10 SaaS marketers share what's NOT working in content marketing anymore
Insights from folks who’ve been creating SaaS content on a daily basis for years
Insights from folks who’ve been creating SaaS content on a daily basis for years
Content has become a traditional marketing channel for many SaaS companies. According to ProfitWell, content companies are likely to see 30 percent higher growth rates and 5 percent better retention rates than those not using content marketing.
The content marketing game is constantly changing – what used to work for SaaS companies years ago doesn’t make the cut today. Having spent a good five years in the SaaS content marketing space I’m always interested in tips, hacks, and low-hanging fruit that let you take a shortcut and speed up product growth.
I’ve interviewed 10 SaaS marketers and founders who’ve been creating SaaS content on a daily basis for years and asked them to share their insights – what’s not working in SaaS content marketing anymore? Let’s dive in and see what they have to share.
Everybody wants to rank for these fancy keywords with large amounts of search volume. But the truth is, large search volumes usually come with a crazy high competition and keyword difficulty. If your SaaS is in the social media space and you are just unfolding your content marketing, going after stuff like “social media management” is literally wasting your time and money.
“Being the bootstrapped startup that we are, we aim for actions that yield results. Our focus is on high-intent content marketing strategy. We pick keywords for blog posts not according to their search volume but according to their purchase intent. This helped us drive not only traffic but also sign ups with our blog being the only marketing channel today ” says Dennis Vu, co-founder and CEO at RingBlaze.
I couldn’t agree more. The reason why our agency has been up and running for 2+ years is because we deliver not only traffic but also sign ups to SaaS clients. And the only way to do so with content marketing is to focus on high-intent keywords – think “alternatives”, “competitors” or “vs” keywords. It works every single time so that’s where I recommend starting your content marketing efforts.
We’ve written hundreds of articles for the Expandi blog over the course of two years. Today, Google recognizes Expandi as an authority when it comes to all things LinkedIn –LinkedIn cold outreach, LinkedIn recruitment, LinkedIn automation – no matter which LinkedIn-related article we’d cover, it instantly ranks well on Google.
Recently, Expandi introduced new features, only this time they weren’t about LinkedIn but about email outreach. Once we started writing email-related articles, we realized that they were not ranking well. Unfortunately, we haven’t built the email marketing topical authority (yet) so Google didn’t consider us experts in the niche.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enter a new space and write about a new subject. Building the topical authority needed for recognizing you as a niche expert will require time and effort. If you decide to start a new category on a blog, you should keep this in mind. At the same time, if you aren’t changing your product, keep in line with the topic you’ve chosen.
“If the article is written about CRM, but this is not your niche, it is challenging to get to the top of Google search,” says Andrew Chornyy, CEO at Plerdy where they write 30 blog articles per month.
Have you ever read one of those articles where it looks good on the surface but once you’ve read it you felt like there was absolutely nothing you’ve learned from it? Pretty much all the content marketing experts I’ve talked to agree on this – vague, watery content for the sake of content is a no-go.
“Most companies use copywriters to write their content. This doesn’t work anymore. As they are usually not an expert in the topic they write about, they will read our copywriters’ articles to research the topic. This results in an endless loop of already fluffy content being the input for even fluffier content,” says Jeroen Corthout, co-founder and CEO at Salesflare.
Be careful when you hire copywriters with no subject matter expertise – you might be risking your brand image. Ask about their previous writing examples covering a similar topic or niche. For example, when we chat with a wanna-be client from a niche we don’t have experience with, we let them know about it straight away. Losing a potential client is way better than losing a reputation.
If your topics are technical and your tech experts don’t have time to write blog articles (which is usually the case) have your writers connect with experts on a quick call to get as many ‘meaty’ details as possible. Also, make sure to get those experts to proofread the post when it’s ready.
When Brian Dean introduced us to the skyscraper technique back in the day, everyone and his dog started creating content that’s longer than those competing results ranking in Google top. However, long content doesn’t necessarily mean comprehensive. What we see these days is blogs populated with 20-min reads that are vague, watery, and, let’s be honest, don’t bring much value to the table.
Ioana Sima, marketing manager at TextMagic said,
“Long-form written content as 90% of companies do it. The web is incredibly saturated with long-form articles that are written for the sake of being written. SaaS companies should not rely purely on long-form.
I would recommend experimenting with different formats and transforming articles that perform well into long-form content, while also including video summaries, templates, or rich media that can be distributed on other channels and quickly digested. Oh, and ALWAYS check SERPs to see the formats of top-performing pages.”
It can be hard to pack your article with value when SurferSEO asks you to write a 5K words piece. Remember that longer doesn’t always mean better. After all, this is what content marketing is about – writing for people, and bringing value while also catering to search engines.
Ranktracker is publishing 50 blog articles per month, translated into 12 languages. Felix Rose-Collins, the CMO, shares that articles they’ve published under the name of unknown authors tend to have poor performance on Google.
“We noticed that they don’t appear for our target keywords, we have now stopped posting for unknown authors. Once we’ve started using well-known names (like CEO), we see them rank within two minutes after publishing in the top 3 results. Even for extremely competitive keywords,” says Felix.
RankTracker clicks and impressions over time
In fact, this might be one of the reasons why you don’t see the results from the guest posts published on your blog. Next time, when you accept a guest post, make sure to look up the author on Google. If there are no online publications, chances are it probably won’t do your blog any good.
On the other note, when you pitch a guest post to an editor, include your previous publications on major platforms. For example, that’s how I got to write this post for Search Engine Watch – I shared my previous articles I wrote for Entrepreneur, HubSpot, Zapier, Foundr, and many more.
