Content Marketing for SaaS: The Ahrefs Guide

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Marketing @ Ahrefs. Current learning project: Korean. I also summarise books on my personal blog.
    Content marketing is a popular type of marketing for SaaS marketing. Many companies have succeeded with it. HubSpot, Ahrefs, Zapier—the list goes on.

    Despite that, there is no one way to do content marketing for SaaS. Each SaaS operates in a different market with different customers, pain points, and needs. 

    As a result, every SaaS’s content marketing strategy will be different. 

    So rather than prescribe the “best” content marketing strategy you must follow for 20XX, I’d like to share how we’ve done it here at Ahrefs.

    Content marketing is our main marketing type. And hopefully, by the end of this guide, you’ll take away some principles, ideas, and tactics you can apply to your own SaaS.

    But first, let’s answer some questions.

    While the principles are largely the same, there are a few reasons why content marketing can be different for SaaS:

    • Complexity – Generally speaking, there are more features in software, and this can be daunting to potential and new customers. So SaaS content marketing doesn’t just help improve brand awareness and sales—it’s also an important education channel.
    • Retention – Since SaaS products are subscription-based, continuous education is required to help customers get the most out of the product to (hopefully) prevent churn.
    • More decision-makers – SaaS can be expensive, which results in more decision-makers in the buying process. Therefore, SaaS content marketing must address the buying concerns for these people.
    • More use cases – More features mean more use cases. For example, Ahrefs isn’t just used by SEOs but also by content marketers, affiliate marketers, website owners, and more. We can create content targeting all of them. 

    No.

    Despite its popularity with SaaS companies, it’s not a must. Ultimately, it depends on your company, industry, and set of customers you serve.

    In short, you must use the right “hunting strategy” for the right “animal.”

    A chart showing which strategy you should use for targeting the right customers

    Content marketing is a “Nets” channel, i.e., it lets you pull in a large number of potential targets at once. This is suitable for companies that are targeting deer, mice, and rabbits—metaphors for customers who are paying you around $100–$10,000 per year. 

    If you’re targeting customers of those categories, content marketing may be a great channel for you. 

    Sidenote.
    This doesn’t mean content marketing won’t work for elephants and flies. Many companies targeting enterprise customers have also succeeded with content marketing.

    Learn more: A Simple Way to Build Your Go-to-Market Strategy 

    The way we do content marketing at Ahrefs is known as product-led content

    Product-led content is about creating content that helps the reader solve their problems with your product. It’s not a hard sell; we’re naturally and strategically weaving our product and its use cases into the narrative.

    Here’s how it works. 

    1. Know your product really well

    To create amazing product-led content, you have to know your product inside out. 

    This seems like an eye-rolling point, but you’d be amazed at how many marketers don’t know their product. That’s because many of them aren’t their own company’s target customers. They’ve probably tried out some features during their onboarding, but they’ve never seriously “eaten their own dog food.” 

    I admit this was the case for me as well. (Not at Ahrefs, though.) 

    You should know every feature and use case. You should keep up to date with every new feature your SaaS releases. You should be researching new use cases for existing and new features. 

    You need to know your product like the back of your hand.

    At Ahrefs, we’re lucky we’re our own ideal customers. But we don’t take that for granted. Every new marketing hire works in customer support for three months before officially joining the team. They’re also expected to complete all courses in our academy

    This turns everyone in the marketing team into Ahrefs experts. 

    2. Know who can benefit from your product

    Features need to benefit someone. 

    So you’ll want to think about who needs your SaaS. And don’t just think about the most direct customer base. You should broaden your horizons. 

    For example, we’re an all-in-one SEO toolset. While we obviously benefit SEOs, there are also a ton of other people who can use our product, like:

    • Content marketers
    • Digital marketers
    • Affiliate marketers
    • Agency owners
    • Freelancers
    • Website owners
    • Indie makers
    • SaaS marketers (like yourself)

    And more. 

    This should be a piece of cake if you’ve done your market research and have your buyer personas on hand. But if you’ve yet to create buyer personas for your SaaS, I highly recommend following the process here

    3. Find topics with search traffic potential

    Most people will likely discover your content via search engines. For that reason, you should create content for topics that your target customers are searching for. 

    Here’s how to find these topics:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
    2. Enter one or a few keywords that are relevant to the customers you’re targeting (e.g., for Ahrefs, these can be terms like SEO, content marketing, digital marketing, affiliate marketing, etc)
    3. Go to the Matching terms report
    The Matching terms report, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

    Here, you can see that there are ~2.5 million potential topics you could target. Not only are there too many, but a lot of them are likely also out of your wheelhouse (at least for now). 

    So we’ll want to narrow down the list using filters. Specifically:

    • Keyword Difficulty (KD) – KD gives an estimation of how hard it is to rank in the top 10 search results for a keyword. The lower the number, the “easier” it is. While it does depend on your site’s “authority,” you can start with a reasonable number like 20. 
    • Traffic Potential (TP) – TP is the estimated amount of search traffic you can potentially gain if you rank #1 for that topic. We can set it to a minimum of 100 so we can find topics that actually send traffic to your site. 
    Filters in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

    From here, you’ll want to eyeball the list for relevant topics you can cover. 

    Don’t just look out for topics where you can create articles. Since it’s relatively easier for SaaS companies to create free or limited versions of their existing products, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for opportunities where you can create free tools. 

    For example, our suite of free tools sends us tons of search traffic each month.

    The amount of organic traffic Ahrefs' suite of free tools gets, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    To find these keywords, use the Include filter to search for words like “tool, tools, calculator, template, templates, checker.” 

    Searching for tool-related keywords using the Include filter, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

    Go through the list and see if there are any free tools you can create. 

