Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Photo by Phil Desforges
Content marketing is a highly effective marketing strategy for many SaaS companies. Per dollar spent, content marketing garners 3x as many leads as traditional marketing.
So why don’t more tech companies jump in?
For many small SaaS startups and tech companies, content marketing can feel annoying and labor-intensive. It’s difficult to start from scratch.
Often, everybody in the company already wears too many hats. For teams that are mainly comprised of engineers, marketing can be a puzzle that is hard to crack because of time or money — or both.
We created this guide to help time-strapped startups build a fast and effective content marketing strategy. By the end of this article, you should have some actionable ideas for how to make the leap into SEO-friendly content marketing for your business.
Why does Content Marketing Work?
If you’re part of a tech startup or lifestyle business, chances are you’ve heard some talk about content marketing.
In the past, typical advertising methods centered around invasive messages that interrupted the life of readers and viewers. Today, people simply tune out the thousands of advertising messages they see every day. Flashy colors, overused hyperboles, and shallow messaging don’t work like they used to.
What does seem work in the digital space, however, is inbound marketing.
Contemporary inbound methods like content marketing seek to provide search engine users with helpful information and solutions to their problems. Through instruction, entertainment, and clarification, businesses can market their service simply by being helpful.
Google’s search algorithms are designed to prioritize authoritative articles over irrelevant (or lackluster) ones. When someone needs specific information, it’s Google’s stated intention to match the user with the best possible information.
Content marketing works because your business becomes the publisher of a given solution. You create things people actually care about and in return, Google sends searchers to you.
Jumpstart Your Content Marketing for SaaS
1. Choose Your Platform
Start with the most basic option: Set up a blog. As Kaleigh Moore says, “Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without.”
You have two options: Use an existing blogging platform like Medium or integrate a blog into your current website.
In our opinion, this shouldn’t be a decision at all. If you’re putting in the time and energy to optimize for keywords, then you should build out your own blog platform.
Websites like Medium or blogging on LinkedIn are great for easy Likes and sharing, but at the end of the day you’re helping to perpetuate the reach of their platforms instead of your own website.
You want to own the canonical link for the original content. So be sure to publish on your own blog first, then consider secondary publishing options like LinkedIn.
Content marketing is a strategy for teams willing to play the long game. Results do not tend to occur overnight. But with every blog your team writes, you improve your authority and search ranking.
Once you have a blog in place, it’s time to decide what you’ll publish.
2. Build a Shared Calendar
Regular content production is hard work. Writing requires a lot of creativity. That’s why it’s best to decide what to write before you sit down to take on the blank doc.
First, get your team together to brainstorm topics for great content.
Have a team meeting. Tell people what you're doing and designate someone to take notes. Here are some questions to ask to get strong blog topics from your team:
What are common questions you receive from customers?
What is something controversial or taboo in your field?
What is your favorite geeky topic in your field?
What are you an expert in?
What is an idea that is taken for granted in your field that you see differently/disagree with?
What is an important aspect of your field that is frequently overlooked or done poorly?
Is there a topic related to our business that is trending right now that we can weigh in on?
What bad practices or intentionally misleading things do you see in your field?
What is a resource you wished we had when we started that we have since built for ourselves in-house? Can we share it?
Is there anything related to company events such as parties, remote work opportunities, volunteering, or initiatives that we could write about?
Is there anything related to increasing productivity, success rates, or sales?
Organization is indispensable at this point. Getting everyone on the same page about topics, deadlines, and keywords requires a shared platform. We HIGHLY recommend using Google Sheets to create a Content Calendar:
You can create as many category columns as you find useful. If more than one person will be writing blogs for your company, you can even have a column that designates who will write each post.
3. (Fast) Keyword Research
There are many articles about keyword best practices. For the lean team that doesn’t have time to immediately learn those best practices, here are a few easy ways to know what people are googling about.
These tricks aren’t comprehensive keyword research solutions. They will not provide the same results as using an SEO expert or paid software service, but they are useful for the lean team looking for pointers.
Determine long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords are phrases of 3-5 words that people commonly type into Google. The “long-tail” means that the phrase has some greater level of specificity than another search. For example: If I Google “copywriting”, I will receive much more generic information than if I Google “luxury copywriting service in Austin.”
Start by Googling words and topics in your industry. This will tell you several things.
First, you’ll see the level of commercial power the keyword holds. If there are ads at the top of your search, that’s a good sign. It tells you that paying customers probably search those exact words (or else the company wouldn’t use the time and money needed to create the ad).
Next, scroll to the bottom of the Google search results. You may see a list of suggested search alternatives. This list is gold. I recommend copying some of these search terms and pasting them into different lines of your Topics section in the Content Calendar.
Also, you can click any of those terms to initiate another Google search, so you can repeat the last two points with these related search terms.
4. Write the Content
One of the easiest mistakes in content marketing is to make the content all about your business. It may take some time, but it’s recommended to reframe your content so that the subject (or hero) of the article is your customer and the focus is the steps they can take or information they need to solve their problems.
Content marketing works because you’re feeding quality information to Google, which is actively trying to match everyday queries with the best content. The task, then, is how to write content that is optimized for search.
How can I optimize my content for SEO?
As a rule of thumb, search engines try to display the most relevant information first, based on characteristics of authority, relevancy, and regularity.
Though search engine algorithms are complex, the things they measure about your content are much simpler. Some of these characteristics are fairly easy to implement on your own.
As you write content for your website, make sure it is focused on the solution you provide to consumers. The more specific you can be in providing information, the less competition you'll be up against for that top search result spot.
Providing thorough, clear information to your readers will communicate to Google that you know what you’re talking about. It will also cause others to share and link back to your material, affirming your authority on the subject.
Topically-relevant information is the powerhouse of achieving a good search result ranking. You may have heard the phrase "Content is king." Publishing content that is easy to read, focused, and information-rich is what that phrase means.
Don’t get stagnant. From a Google algorithm standpoint, you want to be thought-leader in your subject matter. Thought leadership means that you’re active in publishing your ideas and contributing to the conversation.
Google pays attention to the frequency at which you publish high quality, subject-relevant content. The more often you can publish, the better (with the caveat that quality is still more important than quantity).
What about length?
For online blogs and articles, length should depend on the keywords (topic) of the blog. In general, longer posts around 2,000 words seem to do the best in search results, but the key to success is depth of information and value to the reader, not necessarily word count.
Notice a pattern? There's nothing complex or unusual here. In fact, these instructions describe most of the websites we love to spend our time browsing.
In other words, search engines are designed to reward clear information, intuitive navigation, and websites that publish regular content.
Isn't it more technical than that?
Yes and no.
If you take the time to produce regular, readable content and follow the guidelines mentioned above, then it's likely your website will already be ahead of many of its competitors.
From there, learning about more technical practices — html headings, text links, keyword research, ALT attributes, meta descriptions — can be done through research online. There's ample information out there, and many great resources that'll help you continually make your website easier to find.
Content marketing and SEO best practices require patience and hard work.
If you don't want to go it alone, work with a team that will put in the hours and help you stand out as an expert. Lewis Commercial Writing can spearhead the project and help organic traffic find your website.