Jun 5, 2024

SaaS Keyword Research: Proven Methods that Work

SaaS Keyword Research: Proven Methods that Work

SaaS keyword research is essential to optimize your website for search engine ranking and drive quality traffic.

This guide takes you through four actionable steps of completing that research. You will learn how to:

  • Pick the right keyword intent according to your sales funnel
  • Split your keywords according to different stages in the buyers’ journey
  • Find profitable seed keywords
  • Use two amazing SaaS SEO tools to create a list of specific keywords for your website

We use real-life examples, Captain Obvious lines, and metaphors to keep you entertained. And we’ll disclose some insider tips few SaaS marketers know.

Keep reading below.

TL;DR: SaaS Keyword Research

  • SaaS keyword research is vital for SEO and driving quality traffic.
  • The article covers four steps to effective keyword research for SaaS:
  1. Choose the right keyword intent based on your sales funnel.
  2. Create a sales funnel/buyer journey for your product.
  3. Find seed keywords through brainstorming, data, competitor analysis, reviews, Google tools, and other platforms.
  4. Use SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush for in-depth keyword research.
  • Keyword research helps optimize content delivery, improve services, and attract potential customers.
  • Keywords should align with the customer's journey: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional.
  • Utilize audience analysis and create keyword lists for different stages of the buyer's journey.
  • Use various sources like Google Suggest, "People Also Ask," and competitor analysis to find seed keywords.
  • Leverage SaaS SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush for advanced keyword research.
  • Filter keywords by intent, difficulty, volume, and other variables.
  • Implement your keyword research strategy to create relevant content and achieve marketing goals.
  • Consider working with one of the best SaaS SEO agencies that will manage the whole process for you.

What Is SaaS Keyword Research?

SaaS keyword research is one of the most important steps in your SEO strategy. And this strategy is subordinated to your current marketing goals.

Basically, you’re trying to find the right keywords according to your SaaS customers’ search intents.

These keywords:

  • Help search engines index your page better, thus ranking it higher in SERPs and getting you more organic traffic
  • Attract prospects’ attention, persuade them, or convert them – depending on your campaign objectives

Remember: Find effective SaaS keywords both for search engines, your prospects, and potential websites that can link to your articles, like so:

saas keyword research list

That’s what this guide will help you do.

Why Is SaaS Keyword Research Important?

Quick Captain Obvious moment: You cannot meet your marketing or overall business goals without customers.

You get customers in two main ways:

  • You create a valuable service.
  • Prospects find out about that service.

SaaS keyword research helps with both of these points. We’ll explain this in a second.

First, picture this:

You’ve created an awesome billing software for SMEs.

Writing about it on your blog without any SaaS SEO strategy is like sending a message bottle into the ocean. Tim from accounting is NEVER getting it.

Instead, strategic SaaS keyword research optimizes that message delivery.

When you understand the search terms your prospects use, you can:

  • Create a more valuable service: Keyword research helps you identify gaps in your existing offer and develop new services/features that give you a competitive edge
  • Let people know about that SaaS: Using the right search phrases helps you tailor your content and website design to maximize search engine visibility. This visibility boost increases your traffic, subscriptions, and sales.

Let’s delve into the step-by-step keyword research process.

Step 1: Leverage Your Sales Funnel to Choose the Right Keyword Intent

The first step in this plan is intent mapping. Here’s why:

  • SaaS keyword research methods will uncover a slew of terms, but:
  • You need to pick the ones your target audience uses to search for solutions to its needs.

If your content doesn’t match your customers’ search intent, they won’t pay attention or even see it in the first place.

Insider story: One of our clients, influencer agency inBeat, discovered that many brands and agencies were looking for “top [x] influencers in [y] city.” This tidbit, along with in-depth competitor analysis, helped us increase its traffic from 500 to 70,000 visitors per month.

Pro tip: You don’t have to match your potential clients’ search terms word-for-word. Google’s algorithm has improved to guess the meaning (aka intent) behind each customer search.

Your sales funnel helps you with intent mapping because each funnel stage has a different objective.

Here’s a quick tl;dr, and then we’ll delve into each stage below.

sales funnel stages and keywords

Informational Keywords

In the awareness stage of the funnel, prospects have just realized their pain point. Maybe they can’t even put it into words clearly yet.

That’s why they’re looking for more info.

Remember: People in this funnel stage are unaware of your product (or your product category in some cases).

Let’s pretend we have an accounting software for SMEs called FinancePro Accounting.

Informational intent keywords can include:

  • Accounting software for SME
  • Cloud accounting software
  • Benefits of using an accounting software
  • Types of accounting products for SMEs

Navigational Keywords

Prospects with navigational intent are trying to find specific websites, locations, or pages.

You need these key terms if your potential customers are trying to find your company or service specifically.

