My team built 130+ high quality backlinks to this Cloud Cost SaaS which helped to catapult it from <1000 all the way to 49,000+ unique monthly visitors per month (and growing) using 2 link-building strategies.
Today I share this story with you in the most actionable and zero-BS way.
Let’s get right to it.
The Pain of Link Building
When it comes to link building for SaaS, there are tons of tactics for acquiring high quality links!
However, when you start your link building campaign you want it to be as fast and efficient as possible!
To paraphrase, you’d want to do as little as possible and get as much as you can out of that because…and trust me on this one…link acquisition is the biggest pain in the neck when it comes to SEO (not just for SaaS companies)
And if that sounds like you are looking for the most effective way of link building for adding a ton of relevant organic traffic from the search engines right to your SaaS’s pipeline, keep on reading!
SaaS Link Building Strategy Prerequisites
If I was a link builder that’s full of sh*t, I’d tell you to just go and build backlinks.
The reality is different – you need content, the right types of content that are also properly optimized.
The thing is…
Content production and link building go hand in hand.
You can’t rely on one without the other – that’s how search engines work.
In fact, a lot can be achieved by producing content in a spectacular fashion.
Here is what you need to do before kicking off with our lazy crazy effective (!) link building.
1. Build Topical Relevance
I talk a lot about that in our SaaS content marketing bit but the idea is this…
Make sure you do thorough keyword research and cluster together whatever keyword topics are relevant to each other…in the eyes of Google (that’s super important).
Clusterization helps to build up topical authority and this thing helps to rank content a lot faster and easier.
To do that you need to cover every aspect of whatever you are trying to rank for.
For example, I’m now writing an article on SaaS link building.
I also cover anything that’s related to it:
- SaaS content marketing
- SaaS link building case studies
- …you get the idea!
2. Produce Link Worthy Content for Lazy Link Building
Spend a good bit of time producing something that’s link-worthy.
Typical examples include ultimate guides, statistics pieces, calculators, etc
An ultimate guide is typically a long-*ss piece of content that goes above and beyond anything that’s out there.
Obviously, there are tons of them out there already so don’t expect to just rank and start acquiring links immediately.
Still, gotta have that thing written for the future link building and topical authority now!
Statistics pieces are also great because you can pull something together and, provided there is some search volume for whatever you published, you can run a link building campaign for it before you even rank using PPC!
The cool part about that – the CPC is really really low and you can end up securing tremendous links on autopilot.
Calculators or any other tools attract links in a similar fashion to the statistics articles.
The CPC for those is usually more expensive but can still work.
Optimize On-Page SEO
Keyword frequencies are still a thing.
So is keyword intent.
If you provide too much information for a certain keyword, Google will not let you in top 3 positions.
For example, my competitors for the “link building for saas” keyword wrote between 3,500 and 5000 words to end up in the top 3 positions.
This is what G wants to see for this specific keyword.
I’m not going to push my narrative and give it a 10,000-word article because there is absolutely no one in top-50 positions with that word count.
And, trust me, people try that all the time!
The same goes for keyword frequencies.
Too many people believe that Google is so smart that it can understand just how good your article is.
Given that it’s absolute BS, I highly recommend you go and adhere to the keyword frequencies the top rankers are using.
And in case you wonder where the screenshot came from, it’s SurferSEO. Use it – it’s a great tool!
Link Building Strategy for SaaS
Now that you have the content taken care of, it’s time to FINALLY get into the topic of SaaS link building strategies.
However, before we can start link building, we need to know what is that we are trying to build.
What makes a high quality most effective link out there?
The Most Effective Link Characteristics
Ideally, we want to get the links that move the needle right away, I mean…who doesn’t?!
Fortunately, links like that have a certain set of characteristics, and Ahrefs, the SaaS software tool, helps to go through a ton of crap to secure the best links for our clients.
Here is what we look at:
1. High DR. Domain Rating (DR), Ahref’s metric, is almost useless in isolation from the other ranking factors but…it still gives us a good idea of what type of beast is in front of us!
Any time we build links, we go for higher DR websites with a 40-70+ spread. High quality backlinks with high authority help to improve rankings faster so…we use them!
