Olga MykhoparkinaJul 02, 2021
Every SaaS founder I consult wants her homepage ranked under a “big fat” keyword – the most important keyword for their business. “Website builder” or “recruitment software” would be a good example. While this choice seems quite obvious for the website builder and a recruitment software, oftentimes, it’s close to impossible to make it happen.
I often meet SaaS founders with a newly-launched website who want to throw a $1K monthly budget and expect their homepage to rank #1 for that kind of keyword in a few months.
Seriously, your well-known competitors are spending tens of thousands of dollars each month on content marketing. Last week I had a call with a SaaS CMO who literally built an in-house content marketing agency to support their content efforts. With 12 copywriters onboard they write 30 blog posts and build hundreds of backlinks per month.
How do you top that?
If you are a small bootstrapped startup on a limited budget you should be looking for ways to optimize your content marketing ROI. Of course, you can write an article covering that “recruitment software” keyword, but if you stop for a minute and think about it:
You’ll see that it’s “super hard” to rank for, the domains already ranking for it are of high authority and the amount of backlinks they’ve acquired over time is just insane.
You’ll need to grow your domain authority to 80 (which takes years) and get around 100 backlinks to the post (which takes thousands of dollars) to even stand a chance to rank for it. Even if you have all the time and money to achieve this – your competition is not sleeping, they work on improving their content and getting great backlinks day in, day out. In all honesty, I don’t recommend our clients to dive into this red ocean of keywords when it’s that competitive.
Sometimes you get lucky and the competition for your business keyword isn’t that fierce. E.g. we ranked our client Expandi under “LinkedIn automation tools” (their big keyword) in Google top in just a few months of our work. However, the competition level has tripled since then as LinkedIn marketing is growing like crazy.
For some industries it’s not just “the business keyword” that is hard to rank for. Sometimes you spend hours in Ahrefs just to realize that each of your target keywords has been monopolized by the industry giants. E.g. one of the hardest competitions in the SaaS world is in the sales and marketing industry. It’s full of sharks like Hubspot, Neil Patel, Marketo and other big names. If your SaaS falls under that category, I’m afraid it’s going to be a tough and expensive journey.
If you analyze the market, you’ll find a handful of your competitors running the show. Sometimes they’ll be big brands like Slack, Intercom or HubSpot. Sometimes, they’ll be little-known companies.
One way or another there are always people out there unhappy with a tool they are using for some reason (price, features, support, you name it). So they are searching for an alternative. Now, would you like those people to see your tool whenever they are looking for an alternative to your competitor?
I believe so.
Let me show you how to be there for your potential customers.
We’ve done it for Chanty, RingBlaze, Expandi and every single time it works like magic. For Chanty the strategy brought 10K teams onboard. For RingBlaze we received 650 beta testers with under 20 blog articles. Expandi has grown from 0 to $4M in just 14 months. If you’d like to know how to do it, read on.
I assume you already know your top competitors. Great. Now it’s time to dive into Ahrefs and look up the keywords containing: alternatives, competitors, review, pricing, vs. We’ll be using HubSpot as an example.
Your list is going to look something like:
You’d want to look up all the “vs” keywords to get a list like this one:
Looks pretty cool actually, if you are working on a HubSpot alternative, you know where to start getting your content marketing quick wins.
Next you’ll need to choose those that you’ll cover with your blog articles. The rule of thumb here is to follow the formula of:
High search volume + Low keyword difficulty + High intent
While the first two are pretty clear and can be put in numbers, the last one is questionable. How do you measure intent?
No worries, we got you covered. We’ve learnt this over trial and error so now you can just follow our recommendations rather than make mistakes we’ve done in the past.
Since we wrote so many articles, we know which keywords have the most intent. Usually it follows the certain set of rules:
1. “Alternatives” convert the best. This is quite an obvious one as people typing this keyword in Google are not happy with the tool they are using. They are looking to replace it.
