Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective methods of driving traffic and conversions for SaaS companies.
Content marketing, coupled with effective SEO, has helped SaaS organizations from Zapier to Ahrefs, SEMrush, Drift, Airtable, CoShedule, Buffer, Zendesk, ActiveCampaign, Intercom, and HubSpot to grow revenue and market share.
Done right, content marketing translates into SaaS growth. HubSpot now has more than 100K customers and more than a billion dollars in annual revenue.
However, there’s a whole ocean of low-quality content flooding the internet, making it harder to stand out and capture people’s attention. Because so much content is poorly done, exceptional SaaS content marketing has an opportunity to break through, rise to the top, and win a loyal audience.
To create content that cuts through all the noise, attracts qualified traffic, and drives conversions, you need to have the right plan and framework. In this guide, I’m going to give you a step-by-step blueprint for developing powerful content marketing that actually gets real results. I’ll also share specific examples of companies who are absolutely killing it with SaaS content marketing.
Establish Clear Positioning
Without clear positioning, your SaaS business swims against the current and you wind up losing momentum easily. With clear positioning, you flow with the current, as all of your content marketing is easier to produce and to generate results from. From the user perspective, with effective positioning your content resonates and feels as if it were written specifically for the target reader.
Which part of the market do you serve?
- Are you a premium product, or the cheapest?
- Do you target specific verticals?
- Is your SaaS product for large enterprises, mid-sized companies, SMBs, or individuals?
- Is your software for a specific set of users?
- Do you care about the location of your users (one of our earliest SaaS clients targeted Japan and South Korea, for example)?
Build Audience Personas for Your SaaS Business
In order to create content that resonates with potential customers and leads them to take the next step on the buyer journey, you should fully understand your audience. Defining your audience segments and building buyer personas around them gives you clarity about what your SaaS content marketing should look like.
Each segment of your audience should represent a distinct customer base you serve. For example, if you sell cloud-based HR software, one segment may be companies with more than 1,000 employees and another may be small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Or, you may segment your audience by vertical.
Once you define your audience segments, craft personas around each segment. In your personas, include sufficient information so that you have clarity on the type of individuals that make up each segment.
- What are their main challenges?
- On Sunday evenings, what do they think or worry about?
- What keeps them up at night?
- Where do they go for information?
Be sure to talk with your customers. Interview them. Really.
Prior to starting a new project, Stratabeat always asks our clients to introduce us to some of their customers. In certain cases, we go through 7-10 hours of interviews for a single client. If you want to know them, you need to talk directly with them!
Clarity on your audience segments and personas will make it much easier to execute an effective SaaS content marketing campaign from start to finish.
Map the Customer Journey
Next, map the customer journey. The customer journey includes every touchpoint a customer has with your SaaS company as they try to achieve a specific objective (including but not limited to buying). The journey includes everything from the point at which they realize they have a problem to solve (or a goal to achieve), to the very first interaction with your brand, the content they read as they research their problem, the first purchase, and repeat purchases.
Obviously, the customer journey is never really linear and includes multiple touchpoints at each stage of the process. Thus the need to create a customer journey map that provides you with a visual representation of the entire journey.
The map should include all the places where a prospective customer engages with your brand. Once you understand all the different ways they are interacting with your brand, you can ensure that the content you’re creating at each touchpoint is relevant, answers their questions, and is optimized for maximum results.
What’s In It for Them?
Before you create any content, you need to have a foundational guiding principle in place that will guide all your efforts. Specifically, you need to determine why your audience will care about whatever piece of content you are creating.
- What value does the content add to your audience?
- Why should they spend their valuable time consuming it?
- Does it help them solve a problem or achieve an objective?
- Is there a particular reason they’ll love it and want to share it?
- How is it different than the many other pieces of similar content that have already been produced?
- How are they going to profit from your content? I mean, real cold, hard cash – PROFIT!
