First things first – what are we talking about here?
This article is collection of recommendations and tips for how SaaS companies can run their keyword research.
We wrote this for SEO & content managers with some SEO experience, and while it’s not an all-encompassing guide to SEO – we hope that it’ll give you some new ideas, tactics and ways of looking at keyword research specifically for teams advertising SaaS products.
Well now that we’ve cleared that up, lets get started :).
Keyword research in the SaaS universe ( visit our SaaS FAQs for more info ) isn’t like playing connect-the-dots; it’s more like solving a dynamic puzzle. It requires you to get comfortable with niche jargon, take a deep dive into a layered customer journey, put on your detective cap for long-tail keywords, highlight those all-important features and benefits, and keep up with an industry that’s always ready for its next sprint.
In this next chapter of our SEO adventure, we’re going to open up this box, take a good, hard look at these pieces, and understand how they fit together.
Because recognizing the unique essence of SaaS keyword research isn’t just a nice-to-have. It’s as essential as a compass for a hiker. Ready to navigate this path together? Let’s get moving.
What Makes SaaS Keyword Research Unique:
First we’ll go over the specific challenges of keyword research, and then dive into the answers to each one. This should give you enough ammunition to translate this to your own business changes.
- Industry-Specific Language: In the SaaS space, specific terms such as “data integration software” or “cloud-based CRM” are commonly used. These terms might not pull huge search volumes like broader terms, but the searchers are usually individuals with a clear intention – perhaps they’re already looking for a solution to purchase.
- Solution: Soak up industry content, engage in webinars, join forum discussions, visit your industries specific subreddits and youtube channels – these are great sources of questions, pain points and just general discussions. Once you’ve cracked the code, it’s time to craft your own value-driven content that uses these terms.
- Bonus Tip: Your authors should be subject matter experts and not generalists, they will understand the jargon and the details and know how to talk about it.
- Complex Buying Cycle: The SaaS buying journey isn’t typically a spur-of-the-moment decision. For example, a customer in need of a project management tool might first realize the inefficiency in their current process, then research different project management tools, compare options like Asana, Trello, and Jira, and only then make a purchase decision. Keywords should cover all these stages of the buying cycle.
- Solution: First, we need to understand what drives your customers’ purchase decisions? Not just nod our heads at the generic ‘awareness, consideration, decision’ funnel we’re all so familiar with. Each industry is unique and these decisions might be spurned by personnel changes, specific pain points, or even emergence of new technologies that set everyones chair on fire. So your job is to spell out this buying cycle and build appropriate content, this might range from an “introduction to the problem” ( that your clients might not even know they have ) to “comparison articles” that highlight your features compared to the competition.
- Long-Tail Keywords: In the SaaS world, long-tail keywords play a crucial role. Phrases such as “cloud-based project management software for small businesses” are more specific, likely less competitive, and they often attract users who are further down the sales funnel.
- Solution: This goes hand in hand with your earlier jargon research, there will be overlap of long tail and industry keywords. Outside of online hangout circles seek them out using tools like Answer The Public and Ubersuggest, or even just peruse Google’s ‘People also ask’ section. One of our favorite tips to address these terms is building out a “technical dictionary” and populating it with AI content, this is a low-effort effort to appear in featured snippets and give your site more keyword-coverage.
- Emphasis on Features and Benefits: SaaS customers often seek specific features or benefits. For instance, a potential customer might search for “best CRM with email marketing integration” or “SaaS project management tool with time tracking feature”. Identifying and targeting these types of keywords can help highlight the unique selling propositions of the product.
- Solution: It’s time to show off your unique selling points. Your compass? User surveys and customer feedback. They’ll guide you to the features and benefits your customers value the most, helping you to craft a list of target keywords that really hit the mark. Find ways to integrate this into your SEO-content, either as banners, white papers or smoothly weave them into your content.
- Dynamic Industry: The SaaS industry is known for its rapid changes. Let’s say a new technology, like AI-powered customer service, emerges within the SaaS industry. Companies offering such a feature should update their keyword strategy to include relevant terms like “AI customer service software”.
