As a growing SaaS brand with an interest in growing your organic online visibility, you’re aware of the concept (and importance!) of link building.
In essence, link building for SaaS is the process of acquiring (quality) backlinks from other websites to your website.
Emphasis on the quality of links — i.e. links from a relevant, high domain authority (DA) website on a contextually relevant and keyword-optimized anchor text — over quantity.
Over the years, Google and SEO experts have repeatedly confirmed that backlinks are one of the top three factors affecting a website’s rankings on the Google search engine results page (SERP).
And yet, as per Ahrefs, 66.31% of pages have no backlinks.
Besides, directly buying backlinks (from link farms and whatnot) is never a good idea — Google considers it as spammy behavior and can penalize your website, tanking your rankings.
So, earning backlinks via quality content and other value-adding techniques is the way to go.
Most top-ranking pages get “do-follow” backlinks from new domains at a pace of +5%-14.5% per month, and without further ado, let’s see how you can join the ranks of these top-rankers yourself!
1. Create a Blog for your Target Audience
We’re entering 2022, and you don’t need a primer on the importance of having an active business blog to bring in qualified traffic and leads, especially as a SaaS company.
A blog helps you build a readership base, a part of which will ultimately convert into paying customers and brand advocates.
Not just that, but having high-quality blog content will help you build links to your website.
Most publishers prefer linking to content pages over product or home pages, which means it’s easier to build links if you maintain an active blog on your website.
So if you haven’t already, the first thing you need to do is create a blog section on your SaaS website.
Look how it’s structured for easy navigation to specific topics.
Consider emulating their blog design and structure for your own blog that serves as the base for the next tactic, which is to…
2. Build Linkable Assets through Content Marketing
A well-designed blog is only as good as the content you populate it with.
Instead of aimlessly creating shallow content that scratches the surface on topics around your niche, invest the time and effort in creating linkable assets that drive backlinks, traffic, shares, and conversions on autopilot.
A linkable asset is essentially a super-high-quality piece of valuable content purposely built to attract links from reputable websites in your niche.
Here are ten types of linkable assets you can build on your SaaS blog.
Everyone loves statistics, especially niche bloggers who love to cite unadulterated facts to back up their claims and drive their point home.
And so, creating a comprehensive statistics compilation, or conducting your own industry research to have proprietary data people can link to is a great way to attract links.
For example, the HubSpot marketing team does its own industry research, conducts surveys, and collaborates with other brands like Litmus and Wistia to share comprehensive statistical compilations and reports that people are almost bound to link to.
On average, long content receives 77.2% more backlinks than short articles. Thus, long-form content — in the form of super in-depth guides — is ideal for backlink acquisition.
At Growfusely, we use this strategy extensively. Most content we produce is aimed at being the most comprehensive and more valuable compared to articles currently ranking in the top ten on the SERP.
And while not all our content ranks in the top ten (yet!), the strategy works: we consistently and naturally earn a ton of backlinks (without outreach) from high-quality websites.
PS: We can do this for your SaaS business, too!
A glossary page is basically an index of definitions on a specific subject, similar to a dictionary or a TV series index.
For instance, check out this SEO Glossary page from Moz. Is it useful for beginners? Yes. Would people link back to it? Also yes.
The pillar-cluster model is used by many of the biggest names in the SaaS industry, such as Typeform and ProfitWell. This model unifies the above-discussed tactics for greater results.
It consists of a central pillar page (the ultimate, most comprehensive content piece on a subject), the cluster content (individual blog posts on each subtopic), and strategic internal links between the cluster content and the central pillar page to tie everything together.
It’s a powerful way for SaaS brands to showcase their expertise and authority on the subject, instilling trust in their audience.
It’s easier to build backlinks to pillar content pieces (listicles, ultimate guides, etc.), and Google loves well-thought-out internal links.
So the pillar-cluster model doesn’t just provide an excellent experience for your audience — it tells Google and other publications that your brand is a relevant and reliable source.
ProfitWell’s “The Anatomy of a SaaS Marketing Site” pillar page is a good example of this technique done right: it’s easy to read, appealing, and useful.
