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Some of the biggest software companies in the world credit SEO as their driving factor in achieving unicorn status: Canva, MailChimp — and the list goes on.
SEO is a channel where software companies can capture demand and convert that demand into paying customers. But most tech companies today are repeating the same SEO playbook as all of their competitors: regurgitate top of the funnel, basic information to get as much traffic as possible. The problem? You want the right traffic, not the most traffic.
Here are three unconventional SEO tactics specifically for software companies to stand out and acquire customers.
1. Fewer keywords, more thought leadership
Keyword-driven content is critical for search engine optimization. The overarching goal of SEO is to capture existing search demand. For instance, if someone searches for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software comparisons, you want your CRM software to show up as a candidate.
However, keyword-driven content can only get you so far, so fast. To rank content organically, Google assesses a myriad of factors that help determine which pieces of content a user sees when they search. Their algorithm prioritizes in-depth, accurate content from trusted sources.
And one of the best ways to become a trusted source is to establish thought leadership in your niche. The more people that trust you and your brand, share your content and link back to your content, the better.
Google rewards real brands with trust in their niche market. A big factor in how they measure this is via the inbound links pointing to your website, also known as backlinks. No, not the spammy kind of backlink you can buy for $5 on a shady website (stay far away from these). The type of backlink that can only be earned through truly great content, brand and relationships. The type that is a true result of creating and promoting a valuable piece of content people can’t help but circulate.
This is where your thought leadership strategy comes into play. Typical link-building is spammy. Sending mass emails to websites asking them to link to you. Instead, your goal is to write content so thought-provoking and distinct that people can’t help but share it, link to it and promote it. This is thought-leadership content and has massive beneficial impacts on your SEO because it earns far more backlinks and distribution than keyword-driven listicles like “5 Best CRM Software This Year.”
For example, I wrote a piece for my software company blog about how data is lying to you on platforms like Google Analytics. It wasn’t meant to capture keyword rankings but to drive social shares, engagement and virality. I used a strong, striking tone. I backed up my position with examples. I left readers with a final question that prompted them to share. Then, I emailed my list and network. Within weeks I had generated hundreds of backlinks from high authority websites that shared the post — more backlinks than most websites will ever get with a single article.
If I were to write yet another “XX best tools” post like most software companies, I would have been left with zero shares, zero links and no brand impact. Nobody wants to share boring, basic content. While you shouldn’t stop creating keyword-driven content that captures demand, you should also focus heavily on thought leadership content that has far greater virality potential, creating trickle-down benefits for your entire SEO strategy. Then, distribute and market that piece of content on all channels to maximize your impact.
Related: Why Trust Is the New Marketing Currency
2. SERP monopoly strategy
Publishing new content isn’t always the fastest way to generate leads, sales and revenue. It takes time to rank new content organically. Especially if your brand isn’t established and you don’t have a track record of success. Instead of mass publishing, deploy the SERP Monopoly strategy: get your software company listed on all round-ups and comparisons in your space for valuable keywords.
For example, if your software company is a CRM software, you’d want to search for keywords like “best CRMs,” create a list of the top 20 pieces of content ranking for this keyword and then conduct value-driven outreach to those websites to get your CRM listed. This is the SERP Monopoly strategy.
It allows you to get in front of thousands of searches in days, not months. Instead of publishing a new piece and waiting months for it to rank organically, you’re tapping into existing content that already drives traffic. And because it’s hyper-relevant, you can drive qualified buyers and leads to your website in days if you run a successful campaign.
Your ultimate goal is to get listed on every single post rankings for list or comparison keywords in your space, hence the “SERP Monopoly” name. Using the “Best CRM” example, this keyword gets 9,000 unique searches per month, according to SEO tools. There are countless articles ranking the top CRMs, all of which are an opportunity for you to reach out to the article creator and ask them to try and review your software.
If it’s truly a great product, they will be more than happy to recommend it on their list to their readers, as it’s a win-win for them and their readers.
When pitching your product to these site owners, always ask yourself: what can I do to make this valuable for them, and not just me? Can you give them an affiliate deal, so they get a percentage of the sales driven from listing you? Can you provide them with lifetime free access to use the tool so they can genuinely review and rank you? This strategy is incredibly effective for software companies due to the sheer amount of content ranking the best tools in a given niche. Take advantage of it to drive qualified buyers to your site in weeks, not years.
Related: 5 Essential SEO Strategies For Entrepreneurs to Boost Their Traffic
3. Sales enablement content for SEO
Sales enablement content for SEO is a powerful strategy to rank directly in organic search results of your competitors‘ branded searches. Key sales enable content for SEO often follows three distinct formulas: Why, Best, Versus. For instance: X Product versus Y Product: Which is best? These are key middle to bottom-of-the-funnel pieces of content that people seek out when making a buying decision. They want to learn why a specific tool is best for their personal needs.
Creating this type of content might feel counterintuitive: Why would you highlight some of the positives of a competitor? Well, for many reasons. Consumers won’t trust your brand if all you do is talk about how bad a competitor’s offering is. Talking only negatively about your competitor is dishonest, and consumers can see right through it. Instead, your goal is to differentiate — to speak positively of a competitor, but acknowledge where your product shines and for who.
Leave your bias at the door and write a comparison piece that explains why your software is the winner for your target audience. By creating comparison pieces, you’ll start to rank for competitors’ branded searches. In other words, if your competitor is “Brand X,” you can actually rank for “Brand X” searches in Google by creating a comparison piece like “Brand X versus Your Brand.”
Sales enablement content is versatile and widens the keywords you can target, subsequently capturing more demand from your target market that might not have known you existed. Paired with the two strategies mentioned above is a surefire way to increase qualified leads, sales and revenue for your software company.
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