- Solution: Stay sharp! Set up Google Alerts, follow industry gurus on social media, subscribe to newsletters – stay informed. When a new trend or technology surfaces, add those fresh keywords to your SEO strategy. Keep pace with the industry, and you’ll never fall behind.
The Keyword Research Framework
To effectively prepare for keyword research as a SaaS company, consider this straightforward framework:
|1||Identify Goals and Objectives||Define keyword research objectives||Goal-setting frameworks||Increase organic search visibility for cybersecurity solutions by 30% in six months|
|2||Understand Your Target Audience||Gather audience insights||Customer surveys, Analytics data||Conduct surveys to understand cybersecurity concerns and pain points for businesses|
|3||Generate Seed Keywords||Compile a list of initial keywords||Brainstorming, Industry knowledge||“cybersecurity solutions,” “data protection software”|
|4||Expand Keyword List||Use tools to find related keywords||Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush||“network security services,” “cyber threat detection”|
|5||Evaluate Keyword Metrics||Analyze search volume and competition||Keyword research tools||Assess search volume and competition for keywords like “best cybersecurity software”|
|6||Analyze Competitor Keywords||Study competitors’ targeted keywords||Competitor analysis tools||Identify competitor keywords such as “enterprise firewall solutions”|
|7||Refine and Prioritize Keywords||Narrow down and prioritize keywords||Keyword research tools, Content strategy||Focus on high-relevance keywords like “cloud security solutions”|
|8||Create Content Around Keywords||Develop SEO-optimized content||Content management systems||Write blog posts on “importance of data encryption” and “best practices for endpoint security”|
|9||Track and Monitor Performance||Measure keyword rankings and traffic||Google Analytics, SEO software||Monitor rankings for “cybersecurity solutions” and track organic traffic growth|
|10||Iterate and Adapt||Update keyword strategy as needed||Stay updated with industry trends||Adjust keyword strategy based on emerging cyber threats and industry regulations|
And in more detail here:
- Identify Goals and Objectives: Define your goals for keyword research, such as improving organic search rankings, increasing website traffic, or driving conversions. Align these goals with your overall marketing and business objectives.
- Understand Your Target Audience: Gain a deep understanding of your target audience, including their demographics, interests, pain points, and search behavior. Use tools like customer surveys, interviews, and analytics data to gather insights.
- Generate Seed Keywords: Start with a list of seed keywords that are relevant to your business, products, or services. These can be broad terms or phrases that represent your industry or niche.
- Expand Keyword List: Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to expand your seed keywords into a comprehensive list of relevant and related keywords. Consider long-tail keywords, questions, and variations to capture specific user intent.
- Evaluate Keyword Metrics: Assess the search volume, competition level, and keyword difficulty for each keyword. Look for keywords with a balance of high search volume and manageable competition. Learn more about SaaS specific SEO metrics here.
- Analyze Competitor Keywords: Study the keywords your competitors are targeting and ranking for. Identify gaps, opportunities, and areas where you can differentiate your content.
- Refine and Prioritize Keywords: Refine your keyword list based on relevance, search volume, competition, and your website’s content strategy. Prioritize keywords that align with your goals and have the highest potential to drive targeted traffic.
- Create Content Around Keywords: Develop high-quality, SEO-optimized content that incorporates your target keywords naturally. Focus on providing value to your audience and answering their search queries.
- Track and Monitor Performance: Monitor keyword rankings, organic traffic, and conversions using tools like Google Analytics or SaaS SEO software. Continuously analyze and refine your keyword strategy based on performance data.
- Iterate and Adapt: Keyword research is an ongoing process. Stay updated with industry trends, search engine algorithm changes, and evolving user behavior. Regularly revisit and update your keyword strategy to stay competitive.
In this section, we delve into the importance of understanding user intent and its impact on keyword research. Deciphering intent allows us to better grasp the motivations behind search queries, helping us deliver relevant and valuable content to our audience.