Here are the high-level steps involved in building a pillar-cluster content model on your website:
- Research the subject and subtopics you wish to rank for and earn links to.
- List the keywords (both head and long-tail) and questions people ask on the subject.
- Create super-comprehensive pillar content (the definitive guide), covering all keywords and questions.
- Create cluster content pieces on each subtopic.
- Interlink cluster content posts to the pillar page (and to each other, contextually).
- Regularly update the pillar content.
Product Comparison Pages
A favorite for many SaaS brands, product comparison pages work well as middle-of-the-funnel content (the “consideration” stage of the funnel) and also attract backlinks.
Sure, these are promotional in nature, as you’ll talk about your product(s), but if they’re in-depth yet easy to glance through, they have the potential to not just rank well and nudge visitors to sign up for a trial but also earn links from bloggers in your niche.
While not a favorite tactic for link generation, if your SaaS product has helped customers hit new heights or solve specific problems, why not write a success story in the form of a case study?
Keep your customer story simple: Introduce the brand you helped, outline their problem, and share your solution. Back it all up with real numbers and quotes from the customer if possible.
When written well, such success stories can earn links and favorable mentions from bloggers and publications talking about products related to your own.
Expert Roundups – Use Influencers to Build Content Assets
Speaking of quotes and real numbers, another great way to not just earn quality links but also get help with your content asset creation is to collaborate with experts in your industry.
The idea is simple: find the right experts, reach out to them, and compile their insights into a comprehensive content piece.
Yes, you need to account for the additional time needed to do all this, but once published, all that effort would be well worth it, as those experts would likely link back to your website and amplify your brand’s reach by promoting the post on their social media — further earning you links, brand visibility, and credibility.
JetOctopus, a fast-growing SaaS brand that provides customers with a complete technical SEO toolkit, uses this strategy well.
On the JetOctopus blog, you’ll find in-depth pieces on all things SEO. For their content assets, they often reach out to renowned SEO experts, asking them specific questions about the topic at hand.
With some expert answers in the inbox, they round it up into a cohesive content piece that covers the topic comprehensively.
Similarly, another great example you can emulate is Databox. Read through their blog to learn how they include expert quotes to make their content stand out (and earn links!).
Here’s a template you can use to reach out to experts for your expert round-up post:
I hope you are staying safe and healthy.
<Your name> here, from <your company>.
I’m currently writing an article about <topic> that’s scheduled to go live in a couple of weeks, and I just thought that you’re one of the best people in the industry to get some insights from.
If that’s not too much to ask, I have a quick question prepared for you:
<open-ended question they can answer in a couple of sentences/paragraphs>
Our article is due on <date> so if you could send me your answers by that time, it would be great. Also, feel free to include any resources you recommend with a short bio.
Looking forward to your reply!
<Your name, designation, company>
Use Case Content
Somewhat similar to case studies, you can create content around specific use cases of your products.
Again, use case content is promotional in nature, but niche bloggers might link to it when they talk about that specific use case in their content.
Follow a similar format: Outline the problem and share your product’s features. Back up the content with statistics and quotes if possible.
Thought Leadership/Opinion Posts by Founders
If you’ve ever used LinkedIn (or even Twitter, for that matter), you’ve likely seen “thought leadership” posts by startup founders, entrepreneurs, and executives.
Typically, these are experience-backed, op-ed posts that put forth a strong argument in favor of or against an industry-relevant topic. These are often controversial in nature, inviting comments and shares.
When you (as a Founder) publish and promote a well-crafted opinion post on your SaaS blog, you can spark a discussion on the topic, encourage shares, and even earn backlinks to it.
Thought leadership content doesn’t necessarily have to be a mere experience-based rant.
Keep the rant short and add tons of actionable advice to your post (that has worked for your brand), and you’ll have a gem of a linkable asset.
For instance, Tim Soulo, CMO at Ahrefs, often puts out thought leadership articles that are packed with actionable takeaways.
As you can see below, his one such post — with a rather cheeky headline — has 471 websites linking to it.
So, consider leveraging your experience to create thought leadership articles that exude your authority in the niche, and consequently, invite comments and links.
