Link Building

SaaS Link Building: What Really Works in 2023?

Olga Mykhoparkina

Jan 20, 2023

At Quoleady, we focus on creating high-quality SaaS blog content for our clients. As I like to say, our goal isn’t just to bring you traffic, we strive for content that brings you actual leads and paying customers.

Although we have a great team of copywriters, I have to admit that it’d be very difficult to rank those articles without backing them up with high-quality links.

It’s not a secret that backlinks are one of the main ranking factors on Google. That’s why our other area of expertise includes link-building for SaaS.

It’d be hard to pick the best link-building strategy because it depends on many factors, and that’s why I decided to gather all link-building rules and techniques we tried in this article.

I’m going to be honest with you and share what works, what doesn’t work and what you can try instead.

Hope you’ll enjoy it!

What is SaaS link-building?

SaaS linkbuilding: links between websites

SaaS link-building is a long-term strategy of acquiring links from other websites to your SaaS website, in order to improve its visibility and ranking on search engines.

SaaS link-building should be an integral part of your SaaS content marketing strategy.

Even Google admits that high-quality backlinks are one of the most important SEO ranking factors. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. If many websites link to your page, it’s a sign that it probably has high-quality content and that it’s worth visiting.

You can read more about these topics in our article on how to optimize your blog for SEO and other articles on our blog.

Why do you need to build links to your SaaS website?

Let me start by saying that it’s almost impossible to rank a blog post on Google for a competitive keyword if it doesn’t have any backlinks, even if we’re talking about high-quality content. So that’s the reason #1. Here are other benefits you can get from SaaS link-building:

  • High-quality backlinks help you get a higher ranking on Google and boost your visibility
  • Quality backlinks build up your domain rating which lets you rank future articles easier and faster
  • You get referral traffic from websites that are linking to you
  • High-quality links give you credibility and make your website seem trustworthy
  • They can help you position yourself as an industry leader in your niche
  • Link-building can help you build meaningful relationships with other website owners in your industry

SaaS link-building terms you should be aware of

Before I get into link-building techniques, here’s a quick glossary to help you out:

  • Domain authority (DA): Domain authority shows how likely a particular website to rank on search engine results pages (SERP) from 1 to 100. The metric was created by Moz and you can check your DA here for free.
  • Domain rating (DR): Domain rating shows the strength of your website’s backlink profile on a scale from 1 to 100. The metric was created by Ahrefs and you can check your DR here for free.
  • Backlinks/Inbound links: Links that are pointing to your website from other websites. One of the most important ranking factors.
  • Outbound links: Links that are pointing from your website to other websites.
  • Referring domains: Websites that are linking to your website.
  • Website traffic: The number of visitors that come to your website.
  • Anchor text: Clickable text in a hyperlink, that can take you to another page or website.
  • Spam score: Percentage of the potential risk of receiving a penalty from Google, based on different indicators. (0-30% low, 31-60% medium, 61-100% high)
  • Link juice: Value that backlink carries and passes from one page to another.
  • Broken links: Links that are pointing to a page that no longer exists.
  • Dofollow links: All links are dofollow links by default unless you specify otherwise. It means that they can be indexed by search engines and that they determine page rank.
  • Nofollow links: You can tag certain outbound links with rel=”nofollow” if you don’t want them to impact your page rank (for example, links to an untrusted website). Nofollow links are considered to bring little to no value to the page they are pointing to.

When is a good time to get started with SaaS link building?

If you ask me, it’s never too early to start building links to your website. The sooner, the better!

As soon as you decide to work on your SEO and content marketing, you can start building backlinks. There’s no point to focus on SaaS content production while ignoring link building.

However, keep in mind that no amount of good backlinks will save thin content so focus on creating value on your website first.

Here are a few quick tips that can help you improve the quality of your content:

Quality SaaS content writing

If you already have some articles, it can be a good idea to first do a SaaS content audit and see how you can improve your blog posts. When you do that, it’s time to start creating your link-building strategy!

Which URLs should you build links to?

If you have limited resources, like most small SaaS companies, you need to learn how to prioritize articles for link-building.

