Product-led SEO is a key piece of product led growth. It goes beyond content strategy and involves your marketing, product, and engineering teams to entice your target audience into trying, and ultimately purchasing, your product.
I'm no longer at Typeform, but during my time there we used SEO as part of our marketing mix and I'm going to share 6 product led SEO secrets I learned as Head of Growth Marketing. Watch the video or read on to learn more.
Secret #1: Use the Force. Use internal links.
Typeform is a SaaS company that creates people-friendly forms and surveys. It is a very design-focused company, and when we started our product led SEO efforts, the website was very minimalist. There wasn't a footer, there were no links. It was the same with all of the landing pages that we were building. All these pages were floating around in space, because they weren't linked from anywhere. So what did we do?
We added a footer.
And yes, this is super basic stuff, but these internal links played a major role in product led SEO at Typeform. We also updated our content strategy to build internal links into all of our existing content. For example, we really worked hard on putting internal links into this page, our survey maker page, and you can see the increase in traffic as a result.
We were building and launching content on a daily basis, moving fast and didn't have a process for creating internal links. So, once per week, we had an "internal linking party." We called it a party, to try to make it fun. We'd spend time as a team adding internal links to the pages that we wanted to rank. But we soon found out that you have to build a process for internal links.
You can't underestimate internal links. They're super important and internal linking needs to be part of your product-led SEO process. I suggest starting by adding a task to your content process, right after you upload it to your CMS, which is to add five internal links to the piece of content. It's great for user experience, too. People are going to find it, Google's going to find it. And you're going to see a lot more results a lot faster in your content marketing. You need to get five internal links to this new piece of content from around your website.
Some of the biggest wins we got at Typeform were focusing on adding these internal links to different pieces of content. And this actually allowed us to get above SurveyMonkey and Wikipedia for keywords such as "free survey maker."
I really never thought that we would ever get above SurveyMonkey, but we actually managed to do it.
Another place we added internal links was in the header. On the Spanish website of Typeform, we added "encuestas" ("polls") and "formularios" ("forms") as an experiment. After adding the links, we found that these pages ranked faster.
So, think about how you can build bigger menus because Google prioritizes the links they find in the header. Try and plan the architecture of your website around these pages that you want to rank in your seo strategy.
Secret #2: Build upon existing topic authority.
What does this mean, "building upon existing topic authority?" Let me give you an example. Typeform has a lot of different use cases for quizzes and surveys, and you can use Typeform for many things. We were thinking of different ways which we could attract personas as part of our marketing strategy, and thinking of the type of content that we could make.
So, for example, we were thinking about the topic of customer satisfaction. You can run customer satisfaction surveys, you can create net promoter score ("NPS") surveys, all in Typeform. We decided to create content around it, and focused on NPS because it's specific and people after NPS are serious.
We thought this was a really good bet because there's a difference between a generic survey term and NPS in terms of intent and buying power. We launched all of this content, and did our whole content marketing process, including adding those internal links.
This actually didn't move the needle, at all. We waited three months. We gave it time to run, to evaluate engagement metrics, and really see how it was performing. It didn't do anything at all, so we went back to the drawing board.
We looked at what was already ranking on our website. Our survey maker page was ranking really well. And we thought, let's look at what is already ranking in the different topics that we have, and then branch out upon what's already working. Double down on what works. So we started to create content related to that survey maker page. For example, how to write a survey intro, survey versus questionnaire, and post event survey questions. We started to produce the content.
We saw an uplift. As you can see here we went from almost nothing to nearly 40,000 views per month.
By focusing on what is already working and brainstorming based off that, you're going to have results a lot faster than creating brand new topics. That's because you've already created and validated that topic authority to Google. Our going from 1,700 visits per month to 34,000 new visits per month was a big win.
Over time those visits started turning into customers. At Typeform, it takes three months on average from signup to new subscription. You need to take into account the lag in terms of seeing actual new MRR generated from the initiative. There will be a lag from SEO, and then the lag from signup to subscription. However, we soon started to see the fruits of our labor.
We started to do more around the survey maker topic, and we started brainstorming around other existing topics with authority. We got really big wins.
When you think about creating new content and brainstorming new content for your website, look at what is already ranking and think, "how can I branch off this? What opportunities do I have to double down on what's really working?" This is going to allow you to scale SEO 10 times faster than if you just try to tackle brand new topics that Google hasn't validated your authority in yet.
Secret #3: Meet user demand.
This is one of my favorite secrets, and here's how I learned this lesson. We produced an article on how to write a set of questions that get results. We followed our process: we chose a topic close to one with authority, we did our keyword research, and we did our technical SEO, on-page and off-page.
But nothing happened.
We thought we did everything right. We did everything by-the-book, but nothing happened. We could not move the needle, even though we were creating content close to what was already working, focusing on our topic authority, and doing internal linking. Nothing moved the needle.
Then, we looked at the top 10 in Google for the topic.
We saw different patterns emerging from other people's content that Google was ranking on the first page. There was a specific pattern to the content used in other companies' SaaS marketing. It started with a definition of the type of question, then it gave a description, and then it gave an example.
So, we edited our survey questions article to match the same format: definition, description, and example. Literally 30 minutes later it jumped to the first page of Google simply by asking Google to reevaluate the content.
And this wasn't the only one. We did this again for the topics "survey versus questionnaire," and "survey intros." We updated the content based on the patterns we saw in those highly ranked pages, and we had a huge increase in traffic.
In hindsight, we should have already been doing that in our SEO process. Before you create the content, you need to look at the top 10 in Google because Google is using its natural language processing to analyze structure. Look for the patterns and the top 10. Don't just try to beat the top 10, really analyze the patterns that you're finding and apply it to your content, because chances are it's going to work super well for your growth strategy.