Create Free Tools
This is one of the most time- and effort-intensive strategies, which when done well, can be supremely rewarding in terms of backlinks and on-site engagement.
A free tool — such as a calculator or a quiz — is basically a piece of interactive content that your audience can use to get quick insights on a matter.
For example, Brewer’s Friend has a free calculator that finds alcohol by volume (ABV) based on gravity change.
Without this tool, brewers would have to calculate this figure manually using a mathematical formula.
This formula is talked about on many websites, but this nifty calculator is one of the best resources people would naturally love to link back to.
So with this free calculator, Brewer’s Friend better engages its audience of brewers and gains an edge over its competitors.
Another notable example of such a free and valuable tool is the AB+ Test Calculator by CXL.
Here’s a great list of interactive content tools to get you started.
Interview Industry Leaders with Podcasts
A bit similar to the expert roundup strategy, hosting your own podcast, or being a guest on other podcasts, can be an effective way to gain quality links.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to using podcasts as linkable assets for link building.
Podcasts are an amazing avenue to interview industry experts, build your brand’s network, and boost your brand authority.
Check out this neat post on how to start a podcast for long-term link-building opportunities with industry leaders.
3. Write Guest Posts in Reputed & Authoritative Blogs
Guest posting on reputed and authoritative blogs in your niche is a time-tested tactic to build contextual, non-promotional links for your website.
We’ve discussed what guest blogging is in a recent post.
To reiterate, it is essentially a content collaboration tactic wherein you create content for other relevant publications in your niche.
It involves reaching out to the publisher with an email pitch (or website form), pitching them topic ideas that are valuable to their audience (which overlaps with yours), and finally, drafting the article in accordance with their editorial guidelines.
It’s a win-win activity as the publication gets free, fresh content, while you get greater brand visibility to a broader audience, build SaaS thought leadership, and of course, earn backlinks that help your SEO.
Note that some publishers charge for publishing a guest post, and the average cost of publishing a paid guest post is $77.80. And straight up paying for backlinks is not a good idea, as mentioned earlier.
Regardless, free content collaboration in the form of guest posts is a good way to build high-quality links. Here’s a sample guest post outreach pitch we’ve used here at Growfusely:
Hey <First Name>
Hope you’re doing well!
My name is <your name>. I’m a <marketer/entrepreneur/etc.> with x years of experience in the <SaaS/eCommerce/etc.> space.
I recently started reading your blog and was thinking if I too can contribute some valuable content for your readers.
Do you welcome external authors at the moment? If so, I’d love to come up with unique ideas for your review.
Just for your reference, I shared my voice to the following reputable platforms:
- <publication name with a link to your published post>
- <publication name with a link to your published post>
- <publication name with a link to your published post>
I look forward to turning this conversation into a fruitful collaboration! 🙂
<Your name, designation, company>
And to find guest post opportunities in your niche, use guest blogging and outreach tools like BuzzSumo (to come up with topic ideas), Hunter (to find the right email addresses), BuzzStream (to find reputable bloggers to connect with), etc.
4. The Help-A-Reporter-Out (HARO) Strategy
Usually, when you think of link building, you think of spotting link placement opportunities manually.
The HARO strategy flips this around and helps you attract links from high-authority publications where journalists are looking for your expertise.
HARO is a platform that provides journalists with an up-to-date database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to earn valuable media coverage.
When you sign up for HARO as a source, you’re opening up an avenue to get media mentions and high-authority backlinks from big names like Mashable, Refinery29, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, just to name a few.
The image below explains how it works.
Read their rules and get started using HARO to build high-quality links from high DA websites.
5. Use PR Techniques
Public relations — online or offline — essentially puts a business in the spotlight, generating brand awareness and credibility through media coverage.
Using digital PR for link building is a great way to acquire links from top media outlets and blogs.
It’s about crafting content and stories worth paying attention to. Digital PR needs to be a win-win collaboration:
- The publisher benefits from fresh story topics and content.
- Your brand benefits from exposure and backlinks from high-authority publications.
For your PR link-building to be successful, you need to first build relations with journalists and well-known niche bloggers.
