Organic SaaS Growth: #17 The Art of Ranking on Google's First Page

By Ankur Tiwari on 08-09-2020

Content that ranks on Google's first page has an unfair advantage over those who don't.

It attracts massive organic traffic without being promoted.

One-third of all content pieces that I have written in the last ten months, rank on Google's first page. That's a 33% success rate in less than a year.

In this post, I will share my process that you can use to publish content with a high probability of ranking on search engine.

The Art of Ranking on Google's First Page

This post is a part of the Organic SaaS Growth newsletter. Subscribe here.


Let's start by looking at some of my content pieces that are ranking on Google's first page.

Notion's growth strategy

I write for SaaS founders and marketers. My audience love case studies. I researched and wrote an analysis of Notion's growth strategies that ranks #1 on Google for the search term 'notion growth' ahead of mighty TechCrunch, NYTimes, and Forbes.

Ankur's article on Notion's growth strategies ranking on Google SERP
Notion's growth strategies article ranking #1 on Google search result

Pythonanywhere review

A crucial step in the SaaS buying journey is prospects searching for product reviews. Pythonanywhere is a web-hosting service for Python web apps, and I rank #1 in Google for the keyword 'pythonanywhere review' .

Ankur's review of Pythonanywhere ranking on Google SERP
Pythonanywhere review ranking on Google SERP

I wrote this review before launching the Organic SaaS Growth (OSG) newsletter and had no audience at that time. So, I published it on the Medium to leverage their distribution.

Guide to growth loops

Growth loops have helped many internet businesses with compounding growth. There is a lot of interest in growth loops among SaaS founders and marketers. I wrote the definitive guide to growth loops in May 2020, and it started ranking on Google's first page within two months from its publication, competing head-to-head with the content published by some of the world's most famous internet marketers.

This blog post is ranking at #1 on Google SERP for the keywords "how to build growth loops" and "saas growth loops".

Ankur's guide on Growth loops ranking on Google SERP
Google's ranking #1 for how to build growth loops

This post also ranks on Google's first page for a broader top-of-the-funnel keyword "growth loops".

Ankur's review of Pythonanywhere ranking on Google SERP
Pythonanywhere review ranking on Google SERP

Note: This guide is undoubtedly the best resource on the Internet on growth loops, even better than some of the paid courses. If you want to learn about growth loops, this is the only resource you need to read. Check it out here.

Webflow's growth strategies

I love Webflow's content and was curious about their growth strategies. So I researched and published a case study on the strategies they have used for growth over the years. It is a recent post and ranks on Google for the keyword 'webflow growth'.

Ankur's analysis of Webflow's growth ranking on Google SERP
Webflow's growth analysis ranking #1 on Google search result

Interestingly, I didn't do any keyword research for this post. I followed my curiosity and wrote about all the growth strategies that I found working for Webflow.

Zoom's growth strategies

I admire Zoom as a product and its founder Eric Yuan as an entrepreneur. Zoom is also one of the fastest grown startups of this decade. It seemed to me that many SaaS founders would be interested in learning about Zoom's growth strategies.

When I googled to learn about their growth strategies, all I found were blog posts talking about top-level marketing stuff like being customer-driven and spending money on billboards, nothing actionable. So, in my post , I included actionable growth strategies that SaaS founders can learn and readily adopt.

This post ranks on Google for the keyword 'zoom growth strategy'.

Ankur's zoom article ranking on Google SERP
Zoom's growth analysis ranking on Google SERP

The lack of actionable growth strategies that I encountered during my research for this post was one of the key inspirations for the Organic SaaS Growth newsletter.

Curiosity framework

Over time I have developed a content marketing framework optimized for conversion. I published the curiosity framework as part of the Organic SaaS Growth newsletter. Today, I rank on Google's first page alongside high authority websites like Harvard business review and Lynda for the keyword "curiosity framework".

Ankur's curiosity framework ranking on Google SERP
Curiosity framework on Google ranking

Notes on Organic SaaS growth

"Organic SaaS Growth" is a keyword that I had created as a part of the blue ocean strategy for my growth consulting services. I dominate the Google's organic result for it. On the Google SERP, not one but three results for "organic saas growth" link either to my website or to the websites talking about my newsletter.

