He's the former SEO Manager at SAP and Workday, and the current Head of Growth at Twingate. A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show: Dre de Vera.
Topics discussed on this episode include:
- What’s different about the way that SEO is done for SaaS businesses?
- What are some quick SEO wins that SaaS businesses can typically achieve?
- What is Google looking for from a SaaS business to rank it high for its target keyword terms?
- What are some SEO mistakes that SaaS businesses make?
- What are some newer SEO techniques or strategies that work well, but many businesses aren’t taking advantage of them yet?
- How does SEO fit into an overarching enterprise marketing strategy?
David Bain 0:00
What are the most effective SEO strategies for an enterprise SaaS business? That's what we're covering today with a man who is the star of his very own SEO video show on YouTube. He's the former SEO Manager at SAP and Workday, and the current Head of Growth at Twingate. A warm welcome to the Strategic Marketing Show: Dre de Vera.
Dre de Vera 0:46
Great to be here! Hi, David, how are you doing today?
David Bain 0:49
Very good, and all the better for having you on here! You can find Dre over dre.me. So, Dre, what's different about the way that SEO is done for SaaS businesses?
Dre de Vera 1:03
What's the difference between SEO for SaaS businesses - it depends on the industry that you're in, right? Especially for SaaS, you want to make sure that you are optimising for your product, optimising for those problems, and optimising for all the use cases that your product will solve.
In the case of Workday, we wanted to make sure that our product pages were ranking really well. Yes, we had a blog, but with our product pages ranking really well, it kind of fills in the middle part of the journey when people are searching for different types of software. So that's something that you have to definitely focus on.
David Bain 1:39
Okay, so would you recommend that as a particularly quick SEO win for enterprise SaaS businesses: to actually establish exactly what their products are, the keywords associated with that, and optimising their product pages and the pages that lead into the product pages?
Dre de Vera 1:59
Both, yeah. I mean, you can do that with the pages that lead up to it, like blogs pointing back, but your pillar page will be your product page. It's easy to do research with other enterprise companies - you can look at their product pages and look at that subdirectory and see all those keywords your competitors are maybe ranking for.
Then you can actually kind of apply it and look at the naming of your products as well. I mean, with enterprise companies - even with product marketing - they will come to me and say, ‘Hey, we have this product, what should we call it?’. They may have a name that may not get searched well, and I will throw out, ‘People are actually searching this!’ and I can throw out some ideas to them and, if it fits, they would use it or not.
David Bain 2:37
So, what does a great product page look like nowadays? How much text has it got? What’s the format of the headline? Where do the keywords go? What elements go on the page?
Dre de Vera 2:49
Traditional SEO will work for product pages, but of course, you would have to implement something called schema. Schema is something that we've always used for our product pages. We always want to make sure that we talk to the AI – to Google's machine learning - with schema.
Also, have the H1, H2, and H3 correctly formatted. Talk to your design team, because sometimes your design team will make an H1 something else, make it smaller, etc. One of the things that I have to do with my enterprise companies is to make sure that I'm in line with the design team. Have the outline, and write it out when they have actually created the design.
David Bain 3:26
Great. Yeah, so each one has the tag that goes around the biggest headline on the page and, typically, a designer may actually use that to assist with the styling elements of a page, and you might end up finding that what you think is the headline of the page doesn't even have any heading tags around that. That's a very common issue.
Well, what about other elements that certainly have been important in the past? Things like page titles, and even meta descriptions for clicking through in the page? Are those still highly important elements for the success of an individual SEO page?
Dre de Vera 4:02
Oh, yeah! I mean, with our meta titles and meta descriptions, we treat them almost like ads. This is something where I'd even go to my copy team, we have a dedicated copy team that will help us get that correct, enticing copy for that click, and describe the product while solving the problem.
So, you're getting all this copy that will actually solve the problem, get the click and include the keywords. This is something that we actually paid very close attention to when we were at workday, and it was something that you wanted to make sure that you have very well crafted.
David Bain 4:37
Yeah, I love that. I think that's great advice there. So, incorporate a keyword phrase - the target keyword phrase - within the page title, but the meta description itself encourages click-through rates. So obviously, it's good to be relevant and related to the page title, but it doesn't necessarily include the target keyword phrase if you think it's gonna get higher click-through rates. Is that a reasonable summary?
Dre de Vera 5:01
Exactly. But you also want to make sure you have your call to action in there. Some people always miss a call to action, whether it's ‘view the demo’, ‘view more’, ‘learn more about the product’ or anything like that - make sure you throw that in there. You need to kind of tell them what to do. ‘Yes, I want to learn more, I want to watch that video.’.