Find the right people and nurture a helpful relationship with them by engaging with them on their website and social media.
Like and comment on their posts and share any useful information to help them in their jobs, even if it is not about you. Know them and interact with them before asking them for links.
Once you decide the platforms you wish to pitch to, and have a foundation in place, here are a few quick tips to improve your odds of getting coverage:
- Try to tie your content to a current event to make it appealing. Stay up to date with the latest in your industry and pitch a timely story. This is known as newsjacking and you can set up Google Alerts for topics and people in your niche to know whenever a big story is up.
- Have a unique angle, such as new data, a new opinion on an old topic, a controversial take. Your unique angle should flow through the content headlines and body as well as a prominent part of the outreach email subject lines and body.
- Journalists are busy. Make your pitch as plug-and-play as possible. Understand their approach, and be concise with your email, giving them all the content assets upfront.
- Bloggers and journalists love data as it builds their content’s credibility. So back up your story with 3rd party data, your own surveys, or remixing multiple data sources to come up with your own insights.
- Personalize the email subject line with their first name.
6. Give Free Tool Credit or Subscription in Exchange For Links
As you know, every niche has influencers and renowned bloggers. A great way to get them to link to you is by providing them with a free subscription or tool credits for your SaaS app.
This can be a part of your blogger outreach campaign, wherein you team up with niche bloggers (with a substantial following) to create top-notch promotional yet authentic content that promotes your SaaS product.
The blogger creates and promotes the content for you in exchange for some compensation, in this case, a subscription to your software, etc. The content can be in the form of sponsored posts with prominent mentions of your brand, product reviews, or giveaways.
I wrote a post on using blogger outreach, covering five actionable tips on the topic. Also, you can use the aforementioned tools (BuzzSumo, BuzzStream, Hunter, etc.) to find the right blogging and SaaS influencers to partner up with.
7. The Stolen Images Strategy
Do you have original images of value on your SaaS blog? For example, an infographic you published that’s backed by original data from a survey you conducted on your customer base.
It could also be a step-by-step flowchart or a piece of high-quality artwork.
Guess what? It’s possible that niche bloggers or business magazines are using your infographic without attributing or linking back to it.
In general, everyone wants to avoid DMCA complaints and would be willing to link back to you.
So, use reverse image search to find websites using your images without attribution, and politely ask them if they could link back to the original source (i.e your website).
8. The Backlinks Exchange Strategy
An Ahrefs study suggests that 73.6% of domains have reciprocal links, meaning that some of the sites they link to also link to them. What’s more, 43.7% of the top-ranking pages have some reciprocal links.
And so, an obvious link-building strategy worth considering is backlinks exchange.
Most traditional SEO professionals would advise against any kind of link exchange, as Google’s guidelines state:
“Excessive link exchanges (‘Link to me and I’ll link to you’) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.”
That being said, natural backlink exchange in the right context is extremely common and most budding SaaS brands use this strategy to build reciprocal links.
For example, linking to a complementary SaaS product in your blog post because your audience might find it useful to achieve their goals.
And then, letting the brand know about your blog post and checking if they’re interested in linking back to you in one of their posts.
Here’s another way to scale reciprocal link building:
- Find a regular contributor who is actively doing guest posts on reputed publications in your niche.
- Reach out to them to see if they would be interested in linking to relevant pages on your website (product or blog) whenever the topic is fitting. In exchange, you’d contextually link back to them and their target publications.
- Use a tool like Airtable to keep track of your backlinks.
Note that if you plan to exchange links, ensure that the websites linking to you are relevant and well-established (DA > 30).
If possible, check their Trust Flow (TF) with Majestic, a metric that represents the quality of links and how trustworthy the website is.
9. Product Embeds Strategy
This strategy may not work for all SaaS products.
But if you can find a way to make your product embeddable, and get your users to integrate it on their website (along with a “Powered by” backlink to your website), then your link-building goes on autopilot.
For example, when Typeform users create a survey form for their website, they also include a link back to Typeform’s Survey Maker page.
Similarly, chat SaaS apps like Chatra give free live chat or chatbot solutions to install on your website that will contain a link to their homepage.
