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When drafting a content strategy for our blog, we strive to avoid the same SaaS keyword research mistake most companies make: prioritizing high-traffic keywords over conversion-intent keywords.
For early-stage SaaS companies like ours with a small marketing budget, it's essential to go after keywords that drive sign-ups rather than traffic.
Tim Soulo, CMO at Ahrefs, said it best: "Traffic is good for your ego, but not your bank account.".
Choosing the right keywords is the difference between driving hundreds of sign-ups from a keyword with a 100 monthly volume and zero from another that promises thousands of monthly traffic from SEO tools.
The truth is, SaaS keyword research process is changing, and you can't be left behind. And that's the reason we've written this piece.
So, in this SaaS keyword research guide, you’re going to learn how to identify:
Let’s dig in.
Just as we have good and bad backlinks, the same applies to keywords. While a keyword can help you drive traffic, it doesn't necessarily mean it will drive conversion.
So, when trying to find relevant keywords for your business, keep these four criteria in mind:
We prefer to target keywords with low KD (Keyword Difficulty) scores and moderate to high search volume when doing keyword research.
More important than traffic numbers is the buying intent of the keyword. So, for instance, if we have Keyword A with a low KD score, 1,000 monthly volume, and informational search intent.
And on the other hand, is Keyword B with low competition, with 20 monthly volumes but commercial or transactional intent.
The right keyword to target, in this case, is Keyword B.
The reason is simple: people with commercial search intent are further down the sales funnel.
You don't need to educate them from the start. Instead, you need to offer them a solution and prove that your product is the best.
Secondly, targeting low-competition keywords ensures we don't have to go head-to-head with the top dogs in our niche before our content can rank.
Hence, we have to choose our battle wisely.
If SEO is your primary traffic source, It's a MUST for your content to rank on the first page.
According to SERP Watch, 67.60% of all clicks on SERPs go to the top 5 pages.
That means if you're not on the first page, your audience might not see your content when they enter their search queries on Google Search.
To stop that from happening, we always verify the top-ranking pages on SERPs for each keyword we intend to target.
For example, we once planned to create content for this keyword "Content marketing for SaaS" but opted against it.
We looked at search results and discovered that the top-ranking pages had content from big names like Search Engine Journal, SEMrush, and, Ahrefs.
You will encounter this even with search terms that have low KD scores.
For us, the KD score doesn't define the competitiveness of a keyword; the top-ranking pages do.
Business potential score measures our affinity to mention our product within our content. Usually, this is measured on a scale of 0-3.
Zero means no chance, while three means high chance.
For instance, if you own a CRM software, it's easier to weave-in your product into content that targets the following keywords:
As opposed to the following groups:
The reason is simple. With the first group, the keyword intent is commercial, while the second group addresses someone at the top of the funnel, and casually browsing for information.
The problem with the second group is that someone searching for "What's an account management" probably won't need a CRM software in the next 3-6 months.
So, it doesn't make sense to waste our SEO efforts on bringing them on board while there's a starving crowd waiting in line.
At SEOmatic, the first 30 articles we published were all targeting BOFU keywords. These are the "profitable keywords".
As we mentioned earlier, we don't want to waste our resources targeting seed keywords that aim to educate website visitors from ground zero. We can leave that for our competitors.
Also, remember earlier that we mentioned that we choose keywords based on low competitiveness and moderate to high volume?
Well, there’s an exception to that.
We aim to start with BOFU keywords and move our way up to MOFU and then TOFU.
Our keyword research process for SaaS occurs in 3 phases: Selection, Validation, and Execution.
Let’s take you through each step of the framework.
In the selection phase, we identify keywords that align with our business goals: driving conversion.
And there are five steps in our selection of keywords:
1. Recorded customer interviews
Effective keyword research starts with the target audience, not with competitors or keyword research tools. During customer meetings, we strive to understand customer needs by asking questions like:
The first questions can also be asked during the onboarding process of your SaaS. This way, creating content our target audience will love to read and share is easier.
2. Find keywords based on user reviews
Because we can't interview all customers, we often go to review sites like G2 and Capterra to read user reviews to understand customer struggles.
When you use review sites, you won't find specific keywords. Instead, you will get a list of problems that can serve as keyword ideas.
For G2, the most crucial section we look at is: What Problem is XYZ software solving, and how is that benefiting you."
And for Capterra, the section that says “Alternatives considered” and “Reasons for choosing XYZ software “ is a keyword research goldmine.
3. Find keywords based on software alternatives
When it comes to BOFU keywords, the best way to get them is to:
From experience, two categories of prospects fit into these groups: the unsatisfied and the undecided.
To find keywords in each of these categories, we need to pick a product and identify the various alternatives in the market.
You can get this by looking at G2 and Capterra once again:
For instance, let's say the product we're doing keyword research for an Agile CRM, possible alternatives according to G2, are:
Now that we know their alternatives, we can brainstorm possible keywords.