    Learn more: Keyword Research: The Beginner’s Guide by Ahrefs

    4. Give the topics you’ve found a “business potential” score

    What’s the secret behind creating a piece of product-led content that doesn’t read like a hard sell?

    Selecting the right topic. 

    At Ahrefs, we focus only on topics our product can solve. That way, we don’t look like we’re unnaturally shoehorning our product into the content—we’re simply offering the best solution to the problem.

    How do we do this? We look at the topics we’ve found and give each of them a “business potential” score. 

    Table showing how to assign business potential

    By prioritizing topics that score a “2” or “3,” we make sure that mentions of our product are natural.

    5. Create product-led content that ranks

    Creating product-led content that ranks isn’t simply a case of hunkering down and writing. You’ll need to make sure you’re creating and optimizing content for search engines so it can rank and generate organic traffic. 

    Here’s how to do it. 

    A. Match search intent

    Search intent is the why behind a query. It’s the reason why someone is searching for something in the first place. Google knows this and tries to rank only the most relevant results.

    For example, if we search for “best wireless headphones,” the top-ranking pages are all listicles listing the best wireless headphones of the current year. 

    Google SERPs for "best wireless headphones"

    Figuring out the search intent for your target topics is relatively easy. Just Google the keyword and look out for the three Cs:

    1. Content type – Is the primary type of content a blog post, product page, video, landing page, or something else? 
    2. Content format – Is the primary format a how-to guide, listicle, review, opinion piece, news, or something else?
    3. Content angle – Is there a primary angle, such as the current year or content aimed at beginners?

    For example, let’s suppose you want to cover the topic “how to save money.” 

    SERP overview for "how to save money," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

    If we analyze the SERPs, here’s what we’ll learn:

    1. Content type – All of the top-ranking pages are blog posts.
    2. Content format – Surprise, surprise! Despite the “how to” modifier, people are actually looking for tips
    3. Content angle – Simple, proven, and fast are potential angles you could cover. 

    So it’s likely you’ll have to write a listicle like “XX Simplest Tips to Save More Money.”

    B. Cover the topic in full

    For certain topics, searchers will be expecting you to cover several important subtopics. If you’re missing them, searchers may think your post is not good enough and bounce.

    For example, some of the top-ranking posts for “how to write a press release” include templates:

    SERP overview for "how to write a press release," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

    It’s a clue that searchers may value posts with templates higher than posts without. So if you’re targeting this topic, you may want to include one. 

    Here’s how you can find important subtopics to cover:

    1. Look at what the top-ranking pages are covering (especially their subheadings)
    2. Run a content gap analysis

    Here’s how you can execute the latter strategy:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool (in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer)
    2. Enter a few top-ranking pages for your topic in the top section
    3. Leave the bottom section blank
    4. Hit “Show keywords”
    5. Set the Intersection filter to 3 and 4 targets

    For example, here’s how it looks like if we analyze the top-ranking pages for “earned media”:

    Ahrefs' Content Gap tool
    Results from Ahrefs' Content Gap tool

    Looking at the list, we should be covering subtopics like:

    • What is earned media
    • Examples of paid media
    • Earned media examples
    • Examples of owned media
    • Earned media strategies

    And more. 

    C. Weave in your product naturally

    As you’re creating the content, add your product’s use case wherever natural and possible. This is an art—there’s no perfect way to do this. It comes down to your copywriting skills. 

    If you need an example of how this is done, you’re reading it. 😉

    Just remember: Don’t overdo it. If your product isn’t a good fit, it isn’t a good fit. Don’t shoehorn your product in just because. You want to be confident about what you’re selling—but not to the point where you’re lying. 

    6. Promote the content

    Your content won’t get traction on its own. You’ll have to give it a push. That means you need to promote your content

    Here are a few ways you can do it:

    A. Share it with your audience

    Email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Wherever you have a following, let them know.

    B. Build links

    Backlinks are one of Google’s most important ranking factors. For that reason, if you want to rank higher on Google, you need to build links. 

    Link building is a whole can of worms, so I highly recommend you read our guide on link building or watch this video

    But I don’t want to leave you with nothing, so here’s a good starting point to begin your link building journey:

    1. Paste a competing page into Site Explorer
    2. Go to the Backlinks report
    3. Look for backlinks you may be able to replicate

    For example, let’s say we want to build links to our post on how to write a blog post. If we analyze the top-ranking page for that topic in Site Explorer, we see that it has 5,800 backlinks:

    Number of backlinks for a blog post, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    If we analyze them via the Backlinks report, we’ll see that HubSpot got a link from this page:

    An example of a backlink, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    Looking at the page itself, it appears to be a page that curates resources for other industries. And there is a section for “Sales & Marketing Resources.” 

    A resource page

    If we reach out to the owner and introduce our post (or perhaps even something else, like our blog or academy), there’s a chance they may add it to their page. 

    C. Repurpose your content

    Since you’ve already spent so much time creating the content, you should try and get as much mileage as possible from it.

    You can do this by repurposing it.

    For example, we turned our blog post on influencer marketing into a video. And vice versa—we also turned our video on affiliate marketing into a blog post.

    Learn more: The Complete Guide to Content Repurposing 

    D. Run ads

    Finally, if you have the budget, you can always run ads to your content. Don’t just think about the big networks—smaller networks can drive traffic to your posts too. 

    For example, we run ads on Twitter:

    Ahrefs' Twitter ads

    Quora:

    Ahrefs' Quora ads

    And even YouTube:

    Learn more: PPC Marketing: Beginner’s Guide to Pay-Per-Click Ads 

    Final thoughts

    This is the strategy we’ve been using at Ahrefs for the past few years. But the most difficult part is to do it consistently—steadily publishing content, following the strategy, and not chasing every new tactic that comes along the way. 

    Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.

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