By exploring different types of intent—informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial investigation—we gain insights into what our users are looking for and how to meet their needs.
So, let’s dive in and uncover the power of intent mapping in the fascinating world of keyword research.
The Search Intent Framework
Consider this chart to simplify the process:
|Intent Type||Description||Example Keywords||Recommended Content|
|Purchase Intent||Keywords indicating users are ready to make a purchase||“best CRM software,” “top project management tools”||Product comparison guides, pricing pages, free trials|
|Brand Awareness Intent||Keywords to promote brand visibility||“XYZ SaaS solutions,” “SaaS trends and insights”||Thought leadership articles, brand storytelling content|
|Usage Intent||Keywords related to specific SaaS functionalities||“cloud storage for collaboration,” “marketing automation tools for small businesses”||Feature-specific guides, use case scenarios|
|Informational Intent||Keywords for educational or informational content||“what is SaaS,” “SaaS vs. on-premise software”||Beginner’s guides, industry reports, explainer videos|
|Opinion or Feedback Intent||Keywords related to reviews or testimonials||“user reviews of XYZ software,” “customer testimonials for ABC platform”||Case studies, customer success stories, review articles|
|Research or Comparison Intent||Keywords for comparing SaaS solutions||“SaaS vs. traditional software,” “comparison of CRM platforms”||Comparison charts, detailed product reviews, whitepapers|
There are many different intent types and they will definitely vary from industry to industry, but lets consider the following with examples of SEO keywords.
- Purchase Intent: Understanding purchase intent in SaaS keyword research involves identifying keywords that indicate users are actively seeking SaaS solutions with the intention to make a purchase. By targeting keywords with purchase intent, SaaS companies can optimize their content and advertising strategies to attract potential customers who are ready to convert.
- Examples include keywords like “best CRM software,” “top project management tools,” or “affordable email marketing services.”
- Brand Awareness Intent: Brand awareness intent in SaaS keyword research focuses on keywords that help promote and establish brand visibility. These keywords may include branded terms, industry-specific keywords, or educational content related to the SaaS company’s offerings. By targeting brand awareness intent keywords, SaaS companies can increase their online presence and generate interest in their brand.
- For example, “XYZ SaaS solutions,” “SaaS trends and insights,” or “how to choose the right software for your business.”
- Usage Intent: Keywords related to usage intent in SaaS keyword research revolve around users searching for specific features, functionalities, or use cases of SaaS products. By targeting usage intent keywords, SaaS companies can showcase the capabilities of their solutions and attract users who are actively seeking specific functionalities.
- Examples may include keywords like “cloud storage for collaboration,” “marketing automation tools for small businesses,” or “customer support ticketing systems.”
- Informational Intent: Informational intent in SaaS keyword research focuses on keywords where users seek educational or informational content related to SaaS topics. By creating informative and educational content around these keywords, SaaS companies can establish thought leadership, address common questions, and build trust with their target audience.
- Examples include keywords like “what is SaaS,” “SaaS vs. on-premise software,” or “benefits of cloud-based solutions.”
- Opinion or Feedback Intent: Keywords related to opinion or feedback intent in SaaS keyword research may involve users searching for reviews, testimonials, or opinions about specific SaaS products or providers. By incorporating keywords related to opinion or feedback intent, SaaS companies can engage with potential customers, address concerns, and leverage positive reviews as social proof.
- Examples may include keywords like “user reviews of XYZ software,” “customer testimonials for ABC platform,” or “is XYZ SaaS worth it?”
- Research or Comparison Intent: Research or comparison intent keywords in SaaS keyword research involve users actively comparing different SaaS solutions or evaluating alternatives. By targeting research or comparison intent keywords, SaaS companies can position their offerings as superior alternatives, highlight unique features, and provide valuable insights to assist users in their decision-making process.
- Examples include keywords like “SaaS vs. traditional software,” “comparison of CRM platforms,” or “alternatives to XYZ software.”
