XaaS companies face unique challenges when it comes to SEO. The old ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t seem to hold true when some of your ideal customers might not even know there is a solution to their problem.
More often than not, any SEO (or marketing in general for that matter) endeavor in XaaS doesn’t start with the traditional brand awareness building. It starts with solution awareness building.
To make things even more complicated, the XaaS buyer personas can look widely different. One of them can be a highly technical user who’s trying to break down silos and use microservices, while another can be a completely non-technical user who’s simply looking for an iPaaS solution to integrate their CRM and their ESP.
How in the world do you do SEO for both these users?
That sounds like a lot but trust me, it's easier than it sounds. Before I scare you off completely, let me tell you that it’s not just possible, but it’s also easier (in a way). And while it may seem daunting at first to change your SEO strategy, these adjustments will help you in the long run.
The good news is that the 2020 SEO trends show a clear search engine preference for content that answers very specific needs. This is excellent news for anyone looking to up their XaaS SEO game! Let’s dig deeper into this and see how you can use the upcoming year’s SEO trends to your advantage.
Creating content for countless buyer personas with countless needs may sound like a hassle. And it might be. But it’s also what ranks best.
The 2020 SEO trends show a clear search engine preference for content that answers very specific needs. This is excellent news for anyone looking to up their XaaS SEO game! Let’s dig deeper into this and see how you can use the upcoming year’s SEO trends to your advantage.
In-depth, long-form and, above all, information-packed content will take the crown every time. The 2019 Content Marketing Institute B2B report already told us that 90% of the most successful marketers put their audience’s needs before their promotional ones. In the future, this type of attitude will be prevalent among those who win top positions in SERPs.
Instead of trying to rank for broad terms, think hyper-focused, long-tail keywords instead. They will be your best friends in 2020 and beyond.
The good news about this is that long-tail keywords are much easier to rank for, too. The even better news is that these keywords will attract the kind of readers you want to attract i.e. the kind who may turn into leads (more on that below).
Think about each of your buyer persona’s pain points, then turn to Google, the related searches section. Here’s an example for an iPaaS business:
Your initial query makes for a perfect blog title, while some of the queries in the related searches section can be turned into subtitles. This is how you get hyper-specific content that answers a real need and ranks in 2020.
Alexa, Cortana, and Siri and the best-known voice assistants. But they are not the only ones. The use of voice assistants is set to triple in the upcoming years, so optimizing for voice search is a no-brainer.
We also know that mobile use is on the rise with people using the internet more on their phone than on their desktops. These two trends are inherently connected. When you search for something on a phone, you rarely have the time or the inclination to scroll through endless results and read endless blocks of text.
Voice search is here to support those exact users. When someone uses voice search, a single result is read back to them. This result is called ‘featured snippet’ and it usually appears above the ‘regular’ results. It looks like this:
As far as voice search goes, if you don’t have the featured snippet you don’t exist. This puts an extra high priority on optimizing your content for featured snippets in 2020.
Related: Read about the latest voice search statistics to see just how useful this tool will be for SEO in 2020.
The delicate balancing act of SEO is making sure your content is optimized for all user experiences. Don't lean into optimizing for voice at the expense of your mobile or desktop users. The best content is content that any user can enjoy.
In order to be both mobile and voice-friendly and get that coveted featured snippet, you will have to:
There is no guarantee that you will land a featured snippet. You may never be able to outrank the current snippet. BUT you may also score one for a query that never had its own snippet before. How cool would that be?
If you’ve ignored E-A-T so far, it’s now time to get really serious about it. And now, I'm not talking about skipping breakfast or working through lunch.
E-A-T stands for:
They are the three key features of content that Google deems worthy to rank high in SERPs. They were introduced some time ago, as part of a detailed document called Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines.
Here’s a small excerpt from the link listed above to make things a bit clearer:
Remember that the first step of PQ rating is to understand the true purpose of the page. Websites or pages without some sort of beneficial purpose, including pages that are created with no attempt to help users, or pages that potentially spread hate, cause harm, or misinform or deceive users, should receive the Lowest rating. For all other pages that have a beneficial purpose, the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important.
Keep in mind that there are high E-A-T pages and websites of all types, even gossip websites, fashion websites, humor websites, forum and Q&A pages, etc. In fact, some types of information are found almost exclusively on forums and discussions, where a community of experts can provide valuable perspectives on specific topics.
This document may be more than one year old but it’s being constantly updated. Plus, this August Google published a new blog post reminding people of it. The focus of this blog post is, again, content.
If you don’t have time to read it, here’s the TL;DR: great content that follows the webmaster guidelines will rank. Poor or spammy content will be penalized.
Was your website negatively affected by the last Google core update? If so, it means that you should work extra hard on improving your content. Expect to see more of this next year. The push for not-just-good-but-great and ethical content is increasing every year.
As a XaaS business, you have tons of opportunities to create content for top-of-the-funnel, middle-of-the-funnel and bottom-of-the-funnel leads. But opportunities galore don’t really mean anything unless they are executed properly.
Here’s how to leverage E-A-T to your advantage:
Google has moved away from exact-match optimization a long time ago. Yet, the SEO industry is still a bit lagging behind.
Semantic search is becoming more and more prevalent, in part thanks to AI and in part thanks to mobile search and voice search being on the rise (see above). When put together, all these help Google better understand what you might be looking for, even when your query is misspelled or too vague.
So what is semantic search exactly? It’s a type of search that describes a search engine’s endeavor to offer very accurate results based on:
Still confused? It's best to show an example of semantic search. Let's see what pops up when I type the word windows into Google:
My query was simple. I’m searching for windows. Even though I did not capitalize the first letter of the word, based on my history (and on the history of similar users), Google assumes I’m talking about the operating system.