Secret #4: Simple conversion rate optimization is powerful.
When we were looking at the SEO marketing channel at Typeform, it didn't stop at traffic. We analyzed ROI based on new MRR and how SEO impacted business. Naturally, we wanted to create content that was going to bring more sign-ups that would lead to additional MRR.
We ran AB tests to optimize conversion rates on our landing pages using Google Optimize. This is one marketing test we did on our form builder page. We changed the H1 to be much more benefit-driven: "A fast form maker that gets you 3X more completions."
We increased 15% in signups by doing this simple change. The test ran for around three weeks and we immediately had an increase in signups to our page.
However, we know that sign-ups is a vanity metric. Even though you might increase signups, you might not increase new customers because it's not deep enough in the marketing funnel to predict new customers. Instead, we focused on our activation metric, which is when a user signs up, creates a Typeform, and previews it. This activation metric correlated to both retention and revenue.
Our AB testing didn't focus on signups. We focused on activations. We had a 15% increase in signups, but we actually saw a 20% increase in activations.
This is a lot more powerful. We were impacting the bottom line a lot more than if we'd only been focusing on signups. In the past when we focused our marketing efforts on signups, we wouldn't move the needle on the number of activations at all. However, in this instance, we actually got more people using the product.
More people were going on to paying for Typeform and then being retained. We did that by talking about the product, the benefits, and the end result; the actual value that you get from Typeform. This had an impact further down in the funnel.
Don't just look at your super leading metric, such as sign-ups. Have your activation metric in mind. Do your AB testing based on your activation metric, and see how you can impact that and not just sign-ups. And that will lead to a bigger impact on MRR for your SaaS product.
Secret #5: Double down on your sweet spot.
For Typeform, our sweet spot was templates. For example, we have templates for job applications, registration forms, employee satisfaction surveys, and hundreds more. We did some marketing research and found that if we created a new template that ranked on Google, then on average, it would bring four new customers per year. By understanding this, we were able to attach an ROI to our efforts. We knew how much we could pay to create the template, to create the content, etc., because we knew on average, how much new MRR these templates would bring.
We decided to double down on what was working, what was scalable, what was going to bring in new MRR, and go deep on templates.
Other successful SaaS companies have really doubled down on this, too. For example, Canva has more than 50,000 templates in their design gallery, and Wix has many website templates. They know that they can rank for different keywords using each template. They know people are going to activate when they use this template, and they know they're going to upgrade.
This isn't just an acquisition play, templates are also an activation play. They don't just attract new people to your product. Templates also allow your users to learn how to use the product, and activate in the product a lot faster. This brings in revenue and retain users.
Templates are a super powerful product led growth strategy. We focused on templates with high activation rates and high conversion rates to bring in more MRR faster, because as an SEO team, we weren't just focused on traffic or customer acquisition. We were actually focused on MRR, brought through the SEO channel because we knew that we could build the business case to get more resources for our marketing team to bring in organic traffic.
We built our own template galleries. The different categories, templates and use cases helped us rank for new keywords. Here we have, for example, surveys, questionnaires, forms, quizzes, polls, and invitations.
We also added text, which said, "Not finding what you're looking for, let us know." And this led to a form where potential customers could submit ideas or things they couldn't find in our template gallery. We didn't base new templates off keyword research. We'd also ask our community so that they could submit templates that they wanted. Once we created the templates, we'd let them know it was available.
We found there was a huge demand for some of the templates that were suggested. It turned out to be really useful to have a way for the community to submit requests for things that they need to help them do their job a lot better. All of the users in your product are trying to get a job done. They're using your product to do a specific job. So if you can help them do that job better, then it's going to lead to more revenue growth, more word of mouth, more brand awareness.
We really systemized the creation of templates at Typeform. We had our customer requests going into cards in Trello, which allowed us to prioritize the templates that we would make. The design team would pick up these templates briefs, and at the same time, we would be running it through our content creation process. The design and content processes went on in tandem, then we'd upload it to our CMS and finish our SEO process.
We systemized this process so we could scale it further, by going really deep on our sweet spot of templates.
Secret #6: Build a link-building machine
How do you build a link-building machine? Ten years ago, you would have a links page on your site, and you would just exchange links with different websites. And it would work. You would exchange links, Google would see the links as referral links, and you would go up in the rankings. But as we now know, that no longer works. You can't just build content. As we know, you also have to build the backlinks.
So, we built a link building machine. People would make a contact form on Typeform and then they would embed it in their website. When people would embed the form in their website, they would also embed a link back to the contact forms landing page. The anchor text said "contact form powered by Typeform," which we linked back to our online contact us form template page.
We built a loop: someone would search "create an online form," they would find us on the results page on Google. They would sign up and create a contact form, then they would embed the contact form on their website. And that automatically created a backlink to Typeform, which in turn increased the position of our contact form page in Google results, which would in turn allow more people to find Typeform. And even more people would then create a form and then embed it in their website.
This content loop was self-fulfilling and driving our growth. This allowed us to rank for terms like "free contact form." We built a machine that was building links. That said, these links are quite weak links, so this was more of a growth hack to get us ranking a lot faster.
The other part of our link building machine was proactive outreach for guest posting and other strong SaaS link building. These links would ensure that we would continue ranking in the mid to long-term.
Six key takeaways from the six secrets
Each of the six secrets has key takeaways that I want you to consider when trying to improve your SEO performance:
- Never underestimate internal linking
- Build upon topic authority
- Always be testing
- Give users the information they want
- Replicate good content
- Build link building machines
I hope that these six SEO secrets help your product led company.