David Bain 5:17
You told me before we started recording today that you've been studying copywriting a little bit recently. So, what type of copy, or what phraseology, have you started using more often in meta descriptions recently, that you found has resulted in a higher click-through rate?
Dre de Vera 5:35
It's more using numbers and I mean, this may be cliche, but having the secrets. For B2B, it's a lot different, right? You want to make sure that you have it cutting edge, and you have all these words.
Understanding the buzzwords within an industry is very important. You can go to Gartner reports or Forrester reports, and they usually coin certain terms. Being sure to include those will help you rank for these terms that - maybe they have zero search volume, but the industry is calling it a certain something. Include those in your meta descriptions, maybe include those in your new meta titles, and start ranking for these new buzzwords that these hybrid reports are coming out with, to help you get ahead of the game.
David Bain 6:19
How do you track the success of this? Is it possible, for instance, to split test this as well? So, if you want to introduce a new meta description, do you compare that against another page with similar phraseology, but old phraseology, that you used to use? And what software, if any, do you actually use to be able to compare click-through rates for meta descriptions?
Dre de Vera 6:43
There is software out there, I think it's called CTR testing or stuff like that. There are some other types of software that will do this, where it would actually hook into your Google Search Console, and link everything together. You would still have to change your meta description and meta titles, and then let it run for a couple of weeks, and then change it and do the comparison, but you can do this all manually yourself, right?
David Bain 7:12
So, if you’re going to do it manually, then you'd be able to check the click-through rate of individual pages in Search Console.
Dre de Vera 7:27
David Bain 7:30
Okay, great. So those are some things that work, some on-page changes that you can make to your web pages. What are some SEO mistakes that you're seeing that SaaS businesses make at the moment, and you're putting your head in your hands and you're thinking: ‘They shouldn't be doing that!’?
Dre de Vera 7:50
When it comes to mistakes, I've seen that some people have been doing something that's been big, and Google was big on this - it was the whole Core Web Vitals stuff. A lot of companies were paying so much attention to Core Web Vitals. I personally feel like, when you're trying to optimise for certain things - when you're at enterprise companies - look at your Core Web Vitals. I mean, with SAP, Oracle and stuff like that. They're horrible! They're really, really not up to par with what Google is saying.
So, when you look at your Core Web Vitals, look at your competition - kind of compare it to them - and if you're doing better than them, you should be fine. But yeah, if you're paying too much attention to Core Web Vitals, I think there are a lot of other things you can do that can help you with your SEO.
David Bain 8:26
For anyone that hasn't heard of Core Web Vitals before, this is a set of data that shows how your pages are performing based upon user data. And you can find this data inside Search Console, yes?
Dre de Vera 8:39
Search Console, and there are some chrome plugins and stuff like that.
David Bain 8:43
Great. Let's talk a little bit about where SEO fits into an overarching marketing strategy. What are your thoughts on how SEO has to be involved in the conversation and what kind of conversations you need to be having with other people in the business, what other departments you need to be talking to, and things like that?
Dre de Vera 9:01
I've been an SEO at these huge companies, I've been one of the ones in the market that actually talks to all of the businesses, right? I'm talking to PR to possibly get the backlinks from press releases. I'm talking to social to help us boost some social signals. I'm talking to our copywriters to help us write our metadata. Copywriters are totally different from content writers - they're two different things. Then I'll be talking to our content writers to write certain SEO blogs and stuff like that. Then also talking to our dev team, to make sure and to even get stuff like the Schema App.
You, as an SEO, kind of have multiple arms. You are talking to everyone. Which is fun, because some marketing teams at enterprise companies are hundreds of people, and you get to know each one of them.
David Bain 9:43
Okay, great. I loved a couple of different examples that you’re focusing on there: PR and dev. So, taking the first one, PR, what kind of requests would you have with a PR team? Would you ask them, for instance, to try and get a keyword-rich link? Or is it simply just getting a live link back to someone on your site?
Dre de Vera 10:05
One of the things that I made sure of when I first joined a company - when I get to talk to the PR team - is making sure we have our boilerplate linked up. There's a boilerplate there that would talk about your company and certain keywords. Get those boilerplates linked up all the time.
Then, they would actually ask me, ‘Hey, okay, so what should we also pay attention to when we write some press releases, that we should include?’. I give them a master doc of keywords and pages they should link to, so they can put it in when it does fit. You won’t be talking to them all the time, unless there's a special campaign, so it’s just letting them have that master doc for mapping keywords to certain pages when writing press releases.