There is no shortage of valuable SaaS content being produced on a daily basis. If you want your SaaS content marketing to stand out and actually produce results, you need to create content that truly matters to your audience.
Be the brand that delivers the most value to your audience, bar none!
Research Topics and SEO Keywords
Topic and keyword research provides you with valuable insights into what your audience is searching for at each stage of the customer journey. And the information you gather at this stage goes beyond SEO purposes, although it certainly checks that box. You can use it to shape your SaaS content marketing efforts as a whole.
For example, say you offer a marketing automation tool for businesses. Keyword research around the phrases “marketing automation”, “marketing automation software”, and “email marketing automation” provides you with a large number of related topics and keywords that you can use in your marketing efforts.
These keywords help you get inside the minds of prospects. They give you insight into the challenges they’re facing, as well as what they want out of a marketing automation tool.
Keyword research also gives you insight into how your competitors are using content marketing to engage with their audience. Knowing this, you can look for creative ways to differentiate yourself.
For example, review Google page one for your top keywords. Study the SERP and understand what type of content is appearing for the different searches, and why.
In addition, use tools such as Ahrefs and BuzzSumo to see all the online content that has been published about your topic over the past year. Sort it by relevance. Then by date. By page traffic. Then by backlinks, and by Twitter shares. What you’ll uncover is the spectrum of related content by competitors.
Then, go deep. Filter by website, and go competitor by competitor to see all the related content by each company. See what’s performing well, and what appears not to be resonating.
Determine The Specific Questions Going through Their Minds
Similar to keyword research, you also want to determine the specific questions your prospects are asking as they progress through the buyer’s journey. Knowing the questions allows you to shape content that specifically answers those questions and removes any roadblocks that keeps them from moving forward.
What Eye Tracking Studies Reveal
If you don’t answer the specific questions running through their minds as they arrive on your website, you risk them abandoning your site and seeking their answers elsewhere. The Russian psychologist Alfred Lukyanovich Yarbus conducted eye tracking studies where he showed each study participant the same painting. But prior to showing each person, he would ask each individual a question. Depending on the question, the area of the painting they viewed was different.
For example, if he asked how old the people in the painting were, the study participant would look at their faces, and would not look elsewhere. If he asked what their status in society was, they would look at their clothing and the furniture, and would not look at their faces.
Relating this to your website, if your content is not aligned with specific questions running through their minds at that time, you’re likely going to miss the mark and lose them.
You can answer questions directly on your website, in blog posts, FAQ pages, tutorials, webinars, etc. What’s more, because so many Google searches are in the form of a question, providing direct answers to questions in your content increases the odds of you ranking on the first page of search results and even securing the featured snippet.
Uncovering Their Questions
If you’re not sure what questions your audience is asking, see the “People Also Ask” results in the Google SERPs. In addition, a tool like Answer The Public or AnswerSocrates can be very helpful. You simply type in any phrase and each tool returns variations on how that phrase is used in search queries.
For example, if you type in the phrase “marketing automation” into Answer The Public, they provide you with this lengthy list of questions:
You can also check out Google Question Hub, which lists questions that your audience is asking yet are as of yet unanswered online. This is an opportunity for you to get out ahead of your competitors. (Although keep in mind that Google Question Hub is still very much hit or miss. For some topics, the questions it presents are laughable at best.)
Conduct a Content Gap Analysis
Next, conduct a content gap analysis to help you identify areas where you’re missing content that addresses a specific need, question, problem, or challenge your customers have.
Examine your buyer funnel. Have content for each stage of the process? Each of their challenges? Each of your differentiators?
For example, if you sell ecommerce analytics software, a content gap analysis might show that potential customers are searching for guidance on effectively managing inventory levels and that you don’t have any content that addresses that issue. You could then craft a blog post that speaks directly to that issue in depth.
To conduct a content gap analysis that moves the needle, create a map of what your customers are looking for aligned with your customer journey map, and then list the content you have to meet their research needs. Identify not only where you need to fill the gaps, but also where your content is weak and needs reinforcing.