I’d start with building links to the highest converting pages and pages that are already ranking on the first and second pages of Google.

Revisit your priority URLs at least once a month to keep track of what’s performing and what needs a boost.

Also, if you notice that your old blog posts lost some of their ranking on search engines over time, you can add more links to those posts, and it could improve their ranking.

Don’t forget the power of internal linking as well. Internal links can give your content a quick boost, help distribute link juice more evenly on your website, and the best part is that they don’t cost you anything!

Should you build links to your SaaS homepage or other pages?

Search results for SaaS keyword: Linkedin Automation Tool
This is the question I often get asked by our clients when we first start working together.

Ideally, you should find a good balance of links to your homepage and other website pages, distribute the link juice evenly through the website and double down on your lead generating pages.

Keep in mind that it’s much easier to rank blog posts for specific queries than to rank a homepage! Even if your homepage has a lot of backlinks, it can still be very hard to rank it on search engines (that’s also true for product pages and landing pages).

That’s why I’d recommend focusing your link-building efforts on blog posts because you’ll see results faster. Also, it’s much easier to get backlinks to blog posts compared to SaaS product pages.

However, if your DA is 0, in that case, I’d start with your homepage first. And then as you publish content make sure to build links to the blog posts as well.

Remember that DA and DR are just numbers and don’t let them scare you.

When our client FullSession first came to us, their DR was only 2 and they had 0 backlinks or referring domains. In only a few months, we managed to increase their DR from 2 to 49 and get them 220 referring domains, through different link-building strategies.

Domain rating for Quoleady's client FullSession

If you’re new to link-building for SaaS, you may wonder what are the actual results. I will just say that these link-building campaigns (along with strategic content writing) increased their website traffic from 0 to over 21.000 visitors and brought them 1.080 new leads.

You can read the full case study here and copy our link-building process step-by-step.

Do you need to build .org, .gov, .edu links?

If you’ve been reading about link building for SaaS, you probably came across some resources that claim these types of links are more trustworthy than regular links.

Yet, we’ve experimented with these links and we haven’t found a correlation between the amount of these links and the website’s performance.

That’s not to say to avoid them. If you can get them, you should use them, because they’re often also authoritative websites in their specific niches.

However, they’re often very difficult to obtain (because many website owners find them trustworthy and there’s huge competition out there) and I just don’t believe it’s worth wasting so much time or money when there are more effective link-building strategies out there.

How to choose platforms to build links from?

Not all backlinks are the same, and you should always strive for quality over quantity.

Especially after Google announced the Link Spam Update in December 2022. Their new spam-prevention system is built with the aim to quickly recognize unnatural link placement and nullify it. It means that websites could overnight lose the ranking they’ve gotten using irrelevant or bought links.

There are a number of things to consider when choosing platforms to build links from. Here are some of them you should pay attention to:

  1. Domain authority – The higher DA a platform has, it means that it is more trustworthy. You can use Moz.com to check the DA of any website. Alternatively, you can also use domain rating. DR is a metric introduced by Ahrefs, and you can use their tool to check it.
  2. Website traffic – Make sure that the platform has consistent website traffic, because if you choose a platform with a high DA but with no traffic, it can’t send traffic your way either. If you notice that a website has sudden spikes or drops of visits, that can’t be a sign of anything good and these websites shouldn’t be your choice when building links.
  3. Topic relevance – For our clients in the SaaS industry, we strive to build links only from relevant websites from a similar industry. You should avoid content mills, news magazines that write about everything, from cooking to crypto. You should look for websites in your niche or that are somehow related to your product.

If you want to learn more, we have a whole guide on choosing websites to build backlinks to your SaaS blog.

Which anchors should you use?

Link anchor is the clickable text in a hyperlink, a word or phrase you click to take you to another page or website. You’ve probably seen it a thousand times, but you didn’t know what it was called.

A huge part of the off-site search engine optimization is dedicated to choosing the best possible anchor. I’ll share some of the best practices.

Be intentional with your anchors, use them contextually. You don’t want them to sound awkward, try to blend them in the text naturally.

