A typical SaaS website must achieve three ridiculously ambitious objectives.
- It must introduce the product and make it stand out among the (enormous!) competition,
- The website has to convince visitors to sign up for trial or request a demo.
- It also must support the company’s SEO efforts to attract those people in the first place.
What’s more, it must do it with the short copy featured on its pages, typically.
SaaS websites rarely include long passages of text explaining the product, after all. SaaS companies prefer putting the emphasis on the design to convey the message.
But I must be fair. Most SaaS websites achieve the first two objectives well. Some better than others, of course. Overall, however, most software companies have realized how to use the site to engage and convert potential users already.
But they rarely consider how various design elements affect SEO. As a result, SaaS websites often miss out on essential factors that help attract more targeted traffic.
For you, this is an opportunity. You can get ahead of the competition in Google by optimizing the site to drive search performance too.
Having spent years writing web copy AND optimizing SaaS websites for SEO, I’ve identified their most critical website design elements that support search visibility and organic growth.
You’ll find five of them explained below.
For every element, we’ll first discuss how it affects engagement. Then, we’ll talk about its role in on-page optimization and how to use it to drive higher rankings.
Table of Contents – What SaaS Website Elements We’ll Cover:
- The Headline
- The footer
- Testimonials and User Generated Content
Element #1. The Headline
The headline plays an incredibly complex role on a typical web page. And that’s without even considering its importance for SEO.
A headline has to grab a visitor’s attention. It must do so by appealing to a reader’s self-interest and reassure them they’re in the right place
The headline must communicate the value someone’s going to get from signing up and using the product too.
And in many instances, it works as a quick way to preselect the audience. No company wants to attract irrelevant users, after all. Being the first thing, a visitor sees, typically, the headline can help prequalify them as well.
Consider these SaaS website designs below. Each of those websites uses the headline to achieve the above objectives.
Asana outlines the biggest benefit teams experience when using it.
Voiceflow states what their product does for the user.
So does Drone.
But let’s add SEO to the mix.
From the SEO perspective, the headline must:
- Send relevancy signal to Google telling the search engine what the page is about.
- Reveal the main keyword or topic the page targets.
- Hint at its relevance to the search query someone has used when looking for this information.
Needless to say, some of these objectives may stand against the role of a headline in engaging users. Consider how different Asana’s headline would be if they focused on SEO alone?
David Ogilvy wrote once about headlines (note, I’m quoting after Bob Bly’s fantastic book, The Copywriter’s Handbook):
“The headline is the most important element in most advertisements. It is the telegram which decides whether the reader will read the copy.”
It’s no wonder that many copywriters consider headlines as the most challenging website element to write!
For many, juggling the responsibility to attract, engage and bring someone closer to conversion proves too much to bear.
But let’s return to the SEO.
When working on the website copy, ensure that the headline at least relates to the general topic of the page somehow. Ideally, however, it should reference your product category.
Asana, given their enormous domain authority (78/100), can skip this step and focus on user experience with their product. So can Mailchimp, Slack and many other huge and incredibly popular tools.
(Personally, I doubt that they even care about SEO much…)
However, unless your domain has achieved a similar status already, you’d benefit more from using an SEO-friendly headline.
Here are some more examples of well-optimized headlines for SEO.
Element #2. The Sub-headline
I admit it – At times, including the category you want to rank for in the headline may seem impossible. Such a headline would never achieve the desired effect.
No one would engage with a website promising a “Screen Sharing App.” Too many similar tools have used such a headline for you to break through. Promising seamless presentations without a need for any downloads would work much better. Well, from the copywriting point-of-view, at least.
In such case, optimize the sub-headline – That’s the copy that appears below the headline, wrapped in the H2 tag, typically.
Even Asana uses the sub-headline to explain their product category. They even throw in some additional semantic terms to make the category even more obvious to Google.
(Note that, as I mentioned above, I doubt that the sub-headline was a result of a careful SEO consideration. Nonetheless, it does work to support efforts to rank in Google search better.)
EnjoyHQ, formerly NomNom, uses the sub-headline similarly. Although, I have to give it to the company that they’ve also included some relevant phrases in the main headline too, turning the two into a powerful on-page SEO combo.
But what is the Sub-headline and why is it critical for SEO?
Let’s address the second part of the question first. Sub-headings – H2, H3, H4 tags – provide a weak relevancy signal to Google too.
Using the keyword or topic-related phrases there will help the search engine understand the structure of the page better. What goes with it, it could analyze the content better and uncover its topic.
John Mueller from Google confirmed the above in this Hangout (watch below.)
What is the sub-headline in web design, then?
On a website, the term relates to a snippet of copy you find underneath the main headline, typically on the home page. SaaS companies often use it to provide additional context for the headline.
What follows after the sub-headline is the call to action, typically. It takes the form of a button, enticing a visitor to act on the promise of the two elements above it.
(A side note: In blog posts, however, sub-headlines denote new sections or ideas the author discusses. Every section that starts with the word, “Element,” followed by a number in this post is a sub-headline. Its goal is to help you navigate through the content more easily.)
From the website point of view, the sub-headline is a bold copy that stands out and attracts attention, also to the headline. It stands in contrast to the rest of the page, boasts a much larger type size, and its design attracts attention.