Determine How The Content Will Support Business Objectives
Don’t produce content just for the sake of it. Ultimately, every piece of content you produce should support overall business objectives in some way. As you map out your SaaS content marketing strategy, ensure that you’re clear on the objectives you’re trying to achieve and how the various pieces of content support and further those objectives.
When it comes time to measure the effectiveness of your efforts, you should compare the results of individual pieces of content, as well as full campaigns, against the stated objectives.
Content Opportunities for SaaS Businesses
There is no shortage of opportunities for SaaS companies in terms of the types of content you can produce. Here are various forms of content for you to consider producing:
Offering up a free online tool is a highly effective way to generate attention, shares, and backlinks. The HubSpot Website Grader has backlinks from more than 12,800 websites.
Example: Hubspot Website Grader
Along with online tools, offering your audience free templates to accelerate their progress with your SaaS is smart way to boost your SEO results and backlinks. It’s also a great way to keep your customers happy.
Obviously one of your core types of content is going to be your product pages. Be sure to use behavioral analysis software to uncover where prospective customers’ attention goes on the page, how far down they scroll, and where they click.
You can take your product pages further by providing product tours.
If you have clearly defined competitors, you can accomplish three things with comparison pages. First, these types of pages will help you to show up in Google organic searches when your prospective customers are comparing options. Second, they help you to differentiate your SaaS benefits and compete more effectively lower in the funnel.
Optimizing pages as “alternatives” to your competition is another way to grab Google organic real estate precisely when your audience is searching for alternatives to your competitors.
Example: Matomo (Alternative to Google Analytics)
One of the most powerful influences on human behavior is social proof, and case studies are an effective way to deliver it. Case studies prove that your SaaS product produces real results. Wrike includes more than 50 case studies in its website.
Use cases are helpful to your site visitors in that you can demonstrate how different audience segments can get the most value out of your solutions.
- Example: Loom
Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of marketing a SaaS business can undertake. This is because blogging provides you ample opportunity to solve customer problems as well as to showcase your brand personality. Plus, blogging results compound over time, helping you to achieve higher marketing ROI.
Aberdeen Group reports that video marketers generate 66% more qualified leads than those who don’t use video. According to a WyzOwl State of Video Marketing report, 83% of survey respondents state that video has helped them generate leads and 80% confirm that video has helped increase sales.
Podcasts are a great way to showcase your brand personality and to deploy longer-form content.
Webinars have long been a B2B marketing staple. And according to Wyzowl, 83% of marketers find them to be effective. Webinars are especially powerful for SaaS businesses.
Academies / Courses
I’m surprised that more SaaS businesses do not launch courses or full-blown academies. If someone is interested in a solution to a problem that your SaaS solves for them, courses or an academy is an easy on-ramp for them to engage with and see value from your brand.
A guide, ebook, or whitepaper enables you to do into greater depth on a topic than, say, a blog post or video, might allow. It’s also an effective way to capture their emails by gating the content.
A great way to uncover the thoughts of your audience is to conduct surveys. Another benefit is that you then have proprietary data that can be used to create a wide range of unique content.
Complementary to surveys, research reports enable you to cut through all the noise out there with unique content that your competitors are not able to produce.
Along with content that your SaaS marketing team generates, you can also leverage content from analysts, giving your content added weight and social proof.
Example: Google Cloud
To make your content more snack-able, consider making a certain percentage of your content highly visusal in nature. To that end, infographics is a great way to make complex information simple.
As you work on your SaaS content marketing strategy, consider how you will incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) into the mix. SEO naturally brings people directly to your website, precisely at the time that they are seeking information and answers.
The Compounding Benefits of SEO
Plus, the benefits compound over time. Write valuable content pieces that rank well in Google, and you’ll find your SaaS reaping the traffic rewards for months or years. In this way, it’s one of the most cost-effective marketing vehicles available to you.