2. High Traffic. Google is very skimpy and wouldn’t give traffic to crappy websites it doesn’t trust that’s why we also don’t want any links coming from these sites (they would come NaTuRaLlY – don’t worry :D).
To us high-quality links have some sort of traffic…we shoot for 1000+ monthly visitors per month but end up having websites with a lot more – a great sign of quality links!
3. Relevance. If you run a time tracker SaaS and get a link from a cement manufacturer’s article on how long it takes to dry, it’s useless.
Ideally, you want all your links coming from the pages that contain the keywords you want yourself to rank for. That’s what relevance is all about.
So, just find the websites with these characteristics and build links, right?
Yes, but there is an issue…the type of website really matters.
Types of Websites Really Matter
Here is the thing, you can find a perfectly suitable website with all of the above characteristics but…it would still be total sh*t.
So here is one website with DR48, over 10,000 unique monthly visitors and we suppose they have a relevant page for us to get a link from – nice!
However, when you go over its homepage you see two red flags.
- First, it’s a magazine-style website that talks about aaaaaaall kinds of things – health, finance, crypto, CBD…fake moon landing – everything!
- Second, you happen to catch funny homepage links (!) that go to funny websites…and I’m not even making this up:
On paper, this would be a good link:
- DR in check
- Traffic is great
- Relevant page source!
However, in reality, this link is worthless because the website is part of a PBN.
Best Websites to Build Links From For SaaS
Based on my experience with SaaS link building, the best links you can get are from other SaaS companies.
Think about that:
- High DR (in some cases extremely high)
- High Traffic
- High Relevance
- Real SaaS companies that don’t rely on selling backlinks as their business
It’s these links that helped us to push this cloud cost management company to new heights!
SaaS Link Building
So what’s our link building strategy for SaaS brands? How do we go about SaaS link building?
As you remember, right at the very beginning I mentioned we only used two strategies to 40x this SaaS company’s organic traffic.
In order to use the two, we first need to make a list of all the relevant keywords our target article contains in order to find relevant publications.
Let’s do that first…using a time tracking SaaS as an example pretend we are trying to rank for the “best time tracking app” keyword.
If you read the other articles on the subject, they are talking about all link building tactics that, in my opinion, are wasteful and inefficient.
Here they are:
- Broken Link Building. The idea is that you’d find an article that doesn’t exist anymore but has a ton of links pointing to it.
You’d then recreate the article and ping all those other websites asking them to link to your re-created piece of content.
It could be a viable strategy but while you are searching for a dead post with a ton of broken links pointing to it, in order to recreate it on your website, I’d already find 1000s of link opportunities – broken link building waste of time!
- Guest Posting. The amount of work that goes towards this technique is brutal! First, you need to find authoritative websites.
Second, you need to show your wit to the website owners in order to “deserve” guest posting on their own website.
Next goes the creating content part – this is when you deal with writers being late with deadlines, quality issues, etc.
Last (but not least), try to get your guest post published! Website owners can start flaking out, ask for a ton of revisions, and take months (and I mean that) to publish your write-up.
As you can see, I hate guest posts. The only real benefit you can get out of those is if you post on truly authoritative websites that can also help you with referral traffic.
- Resource Pages. I used to love this technique for improving our rankings in search engine results but like everything that’s widely available for marketers, the resource page tactic was destroyed by marketers.
The idea evolves around reaching out to those websites that are building resource pages, which are a collection of useful URLs pointing to, normally, thought leadership articles.
You’d reach out to them with your top-tier blog post and try to have them update their resource page with your URL.
Nowadays resource pages have become a futile link acquisition strategy that is nowhere as effective as it used to be.
1. Finding Relevant Keywords for Prospecting
The easiest way to do a seed keyword search is by using…SurferSEO!
Even though it’s an on-page SEO tool it’s exactly what we need because it shows pretty much all the keywords the top ranking positions rank for.
Here is what my search for “best time tracking app” resulted in:
I then go ahead and pick “Audit” for the 1st search result – Zapier:
Give it a moment to load and you’d see a massive selection of all the keywords that this specific page is ranking for:
Feel free to download them all – this is your seed keyword list for prospecting, the process you need to do before actually diving into the link building itself!
