.Demand generation is a challenge every product manager faces.  Being highly ranked on Google is critical to drive potential buyers to yur solutions. While many enterprises use pay-per-click advertising, it is expensive and not available to many organizations.  Product managers can be a key player in driving organic, free search results.  Product managers are responsible for understanding market and user problems and translating them into actionable items for product owners and development teams. They are the experts in the market, the problems, and the solutions. Product managers should learn SEO to drive B2B SaaS sales.  They are the source of content to drive effective demand generation programs.

This post will cover a number of topics:

B2B SaaS Sales Have Changed in 2021

As the Gartner Group reports, the SaaS B2B sales process has changed:

Gartner B2B buying cycle 2021

Gartner Group

Prospective customers need to be able to quickly and easily find information about your solution on the web.  You need to be able to demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (aka E-A-T) to rank well on Google and other search engines.

Ranking High on Google is Critical

Having your content rank on the first two pages of Google search results is critical

seoClarity published an updated study in November.  They analyzed over 750+ billion impressions across 17+ billion unique keywords to analyze CTRs by position, device (mobile and desktop), country, seasonality and even industry. You can download the complete 2021 CTR Research Study for free here. 

The seoClarity reports look at several categories of Google searches. The business & industrial category is relevant for B2B SaaS firms: It covers 1.7 billion searches, 45 million clicks, and 35 million keywords: These are for organic, not paid, searches:

seoClarity CTR stats 2021

2021 CTR Research Study

seoClarity CTR stats 2021

2021 CTR Research Study

Clearly, getting a top ranking is important. Showing up on page 3 or more of Google search results is like being banished to a wasteland.

Getting on Google Page 1 or 2 is Tough in 2021

There are two ways to get on page1 of Google: Write great stuff or pay for Google Ads.  We’ll talk about Google Ads later.  Getting on page 1 in 2021 is not easy.  Here’s what a typical Google search result returned in 2007

Google SERP 2007

Brafton

Here’s what it looks like in 2021:

Google SERP 2021

Brafton

Over the past few years, Google has introduced several SERP Features.  These include:

Google SERP features 2021

These features are presented in most page 1 search results:  Some of them are the result of paid advertisements (Adwords op & Bottom), some are selected by human editors at Google, and some are a result of Google’s algorithm pulling information from your web page or blog entry..

Google SERP features 2021

Backlinkinfo.com

The result is that the number of organic non-paid search results on page 1 has declined from 10 in the early 2000s to 3 to 5 today. Given the clickthru rates we discussed before, this poses a big challenge for B2B SaaS firms.

You Can Always Use Google Ads . . . But It Gets Expensive Quickly

Many B2B SaaS firms try to use Google Ads to get placement on the top or bottom of page 1 search results. Google Ads is a huge business. In Q3 2021 it generated $53.1 billion in revenue – a 42.3% increase over Q3 2020.  Google Ads can become expensive very quickly.

Wordstream, an online advertising specialist, regularly publishes benchmark statistics on Google Ad costs. Their most recent report was published in October 2021  The report showed that on the Google search network the average cost per click for technology ad was $3.80.  On the Google display network the cost per click was $0.51.

Wordstream CPC Oct 2021

Wordstream

More telling is the Google Cost Per Action (CPA).  CPA is the average cost for a user to take a specific action from an ad, like completing a signup form, watching a video, or even buying a product.  Average CPAs are significantly higher than the cost per clicks.  Wordstream reported that the average CPAs for technology ads were $132.80 on the Google search network and $103.60 on the Google display network:

Wordstream CPA Oct 2021

Wordstream

Ad Conversions Represent Just the Top of the B2B SaaS Sales Funnel

It is important to remember that ad conversions represent just the top of the B2B SaaS sales funnel.  In The Ugly Truth of B2B SaaS Customer Acquisition Costs we point out that it takes a ton of ad conversions to drive closed B2B SaaS sales.  In fact, the average conversion rate from Google ad conversion to closed B2B sales was just 0.027%.  There are two relevant charts from the article.

.FirstPageSage, a B2B SEO agency, published an excellent report in 2021 on B2B SaaS Funnel Conversion Benchmarks.  Here is an excerpt:

FrontPageSage Demand Generation program performance

FrantPageSage

Using a portfolio of demand generation techniques, including pay per click advertising, it could take over 1.4 million suspects at the top of the funnel to deliver $20 million in new revenue for a product with an average cost of $2,000 a month or $24,000 a year:

FrontPageSage Demand Generation program performance

DevelopmentCorporate

If you combine the Wordstream stats with FrontPageSage and DevelopmentCorporate’s model you would need to invest $92,960 to produce $2,50,140 in new product revenue from 229 new customers.

Long Tail Keywords Are the Key

What if you can’t get $92,000 for an online ad campaign?  If you are a typical product manager, your company sells several products and you have to fight for demand generation investments.  You may have to rely upon leveraging good search engine optimization.  Product managers can play a critical role in this process.  Creating compelling content (blogs, videos, webinars, etc.) is critical.  Product managers are uniquely positioned because they are the experts in their markets, the problems markets face, and the solutions buyers are looking for.

Long tail keywords are less popular keyword phrases with lower search volume and high variation. In other words, these queries are only searched a few times per month because they are very specific keywords, or because people phrase their queries in many different ways. By focusing on these types of keyword searches you can produce dramatic results.