Pro tip: Navigational intent queries are likely to include branded keywords.

For our FinancePro firm, some examples include:

  • FinancePro official website
  • FinancePro SME accounting app

Commercial Keywords

In this stage of the funnel, your target audience is trying to evaluate your offer, so they’ll focus on three types of queries:

  • Your software: Specific features and how the program works
  • Your competitors: How your SaaS stacks up against other offers
  • Your clients: Customer reviews and ratings

For FinancePro, potential keywords can include:

  • Software-based: FinancePro integrations, Is FinancePro cloud-based, FinancePro upgrades, how to use FinancePro
  • Competitor-based: FinancePro alternative, FinancePro vs. Xero
  • Client-based: FinancePro customer reviews, FinancePro Reddit

Transactional Keywords

People using transactional keywords are already in the final stage of the sales funnel, ready to make a purchase.

That’s why they’ll look for transactional intent keywords, such as:

  • FinancePro pricing plans
  • FinancePro free version

Step 2: Create A Sales Funnel/Buyer Journey For Your Product

This step is essential in finding relevant keywords because:

  • Different audience segments are in different sales funnel stages: You need to address them all strategically. That means your keyword research Excel sheet will need different tabs for different types of keywords.
  • Customers move through the sales funnel: Your prospects aren’t static; you need relevant key terms to carry them along on their journey, convincing and hooking them at every step.
buyer journey through content

Pro tip: Start from a thorough audience analysis, using previous data such as:

  • Sales calls
  • Interviews
  • Data from your sales team
  • Previous campaigns
  • Social media listening tools
  • Reviews and feedback
  • Customer questions
  • Data from your CRM
  • Data from Google Analytics or other website monitoring tools

Here’s how:

  1. Gather all these documents and transcripts.
  2. Review them, looking for common themes and questions.
  3. Jot these queries and topics down in your Excel sheet, indexing them under specific tabs.

Side note: Here’s an insider tip most marketers miss:

Use this SaaS keyword research data to create relevant content responding to these people’s frequently asked questions. Then, send this content back to them in a personalized email or message to boost your expertise.

But that’s a topic for another time. Let’s get back to the plan:

  1. These tabs should reflect different stages of the customer journey:
  • New prospect
  • Potential lead
  • Marketing qualified lead
  • Sales qualified lead
  1. To be more specific, split these keywords into relevant pages on your website:
  • Product pages
  • Category pages
  • Blog
  1. After you have indexed specific types of content for each buyer journey category, find supporting keywords that match this content:
  • Look for seed keywords.
  • Take these seed keywords through a keyword search tool to find more specific terms.

The next two sections will show you how to execute step 5:

Step 3: Find Seed Keywords

Seed keywords are generic one or two-word terms from which more specific long-tail keywords grow.

Basically, seed keywords represent generic topics your target audience is interested in.

Here’s how you can find them:

1. Brainstorm

Get your marketing team and sales department together for a brainstorming session.

Ask participants to have the audience analysis data you used in the previous section.

Pro tip: Sales calls, in particular, are a treasure trove of pain points and specific keywords.

Based on this data, think of high-potential keywords for each sales funnel stage.

Remember: The brainstorming stage is for building a comprehensive list of keywords. So, you’re not ignoring any suggestions.

2. Use Google Search Console Data

Google Search Console data is comprehensive and easy to get. All you have to do is:

  1. Tap on Search Results.
  2. Browse the best-ranking Google queries.
  3. Sort these queries by variables such as click-through rate, position in Google, or impressions.
  4. Insert different pages in your website, and Google will show you the keywords they rank for.
  5. Write down relevant keywords, splitting them into primary keywords and secondary keywords.

Pro tip: Solid keywords for your SaaS company rank between the fifth and 20th position.

keywords in Ahrefs

3. Conduct A Competitor Gap Analysis

Competitive analysis entails researching target keywords that your competitors are ranking for. Understanding your competitor keywords helps you:

  • Implement a similar strategy
  • Find missed opportunities that you can leverage in your own SaaS keyword strategy

So, research your competitors’:

  • Websites
  • Contributor posts in niche websites
  • Paid ads

You can find this data using Google Ads, Google Analytics, and other powerful tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. You’ll want to analyze the best performers in your SaaS category as well as your direct competitors.

Remember: The keywords they’re paying for are likely very profitable.

  • If these companies have done thorough research, your shared audience is definitely using those keywords in Google searches.
  • And those search terms are also highly effective in moving them across the sales funnel.

Here’s what SEMrush’s Advertising Research looks like:

competitor gap analysis

Alternatively, tap one of your competitors’ names in Ahrefs Site Explorer, then research their SEO efforts using these sections:

Each section will show you their most profitable keywords and topics.

Insider tip: Analyze your competitor backlinks as part of your keyword research, not just as part of your SaaS link-building process.