What about generic anchors (“click here”), are they good or bad?

In fact, generic anchors are a sign of the naturally built backlink profile. There are strategies that actually encourage a certain percentage of generic anchors.

It doesn’t mean you should focus on building links with only generic anchors. But if it happened that some website mentioned you organically under “click here” or “this article” you don’t have to necessarily run to them and beg for another anchor.

However, whenever you are building links purposefully and intentionally, it makes sense to use more commercial anchors meaning those that contain your major keyword.

I’d avoid exact match all the time, and use a variety of anchors. Since the Penguin algorithm update in 2012 and the latest update of December 2022, you have to be careful because if Google notices that you’re using the same commercial anchors all the time, it could recognize this as a manipulative technique and penalize you (even if you’re not using black-hat techniques).

At the same time, it all depends on the quality of platforms you are building links from.

When we built links back in the days for Chanty for “Slack alternatives” article you could see that 95% of the anchor text was “Slack alternatives”, exact match.

However, the platforms we were building links from were exceptionally good like Forbes and Hubspot, so despite the SEO expert warnings we didn’t get banned on Google.

In fact, we ranked #1 for that keyword.

I recommend focusing on the following types of anchors in your link building efforts:

  • Topic anchors (“SaaS link-building”)
  • Longtail anchors (“How to choose websites for link-building”)

On the other hand, if someone mentions your brand, you tend to get the following two types organically, and that’s why there’s no need to focus your link-building efforts on them:

  • Branded anchors (“Quoleady”)
  • Generic anchors (“this article”)

You can also use keyword research tools to come with keyword variations and synonyms.

Can I do link swaps for my SaaS?

You may be tempted to try this strategy because it seems so easy: all you have to do is find relevant websites that want to do a link exchange with you.

However, we don’t recommend link swapping, also known as A-B exchange, because Google may ignore these backlinks (reciprocal links are easy to detect) and in the worst case, you could even see your positions dropped.. I don’t recommend this approach as it doesn’t bring you any benefits.

Instead,I’d rather suggest  the 3-way link exchange, also known as the A-B-C method. I’ll talk more about it below, as one of the SaaS link-building strategies we use for our clients.

Can I buy backlinks for my SaaS?

Example of email outreach for external links and guest posting for SaaS that shouldn't be accepted

You’ve probably gotten a bunch of emails like this. I don’t recommend paying for links, as it may lead to a Google penalty. Again, it’s quality over quantity. It’s much better to put your efforts into building a few high-quality backlinks than to buy a bunch of low-quality links from suspicious websites.

If you get an offer to buy backlinks, first check the website that’s offering those links. There are a lot of websites that are designed specifically to sell backlinks. I am talking about news magazines, content mills and random portals – they’re what I call content cemeteries because they have no niche, they write about everything from crypto to healthcare. Acquiring links from those platforms won’t help you and it can actually harm your ranking.

I wouldn’t recommend using this strategy even if you really want to use it. Back in the day, the link-building process was simple. You’d go through a bunch of websites, find those with the best metrics, best balance of outbound/inbound links, spam score, traffic, DA and you could simply PayPal your way into SEO.

These days, however, link-building is about building long-term relationships and collaborations. Avoid quick fixes and tactics that seem too good to be true, because they probably aren’t working.

What does a winning SaaS link-building team look like?

Everything depends on the size of your business and your current resources. The more the better of course! But if you’re just starting with building links for your SaaS website, you’ll need at least two people:

  1. Copywriter – You need someone to write guest posts and HARO pitches. Ideally, a copywriter should be familiar with the basics of SEO and know how to optimize the text for Google.
  2. Link-building manager – You need an experienced person with SEO knowledge who can first create your link-building strategy and then manage partnerships, track exchanges, monitor relevant HARO queries and oversee the whole link-building process.

You could also hire an external SaaS content strategist to help you set up your first link building outreach campaigns.

7 most popular SaaS link-building strategies in 2023

I’ll now explain 7 popular link-building strategies for SaaS, and show you what exactly works for us.