David Bain 10:45
Great, okay. And dev teams. I've worked in big businesses before, in SEO departments, and I've had frustrations when I want to make certain changes to the website that I knew would do certain things, like introduce certain heading tags on a page or other elements that would assist more with SEO. However, the changes would take forever to make because they either weren't prioritised by dev, or there wasn't an opportunity at that time to make those changes.
What kind of conversations and meetings do you try to have with dev departments? And how do you persuade them to ensure that SEO is considered when they're making changes to the site?
Dre de Vera 11:34
Literally, buy them some beers and take them out. I swear I've done this before, where we just kind of hang out. Make the dev team your friend. When you have at least some allies within the dev team, and your QA department, it helps a lot. I understand every enterprise company will feel the same way – it does take a long time.
You have to be part of sprints, so make sure that your business case is ready to get in front of sprints, and your user story is ready to go and it’s well thought out. You have to really, really sell your case. I'm here standing up in front of the engineers presenting why we need to do this and the impact on the business. Being able to present your case with the impact will help you get some allies - it will get your stuff added quickly.
David Bain 12:22
Now, you've talked about Workday already, and what you've done with that particular brand, but another brand that you've talked about with me in the past is DocSend. That's an example of an enterprise SaaS business success story, it's a brand that you helped to double page one rankings and increase organic traffic significantly.
What specifically did you do to help them achieve that and what kind of metrics were you really tracking closely all the time?
Dre de Vera 12:46
With this company, they had three main things that they had to do. They wanted to make sure they increased their non-brand visibility, increased organic leads, and then also maintained the rankings. We did different things for each one of those.
We were able to double the page one rankings - double the value of that. The value of being able to show that you’re doubling, let's say, the value of your keywords is it kind of shows the ROI of SEO. Sometimes people think that SEO is free, it's hard to attribute back to it, and people will have second thoughts, but showing the value of what you can bring in with your traffic value is a really key point to share with the business.
As for some of the other things that we’d share with them, we made sure we had our site audits. Site audits include finding striking distance keywords. For those that don't understand what striking distance keywords are: you look and see where the company is actually currently ranking, maybe that's on page two or on the lower part of page one, look at those keywords that those pages are ranking for. If you go after those first, those are gonna be some quick wins to help you increase your non-brand traffic, and even your organic leads, depending on which pages are currently ranking.
David Bain 14:04
Yeah, great tip there as well. Certainly, if you're looking at what's ranking on maybe 5 to 20, perhaps just off page one as you were saying, and you do some quick tactics such as improving the internal linking to that page, that by itself can increase the rankings. Then you can take the ROI, the average traffic to the page or predicted ROI perhaps, to senior marketing leaders to justify greater investment in SEO.
Apart from internal linking are there any other quick techniques that you would use to try and improve those rankings quickly?
Dre de Vera 14:42
Yes. One of the things that I feel like some enterprise businesses leave out are your Google Business Profiles. I've actually set up a Google Business Profile for every single office we had at each of the companies. This way I'm able to even bring backlinks from Google. We put up any announcements that we have in all our offices, any events are also great to put on there.
Making sure you set up your Google Business Profiles is a great way to give a little bit of an authority boost for your company with Google, even though you’re an enterprise company. I was able to have, I think, 13 or 14 different profiles because I had 13/14 different offices around the world.
David Bain 15:20
Let's move on from talking about what works now to actually, in your opinion, what are the biggest marketing trends or challenges for marketers over the coming year?
Dre de Vera 15:30
One of the biggest marketing trends or challenges I feel that marketers should pay attention to is titles - crafting titles. Whether it's a video title, a page title, or ad copy for your PPC titles, these are things that you should really pay attention to and learn.
Bring out the copywriter in you. I have found that, as an SEO, I was always going to the copy team, so this is something that I'm personally learning in order to help myself: to craft better titles, to earn the click, to grab that attention, and hopefully generate a lead.
David Bain 16:03
Absolutely. And work closely with conversion rate departments if you've got one as well because there's so much more competition now than there used to be. If you can increase those click-through rates, if we're talking about organic search results, then that's a great signal to Google to consider improving the rankings of that page in the future.
Dre de Vera 16:20
David Bain 16:22
I’ve been your host, David Bain, and you can find Dre de Vera over at dre.me. Dre, thanks so much for being on the Strategic Marketing Show.
Dre de Vera 16:32
Thank you, David. It was a pleasure.
David Bain 16:35
And thank you for listening. Here at IFP our goal is simple: to connect you with the most relevant information, to help solve your business problems all in one place. InsightsForProfessionals.com
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