For SaaS startups, having a strong online presence is critical just to be noticed among the saturated competition. On the other hand, with the fact that SaaS businesses don’t sell any physical, tangible product, it’s also important to find ways to establish trust and credibility in front of potential customers.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one such way and is a critical element of any successful SaaS digital marketing strategy. SEO helps SaaS startups to improve their website and landing pages’ positions in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages,) increasing their online visibility, attracting more organic traffic, and ultimately, acquiring more customers.
Yet, despite its critical importance, many SaaS businesses made the same mistakes when executing their SEO strategies and failed to get their SEO right.
In this article, we will explore the 15 common SEO mistakes often performed by SaaS startups, and how to avoid them. By learning from others’ failures, the hope is that you can ensure that your own SEO strategy is on the right track to bring success to your SaaS business.
Understanding these mistakes will also provide you with the right insights into how to improve upon your existing digital marketing strategy, drive greater success, and stay ahead of your SaaS startup’s competition.
Let us begin:
15 common SEO mistakes to avoid for SaaS startups
Mistake 1: Focusing on the wrong keywords
While many SEO startups and marketers rightly understand the importance of keyword research and targeting the right keywords, many still make the same mistake of targeting the wrong keywords.
Some might do it due to a lack of knowledge or experience, but others are consciously targeting the wrong keywords due to the wrong underlying strategy. Nevertheless, targeting the wrong keywords means wasted time, effort, and resources, and you may attract the wrong audience to your website, hurting your overall marketing performance in the process.
Keyword-related mistakes come in various forms, but here are some of the most common (and potentially damaging) ones:
- Targeting too broad or generic keyword
For example, if you are selling an accounting SaaS product, then targeting the keyword “accounting” may seem like a good idea at first. Naturally, this keyword will be searched by a lot of people but many of them may not be interested in what you offer. Not to mention, the competition for these keywords will be extremely high.
Even if you do attract a lot of traffic from this keyword to your website, most likely much of this traffic won’t find your content relevant. This can lead to a higher bounce rate and low click-through rate on your SERP result, which may end up hurting your SEO efforts.
In general, you should target more specific keywords by sticking to three main principles:
- The target keyword must be frequently searched by your target audience. This requires thorough market research to identify your target audience and then look at keywords with high search volume.
- The target keyword must be relevant to your SaaS startup and your product. Not all keywords that are popular among your target audience will align with your unique value proposition (UVP).
- Depending on your available timeline and budget, assess whether the competition for the said keyword is manageable.
With the same example, you could target keywords like “accounting management software for small businesses,” “accounting management tool,” or other more specific keywords.
- Neglecting long-tail keywords
Many businesses make the same mistake of not targeting long-tail keywords enough.
Long-tail keywords are highly specific and naturally less competitive, so they are naturally easier to rank for. While these keywords may not have high search volume, when they do bring traffic, it’s likely that the incoming traffic is more qualified and relevant for your offers.
Especially if you are selling a more niche SaaS product (i.e., appointment scheduling software for salons or yoga classes,) targeting long-tail keywords can help you in reaching this highly specific audience.
Finding and targeting the right long-tail keywords can help you achieve much better results with a smaller budget.
- Ignoring user intent
When selecting and developing content to target the chosen keywords, it’s important to understand your target audience’s intent when searching for these keywords, or else your efforts won’t be effective.
There are four types of search intent to consider:
- Informational: the user is searching for specific information, finding answers to questions, or sometimes researching a specific product or service. For example, potential customers of accounting SaaS may search for questions like “how to effectively handle accounting for small business”
- Navigational: the user is searching for a specific web page or website. They already know the web page they’d like to visit, but they prefer to search on Google rather than typing the complete URL. To address potential customers with navigational intent, make sure to optimize your website for branded keywords.
- Commercial: the user is searching for a product (in this case, a SaaS product) with the intention of making a purchase. A user searching for “best accounting software for small businesses” may have commercial intent behind their search.
- Transactional: the user is looking to complete a specific online transaction (i.e., subscribing to a SaaS product,) or complete a specific action like signing up for a free trial. To address users with transactional intents, SaaS startups can create highly targeted landing pages with clear CTAs.
In general, to avoid these keyword-related mistakes, try to answer this question: how can you attract the right kind of traffic with the highest likelihood of purchasing your SaaS product? When choosing your keyword, always refer back to this question.