Posts on social media that have links to your website will get buried quickly since the algorithms favor content that keeps people on the social platforms. Podcasts and videos require people to actively seek out the link to your site. With SEO, on the other hand, people are looking for answers and will click on the top search results.
The Value of Long-Form Content
Armed with the data you discovered during your topic and keyword research, create content on your site that is optimized for the keywords your customers are searching for. The more in-depth and valuable this content is, the more likely it is to rank highly in the Google search results. A 3,000-word blog post that thoroughly addresses a subject from every angle will generate significantly more organic search traffic than a 500-word puff piece.
In fact, according to an SEMrush Google ranking factors study, content ranking in the top 3 positions in Google is 45% longer than the content ranking in position 20 on average. SEMrush also found that long-form content generates 3X the traffic of short-form content.
SEO Topic Clusters
An effective way to boost your organic search results is to group your keywords into contextual topic clusters. In this structure, you build a pillar page at the center of a hub-and-spoke content model. You then surround the pillar page with related content. Finally, you interlink the pillar pages with the related supporting pages, forming a mini ecosystem of inter-related content, making it easy for Google to understand the topics for which you are authoritative.
Tree Ring Multiplier Strategy
Your content pieces can rank for not only your primary SEO keyword, but also for a range of related keywords where correlation has clearly been established. For example, Stratabeat’s blog post “6 Top Responsive Web Design Testing Tools” is currently ranking within the first two Google search result pages for 25 different keywords. By optimizing your content to rank for a range of related keywords, you get an increase in ROI from everything you write. This can help you take your Google organic search results from good to great.
Ahrefs is a fantastic example of a SaaS company using SEO as a key part of their content marketing. Their blog contains regularly published, in-depth posts on a large variety of SEO subjects. As a result, they get roughly 900K to 1.1 million visitors per month overall just from organic search while the blog delivers 250K-500K in monthly organic traffic.
Customize Per Channel / Platform
Another important component of your SaaS content marketing strategy is the selection of distribution channels and platforms. To make the most of your content marketing efforts, customize each piece of content for the platform on which it’s being posted.
For example, if you have a recorded webinar, don’t simply put it in your knowledge base. Instead, pull out excerpts or the most important parts of the webinar and post those on social media, along with a link to the recording itself. You can publish excerpts on YouTube, clearly labeled based on the micro-topic covered in that excerpt. Or, alternatively, post the webinar on your blog but also include an edited, curated transcript so that people can get the most critical information without having to watch the entire webinar. Or, include excerpts from your library of webinars in a consolidated course. The point is, don’t just copy and paste. Make it more valuable than that.
Build Content Marketing Funnels
Don’t create content pieces randomly in a vacuum. Your job is not to simply create content.
Rather, the goal is to build content that fits strategically within the larger framework of funnels that guide your target audience to action. Different funnels address different audience needs, and therefore require different types of content.
At the top of the funnel is when people first become aware of your SaaS solution. The content you create should focus primarily on establishing a relationship with them, not hard selling them. Common content for this stage includes:
- Blog posts
The funnel you may be optimizing to at this stage is to have them opt-in to your mailing list so that you can nurture the relationship.
In the middle of the funnel the focus shifts more to product education. You’re trying to demonstrate your authority, educate the prospect more on the problems they’re facing, and highlight how your product solves their problems. Common content for this stage includes:
- Use cases
- Data sheets
The funnel you may be optimizing to at this stage is to have them download content and register for a webinar. You want to start guiding them towards more product-focused information at this stage.
In the bottom stage of the funnel, you’re trying to differentiate your brand, bring a compelling closing case, and make the sale. Common content for this stage includes:
- Competitive comparisons
- Case studies and success stories
- ROI calculators
- Total cost of ownership calculators
- Free trials
- Product demos
- Promo codes/discounts
As you build out your marketing funnel, make sure you have sufficient content for each stage.