Some of these keywords are really similar and will not give you different website results (e.g. time tracking app AND time tracking software).
Whereas others have a high potential of presenting you with drastically different websites, which is great for link building opportunities! (e.g. time tracking app AND project management tools)
Now that you got the list, it’s time to plow through it all using the 2 most effective link building strategies…with a secret twist! (more on that later)
1. Google Search Link Building
This one is as easy as it gets!
Plug in the first keyword from your seed keyword list and load the results!
However, before you do that, I recommend adjusting Google search so it spits out 100 results at once.
Just click the gear icon in the top right corner, to “See all settings” and you’ll see this menu right away:
Pick the results per page that you (and your computer) are comfortable with.
You can also scroll down and pick the location in case you are not present in the location your SaaS company is operating in (e.g. your SaaS website is targeting USA users but you are in the UK):
Once you have loaded the results for the 1st keyword, you need to copy them all into a spreadsheet.
I recommend using good old Linkclump (Chrome extension) that you’d need to set up using the following settings:
Here is what our initial spreadsheet would look like:
Linkclump provides us with the title and the URL that we will later use for pitching.
You should use them to assess what the page is about on the fly and, if necessary, take it out from your list.
Trim out anything that’s irrelevant:
- Gargantuan websites (e.g. Apple)
- Irrelevant sites (e.g. Google Chrome store)
Sidenote: As you can see from the screenshot above, the table is not well-organized. You can switch Linkclump to the “URLs only” setting and it will look a lot nicer (it might be a little harder to assess the pages’ quality on the fly though).
Sidenote 2: Generally speaking, you’d need to go ~200 search results deep per keyword. Granted, the top-ranking websites (approx 1-20) are not going to give you a link simply because they are your competitors (if they are not, you can try paying them a lot of money to get on that list but that’s a different story).
However, as you go further away from top-ranking positions, you’ll find more variation and non-competing articles that will help you with building links if you ask them nicely (more on that later).
Quality Metric Filtering
As you build up a hefty list of relevant URLs, it’s time to take things to the next level of filtering and take out anything that wouldn’t help us move the needle fast enough.
It’s time to use Ahrefs to make sure our websites have high enough DR and traffic!
Go to “Batch Analysis” under “More” in the header menu:
Paste all the URLs in the box (up to 200), choose “*.domain/*, and click “Analyse”.
Then give it a moment to do the magic and you get a massive report with all sorts of numbers.
We need these two columns:
So if you have certain quality metrics (again, we go DR40+ and 1000+ Traffic), this is when you filter them out, once you export the results.
I’d also pay attention to anything that’s sticking out in terms of quality.
One of the most obvious examples – is very high DR and very low overall organic traffic!
Say, a website with DR80+ and a little over 1000 unique visitors in organic traffic looks very suspicious (a common exception – legit SaaS companies with tiny amount of content published).
By the end of this procedure, you end up with an even cleaner database.
2. Competitor Link Building
I love this because it’s very easy to find reputable websites with quality backlinks.
Thanks to their efforts, you too will be able to build high quality links in no time.
You must have Ahrefs for this tactic to work.
Here is what you do.
1. Use the first keyword from your seed list and pick the results with a substantial amount of inbound links. I recommend using Ahrefs’s Chrome Extension for this because it shows the number of Referring Domains (RDs) linking to every URL in Google search results.
2. Take the first URL, go to Ahrefs’s “Backlinks” report (it’s under “Backlink profile” in the left sidebar), and set everything according to your requirements:
- DR: From 40
- Domain Traffic: From 1000
Make sure it shows “One link per domain” and then hit “Show results”.
After that, Export all rows in CSV.
Repeat for the next search result.
Once you run out of relevant URLs with a decent amount of backlinks, go use the next seed word and repeat it all over again.
Unlike with the first Google search link acquisition technique, you don’t need to filter anything, because we have already done that before exporting all the results in CSV
Now we are just missing one tiny bit – contact details!