Mistake 2: Neglecting technical SEO
Too many times, businesses, including SEO startups, neglect technical SEO in their SEO implementation, which can end up hurting their search engine rankings and visibility.
Also, technical SEO has two different aspects that are equally important:
- Improving the website’s readability and user experience (UX) for human users
- Ensuring the search engines can crawl, index, and understand a website’s content effectively
Many SaaS startups forget one of the two aspects. Or worse, some are not attempting technical SEO at all.
Here are some common technical SEO mistakes you should avoid:
- Slow website speed: slow website speed can hurt user experience and is actually a search ranking factor. Use Google PageSpeed Insights to assess your website’s current speed performance and optimize it accordingly. Make sure your SaaS startup website loads quickly on all devices by compressing images/videos, minifying codes, and improving server response time, among other optimizations.
- Mobile optimization: Google and other search engines now prioritize mobile-friendly websites to rank higher on their SERPs. Not to mention, more and more users are now exclusively browsing the internet on their mobile devices. Ensuring that your website is mobile responsive, loads quickly on mobile devices, and has clear CTAs that are easy to click are critical for your SaaS startup’s success.
- Not optimizing title tags and meta description: Title tags and meta descriptions are very important for providing information to both the search engines and users about what a web page is about. They will be what potential visitors first see when your page is featured as a search result on the SERP, and will significantly affect the click-through rate. Optimize title tags and meta descriptions so it’s compelling for your target audience, and naturally include relevant keywords if possible.
- Not using structured data: structured data is, simply put, adding properties and attribute codes to your website’s content to provide search engine algorithms with additional context. For example, you can add an attribute to a specific part of your content signifying that it is pricing information, so Google could understand it accurately. It’s very common for many businesses to neglect using structured data on their websites, which won’t only hurt the websites’ potential ranking but will also make them ineligible to be featured as rich results.
To avoid these mistakes, make sure to:
- Conduct regular website audits to identify any technical issues that may hinder user experience and/or your site’s visibility in front of the search engines.
- Assess your website’s speed performance, and optimize website speed by compressing images/videos, leveraging browser caching, switching to a reliable hosting service (to minimize server response time) or your private server, minifying codes, and more.
- Make sure your website loads and displays correctly on mobile devices. If you are using a CMS platform (like WordPress) or a website builder, make sure to use a mobile-responsive theme or template. Test on as many devices as possible.
- Implement SSL encryption and other cybersecurity best practices to ensure the website is secure.
- Make sure the website’s URL is descriptive (clearly shows what the page is about), concise, and clean without any parameters.
- Optimize title tags and meta descriptions. Focus on making them compelling and include your keywords when you can.
- Monitor your website performance regularly, and adjust as needed.
Mistake 3: Not having an optimal content strategy
We can’t separate SEO from content marketing, but too many businesses, including SEO startups, made the same mistake of not having an optimal content strategy or failing to execute it effectively.
Here are some of the most common content-related made by SEO startups in their SEO efforts:
- Too much focus on product features: while it’s true that SaaS businesses should leverage content to educate potential customers about their SaaS product’s features, hard-selling content that is solely focused on promoting the product alone can be off-putting to its readers. To be effective and to ensure a strong SEO performance, the content should provide value to its target audience.
- Not based on keyword research: many SaaS startups develop their content just based on experience, perceived trend, or worse, gut feeling and not on thorough keyword research. Thus, the content is not optimized for any target keywords and may not meet the reader’s intent. It’s critical to conduct keyword research to identify topics the target audience is looking for, and optimize the content for these keywords.
- Not leveraging visuals: using aesthetically-pleasing visual content like videos, images, photos, and infographics can be an effective way to engage readers, keep them on your website, and even generate backlinks. Don’t underestimate the importance of incorporating visuals into your text-based content to make it more engaging, linkable, and shareable.
- Not promoting your content enough: many marketers think that developing and publishing well-researched, high-quality content alone is enough, but in reality, it’s just half the battle. No matter how high-quality your content is, it won’t bring any value to your business if no one knows about it, so promoting your content through various channels (social media, email marketing, etc.) is just as, if not even more important.
