Roughly 81 percent of B2B purchase cycles start with an online web search and 57 percent of B2B marketers say Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has the biggest impact on lead generation. The bottom line for software companies is that, if customers and sales prospects can't find you online, you simply won't be a part of the evaluation process or buying cycle.
And it's no secret to marketers across all industries, software and technology included. According to HubSpot, roughly 60 percent of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.
The problem is, many software companies and organizations simply don't know where to start in terms of optimizing their SEO, and therefore fail to develop a concrete gameplan that will yield real results.
Which is precisely why we've developed this comprehensive guide for software and technology companies to give a huge boost to their Search Optimization. From landing pages and API documentation to vertical industry reports and guest blogging, read on to discover our top nine SEO tips that software companies can put into use right away.
Chapter 1: SaaS SEO Landing Pages
It's where a visitor "lands" after they've clicked on a Google AdWords or other similar SEO campaign. Key phrase targeted landing pages are exceptionally important because you want people to end up visiting the pages about the products or services that they've searched for, and are therefore most likely relevant to them.
For example, many software companies have a variety of different services they offer, often depending on the industry, size of the business, or other segmented requirements. These different customer segments will be searching Google or some other search engine specifically for the products or services they need.
Someone who manages a hospital might be searching for "Healthcare CRM", while a mom and pop shop would search something along the lines of "CRM for Small Business." But by embedding key phrases within targeted landing pages, you can both improve your overall SEO as well as your lead generation efforts.
Hubspot is a software company that provides a variety of different products or services, depending on the needs of a certain business. While customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation are the core of their business, Hubspot also offers a variety of other services, as well as sub-services within their core offerings.
This is a great example of how Hubspot has used a key phrase targeted landing page (geared towards those looking for graphic design services), to improve SEO and lead generation.
First, note that the heading of the page is phrased almost exactly as someone would type into a search bar. A small business owner might also be searching for terms like creating graphics that convert," or "graphic design for lead generation," etc.
This leads potential customers to their site that may not be looking for their software solution now, but will gain knowledge, brand equity, and potentially convert into a lead for future nurturing.
Another common search is by market or vertical. If you are a company providing accounting software with a focus on construction, engineering, surveying, and other related vertical industries then you should have landing pages for each.
These are just three simple examples, but even within the construction vertical, you may have several sub-verticals such as commercial construction or residential construction.
Landing pages such as these are great because someone searching their market plus a solution is a very targeted buyer that you can specifically speak to in your messaging to address their needs and concerns.
If you're like most software and technology companies, the product, service, or platform you offer encompasses a variety of different features and functionality. And depending on the nature of your customer base and segments, specific features will be of more (or less) interest to certain audiences depending on their business needs.
The question is, how do you take this important relationship into account when designing landing pages to optimize for SEO?
The answer is, software companies should consider using feature-specific landing pages that will tie in with AdWords or similar campaigns (as above) but will direct prospects to a landing page with the most relevant product features based on their search queries.
SalesForce, for instance, is another software company whose platform offers a plethora of features and functionality. Sales prospects might be searching for CRM features like customer service integration or marketing automation.
What SalesForce does effectively, and what any other software companies should consider, is creating separate feature landing pages that will both optimize SEO and increase lead capturing.
This page below is specifically for their Contact Management features as part of their CRM product. People searching for "contact management" have a high likelihood of finding this page.
First, the headline and subheadings align well (again) with what sales prospects might be searching for. “Contact Management” is a specific key phrase that SalesForce’s target prospects might be using. Having “Ready to Boost Your Sales?” also gives search engines an idea of the specific business problem this feature is trying to solve.
Finally, the call to action is to take a guided tour, which aligns well with feature landing pages. Sales prospects that are specifically researching tools with marketing automation functionality likely aren’t going to download an e-book or sign up for a webinar. They want to see the features and functions live in action, typically in the form of a guided tour or a free demo. Just make sure to work with your SEO and/or digital marketing partners to determine which calls to action are most appropriate for each of your feature landing pages, and consider A/B testing several different versions to see which ones are converting at the highest rates.
For many SaaS companies, their solution works differently or has different implications based on the size or stage of the company.
Common SEO landing pages are related to either start-up or enterprise solutions - you'll also see small business as a common page.
In the example fo Salesforce, they not only have a page but a small microsite with multiple pages as well as focused articles and resources just for small business. If your company serves focused sized business ( and even if it does not ), it is good to create these SEO pages to drive traffic for terms related.
Think about terms like:
These are common search paradigms that should be optimized for with SEO landing pages.
