An SEO moat is something every SaaS company should strive to unlock.
Brands like Salesforce, Hubspot, Zapier and even Stripe have built solid content moats around their business, yet most analysts and investors overlook the value of this competitive advantage.
What is an SEO Moat? Our definition of an SEO Moat is when:
A brand has invested so strategically into content & SEO that they have captured space in the search engine results pages (usually Google) for the vast majority of search terms associated with their market and ideal customers. For example, you search “CRM” – Salesforce shows up in the top 3 results. If you type “marketing automation” – Salesforce shows up in the top 3. If you search “CRM software” or “CRM system” – Salesforce once again shows up in the top 4. And so on, and so on… This is called an SEO moat.
A brand that has built an SEO moat is a brand that has established itself as an authority in the eyes of Google and can extract value directly from the global search behaviours of people around the world. When people go to Google and type in niche-related keywords, and they’re met with a landing page that describes the topic from their team’s perspective, that’s a win on the board for the company. They can capture hundreds of people a day visiting that page, learning about that topic, and potentially learning more about their business.
Here’s a visual that gives you a glimpse into the thinking around this idea:
The best SEO moats are filled with landing pages and content that capture thousands of visits each month. These visitors don’t just read the content and disappear. In some cases, these visitors convert into leads, prospects and customers. This is where the magic happens.
But how do you do it?
First… You have to start by understanding your audience and conducting in-depth keyword analysis of the types of things they’re looking for. When you conduct this research; you need to analyze the content that shows up in the SERP for a few key data points:
1. Primary Target Keyword
This is the most important keyword or phrase that you want your content to rank for.
2. Secondary Target Keyword
This is a variation of the primary keyword that gets a ton of volume, and you would also like to rank for. For example, if the primary target keyword is CRM – the secondary target keyword could be CRM solution.
3. Keyword Search Volume (Region + Global)
This is the amount of search volume that happens both in your region and globally.
4. Potential Volume @ Top 5
This is the monthly volume estimate that your content would generate, in terms of traffic, if you did, in fact, rank in the top 5 for this phrase.
5. Categorization Of Keyword
As you build a collection of landing pages, some of them will be related and connected. You want to categorize these keywords together and build a structure that allows these pages to interlink to one another and be appropriately categorized.
6. Average SERP Word Count
This is a word count analysis of the top 10 pages ranking in the SERP to get a sense of what Google is looking for in terms of content.
7. Average Search Intent
This is an analysis of the top 10 ranking pages in the SERP to understand what Google believes the intent of someone looking for this keyword is. Do they show sales pages? Do they show educational pages? What does Google show here?
8. Proposed H1 / H2 / H3
This is an on-site analysis of the top 5 existing assets in the SERP to look for trends surrounding what is being used in the H1, H2, and H3s
Once this research has been conducted, you should have a pretty fancy spreadsheet that outlines exactly what content you need to create to own the SERP. The next step is to identify the wireframe and structure in which you will be delivering this content to your audience. For inspiration, I’m going to look at some of the more successful learning centers and glossaries online for inspiration around how this content should be structured.
Here are a few of the best learning centers in SaaS and the traffic they get each month:
Moz Learning Center: 92,100/mos
Mailchimp Glossary: 39,100/mos
Zapier Learning Center: 35,700/mos
Salesforce Learning Center: 31,300/mos
Twilio Learning Center: 12,800/mos
That’s 2.5 million visits every single year visiting these learning centers.
That’s 2.5 million people getting answers to questions through content.
That’s 2.5 million opportunities to build a relationship with customers.
The layout and structure of these pages vary from one learning center to the next. But here’s a snapshot of how Moz structure’s their learning center (which drives thousands of visits a day).
It starts with a learning center homepage which filters down into multiple categories. For Moz, an SEO solution, this means you can dive deeper into categories like links & link building or on-site SEO… All of these categories are filled with a handful of different definitions and resources meant to help people better understand and master a certain category or topic.
Once you create the categories for your learning center, it’s time to start populating the definition pages. The pages that make up the definitions in your learning center are arguably the most important part of the entire project. That’s because these pages will target your priority keywords and rank in the SERP as you get closer to building that SEO moat.
Both Salesforce and Moz have done a great job of structuring their definition pages in a way that aligns with what Google wants and what users want.
The first thing that they get right is (1) asking the question “What is XYZ” in the H1 and primary text for the page. You don’t want to muddy the waters here by getting cute with a headline like: Everything You Need To Know About The History Of CRM. Nope. You want to keep it straightforward:
What is [Keyword]
MAYBE… Include “Keyword 101:” like Salesforce if you’re feeling risky.
Once that’s tackled, (2) you’re going to take a page out of the dictionaries book and write a literal definition for what that thing is. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t make it an opinion. Don’t make it something that can be debated. Make it literal and keep it very succinct.
The next part of the puzzle (3), which is more often than not overlooked, is integrating video content on these pages. Google owns YouTube, but for some reason, brands often overlook the power of video as an SEO strategy. Incorporating video content on these pages (especially if it’s hosted on YouTube) will help you tremendously in ranking for these keywords and your ability to deliver content that satisfies multiple user types.
Some people like written words. Some people like video.
Serve both of them.
Finally… You transition from this part of the definition pages into a more (4) editorialized section of the landing page which speaks directly to the audience’s pains, additional questions and helps you rank for any secondary keywords that stood out in your initial research.
Rinse and repeat for multiple keywords and go live with multiple pages.
Over time, you will be able to rank in Google for more phrases relevant to your industry and niche than any other brand in your industry. You will own the SERP. You will capture mindshare. And you will be accessible to your ideal audience every step of their journey pre and post-deciding to work with you. This is the sweet spot that every SaaS brand should seek out.
It’s a strategy that Masterclass is currently executing to perfection. And it’s a strategy that more and more SaaS companies are starting to realize is a real opportunity. You can invest in this content upfront for a few short months, optimize it, conduct some backlink outreach for it, and earn millions of dollars in revenue over the course of a few years—all while saving thousands on the cost to rank in the SERP using PPC. This is a real opportunity.
Though, the reality is…
It’s not easy.
And when things are difficult… Things get avoided. So while it’s likely your competition is reading this and thinking: We have to do this. It’s also very likely that they will get three steps into the process and decide it’s too much of an undertaking for them to do.
That is where your opportunity lies.
So will you capture it? Or just let it slip?