Most SaaS content strategies focus on top of funnel topics and generating what we call “content conversions” (e.g. email signups, ebook downloads, white paper downloads, etc.), which, notably, is not the same as a product conversion (trial start, demo request, etc.). This is true of strategies used by in-house content marketers as well as agencies and other third party consultants.
In our article on SaaS content marketing, we argued that this tendency is based on the typical marketing logic that you need to guide every potential customer through each stage of the customer journey: brand awareness, consideration, conversion.
However, there are two fallacies in this approach:
- For almost every SaaS company, with the exception of those who are truly creating a new category, there is a significant portion of potential customers who are already in the consideration and conversion stages. So why wouldn’t you focus on converting those who are ready to buy first?
- Generating content with the goal of content conversions (email signups, lead magnet downloads, webinar signups, etc.) assumes that some significant portion of people who sign up to receive more content will eventually want to sign up for your product. Very often that isn’t the case (or it’s a very small percentage).
So, if your goal is to generate actual ROI from content marketing, we think it makes more sense to focus your content strategy on bottom and middle of funnel topics first — content that’s designed to generate trials, demos, and product signups (i.e. paying customers!) — and only after you’ve exhausted those keywords and topics, work your way up the funnel to broader topics.
If you want to more deeply understand the thinking behind this strategy, read our original article, which discusses this at length.
In contrast to that piece, which is more theoretical, this article will focus on actionable advice that SaaS businesses and content marketers can use to create their own content strategy.
In this post, we share:
- The specific types of keywords we choose and content we create for our SaaS clients (categorized by bottom of funnel, middle of funnel, and top of funnel topics).
- For each content type, we link to examples of live articles we’ve written for clients that you can go and read, find ranking in Google, and use as inspiration to build your own equivalent content (following the structures used in those articles).
- The mix of content that we typically prioritize for our SaaS clients in the first 3 months of an engagement.
- Links to our articles on key related topics like customer research, content writing, promotion and distribution, and measuring performance.
But before we get to all this, there’s one other key element of our strategy that we need to briefly explain first, which is our approach to search engine optimization (SEO) and content ideation.
Note: If you’d like to learn our content strategy and apply it to your business, we teach everything we do and give personalized feedback in our content marketing course and community. If you’d like us to do content marketing for you, then feel free to fill out the form on the bottom of our work with us page.
Why Our SaaS Content Marketing Strategy is SEO-Focused and Pain Point-Driven (Instead of Volume-Driven)
In the early days at Grow and Convert, we had the hypothesis that producing interesting stories and promoting them through community content promotion would outperform what most other marketing teams and agencies did. Lots of SaaS companies do this too — a big part of their content strategy involves publishing large guides and whitepapers that they promote heavily on social channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
While we were able to achieve fast results in the short term, we’d often hit a ceiling on the amount of traffic and conversions we could drive because after the initial social and community push, traffic would slow to a crawl.
Then, after looking through various client’s analytics accounts, we started to notice a trend that certain blog posts that happened to rank for bottom of the funnel keyword terms would outperform blog posts going after larger volume keywords. At around the same time, content distribution also became harder.
For all of these reasons, we ended up doubling down on the idea that: bottom-of-the-funnel, conversion-focused SEO content was the most effective for SaaS companies.
The SEO part ensured that if we spent time creating content, it kept getting traffic for years, not just for a short burst after publication. The BOTF part ensured that this traffic led to conversions and ultimately revenue growth.
We wrote more behind this story and shift in strategy in our B2B SaaS case study on How We Scaled Leadfeeder’s Signups to Over 200/month. You can also read our original explanation of our Point Point SEO strategy here.
Now, let’s get into very specific examples of keywords for bottom, middle, and top of funnel SaaS content topics.
Bottom of Funnel SaaS Content: Software Category and Comparison Keywords
As we’ve said, every SaaS content strategy should start here. These are the core keywords that indicate the target customer is looking to try, or buy, a SaaS product like yours right now — they don’t need to be “dripped” any content or be educated on the space. Think:
- “Best X software”
- “[Use case] software”
- “[Industry] software”
- “[Competitor] alternatives”
These are the keywords that most SaaS brands are bidding on in paid ads and competing for with their competitors, but for some inexplicable reason, aren’t going after organically with blog posts (in our experience).
We tend to think about these keywords as falling into two main categories: software category keywords and comparison keywords.