Ankur's notes on organic saas growth ranking on Google SERP
Google's ranking #1 for Organic SaaS Growth

Notes on the organic SaaS growth are a great resource for anyone interested in SaaS growth.


You might have noticed that compared to my website, most other websites that my articles compete with on Google SERP have very high domain authority. My posts ranking above these sites busts the myth of domain authority being a constraint for ranking on Google SERP.

If these examples have inspired you to create rank worthy content to improve organic traffic to your website, today's guide is for you.

Let's dive in.


Contents

Here is a step-by-step process to create content that can rank on Google SERP:

  1. Topic Research
  2. Keyword Research
  3. Content Writing
  4. SEO
  5. Lean Distribution

Topic Research

Find topics at the intersection of:

  1. Topics your target audience is curious about
  2. Topics that are relevant to what you are selling
  3. Topics that indicate buying intent

For example, if you are selling ABC CRM then:

  1. Your audience would be curious about ways to generate leads, cold email templates, CRM excel templates, ways to enrich lead data, and tips to improve SDRs' productivity.
  2. Topics that are relevant to your product would be: coach SDRs using CRM data, Why ABC is the best CRM for mid-sized SaaS businesses, and How X startup used ABC CRM to double its revenue.
  3. Topics indicating buying intent would be: Salesforce alternatives for SMBs, easy to set up CRM, Google drive and Calendly integrations for ABC CRM, Hubspot review, and ABC review.

With this, you instantly have powerful topics that can drive high conversions. Generally speaking, topics that bring in high traffic and topics that drive high conversions are different. So if you want more traffic, you can write about "40 ways to generate quality leads with ABC CRM" whereas if you want more conversion you can write about "World's Simplest CRM: No consultant or training required". Not everyone will be interested in a simple CRM; some people look for powerful CRM even if its complex.

If you are a small team or just starting with content marketing, you will do better by publishing content on topics that drive high conversions. These are bottom-of-the-funnel topics that deeply interest a subset of your niche.


Keyword Research

Keyword research is essential but should not dictate your content strategy. You would want to include words from your audience vocabulary so that you can communicate better but not turn your blog post into a sleazy advertorial.

  1. Use Google keyword planner to find relevant keywords.
  2. Make a list of keywords with high to medium search volume.
  3. Check out top blog posts on the topic and make a note of key terms, and ideas.

Content Writing

Writing engaging content is a skill learned with practice and keen observation. However, to produce quality content, here are a few key tactics that I have found to be very important:

  1. Blog Structure: The first thing you should do is to design the overall structure of the blog post. With this, you will have a clear idea about:
    1. Sub-topics you will cover
    2. The logical flow of the copy
    For a long-form article, I usually create a content table. It helps me to scope the work and allow readers to overview the article.
    Sample blog template
    Blog post structure
  2. Follow your curiosity: Quality content requires a lot of research about the topic and the audience. Such research can be tedious as well as dull, making the work susceptible to quality risk.

    One way to keep the quality standards high is to be curious about the topic as if you want to learn it for yourself. In a way, it means that you should act like your audience.

    All the content that I create, whether for this website or my clients, I attempt to learn the topic in the same way as I would expect the readers of the blog post to learn from it. Often this takes more than the usual time, but in the end, an engaging content piece emerges.
  3. Academic vs marketing content: The goal of the academic content is to present the information, whereas the purpose of the marketing content is subtle persuasion. Marketing content should take the readers on a journey filled with dreams, fear, and hope.

    I sometimes come across content that is so dull that you can not read it beyond a few lines. Make your marketing content engaging.
  4. Write in the first person: Use 'I' and 'You' instead of 'he' and 'they'. It sounds as if you are speaking to the reader in person and create a better connection.
  5. Create Frameworks: A lot of information if already present on the Internet in one form or other. You can add value by sharing your experiences, interpretations and way of doing things.