Before moving forward with key phrase targeted landing pages, you’ll want to work with your digital marketing partner or utilize tools like Moz or Google Keyword Planner to decide which key phrases will be best for each customer segment (and hence each landing page). You’ll then be able to effectively run campaigns on Google AdWords to promote the pages you want and drive traffic specifically to those landing pages.
When designing a new website for a technology or software company, the strategy, technology, structure, and design of landing pages must be a primary – if not the primary – part of the process.
In many ways, landing pages are more important than your homepage or core website pages because smart marketing strategies will drive more traffic to your landing pages than anywhere else. A sign of a successful marketing program is high volumes of visits and conversions on landing pages used in advertising and search optimization.
“Whether you choose targeted landing pages solely or to add targeted landing pages to campaign source tracking, your conversion rate will improve as you test design, content, and structure. The lessons you learn from one campaign will serve you well in subsequent campaigns, even campaigns for different offers.”
Articles and blog posts, for example, can be written in support of new feature introductions. These articles combined with videos are the fundamental pieces of using new feature announcements for search ranking improvement.
These articles and videos will serve as a resource of record for these new features and are will become content that is discoverable by search engines well beyond the actual announcement. Feature announcement articles and posts typically take one of the two following forms:
With mature software products, an article offering product release notes is a classic tool for introducing new features. Also known as feature rollups or roundups, product release notes offer users all-inclusive accounts of new features and other product updates.
They're lists that allow you to pass along a lot of information in an easily-scanned format. But be careful of using your internal jargon too heavily or turning the notes into rote checklists that are only presented from your point of view and don’t stress user benefits.
Often if you have a strong user base, these release notes will be linked to by users and professionals in their articles and blogs which builds backlinks – a major ranking indicator. WordPress is a great example of a company who constantly puts out release notes that get linked to by thousands of articles about WordPress.
These articles can drill down in greater detail about specifics, and push the brand-building “story” behind new features, with well-crafted copywriting.
A new feature announcement is a good way to use a new release as a branding opportunity, though you should always steer clear of hitting false notes or exaggerating. Like always, make sure the benefits to the user shine through.
Project management software company Asana's article announcing their new Timeline feature for 2018.
There are a wide range of ways to showcase new features being added to your software product. The great thing about leveraging video or animated gifs is that you can show rather than tell a user about a new feature.
This approach makes it significantly more comprehensible for a visitor to understand how the new feature works. Plus for potential buyers, this gives a great look under the hood which most potential software buyers want before they sign up for a demo.
The great benefit to Search Optimization is that media can be published on other platforms such as YouTube which can drive an amazing amount of visibility.
A software roadmap is a perfect opportunity for improving search optimization for a software product. It acts as a summary of your feature updates and gives search engines a constantly updated resource for your product.
When done right, this is not only a page that provides smart cross-linking and summarization, but also will attract backlinks as people discuss your product.
Both the articles and videos can be re-purposed and showcased on the company website, blog, and social media channels to optimize the number of backlinks you get from these new product announcements, therefore boosting your overall SEO rankings.
Look, there are a lot of reasons you want to expose specific features, updates, and releases to the world. As we just discussed, it is really powerful for SEO - these types of pages are very keyword focused and often relate to the pains of your target audiences.
But let's also talk beyond SEO - promoting these types of announcements portrays that your solution is modern and constantly improving. Roadmaps can add excitement and even be expanded to gather feedback and input from existing users.
If you want to generate sign ups and demos for your software, promote your new features and even go back in time to document past releases.
“If you’re launching a new product that enters your company into a new space, start creating content about that space pre-launch. You’ll want to seed this content for SEO purposes and to establish your company as experts in the market. It’ll also give you a chance to see what kind of content resonates prior to the launch, as well as help you surface any issues.”
Moreover, before engaging in a sales cycle, they want to hear first-hand about how your technology offerings have helped companies, business teams, and organizations in similar situations to theirs. Providing both doesn’t just strengthen your brand in the eyes of potential customers, but also helps boost your SEO and makes you easier to find online.
Targeted vertical landing pages are especially critical for technology and software companies, as different industries often have very different needs, requirements, and uses from the same platform. Take storage giant Box, for instance, which serves any number of industries from media and entertainment to finance and healthcare. A target buyer from the finance industry might be searching for storage solutions that also streamline regulatory compliance, for example.
Meanwhile, a media & entertainment executive might be searching for software that can easily handle large amounts of video and audio files used to produce a movie or TV shows.