Create a Content Schedule and Workflow
It’s really hard to be successful in SaaS content marketing without a well-defined content schedule and workflow. The content schedule defines what will be published when and establishes deadlines leading up to the publication date.
For example, if you’re publishing a blog post, the content schedule might include the post title, target persona, target SEO keyword, Google search volume, ranking difficulty, URL, relationship to SEO topic clusters. Within your content calendar, deadlines are important. To that end, you may include incremental deadlines for everything from creating an outline to writing the first draft, making edits, selecting images, uploading it to your CMS, publishing it, and ultimately promoting it.
A content workflow is all the steps required to create and publish a piece of content, including who’s responsible for each step, the timing involved, and the tools to be used. For example, you might use Ahrefs for keyword research, Google Docs for writing and editing, Canva for creating images, Yoast and Clearscope for on-page optimization, and loading everything into your CMS.
The schedule and workflow go hand-in-hand. They’re essential for keeping the gears of your content marketing machine running smoothly, efficiently, and reliably.
Utilize Content Atomization
Content atomization is the process of breaking larger pieces of content down into smaller, more digestible, stand-alone pieces. It allows you to create a much greater volume of content with significantly less work.
For example, if you’ve recorded a relatively long video for YouTube, you could extract relevant snippets of the video and post them on LinkedIn or Facebook. You can also create a SlideShare presentation version. You can also build a series of blog posts covering the topics from the YouTube video. And out of this can also come an email series with infographics. Etc.
The goal is to extract as much value from a piece of content as possible, but also to enable your audience to engage with your content in different ways in different formats. Some people are more visual in nature. Others more auditory. And yet others prefer text.
Content atomization means you get more ROI out of your content, while concurrently satisfying more of your audience in the process.
CTAs are turbo-boosters for your content. They are the connective tissue between your content and your solutions, downloads, and free trials.
I’m sometimes stunned by the lack of CTA usage by certain SaaS brands. What possible reason could there be to not guide your readers and viewers to a next step?
Any content posted on your website should include multiple CTAs. And the CTAs can be posted in various formats, including:
- Text-based inline CTAs
- Visual banners
- Sticky banners
- Dynamic pop-ups
- Screen takeovers
- Behaviorally triggered CTAs (e.g., a pop-up that only triggers if a person scrolls a specific amount down a page)
Using multiple CTAs on the page increases overall conversion rates. A person might not respond to the first one, but as they read more of your content they may become more inclined to respond.
Also, change up the CTAs as they scroll. At the top of the page, they are just getting to know you. Better to present them with free trial or demo CTAs further down the page as they scroll and their digital body language is clearly demonstrating their interest and engagement.
Repurpose Old Content
This recommendation is one often overlooked by SaaS content marketers. However, it’s powerful when used strategically.
If you have a blog post that performed well in the past but has faded over time, that doesn’t necessarily mean the post should be trashed. Instead, update it with new, relevant information, and then update the publish date. Or, merge it with other related posts into a consolidated powerhouse of a post. Typically, what you’ll find is that Google rewards you with higher rankings relatively quickly.
This is a highly untapped means of generating traffic increases from relevant content. As part of your overall content development plans, schedule time to periodically review old content and refresh and republish content that has grown stale but is still valuable at its core to your audience.
This strategy can result in a surge of new organic search traffic and also provides you with fresh content to give your current audience (who probably missed the post the first time).
Don’t Forget Content Amplification
It’s not enough to just publish content. If you want maximum exposure, you need to focus on amplifying your content so that it reaches a larger audience.
Most SaaS marketers make the mistake of spending 90% or even 100% of their content marketing time planning and building content. If you want better results, though, you should be spending at least 30% of your time on content promotion.
To that end, there are a number of effective amplification strategies, including:
- Paid advertising
- Sharing your content in online communities (FB Groups, LinkedIn Groups, Reddit, etc.)