For both of these categories, there are themes that show up again and again in search engine results pages (SERPs):
- Who shows up: Typically you’ll see software review sites like G2, Capterra, TrustRadius, etc. You’ll see competitors. And occasionally, you’ll see other peripheral sources who in some way can benefit from showing up for that term (e.g. a marketing consultant showing up for “best marketing analytics software”).
- Types of pages: Review site pages listing products in that software category. Competitor home pages, product pages, or blog posts. Other bloggers, thought leaders, consultants, etc. ranking with blog posts.
- Content formats: The most common content format is list articles (because the intent of people searching is to understand their options). The other top content format is conversion-focused landing pages.
When we kick off content with a SaaS client, these are two of the first categories where we’ll look for keyword opportunities. Each has different keyword variations which we’ll share examples of and discuss below.
Software Category Keywords and Article Examples
Above, we mentioned some of the top software category keywords like “Best X software,” “[Use case] software,” and “[Industry] software.” But there are different variations of these that you can play with in your keyword research. For example:
- “[Industry] + [Use case] software”
- “[Use case] software for [Industry]”
- “[Industry] software for [Use case]”
The more use cases you have or verticals you serve, the more potential keyword opportunities you’ll have in this category.
For example, our client TapClicks has four main use cases (analytics, reporting, workflow, and order management) and serves 3 verticals (agencies, media companies, and retail brands). So, just within the “[Industry] + [Use case] software” variation, they have 12 potential keywords worth looking at.
You can see how as you begin to play with different variations of these keywords, especially if you have a large feature set or serve several verticals, there can be a lot of opportunities in just this category.
And there are even more opportunities when you substitute “software” with “tools” or “apps”, or add additional modifiers like integrations or business size. For example:
- “Best [Use case] tools”
- “Best [Use case] apps”
- “Best [Use case] software for [integration]”
- “[Use case] software for [business size]” (SMB, enterprise, etc.)
- “[Business size] [Use case] tools”
When doing keyword research for clients, we explore all of these variations to find opportunities where a) our clients aren’t yet ranking and b) the search results aren’t overlapping with a keyword we’ve already targeted — or plan to target.
Here are some examples of long-form posts we’ve written for software category keywords. For each, you can type their intended target keyword into Google and find them ranking on the first page. You can also click on the link, read the piece, and model the structure in your own content creation.
Best [Use Case] Software
- Targets keyword “best employee time tracking software” for our client Buddy Punch: 13 Best Employee Time Tracking Software & Apps for Small Businesses in 2022
Best [Use Case] Apps
- Targets keyword “best video review apps” for our client Vocal Video: The Best Video Review Apps to Collect Video Content Easily and Inexpensively
[Use Case] Software
- Targets keyword “annual leave software” for our client Timetastic: Annual Leave Software: 6 Different Options for Your Company
[Use Case] Tools
- Targets keyword “media planning tools” for our client TapClicks: Media Planning Tools: An In Depth Analysis of MediaOcean and 4 Top Alternatives
[Use Case] Apps with [Feature]
- Targets keyword “time clock app with GPS” for our client Buddy Punch: 7 Best Time Clock Apps with GPS in 2022
[Use Case] Software for [Business Size]
- Targets keyword “delivery software for small business” for our client Circuit: Delivery Software for Small Business: How Routing & Scheduling Optimization Helped 7 SMEs Grow
[Industry] Software for [Integration]
- Targets keyword “HVAC software compatible with QuickBooks” for our client ServiceTitan: Why Most HVAC Software Compatible with QuickBooks Are Insufficient (And How Ours Works Differently)
SaaS Comparison Keywords and Article Examples
The other main category of bottom of funnel SaaS keywords that we prioritize are comparison keywords, which include both “[competitor] alternatives” keywords and “[brand] vs. [competitor]” keywords.
Particularly when we’re working with newer or smaller brands where there aren’t many people searching for their brand versus a competitor, we’ve also had success creating content targeting “[competitor] vs. [competitor]” keywords. In these cases, we’ll create “[competitor] vs. [competitor] vs. [brand]” content to piggyback off the search volume of people comparing our clients’ competitors, and insert them into the list of options being weighed by prospects.
The more competitors you have in your space, the more potential comparison keyword opportunities you’ll have. Here are some examples of comparison pieces we’ve written for our clients to see how we approach these.
