Keyword research is usually the starting point for a content marketing strategy.
But there’s more to it than logging into Ahrefs and picking the terms with the highest search volume.
This article shows SaaS founders and marketers where they’re missing out big time—from keyword opportunities to topical coverage.
Where Most SaaS Companies Fail at Keyword Research
These days, keyword research is rarely overlooked. Most marketers and business owners know they need to create content around relevant keywords.
The trouble is, most of them are too nearsighted when it comes to potential keywords.
Lack of customer focus
Many SaaS companies make the mistake of not honing in on their ideal customers and their specific pain points.
To develop an effective keyword research and content strategy, it’s crucial first to identify and understand your target audience.
By doing so, you’ll be able to create content that resonates with them and addresses their needs directly.
Ignoring the buyer’s journey
A common pitfall for SaaS businesses is failing to categorize keywords and content according to the different stages of the buyer’s journey – top of the funnel (ToFu), middle of the funnel (MoFu), and bottom of the funnel (BoFu).
This leads to the creation of content without considering the search intent behind the keywords and how they relate to the target audience.
To avoid this, SaaS organizations must consider their customer data, sales and marketing insights, product nuances, and specific customer segments when investing in keyword research.
Inadequate keyword qualification
Many SaaS companies fall short when it comes to qualifying keywords to determine their ranking potential and assigning the appropriate priority based on that.
Instead of focusing solely on keyword volume and competition, evaluating factors such as search intent, relevance, and the current ranking landscape is essential.
This way, you can prioritize keywords with the highest potential for driving traffic and conversions and allocate resources accordingly.
Caring about keywords, but not topics
Actual keyword research is so much more than finding basic search terms to write blog posts around.
Software companies sell nuanced products and services to specific customer segments. And they completely miss out on ranking opportunities if they don’t expand their keyword research to include topics.
Customers often use search engines to answer specific questions related to their pain points. Focusing on topics instead of single keywords ensures your content covers everything they want to know (and converts further down the funnel).
Focusing too heavily on competitor keywords.
Competitive keyword analysis is an essential element of finding the right SaaS keywords. But competitor keywords don’t highlight the entire scope of potential ranking opportunities for your content.
Outranking your competitors for search terms is only helpful if your ideal customers are also looking for them.
Since your product differs from your competitors’ in some ways (e.g., customer segment, business use cases, specific features), your keyword targeting should highlight these unique aspects, not just those already used by others.
How SaaS Companies Can Find Relevant Keywords
Here are the five steps to successfully conduct SaaS keyword research:
- Understand Keyword Intent
- Generate Topics
- Cluster Keywords
- Gauge Competition
Step 1 – Understand Keyword Intent
Search intent can typically be classified into four categories:
- Informational: Looking for information about a topic
- Navigational: Searching for a specific website or webpage
- Commercial: Comparing prices, researching products, and referring to product reviews
- Transactional: Making an online purchase
In terms of content, the funnel consists of three main stages, each of which has a specific purpose and addresses the different needs of your target audience:
- Top-of-Funnel focuses on raising awareness and attracting potential customers. The intent here is typically informational, with users looking for answers to their questions or solutions to their problems. Keywords at this stage might include “how-to” guides, tips, or industry trends.
- Middle-of-Funnel evaluates options and compares different products or services. The intent is usually commercial investigation, with keywords related to product comparisons, case studies, and feature breakdowns.
- Bottom-of-Funnel users are ready to make a purchase or commitment. At this stage, the intent is transactional, with keywords targeting pricing, trials, or demos.
Context clues are equally essential when evaluating intent. We often see B2B SaaS companies targeting keywords with high search volume, but a closer look shows us its search traffic is predominantly consumers, not business decision-makers.
This misalignment leads to wasted resources and a lack of results from SEO efforts.
Step 2 – Generate Topics
Using the insights gathered from SaaS keyword research tools, you can create topics for your content.
At this stage, it’s essential to think of the customer journey, analyze customer feedback and reviews, and consider all relevant use cases for your product or service.
Here are a few tools that can help you identify topics for your content:
Google Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner is a free tool designed to help you discover new keyword ideas and analyze search trends.
All you have to do is enter a seed keyword or your website URL, and the tool will generate a list of related keywords, along with their average monthly search volume and competition.
This data can help you identify potential topics that are relevant to your target audience and have a reasonable search volume.
Ahrefs is a powerful SEO tool we use for its in-depth keyword research capabilities.
Its Keyword Explorer tool allows you to discover keyword ideas, analyze search volume, and assess keyword difficulty.
Ahrefs also offers features like Content Explorer, which can help you find popular search result listings in your industry, and Site Explorer, which lets you analyze your competitors’ top-performing pages and uncover potential topic ideas.
Google Ads Data
If you’re running Google Ads campaigns, you can use the data from your campaigns to generate topic ideas.
Review your ads’ performance and identify which keywords drive the most traffic, conversions, or engagement.
These high-performing keywords can serve as a basis for creating new content that aligns with your target audience’s interests and needs.
Answer the Public
Answer The Public is a free tool that helps you discover questions and relevant phrases people ask about a specific topic.
Enter seed keywords, and the tool will generate a visualization of related questions, prepositions, comparisons, and more.