Users notice the headline and sub-headline combo first. They help them identify what the page is about. But they also do the same for Google. Something worth keeping in mind when designing/writing copy for them.
Element #3. Video/Multimedia
There’s an incredibly important ranking factor that’s a.) affected by your website design greatly and b.) rarely considered by designers.
It’s the dwell time.
But no, it does not relate to how long a person stays on a page. Dwell time uses the amount of time a person spends on a page from the search results before returning to the SERPs again as a measure of the page’s value.
And needless to say, the longer the dwell time, the greater the chances of Google rewarding your page with higher rankings.
Many website elements will affect the dwell time. Relevance to the search query is one of them. If your page doesn’t provide the information a person is looking for in Google, they’re likely to go back to try other search results. However, in that case, the page, most likely, won’t appear in SERPs for long anyway.
But even if it matches the search intent, your design might still fail to retain the person for long.
That’s why you need to add multimedia and video, if applicable, of course.
Engaging explainer videos or other clips, images, diagrams, interactive data visualizations and more can hold a person longer on the page. In turn, they’ll help reduce the bounce rate, increase the time on site and prevent them from jumping back to organic search results right away.
What’s more, you should place them early in the content to ensure that a person is going to stumble upon them, engage with the multimedia file and keep on consuming the content.
Here are some examples of different types of multimedia you could use to boost on-page SEO:
Comparison images. A reader would have to concentrate on it to spot the differences, after all. seoClarity used an amazing SERP comparison at the top of this content.
Explainer videos. Either animated or actor-based explainer clip is bound to keep a visitor on a page too. Below is a screenshot of Tidio’s amazing video explaining how their chatbot helps grow sales and revenue.
Infographics and visual data. Adverity converts sections of their content into visuals. Instead of writing them in copy, they visualize the information. In doing so, they offer a more engaging way for potential customers to consume the information… keeping them longer on a page.
Element #4. The footer
The perception of the footer for SEO is problematic, at best.
On the one hand, Google has been hinting at devaluing footer links for quite some time. Then again, they referred to site-wide footer links. From my experience, you can use the footer to boost give your SaaS SEO strategy a nice boost.
Before we go deeper, though, let’s examine the overall role a footer plays on a website.
Andy Crestodina wonderfully sums it up, saying:
“The purpose of a website footer is to help visitors by adding information and navigation options at the bottom of web pages.”
The footer gives you the opportunity to reference pages you didn’t have space for in the main navigation, after all. And that’s precisely what many software as a service companies do.
Close.io includes a list of resource pages.
Survicate promotes their integrations in the footer.
Flow outlines its product’s ideal use cases.
However, most of SaaS website footers miss out on opportunities to boost SEO.
For example, you rarely see a link to the sitemap there. At the same time, the page is not only useful for users lost in the maze of the site’s architecture. It helps the search engine discover, crawl and index the content faster too.
Few SaaS brands use the footer to boost keyword relevancy too. Consider this footer from Super Office. See how many additional category-level keywords they’ve packed into that short copy?
I admit that I wouldn’t recommend featuring the same copy on every page – Super Office does that, unfortunately. However, adding a similar copy to the home page footer could, potentially, make it even easier for Google to understand its topic and the product category.
Other SEO-related elements to include in the footer:
- Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) if your company also cares about having a presence in the local search results.
- Additional navigation to strategic pages you can’t include in the top-level navigation.
- Testimonials and reviews (more on these shortly.)
- Latest articles (ideally, link to them from the home page only.)
But is optimizing the footer worth it, aside from the SEO benefits above?
Let me answer the question with data. A study by Chartbeat found that users are more engaged with the bottom half of your pages than what’s on the top. Interesting, right?
Element #5. Testimonials, Reviews and Other User-Generated Content
No other element convinces potential customers to hire you better than testimonials or reviews. Their effect as social proof goes without saying.
So, it’s only natural that companies include (and even request) testimonials and reviews without any SEO consideration at all. Their focus lies elsewhere, on presenting that social proof, after all.
- Testimonials are an integral part of the page. As a result, they include copy Google will crawl and use to identify its topic.
- Testimonials give you the opportunity to expand the number of keywords a page target.
- Similarly, testimonials and reviews allow you to use more semantic keywords. With them, you can define the topic of the page clearer.
Sure, the above falls short when you consider the effect social proof has on conversions. But I’d strongly recommend you display testimonials with SEO in mind too.
The added benefit they offer is well worth it.
How to Optimize Website Testimonials for SEO?
First, when requesting a testimonial, delicately suggest the approach a client takes when providing one. I ask my clients to focus on a typical outcome or goal we’ve targeted. This way, I increase the chances of them using the right phrases there.
Sometimes, I even ask them to use a specific long-tail keyword.
Use a section from the testimonial as a headline. Use something that includes relevant phrase or keyword, if possible. Since you’d style this section as a sub-heading, it would help you feature another key phrase this way.
Highlight the main message of the testimonial. Although it wouldn’t have much effect on SEO, doing so will increase its readability.
If you collect ratings, use Schema.org to mark them up on a page. This might help Google aggregate them in the search results.
There You Have It!
The five SaaS website elements that are critical to SEO… that most software companies ignore or at least, forget about.
Implement them and I guarantee that you’ll see results in your search visibility.