About five years ago I wasn’t thinking much about updating old content. We were on a hamster wheel of creating more content, faster for Chanty, a company where I headed a content team. Then I ran into this article by HubSpot and realized I was missing out big time. So we went back to the older posts to update and optimize them. I can’t share numbers as it was a long time ago but the results were huge. Since then we do this for our clients – if the article isn’t performing well, it gets an update.
“You’ll find that most of your sign ups come from a handful of articles. Updating our lead-generating content is an ongoing work that never stops. After all, the supply of keywords relevant to your business isn’t endless. While you are producing new content, older articles are going down. If you neglect updating older content you’d be stuck with a traffic plateau and a business that doesn’t grow,” says Andrey Makhovskyi, founder and CEO at Effy.ai.
One of Effy.ai updated article performance over time
This might bring a lot of resentment but we had to discontinue HARO for our clients in 2022. If you are not familiar, HARO is a service that connects journalists/ authors with experts in the field.
Authors would request a quote from experts and experts would share their advice. Authors then would decide which quote to include in their article and credit experts by putting a link to the expert’s website (similar to what I’m doing in this article). This used to be a win-win case – authors would get meaty insights for their publications while experts would get attribution and links to their websites.
It worked great until it turned into a red ocean zone and space got overcrowded. What used to be a great link building technique became a waste of time and effort.
“About two years ago we used to get 25 backlinks out of 65 pitches for our clients. With time it went into a downward spiral. Today, nobody links to you just because you shared your advice. They also want a link back in return. We realized it no longer delivers the value it used to to our clients. We had to give up this service and focus on backlink building techniques that do work today, ” says Iryna Kutnyak, director of operations at Quoleady.
Emilia Korczynska is a head of content at UserPilot and the hardest working marketer I’ve ever met. Getting published a whopping 60 articles per month, she’s tried distributing blog content on Quora, Reddit and social media. She says you have to be very cautious about how you spend time distributing blog posts.
“Resharing content in social media groups that are mostly dead or Slack channels requires a lot of effort, and with the miniscule organic reach and a high chance of getting banned by the admins just don’t justify it. Similarly with Quora/Reddit and other Q&A sites,” says Emilia.
I couldn’t agree more – we stopped all of our Quora activities a long time ago because the results just weren’t worth it. What we realized is that people often come to Quora from Google search after typing your target keyword – the one you are optimizing an article for. It makes much more sense to get that blog article rank in the Google top (higher than the Quora result) rather than trying to compete with hundreds of Quora answers bugging your friends/colleagues to upvote and comment.
When it comes to sharing in social media groups – self promotion is usually against the group rules anyway. Unless you are an admin or have been constantly adding value to the group, your blatant distribution attempt will be quickly eliminated. At the same time, there are groups that allow this sort of promotion. I call them “distribution cemeteries”. Nobody reads the avalanche of irrelevant content that’s being posted there.
Whenever I speak with a potential client on Zoom, I emphasize that content quality comes first. You can’t have a piece of content that’s thin and invaluable and expect it to rank well by building backlinks to it. It’s like putting a fresh coat of paint on a car with no wheels and hoping it will ride.
I’ve interviewed Mohamed Sehwail, CEO at FullSession and here’s his input on this,
“We haven’t been building backlinks to our blog content for a while, yet we were able to maintain steady growth of traffic and sign ups. Article updates do its magic, boosting our positions and bringing our pages to the Google top.”
FullSession traffic growth over time
Building backlinks will only help rank content better once your content is polished – it’s valuable, well-structured, to the point, answers the search intent, etc. When that’s in place and you are still not ranking well, it’s time to add backlinks.
“Give us your email and get access to an ebook, whitepaper, guide, checklist, etc.” The classic inbound approach introduced by HubSpot back in the days might not work for everyone as of now. The amount of content online these days is insane. Why would they give you their email if they can get the same contact (if not better) openly elsewhere?
“Instead of closing off certain content, we’ve found it’s more beneficial to create ‘additional resources’ as a complement allowing readers the option to download and creating a win-win scenario,” says Elizabeth Pokorny, head of content at Weglot.
When you are putting together three already published articles on a topic and calling it a guide, it doesn’t sound right. If it works for you – great. However, gated content does its best when it’s unique, something you can’t find easily online.
It might help to review your gated content policy and experiment with the assets you share with your readers. Opening more of your content might bring extra organic traffic and result in more sign ups at the end of the day. On the other hand, if your content pieces are of great value and your website is the only place to get them, I’d recommend keeping them gated.
I’ve interviewed dozens of content marketers and only top insights made it to this article. One thing that’s clear as day – great content is here to stay. It’s not about the amount of backlinks or length. Helpful, actionable, experience-based content written by an expert in the field is what you should be after when planning content pieces for your website.
When you develop your content marketing strategy, focus on high-intent keywords that will bring a highly-targeted flow of people who are ready to sign up. When you have a pool of articles that generate leads for you, make sure to cherish this content and update it regularly to give it a well-deserved Google boost.
Topical authority is a thing and gradually building authority around the topic that’s most relevant to your business will help you rank your future articles faster and easier.
When sharing content online, avoid the spray-and-pray approach (don’t bury your content on the spooky ‘distribution cemeteries’), always check the results of your activities and double down only on those channels that are worth the effort.
Hopefully, this article and advice from the content marketing experts who’ve learned their lesson through trial and error will help you save time and focus on things that work.
Olga Mykhoparkina is a founder at Quoleady, a SaaS content marketing agency on a mission to help great software products get quality leads through top-notch evergreen content.
Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.
Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.