Keyword Research Goals
Align Keyword Research with Business Goals:
Keyword research should serve to propel your business goals. For instance, if a cybersecurity SaaS company has a business goal to increase product sign-ups, the keyword strategy should align with this.
You need to consider the types of search queries that potential customers might use when they’re ready to sign up for a cybersecurity service. These could be high-intent keywords such as “best cybersecurity software for small businesses” or “top cybersecurity SaaS providers.”
To translate this into a measurable goal, you can use a formula like this:
Keyword Conversion Rate = (Conversions from a keyword / Total sessions from that keyword) * 100
*now an important caveat here is we generally won’t have this data for organic keywords, but if you have historical PPC data you could use this to decide on your high priority keywords.
*you could also assume Keyword = Landing Page and just use the primary keyword for that landing page in the formula.
Where ‘Conversions’ could be free trial sign-ups, demo requests, or any other conversion action relevant to your goal. The aim would be to increase this conversion rate for specific high-intent keywords.
Example Goal: Increase the number of top 10 keywords in the “small business” category by 50%
Benchmarks involve taking a snapshot of where you currently stand in terms of rankings for your targeted keywords. This gives you a clear starting point from which to measure progress.
For instance, if your cybersecurity SaaS is currently ranking on page 3 for “best cybersecurity SaaS for healthcare,” a goal could be to reach the first page.
To track improvements, you can use a formula like this:
Keyword Ranking Improvement = (Initial keyword rank – Current keyword rank) / Initial keyword rank * 100
This will give you the percentage improvement in your keyword rankings.
Example Goal: Improve the SERP ranking for “best cybersecurity SaaS for healthcare” by 50% within 6 months.
Note: This formula assumes that rank #1 is the highest possible rank. The keyword rank should therefore be a numerical value based on its position in search engine results (for example, a keyword ranked 3rd on the first page of search results has a rank of 3).
Your next step should be to brainstorm a variety of keywords and keyword categories – we’ll start with a big list and then trim it down for viability.
Try these methods to help you brainstorm ideas.
1. Reflect on Your Product or Service:
Your product or service forms the basis of your seed keywords. For a cybersecurity SaaS company, phrases like “cybersecurity software,” “SaaS security,” “cloud protection,” or “data encryption services” could be your starting point.
2. Adopt Your Customer’s Perspective:
Consider your customers’ needs and the search terms they might use. They could be exploring topics such as “how to secure my network,” “top security software for SMBs,” “secure cloud storage providers,” or “preventing data breaches.”
3. Competitor Analysis:
Identify the keywords your competitors are using tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Moz can provide insights into your competitors’ keyword strategies, helping you to spot opportunities.
4. Utilize Online Platforms and Forums:
Online platforms such as Reddit and Quora can be great places to discover what questions and topics your potential customers are interested in. Also, specialized forums in your industry could provide additional insights into user needs and language.
5. Leverage Insights from Sales Calls:
Direct conversations with customers or prospects, such as sales calls or customer support interactions, can offer invaluable insights into the issues customers face and the language they use, which can inform your seed keywords.
6. Explore Google’s Autocomplete and Related Searches:
Google’s Autocomplete function and ‘related searches’ section can provide a wealth of keyword ideas. As you start typing a seed keyword into Google’s search bar, Autocomplete will suggest popular related queries.
7. Analyze E-commerce Platforms:
E-commerce platforms like Amazon can also be used for keyword research. Look at product descriptions, customer reviews, and Q&A sections for products similar to yours to get an idea of the language customers use and their main concerns.
8. Stay Informed about Industry Trends:
Keep abreast of the latest industry trends and consider relevant developments when brainstorming seed keywords. For example, with the increase in remote work, phrases like “remote network security” or “cloud-based cybersecurity services” may become more popular.
Once you’ve created a list of seed keywords, you can delve deeper with keyword research tools to identify more specific, long-tail keywords. Always keep your target audience and their needs in mind when brainstorming seed keywords.
