Simple SEO wins for startups with one page, one term

For many startups, SEO is viewed in the same vein as Tarot cards and palm readings.

The whole process seems like a sham, and its reputation isn’t helped by genuinely spammy “SEO outreach emails” where some automated message tells you that your site needs optimization. Yeah, okay.

Truth is, there are a number of quick wins any SaaS company can take advantage of by using the one page, one term methodology.

This means making sure that each and every page on your site targets a keyword, and that special pages are created for long-tail terms. Let’s explore a few.

Alternative pages

So easy to create, yet so few people take advantage.

Not only are these pages great for search, they can be linked to and shared with prospects who need to hear an extended explanation as to “Why you’re different from [some competitor].”

Imagine being forced to describe, in detail, why your product outshines the competition — these pages have much more value than chasing after search terms.

By far the most popular keywords will be “[blank] alternative.” Entire affiliate sites are built around the word alternative, so start here first.

We have a page with compelling copy for all of our major competitors, such as Zendesk.

We will be re-writing these pages soon as they need some work, but they serve as a decent example to get started.

Product and feature pages

Every product page and should be optimized for search terms. For instance, if you have sub-pages built around features and add-ons, make sure to pick a keyword for each one.

A pair of examples:

  • For our main feature, the help desk, we have a dedicated page that goes after the big one, “help desk software.”
  • For a feature of Help Scout known as Docs, we target a smaller keyword — in this case, a term around “knowledge base.”

You can also grab a few wins by creating special pages for highly relevant terms that don’t appear on the rest of your site.

In order to avoid having our homepage loaded with keywords, we created a few extra pages (example) to target keywords like “email support software.”

Last but not least for this section, different vertical / industry pages are a win-win for both search and conversion; see our case study with Timbuk2 as an example of approaching the online retail space with a help desk.

Copy should be catered to the persona and Jobs-to-be-Done that you are appealing to — on the page above we specifically use the term “inbox zero” because retailers tend to struggle with this more than software companies, something they’ve told us over and over.

Miscellaneous company pages

You likely have a ton of extra pages on your site that you aren’t targeting keywords on.

One common example is the pricing page.

While it is rare to have dozens of links pointing to your pricing page, it remains a great place to target a low-volume keyword with something like “affordable [main keyword]” or similar terms specifically regarding price.

We use “affordable help desk software” on our pricing page and with little effort, appeared on the first page.

Remember to not chase after a misleading term; the copy on your page should reflect what people are searching for. Here’s ours:

Be sure to keep it compelling but honest.

Resource pages

I define resource as any sort of online guide that you create for marketing purposes. The classic example is Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, while one that we’ve made is The Art of Customer Loyalty.

The term needn’t be in the title of the guide, but by simply tweaking the URL and changing the header to contain the keyword, you’ll give each and every resource the potential for long term shelf-life.

Pro tip: Do not put these guides on sub-directories or sub-domains.

For example, use instead of Explained further via Rand Fishkin’s experience with sub-domains on Moz:

We’ve seen recent examples where moving content from a subdomain to the main domain instantly improved rankings very dramatically on highly competitive keywords. I don’t have permission to share them all, but Moz is a great example.

Long story short — subdomains can seriously impair ranking potential. Don’t use them unless you absolutely have no choice. You’re almost certainly costing yourself search traffic if you do.

A hub page, on the other hand, is any content page you create that isn’t a blog post or a resource — most often it’s a collection of material made to organize your best stuff, or to curate on a topic.

Blog posts

Self-explanatory, so I’ll describe a specific example instead.

The first chart below is an article without a target keyword, the second is one with a keyword that was later able to rank as the #1 result.

The post now outperforms it’s launch day — that’s powerful stuff.

And the kicker: I had initially planned to publish the post without a keyword before I reminded myself that 5 minutes spent doing keyword research can result in an incredible return on time.

Ignore SEO at your peril.

Help content & FAQs

With even a small amount of traction, you’d be surprised how many people will search for terms like “How to do _____ in [your software].”

Although I understand the contrarian view of not having help content, I still think it’s incredibly useful for a vast majority of companies who don’t have 1/3rd of their team as support people (and if you need to create documentation, use Help Scout Docs!)

As I outlined in an earlier essay on creating useful knowledge base articles, optimizing for search is often quite easy because you should be writing article titles that are very direct.

I’ll let Andrew Dumont elaborate:

The basic gist is to use your FAQ (or help forum) to target long-tail search queries, specifically those that lead to a buying decision. By the very nature of long-tail queries, the potential customer is usually pretty far along in the buying process. Using keyword research, targeted FAQ topics can help put you in the top of the search results for the questions that your customers are looking for answers to.

When you do this, make sure that the FAQ has a clear call to action to sign up for your product or service, as well as a custom domain that doesn’t rob you of the indexed pages and content.

An example for us might be the common, “How to transfer from Zendesk to Help Scout.” A point of evaluation here may be to find out how easy it is. Help content can provide a win-win situation for queries like this.

About the author: Gregory Ciotti is a marketer and (embarrassingly infrequent) writer. Previously, he led content marketing on Shopify’s growth team and was executive editor on the communications team.