SaaS Content Marketing Strategy (With Examples)
“We’ve used content to drive virtually 100% of our growth. Let’s discuss how you can do the same for your SaaS company.”
Written By Sterling Sweeney: Published March 4th, 2020 | Updated March 4th, 2020.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency ⚡. Today, he explores his favorite strategies around the topic of content marketing.
23 Minute Read
“Your SaaS Content Marketing Strategy Can be the Difference Between You Hitting a Single vs. Knocking it Out of the Park ⚾ “
At WhalePages, we’ve rely on content marketing to help us drive close to 100% of our growth. We’ve worked on growing multiple web properties over the last twenty years, often into properties that attract millions views, and we’ve always used content as our main growth lever. In a previous post on SaaS marketing strategies, we talked about how we used content to drive 10,000 page views to our own site in our very first month. Here is our Google Analytics dashboard that shows us going from ZERO to over 10K page views (over 5000 unique visitors) in 30 days. We did all of this organically with no paid ads, no domain authority and zero social followers. This is us starting from scratch.
How We Did It: Thinking in Content Clusters
In our first month we created 13 pieces of content. We began by creating interviews in order to drive the initial round of traffic to our site. For example, we created this interview with the founder of Morningscore about his journey to $10,000 MRR. We also created this interview with the founder of SmarterQueue about his SaaS journey to $40,000 MRR. Lastly, we also created this interview with the founder of Nave about how she’s achiecing 30% monthly growth for her SaaS.
We also created roundup posts by asking each team or founder we interviewed a series of identical questions. This allowed us to create posts like this 👉 “16 SaaS founders weigh in on how long it took them to hit $2000 MRR” and like this 👉 “23 founders tell us how they onboarded their first paying users“. There are many more examples, but you get the idea.
Quickly Establishing Topical Authority
The first round of content we created was designed to send Google a clear signal about our topical relevance. We also did this to start building up topical authority within our niche. Essentially, we’re beginning the process by telling Google that our web property about “SaaS” + “(___________)” (👈 insert any marketing or growth related search here). For example “SaaS Marketing”, “SaaS SEO” or “SaaS content strategy” to name only a few examples.
Now do this for your own SaaS. The more specific you can be, the better. Try not to branch out too wide at this stage.
Keep your content strategy anchored around one specific topic. Remember, at this stage, you’re fishing with a spear, not a net 🐟.
The reason we don’t start targeting large keywords yet, is because we don’t have the domain authority (DA) to rank high. Interviews and roundups allow us to create a type of content that is more social and likely be shared. In some of our roundup posts for example, we’re featuring 10-20 people in the post. That means even if a couple of those people share the content, we’ll have our first positive signals being sent to Google.
However, if we started out creating a post about about SaaS content marketing strategies (like the post you’re reading now), it would harder to rank for because when you’re first starting out, creating that type of content is like creating content in a vacuum. It’s harder to gain traction for content if you have a smaller network. So we’ve found creating social content like interviews our roundups helps us start to build a small network and gives your more ambitious content a springboard to launch from later on.
Also, generally within the first few months, you will start noticing your first round of social content showing up higher in organic search for your long tail search terms. For example, if someone goes to Google and types in something like “SaaS growth case study” or “MRR case study”, the content we’ve created on this topic will show up first or second. See the examples below.
If someone asks a question like “how long to reach $1000 MRR” notice our roundup content shows up first.
If someone asks “how long to reach $2000 MRR”, again we show up first.
You get the idea. While these are not huge volume search terms, they do bring in a bit of traffic each month.
More importantly however, this content helps establish us as leaders in this space. By connecting with experts in your niche, you can piggyback your brand off their brand. Essentially you’re associating yourself with the brightest minds 🧠 in your niche and this will pay dividends down the line.
Lastly, these interviews also give us content to go out in our drip email campaign. People love educational stories so when people sign up for our newsletter, we send them an interview they can read directly in their inbox once / week.
Your SaaS’s email marketing strategy ties in directly to your overall content marketing strategy. For this reason, you need to setup your email automation system early on. You need to get this type of high value content dripping out to your subscribers without you having to even think about it. Here is one of the first emails that go out in our drip email sequence. 👇
You should have a plan to create about 10 – 20 pieces of this type of content. Keep in mind, not all of the content will be exceptional. Some of the people you interview will provide more value than others. It’s a bit of a numbers game and that’s why we suggest you produce around 10 – 20 pieces of this type of content.