When you’re getting information online make sure that your source is up-to-date because some of what once were considered effective link-building strategies no longer work. Once a strategy becomes popular, everyone starts using it and they become overpopulated.

1. Partnership backlinks (A-B-C exchanges)

As I already mentioned, direct link swapping between two websites is something I’d try to avoid at any cost. Google’s algorithm detects reciprocal links and they won’t boost your ranking, they could even have a negative impact on it if Google decides to punish you.

However… A-B-C exchanges are more complex than that.

Essentially, you need a third-party website to return backlinks from it to your partners. Choose a high-quality website with the same/similar niche. And it’s better to have more than one partner, whenever possible.

It works like this: website A is linking to website B. And then we have website C linking to website A. That way, both websites are getting high-quality links (win-win) but you don’t have to link back to A from your website.

It’s very important to choose websites from a similar niche or at least make sure the context of the article is relevant. If you are a LinkedIn automation tool you’ll find a way to backlink from any sales, marketing, or recruitment-related websites. At the same time, when you are a Linux remote desktop software, those platforms are probably going to be useless for you.

We created a Slack community for SaaS companies where they can partner with other SaaS companies to get high-quality backlinks.

It works this way: You ask a SaaS partner for a backlink on a particular website and then you return a favor by placing their link on one of the other websites you own. It’s free and you can join today!

2. Guest blogging

Guest posting is a pretty common link-building strategy. You get to write a blog post for some other website, share your expertise and expose yourself to a new audience, and as a result, they give you a backlink to your website.

But it’s not as easy as it seems, especially if you want to obtain links from high-authority websites like HubSpot or Forbes.

However, it’s not impossible to get there, even if you’re new to guest posting. How do I know? Because I did the same.

And all thanks to the staircase guest blogging strategy.

It works this way: you start to create high-quality content for third-party websites that you can reach and that will publish your guest post, just to start building up your writing portfolio.

Reach out to websites that have similar DA like you, maybe slightly higher.

Even though that website may not be your final destination, you have to give your best and deliver really high-quality content. Because guess what? You’re going to use those guest posts as an example of your work when you’re pitching to your dream platforms.

The bad news is that editors get hundreds of pitches every day, but the good news is that most of them are generic and it’s your chance to stand out.

You should take the whole link-building outreach process very seriously and make sure that your pitch showcases your best work and gives some proof.

But focus on building relationships first. When I was looking to contribute toHubSpot, I first connected with their editors on Linkedin and made sure that I commented on their posts and shared valuable insights. That way, I got noticed and that paved my way to getting my guest post published.

Never forget that you have to be genuine because it isn’t just about getting a backlink. You should also strive to build relationships that will last.

Once your guest post gets published, it’s time to raise the bar higher and repeat the same process over and over again.

That’s how my guest post got published on Entrepreneur and other authority websites.

What I noticed works the best when it comes to guest posting is dedicating yourself to researching one topic in-depth and getting better at it day after day.

That way, you’ll be able to build your expertise and deliver valuable content that’s backed up with your own insights and examples. And that’s the kind of content top-tier platforms are looking for.

You can read the full article on the staircase guest blogging strategy I wrote for HubSpot.

3. HARO

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a platform that connects journalists who are looking for information on a particular subject with experts who can deliver the right information to them.

You subscribe to the platform as a source, pick categories that are relevant to your industry, and you’ll get daily emails with requests for information.

If a journalist picks your response and decides to use you as a source, you can get featured on a top-tier platform, and get a backlink to your website.

How to improve your chances of getting chosen by a journalist:

  • Act fast! Make sure to read the emails daily and react promptly when you see a topic that you can contribute to.
  • Share your own expertise, back up your responses with your insights. Examples from your personal experience have much higher chances to get picked, than some generic answers that a journalist can find on Google.
  • Send a short bio that shows your expertise and proves that you’re qualified to answer. Even better if you can include links to relevant articles you published on that topic.

Also, don’t get disappointed if they don’t choose you, because, according to some statistics, only 20% of pitches get a response from a journalist. It’s a numbers game!

We used to have a whole team dedicated to HARO and it helped us to get our clients featured on websites like Yahoo, Business Insider and even Forbes.

