SaaS SEO Guide
A Case Study on How We Increased Revenue by 332%
This is a SaaS company based in the US that has helped hundreds of thousands of business owners generate additional revenue through collecting email lists, segmenting them, and sending out newsletters, and autoresponder campaigns.
They needed more leads and reached out to us in the beginning of May 2018.
Jumping in, we knew it was going to be tough – the competitors had monthly marketing budgets in line with our lifetime revenue. After thorough research and analysis, we saw a ton of opportunities to help them out and started putting together a strategic plan.
Brute force wouldn’t have helped us – we had to be smart.
Phase 1: Starting With On-Page SEO
As with every project, we started off with an in-depth analysis of the clients’ websites current situation. They had the basics of on-page SEO down but in such a competitive industry, good isn’t good enough.
Luckily for us, the majority of our competitors were huge SaaS companies with thousands of employees and thus, a long chain of command. In other words, their on-page was often out of date and would not be improving anytime soon.
This gave us an opportunity to Smash (heh, get it?) the big competitors’ rankings with thorough on-page optimizations and strategic link-building.
As with any serious SaaS business that has been around for a while, they had built up a ton of pages. We’re talking about 1,500 actual pages and over 4,500 that Google had picked up for various reasons.
We had to clean this up for a myriad of reasons:
- Google was being fed thousands of pages with either duplicate content or nothing at all on it. This is a massive resource-suck.
- Old pages that had not been optimized for conversions and that had outdated information on them were outranking some of our most important pages.
- There were posts in Google’s index that were not even supposed to be public (e.g. thank-you pages and private discounts!)
- The “authority” of the site was being spread to thousands of pages, instead of helping a few key landers rank.
Right off the bat we were able to delete and 301 redirect over 3,000 pages that were holding us back.
Next, we would further trim down the site by deleting pages that were not adding value. So we analyzed each page by three key metrics:
- Revenue Generated: Are they bringing in conversions?
- Leads Generated: Are they bringing in new business?
- Backlinks: Are they helping us rank better?
We set a threshold for what is considered significant in each category and ruthlessly deleted/consolidated everything that was not adding measurable value.
Lastly, we looked at the content on the page – was this valuable? If it was not working well on this page, perhaps we could use it again in the future or merge several pages into one big resource?
Everything that wasn’t adding value was deleted and redirected to a better, more relevant page or to the homepage.
We were down from 4,500 pages to 600 pages – which would concentrate our website’s authority to our target pages and make the coming content optimizations much more manageable.
While we were conducting the content audit, our team faced a major issue. The site took over six seconds to load.
Not only did this make our teams life a nightmare…
It also meant that the 20,000 potential customers that visited the site each month were being frustrated with long load times, and undoubtedly associating that frustration with the brand.
Our site speed audit showed a score of 57/100 for mobile and 65/100 for desktop.
Here are some of the changes we did to get down to a two-second loading time for most pages:
- Switched hosting companies (this alone got us down to 3-4 seconds)
- Deleted all unused WordPress plugins
- Replaced 3 WordPress plugins with faster alternatives
- Started leveraging browser caching and a CDN
- Removed unnecessary redirects
- Optimized image sizes throughout the site (42% reduction)
Although we had cleared out literally thousands of pages, the remaining 600 pages needed a lot of optimization.
There were hundreds of pages that had very little content- many of them were less than 500 words.
Meanwhile, competing websites for the same keywords had created 3,000 word-long, comprehensive guides.
Those tiny 350 word pages had no chance. So we followed suit of the big competitors and merged a bunch of tiny pages into long-form, in-depth resources.
The same super thin content issue was consistent across more important pages, including the main services page and the homepage.
One of the best ways to rank better on Google is look at the top 10 results for the desired keywords and reverse engineer what they already like to see.
That’s exactly what we did.
Both for the homepage and the key services pages, we gave our clients’ copywriting team all the resources they needed to start cranking out content that ranks:
- Target word counts
- List of keywords and phrases to include and their frequency
- On-page criteria (e.g. number of headings, images to use)
With the help of their copywriters and our SEO team, we quickly revamped the top 25 pages.
Having more substance as well as showing Google that the site is being frequently updated led to rapid ranking improvements, not only on these pages but site-wide.
As is common with out-of-the-box WordPress websites that have not been configured by an SEO expert, a lot of on-page issues needed to be fixed.
The SaaS app was hosted on the .app subdomain, but the front-facing WordPress CMS was used for all marketing and traffic purposes.
Many of the title tags on the site were the same as H1 tags and this was causing over-optimization. Over half of them were also far too long and were truncated in the search results.
On a single page this is an easy fix, but we had to rewrite title tags for hundreds of pages.
Most pages were missing a meta description, which was negatively affecting click-through rates and thus rankings as well. Even some pages in first position were only getting 15% of the total clicks, about half of what is expected on average.
The copywriting team wrote up a unique meta description for each page and made sure to include a keyword as well as an enticing call-to-action to encourage click-throughs.
Just these changes alone more than doubled the click-through rates on some of our most important pages, instantly bringing in twice the organic traffic.
Not a single image on the entire site had alt text configured. As it was not feasible to go through 1,700+ images by hand, we used automated templates and some Excel magic to fix this issue.
Content Gap Analysis
With the existing content and on-page changes out of the way, it was time to create additional content.
We rounded up 15 of their most profitable competitors and started digging into the keywords they were ranking for.
What pages and keywords were bringing in business for the competitors that we didn’t have on our site?