Use This Content to Start Building Link Equity By “Earning” (NOT “Building”) Links
Remember, the first round of content we created was designed to send Google a clear signal about our topical relevance and to help us start building up topical authority.
Over time this content will earn links. For example, after 5 months online, according to Moz, our Morningscore interview has earned 9 links, our SmarterQueue interview earned 17 links, our Nave interview has earned 13 links and our Fanout interview earned 70 links. These are just a few examples, but in total our 13 pieces of content have earned well over 100 backlinks. And best of all, even those these posts are older now, they continue earning links each month without us having to do anything. Even just earning a couple links per month helps. You can use tools like Moz to check your earned and lost backlinks on a month to month basis. Take a look at the chart below to see the amount of links our SmarterQueue interview was able to earn without us having to do any link building.
This was all done through our content distribution and “link earning strategies” that we’ll discuss in more detail below.
For example, the first month we published our SmarterQueue interview it earned a couple of links. The next month it earned a couple of more.
Content is a digital asset that quickly appreciates in value over time.
Now, five months later we have 17 links to this one interview and things just keep growing. For example, this month, a SaaS company named chameleon published an article about marketing tactics that worked for real world SaaS products. Luckily for us, they referenced and linked to our interview with SmarterQueue within their post. This is a high-quality, naturally earned, contextual link embedded within a well researched piece of content. We didn’t ask for this 👇. We earned it 🏆!
How did chameleon find out about the post? We have no idea! Remember, we focus on building audiences instead of links. We probably followed them on Twitter, or liked something they posted. We might have even cold outreached to them to see if they wanted to take part in an interview (which they never responded to). Or, whoever was tasked with writing for their blog post may have done research by Googleing something like “SaaS growth case study” or “MRR case study”. And when people search for this, remember who shows up first?
Essentially, we’re bigger believers in audience building than link building (although remember, we do believe there is a time and place for link building).
If your content adds value, it will earn links. This isn’t necessarily a very fast process, but over time it does happen and tends to snowball pretty quickly once you have a bit of momentum 💨 behind your content.
In the example above, we earned this particular link five months after we created the content. This process of earning links will continue happening each and every month for all of our best content.
In the majority of cases, your time is better spent creating content rather than reaching out to people for links. Link building can be a hugely time consuming and / or expensive process. You either need to have an abundance of time or really deep pockets 🕳️.
However, if time is an issue for you but you don’t mind paying, be aware that link building agencies generally charge about $2000 for 10 links and the quality of the links are often questionable and sometimes even damaging to your link profile. A-la-cart link building agencies often charge $180 to $500 / link. It’s an expensive and risky game to play. We view a lot of this activity as SEO suicide. It’s crazy that SaaS founders would think they have the strategy or resources to outsmart Google. It’s a game you’re sure to lose. Don’t fight against Google’s algorithm, instead use strategies that work with it.
Also, remember that any link schemes designed to manipulate your position in organic search are seen as a violation of Google Webmaster guidelines.
Google explicitly states that the following activities are against the rules and can end up negatively impacting a site’s ranking in organic search results (original source):
- Buying or selling links that pass Page Rank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
- Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:
Thanks, that’s great info!
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What Google suggests instead is this:
The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.
Now of course, you can take part in guest posting opportunities and give out a few freebies for links without consequence if you use common sense. You can also engage in a broken backlink outreach campaign because you’re helping webmasters avoid 404 errors. Again, it’s often just a case of using your common sense and knowing when to stop. Scaling these practices or engaging in opportunities with known “schemes” will get you penalized.
Establish a Streamlined Content Distribution Plan
At this point, you should now have your first round of content created and you’ll be ready to start earning links. So what do you do next?
One of the biggest mistakes we see SaaS founders make is not establishing a well laid out content distribution plan. SaaS founders often spend an incredible amount of time on content creation, but then fail miserably when it comes to distributing their content. For this reason, we’ve created a list of 62 + places you can distribute your SaaS content online.