Selecting the Best Keywords
After the initial brainstorming, seeding and ideating – it’s time to trim down to the best keywords. You can’t attack them all at once so let’s go over some ways you can analyze your keyword list to trim the fat.
Begin by sorting your vast keyword list into meaningful categories. This makes the list more manageable and helps to ensure that you’re covering all relevant topics. Categorization might be based on:
- Topic or Theme: Group together keywords that relate to a similar topic. For instance, terms like “network protection,” “malware detection,” and “firewall security” could all fall under a broader “Protection Features” category. Similarly, “cloud security,” “SaaS cybersecurity,” and “cloud-based network security” could be grouped under a “Cloud Security” theme.
- User Intent: Separate keywords based on the user’s intent. This could be informational (e.g., “What is endpoint protection?”), navigational (e.g., “Login page for [Your Product Name]”), transactional (e.g., “Buy cybersecurity software”), or commercial investigation (e.g., “Best SaaS cybersecurity solutions 2023”).
- Product Features: If your product has distinct features, create categories for each. For instance, if you offer encryption, intrusion detection, and secure cloud storage, you can have separate categories for each feature.
- Customer Segment: If your product serves multiple industries or user types, create categories for each. For instance, you might have keywords specifically for “Cybersecurity for healthcare” or “Network security for remote teams.”
Once categorized, you should prioritize these keywords based on several factors. Given that we are focusing on a domain with lower domain authority, here are the aspects you should consider:
- Keyword Relevance: The keyword must be extremely relevant to your product or service offering. Even if a keyword has high volume and low competition, if it’s not closely related to what you offer, it’s not worth pursuing.
- Search Volume: Although high search volume keywords tend to be more competitive, they can still be worth considering if they have high relevance and intent matching your services.
- Competition and Keyword Difficulty: When starting with low domain authority, it’s beneficial to target less competitive keywords initially, even if they have a slightly lower search volume. Keyword difficulty is a metric that combines the domain authority of ranking sites, page authority, and other factors to predict how hard it would be to rank for a keyword.
- Potential for Conversion: Long-tail keywords or phrases which are specific and indicate strong user intent can often lead to higher conversion rates, even if the search volume is low. For example, a user searching for “affordable cybersecurity software for small business” shows a clear intention and is more likely to convert than a general search for “cybersecurity software.”
As an example, for a domain with low authority, prioritizing the keyword “best cybersecurity SaaS for e-commerce” might be a better choice than just “cybersecurity software,” despite the latter likely having a higher search volume. The former keyword is specific, indicates strong user intent, and faces less competition, making it potentially more accessible for a domain with lower authority.
Note: Don’t forget to utilize these keywords in your technical SEO audit and linkbuilding strategy, not just your content creation.
Remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Starting with less competitive keywords will give you a chance to build authority over time. As your domain authority improves, you can gradually start targeting more competitive keywords.
Steal Competitors Data
Your competitors are also running marketing campaigns, and with the right set of eyes and tools you can gain valuable insights from there. Especially if you’re just launching your SaaS product and website, then copying and improving on your competitors SEO strategies is a great approach.
In this section we’ll go over common tactics of competitive analysis for keyword research.
Competitor PPC Data
Competitor Pay-Per-Click (PPC) data can be a treasure trove of insights for your SEO strategy. While you can’t “steal” this data, many tools can legally analyze and present it, providing valuable information. Here’s how to use competitor PPC data in your SEO research:
1. Identify Your Competitors’ PPC Keywords
The first step is to find out what keywords your competitors are bidding on in their PPC campaigns. Tools like SEMrush, SpyFu or Ahrefs can provide this data.
For instance, if you’re a cloud storage SaaS, and notice that your competitor Dropbox bids on keywords such as “secure cloud storage for businesses”, it’s a sign that these keywords are valuable.
2. Analyze Competitors’ Ad Copy
Next, study the ad copy of your competitors. This step can reveal what kind of messaging and keywords are effective in attracting clicks. Pay attention to the headlines, descriptions, and call-to-actions (CTAs).