- Partnering with influencers to share your content
- Content placements on relevant websites
- Sharing multiple times across multiple social media platforms
It’s hard to overstate the importance of amplifying your content. If no one sees what you created, then what was the point of creating it in the first place?
Measure Content Performance
To determine how effective a piece of content is, you need to measure its performance. There are a number of metrics and KPIs you can use when measuring content performance.
Unique Page Views
This metric can help you evaluate the overall reach of a piece of content. In most cases, it should be combined with other metrics to determine whether it helped move customers to the next step in the customer journey.
An important metric for SEO, such as blog posts. If a piece of content isn’t generating much organic traffic, it either means that it isn’t sufficiently optimized or that it isn’t good enough to beat what’s already on the first page of the Google search results.
Traffic from Blog to Product Pages
This metric is especially relevant for middle and bottom of the funnel content. If very little traffic is moving from a blog post to product pages, it suggests that you don’t have sufficient content-market fit just yet.
This is a key metric for bottom of the funnel content. A low conversion rate with this type of content suggests that you need to more effectively differentiate yourself from the competition and even from the status quo.
Mailing List Sign-Ups
This is a helpful top/middle of the funnel metric. If a piece of content generates a significant number of email signups (pop-up, sidebar, etc.), it’s a signal that the content resonates with your audience to the point where they want to hear more from you.
This applies to content such as ebooks, whitepapers, checklists, templates, etc. If a piece of content is driving a high number of downloads, it reveals what your audience is deeply interested in. The flip side is that content that doesn’t generate many downloads suggests that either the content itself isn’t compelling or the way it’s framed isn’t.
While this metric is a little harder to quantify, certain types of content create a context for prospects to ask questions. Using a chatbot on your content pages is one method for facilitating communication with your readers.
Keeping Track of Content Performance
What’s a great way to keep track of your content performance? In a word, dashboards.
We really love dashboards, and strongly recommend that you start using them if you’re not already. There are plenty of great options, including DashThis, Grow, TapClicks, Funnel.io, Databox, Klipfolio, and if you have a larger budget, Domo.
SaaS Content Marketing Examples
We’ve already looked at a number of SaaS content marketing examples above, but let’s look at a few more to give you a feel for what the most successful SaaS companies are doing in terms of content marketing.
Marketing automation platform ActiveCampaign, which boasts more than 150K users, is masterfully using content marketing to attract new customers and nurture existing ones. In addition to regularly posting high-value content on their blog, they also offer “Automation Recipes“, a community, and free email marketing tools. They also regularly host virtual events where they discuss various marketing strategies and subjects.
We’ve already mentioned the Ahrefs blog, but that’s not all they’re doing in terms of content marketing. They also have an “academy”, where they offer free courses on marketing, blogging, and SEO. For those new to SEO, they offer a Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization. Additionally, they maintain a robust presence on YouTube (over 240K subscribers!), including the main YouTube channel, product updates channel, and SaaS Marketing Vlog, where they regularly publish videos on all things SEO and marketing.
Airtable, a database builder that is sort of like spreadsheets on steroids, have used content marketing to help drive their meteoric growth (250K customers) over the past five years. In addition to their blog and YouTube videos, they also offer templates (as noted above) for many common uses of Airtable, such as content workflow, task management, etc. They also have the Airtable “Universe”, where users can share what they’ve created with the broader Airtable community. As you might imagine, this is a hugely valuable resource for Airtable users.
Few companies have invested as much in content marketing as CoSchedule. Let’s start with their suite of free tools: Headline Analyzer, Email Subject Line Tester, and Social Message Optimizer. They also have a robust blog, podcast, YouTube videos, guides, and state of industry reports. In addition, their founder wrote a book, 10X Marketing Formula.
Like CoSchedule, Intercom is all in on content marketing. They crank out blog posts, podcast episodes, ebooks, webinars, and guides on a regular basis. They also have an academy that features courses taught by experts, as well as a community forum for Intercom users.