You can’t just publish content on your blog and expect it to do well. If you do not spend the time distributing your content your content will fall flat on its face. I’ve seen a lot of great content go nowhere because SaaS founders can’t free up the time to schedule, repurpose and deliver their content to their audience.
Or sometimes, SaaS founders believe that their content isn’t easily distributed. They think “this strategy won’t work for my content”. However, we believe that any content can be distributed, no matter how challenging you think it might be.
For example, look at our post with Fanout. This post would make most people believe that distributing the content would be very hard, if not impossible.
First, Fanout isn’t a big company. It’s not like the other companies we profiled that have scaled up to $40,000 in MRR. In fact, it took Fanout 4 years to hit $2000 MRR.
Secondly, they have very little social presence (just over 200 Twitter followers).
Thirdly, it’s not a very sexy piece of content. It’s about a company that offers SaaS companies streaming APIs. If that doesn’t put you to sleep, I don’t know what will.
The odds are entirely stacked against us. However, all of those things considered, we were still able to get this post 70 links in 5 months. So if you think “my content isn’t link worthy” or “my content is hard to distribute because it’s too specific”, then you’re not thinking creatively enough. You have to put it out there and see. The truth is that 20% of your content will fuel 80% of your growth. It’s hard to guess which content will end up being your 20%. You just have to keep pushing out high quality content to see. Sometimes it just boils down to luck.
In the example above, the Fanout interview ended up doing so well because we posted it on HackerNews where it ended up going viral. It’s definitely not the best piece of content on our blog, but it’s gained us more links than our other pieces of content because… well… we got lucky.
We posted the content around 4PM on HN and during that time there was probably a user with some clout on the platform who liked our content. This triggered the HN algorithm to show our content to more people, and then the content ballooned from there. If we posted the content at 7PM, maybe it would have done nothing for us. However, we have to put the content out to give it the chance. This one page on our site started seeing real-time traffic like this after our HN post 👇.
Remember, not distributing your content is like filming a movie and then not putting any energy into promoting or distributing it. No content will grow on it’s own.
It should also be mentioned that content distribution (especially early on in a SaaS’s life) will feel like an uphill battle. Actually, in many cases it feels more like trying to climb a marble wall.
If you have a small audience, you’ll have a very little amount of momentum and traction behind each piece of content you publish. Couple this with the fact that Google has a domain authority bias, and you’ll feel like you’re working very hard, doing all of the right things and experiencing near zero benefit.
This leads to the second mistake I see SaaS founders make time and time again 😥. They give up on their content marketing efforts because they are uncomfortable with the time lag between input (writing and distribution) and output (high organic ranking). Often content marketing can take 6 -12 months to bear fruit.
Therefore, if you’re a SaaS founder with the patience of a gnat, this is a marketing channel you’ll have to spend time learning to love.
Automate the Parts of the Distribution Process That you Can
Once you start building up an inventory of content, you need to create plan to automate some parts of the content distribution process. Not all of your content distribution campaign can be automated. However, at a minimum you can automate the distribution of the content you’ve created so far on sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram.
In order to extend the lifespan and reach of each piece of content, you need to think creatively about how to best repurpose the content. We’ll cover that topic in more detail in another blog post, but generally speaking we try to create four to five pieces of content from each blog post we create. We generally just extract the most interesting quotes or conversation starters from the content, and then schedule those to go out during strategic times during the month. We continue to schedule (and recylce) the content so once it goes into our content distribution pipeline it will work for us month after month without us having to do any additional work.
For example, below you can see how we’ve repuposed one of the first interviews we completed. We repurposed this content four times on social media. Notice that the text and image changes each time we post the content. This helps us ensure that the content never feels over-used. We can then schedule this content to go out once / week in different time zones on different social channels so that our audience is never getting hit with the same content too frequently.
Generally speaking, we can repurpose each single blog post into 30 pieces of content. If you think you’ll have problems doing this on your own check out our SaaS marketing agency. These are the things we can help you with.
As a SaaS entrepreneur, you need to get this content distribution system setup early on.
If we repurpose every post we create 4 – 5 times on our Facebook page, Facebook group, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram we’ll have created 24 – 30 pieces of content in one month from just one post. If we did this for a minimum of 4 of our blog posts each month, we would end the month with 96 – 120 pieces of content online by the of the month. We think of this as “putting lines in the water”. The more lines you have in the water, the better your chances are of catching a fish.