So, how should SaaS startups approach their content strategy and avoid these mistakes? Here are a few actionable tips:
- Start your content marketing with thorough keyword research. Go back to the mistake#1 section above on how you should perform keyword research properly.
- Focus on providing value to the target audience rather than promoting your brand or SaaS product. Publish educational tutorials, guides, and industry insights, among other types of valuable content.
- Diversify your content besides text-based format: videos, webinars, podcasts, infographics, and so on. You can also incorporate various formats within a single content piece, like embedding videos in the middle of your blog posts or adding infographics.
- Promote your content on as many marketing channels as possible with two purposes: attract more people to consume the content, and generate more backlinks.
- Encourage your readers to share content on their socials to amplify their reach.
- Monitor the performance and effectiveness of your content, and update them as needed.
Mistake 4: Neglecting link building
The quantity and quality of backlinks pointing to your site are arguably the most important factors in boosting its ranking.
For Google and other search engines, backlinks—or inbound links— are treated as votes of confidence. When a website links to another, it is essentially saying that the linked website is trustworthy and credible. The more backlinks from reputable websites pointing to your SaaS startup’s website, the higher it will rank on the SERP.
So, it’s quite obvious that link-building should be the focus of any SEO strategy, but unfortunately, many SaaS startups made the mistake of underestimating the importance of having a comprehensive link-building strategy:
- Many SaaS startups and businesses neglect link-building altogether. They assume that creating and publishing high-quality content alone will be enough to attract backlinks naturally. While it’s true that content quality is indeed the more important factor in getting linked, it doesn’t work 100% of the time. You’ll still need a deliberate link-building strategy to build a strong backlink profile in a sustainable way.
- Another common mistake is to rely on grey-hat or black-hat link-building tactics like Private Blog Networks (PBNs), low-quality guest-posting, and more. Relying on these spammy tactics will actually hurt your website’s ranking and you may be penalized permanently. Not to mention, it can significantly hurt your brand’s reputation.
Instead, it’s critical to build a proper link-building strategy to ensure SEO success, and below are a few actionable tips on how:
- Remember that the quality of the incoming backlinks is just as, if not even more important than quantity. It’s much more valuable to have just a few backlinks from reputable, relevant websites than 50 low-quality backlinks from brand-new websites.
- Don’t underestimate the power of guest posting. Reach out to relevant websites, blogs, or influencers and reach out to them with a pitch of your post. Give them a reason why your post will be valuable for their audience. Once you got published, you can link back to your website in the content or provide your URL in the author bio section.
- Regularly participate in conferences, expos, and industry events to build relationships with other businesses and professionals. They can be a sustainable source of backlinks in the future.
- Give them a reason to link your content by sharing something unique and valuable, such as unique stories, research reports, valuable in-depth guides, infographics, data roundups, and so on.
- Leverage tools to find broken links (links pointing to 404 error pages.) Reach out to the website owners and offer your content to replace these broken links.
- Monitor your backlink profile regularly (i.e., with tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush.) Make sure all incoming links are high-quality and relevant. Adjust your link-building strategy and incorporate other tactics when needed.
Mistake 5: Relying too much on paid advertising
Let’s first address the elephant in the room that paid advertising can indeed help SEO. For instance, investing in the right advertising can bring more traffic to your website, which can result in more backlinks and healthier user experience signals that may help boost your site’s ranking performance.
However, relying too much, or worse, solely on paid advertising can actually hurt your site’s SEO performance in the long run:
- Paid advertising alone will not improve your site’s search engine ranking. PPC advertising (i.e., Google Search Ads) will put your SaaS startup’s website at the top of the SERP (as advertising,) but it won’t improve your organic search ranking.
- Paid advertising is only effective as long as you pay. Once the budget for the ad runs out, you will lose the gained traffic if you don’t have a strong organic search ranking in the first place.
- When not managed well, paid advertising can make you lose money even if it brings you traffic. Paid advertising can be expensive, and if you’re overly dependent on it to generate leads, it can hurt your SaaS business in the long run.
Instead, it’s important to find the right balance between SEO efforts and paid advertising. Use paid advertising strategically to complement your SEO efforts, especially to generate traffic and backlinks.
Mistake 6: Not monitoring analytics and metrics
SEO is a long-term game, so regularly monitoring the performance of your SEO efforts is critical for success.