Now, let's have some fun and complicate things a bit. This time I'm going to narrow my focus by typing 'buy new windows' into the search function instead.
Am I looking to buy new windows for my home or am I looking for the newest version of the operating system? Google seems to think it could be either, giving me both the option to purchase the newest version of Windows while also recommending window shops near me.
This may look a bit puzzling and it can even get frustrating for the user. However, the precision of semantic search is expected to rise in the upcoming years. More importantly, it offers some great opportunities to rank, especially for people in technical industries.
SaaS, iPaaS, FaaS, NaaS, MaaS…do I need to go any further? There’s an ‘aaS’ for every letter of the alphabet and, sometimes, even more than one per letter.
If you’re in this industry, your number one job, especially when it comes to SEO content, is to make things clear for your top-of-the-funnel readers.
Here’s how you can do that:
Don’t tell anyone but I once thought about trying to get my boutique agency to rank for ‘SEO’.
Sanity kicked in, though, and I discarded the thought. Instead, I focused on the likes of ‘hire SEO copywriters’, a keyword for which we hold first place on Google SERP. It’s obvious that this was a crazy idea because I literally had no chance to rank for it, no matter how great my on-page SEO and how much I would have spent on backlinks.
What’s less obvious is that, even if I had ranked for such a broad keyword, it would have been pointless.
You see, someone searching for broad terms might look for a definition or an in-depth beginner’s guide on the topic. Which, not accidentally, is what most first page results for the ‘SEO’ query are.
But for my company, this would have meant zero revenue. We don’t make money from affiliate links. We make it from selling SEO writing services. Thus, the keyword we actually optimized our content for – ‘hire SEO copywriters’ – was spot on. Can you guess what someone using that query might be looking for?
That’s right! SEO copywriters. Our very job description! Search and user intent are big topics in the future of SEO!
As I explained earlier, search engines have been trying to guess what users really want to see in SERPs in ages. And now, their guessing days are practically over. They know quite well what results to offer. Matching results to search intent or, more accurately, to user’s specific needs is something that will only get better with time, starting with next year.
For XaaS companies, any successful SEO endeavor starts with mastering the buyer journey to a T. The content that has the highest chances of ranking (and converting!) is the one that matches both your user’s needs and your business goals.
SEO is crucial for all these stages. When it comes to reducing churn rate, retention, and advocacy – the final phases of the XaaS journey --, other tools will serve you better. But that’s another story for another day.
Now, how do you use search intent for each phase? You start with the keywords.
Let’s follow up on the iPaaS example:
While you can cover the decision phase through newsletters, demos, and in-person chats, it doesn’t hurt to optimize your testimonials, case studies, and reviews. You can even ask your best clients to mention your brand name in their reviews on third-party websites.
This kind of optimization doesn’t just help you rank. It also helps you get more ROI out of your SEO efforts.
If your content matches your customer’s needs at every step of their journey, you will always be at the top of their minds when they reach the decision stage. And the more they visit your website and consume your content, the more likely you are to pop at the top of their SERP for every new query they make.
Nothing makes less sense than continuing to give the customer something they haven't ask you for. Worse yet, giving your customer something they hate.
Here's a hard truth: millennials are more interested in video content than in any other type of content, and no, they don't to read your branded emails anymore.
Image via HubSpot
The millennials aren't the only ones turning away from traditional marketing and embracing a new digital format. Studies show that 85% of US internet users watched videos online in 2018. And the percentage is even higher for other countries. Video is becoming the undeniable king of internet content.
In 2020, go beyond video product demos and introductions and create video stories. You can easily repurpose your blog content in video/slide format and upload it to YouTube.
You have plenty of opportunities to create videos and stunning visuals. Just think about all the types of content you create now and decide which can be repurposed into video format. Then move on to new topics: which of them can be tackled in video format?
A few ideas to make sure your videos rank high in the SERPs:
If you take a closer look at all the trends I described above, they all have something in common: quality.
No matter how fast your website loads, how cool your videos look or how well your keywords match user intent – if your content isn’t GREAT it won’t rank.
I always advise our clients to publish less if they don’t have the time or the budget to produce enough GREAT content. It’s better to publish one GREAT piece every week than two meh ones per day.
The era of keyword stuffing is gone. What ranks now (and in the future) is great content that really helps its readers. The best content in the world won't rank if it's not answering a question that the user needs answered.
When you’re in a highly-competitive industry, content quality matters even more. Quality doesn't mean having the best graphic design or even the flashiest user-interface. It means answering the right questions and providing high-quality, useful information to your reader.
A few ways to make sure that yours checks all the boxes search engines and humans value are:
Before you hit publish, ask yourself this: what does my content offer that other pieces of content don't already provide? Am I offering a unique perspective in this space? Is my content worth sharing with others in this field? If the answer to any of those is no, then it might be time to head back to the drawing board.
Ranking high in SERPs is great! But don’t let this goal distract you from what should be your real goal: writing for humans.
Behind every search query, there is a human. If they like your headline, they will click on it. And if they like what’s below the headline, they will come back for more. Eventually, they might even become your customers.
But that only happens when you write for humans, not search engines. When you write naturally and with a clear aim to be helpful. You know what the best part of this is? Search engines love the same content humans do. And they take their cues from humans, not vice versa. If you do the same, your 2020 SEO results will be great!
Learn how G2 used some of these SEO techniques to turn our entire SEO strategy around in just under a year.
Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the Owner and Founder of Idunn. In October 2019, she also launched Copywritech, a digital marketing agency that provides copywriting, SEO content writing, and strategy services to companies in the tech industry.
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