- Targets keyword “Marchex alternatives” for our previous client WhatConverts: 3 Best Marchex Alternatives for 2021
- Targets keyword “Datorama alternatives” for our client TapClicks: Datorama Alternatives: Comparing the Top 4 Marketing Analytics Platforms
- Targets keyword “Dovetail alternatives” for our client Reduct: The Top 3 Dovetail Alternatives for Researchers
Brand vs. Competitor
- Targets keyword “Canto software vs Brandfolder” for our client Brandfolder: Canto Software vs. Brandfolder: Compare Two Top-Rated DAMs
- Targets keyword “RouteXL vs Circuit” for our client Circuit: RouteXL vs. Circuit: Do You Need Route Optimization Software or Delivery Planning Software?
Competitor vs. Competitor (3 and 4-Way Comparisons)
- Targets keyword “CallRail vs CallTrackingMetrics” for our previous client WhatConverts: CallRail vs CallTrackingMetrics vs WhatConverts: In-Depth Comparison
- Targets keyword “Katalon vs Selenium” and other variations for our client Rainforest: A Detailed Comparison of Cypress vs. Selenium vs. Katalon Studio vs. Rainforest
- Targets keyword “Housecall Pro vs Jobber” for our client ServiceTitan: ServiceTitan vs Housecall Pro vs Jobber
Middle of Funnel SaaS Content: Use Case, Template, and Pain Point Keywords
As we move up the funnel from keywords that indicate direct purchase intent, there are two qualities that we look for in middle of funnel keywords:
- Does the keyword indicate that the people searching are in our client’s target audience?
- Does the keyword indicate that the people searching have a pain point that our client’s product solves?
If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then we can feel confident that a) we’ll reach the right audience by ranking for this keyword and b) there will be a natural opportunity to weave in and sell our client’s product throughout the content we create for it.
Three types of keywords that we find consistently have these qualities and work well for SaaS are use case keywords, template or checklist keywords, and pain point phrases.
Below, we’ll define each of these keyword types and walk through examples of keywords we’ve targeted for clients.
Use Case Keywords and Article Examples
Use case keywords are keywords that describe or relate to a use case your product helps to facilitate. In contrast to the “[Use case] software” keywords we described above, prospects may or may not be directly looking for a software solution. Often their intent is to understand how to do that thing or best practices for doing that thing.
However, often some portion of people who type in a phrase that directly matches one of your product use cases are looking directly for a solution. And for those just looking to understand how to better do that thing, you can show them through your content how your product helps them do it better in some way.
Here are some examples of articles we’ve created for clients targeting use case keywords:
- Targets keyword “ad operations workflow” for our client TapClicks: How to Optimize Your Ad Operations Workflow
- Targets keyword “automation test coverage” for our client Rainforest: The Snowplow Strategy: Improve Automation Test Coverage in Five Steps
Template and Checklist Keywords and Article Examples
Template and checklist keywords are keywords that indicate someone is searching for a template or checklist that helps them do a particular thing that your product can help them do better. They’re often phrased as “[Use case] template” or “free [Use case] template” (and sometimes include modifiers like “PDF,” “Excel,” “Google Sheets,” etc.).
If you review the examples below, you’ll find that the basic formula we use in this type of content is:
- Design a free template for readers to download (to satisfy the search intent of readers upfront).
- Describe the ways in which a template is only a partial solution, or the downsides of relying on a static template to solve that particular problem.
- Walk through how your product solves that problem better than a template.
Here are some examples of template and checklist content we’ve created for clients:
- Targets keyword “daily standup excel template” for our client Geekbot: Daily Standup Excel/Google Sheets Template [Downloadable]
- Targets keyword “HVAC service agreement template” for our client ServiceTitan: How to Streamline HVAC Service Agreements (With Free Template)
- Targets keyword “delivery driver training checklist” for our client Circuit: Delivery Driver Training: A Checklist to Set New Drivers Up for Success
Pain Point Phrases and Article Examples
Pain point phrases are keywords that indicate someone has a problem that your product solves. “How to” queries are a classic example of phrases that indicate a pain point — the pain of not knowing how to do something that the person searching needs or wants to know how to do.
So if your product helps people do that thing, it’s valuable to rank for that keyword because some portion of people searching may likely be interested in your product, especially if you sell it to them in a compelling way in your article.
Here are some examples of pain point phrase keywords we’ve targeted for clients:
- Targets keyword “how to do a poll in slack” for our client Geekbot: How to Do a Poll in Slack (in 6 Easy Steps!)
