I was never a Girl Scout, though the Scout Motto to “Be Prepared” has always resonated with me. I believe that every good process starts with planning and preparing (you guessed it…I am a High C on the DISC Profile). At Demandwell, our PACE process starts with Planning. In this post I am going to talk about how SaaS companies should think about keyword research to plan a winning SEO strategy and prepare for the fluidities of the market (yeah sorry, I am not going to talk about Girl Scout cookies, though I could really go for a Tagalong right about now).
The goal of keyword research is to gather up-to-date insights on the market trends. We are looking to answer, “What is the market looking for and how are they searching for it?” I think marketers sometimes forget that keyword research IS audience research. Keyword research will give you valuable audience insights that will guide your content production plan (and can be repurposed for a TON of other marketing efforts).
These insights will then help you take your site from an online brochure with some solutions pages and some blog posts, to a site acting as a large fishing net for the market – catching demand and channeling prospects towards the core pages on your site to learn more about your product and how it can solve their pains and problems – THAT is what grows your company.
Turning your SEO strategy into a website that is a lean, mean, lead-driving machine is a lot of work (see my blog post on why Traffic is Not Enough – You need Conversions to get a sense of all the work it takes and why the juice IS worth the squeeze). If you want your SaaS company to grow, the work starts with great keyword research.
Creating a Seed List of Keywords
Start by thinking of the categories that your business and brand fit into. Think about what your company does, how you would describe your product, the problems you solve, the industry terms that already exist. You might start by asking yourself the basic questions:
- What pain are people experiencing that I can solve?
- How does my product help solve their problems?
Then, for SaaS marketers specifically:
- What are the unique features of my product/service that people might be searching for?
- How might funnel stage or awareness impact how people search?
- Might different personas search differently?
Start making a list of the needs, the features, and the solutions, and various ways people might search. Try to come up with as many combinations as possible. I know it’s hard, but really try to think outside of the box from the handful of keywords that describe your product category across your branded content. As a SaaS company, your product and solutions could be referred to as many things – a platform, software, tool, system, product, app, solution, etc. People will be searching for all of these things as they are looking for the right product to fit their needs – and you will want to win for all of them.
Think about the problems, think about the users search intent, think about the ways your target audience might self identify in their search queries, think about the industry modifiers that you fit into. Just keep thinking. And then…think some more.
Let’s use Hubspot as an example. Their list might include keywords like this:
- CRM Software
- Marketing automation platform
- Email marketing tool
- Lead management software
- Sales tracking system
- Website CMS
- Digital marketing tools
- Marketing automation software
- Sales and Marketing tool
- Sales & marketing dashboard
- Operations Software
- Content management software
- Inbound marketing platform
- Software for content marketers
- Software for sales teams
You want this list to be as closely aligned to your business and the problems that your product solves. We call this list the Seed list, because it is the first step towards winning in the search engine results pages – for the keywords that matter to your brand. Get it? Planting your Seeds and watching your SaaS company grow!
Grow Your List and Keep Growing It
Once you have your Seed list in a good place – take it over to your good friend Google Keyword Planner in Google Ads and grab the search volume for each one. This will tell you how often all the keywords you put together are actually getting searched and which ones to focus on first. At this stage, you want a keyword research tool to get related keywords and co-occurrence terms. Do some competitor research and dig up as many relevant keywords as possible – you want the full picture of how people are currently searching for a product like yours.
Sift through all of your keyword research to find anything that is a fit. Take your list once more through Google Ads for search volume and start your content production plan with this list. (If you’re a Demandwell customer, your keyword list will be prioritized for you by our proprietary ranking system. We actually don’t recommend fully relying on search volume – more on that here.
How will you know once your “Keyword Universe” is complete? It never will be. EVER, but don’t let that be a daunting thing – you know it requires continual work to keep growing. The list won’t ever be complete because your audience will find new ways to search for their needs and your product and features will continue to grow and expand.
Ben Gomes, formerly the Head of Search at Google said “As we begin to answer a certain kind of query, people ask more of them. 16% to 20% of queries that get asked every day have never been asked before.”
While the acronym for our PACE model starts with Plan and ends with Evaluate – the process itself truly just cycles back around to the planning stage over and over and OVER again. (More on how PACE drives revenue here). By repeating the process you stay up-to-date and prepared for all the new search terms that the market is searching for. You will remain on top of the queries that your product helps to solve for and “Be Prepared” to show up for the newest queries that you want your brand to win for in the search engine results pages. Think of our PACE model as a circle and not a linear start and stop process. A digital marketer’s work is never done.