Here’s what we came up with on the spot:
Knowing your software alternative allows you to come up with comparison keywords also.
4. Keyword gap analysis - Identify Your Competitor's Keyword
Theoretically, this is where the actual keyword research process takes place.
We say this because this process only gives us actual keywords instead of pain points or phrases.
We often carry out a keyword gap analysis on our top 5 competitors for these reasons:
All keywords that meet these requirements are selected and exported into our Keyword Research sheet.
Now that we identified pain points and problems that our prospects face, we must convert those pain points to their respective keywords.
5. Converting Pain Points to Keywords
In the selection steps mentioned above, you will likely end up with a list of problems and pain points.
If your product is a CRM software for small businesses, you might have phrases expressed as pain points like this:
If you enter all of this into most SaaS Keyword Research tools, it will return zero volume.
Fortunately, if you use SEO software like Ahrefs or Surfer SEO, you will get lots of suggestions on the keyword the phrase matches with.
Plus, the difficulty score and keyword volume.
To carry out a pain-point to keyword mapping process with Surfer SEO, follow these steps:
That's seven keywords from just one phrase we entered into Surfer SEO’s keyword explorer tool.
On Surfer SEO, the keyword difficulty score is measured on a scale of 0-10.
When we use Surfer SEO, we stick to 0-6 especially if you have a new domain; this is our company's benchmark for SaaS SEO keywords.
Repeat the process shown above for each pain point on your list. In the end, you should have hundreds of keywords.
Note: You can connect your Google Search Console account to Surfer SEO to get more suggestions on keywords relevant to your business that you currently need to rank for.
Think of it as Surfer SEO syncing with Google Search Console to conduct a keyword gap analysis on your site.
Not all the keywords we identified in the "selection" phase will align with our current business goal. So, this is where we screen our keywords based on the following:
Does that mean keywords that fall at MOFU and TOFU will be deleted and removed from our list?
Not at all.
Because our goal is conversion doesn't mean we'll not create TOFU and MOFU content at some point.
Labeling each keyword helps us prioritize instant keywords over future ones.
Next, BOFU keywords are separated from our main keyword sheet and dumped into a secondary sheet.
The next question is: How do we know which BOFU keyword to start with?
It’s simple: do a SERP analysis.
SERP Analysis for BOFU keywords
SERP analysis is plugging each keyword into search engines to see the top-ranking pages.
For instance, for the keyword "Pipedrive ve Keap", a quick Google search SERP analysis showed that it's a competitive landscape:
The top-ranking URLs are review sites like G2, Trustradius, Getapp, Keap, and Pipedrive with a DA score greater than 50.
If you're new in this industry, with a < 30 DA score, there's no way you're outranking these pages in 6 - 12 months. This makes it a difficult keyword to to start with.
We repeat this process for each keyword; at the end, we should arrive at two lists.
Usually, we schedule keywords with low search volume for writing first, while the harder ones will come later.
The tool we use during our execution phase is Surfer SEO.
This aims to come up with relative keywords for optimizing our content.
When we plug our keyword into Surfer SEO’s keyword research tool, it tells us:
In the end, we will select "create content editor," and the tool will launch a content editor page that generates the following:
Note: SurferSEO also has a content editor that helps you optimize existing content.
Because a keyword returns zero search volume on SEO tools doesn't mean, in reality, it has zero search traffic.
In our case, we often get questions regarding "How to create datasets" for programmatic SEO.
And it’s a topic we believe will drive a lot of traffic if we create content around it.
But guess what? SEO tools say no one is interested in that keyword. To them, it doesn’t exist.
So, when it comes to zero search volume keywords, you can create the first-mover advantage. And be the first to rank for the keyword and build topical authority before the rest of your industry catches up.
Some SaaS businesses begin their keyword research with compatible keyword research analysis and end up targeting the same keywords as their competitors.
The downside is that most of their competitors prioritize seed keywords that attract prospects at the beginning of the sales journey. They look for volume keywords over conversion.
Smart SEOs measure their chance of ranking before targeting a keyword.
If you’re just getting started, it’s difficult to go head-to-head with big names in your industry. These big brands run Google ads to rank faster for paid keywords.
Challenging them will be a waste of time if you don't have the same budget and authority.
At SEOmatic, our keyword research is fueled by customer interviews and feedback.
For instance, during our onboarding process, we always ask customers what goal they want to achieve, and they will fill it in their own words.
This helps us identify possible pain points we can transform into SaaS SEO keywords for our content strategy.
As you can see, SaaS Keyword Research is a tedious but rewarding process. It's important to get it right from the onset.
After all, nothing hurts as much as wasting your marketing resources on keywords you cannot rank for. If you get your SEO strategy right, you can create once and generate continuous leads and organic traffic from your content.