Finding Contact Details
You can’t reach any prospects if you don’t have their emails – that’s kind of obvious, so…
How to find contact emails for your link building needs?
You have 3 options.
Option #1: Hire a VA
A trained VA requires around 1.5 hours to find emails for 80 websites or so.
You’d pay them $3 per hour for that, so 80 emails would cost you $4.5.
This translates to approximately $0,056 per email.
Option #2: Use Hunter.io
This is the go-to tool for when you need emails…fast.
Their bulk search feature is great so you can plug in a ton of websites and get your emails in no time!
Their Growth plan is a good start as it offers 2,500 emails per month at $99.
That translates into 0,039 per email which is already nearly twice as cheap as hiring a VA + it’s instant + it includes 5,000 monthly verifications + they even allow you to send your campaigns using their tool (I never tried that).
Option #3: Tomba from Appsumo
Tomba is like Hunter but it’s currently on Appsumo.
It has a great offer where you can stack 5 codes at $89 each for 10,000 email searches per month…indefinitely.
Yeah, you pay $445 once and you have 10,000 monthly searches for a lifetime (whatever that means).
Sidenote: Tomba might not run this amazing deal on Appsumo as you are reading this, but…you can search Appsumo for other email finders or go to Tomba directly as they would have far better deals than Hunter.
Link Building Outreach: Preparations
We are almost starting with building links! I can feel just how much you are liking it lol
No one said SaaS link building is a piece of cake, but, nonetheless, you are in the right place so let’s make it happen.
To start the outreach you need a few prerequisites.
1. Set Up Your Outreach “Mirror” Domain
Go get a domain that looks like the domain you operate your SaaS company on.
It’s important to do as we’ll be sending all these emails and your domain’s sending reputation has a good chance of significantly worsening (read – turning into crap).
That’s why we get you a separate domain and just forward it to your primary domain.
The best way to do it is by using Google Workspace.
I highly recommend signing up with the big G itself (the lowest tier would do) because it helps with email deliverability.
It’s also a lot easier to set up out of the box because you don’t need to add DKIM, SPF, and DMARC records (these are must-haves for email deliverability purposes) as they are there by default.
2. Launch E-mail Warmup Tool
The process of warming up an email is essential if you want your messages to NOT go into spam.
Any new email box is subject to strict limitations so you won’t be able to send a ton of emails right out of the box.
Properly establishing a sending reputation is a long path (think 3-6 months) but it doesn’t mean that we can’t start the outreach campaign gradually.
Here is how it goes…
Use Gmass’s free subscription to launch the email warm-up process.
There are many tools out there that do the same but Gmass does it for free so I use that.
Here are my settings:
- Start sending 2 emails per day
- Increase sending volume by 2 emails per day
- Send max 40 emails per day
- Reply to 100% of emails
I found these perfect for a significant enough signal for building up sending reputation without choking up the sending channel.
Let the warm-up tool run for ~7 days without any interference on your end.
Then start the outreach gradually at 3-5 emails per day.
Gradually increase that number by 10% every day or so.
Here is what your link building outreach pattern may look like during the first 25 days of sending: 2-3-5-7-8-11-12-14-15-18-19-19-21-24-25-28-31-34-37-38-39-42-46-47-51…
During the initial warm-up stage:
- Monitor Gmass’s warmup tool daily – if you see red popping up, decrease your daily sending limit by 10%
- Give it a few days
- You can also completely stop sending for 24-48 years
- At times you also need to shut off the warmup tool so it gives a chance for Gmail to reset completely
IMPORTANT: leave the warmup tool running for the entire duration of your link building efforts.
3. Sign Up With Cold Email Outreach Tool
There are a lot of them on the market and I personally tried most of them.
Lately, I’ve been using Gmass (mentioned above) and, even though it has certain flaws, it’s pretty good when it comes to its basic feature – sending outreach emails for building links!
The pricing tier that you need (i.e. “Premium” as it comes with the follow-up feature) currently costs $29.95.
One of the major flaws of Gmass is the absence of a proper interface.
This is when Mailshake comes in with its great interface.
I used to really like the tool but it got bloated with a ton of unnecessary features (IMO) and their pricing went up eventually – $58 (billed annually!).
