In this case study, I’ll reveal how I grew a SaaS company’s website from 1,359 new users from organic search in 2021 to 11,799 new users in 2022 — an increase of 786%.
However, before we get stuck into it, here are a few KPIs that were achieved:
1,372% increase in organic search impressions for non-branded search terms from 9.24k impressions in December 2021 vs 136k impressions in December 2022.
6,650% increase in organic search clicks from non-branded search terms from 24 clicks in December 2021 vs 1.62k clicks in December 2022.
1,154% approx. increase organic keywords indexed from 216 in December 2021 to 2,709 in December 2022.
3,255% approx. increase in page one rankings in organic search from 11 in December 2021 to 369 in December 2022.
Most importantly, organic search is the top contributing source of inbound customer lifetime value (cLTV) and new paying subscribers.
Before we dive into the strategy, here’s a summary of the company’s main challenges before I started working with them.
The first thing I do with any company that I partner with is a full strategic SEO audit.
The audit uprooted a number of challenges, such as:
- Practically zero traffic from organic search
- Zero non-branded keywords ranking on page one
- Small amount of backlinks and referring domains from low authority websites
- Competitive organic search landscape
- Small website with a few dozen pages at the most
Safe to say, the path to success with SEO would not be easy or straightforward.
Challenges aside, the business had an excellent product backed by an excellent team. For me, that’s all I need to confidently embark on an SEO campaign.
By late 2021, we had laid out the SEO plan for 2022. I’ll break down the contents below.
Ranking for challenging yet commercial value keywords via niche targeting
The business and legal document template space are relatively competitive online. For example, ranking for the keyword ‘legal documents’ in Australia rates about 50/100 for keyword difficulty in Semrush Australia.
Considering the website had little to no domain authority, achieving page-one rankings for these kinds of keywords would have been hard to achieve within a reasonable timeframe.
Instead, I focused on ranking the individual product pages for their respective long-tail keywords. For example, the keyword ‘profit share agreement’ has a difficulty of around 29/100 according to Semrush Australia.
Although these long-tail keywords had lower search volume compared to the broad terms, the business had over 50 individual product pages that could be optimised for a specific search term.
Multiplying the small amount of search volume per keyword across 50x pages equated to a sizeable amount of highly-relevant commercial intent traffic.
Bottom-Up Category-level optimisation
With the single document/product pages optimised, I moved on to the category pages. For example, the ‘legal documents’ product category page would have several single legal document pages nested underneath it.
I used a tactic that I call ‘bottom-up optimisation’ to rank quickly for the more competitive category-level broad keywords.
The approach is simple – get all of the category’s subpages optimised and ranking for their relevant search terms. Where necessary, build links to these subpages. The optimisation value of these subpages filters up to the category pages, therefore reducing the time to get them ranked on the first page of search.
This approach allowed us to achieve and maintain page one, position one rankings for competitive category-level keywords such as ‘business document templates’ within 6 months.
Building domain authority and rankings via topical clustering & internal linking
When I first started working on this website, it had a few dozen untargeted blog posts. This wasn’t going to cut it if we were to compete with the other established SaaS companies in the space.
Secondly, to give us the best chance of ranking our product pages quickly, we needed to establish topical authority around each document template we provided.
By using Semrush & Ahrefs related keywords and questions feature, I could uncover other similar keywords that people were searching for in relation to each product keyword.
Using that information, I prepared a blog content strategy that targeted each one of these questions.
Every single product and product category page was supported by multiple blog posts targeting supporting informational and question-based keyword searches.
These blog posts would internally link to the respective single product and product category pages.
The content team published over 200 blog posts following this method. Out of all of the tactics deployed, this one contributed to the largest amount of organic traffic growth.
Accelerating domain authority through hyper-targeted link building
If you’ve made it this far with the case study, you may be thinking that all you need is well-optimised content win with SEO.
Let me stop you right there.
Quality and relevant backlinks are still of vital importance if you want to rank a website that has little to none.
We placed over 50 guest posts on separate high-quality and relevant domains throughout 2022. That contributed to hundreds of new backlinks to the website.
However, great care was taken to ensure each backlink was placed across a certain spread of pages with the correct anchor text. Additionally, pages targeted for link building were rotated every quarter to ensure we flew well under Google’s spam radar.
