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min read
April 5, 2024

The "Lauren Funaro": A Playbook to SEO for PLG SaaS

Keelyn Hart
Content Writer at Letterdrop

Lauren Funaro is the Head of Content at Scribe, a leading PLG company in SOP automation.

Lauren and her team saw exceptional results within their first 12 months of using SEO as a primary user acquisition channel, and at the time of writing, Scribe gets 100k in qualified traffic every month and boast a 13% conversion rate.

Using Lauren's success story to inspire this playbook, we've created a step-by-step guide to successfully implementing SEO as a growth lever for PLG SaaS companies.

Can SEO Drive Revenue for PLG SaaS?

Yes — in fact, SEO is often the highest acquisition channel for PLG companies.

As mentioned above, SEO increased Scribe's paid sign-ups from search by 1,100% and their free sign-ups by 1,735%

Who is This Playbook For?

If you have a vested interest in building pipeline for a PLG SaaS motion, this playbook is for you. You might be a:

  • Head of Marketing
  • Head of Content
  • SEO Manager
  • VP of Marketing

Can This Playbook Work for Sales-Led Companies?

A sales-led motion could definitely follow most of the steps addressed here.

I would just prioritize bottom of funnel (BOFU) SEO tactics, other demand gen channels, and ABM first before investing all out in SEO.

Keep in mind that compared to PLG companies:

  • Sales-led models require prospects to talk to a salesperson first — it's not easy to "try before you buy"
  • Searches for more complex software will be equally more complex and therefore harder to target

How Do I Address Leadership Objections to SEO?

Change is hard. Organizational change is even harder.

Plenty of marketers and content teams face objections from C-suite executives when it comes to taking that leap for an SEO strategy. Most commonly:

  1. SEO takes too long to show results
  2. The company is too early stage and can't make the investment in SEO
  3. It's too difficult to compete with the industry giants targeting an SEO strategy, such as HubSpot

The best thing to do here is to agree with leadership and ask them what their timeline and CAC requirements are long-term.

Now, to address their objections:

  1. You can do some BOFU or long-tail, low-difficulty SEO targeting to get some easy wins quickly. You can rank within days if the topic is not too competitive and you bring unique information to the table
  2. SEO is only a good option for early companies if they have already exhausted other, quicker-acting channels such as paid ads. If leadership are now thinking about the long-term (more than a year down the road), SEO is one of the best investments they can make
  3. You can compete with companies that have higher domain authority by focusing on those long-tail, low-competition keywords in your niche. If you have better topical authority, you can outrank the pages of larger incumbents

Step 1: Make a Case for SEO to Leadership

Step 1: Build a case for SEO to leadership Letterdrop
Step 1: Build a case for SEO to leadership

Once you've addressed their objections, it's time to build a case to leadership as to why exactly SEO is worth its first big investment — and that starts with a proof point.

1.1 Use Keyword Research Tools to Show the Total Addressable Market

Your competitors and industry leaders are using SEO as a successful acquisition channel.

That means there's a lucrative market for you to tap into.

To quote Lauren,

"My argument is, you wouldn't be banking on SEO at at an incredible company if it wasn't working for you. If [these companies] have heavy traffic and are consistently publishing and are seeing that growth, it's because there's likely ROI on actual signups."

Tools like Semrush and Ahrefs can give you the traffic insights you need to show the scope of this market to leadership.

  1. Search the domain names of successful companies to get an overview of organic search performance
  2. Export the data to build your report or presentation

Showcasing how successful companies are winning with SEO using Semrush
Showcasing how successful companies are winning with SEO using Semrush

1.2 Explain That SEO is a "One-Off" Investment

SEO takes a lot of initial investment — both in terms of time and resources. This is likely the first objection you'll face, especially if you're in a newer company.

You need to explain that, unlike with paid ads or influencer marketing campaigns, this initial investment is all you need for SEO to work. You will continue to see consistent growth from then onward with very minimal effort on your part — you never have to "pay" again.

"We look at SEO as something that you can absolutely count on once it starts to run.

It will take a lot at the top, and then after you've done that effort, after you've created it, you can start to see those gains and then it will be consistent. You will never have to 'pay' again. It will continue to grow without you." — Lauren Funaro

1.3 Make it Clear That You Need to Scale Quickly to See Results

You need to make it clear to leadership that part of this initial heavy lift is the necessity to publish a high quantity of content.