Without monitoring analytics and metrics, it’s very difficult if not downright impossible to know how well your SEO strategy is currently performing, and you may end up spending time and resources in the wrong direction.
When it comes to leveraging analytics and metrics, SaaS startups often make the following mistakes:
- Failure to set up analytics and tracking tools: unfortunately, many SaaS startups neglect to set up analytics tools like Google Analytics, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and others to monitor metrics related to website traffic and SEO performance.
- Putting too much focus on useless vanity metrics: quite often businesses get caught up in vanity metrics like search rankings, page views, or social media followers. While these metrics can be useful, monitoring them alone may not provide too much value in helping your SaaS startup achieve success. Instead, focus on metrics and KPIs that indicate lead generation, engagement, and revenue growth, such as organic traffic, bounce rate, number of leads generated, conversion rates, and more.
- Ignoring user behavior metrics: Google now tracks user behavior metrics such as bounce rate and dwell time (time spent on the page) as ranking factors. Yet, many SaaS startups neglect to monitor these UX metrics and, again, put too much focus on vanity metrics instead. These metrics can also provide valuable insights into how your users interact with your website and how you should optimize it.
To avoid these mistakes, make sure to set up tracking and analytics tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and even dedicated SEO tools like SEMRush, Moz, or Ahrefs, among others. Put more focus on metrics that indicate lead generation, engagement, and revenue-related metrics. Also, don’t forget to track user behavior metrics.
Based on the analytics results, review and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly. Doing so can help ensure that your SEO efforts will always stay in line with your business goals.
Mistake 7: Failing to adapt to search engine algorithm updates
Google’s and the other search engines’ algorithms are constantly updated. A website that ranks on the top 10 results today may lose the spot and won’t stay on the first page after an algorithm update tomorrow.
So, SEO tactics that work today may no longer be effective in just a matter of months, weeks, or even days. Failure to adapt to these algorithm updates may hurt your SEO efforts, search ranking, and may result in a loss of organic traffic.
Unfortunately, many SaaS startups often make the same common mistakes when it comes to search algorithm updates, including:
- Not keeping up with algorithm changes, industry news, and relevant updates. This often results in SaaS businesses not updating their websites fast enough to catch up with the latest algorithm.
- Failing to perform regular SEO audits for both your content and your website’s technical aspects.
- Overreacting to algorithm changes and making too drastic optimizations that end up hurting your SEO efforts.
So, how can SaaS startups avoid these mistakes? Here are a few actionable tips
- Follow authoritative websites and experts: there are many reputable websites that cover SEO news, especially those that sell SEO tools and solutions like Yoast, Moz, Ahrefs, and more. There are also many SEO experts that regularly share updates on algorithm updates and their insights on social media or blogs. Follow them to regularly get more information. Also, attend industry conferences when possible.
- Use Google Search Console regularly: Google Search Console can help analyze your site and inform you of any issues or errors that may hurt its SEO performance. If you regularly update your site according to Google Search Console’s information, most likely you are compliant with the most recent algorithm.
- Conduct regular audits: regularly perform thorough site audits to identify your site’s SEO performance and quickly identify issues that may negatively impact SEO. Address these issues regularly.
- Focus on optimal user experience: in general, Google’s mission is always to give a better experience to internet users. If your website is also optimized and regularly improved for user experience—loads faster, easier to navigate, and higher-quality content— then most likely you’re aligned with Google’s latest search algorithm.
- Avoid black-hat tactics: avoid shortcut tactics like buying backlinks of any kind or performing keyword stuffing. While these tactics may help you generate short-term results, they won’t be sustainable, and even worse, they can result in penalties from Google or other search engines.
Mistake 8: Not optimizing for mobile
As discussed, Google now prioritizes mobile-friendly websites to rank higher on their SERPs. With the fact that an increasing number of internet users are exclusively accessing websites on their tablets or smartphones, if your site is not optimized for mobile, you will also lose this valuable traffic.
Here are some common mistakes made by SaaS startups related to mobile optimizations:
- Not leveraging mobile-responsive design: a responsive design means the website’s layout and the size of the elements can adjust automatically to fit the screen size of the device currently used. If the SaaS startup is not incorporating a mobile-responsive design, the website may be difficult to use and navigate on smaller screens and may result in a higher bounce rate.