Another great example of this is the WordPress Table of Contents Generator tool by Topic.
It’s a nifty, easy to embed free tool that bloggers can use to create beautiful TOCs by simply pasting the code into their blog. It contains a link back to Topic.
10. Integration Partners
As a SaaS brand, think about how many integration partners do you have which are not linking back to you or you haven’t collaborated with for content?
Consider Zapier, the well-known automation and app connector tool.
Whenever they launch a new landing page, they get their partners to write a post announcing the integrations on their blog.
Not only does this partner collaboration generate new users for Zapier, but they also serve as an initial set of quality backlinks to boost the new page’s rankings.
Not to mention the initial exposure and social media shares that, in turn, bring in more links.
Of course, Zapier is an established SaaS company with a huge network of partners, but applying the same strategy on a smaller scale can still work well to generate some high-quality links to your important pages.
11. Reclaim Unlinked Brand Mentions
Similar to the stolen images strategy, it’s possible that your brand or its products are getting mentioned on the web without linkbacks.
In terms of earning backlinks, these are low-hanging fruits as all you have to do is use a brand monitoring tool (like SEMrush or BrandMentions) to find who’s mentioning your brand in their content, and request them to add a link to go with their mention.
In your email request, explain how the link helps their readers easily find the resource they’re talking about. And as always, keep your pitch friendly.
12. Broken Link Building
Another tried-and-true link-building tactic that’s easy to implement is broken link building.
As you know, broken “404 Not found” links are bad for SEO and user experience. No one wants broken links on their website.
So, this tactic is all about helping website owners and bloggers in your niche fix their broken links. For example, using a free tool like Broken Link Checker, you can check a high-authority blog in your niche for broken links.
If they have an article pointing to an expired resource, such as a blog post on a topic you cover well on your own blog, then you can reach out to them and offer to link to your content instead.
It’s a mutually beneficial endeavor as they get to fix a broken link and you get a free backlink.
13. Resource Page Link Building
Flip the experts’ roundup strategy around, and you’ve got resource page link building.
Resource page link building is a tactic wherein you build backlinks from pages that have curated lists of links to external resources, such as SaaS products, e-books, expert quotes, etc.
Why does it work? It’s simple: when a publisher adds your product’s (or content) link to their resource page, and your product (or content) is genuinely good, your link makes their page more useful for their audience.
For example, see the screenshot below.
Here’s a great guide from Backlinko that dives deeper into resource page link building, with search strings, examples, and outreach email templates you can use to successfully leverage this tactic.
14. Offer Free Products To Schools/Universities For Edu Links
Ask any SEO professional and they’ll talk about their craving for those coveted .edu and .gov links. Links from these domains typically carry some serious authority.
While such links are difficult to garner, as a SaaS brand, you can sweeten the deal by offering your product for free (or at a discount) to schools/universities offering courses relevant to your business. In return, you’re likely to get prominent links and mentions on their website.
Check out Notion’s “Notion for Education” program. They even explicitly mention their requirements for the institution to have a .edu domain.
Alternatively, you can create a sizable scholarship (at least a few hundred dollars) and then build a landing page detailing the requirements for your scholarship.
Finally, reach out to educational institutes that list scholarships and let them know about yours.
15. Give Testimonials & Reviews
Think about all the fellow SaaS products you’re using or have used recently.
If you’ve had a good experience with them, why not share a nice testimonial they can display on their website, and in turn, link back to your brand?
For example, Brian Dean from Backlinko earned a backlink by sharing a quick testimonial for Seomator, an SEO audit tool.
Similarly, share reviews of other SaaS products or integrations you’ve found useful on their website, or even on your own blog, and get them to link back to you.
16. Participate in Online Conferences & Podcasts
Not only do podcasts serve as a great channel to bolster your brand awareness and thought leadership, but appearing as a guest on niche-relevant podcasts is a fast and straightforward way to earn some juicy links.
That’s because most podcasts are also repurposed as website content.
So when you appear on podcast interviews or discussions, the host publishes the discussion on their website or blog and links back to the participants.
It’s easier than crafting high-quality text content as you just need to prepare and speak for 30-60 minutes on a topic you know and like.