Only once you've scaled can you expect to see results. Lauren and her former manager had to increase their monthly blog output from 25 to 100 to see a significant impact.

Make the following clear to leadership:

  • in order to see faster results, you need to publish at high initial velocity
  • your milestones and projections according to what you intend to do
  • that results can only be expected after a targeted amount of time (for example, X amount of sign-ups after three months of publishing 100 blogs a month)

1.4 Explain That You Can Compete with Larger Incumbents by Targeting Niche Keywords

As discussed above, C-suite may dismiss the possibility that you're able to compete with larger companies with higher domain authority. This is a very real concern.

You need to explain to them that by zeroing in on long-tail, low-competition keywords and building strong topical authority, you will be able to compete.

It comes down to knowing your customer and knowing your niche — that's how you meet customers where they are. (More on keyword targeting in the next section.)

"Some company can have incredible domain ratings, incredible traffic, but if you have powerful topical authority, you will continue to outrank that page.

If you really understand your niche, your category, your audience, you can absolutely compete with the HubSpots." — Lauren Funaro

Step 2: Get Started with Content Output

Step 2: Get started with content output
Step 2: Get started with content output

2.1 Target Keywords That Can Actually Drive Business

Now that you've gotten leadership on board with SEO, it's time to execute, beginning with keyword research.

You can't just go after any keyword that seems relevant to you. That could completely derail your SEO efforts because:

  • you could target keywords that bring in unqualified traffic — people who will never buy your product
  • you could target keywords where the competition level is too high, which means you're likely to be drowned out by larger competitors
  • you could target keywords aligned with the wrong buyer stage. For example, you have a qualified prospect who is still in the unaware phase but you target a solution-aware keyword — that prospect isn't ready to buy

Focus Primarily on Keywords From Customer Conversations

Keyword research tools are a helpful guide — you want to focus on longer-tail, lower-competition keywords to stand a chance of creating SEO content that ranks.

Unfortunately though, keyword research tool estimates can be wrong. The best keywords you can target are the ones you hear directly from customers in sales calls.

These customer or prospect conversations give you access to keywords that:

Interview at least 10-20 of your ideal customers. Record these interviews so that you can re-watch them later using software like Gong, Fathom, or Fireflies. 

Getting insights from call transcripts using Fathom
Getting insights from call transcripts using Fathom

Cluster Longer-Tail Keywords Around Central Topics

Now you know where to find your keywords — but what kinds of keywords should you be focusing on?

Lauren recommends using the "hub and spoke" method, which refers to clustering longer-tail keywords around a central theme:

  • Focus on your product's use cases as the central "hub"
  • You can then internal link to or "interlink" these pages (along with their sub topic pages or "spokes") to one another to increase your chances of ranking

You need to experiment and see what works best for you — the important thing is to get publishing.

Here are other high-converting SEO keyword categories that every company should target:
1. Competitor vs competitor keywords. Prospects are in market

to buy competitors — intercept them (for example, "Competitor X vs Y [vs You]")

Competitor keyword targeting in an article by HubSpot
Competitor keyword targeting in an article by HubSpot

2. Category keywords. Intercept prospects that are actively searching for

tools in your particular category (for example, "CRM for Agencies")

Best category keyword targeting by Semrush
Best category keyword targeting by Semrush

3. Integration keywords, for whenever you have useful integrations folks

could use (for example, "sales recording Calendly integration")

An integration keyword (Calendly x HubSpot) targeted by HubSpot
An integration keyword (Calendly x HubSpot) targeted by HubSpot

4. "How to" keywords where you do something better than the norm (for example, "How to do X" where you automate X)

A "How to" keyword targeted by tl;dv
A "How to" keyword targeted by tl;dv

5. Playbook keywords. Create strategic guides to accomplishing something

that your software enables (for example, "Best ABM playbook 2024")

A playbook keyword targeted by Revenue Marketing Alliance
A playbook keyword targeted by Revenue Marketing Alliance

2.2 Find Qualified Writers

The next step to getting content out the door at scale is with the right writers.

While we always recommend going with in-house writers for SEO since they know and understand your company, this can be an expensive investment — and there are good freelancers out there.

How Many Writers Do I Need?

The amount of writers you're able to hire comes down to budget and company size — to get the initial 200 blogs out the door, Lauren hired 15-20 writers.

This helped her:

  • Publish quickly
  • Determine which writers she and her team wanted to work with in the long term

She doesn't recommend working with that many writers on an ongoing basis, however — but it's a great way to identify what works and to build internal ops.

What Qualifications and Qualities Should SEO Writers Have?

Here are the three criteria Lauren recommends looking for in your SEO writers:

  1. They have a portfolio of successful PLG writing, and can show metrics of this success writing for a company with a PLG motion. This includes knowing what types of CTAs to use and how to drive a user to immediate action
  2. Experience in writing for Google as a channel, which includes knowing how to answer search intent
  3. An ability to adapt to the changes you ask of them to reduce back-and-forth friction

Where Do I Find Good Writers?

  • LinkedIn. Lauren found her best writers here, and it's easy to see what they've worked on before and how they write their posts. It's also easy to find writers through connections and LinkedIn's filters
  • Freelance marketplaces like Upwork (although you may have to sift through more poor quality portfolios here than on LinkedIn before you find the right fit)

2.3 Create a Seamless Internal Process to Scale Faster

Once you have your team of writers, you need to make sure you're consistently working to strengthen your internal ops to push out good SEO content at scale.

If your workflow is inefficient, you can't scale. If you can't scale quickly, you won't see the results you need to keep making a case for SEO.

On average, content marketers can spend around 60 hours a month on upkeep for their content workflow. Jumping between disparate tools, managing multiple copies of Google docs, manually updating your content calendar, managing approvals and training for multiple writers — all of that takes time.

Lauren was jumping between disparate tools and losing 15-20 hours a week across her team. In order to be able to 4x their initial output in the early days, they needed to streamline their internal ops.

"We needed to be operationalized in order to publish at that scale. There was no way we could have been consistent if we didn't have clear delineation between what my responsibilities were or what my team's responsibilities were.

And so using a tool where deadlines can be set and where communication is centralized is very important."

How Do I Centralize Operations?

Scribe now use one tool (Letterdrop) that centralizes the content calendar, drafts, approvals, deadlines, SEO checks, and more.

You need to find a tool that brings as much of your internal ops into one place as possible — or use AI tools to automate tasks that you were otherwise doing yourself.

Step 3: Consistently Optimize And Refresh Your Content

Step 3: Consistently optimize and refresh content
Step 3: Consistently optimize and refresh content

SEO is not just about content quantity — it's about quality and retaining that quality. You need to consistently optimize your posts over time to see those continuous gains.

Here are some confirmed factors that influence ranking and that you need to optimize for:

  1. Search intent answered
  2. Net new information
  3. Technical SEO, or clean site structure
  4. Strong domain authority and topical authority
  5. Links, both internal and backlinks
  6. Following EEAT guidelines

It's important to note that some of these factors are outside your immediate control, like your website's domain authority. It's best to focus on what is in your control to stand the best chance of ranking.

1. Understand Search Intent

Once you choose the keyword, you need to figure out how to best answer the question the searcher is asking.

Here's how to figure out search intent manually:

  1. Put your targeted keyword into Google
  2. Go through the top pages to see what they're talking about
  3. Determine whether the search is informational, navigational, commercial or transactional by taking note of modifiers. Example: "How to" searches are informational. "Login page" is navigational. "Best X software" is commercial. Any search that features the word "buy" is transactional
  4. Take note of the dominant format. Are the top results mostly lists or video content? You want to use the same format to stay competitive
  5. Look for a Featured Snippet to figure out how to write an even better one

2. Writing the Outline

‎Now that you understand what the user is looking for, you can begin creating outlines for your SEO content.

When researching the outline structure of top pages, it's important to remember that just because they show up in top results, it doesn't mean they're good. They might just be the best out there so far. Your job is to do better and to close any information gaps.

  1. Read through the top pages and study their structure. See how they answer search intent and understand what they do well or poorly.
  2. Understand what these pages have answered for searchers. Think about how you can answer the same questions better.
  3. Figure out what they're not covering and what angles you can take. Spot information gain opportunities to differentiate your content.
  4. Write down your headings and organize them in a way that flows logically.

An example of companies taking different angles on the same topic
An example of companies taking different angles on the same topic

Don't just copy what everyone else is saying. Your copycat content is unlikely to rank, especially if a bigger site than you with better domain authority has already covered the topic well.

3. Writing Your Blog Post

Now that you've got your outline, it's time to get writing.

Here are some tips for writing your blog post:

  1. Write succinctly and be structured. No novel-writing. Your reader shouldn't need a search-and-rescue team to find key information. The goal is to get important info across and answer their question. Your content should be easy to skim.
  2. Let AI tools help you write. ChatGPT can give you examples of how to write a section and help you expand on ideas if you're feeling uninspired. Use it intelligently as an assistant and not in lieu of thinking for yourself. It's prone to fluff, hallucinating, and rehashing information that's already out there.
  3. Use frameworks. Examples include PASO and TAS. Scout for good business writers and see how they use frameworks to improve your writing. Get inspiration on good writing from top writers. At Letterdrop, we get inspiration from FenwickAnimalz, and Paul Graham for business writing.
  4. Be engaging. Remember that your reader is human. Sure, maybe they're googling "how to pay corporate taxes" and just looking to get on with their day. But if you can help them while putting a smile on their face or inspiring them, they might be more inclined to share it with a friend (or potential customer). There's still a place for good storytelling and humor in business writing. It doesn't have to be boring.

4. Making Sure Your Content is Unique

I've already touched on this, but I'll repeat it: if you're rehashing what's already been said, you won't rank. You must seize any opportunity for information gain and find ways to add unique perspectives to your content.

We've written a guide on optimizing for information gain and perspectives, but the TL;DR is:

  • Conduct original research. Use proprietary assets like charts, tables, and illustrations to present your findings.
  • Interview experts and customers so that you have defensible unique information from primary sources that others can't copy
  • Cite statistics

Using proprietary data like Gong sets your content apart
Using proprietary data like Gong sets your content apart

As your site gets more authoritative, it gets easier to rank as long as you still maintain quality and answer search intent.

5. Follow Google's EEAT Guidelines

You need to optimize for EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) if you want to answer search intent and get ranking on Google.

Optimizing for "Experience" in EEAT

Experience refers to how much first-hand experience the author of any content has with the subject matter.

  • Share your first-hand experiences on the topic.
  • Show evidence of your experience, such as credentials in your bio, screenshots, and more.
Optimizing for "Expertise" in EEAT

Expertise refers to the level of knowledge and skill that you have in the field. It's better to take medical advice from a physician than a freelance writer.

  • Differentiate your content by suggesting new points of view.
  • Regularly audit your content to keep up with the latest information and for any changes in search intent.
Optimizing for "Authority" in EEAT

Authoritativeness refers to the level of recognition you've earned in your field or industry. For example, you wouldn't get SEO advice from a travel blog.

  • Use unique first-party data like graphics, studies, quotes, and videos in your content. This helps you optimize for information gain and Google's Perspectives, too.
  • Interview experts and use that data in content. This helps you optimize for information gain and Google's Perspectives, too.
  • Comarket with brand-name authors and experts, such as asking them to write guest posts for your site.
  • Cite credible websites and sources.
  • Credit other authors and creators on graphics and other assets that aren't yours.
Optimizing for "Trustworthiness" in EEAT

Trustworthiness refers to the level of reliability that you have established with your audience. Is the site a sketchy anonymous forum or a prominent and widely cited resource?

  • Include your credentials and experience in your author bio.
  • Only link out to reputable websites and sources.
  • Structure your pages with clear headings and make it easy for users to navigate to the right answers.
  • Put the most important information and assets at the top of the page.

6. Technical Optimization

Clean site structure makes for a better user experience, helps Google crawl and index your content, and helps you rank higher.

Here are some of the many rules you need to check for:

  1. The title shouldn't be cut off in the SERP.
  2. Images need alt text.
  3. Images need proper file names.
  4. You shouldn't have more than one H1.
  5. You need at least two or three internal links.
  6. You need least one high domain authority external link.
  7. No broken links.
  8. Optimize your Core Web Vitals (minify code, lazy load images, etc)
  9. Create skimmable structure with bolding and lists.
  10. Use your keyword naturally in the introduction to make it clear what this article answers.
  11. Use your keyword naturally in the conclusion to make it clear what this article answers.
  12. No keyword stuffing

7. Add Internal Links

Internal links help search engines and users understand how your pages relate to one another.

Here is how to use internal links:

  1. Include 3-5 internal links per blog post.
  2. Use relevant anchor text when hyperlinking, including keywords of the target page instead of generic phrases.
  3. Direct readers from high-traffic pages to high-conversion pages, guiding users through the conversion funnel (only where relevant of course).
  4. Regularly check existing blog posts for broken links before publishing your page, ensuring that all links are functional and lead users to the intended destinations.

You can create a spreadsheet to track your links across all pages, but it does get difficult once you've published even a few dozen pages.

8. Monitor and Refresh Published Content

Even once your content is published, your SEO housekeeping continues.

Sprucing up existing content for SEO can drive more traffic, and it costs a lot less than pushing new content campaigns. You want to refresh your existing content regularly. It's often the highest ROI activity for your SEO efforts.

"Optimization and interlinking are forever. So even pieces of content that we published two years ago, we are consistently looking back at it." — Lauren Funaro

You can use Google Search Console and Google Analytics to track and refresh / fix pages that:

  • Used to drive traffic but no longer do
  • Rank low for more than one unrelated keyword — this is fixed by splitting the page into multiple.
  • Have high engagement but low traffic — this is often a distribution issue.
  • Are almost ranking — a couple of technical fixes could bump you up the rankings.
  • Are multiple pages ranking for the same keyword — this is keyword cannibalization, which is fixable by combining pages

Tracking pages that used to drive traffic but no longer do GA4
Tracking pages that used to drive traffic but no longer do GA4

Which Tools Should I Use for SEO and SEO Refreshes?

Some web builders like Webflow allow you to take care of basic SEO (such as writing meta tags and optimizing for mobile), and you can use Google Analytics and Google Console to help you monitor your pages.

Lauren uses two tools for a more robust SEO upkeep:

  1. Ahrefs Rank Tracker, which helps you see when content loses its ranking position. Lauren and her team ascribe tier-level values to content according to what's most useful to the business, and prioritize an SEO refresh from there
  2. Letterdrop's SEO Assistant, which helps optimize for technical SEO across your pages and helps you optimize for changing search (for example, with its information gain suggestions to cover topical gaps)

Step 4: Track Monthly Metrics and Set Up a Reporting Cadence

Step 4: Track monthly metrics and set up a reporting cadence
Step 4: Track monthly metrics and set up a reporting cadence

Scaling a successful SEO campaign comes down to holding you and your team accountable for metrics every month. Consistent reporting also helps build a better case for SEO over time with tangible ROI.

With proper internal operations management in place, everyone should be clear on the responsibilities they own toward achieving these monthly metrics.

First, set up your metrics. Then set up a reporting cadence with your immediate team and your C-suite executives — Lauren meets with her team weekly, and reports to leadership monthly.

Which SEO Metrics Should We Track?

For PLG, here are the metrics you can track for SEO:

  1. Free sign-ups
  2. Paid sign-ups
  3. Product upgrades

You can compare your projected value for these metrics to their actual value at the end of every month and report on your progress.

What Tools Should I Use to Track These Metrics?

Here are the tools Lauren uses to showcase which SEO pages are bringing value to Scribe:

  • Mixpanel to the path the user took to a signup and the value of that user to the business
  • Ahrefs (or Semrush) to see traffic spikes, which is used as a leading indicator of success. This helps Scribe figure out high converting pages, and can help them redirect traffic from low-converting pages to their "money pages"
  • Excel to track projected vs actual value achieved
  • Notion to present these reports

Step 5: Leverage Your Professional Networks for Help

Step 5: Leverage your professional networks and communities for help
Step 5: Leverage your professional networks and communities for help

You don't have to figure SEO out alone. Connect with other marketers, top voices, and talented SEO leaders through networks like LinkedIn.

Reach out for advice as you build your skills in this area. The community is welcoming and chances are others will make time to share their experiences if approached respectfully.

Lauren explains,

"You're not alone in this is. Continue to learn and continue to try things and to connect with others who can help you do better."

Scribe's SEO success story demonstrates that with the right strategy and rigorous process, organic search can become a reliable growth channel for PLG SaaS companies.

If you're looking to put SEO best practices on autopilot and to scale the right way, reach out to us.

Ready to optimize for the future of SEO?

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