimizer
Check for plagiarism
Have a good meta title and description. Look at others on the SERP and figure out how yours is going to stand out
Once you've published, add more internal links from other pages to your page. You can do this using the Internal Links dashboard in Letterdrop.
You also need to monitor your pages on Google Search Console or the Letterdrop Refresh Monitoring Dashboard every week to see which of them need an SEO refresh down the line.
Copy what's already out there. Your goal is to be better than top results — they're just what's out there for now
Try to cheese the SEO system. This is not a university paper where you're trying to hit a wordcount. This is a real marketing asset that needs to drive business results. Your livelihood depends on it working
Use stock images. Whatever media you use needs to offer real value and answer search intent. We use Canva at Letterdrop to create our own infographics
SEO Is About Providing Value at the Right Time to the Right People
It no longer works to try and cheese the SEO system by spamming keywords and just copying what's out there.
A people-first approach is the ticket to showing up in top SERP results and in the SGE snapshot.
At Letterdrop, we want to encourage people to think about SEO in a healthy way that makes the internet a better place AND helps you get in front of your customers (in a way that makes you look smart so they trust you).
You have enough on your plate. Reach out to us and use Letterdrop as your smart SEO assistant today.
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