Here is an example of the exact same blog post that we repurposed on twitter. Notice the image and text is always rotating (which we automated) so this content never feels reused. 👇
Focus on Winning Small BOFU Races & Marinating Your Content
Now that you’ve started to establish topical authority, started to earn a few backlinks, and automated parts of your content marketing distribution process, you’ll be able to start chasing really low competition keywords. We always suggest to our clients that the next round of content they create is low competition, high buying intent keywords.
With the authority you’ve built up from the first steps in this process, you’ll have a chance to start ranking for some very specific and low competition MOFU (middle of the funnel) or BOFU (bottom of the funnel) search terms. We’ve created a video about how to find and identify these keywords here.
Again, let’s look at WhalePages as an example. Remember, previously we talked about how we produced a piece of content on the topic of “SaaS content distribution” as part of our next round of content after our interviews? Well that content is now ranking in position #1 and #2 in Google when people search for that term.
For us, these are important keywords for us to rank for because we’re targeting SaaS founders who have an interest in growing their SaaS companies. So that’s the audience we need to target and the content we need to create in order to grow. If you’re reading this, you ARE our target audience and this is the service we’re trying to sell you.
Now, think about how this strategy applies to your SaaS company. What type of content should you be producing in your second round of content? Any content you create needs to speak directly to your target audience.
Now, the reason we don’t suggest you create this content first, is because although this content is less competitive to rank for, it would likely still be too challenging for a site with no domain authority to rank for. This is why we designed our first round of content to be social content to help us gain a little bit of domain authority before we started targeting a slightly harder content type 📝.
At this point, we recommend that you design a content plan to create about 30 pieces of this type of content. Some of this content will be hard to rank for. However, it will be helpful for you to start “marinating” this content as early as possible. Content appreciates in value over time, so it’s important to get this content online as quickly as possible so that you can start linking to it internally, which will help you pass link equity to all of your finalized content.
Also, at this stage you should be branching out and creating video content as well. Again, begin by chasing highly relevant search terms and creating content around those search terms in video format (YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine).
For example, we created video content on the topic of “keyword planning for SaaS companies”. A few months later that video started showing up in the fist few results of Google. Likewise, this video shows up in YouTube in the #1 position for that search term. See our content rankings below 👇.
Don’t be discouraged when you’re looking at search volume tools and you see keywords with search volumes for 15 – 300 searches / month. Cumulatively, these search volumes will add up quickly 📈.
Similarly, because a lot of these search terms are targeting high buying intent keywords, the conversion rate will be much higher and you’ll be able to use that extra revenue to fuel growth in the future. The first round of content should be designed to help you get extra revenue coming in as quickly as possible.
Also, it should be mentioned that for a lot of this content, it’s best to keep content production in-house. The reason being, is that as organic search gets harder to rank for, Google is increasingly showing only the most exceptional content. You’re not going to find exceptional writers on freelance sites like Fiverr. If you’ve ever ordered content off these types of platforms you’ll know what I’m talking about.
To create exceptional content you need to have someone with subject matter expertise writing it. Outsourcing your content to writers on freelance sites like Fiverr, or even more reputable sites like UpWork rarely yield positive results.
You’re just not going to get exceptional content from a writer who is writing about Yoga in the morning, medical devices in the afternoon and then expect that person to do justice to your industry’s specific content needs in the evening. Sometimes this content can do “okay” in organic search and rank in position #23. But ranking in position #23 is really no different than ranking in position #743.
You need to write with the expectation to land your content on the main page of Google, preferably in the top 3 positions. There is no point in investing in content marketing if you don’t think your content can be the best content on the subject.
Next Up: Data, Stats & Tools
Now we have our first two rounds of content created (1. interviews / round ups posts & 2. high buying intent / low competition keywords).
Realistically, if you’re starting from scratch, your traffic levels will still be quite low at this point. Don’t sweat it.
Remember, nothing massive can be built on top of a weak foundation. All we’re doing right now is building a strong 💪 foundation to build on top of later on . This process can take months.
What we’re going to do in this next step is really set the stage for growth.
Next, we’re going to focus on the development of content around industry specific statistics and data. We’ve found that by creating data based content we’re able to gain a large number of links from authoritative news sites, journalist and influencers.