By setting up industry vertical specific landing pages, Box can effectively position each page to rank highly in search engines for the appropriate terms and keywords. While this improves SEO rankings, it also makes it much easier in terms of lead capture and call to action.
Site visitors are taken directly to the product or service that is most relevant to their industry and can easily schedule a demo, sign up for a trial, or whatever the case may be. And to go along with all of your industry vertical specific content, you’ll want to include some high-quality customer testimonial videos as a form of social proof to your audience.
Box also embeds customer testimonial videos with key phrase descriptions on its website to improve SEO.
When including or embedding customer testimonial videos on your website to enhance SEO, remember to do the following:
Kelsey Taber, Boast Client Testimonials
“Updating elements of your page to be keyword focused will help improve SEO on your testimonial pages. By optimizing for search, you have a better chance at bringing organic traffic to your testimonial pages. This, in turn, will allow your current customers to do the talking for your brand.”
For starters, optimize your documentation with your target market’s key phrases and search terms. That being said, you need to avoid “keyword stuffing” altogether. The search terms should exist in your relevant documentation page around three times (that’s about all that’s necessary).
Another documentation factor that can impact SEO is links. Anchor text, for instance, can positively influence your rankings. These internal links help users and search engines to better crawl through your documentation. Google and other search engines’ algorithms are heavily based on backlinks (i.e. the links pointing back to a particular webpage), making them imperative to SEO. Therefore, if your documentation is on a different domain than your company’s website, you should consider adding links from your company’s website back to your documentation (and vice-versa) to improve SEO.
In addition, you should consider adding links to your documentation from your company’s social media sites. Canonical links can further impact SEO. Canonical links specify a preferred URL if duplicate sites are found. For instance, if you have different versions of API documentation available, the canonical link will specify the URL, or the preferred API documentation version, returned in the search results.
Structure your documentation so that you'll have the opportunity to include multiple keywords and key phrases throughout (per Hootsuite)
Finally, there are things that can hurt your rankings. Utilizing frames or iframes in your documentation will negatively impact search engine results. There are many help authoring tools that utilize frames and iframes in their web-based output, so make sure your documentation isn’t created using one of those.
Also avoid changing a documentation webpage’s URL, its hosting server IP address, or any links. If you make such changes, it could take months for the various search engines to re-index your documentation. Until it is reindexed, the website could have a lower ranking than before these changes took place. Also, changing your URL could also cause the backlinks to your site to break, thereby hurting your rankings even more.
That’s not saying you should avoid updating your content. Just make changes to links, URLs, and addresses sparingly, and only when necessary. In fact, if you find that a lot of users are reading about specific topics, these are good areas to routinely focus your attention on to ensure they are properly maintained.
Jennifer Morse, Madcap Software
“By utilizing SEO in your technical documentation, the specific topic that each user is searching for will be more easily found. Therefore, even if you are not concerned with how your documentation is ranked by Google, Bing, or whomever, you should still consider the various factors that impact SEO.”
But more importantly, your landing pages and resource section pages where your reports will live need to be structured in the right way so that search engines pick up the right keywords and you receive a boost in the rankings.
Vertical industry reports (if optimized correctly), can help your search and SEO rankings in multiple ways. The most important aspect of your industry reports is actually the title. According to Google, search engines consider document titles very heavily in figuring out what the document is actually about and where it should be ranked in search.
Your title needs to be relevant to the search terms and key phrases that your target for each vertical are likely to be searching for. Summarize what the report is about using key phrases, but with catchy copy that will hook readers and prospects.
Great example form Splunk about how an industry vertical report headline should be written for SEO, as well as laid out for lead capture.
When you decide on a title for each industry vertical report, you'll also want to use the same wording in the title tag of the webpage where the report will appear. The description of the industry report is another opportunity to improve SEO with key phrases, and even a couple backlinks to other similar industry reports on your website. Work with your SEO partner to help formulate clear, concise copy in the description that works in keywords and phrases appropriately.
A properly created industry vertical report presents readers with challenges relevant to their industry, and proof that your organization both understands the problem and how to approach potential solutions. In short, the report creates is designed to position you as an authoritative expert on certain topics within an industry, which will do wonders for your SEO over time by accomplishing the following:
Address an industry challenge in a way that’s not being addressed addressing.
Offer detailed solutions that nobody else in the marketplace is offering.
Specify a starting point for additional thought leadership content.
Clarify the benefits of the specific solutions you’re proposing.
Deliver upcoming trends for your target industry
By creating industry vertical reports that accomplish these points, you’re giving visitors a reason to click through to specific web and landing pages other than to simply engage in a sales cycle.
