Great Writing Isn’t Enough. Here Are Two SEO Frameworks for Growing a SaaS Blog.

The benchmark for a great SaaS blog is 100,000 views per month. To get there, you need great writing. But that will never be enough. Above all else, you need a sound strategy.

There are basically two approaches to growing a blog. The first is volume. Throw a lot at the wall and see what sticks. This actually can work, but you’ll burn a lot of time and money along the way. Quality content is very difficult to scale and the returns diminish over time.

The other way is a measured approach to SEO. A poorly organized site with great content just can’t compete with a site built for search. Content is a piece of this puzzle, but it functions as part of a larger framework designed to help you drive traffic.

The goal is a blog whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is possible only through the compounding effect of organic traffic.

It All Starts with Keywords

My sixth-grade basketball coach offered some advice that I’ve never forgotten. I had gotten into the habit of shooting fadeaways with very limited success. He said, “Live by the jump shot and die by the jump shot. Live by the fadeaway and that’s exactly what will happen to your basketball career.”

The jump shot is a fundamental skill that you can never perfect and never outgrow. You should think about keyword research in exactly the same way. You can never get too good at understanding what people want and why they want it. Defaulting to content volume is the fadeaway — it might work at first, but it’s more likely to sink you over time.

To simplify the rabbit hole that is keyword research, assume there are only two places to start:

  1. The top: short tail, top of the funnel keywords
  2. The bottom: long tail, middle, and bottom of the funnel keywords

There are good arguments for starting at each end. Short tail keywords have a higher ceiling — there’s a lot of search volume to tap into. The downside is that visitors who come in from short tail keywords are much less likely to convert. Starting at the bottom, i.e., tackling the long tail, low-hanging fruit, will earn you less traffic but it will be more targeted.

Our suggestion, in most cases, is to start at the bottom for the unscientific reason that it feels good to build momentum. As you tackle content for long tail keywords, you’ll see results faster. Once the model is proven and the kinks are worked out, you can set about tackling those competitive short tail terms.

[The Bottom] The Keyword Batch Strategy

Use a keyword research tool (Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic, etc.) to help generate at least 15 long tail keywords, then organize them by volume and difficulty. The idea is to start with the easiest ones first, then attack the more competitive ones as you build momentum.

We won’t belabor the exact process for doing keyword research, but here are three helpful resources:

By definition, long tail keywords are more niche. This is good because there tends to be less competition, meaning you can rank sooner. In order for this to be an effective strategy, you need to find keywords that you can rank with just one article. More competitive keywords require a more comprehensive approach (like the Hub and Spoke Strategy below).

 

long tail keywords

Here’s how this might look. Keep in mind that the numbers need to be adjusted based on the tool you use for keyword research and how competitive your space is.

Batch #1:

  • Min. 5 posts
  • Volume >500
  • Difficulty < 20

Batch #2:

  • Min. 5 posts
  • Volume >1000
  • Difficulty < 30

Batch #3:

  • Min. 5 posts
  • Volume >2000
  • Difficulty < 40

Done right, this should provide dozens, if not hundreds, of things to write about. Then your job becomes executing interesting writing and optimized posts.

[The Top] The Hub and Spoke Strategy

Single posts are typically not enough to get you ranked for a competitive keyword. The Hub and Spoke Strategy is a way to leverage site structure to help you rank for keywords that are otherwise out of reach.

Creating standalone posts makes it hard for search engines to find and rank your content. Consider this visualization from Bruce Clay that explains that without clearly defined sections on your site, algorithms will have a hard time understanding the topics and hierarchy of your site.

When you treat a blog like a publication, you produce a site that looks like this:

Bruce Clay writes: “In the jar above we see Green Marbles, Red Marbles, and Yellow Marbles mixed together with no order or emphasis. It would be reasonable to assume that search engines would classify the subject as a jar of marbles.”

That’s far too vague. Treating your blog like a library forces you to commit to a handful of topics and cover them thoroughly. Each jar needs to be filled until every keyword iteration and perspective is tackled. The result is a site that’s clearly organized, comprehensive and, perhaps most important, easy for an algorithm to understand.

Images via Bruce Clay

The Hub and Spoke Strategy helps us apply this theory in practice. The hub is a page designed to rank for a competitive keyword. Think of it as “landing content” — optimized to the “T” for search and built to drive readers deeper into your site. It’s similar to an index or table of contents. Each hub covers just one color of marbles.

The spokes are posts created for long tail variations of the hub target keyword. All spokes point readers back to the hub but have the ability to rank on their own as well. Together, the hub and its spokes create a hierarchy that is clear to both readers and search engines.

It’s important that your URLs mirror the hierarchy you’ve created:

  • site.com/hub/
  • site.com/hub/spoke-1
  • site.com/hub/spoke-2
  • site.com/hub/spoke-3
  • site.com/hub/spoke-4
  • site.com/hub/spoke-5

A real SaaS version might look like this:

  • Hub: saasinc.com/customer-support/
  • Spoke #1: saasinc.com/customer-support/shared-inboxes
  • Spoke #2: saasinc.com/customer-support/hiring-support-agents
  • Spoke #3: saasinc.com/customer-support/support-workflow
  • Spoke #4: saasinc.com/customer-support/canned-responses
  • Spoke #5: saasinc.com/customer-support/livechat

There are two key benefits in addition to site structure that make this work:

  • The hub page is frequently linked internally. This helps search engines understand that you are emphasizing the page.
  • The hub, since it acts as an index, drives readers deeper into the site. This keeps the bounce rate on the page very low, which is a signal to search engines that the page is of high quality. (There are conflicting opinions about the effect of the bounce rate on rankings, but in our experience, a low bounce rate is correlated with more organic traffic.)

Once you identify spokes, you can use them to fill an editorial calendar. Once you’ve addressed them all, you can create a new hub. And you can do it all with the confidence that your writing is contributing to a proven strategy.

When in Doubt, Slow Down

If you’re struggling to grow your site at least 10-15% month over month, it’s time to slow down and reassess your strategy. Content over-production can create more problems than it solves, so before you invest in dozens or hundreds of posts, makes sure you understand exactly how that content is going to drive growth.

Jimmy is the marketing director at Animalz, an agency that provides high-end content marketing solutions to SaaS and tech companies.