We relied on HARO to get 60 backlinks for our client RingBlaze. But bear in mind that meant we had to send 70 HARO answers per month. Of course, we combined this strategy with other methods such as guest posts, manual outreach and partnerships.

The picture shows how our link-building efforts transformed their backlink profile in just a couple of months. You can read more about it in this case study.

Quoleady's client Ringblaze's referring domains

However, with time we discontinued this service as we realized it was hard to scale. We decided to focus on A-B-C exchanges as that brings the most ROI to our clients, compared to HARO or guest blogging.

At the same time, with in-house efforts, you can still work on it and get good results. Although it does get harder and harder with each year. So act fast until this strategy becomes obsolete!

Another problem with HARO is that more and more people posting queries started to ask for links back to them.

I wouldn’t recommend basing your whole link-building strategy on HARO, but if you check in every once in a while you can still find highly relevant queries that you should answer and hopefully get a mention + backlink.

4. Skyscraper technique

What kind of content gets most backlinks in a natural way? A piece of content that’s so good, that describes a certain topic better than any other article on the web, so that everyone wants to use it as a source.

Skycraper link-building technique is based on the idea that if you write an article that’s so valuable, people will naturally want to share it and the rest will flow. You’re supposed to get user generated links.

This strategy has five steps:

  1. Choose your topic and find the most popular article for your target keyword, the one that all websites use as a source and link to.
  2. Create a better article on the same topic and publish it on your blog. Better means either more in-depth, more detailed, or containing some new insights that your competitor hasn’t covered yet.
  3. Use Ahrefs to find all the websites that are linking to the original article.
  4. Reach out to them, send your article and ask for a backlink.
  5. Promote your content using all available channels.

If so many people linked to the original blog post and made it so popular, chances are many people will want to link to your article as well.

So, the logic behind this concept is simple: find the best article and create an even better one.

But how to find the content you want to outperform?

  1. Use Google to find the top articles ranking for your keyword.
  2. Then, check their backlinks on the Ahrefs link checker.
  3. Make a list of platforms you’ll be reaching out to.

Bear in mind that writing a better piece of content does not always mean that it should be longer. If the most linked article has around 1000 words, there’s no point in doubling that down and creating a 2000-word article, if there’s not much to say. I’d rather stick to the similar length like first results on Google for a given query.

It’s hard to stay up-to-date with all the latest news and changes, especially in the fast-changing environment such as SaaS businesses. That’s a reason for you to stand out!

You can leverage this fact by actively searching for high-quality articles that are missing the latest updates and then writing your updated versions of these articles. This simple step can keep you ahead of your competition, because everyone wants to read the latest content.

However, this strategy doesn’t work every time. We tried it back in 2017, followed all steps and created an article that was better and more in-depth than #1 article on Google.

We reached out to 230 websites asking for a backlink.

We got 24 replies which is not that bad.

Now, you may be wondering how many backlinks we got?

Zero.

We spent hours analyzing what could have possibly gone wrong, what could we change about the article.

But the article didn’t need any change. It was much better than the first article on Google.

Our mistake was something else – not choosing a topic that was attractive enough to make other websites want to link to it. Had we tried a different approach, different keywords, it could have possibly worked.

But it was too late because we already spent 40 hours working on the article. And that’s how the Skyscraper technique failed. But I guess you never know what works for you until you try.

This is a valuable lesson that you should never take things you read for granted until you test them.

5. Case studies, infographics, listicles

The main idea here is to create value-packed content that people will want to link to. Unfortunately, this is not a quick hack that will bring you backlinks overnight, it’s a long-term link building tactic.

I’m not talking about listicles that can easily be found on Google, instead I’m talking about being generous and sharing your resources with other SaaS businesses. Remember, you have to give something to get something.

This period of the year is ideal to gather your insights and share them with the SaaS community. It’s always appreciated, and you can not only get links, but you can establish your SaaS website as industry leader.