Once you have this type of content created you can sign up for sites like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and allow them to reference your data in their articles. We’ve been able to get mentions on big news sites using this strategy. Put a lot of thought into creating interesting data focused content.
Data content works best if it slices and dices data in an interesting way, or presents complex data sets through easy to understand visualizations. For example, the SaaS company Ahrefs has a statistical study about how long it takes companies to rank on the main page of Google. According to Moz, this page has over 2086 backlinks.
Free tools are another great link magnet idea for SaaS companies. For example SaaS companies in the SEO space could offer a limited use free SEO tool. Again, let’s look at Ahrefs. They have a huge numbe of free tools. For example, they have a scaled back backlink checker tool that currently has 39,601 backlinks pointing to it.
Create “Vs.” or “Alternatives to” Content
The next type of content you should focus on creating is “vs.” or “alternatives to” content. Not all SaaS companies do this, but there is quite a big benefit to doing so. You’ll often see companies put their competitor comparison content in their footers. Others hide this type of content a little bit deeper within their blog structure so it’s generally only found organically through search engines.
Let’s look at how a few SaaS companies are using this technique. Let’s look at SaaS companies in the cold email outreach space. One of the biggest players in this space is a SaaS company called Mailshake. Now let’s imagine that we’ve researched Mailshake so at this point we’re “product aware”. But let’s imagine we want to take our research a step further. We want to find “alternatives to” this option so we can compare features. We might start typing in something like “Mailshake vs…. ” just to see what alternatives come up.
Now there are a couple of things I find really interesting about this search. Let’s imagine we’re curious about the first suggested result “mailshake vs woodpecker”. Let’s search for that. Notice these interesting results.
In this example, we’re searching for comparison information between two SaaS companies. However, it’s a sneaky little third company whose managed to built the best content on this specific branded search. Therefore, Google is rewarding a company called “ColdEmailNinja” with a first position ranking.
You’re probably not surprised to hear that ColdEmailNinja has a competing SaaS tool and that they’ve added their own solution to this “alternatives to” content. Remember, before this search we were not even “product aware” of ColdEmailNinja. Now all of the sudden they’ve snuck in for the win.
However, in most cases, you’ll see the actual SaaS companies being searched for, as the companies trying to rank for this type of content. In many cases, this type of content performs so well, that SaaS companies place these competitor comparison pages right on their homepage (generally within their footer). See an example below.
For most SaaS companies you’ll have at least 5 to 10 strong competitors. Why not piggyback your SaaS off their branded searches? Using this content marketing strategy you could easily create 5 to 10 “alternatives to” or “vs.” content around these search queries.
Now it’s Time to Start Participating in Bigger Races
Now that you have all of your content created for your interviews, round up posts, low competition keyword pages, data and stats content, tools content, and competitor content, it’s now time to start creating your content plan for your more competitive search terms. You should now have a strong enough foundation to compete for some of these search terms and actually start winning.
By this time, all of your less competitive content has had time to marinate and you should have acquired backlinks to your first round of content. By this point, you should start seeing some solid first page rankings.
If you’ve made it this far you’re in a position where you can start to fight for some bigger top of the funnel keywords. Again, you should create a list of 30 keywords you want to go after and systematically start writing content for each of those terms. Keep in mind, the buying intent behind some of these keywords is a bit weaker, but the higher search volumes will open up new possibilities that your lower volume content couldn’t open up. for example, ranking well for larger keywords will allow you to build up your email list much faster, as well as re-target a larger pool of visitors later on social media channels like Facebook. We’ve covered content planning in this post so we won’t go into too much detail about this topic here.
Internally Link Your Content
At the end of each month, make sure you put aside an hour or two to go through your content and internally link your newly created posts with older content. We’ve seen massive boosts in organic ranking once we strategically start sharing link equity amongst our posts.
I hope you found this primer on content marketing for SaaS companies helpful. If you’re a SaaS founder and you need help growing your SaaS company head over to our SaaS marketing agency website to learn how we can help you grow.
Written By Sterling Sweeney: Published March 4th, 2020 | Updated March 4th, 2020.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency So, if you have a SaaS company and you’re kinda into things like website traffic and increasing your MRR, then be sure to check out our homepage.
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