This data can help you uncover long-tail keywords and identify common pain points or concerns among your target audience, which can be addressed through your content.
Sales and Marketing Software
CRM, marketing automation, and other software (e.g., HubSpot, Salesforce) provide valuable insights into your customers’ interests, preferences, pain points, and buying patterns.
You can use this information to generate new topic ideas that directly align with customer behavior.
SaaS keyword research tools are limited by their ability to access search data. Your own software is a source of highly targeted data you can use to meet customers exactly where they’re looking for your content.
Step 3 – Cluster Keywords
When you cluster keywords, you’re essentially grouping them based on their relationship to one another.
This approach is more efficient and effective, enabling you to cover a broader range of search queries and attract more organic traffic from your individual web pages. It also ensures your content isn’t duplicated or overlapping—a critical element in determining Google search rankings.
To effectively cluster SEO keywords, follow these steps:
- Identify related keywords and phrases by reviewing the data from your keyword research tools.
- Group the keywords into smaller clusters based on their importance to one another.
- Create a single piece of content that fully covers the topic and includes all keywords within the same cluster.
- Optimize your content by using each keyword in the appropriate places (headings, titles, meta descriptions, alt tags, and body text).
Not all keywords can be clustered, even if they focus on the same topic.
One way to determine if two keywords can be clustered is by analyzing each keyword’s search engine results pages (SERPs). If the SERPs for both keywords display similar content and at least four of the same websites, it’s a strong indicator that these keywords can be targeted on a single page.
Step 4 – Gauge The Competition
While it might be tempting to target high-volume keywords, it’s important to focus on those that can realistically move the needle for your business rather than chasing vanity metrics.
Here is an example of what gauging the competition might look like:
Suppose you founded a project management SaaS startup that helps freelancers and online business owners. You want to target the keyword “best project management software.”
When you look at a keyword research tool, you find that established websites like G2 and Forbes dominate the top results.
Competing with these sites is nearly impossible—you won’t get much organic traffic as a term with such high keyword difficulty.
Instead, you should focus on keywords like “project management software for freelancers,” which has lower competition and a more relevant audience.
Gathering data from your competitors’ websites can also be extremely helpful in uncovering new phrases and topics to target through content marketing.
Using the Ahrefs Site Explorer, you can find content gaps—keywords and topics your competitors are missing.
Optimizing your existing content or creating new content based on keyword gap analysis can help you cover more valuable keywords with each piece of content, resulting in more organic traffic and better search engine rankings.
Step 5 – Prioritize
Most SaaS companies base their SEO strategy on a few basic keywords with high search volume.
But your most profitable keywords are actually long-tail phrases—keywords with several words that are often more specific to a product or service.
For example, “project management software for freelancers” is a long-tail keyword with less competition and more targeted traffic than “project management software.”
Here’s how you should prioritize your content for maximum profitability and success:
Create bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu) content first.
At the bottom of the sales funnel, customers are ready to make a buying decision.
You won’t get as much organic traffic from these keywords, but their highly specific nature ensures better conversion rates.
Examples of BoFu content include:
- Comparison articles (e.g., Your Product vs. Competitor Product)
- Ranking lists (e.g., X Best Solutions for Business Use Case)
- Product-led content (e.g., How to Accomplish Business Problem X Using Product Feature Y)
These search queries will be much easier for your company to rank for, as they are specific to your products and services.
They also enable you to start converting site visitors into customers most quickly, making them the perfect starting point for SEO.
Focus on the middle of the funnel (MoFu) next.
In the middle of your sales funnel, your main goal is to build a strong relationship with leads who have already shown interest in your product or service.
Through content marketing, organizations can match their offerings to each buyer’s needs and gauge how ready they are to purchase while moving through the buying journey.
MoFu content should include:
- Solution-focused product pages (e.g., an integration landing page)
- Reviews and testimonials
- Case studies
- Resource pages (i.e., pillar content), such as our SaaS SEO guide.
Your MoFu content will remain evergreen—it will stay on your site forever but should be updated or refreshed regularly to maintain its relevance.
Capture leads at the top of the funnel (ToFu) last.
At the top of your sales funnel, you can capture leads who may have never heard of your product or service.
These are people who may not be ready to buy yet but are interested in learning more about what your company has to offer (or its residual benefits).
ToFu content should focus on topics related to your product or service and provide helpful information to the reader.
Examples of ToFu content include:
- Blog posts
ToFu content is usually more general and answers questions customers may not even relate to your product.
For example, our readers might Google “enterprise SaaS SEO” and land on our comprehensive guide. But the main purpose of that article is to help them understand the basics of how SaaS SEO works, not necessarily to focus on our specific service.
Of course, we want business owners to read it and book a demo with us.
But the value of ranking for these terms goes far beyond that: It helps us build ourselves as a credible, authoritative resource for anyone needing help with their SaaS SEO.
Linkflow: Your SaaS SEO Partner
The SaaS keyword research process is fairly straightforward when you know what to look for and how to prioritize your content.
The problem: Most founders don’t have time to focus on their SEO efforts. And small marketing teams can’t focus on bigger-picture initiatives like link building and content strategies.
That’s why working with a SaaS SEO agency is so essential. Chat with one of our experts today to see how Linkflow can help you secure and maintain visibility in search engines.