I am also a fan of Mailmeteor, a newer player on the block, and, as I’m writing this now, they got an LTD on Appsumo (pay $99 and own the tool without any limitations).
Just buy the thing because it has all you need (except for the warm-up feature but you can use Gmass’s warmup tool for free hehe).
Link Building Outreach: Writing Email Pitch
I wrote an entire guide on email outreach, which includes the working template and other tips for increasing conversion rates – check it out!
When it comes to link building, your email pitch makes or breaks your entire campaign.
Far too many people make this complicated but we aren’t like that, are we?
When you pitch a link placement, you need to give something in return.
A bunch of options:
- Money. The easiest option. The only problem – is high authority websites don’t care about that.
- Your SaaS. Perhaps, you can give them a free (limited?) account in return for link placement.
- Guest Posting. I hate guest posts because you are creating great content for someone else (when you could just create it for your website) and the acceptance rate for these is very low. On top that, not infrequently, you have to wait for months before you see your guest posts published! However, it still is a viable option…especially for referral traffic.
- Link Exchange. They link to you if you link to them. In my SaaS link building agency, we use a variation of this strategy all the time!
Now that you know what you are giving them, it’s time to create a pitch + 2 follow-ups.
I’m not going to cover the whole pitch writing topic here but you can find it all in my effective email outreach guide.
Link Building Outreach: Launch!
Now that you got it all set up, it’s time to launch!
I recommend sending out emails so they arrive in your recipient email boxes in the early afternoon.
They’d be done with their morning fires and still be alert enough to hear what you got – use that time frame!
I also don’t recommend sending out more than 100 emails per email or 200 emails per domain because it will affect your sending reputation in a negative manner pretty quickly.
Besides that, adhere to the warmup guidelines so your emails don’t land in spam.
As you are working on building high quality backlinks by sending out emails, you will start getting replies pouring in soon enough.
We put them in the following categories:
- Good. These are the prospects that are happy to place a link if we just pay them – the easiest of all!
- Interested – Link Exchange. This is usually another SaaS company or a SaaS brand that is too looking to build its online presence up by using different link building techniques. We work with them by using A-B-C link exchange, where we have a 3rd party website link to them first after which we get a link from them for our client.
- Interested – Too Expensive. These are good prospects that are simply asking for an obscene amount of money for a link placement (e.g. $200 for a DR54 website). Generally, we try to negotiate with them by offering reciprocal link building or saying that our budget doesn’t allow that price point.
- Bad Quality. No matter how much we try to filter our irrelevant, poor-quality websites, they still make it to the outreach stage. This is now when we cut out the very few of them that are left and end up working with only high-quality websites.
Link Placement & Reporting
When you start getting your contextual links placed, you need to record them using the following data points in your spreadsheet:
- Source URL (i.e. the page the link is coming from)
- Target URL (i.e. these are the target pages you are building links to)
- Anchor text (i.e. the hyperlinked text on the source URL page)
- Domain Monthly Organic Traffic
- Date the link went live
- Optional: Fee you paid
- Optional: type of link (e.g. editorial, link exchange, guest post…)
Overall SaaS Marketing Strategy for Search Engine Optimization
The goal of such a campaign is to build up your SaaS brand’s authority so it can outrank the other websites and acquire all that organic traffic from the search engines.
If you create content (and it must be quality content by default) and complement it with exceptional backlinks, you will get more organic traffic soon.
How soon really depends on where you are at the beginning but you shouldn’t expect any real results during the first 40-90 days of building high quality backlinks.
Generally speaking, you should aim for 10-20 backlinks every month, depending on your budget, niche, and business goals.
Ready to Leave Google’s Graveyard & Stop Dangling on Page 2+?
As you can probably tell, this entire link acquisition process is laborious, time-consuming, and repetitive but…it needs to be done!
I and my team are here to help you get started with building up your SaaS brand in order to drive relevant traffic directly to your pipeline!
After helping several SaaS businesses get more and more organic traffic, we know exactly how to bring you gains…fast.
Don’t let it hang – schedule your intro call today and let’s get’s going!