Ad Library by Facebook and Google Ads can provide examples of competitors’ ad copy. Let’s say Dropbox uses a compelling CTA like “Try Dropbox Business – Secure Your Data Now” in their ads. You could craft a similar CTA for your organic content to inspire action.
3. Leverage Their Keyword Strategy for SEO
Once you’ve gathered PPC keyword data, incorporate this information into your organic SEO strategy. Start by creating content around these keywords. If these terms are effective in paid campaigns, they’re likely to be beneficial for organic search as well.
For example, if Dropbox is bidding on the keyword “cloud storage for remote teams”, you could write a detailed blog post titled “The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Cloud Storage for Your Remote Team”. This content might naturally rank for the targeted keyword, drawing organic traffic without the cost of PPC.
4. Monitor Ad Trends
Keep an eye on the changes in your competitors’ PPC campaigns. Are they focusing on new keywords? Has their ad copy changed? Tools like SE Ranking and iSpionage can help you track these trends.
If Dropbox suddenly starts bidding on “cloud storage for video editing”, it might indicate a shift in their strategy. You could anticipate this trend and start creating content around this new keyword before it becomes highly competitive.
By incorporating these steps into your SEO strategy, you can leverage your competitors’ PPC data to enhance your keyword research, understand effective messaging, and stay ahead of industry trends.
Organic Keyword Gap Analysis
A keyword gap analysis, also known as a keyword opportunity analysis, is an SEO strategy that involves identifying keywords your competitors rank for, but your website does not. The goal is to find “gaps” in your keyword strategy that, if filled, could bring additional organic traffic to your site.
What Is Keyword Gap Analysis?
In simple terms, a keyword gap analysis uncovers missed opportunities in your SEO strategy by comparing your keyword portfolio to those of your competitors. This process reveals keywords that are driving traffic to your competitors’ websites but are absent or underutilized on your site.
How Does Keyword Gap Analysis Help?
- Uncover New Keywords: One of the primary benefits of a keyword gap analysis is the discovery of new keywords that are relevant to your business and have proven successful for your competitors.
- Identify Content Opportunities: By recognizing which keywords you’re missing, you can pinpoint content opportunities to target those keywords. This might involve creating new content or optimizing existing content.
- Improve Organic Search Performance: Targeting the keywords discovered during a gap analysis can help increase your site’s visibility in search engine results, leading to more organic traffic.
- Informed SEO Strategy: Understanding the keyword landscape in your industry, including competitor tactics, can inform your overall SEO strategy and ensure your efforts align with market dynamics.
- Competitive Advantage: By successfully closing keyword gaps, you can gain a competitive advantage, potentially outranking competitors for important search terms in your industry.
1. SEMrush Keyword Gap Tool
SEMrush’s Keyword Gap tool allows you to compare your domain with up to four competitors and see which keywords each is ranking for. To use this tool:
- Enter your domain and your competitors’ domains in the input fields.
- The tool will then display a set of keywords, indicating where your site and your competitors’ sites rank for each keyword.
- Look for keywords where your competitors have strong rankings, but your site does not. These are potential keyword opportunities for you.
For example, if you have a project management SaaS and find that your competitor ranks highly for the keyword “best project management software for engineers,” but you do not, this is a keyword gap. You might consider creating content that targets this keyword to close the gap.
2. Ahrefs Content Gap Tool
Ahrefs offers a similar tool called the Content Gap tool. To use it:
- Input your domain and your competitors’ domains.
- The tool will generate a list of keywords that your competitors rank for, but you don’t.
This tool can provide insights into content topics you might be missing. For example, if your CRM software competitors are ranking for “CRM for real estate agents,” but you’re not, it may be worth creating content around this topic.
Remember, the goal of a keyword gap analysis isn’t to copy your competitors but to uncover opportunities to expand your own content and SEO strategy. Using these tools can help you identify where there’s room for you to grow and compete more effectively.