See this example of an industry trend report:
If you are offering reports like these as gated content that require contact information to download, make sure that you put enough information on your landing page that you can rank well. Often times giving away some of the most powerful stats and quotes, as well as some sample content, can help you rank.
Also, make sure that you include sharing buttons on the page so that you can build inbound links for SEO.
The additional web traffic you generate from these authoritative reports (and they must be objective, fact-based, and well-researched) will in turn influence search algorithms over time. Moreover, readers might share the links on social media and backlink them on their own blogs, further boosting traffic and SEO ranking.
Venu Puram, Digital Ready
"The effectiveness of a [report] as an SEO tool activates with the basics. As with any other form of online content, the [report] is a theme to the same kind of analysis search engine algorithms apply to blog posts, advertising copy, and so on."
By offering a client website integration tool, along with the proper corresponding documentation, you’ll be able to affect your search engine rankings positively.
Microsoft’s Azure integration tools web page is a good example of how text can be worked in to improve overall site SEO.
The extent to which you’re able to use integration tools web pages to improve SEO on your website will depend on how many client integrations are necessary for your typical customer. You’ll want to include tools for the most common integrations, as well as key phrases that you’ve determined with your SEO partner that are most relevant to your target audience.
Many software companies also include a marketplace-type webpage that will help integrate and/or connect current systems, products, or services that customers may already be using. If the software you offer is big data analytics, for example, customers may need to connect it with their CRM, project management, or other application at some point.
By providing a webpage with a list of apps that you can easily integrate, as well as tools to do so once they become customers, you’ll have yet another webpage to place key phrases and backlinks (where appropriate).
Domo’s connector browsing page allows users to make sure the right integrations are available.
Client integration and web connector tools on your website often go unnoticed (and under optimized) from an SEO standpoint by many software companies. Make sure to work with an experienced SEO partner to identify key phrases and place them appropriately throughout all integration webpages.
“Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.”
However, some forms of guest blogging have come under fire in recent years, as some people have abused to practice by writing sub-par “spammy” blog posts simply designed for backlinking. Google has adjusted their algorithms accordingly in an attempt to eliminate such practices, making the quality of guest blogging all that much more crucial moving forward.
The SEO benefit to guest blogging revolves around what’s known as “link building.” Whenever someone from your company writes a guest blog post for another site or publication, you might link back to authoritative resources on your website in the text, to your homepage in your author bio, or to other applicable sections on your website.
However, with search algorithms now getting wise to excessive backlinking, here are some of the most crucial elements to bear in mind when formulating your guest blogging strategy:
More likely than not, you’ve seen the typical, generic guest blog post that’s designed for nothing more than the purpose of backlinking. Even if the post isn’t pure spam, it’s vague, short, uninformative, and written with very little degree of knowledge or expertise. These kinds of posts almost always include a few links with keyword-rich anchor text (which sometimes doesn’t even make sense), and rarely contain any links to other authoritative sources.
Instead, make sure that any links you include back to your site actually offer value to the reader. This is good from both an SEO and user experience standpoint. Any links should be extremely relevant to the subject of your post and should contain anchor text that that’s relevant to readers and search engines.
The links you provide aren’t the only part of your guest posts that need to be high-quality and relevant. The actual content that you’re linking to needs to be high-quality, and offer substantial additional value to the reader. The problem is, some companies will write a quality guest blog post, but then link to a low-quality article on their website in an attempt to boost the performance of the lower quality piece. This can actually have seriously negative consequences, in terms of not helping the low-performing post (which Google is now able to outsmart) and also hurting the ranking and reputation of the site you’re guest posting on. At the end of the day, both your guest blog post and the posts that you link back to should represent some of the highest-quality content that you’ve produced to date.
Despite backlinks and link building being great, primary technical SEO benefits to guest blogging, they shouldn’t be your only motivation or consideration. In fact, if you’re guest blogging for the sole purpose of getting links, more often than not the quality of your content is going to suffer.
So make sure to ask yourself, “If this site or publication didn’t offer my any backlinks, would I still guess post for them?” Obviously, you want the answer to be yes, so you’ll feel good that no matter what, your brand is associated with a high-value publication. Guest blogging also puts you in front of new audiences who, if they’re impressed by what you have to say, will then search your name, bio, and/or company you work for. You’ll also be established as a thought leader in your field amongst potential technology buyers.
All this can lead to boost referral traffic, searches, and lead capture/generation.