An Example of How Long Tail Keywords Can Work

I’ve been blogging for over ten years.  A few years ago I decided to get serious and learn some SEO basics. I write about product management for enterprise software companies and M&A.  If you do a Google search for the term product management you get a typical 2021 result:

Google 2021 SERP product management

Google

Google returns over 3,290,000,000 results.  Page 1 has a full set of Google SERP Features – ads, people ask questions, videos, Wikipedia articles, etc.  There are only nine organic search results.  I don’t stand a chance of showing up on page 1.

When you Google the long tail keyword product management P&L you 9,740,000 results, including my blog post The Myth of the Product Management P&L shows up as the #2 organic search result:

Google 2021 SERP product management P&L

Google

How Can a Product Manager Find Long Tail Keywords for Their Product?

Start by understanding how your content is being found now.  Google Search Console is a free tool that shows you the queries your content is being found for, the click thru rate, and the position in the Google search rank. In the past 16 months my blog DevelopmentCorporate.com, has had this type of performance on Google Search Console:

DevelopmentCorporate 18 month Search Console

  DevelopmentCorporate

You can see the impact of changes to the Google search algorithm over time.

You can download the results as an Excel file.  I rank for over 1,000 long tail keywords.  Here is a small snapshot:

DevelopmentCorporate 18 month Search Console

  DevelopmentCorporate

I rank for over 250 long tail keywords on Page 1:

DevelopmentCorporate 18 month Search Console

  DevelopmentCorporate

With Search Console, you can see where each page or blog entry on your website ranks.  45 pages of my website rank on Page 1 of Google:

DevelopmentCorporate 18 month Search Console

  DevelopmentCorporate

You can ask your product marketing team, webmaster, or SEO expert to download and send you your company’s website’s Google Search Console report.

How CAn Product Managers Create Content That Ranks Well on Google?

As mentioned earlier, product managers are uniquely posiitioned to create high ranking content on Google that in turn can drive new sales.  There are four things product managers can do today to get started.

Research The Compeition

The first step is to understand the landscape you are dealing with.  Internet ranking is a competition and you are competing against thousands, if not millions, of other pieces of content to get a good Google ranking.

Free Tools

Google Analytics and Google Search Console are two great free tools.  Even if you do not have direct access to these tools reports can be created and data exported so that you can see how your existing content is performing.

Another free tool is the Moz Toolbar.  The Moz Toolbar is a free Google CHrome extension that provides valuable data.  

Moz Bar

DevelopmentCorporate

Page Authority predicts a page’s ranking potential in search engines based on an algorithm of link metrics..  Domain Authority predicts a root domain’s ranking potential relative to the domains in our index. Use this score to compare your likelihood to rank above that of your competitors.

Moz provides additional data for Free:

Moz Bar

DevelopmentCorporate

Moz data provides you with a snapshot of how strong your potential competition is and he targets you need to exceed to rank higher.

Focus on Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness (Google E-A-T)

Google E-A-T is one of he most important factors in Google rankings.  E-A-T is:

  • Expertise: This refers to the creator of the main content (MC) on the page. Are they an expert on the topic? Do they have the credentials, if necessary, to back that up, and is this information available to read on the website?
  • Authoritativeness. “Authoritativeness” means having generally recognized authority. People know you, know your background, and look to you as a leader in your industry. They accept you as a good source of information.
  • Trustworthiness. Being a trustworthy expert and source means people can trust you to provide honest, true information that is accurate. 

Product managers are perhaps the best positioned individuals in an enterprise to display Expertise, Authoritativeness, & Trustworthiness

Do Basic SEO

SEO is a complex topic that is beyond what most produce managers know.  There are some simple tools and tactics product managers should use.

Write Clean Text

Write text that is free of spelling errors and gramaitcally correct.  Most product managers are not professional writers.  You can use a free tool like Grammarly.  It checks for spelling and grammar errors.  It has a free plug-in for Chrome, Word, Frefox etc.  Here’s an example:

Grammarly example

Grammarly

Write Readable Text

You should write your text so that it is understandable to an 8th grader (I found that hard to believe, but experience has shown it is right).  The Hemingway App is a free website that analyzes your text, determines its Flesch–Kincaid like readability score, and identifies specific sentences that are hard to read.  An example is

Hemingway App example

Hemingway App

Write a Good Headline

Headlines get attention and clicks.  Use tools like the Coschedule Headline Analyzer or Sharethrough headline analyzer

Sharethrough headline analyzer

Sharethrough headline analyzer

Simple Technical SEO Hacks

  1. Target 1,500 to 2,500 words minimum
  2. Target Keyword in Title
  3. Target keyword in first 100 characters of text
  4. Keyword density 1% o 2% of all text
  5. Use H1, H2, & H3 headings
  6. Keyword in 50% of headings
  7. 2 to 5 images
  8. Alt Text for all images
  9. Keyword in 50% of all Alt Text

There are hundreds of factors in the Google ranking algorithm.  These nine ideas can help.  Sometimes Google uses humans to rate various pieces of web content.  The latest guide for Google’s human raters was released in October 2020 and is 172 pages long.  You can view it here

Summary

.Demand generation is a challenge every product manager faces.  Being highly ranked on Google is critical to drive potential buyers to yur solutions. While many enterprises use pay-per-click advertising, it is expensive and not available to many organizations.  Product managers can be a key player in driving organic, free search results.  Product managers are responsible for understanding market and user problems and translating them into actionable items for product owners and development teams. They are the experts in the market, the problems, and the solutions. Product managers should learn SEO to drive B2B SaaS sales.  They are the source of content to drive effective demand generation programs.


Also published on Medium.