Here are some content ideas that can leverage organic link-building for SaaS:

  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Ultimate guides
  • Listicles
  • Infographics
  • Comparisons
  • Statistic

Bonus points if you can come up with your own statistics or conduct research. It doesn’t have to be anything big, it can be niche-related. You don’t need a huge population range, it’s enough to do an A/B test on your current users and who knows, you may discover something interesting.

Data-driven copywriting is becoming a trend and everyone’s looking to back up their content with some stats. Most people are copy-pasting the same old statistics, and if you can come up with something new and relevant, higher quality referral traffic is almost guaranteed.

6. Missing backlink strategy

If you’re not a brand new SaaS company, your product is probably being mentioned in some articles (listicles, reviews, comparisons, etc.) Some of them will link to your SaaS website, but a lot of the time they forget to add backlinks.

If you’ve never done this, the results may surprise you. Search the web to find mentions of your SaaS company or product. You’ll probably find at least a couple of mentions that you weren’t aware of! Reach out to that website and ask them for a backlink to your blog.

You can also set up alerts in Ahrefs to get notified every time someone mentions the name of your SaaS company, so you don’t miss anything.
Example of Capterra reaching out to Quoleady asking for a backlink

Here’s an example of Capterra reaching out to us asking for a backlink in one of our posts where we mentioned the brand.

7. Replacing outdated tools

You’ve probably heard about broken link strategy for link-building. Basically, you have to go on websites you’d like to get a link from and check if there are any dead or broken links.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a broken link and you can reach out to that platform and ask them to swap the broken link with a link to a similar article on your website (if you don’t have a similar article, it can be worth creating one, it’ll pay off).

It’s a win-win situation. You get a backlink to boost your ranking and they get to improve their content, which can improve user-experience as a result.

Tip: Resource pages are the best place to look for broken links, because companies rarely update them

This strategy inspired me to come up with something even better, something that’s unique for the SaaS industry.

A few years ago, when I worked as CMO at Chanty, our main competitor Slack bought our two other major competitors – Atlassian Stride and HipChat.

What it meant for Chanty? We suddenly saw the opportunity to acquire a lot of backlinks, to replace tools that no longer existed.

You’ve guessed it. There were hundreds of listicles, reviews and similar blog content mentioning these two tools.

We hopped on Ahrefs and found domain backlinks to Atlassian Stride and HipChat. We reached out to those platforms offering them to swap those links with a link to our tool (backed up with some proof and previous articles).

Technically, the links weren’t really broken, but those tools no longer existed as we knew them before.

So, what’s the moral of the story? Check out if any of your competitors went out of the business, or they canceled some features/stopped providing some services that your SaaS company still offers.

Talking about your competitors… While you’re busy working on your link-building campaign, don’t forget that they’re also coming with new link-building tactics. Unfortunately, competition between SaaS companies is tough and your competitors are never sleeping.

Use SEO tools to constantly monitor your competitors and discover new links they’re building. It’s always a good idea to be one step ahead of other SaaS brands.

How we build SaaS backlinks at Quoleady

We use A-B-C exchanges and we also partner with writers who regularly contribute to SaaS platforms as guest bloggers.

Our approach is based on communication and building relationships, we have hundreds of SaaS partners all over the world who are striving to grow their SaaS.

The link our client gets from the SaaS blog is an investment – it will bring even more value in the future as the SaaS platform develops and grows its domain authority. And as I already mentioned, the higher the domain authority of the platform that links to you, the more value you get from those links.

Summary

Link-building for SaaS is an inevitable part of the process if you want to rank your content on search engines and get more organic traffic and leads. The sooner you start with it, the quicker you’ll see the results.

If I had to sum it up in three steps:

  1. First, create high-quality content for your blog.
  2. Then, choose relevant sites for link-building.
  3. Finally, experiment with our link-building tactics, try them out and see what works for you.

As you can see, everything starts with great content. There’s no magic link-building tactic that will allow you to skip the whole content creation process.

It can get a bit overwhelming and that’s why we’re here to help. Book a free call and let’s create your first link-building campaign to boost your website on Google.

Feel free to reach out to me on Linkedin if you have any questions.

Olga Mykhoparkina

Founder

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