Search as Strategy: Leveraging SEO to Drive Product Focus and Enhance Business Outcomes

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If you want to build a SaaS company you need to build a software product and figure out how to get and attract users. One way to do that is via paid marketing. In the tech industry this is commonly referred to as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and counts the dollars you will spend on paid user acquisition. Another way to acquire users is for your website or SaaS tools to emerge when users look for your product online. This is often referred to as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.

Having a strong SEO strategy is important because acquiring users through search has less of a direct, variable cost to your business. When building your marketing plan you should think about ways to scale ideas tied to your product. 

For example, if you are in the business of mileage tracking, an SEO strategy might center around helping people file taxes. Why? Because you keep track of your mileage for federal deductions. Thinking about your user and the things they are searching for is a great place to start building your strategy from.

In order to build out an SEO strategy, there are a number of things you will want to know. 

I have learned these lessons the hard way – through trial and error, experimentation, and years of tinkering.

I now want to share those lessons with you. 

1. Focus on yours users

When you are building an SEO strategy for your product, deeply understand who your users are. Focus on giving them the best experiences possible – and this means showing up in Google’s search when they look for things related to your product. Take great care to ensure that you can serve your user’s search queries and that you know keyword volume, difficulty, and intent. Customer analytics software could help you uncover the core problems your user faces. When a user clicks on to your site, make sure that the call to action is clear and simple, and that other linking pages load instantly. You know that organic placement in search results is never sold to anyone as Google only only offers relevant content. So you need to strive for relevancy. By focusing on your users you can do just that. Here is an example: Forms on Fire created software to make mobile data collection easy. When you go to their site it’s obvious that this is the differentiation because it’s what their users value most. 

2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

If you are building software tools or a SaaS business, you likely have a lot on your plate. You need to build, design, and code software. You need to take it to market. And you need to do these motions profitably. When it comes to SEO for your business, its best to do one thing really, really well.

I started a SaaS business to help teach kids about earning and saving money while working from home. We started to rank for educational software, which was exciting and helped us acquire users. But we then wanted to rank for finance software. As it turned out, that was very hard to do. By taking my eye off the ball we got distracted. And that hurt us in search and led to fewer users signing up for our product. 

Do one thing very well. Tell your story and focus on the value that your product adds to users’s lives.

Think back to the example about the mileage tracking company. They do that task very well and are industry leaders. They can tell that story to a few different SEO niches so they rank well for taxes and remote work help. You should follow that blueprint.

3. Fast is better than slow.

We know your time is valuable, so when you’re seeking an answer on the web you want it right away–and we aim to please. Your website needs to be optimized for speed if search is important to your user acquisition strategy. Make sure your pages load rapidly on mobile and desktop. Make sure your internal links are to pages that load. Compress large photos. Make site navigation easy. And place important content on your home page or as close to the home page as possible. Shave excess bits and bytes from pages. Clarify your call to action and make it dead easy to understand. True Blue provides a great example of this in practice. When you find their site in search, the first and most obvious thing you are prompted with is to get a quote. It’s fast, responsive, and aligned with the user’s needs.

User simple color schemes that don’t distract users. Do users testing to ensure that people know how to navigate your site. If you are going to capture users via search, you need to ensure that their click through rates are strong once they land. Don’t capture users to have them leave and bounce! Speed is critical here. Google rewards speed and so do your users. If you want to capture user intent, think about how long you have to capture their attention and explain the value of your SaaS offering or tool. If you can’t do it rapidly, iterate and try again. Think about well known brands you may enjoy, like Nike, Starbucks, or Tesla. You can boil each brand down to a single word: shoes, coffee, cars. That brand retrieval serves to the advantage of these companies. Not only should your website be fast, but your users should be able to immediately understand the value that your software brings to their lives.

4. Good is good enough.

When building an SEO strategy to acquire users, the most important metric you will want to understand is how many people are coming to your site to evaluate your software everyday. Of this traffic, how many come organically from search? 10? 100? 1,000? If you are ranking well for your product category you can see this number increase over time as Google will make your website more prominent. While you can spend months or years trying to improve your SEO strategy, I am a believer that good is good enough. If you are ranking, that is proof that Google’s algorithms believe your website is valuable to users, that your site is fast, and that other websites are linking to you. See being good at SEO as a starting point, not an endpoint for your business. Set goals you can’t reach but that will make your website and content more valuable for users, whether they are SMBs looking to save money, consumers looking to remain healthy, large companies looking to expand their operations, or people at home during covid looking to get into podcasting.

Through innovation and iteration, you can and will make improvements over time. But don’t forget what is critical about a SaaS product: the software itself. By getting users to look at and evaluate it, you have done your job. An example you can reference is 

Now make sure that the tool itself is useful and that that utility can be sustained over a period of time.

Bringing It All Together

SEO is a valuable strategy for helping you scale your message in the market. While it’s a critical component of success, it’s only part of the broader equation. When building SaaS tools – for individuals or companies – you need to first find product market fit. As soon as you have a usable and viable product, you will want more and more people to engage with it. To generate awareness, you can pay for users or make highly relevant content that users discover when searching the internet. If you focus on organic traffic, remember to focus on your users, do one thing very well, optimize for speed, and settle when good is enough. These approaches will yield value for your business and help you attract and retain customers and the attention of other websites who will link to you. These links in turn will generate more followers and an increasingly positive search presence. The virtual cycle will accelerate and that should be your ultimate goal.

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