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to closely plan and micro-manage link-building campaigns. If you know what you are doing, it is possible to establish an authoritative website in a short period of time if you can successfully emulate a natural backlink profile.
Without this component, the website would have struggled to rank for the more competitive commercial terms that bring in the lion’s share of new paying customers.
Enabling and maintaining near-perfect technical SEO health and core web vital scores
The very first thing I did was to ensure the website has free from technical errors while also passing core web vitals testing.
Fortunately, the website was well-developed, meaning that I didn’t have to do too much work to get it technically sound.
After applying various caching and performance optimisation techniques, I was able to get the website to achieve a perfect 100/100 core web vital score.
Although these tasks made up about 20% of the campaign’s overall success, they are important foundations to have set in place at the start if you want to achieve strong results.
Once the foundational technical SEO items were addressed, general ongoing maintenance tasks revolved around:
- Ensuring no pages resulted in keyword cannibalisation
- Eliminating and redirecting duplicate pages
- Eliminating and 301 redirecting 4xx error pages
- Disavowing backlink spam websites
- Ensuring the codebase remained performant
- Fixing crawl and schema markup errors
- Ensuring all pages prioritised for rankings have appropriate metadata
Driving more revenue by integrating social media and email marketing with SEO
With the core of the SEO strategy now in motion, the next step was to integrate it with the existing social media and email marketing campaigns.
Social media is a minor signal point that Google uses to assist with E-E-A-T. With that said, you can rank a website without having any social media presence.
Since the business was already active on social media, we decided to do the barebones basics which was to promote our blogs to via different social platforms.
This was mixed in with platform-native content that was specific to each social media channel. The important thing here was we had non-SEO-related content being published around the SEO-related content to keep engagement high while being able to increase followers.
Email marketing isn’t directly tied to SEO, however, it is one of my favourite marketing channels for monetisation. The business already had existing automated workflows for new subscribers that ascended them to purchase the product.
To help feed the top of the funnel, I made sure the informational keywords were directed to pages that gave the users the option to email subscribe for more content. This allowed us to siphon some of the organic search traffic into new email subscribers resulting in a portion becoming paying customers.
The important takeaway here is to not consider your organic search traffic coming from informational keywords as a waste. Do not try and get them to buy something as they are not coming to your website with the intent to buy.
Instead, offer them more information via an opt-in which gives you the ability to educate them while slowly introducing your product offering. Eventually, a portion of the subscribers will shift intent from information to commercial (assuming that you’ve done your nurturing sequences correctly) which can lead to new customers.
Compounding growth with effective analytics, KPI setting and data-driven insights
Without an effective way to track your SEO progress, you are flying blind. The main tool stack I used to track and measure the campaign results was:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Ahrefs (mainly to cross-check Semrush’s data)
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Before embarking on the campaign, we set a series of KPIs to help us understand if we were moving in the right direction or not. Those KPIs revolved around:
- Target keyword ranking goals
- New user growth goals
- Conversions from organic search goals
- Conversion quality from organic search
SEO is a macro marketing game – you’re in it for the long haul and need to view every decision under a long-term magnifying glass.
Overall, the SEO campaign was a significant success. The business went from having a website that was barely ranking to one that’s driving well over a thousand organic clicks each month all while continuing to grow month on month.
To recap, here’s a snapshot of the key results achieved:
- 786% increase in new users from organic search from 1,359 in 2021 to 11,799 in 2022
- 1,372% increase in organic search impressions for non-branded search terms from 9.24k impressions in December 2021 vs 136k impressions in December 2022
- 6,650% increase in organic search clicks from non-branded search terms from 24 clicks in December 2021 vs 1.62k clicks in December 2022
- 1,154% approx. increase organic keywords indexed from 216 in December 2021 to 2.709 in December 2022
- 3,255% approx. increase in page one rankings in organic search from 11 in December 2021 to 369 in December 2022
- Organic search is the top contributing source of inbound customer lifetime value (cLTV) and new paying subscribers
The average SaaS customer growth rate from organic search has been +15% month-on-month during Q4 2022. What’s even better is those subscribers are staying put with the customer churn rate down to a sub-5% average over the same time period.
The challenge for 2023 will be how we can top these breakthrough results. However, I am confident that we will…stay tuned for the updated case study to see what machinations we get up to 😀
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