    Frameworks are a powerful way of presenting your views. They help you to crystalize and turn your learning into standard processes. They are also easy for readers to understand. I learned it first hand when I created the curiosity framework.
  6. Create new keywords: Once you have developed some understanding of your market, you will immensely benefit from creating new keywords that represent your brand positioning. I am not talking about 'branded-keywords,' i.e. your brand name as a keyword. I am talking about thought leadership keywords that distinctly remind your audience about your business and help you implement a blue-ocean strategy for growth.

SEO

Even though SEO is a big topic and there are some really good resources freely available by Bruce Clay and Brian Dean on the subject , you can quickly start and will do better than most of your competitors in attracting organic traffic if you adopt the following suggestions:

  1. Meta Tags: Carefully craft the title tag and description tag, add Facebook open graph markups and Twitter cards.
  2. Title: Don't be clickbait-ish but write relevant and interesting titles for your blog posts. Engaging titles help in bringing traffic to the content. However, if the title is a clickbait then you will see a high bounce rate.
  3. URL: Blog post URL should indicate the post topic and contain the main keyword. Don't use random slug URLs.
  4. Schema: Set up Schema for structured data. It has helped my articles getting selected for featured snippet on Google SERP. I use JSON Schema and find it best to work with.
  5. URL submission: After I published 'guide to growth loops', I realized that Google is not tracking it. I manually submitted the URL on Google search console so that it can be indexed. Google indexed the article only to stop tracking it after a few days. So I had to submit it again. Whenever you publish a new post, make sure to verify that Google has indexed it.
  6. Internal linking:
    1. Interlink relevant content by providing links within the copy.
    2. Build the navigation so that it's easy to access your blog page from your homepage.
  7. Sitemap: Generate a sitemap, add it to your website and submit it to Google search console.
  8. Last update date: Save the last edited date in the database and use it at two places:
    1. For "dateModified" in the schema markup: Google prefers new content and determines content's newness using dateModified.
    2. At the top of the blog post as "Last updated on": It informs readers that your content is new and up-to-date.

Lean Distribution

My articles that rank on Google SERP compete against the articles published by prominent publications, famous marketers and SaaS companies.

But I do not have even a fraction of the audience that they have, and I have not yet run ads for content promotion.

I am not against running ads, sometimes they are necessary. I just don't need them as of now.

What I instead do is to run a 'lean distribution' campaign, in which I use organic channels to target the best-fit audience.

Here is my organic content promotion process:

  1. Post on Hacker News
  2. Sometimes post on Reddit
  3. Post on my social media accounts
  4. Post on platforms like Flipboard and Refind
  5. Cold email to those whose articles I have linked in my content
  6. Cold email to those who I think will benefit from my content
  7. Sometimes post on Indie Hackers

With this, I attract low to medium volume but best-fit traffic. When I will need to scale, I will broaden the target audience from 'best-fit' to 'good-fit'.

For your business, you should find channels that can bring best-fit traffic. These channels can be organic or paid.

Prioritizing high quality, best-fit traffic over high traffic volume requires fewer efforts, fewer resources and results into a higher conversion rate.


With the techniques discussed in the post, you have a high probability of ranking on Google SERP and compete against big boys.

However, sometimes you will find specific, highly competitive keywords in your vertical for which it won't be easy to rank.

In such cases, you can craft a niche to suit your product and develop content around it. For example, you probably can not rank on Google SERP for the keyword 'CRM', but you can rank for the keyword 'Best CRM for B2C SaaS'.

Select and pursue—you don't have to fight all the battles for victory.

And even if your high-quality content could not rank on Google SERP, you can always use lean distribution to reach out to the specific audience, convert them and generate revenue.

That's all.

Notes:

  1. Google's search ranking changes with time. I have captured the screenshots of my articles ranking on Google SERP on 05.09.2020, when I started working on this article.

That’s all I wanted to discuss today on ranking your content on Google SERP. I welcome your suggestions, questions and feedback.

Thank you for reading the #17 issue of the Organic SaaS Growth newsletter. If you have not yet subscribed to the newsletter, please click here to subscribe.



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