SEO has become fertile grounds for all sorts of marketing discussions. The $80-billion SEO industry is plagued with questionable players promising the world to eager business owners. Sadly, as money burns, real growth fails to materialize.
As a SaaS-SEO agency founder and someone who’s helped a fair share of businesses attract their ideal customers, I’ve focused on avoiding the noise and mapping out real growth indicators.
So, let’s talk about some real numbers that bring tangible results.
The mess: SaaS SEO Case study
Before we get to “the real numbers,” let’s look at a success story.
One of our dear SaaS clients has improved its organic traffic by 27x in the last 18 months.
Meanwhile, we have faced several red herrings and learned a few things:
- Most of the organic traffic growth happened in the past six months (from 9k to 130k monthly visitors)
- The traffic explosion coincided with the improved loading speed. We brought the page loading speed to under 7 seconds six months ago.
- Content published earlier in the year started picking up with improved loading speed.
- Creating content categories drastically improved indexability (New content gets indexed within 24 hours now)
- Improving legibility, adding tables of contents, and tweaking navigation improved the average time spent on the site.
- Bounce rates dropped by 300% following UX/UI improvements.
- Organic traffic didn’t translate to improved revenue automatically.
While organic traffic brings many benefits, it might be the wrong KPI to pursue. Let’s go a step further to see why pursuing the wrong KPIs can be detrimental to a SaaS business.
What are SaaS KPIs?
SaaS KPIs are the key performance indicators that measure the development of a SaaS business.
KPIs are used in cross-company teams to rally members behind crucial outcomes. For example, sales teams often track free-to-paid conversions, cost per acquisition (CAC), and other business-growth metrics. Meanwhile, product teams would pay more attention to customer churn rate, user activations, and customer lifetime value (LTV). But marketing? Marketing is a bit different.
The company leadership must identify what drives business growth and hire the right teams to supercharge those KPIs. Otherwise, the entire business might fail.
Let’s look at the pink elephant in the room — organic traffic
Marketers love to boast about impressions, organic traffic, and the number of leads they generate.
A high increase in organic traffic sounds impressive, and for the most part, it is impressive. Just imagine. Over 130,000 people walk into your shop every month. That’s 4.3k visitors a day every day.
You’re basically running Harrods from your computer (minus the exclusive clientele). If those hordes of visitors fail to buy anything, you’re in trouble. The costs of running your business skyrocket with the influx of visitors, but your sales stay flat.
“I’m just looking, thank you,” says visitor #3,814 before moving to the next tab.
High traffic paired with low conversions is a classic case of a half-baked strategy that’s common in digital marketing. Even worse, you might get loads of bogus leads that will just waste your time.
Why most agencies fail at SEO for SaaS
“What gets measured gets done” — Peter Drucker
Most SEO agencies will aim to increase rankings, organic traffic, and free account conversions. Traffic has to lead to tangible business results. Otherwise, it’s only a fancy number on the screen with little benefit. By targeting vanity KPIs, SEO agencies beat their own drum while patting their own backs.
Meanwhile, SaaS clients bleed cash, failing to understand what’s wrong.
But SEO agencies are not the only ones to blame. Sometimes they’ll have limited insight into the client’s business, or the client themselves fails to understand what exactly drives the company’s bottom line. So, the client and the agency fall prey to average industry KPIs — rankings and traffic.
Rallying behind the real SEO results
The real problem is the lack of company-wide goals and KPIs that cross-company teams should work to improve.
Getting the product, sales, advertising, and marketing teams around the same table can forever change the trajectory of your business.
At MADX, we see the following play out often. Teams are left to their own devices. And this isolation stifles focus and forces SEO agencies to invest resources in boosting vanity KPIs.
As SEO teams work hard to boost traffic and rankings, they often produce informational content that’s meant to attract a volume of visitors, not necessarily connect with customers. And while the information content is crucial for growth and branding, it’s only a part of the bigger picture.
Here’s how to recognize and rally the SEO agency behind needle-moving ideas:
- Organize the company-wide team discussion with your client. Get team representatives on a conference call.
- Discuss the business growth KPIs — like free-to-paid conversions, CAC, user activations, etc.
- Ask about the customer. For example, ask the sales reps about the most common complaints and reasons customers buy the product.
- Ask about the product. For example, check with the product and sales team what makes users excited about using the product.
- Map out all the opportunities and pitfalls.
- Shortlist new areas of focus.
- Refine your SEO strategy to drive those vital KPIs.
The real return on organic
Depending on your understanding of the market, customers, and the client, you can now scale an efficient SaaS SEO strategy.
Maybe the customer needs more content about the benefits and risks of using the product. Maybe they need a faster-loading marketing website to enjoy a smooth workflow. Sometimes, your answer will even hide in cleaning up unhelpful and confusing content.
Once you understand what makes the entire business tick, it’s time to prove ROI in your channel.
- Find your SEO KPI North Start — Traffic, paid account conversions, time spent on site, loading speed, bounce rates, referring domains, etc.
- Shortlist crucial business KPIs to present — MQL traffic, SQL velocity rate, CAC, LTV, average contract value, etc.
- Does your SEO North star directly affects business KPIs?
- If so, describe how your outputs lead to outcomes.
- If not, rethink the way you track and measure your SEO performance.
The days when you needed a .com domain and a cool campaign that drives obscene attention are long gone. Today, investors and SaaS businesses care more about real performance. Traffic, rankings, and popularity are replaced with SQLs, LTVs, and the net number in your bank account.
Serious SaaS businesses need serious growth. And serious growth happens when you focus on KPIs that grow your business.
Choose the right SEO KPIs for your SaaS business
The time of endless VC money for pre-revenue SaaS is gone. It was a dream that quickly turned into a nightmare. And waking up meant investors and SaaS businesses needed to see real returns.
Focusing on real growth makes businesses grow. It’s an obvious truth but often overlooked. SEO agencies and SaaS client often falls victim to grand promises and vanity metrics. What are a million monthly views if you make zilch in revenue?