2. “Vs” would be your 2nd best option. It’s not as good as alternatives because people searching for it already have the tool options in mind, they are just looking to compare them and make a choice. You’ll have to be very convincing in the post you write as to ‘Why your tool is better’.
3. Reviews would arguably be the 3d best option. People searching for reviews already have their eyes set on a specific tool, they need to know more about it. Again, you need to be convincing to change their mind.
3. “Pricing” will get you far less traffic than you expect. Even if you rank #2 for “HubSpot pricing” right under hubspot.com/pricing just a fraction of all that search volume will result in click-throughs as people are mostly looking for an actual pricing page of the tool.
I hope this detailed explanation helped you choose the right keywords.
If you think it’s too much to absorb in one sitting, feel free to reach out so we can help you identify the best content opportunities for your SaaS.
Now that you have a list of the right keywords, it’s time to come up with the topic. Here’s how I approached it before:
1. I looked up the search results page for the keyword.
2. Realized the majority of the results were pretty much the same e.g. X Top %Tool% alternatives you’ll love/ need to check/ that work. I wanted to be creative about it and humanized the title as much as possible.
3. I came up with: “We tried X %Tool% alternatives, here’s our feedback”. Google loves variety in the search results page so it performs really well. The very first article like that was for Chanty, it still ranks #1 for the “Slack alternatives” keyword.
4. Stand out. If you notice someone’s already covered your title idea for your niche already (it’s amazing how fast people copy your ideas):
it doesn’t make sense to repeat it. Google doesn’t like to show their readers the exact same results, so make sure your title is different from everything else in the search results page.
Now comes the most important part of the whole process. You’ll have to write a comprehensive review of each of the tools and make it as valuable for the reader as possible. Some of the best practices to follow along the way that we’ve learnt over the years of our experience:
1. Keep it honest, let readers know that you are the competing team behind the article reviewing all the alternatives. Maybe add a disclaimer about it.
2. Stick to a friendly and casual tone. There’s nothing worse than a dry impersonal text rambling about feature after feature.
3. Make sure to add a call-to-action (CTA) within your text so readers can sign up on a spot without having to jump through the hoops.
4. Think through the structure of your article – what are you readers would be most interested in when it comes to the tool reviews? Think of adding headings e.g. “Who is it for?”, “Pricing”, “What makes it better than X?” Try to keep the article consistent. Stick to similar paragraphs for each tool you’ve chosen to compare.
5. Be nice and unbiased. When reviewing your competitors it’s easy to get carried away and let emotions take over facts. Remember to stay professional and avoid insulting your rivals. No reader I know will appreciate the ‘our tool is gold and others are ?’ kind of attitude.
6. Put your tool #1 on the list. After all, this is your blog and you are free to do it. Similar to people searching stuff on Google where 30% end up clicking through the first result, the first alternative on your list will get the most attention.
7. One of the ideas is to use supporting keywords as H2 headings. Remember all those “vs” keywords? You can make H2 headings out of them. This way when you have the full-length comparison articles you can link to them turning your ‘alternative’ post into a content hub.
8. Look for additional keyword ideas by tapping into the ‘People also ask’ section of the Google search results for your keyword. Adding more relevant keywords will boost your exposure resulting in more traffic.
9. Some of the readers will scroll down to the bottom to read the Final thoughts. Finish up with a summary and remember to mention your tool again and why it’s a good choice.
If you need a helping hand writing a blog post like this, we are always happy to help. Feel free to reach out and book your free consultation session with me whenever you are ready.
Backlinks from trustworthy platforms will help you boost your post’s position on Google. If you are wondering how to choose platforms for your backlinking efforts, here’s a helpful post I wrote earlier about it.
The best-case scenario would be writing guest posts on a similar topic for well-known platforms and linking from those articles to your alternative post. E.g. we’ve done that earlier for Chanty – published a guest post on HubSpot blog covering “Slack alternatives” linking to the “Slack alternatives” article on Chanty blog.
The results are huge – you’ll see a deluge of referral traffic (and leads) from a guest post like that, moreover it’ll give your own alternative blog post a boost in the search engines.