We found 1,300+ relevant low-to-medium competition keywords with serious business intent.
From those keywords, we delivered a list of 40 articles for the content team to create which would help bring in highly relevant search traffic.
Phase 2: A Juicy Link Building Strategy
Although our on-page SEO optimization and content work had already shown excellent results in both rankings and organic traffic, in a lucrative industry like theirs it simply isn’t enough.
Our competitors were regularly published in national publications and attracted hundreds of high authority media links every single month.
Combined with the fact that we now had dozens of new pages with great content, but no links, we had to double down on strategic link building.
Prior to working with us, their press team had been pumping out a dozen press releases every month and linking them back to the site with exact match anchor texts.
Google doesn’t like to see too many backlinks that have anchor text which matches exactly the target keyword of the linked page.
It’s unnatural and is a clear signal of trying to manipulate the search results.
And in our client’s case, the over-optimization was severe and we were afraid they were going to get penalized.
We decided that until we finish with the on-page changes and the creation of new content, our link building focus would mostly go towards:
- Diversifying the current link profile
- Diluting the anchor text ratios
- Boosting up the pages that were close to the top 3 using high relevance guest posts
Phase 3: Performance Review!
By the end of our third month, organic traffic was up over 57% and business was booming.
The client was ecstatic with the results and called us up to do a performance review of the last three months.
Due to the sheer amount of changes we made over the last three months, it was difficult to pinpoint what got us most of the results. But that didn’t matter as much – the site was now well optimized, the content machine was well-oiled, and their team educated on the basics.
The way forward was to build more, better, and stronger links.
The client wanted to significantly scale things up and we put together a custom link-building strategy for them. Just three months in, they upgraded to investing $5,000/month into link building.
Scaling Up: A 4-Pronged Approach to Link Building
From July onwards, our efforts were almost exclusively focused on link building.
On-page scores were 90+ out of 100 for most pages according to our analysis and we had also taken care of the exact match anchor issue that was a major risk.
From here onwards we utilized a 4-pronged link building approach to build website authority from all angles.
Highly Relevant Guest Posts
Guest posts are where Smash Digital shines.
In our almost 8 years of operating an SEO agency, relationships have always been at the core of our values. It’s one of the things that allows us to get clients epic results.
Through our relationships with editorial teams, website owners, and the media, we get links other agencies dream of.
With this client, we put those relationships to good use by building highly relevant guest post links to the most important pages. These were (and still are!) the main mover of their rankings.
Broken Link Building
In order to rank high in Google and maintain high rankings long-term, you must have a diverse and natural backlink profile.
One of the easiest ways to build natural looking links from high-authority sites is through broken link building.
Using our proprietary tweaked out web crawler, we scanned 250 authoritative websites in the space and found loads of non-functioning pages that still had links pointing to them.
The clients’ content team helped us re-create new versions of those dead pages, and our outreach team started reaching out to the sites which had linked to the dead pages.
This was a massive win.
We created 8 unique pages and over the year locked down over 50 extremely high authority links.
The best part? The webmasters changing these links meant that our competitors lost em’ and we gained them.
Which tells Google that our site is now more authoritative.
Skyscraper Content and Outreach
Now that we’d successfully hijacked our competitors links, it was time to get more of what was already working well for them.
We took that same list of 250 authority websites and looked at their 10 most linked to pages.
Every industry has these.
They’re often in the form of:
- Comprehensive listicles
- Resources pages
- Industry statistics
- Case studies
Once we’d identified the most linkable topics, we analyzed similar posts on a topic and had the clients’ team create better versions.
- More comprehensive
- Written in a more engaging way
- Written with a unique angle, and/or
- Better user experience/design.
It’s a similar process to the broken link building strategy – we started reaching out to everyone who had linked to the competition and presented our upgraded, superior resource.
Here’s an example of an older page we updated and revamped that hit close to 100 referring domains:
Creating Linkable Assets
While guest posts, broken link building, and outreach worked well, we also needed something that was a bit more scalable in the long term.
During a brainstorming session with both our team and the clients’ team, we came up with unique linkable assets that no one in the industry had.
These took quite a bit of time and resources to develop but are still paying outstanding dividends to this day.
Some examples of these free tools from other industries:
- SEO Penalty Indicator Tool
- Copywriting Headline Analyzer
- Small Business Loan Calculator
- Cashflow Projection Tool
- Image Resizer and Cropper
Giving away super useful resources like these for free will net you a lot of links over the long haul and best of all – it generally won’t take any work beyond creating the tool.
Phase 4: Another Performance Review
Our third performance review was another four months later and by then traffic was up over 120% thanks to the link building efforts we had put in.
Phase four took the site from a 120% increase to a $269% increase in traffic.
As much as we’d love to tell you that this stage involved some sort of magic ingredient…
In all honesty, it was simply a matter of additional resources.
In November 2018, we upped the budget and have been running on $10,000/mo since then.
By August 2019 the site was up 269% when it comes to organic traffic and revenue has reportedly increased 332% since then.
No matter how competitive your niche is or what kind of budgets you’re working with, by focusing on the low-hanging fruit and laying out a strategic roadmap, there’s always a way to make SEO work for you SaaS company.
And once you’ve reaped the benefits of a stable flow of organic traffic, it’s hard to go back to PPC and bloated sales teams.
Do you want to find the best SEO opportunities for your SaaS business? Order an SEO video audit and in 5 days you’ll get a 10-minute video breaking down your site and actionable advice for increasing organic traffic.
Updated: September 30, 2022