This tactic helps you identify the most linkable topics – i.e., the most effective keywords in your industry.

These are the most linked-to pages on BuzzSumo, according to Ahrefs:

ahrefs analysis

Let’s pretend you’re one of BuzzSumo’s competitors. These articles’ titles suggest good keyword opportunities that you can write down.

4. Analyze Customer Reviews

Customer reviews also reveal much about your customers’ pain points and needs.

Pro tip: Typical reviews are short, which means customers cut down on the fluff. The words they’re using are very likely significant for the funnel stage they’re in.

Go through all your review platforms, from G2 and Capterra to social media, Google Play Store, and your website.

5. Use Google Suggest

Google Suggest automatically fills in your search query with the most frequent search terms.

Those keywords have high search traffic, so they’re among the most relevant for your business.

So, simply insert a word relevant to your business and let Google Suggest do the rest.

6. Look at “People Also Ask”

The “People also ask” section appears after the first Google search results. You can go through these questions to see what topics interest your potential customers.

people also ask

And then, write down the most common keywords pertaining to these questions.

7. Analyze Related Topics

At the bottom of the first search results page on Google, you will see another list of topics from Google, like so:

related topics on google

These related topics are based on other frequently searched seed keywords.

Pro tips: Click on a few related topics and then scroll down to the bottom of these pages. Google will show you other connected themes your audience is likely searching for.

8. Leverage Other Platforms

Insert a keyword related to your business or a seed topic in other channels your audience is using, such as:

  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Instagram
  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube

You will find a treasure trove of articles, videos, community advice, and hashtags. Look for common themes and jot down a few high-potential keyword ideas.

Let’s say you have a project management software. Simply searching for this term on Wikipedia will send you to an article with the same title.

And the article’s table of contents has many keyword suggestions:

keyword suggestions

Step 4: Do Keyword Research Using Your Favorite Tool

Now that you have your list of generic terms, it’s time to use a SaaS SEO tool that top keyword research services use to get more specific long-tail keywords.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

  • The Keyword Explorer in Ahrefs allows you to type in all these seed keywords or upload them as CSV: The software will then show you millions of potential keywords.
  • Filter these keywords by the sales funnel stage using the “Include” section: In this section, tap keywords that your target customers are using according to their buyers’ journey:
filtering keywords
  • Adjust your keyword difficulty (KD) according to your marketing goals:
  • SEO keywords with lower KD are easier to target because they have less competition. However, they may also lack search traffic.
  • Terms with higher KD are more competitive but will also bring you more traffic. These are usually single keywords.

Pro tip: Choose keywords with different KD scores to power up your content strategy. The least competitive ones will boost your visibility in the short term, while the most competitive ones will establish your presence in the long run.

  • Adjust your monthly search volume: This is the estimated number of searches per month. Coupled with a preset KD range, you will narrow your list of relevant SaaS keywords.
  • Filter by parent topic: This section helps you see which keywords are associated with a specific topic. Then, you can choose the keyword with the highest search volume and moderate competition for a new blog post or product page.
  • Filter by other variables that fit your campaign: You can adjust the clicks and CPC variables to reach your marketing goals. Keywords with a higher CPC will bring you more revenue, so they’re better for money pages and transactional intent. A higher click rate will bring you more visibility, which helps you build awareness and credibility in the first few funnel stages.
  • Select the keywords you want to use: Ahrefs displays these keywords as a checklist. Click on the keywords you want to use; the software will ask you to name this list, so title it accordingly to your plan (e.g., “low competition informational keywords,” “high-traffic commercial keywords,” etc.).
  • Rinse and repeat: Repeat this for each stage of your marketing funnel.

SEMrush Keyword Overview Tool

  • Enter up to 100 seed terms you found in the keyword tool.
semrush keyword overview tool
  • Filter by “questions” and keyword intent to better understand what your prospects are searching for. Here’s an example of potential topics for the informational intent:
questions in semrush
  • Depending on your current goals, competition, and market position, filter by keyword difficulty, search volume, and CPC.
  • Rinse and repeat for other matches (phrase, exact, and related matches) to get more ideas.
  • Choose specific keywords to include or exclude.
  • Repeat for other sales funnel stages.

Implement Your SaaS Keyword Research Strategy

As promised, we took you through four actionable steps to completing your keyword research strategy. You now know how to conduct that research according to your customers’ search intent and funnel stage.

You also know how to build a list of profitable terms using keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs.

All that’s left is to start this research and produce relevant content using these keywords.

Blue is a SaaS link-building agency can help you get started. Whether you need to perfect your search engine optimization strategy, create great content that ranks, or improve your backlink profile, we’re just a call away.

Book that free call today, and you will get a custom-built SaaS strategy to reach all your marketing goals. 

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