This is a very important step that, if done right, could 5X your results. Once your alternative post ranks Google top-5 it’s time to partner with your search competitors. Here’s what you should do:
1. Identify other tool listings that rank Google top-5 for your alternative keyword
2. Find their contact details and reach out to them asking to include your tool to their list
Now, unless your offer has a clear benefit for your competitors, you probably won’t hear back from them. Think about the value you could provide before asking for a favor. It can be:
– a free premium plan of your tool (if they are not your direct competitors)
– a mention and a link of their tool in your alternative article
– a link back to them from a great platform
That’s how you get a search result that looks like this:
Now it’s time to dispel some of the doubts that I’m sure you have by now.
Branding is everything. It’s important for you to maintain a certain brand image and writing about competition may not necessarily fit into it. However, I usually ask every founder concerned about brand image:
“Do you think HubSpot has a strong brand image?”
The answer is usually “Of course”
Well, then you may want to take a look at their content around competitors:
“Oh, so HubSpot does it, so can we”
You can, but from our experience Google likes comprehensive blog posts better. Moreover, our experience shows that blog posts are better for this purpose for a bunch of other reasons:
1. Blog posts are easier to update to keep the content fresh – another thing Google appreciates.
2. It’s easier to reflect your EAT (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) with a blog post.
3. Given the length of the blog post – it has a great potential to rank for many keywords other than ‘X alternatives’ translating into more traffic to your blog.
4. Last, but not least, blog posts are a faster, easier and less expensive solution – no design, UX or markup required.
I know, there are so many review platforms out there: G2, Capterra, Alternativeto, Getapp – the list is endless. How do you stand a chance to outrank those big chaps? The truth is, your chances are quite high given that most of these platforms capitalize on the user-generated content. It usually lacks consistency, structure and expertise.
Moreover, if you have a good bunch of platforms like that in Google top for your keyword – consider yourself lucky. It probably means that there are no similar articles on the topic written before. Just like a good store owner, Google likes to have diversity in the search results. So buckle up and wait for your post to rank.
It would be great to have a big fancy competitor in the niche. But sometimes all we find is a handful of little-known tools nobody is searching for let alone their alternatives. What should you do when you type in “X alternatives” in Ahrefs and see 0-10 search volume?
I still recommend going after those keywords. To prove my point, let’s take a look at the following client’s data for the 3-months period:
Here’s the performance of the educational article on our client’s blog covering their niche keyword of 11K search volume. Turns out it’s great in terms of traffic, but not as a source of instant leads.
This one is an “X alternatives” blog post covering an ‘alternative’ keyword of 0-10 search volume that actually brings leads. Not hundreds of them, but when your client’s LTV (life-time-value) is around $1-2K it’s probably not that bad after all.
On-site technical issues could be easily a reason for that. You can go through the SEO checklist to make sure your website is compliant with Google guidelines.
One of our clients had a similar issue – despite all our efforts their traffic numbers wouldn’t grow. We started working with them in December 2020 and noticed significant site speed issues. Finally, they fixed them in March 2021 and that’s where the growth has started.
To wrap up everything we discussed above, let me summarize the steps you should be taking to get the most ROI for your SaaS from your content marketing efforts:
1. Look for the keywords with the best balance of search volume, keyword difficulty and intent. Start with ‘alternative’ keywords
2. Come up with a great article title that stands out from the crowd
3. Write an in-depth review post. Keep it honest and unbiased. Don’t forget to add CTAs
4. Support your published post with backlinks from quality platforms. Consider writing guest posts on the similar topic as your initial post
5. Partner with your search competitors to get your tool on every list of those ‘alternatives’
I hope by now you have all the guidance you need to put this SaaS content marketing strategy to life.
Thanks to our efforts, the following posts:
Rank #1 on Google and bring leads to.
If you need an extra pair of hands to help you with your SaaS content marketing efforts you know where to find it.
Good luck with your SaaS content marketing!
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