And if you have your own podcast as a part of your SaaS content marketing strategy, you can pick up a few easy links by sending your podcast to websites that compile “best of” podcast lists by industry.
Likewise, participating in conferences (both offline and online) — as a speaker or sponsor — can also drive some high-quality links.
These can be in the form of event recap posts (see SXSW example below) from other participants/attendees or straight from the conference website.
17. Give Better Affiliate Deals than your Competitors
Have an affiliate program to drive referrals? Why not leverage it to earn backlinks as well?
By building a lucrative affiliate program that pays out handsomely, you’re inviting more bloggers in your niche to refer your product and spread the word.
Sure, your margins would go down if the affiliate commission is high, but your product is bound to get more visibility along with contextual mentions, reviews, and links.
Big blogs like BloggersPassion and ShoutMeLoud that boast thousands of followers, along with countless agencies, have long been promoting SEMrush (with strong mentions and contextual links), helping the brand reach the heights it has today.
So, consider giving better affiliate deals to your promoters to incentivize more backlinks.
Over to You
Sure, new SEO trends such as video, mobile-first optimization, Core Web Vitals, etc. are playing an increasingly greater role in determining a website’s rankings on Google.
But the three key pillars of SaaS SEO — backlinks, keywords, and content — are still the important foundation for your SaaS website’s performance on Google SERP and overall organic visibility.
So, think about which of the above tactics are best suited for your link-building strategy and goals, and get cracking right away!
Oh, and link-building is an area where you can leverage battle-tested systems and grow faster if you partner up with a specialist content agency.
In doing so, you free up your (and your team’s) time to focus on other weighty activities that have a direct impact on your SaaS growth and bottom line.
Meanwhile, the agency does the grunt work in the background — using its established systems to ensure timely, high-quality links from reputable websites.
Plus, when you join forces with the right agency, you also get access to years of SaaS content marketing expertise to step up your own team’s marketing game.
So, if you wish to scale your SaaS link building and content marketing the right way, we’re just a few clicks away!
FAQs – Link Building
What is link building?
Link building is the practice of getting other websites to link to pages on your own website.
The purpose of link building is to boost the credibility and authority of your pages in the eyes of Googlebot, so these pages rank higher and drive more organic traffic.
How to do link building in SEO?
There are plenty of link-building tactics a brand can use to acquire backlinks for SEO, such as guest posting, broken link building, creating linkable assets, to name a few.
How does link building help SEO?
Google and SEO pros have repeatedly confirmed that inbound links from high-quality websites are one of the top three signals that affect a website’s rankings on Google.
Thus, the more backlinks you build (from authoritative websites), the better your website ranks.
How link building works for SaaS?
Acquiring backlinks from relevant, high DA websites on keyword-optimized anchor text to SaaS product pages can serve as a big boost for brand visibility and organic traffic.
For that, your link-building team (in-house or externalized) needs to understand your SaaS feature-set and create and pitch content that includes more contextual backlinks.
Why is link building important?
Put simply, link building directly and significantly helps with boosting your SaaS website’s search engine rankings, organic visibility, and traffic.
Links from well-established blogs and niche influencers also add to your brand’s credibility.
How much does link building cost?
Depending on various factors like monthly link count target, your niche, and tools and strategies used, link building costs can vary greatly.
On average, effective SaaS link building can cost anything between $2,000 to $8,000 per month (or more).
How to measure link building success?
The best way to measure link building success is to track the monthly rankings and traffic improvement of your pages that are being linked to, using a tool like Ahrefs.
How to outsource link building?
When outsourcing your SaaS link building, keep in mind a few key considerations such as your monthly budget and existing website content, along with the potential partner agency’s link building process (the strategies they use), their publications network, track record in your niche, examples of past work, and client testimonials.
Image Sources –Ahrefs, HubSpot, VEC, ProfitWell, Databox, Ahrefs Blog 1, Brewer’s Friend, CXL, HARO, Typeform, Chatra, Topic, Semrush, BrandMentions, Creative Bloq, Notion, Seomator, PitchBook, Semrush Affiliate Program
Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of Growfusely, a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO.