It's common for most of us to spend less time on our product documentation than it deserves. I mean, hey, it's not the most exciting aspect of a SaaS. Especially for developers!
Yet, if you ask any founder (technical or non-technical), the top three things they want for their SaaS? More happy customers would almost universally be high on that list. It's up there on mine for sure, and probably yours too.
This is a look at product documentation in a bit of a different light, beyond customer support, with the aim of bringing in more traffic and more customers.
As defined in Wikipedia, SEO (Search engine optimization) is; "...the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic, increasing visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine."
Seems relevant. Let's check our score here.
- Our documentation is webpage
- We want more traffic
- Quality traffic (Qualified leads) would be good
3 out of 3! Maybe documentation can bring more to the table than what we traditionally use it for.
Marketing copy and SEO
One of the challenges with SEO for your SaaS marketing site is copy. To be specific, the amount of it. It's tough to find that middle ground. Do you write content designed for SEO, or for people viewing it? Sure, it's possible to do both. But like anything else, you end up with something that kind of works for both, but not that well for each. It's the classic Swiss Army knife vs. a pocket knife debate.
But is it bad? For the sake of argument, let's run with it and see what that would probably look like.
Keeping the cognitive load and attention spans of most readers in mind, you could definitely add more copy than you would otherwise for purely SEO reasons. Which by all means, you should within reason. I say within reason because the disparity between the sheer amount of content that SEO demands, and the amount our visitors can stomach, puts a cap on how much you can move the SEO needle.
This is why my first concern for marketing sites is writing the amount of copy that is ideal for reading/skimming, rather than crawled. Because at the end of the day, even if all our SEO efforts skyrocket us up the position ladder, is that really all we want? Tons of ego boosting traffic is actually quite meaningless, if people aren't getting it, and trying the product.
Content content content
As we just covered, space on your SaaS marketing site is extremely valuable. Above all, the copy should convey your value proposition, get people interested, and hopefully sign up. It should not be bloated and over optimized to feed the SEO bots crawling your site.
Be that as it may, SEO still relies heavily on content. The amount, quality, relevance, and more. Ignoring this fact only helps your competitors. Beyond other content SEO efforts like blogs, leveraging your product documentation to help fill that very necessary role seems like the next logical step.
You've probably come to the same realization I have by now. It takes a certain amount of forethought and commitment to do your SaaS product documentation right. The same is true here, as all of the basic guidelines of SEO still apply to your documentation.
Luckily, you have probably already done a lot of the leg work, and compared to everything else you are doing for your SaaS, this is a piece of cake.
For example, your documentation will naturally be rich in keywords, which is extremely important for SEO. It's one of the key factors that makes search work, and the results so relevant. Consequently, the pages that resolve our search queries accrue a much deserved "quality" ranking.
Product documentation with indexed URLs have a better chance of appearing in good positions on the SERP. So it's crucial to make sure your documentation is being indexed. That's why we recommend all our customers take advantage of our free Custom Domain feature, that uses CNAME DNS aliases for their documentation hosting. The public snazzyDocs URL option is no doubt super simple to set up, but indexing dynamically created urls are still not the most reliable method for indexing.
Google Search Console will tell give you a lot of insights into your traffic, such as, the pages and keywords you are ranking for. So get that set up asap.
We use search
In this post I've suggested SaaS SEO through documentation can help move the needle for your SaaS by bringing in more qualified traffic. But there is another benefit to consider here as well. Customer support, the foundation of product documentation. As you know, it's very important for any SaaS. And leveling up your SEO can help with this too.
We use search. There's just no way around it.
What mom's across the world have dubbed "The Google's". Search has become the internet equivalent of peanut butter and jelly. It spans education, age, lifestyle, and wage classes. We use search. There's just no way around it.
Imagine if you will, one of your happy customers learning how to use a feature in your product. Wouldn't it be nice if the search result they are given was full of pages of your documentation?
And on the flip side, what about a customer of one of your competitors? They run their search, and much to your delight, they are shown a bunch of your really helpful and great documentation resources. Would suck to be your competitor.
There is so much more to SEO that is beyond the scope of this post, and be warned, it's a bit of a rabbit hole. But I would highly recommend you spend some time getting familiar with the basics if you haven't already. Here are two SEO topics of importance to get you started; Internal Linking Strategies and Keyword Density.
Lastly, if there was one takeaway you should get from this post, it would be that, even if you think your product does not need it, documentation is part of many established, and profitable SaaS companies SEO and marketing strategies. And it can be yours too! Use the ranking position you could earn in the SERPs to bring traffic and interest to your product.