After landing a great guest blog posting opportunity, it’s often tempting to stuff in as many backlinks as possible to your website. However, this is also a great way to tip off readers (and the blog owner) that you're just after the links and nothing else. Not only will this probably not work, it’s a great way to ruin your credibility and never get invited back to blog again.
A good rule of thumb is to link back to your own content no more than two or three times on a long form post of more than 1,000 words (and even less for short form). Instead, other relevant facts, statistics, research, and references should be pulled from other authoritative sites or even from other articles of the blog you’re writing for. Guest posts that are SEO optimized are typically around 1,100 words with about ten overall links.
Based on these figures, your typical guest post should contain about two links to your own site, two or three internal links to the host blog’s content, and the rest to external, authoritative sites.
First, these directories are a great source of direct traffic and awareness. Real buyers utilize them constantly to find and evaluate software platforms - in many circumstances, these sites can be the first place that potential buyers go to look.
Second, these sites are good for SEO because they help provide inbound links as well as help reference-able discovery for people writing articles.
Another great use of these sites is for competitor research – learn what your competitors are doing, what features their adding, how their customers rate them, and more.
It is important to have a presence on any site that you can. Below is just a small list of the directories and review sites you can post your profile on. One of the important things is to make sure that you fill these profiles out fully to get the advantage.
G2 Crowd is one of the most popular sources for discovering software solutions. Their interactive evaluation matrix helps visitors get quick insights into the various platforms available.
With verified reviews, Capterra provides a ton of powerful insight into software and SAAS products. They offer both free and paid listings, so you can get ranked even without an investment.
Want someone you can actually call on the phone to ask about software, well Software Advice not only has online reviews but can help walk you through finding the right solution.
GetApp is like many of the other directories out there for software products. One unique feature is their ability to build an integrated stack of products as well as compare products side-by-side
A well-known site for startups and entrepreneurs, Product Hunt is a unique community of founders, companies, products, and more. It also features events, jobs, questions to be way more than a directory.
Clutch goes way beyond just software and provides reviews on a wide range of companies. After submitting a list of clients, their team will call to interview them attempting to get unbias reviews about your organization.
Crunchbase Pro allows you to track the companies, people, and investors that matter to you. Integrate Crunchbase data with Salesforce, and get API access to pull in data to your own systems.
Angel List is another great community site that goes way beyond software products. It can connect investors with founders as well as discover people by skills and education.
These are just the tip of the iceberg for where you can list your software product. It takes time to fill these profiles out correctly, but it should be a key part of your strategy as a software business.
It is a simple way to drive traffic beyond just ranking higher in search engines.
There are hundreds of software platforms that ca help in marketing and SEO, but here are a few that we swear by.
Moz is one of the most well-known names in Search Engine Optimization and they offer one of the top SEO softwares.
"From helping you target the right keywords to creating custom reports. Moz Pro removes SEO complexity."
Moz Pro provides a wide range of tools to use on your site from audits and keyword tracking to link building and custom reporting. This is a real professionals tool.
With verified reviews, Capterra provides a ton of powerful insight into software and SAAS products. They offer both free and paid listings, so you can get ranked even without an investment.
Raven Tools is an established marketing software that helps agencies and clients alike improve rankings. One thing we like about Raven tools is their detailed and customizable reports.
"Provide prospective SEO clients with detailed SEO audit reports that show progress over time. Analyze organic performance of your SEO campaign and track ranking changes on SERPs. Identify potential backlink sources, manage and report your progress. Create white-label reports with performance metrics from Google Analytics, Search Console, AdWords, Facebook, Bing Ads and more."
A marketing and SEO reporting SAAS that is meant for agencies. It features mobile apps, multiple third-party analytics, social analytics, and backlink monitoring. This software platform can integrate with a ton of other platforms to bring in data and make it your central dashboard.
One of the more comprehensive SEO solutions designed for marketing and search analytics, content marketing and PPC campaigns. It helps you discover also the market share of the domains for the top 100 search results on specific keywords.
“Benefit from your competitor’s experience in attracting leads through organic and paid search, track your main competitors and improve your content, as well as your SEO and PPC efforts.”
Another software that we use to help our clients with SEO is Screaming Frog. Our team primarilly uses the software to scan for links and setup 301 redirects when we move a site.
“These products provide SEO insights to companies through features, such as keyword analysis, backlink tracking, and trend analysis, to identify the best strategies to improve a website’s search relevance. Many tools also offer competitor data and broad industry analysis.”
Software Search Optimization & Marketing
Insivia specializes in helping software companies scale – fast.