- Targets keyword “how to edit video fast” for our client Reduct: How to Edit Video Fast: 5 Tips to Speed Up Video Editing
- Targets keyword “who is visiting my site” for our past client Leadfeeder: Who Is Visiting My Site? How to Identify B2B Sales Leads That Don’t Fill out a Form
- Targets keyword “keep track of staff holidays” for our client Timetastic: How to keep track of staff holidays (without clumsy spreadsheets)
Top of Funnel SaaS Content: Non-Purchase Intent Keywords That Indicate the Right Audience
One thing should be made clear: Despite everything we’ve published over the years touting the benefits of bottom of the funnel content, we’re not anti-top of funnel content. In fact, at times we see top of funnel content convert really well for our clients (see screenshot example below), and it can have other uses like customer education and retention. But from a lead generation perspective, we just think it should come later in the content marketing process since BOTF content is typically so high converting. We just think it should come later in the content marketing process since BOTF content is typically so high converting.
Depending on the client we’re working with, there are different scenarios in which we’ll begin pursuing top of funnel topics. For example, when we’ve worked with a client for 2+ years and exhausted much of their bottom of funnel keywords. Or, when a SaaS product is very specific and has less bottom of funnel keyword opportunities to begin with.
However, there’s a BIG caveat with top of funnel content: Most top of funnel content doesn’t convert well (or at all) because the “ultimate guides,” infographics, and “Tips for X to do Y” pieces that B2B marketers tend to create are super beginner and uninteresting — even off putting — to advanced B2B audiences.
These types of pieces rarely sell the company’s product; often the product is not even really mentioned at all in the piece, which almost guarantees a minuscule conversion rate.
Here are some examples of top of funnel content we’ve created for clients that have converted well because of the way we’ve reached the right audience and weaved in their product:
- Targets keyword “daily standup meeting” for our client Geekbot: Daily Standup Meetings: Everything You Need to Know (Standup Agenda, Purpose, Common Pitfalls, and More!)
- Targets keyword “daily standup questions” (also for Geekbot): Analyzing the 3 Daily Standup Questions: Common Pitfalls & Unique Ideas
- Targets keyword “how to start a delivery business with contract drivers” for our client Circuit: How to Start a Delivery Business with Contract Drivers in 4 Steps
And here’s an example of conversion data from one of our clients where top of funnel keywords have been some of their highest converting pieces to date:
This shows conversion data from Google Analytics’ model comparison tool for a SaaS client from January 2021 to January 2022.
The conversion goal we are measuring is “create an account.” This client offers a free account to start and offers paid plans to scale up with more users.
The bolded column is measuring first interaction conversions, meaning it’s counting the number of users whose first session on the client’s site started with one of our blog posts — and converted them sometime within the next 90 days.
Here’s our full post on measuring first and last touch conversions with the model comparison tool.
Each row is a different blog post we produced for the client. Rows 7 & 8 reference the same top of funnel post which has generated ~137 signups (the difference between the two lines is a simple URL change we made to the post after publication), making it one of the highest converting pieces to date. And notice the other top of funnel pieces highlighted and how they’ve also contributed significantly to overall conversions.
How We Prioritize SaaS Content Topics in the First 3 Months of a Client Engagement
Here’s a video that shares our thoughts on this:
Per our strategy described in the introduction, when we first begin working with a SaaS client, we start with a content calendar that includes a mix of bottom and middle of funnel keywords from the categories we shared above.
We’ll typically mix in one or two SaaS category keywords, one or two comparison keywords, and a few middle of funnel use case or pain point phrases.
For example, here’s a screenshot from Trello showing the first six pieces we tackled for our client Vocal Video:
There’s one other piece of content that we do first which we call a “founding story” or “disruption story.” This is a non-SEO piece that we use to drive traffic and conversions early on in an engagement as we wait for our SEO pieces to begin ranking. It also helps us nail down the value propositions and competitive advantages of the product.
Disruption stories lay out the specific problems that a SaaS business set out to solve when they started their company, walks through how their product works, and most importantly, communicates their positioning (i.e. how their product is different or better than other existing solutions). You can consider them a type of “thought leadership” content (a buzzword that many companies try, and fail, to produce) in that they position your company as disrupters in your specific niche — you identified a problem and developed a specific solution to solve it.