- Slow loading times on mobile devices: people tend to have less patience and shorter attention span when accessing websites on mobile devices, and they may abandon your SaaS startup sites if it loads too slowly. This may result in a higher bounce rate, which may also hurt your site’s search ranking in the long run.
- Not optimizing for mobile navigation: since mobile devices naturally have smaller screens, navigation can be challenging for visitors. Yet, many businesses neglect to optimize the mobile version of their websites for intuitive navigation, like search bar positioning, simplified menu, and optimized button size/placement, among others.
To avoid these mistakes, here are a few actionable tips:
- If your site is WordPress-based or if you are using website builders like Wix, you can choose a mobile-responsive theme or template to ensure a responsive design.
- Regularly audit your site’s loading speed (i.e., via Google PageSpeed Insights) and optimize it accordingly
- Make sure that your site’s navigation is easy to use and intuitive on smaller devices. Text on the mobile site should be easy to read without excessive zooming or scrolling.
- Avoid using technologies that are not supported by most mobile devices, such as Adobe Flash.
Mistake 9: Not leveraging social media to assist SEO
Social media can be a powerful channel to assist SEO startups’ SEO efforts by driving more traffic to the website, improving brand awareness/visibility, and even generating valuable backlinks.
Google may also consider healthy social media signals (interactions, shares, etc.) to boost a website’s ranking on the SERP.
Yet, many SEO startups fail to leverage social media and perform the following mistakes:
- Focusing on the wrong platforms: social media platforms aren’t made the same. Some platforms might be a better fit for a specific type of audience than others, and many SEO startups waste their time and resources on the wrong platform that doesn’t offer too much relevance to their target audience.
- Not enough interactions: another common mistake is for the SaaS startup to fail to engage with their social media followers. It’s important to remember that social media is a two-way conversation channel, so it’s critical to interact and engage with followers either by sharing relevant content, answering questions/inquiries, or responding to comments/direct messages.
- Neglecting social media: even worse, some SEO startups simply underestimate the importance of social media, and neglect building any social media activities altogether. Even for B2B SaaS startups targeting other companies, having a strong social media presence is critical for success.
Instead, choose the right social media platforms that are relevant to your SaaS startup’s target audience, build your followers, interact with them frequently, and even invest in paid social media advertising when needed.
Regularly monitor your social media metrics to track your performance, and identify areas for improvement.
Mistake 10: Using black-hat or grey-hat SEO techniques
Unfortunately, many SEO startups made the mistake of relying on unethical practices in their attempt to boost their websites’ search rankings.
Yet, while using these “black hat” SEO techniques may be initially effective in generating quick results, they won’t be sustainable and can instead result in severe penalties for the website, sometimes permanently.
Common black-hat practices that SaaS startups should avoid include:
- Keyword stuffing: refers to the overuse of keywords in irrelevant places within the content, URLs, title tags, meta description, heading tags, and others in an attempt to manipulate the search engine’s algorithm.
- Cloaking: showing two different versions of content, one to the search engine (often optimized with keywords and using proper SEO techniques), and another version to users with low-quality, spammy, or even fraudulent content.
- Purchasing links: using various methods to pay for getting backlinks (often low-quality), like Private Blog Networks (PBNs), low-quality guest posting, and more.
- Duplicate content: downright copying content from other websites, or creating multiple pages posting the same content in an attempt to manipulate search rankings.
- Hidden links: hiding links or texts (keywords) on a page that are only visible to the search engines, and not to users.
There are also tactics that are considered “grey-hat,” that aren’t strictly against Google’s guidelines but fall into a grey area, for example:
- Article spinning: creating multiple content versions with only slight variations and publishing them across multiple websites to create backlinks. With the help of AI tools, this practice is even more prevalent nowadays.
- Link exchanges: exchanging links with another website (or websites) in an attempt to fool the search engines’ algorithms. To save time, exchanged links are often irrelevant or low quality.
Avoiding these common SEO mistakes we’ve covered above is crucial for improving your SaaS startup’s SEO performance and ultimately, achieving business growth.
Learning from failed SEO campaigns can help startups to optimize their own SEO efforts, the quality of their content, and website performance.
By avoiding these mistakes and implementing the tips and strategies provided in this guide, your SaaS startup is ready to improve your search rankings, attract more organic traffic, generate more leads, and grow your business.