We drive traffic to these disruption stories through paid social media ads (traditionally Facebook ads and increasingly promoted Tweets). Here are some examples of disruption stories to see how we approach them:
- Producing Video Testimonials Used to Be a Huge Pain. Here’s How We’re Fixing It.
- How and Why We’re Making Video Editing as Easy as Editing Text
- Asking Developers to Do QA Is Broken. Here’s Why We Built a Product to Let Anyone Own QA.
- Why the Large Law Firm Business Model Is Dying and What We’re Doing Instead
Other SaaS Content Strategy Topics: Customer Research, Content Writing, Content Promotion, and Measuring Performance
In this post, we focused on sharing the exact types of keywords we go after for SaaS clients because we wanted this to be as actionable as possible for SaaS companies.
We want you to be able to take what you’ve learned here and develop an SEO-focused content marketing plan that actually has potential to contribute to lead generation.
There’s obviously more to SaaS content strategy than just choosing and prioritizing keywords. There are equally important steps before and after that will determine the success of your content (and any inbound marketing efforts).
In addition to keyword selection, you need to:
- Deeply understand your customers’ pain points.
- Write advanced content that weaves in your product or service.
- Promote and drive traffic to your content.
- Measure performance and attributed conversions from your content.
We’ve written extensively about all of these topics, so here we’ll link to our top articles on each of them.
Customer-Content Fit: A Framework for Producing Content That Attracts Customers: This article discusses the problem of misalignment between the topics B2B SaaS marketers choose to write about, and the topics that would actually appeal to their target companies and their decision makers. It shares a concept we coined “Customer-Content Fit” that helps fix this.
Content Ideation: Ways to Come up with Content Ideas That Convert: The biggest determinant of whether a blog post will convert is not the call-to-action (CTA) that you place inside of a post, but rather the idea behind the blog post itself. As we explained above, most companies choose content ideas based on the highest volume keywords they can find in keyword research tools (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush, etc.). This article explains what we do instead. It covers tactics for coming up with content ideas including specific questions to ask to people in your company (i.e. sales team, customer service team, CEO and founders, etc.), how to elicit feedback from customers through email, how to find ideas through online communities and your Adwords account, and more.
SEO Content Writing: A 5-Step Process You Can Follow: This article shares how we define SEO content writing differently than most SaaS marketers, and lays out our process for repeatedly creating valuable content that ranks in organic search and drives leads.
The Specificity Strategy: How to Turn Generic Posts into Stand Out Content: People in SaaS marketing always say, “Write great content.” But when you look around online, the typical blogging done by SaaS companies isn’t advanced enough for their audiences. This post explains this problem and our recommendations for what to do instead.
Why Your Content Needs “Originality Nuggets” to Be Effective: This article explains a concept we call “Originality Nuggets,” which we define as little bits of originality that make a piece of content unique from others, and thus worthy of being shared or linked to. This piece discusses why we created this strategy, how it’s different from our specificity strategy, and provides examples of how originality nuggets look and work in practice.
Why Fully Outsourcing Blog Writing to Freelance Writers is Flawed: This article discusses a key challenge of creating high-quality content — finding great writers — and our take on how to solve this problem.
Content Distribution Strategy: Why We’re Doubling Down on Paid Promotion and SEO: This piece covers the shift we made from community content promotion to focusing exclusively on paid promotion and SEO. We discuss our approach to generating short term traffic to articles via Facebook ads, as well as long term traffic via SEO and building backlinks.
Most Companies Measure Content Marketing ROI Incorrectly. Here’s Why (and How to Fix It): This article explains our 4-step process for measuring ROI from content marketing efforts. We cover how to define an actual business metric to measure (not a vanity metric like organic traffic or page views), how to set up Google Analytics, how to calculate the number of leads per month needed to hit breakeven on your spend, and how to track progress.
Content Marketing Attribution: How to Measure Content Performance: This article explains the different attribution models that are needed to measure content performance accurately in Google Analytics.
Want to work with us or learn how to implement our SaaS content strategy?
- Our Content Marketing Agency: You can learn more about working with us here.
- Our Content Marketing Course: Individuals looking to learn how to grow their SaaS business with content can join our private course, taught via case studies, here. We include lots of detail and examples not found on this blog. Our course is also built into a community, so people ask questions, start discussions, and share their work in the lesson pages themselves, and we and other members give feedback. We also get on live Zoom calls about once a month and dissect members’ actual content strategies and brainstorm ideas on how we’d form content strategies for their businesses.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to share them in the comments below and we’ll respond.