During the second half of 2015, we put together a plan to dramatically increase the amount of inbound traffic to our software as a service (SaaS) company's website. In April we were averaging roughly 3,000 visits a day; all of this was coming via existing inbound marketing. We knew that if we could increase our traffic numbers, our daily customer signups would follow the same trajectory. But how could we do this?
Our initial goal was to double this number in just 6 months, so by the end of 2015 we would have roughly double the number of users hitting our site, and double the number of users signing up to use our product, Gleam. Our plan was to attempt to do this with entirely organic growth. No paid acquisition sources, just traffic that we could scale without needing to scale ongoing budgets.
But where do you start? What kind of activity do you focus on? How much content should you write? Most SaaS businesses have many different levers that they can pull to influence growth. In this post I'm going to share with you our favourite inbound tactics that helped us overachieve our rather optimistic goal by more than 50%.
Rethinking Our Approach To Blogging
When we first launched our blog we focused on the fairly narrow topic of sweepstakes marketing. Whilst meaningful to some, we ended up alienating much of the marketing world looking for actionable advice (and crossover into commonly used techniques). We made the decision to rebrand and focus on tactics anyone can use to grow your business. This instantly opened up to a much wider variety of possible content ideas, and really ignited a fire inside the team to build a blog that was both engaging and useful, and helped grow our business.
We didn't write a large volume of articles, but set ourselves the task of writing at least two really epic ones per month. One way we thought about it was to create evergreen articles that would be as relevant yesterday as they are tomorrow -- which means it will consistently bring value for years to come. Much of our new content was built around these 5 content pillars: Engaging, Inspiring, Emotional, Trusted and Simple. Our most successful articles got upwards of 100K views over several months!
So how do you get there? In addition to keeping the 5 content pillars in mind, here are some specific tactics you can use to determine a good topic:
- Use a tool like SEMRush to identify what users are searching for
- Write good long-form articles (at least 1500 words) addressing users' search terms. Get tips on how to get the formula right here.
- Take the time to get your headline right -- they say don't judge a book by its cover but if your title doesn't grab attention immediately you won't get that click through. Use a tool such as CoSchedule's Headline Analyzer to help you here. Here's one we optimised:
- Make your posts actionable -- give users something to do
- Use imagery: visuals break up your content and provide additional color to your content
The result of implementing these tactics drove 40k visits per month to our blog (and it's growing by around 10% each month).
Want ROI? Use Evergreen Content.
I mentioned evergreen content previously, I think it's important to go into this type of content in more detail - if done right it can provide huge ROI. evergreen Content is content that will always be fresh, or can easily be updated to stay fresh based on market changes. Our product focuses on lost of different market segments. Growing your business on social networks, building your email list or just marketing your business. A quick search on Google Keyword Planner reveals that there's just over 6k monthly searches for keywords relating to "How to Grow Your Business".
Once you know the area you want to tackle you now need to think about the sort of content that will provide huge value for that search. For evergreen content this can usually come in the form of a list or a long-form article.
When writing your own evergreen content try to come up with the ten most important words you'd like to rank for in search engines. Then, start building your content around those topics. Your top evergreen content will drive steadily growing traffic to your blog each month -- so invest in it. In fact, our evergreen content makes up over 80% of our total blog visits.
Nurture Your Email Subscribers
Now that we were seeing an increase in blog traffic, we needed a way to continually engage and market to those users. The absolute best way to do this is to pay attention to your email subscriber list. We have grown our own list from 2k to 10k subscribers in the last 6 months. How did we do this?
You need to provide value for the subscriber. What are they going to get from you that will help them?
We decided to see how well our product performed by implementing it on our own blog:
- We created a Growth Tips Newsletter, in which we send out the best tactics to grow your business each month
- We display how many other users are members of our list for social proof
- We make the list feel like an important members only club
- Creating in-post notifications with bonus content
- Creating educational pop-ups that show when users have engaged with a specific article
- Incentivizing users to leave a comment with prompts at the end of the post
Optimising this workflow allowed us to increase our opt-in rate by 1000%: before we were collecting around 10 emails per day via traditional opt-in forms, whereas now we consistently do over 100 (sometimes 500 when running a contest).
Leveraging Integration Partners
We are lucky to have the resource to focus heavily on Integrations. We currently integrate with over 50+ services - including social networks and email providers. But when you integrate with another business there's a couple of ways you can approach it.
- You can silently announce the integration without their knowledge
- You can attempt to work with their marketing department to do a joint launch
One of these methods works much better than the other (guess which one), but also takes a lot more time and effort to execute. Launching an integration properly can allow you to:
- Get exposure on the partners' site
- Get featured in newsletters to increase your reach
- Get the integration announced on social media
- Do joint webinars or case studies
Our current most popular integration has over 5000 joint customers using it.
In fact, you can see a HubSpot writeup their experience with our product. This wouldn't have been possible if we didn't already have a HubSpot integration. Integrations can also allow you to break into adjacent markets. These are new verticals with new types of customers that use your product in a slightly different way, or a complimentary way (when combined with another service). A good portion of our growth can be attributed to tapping into some of these markets in the last 6-12 months:
- Event Marketing (We added an Eventbrite integration)
- E-Sports (We added Steam + Twitch integrations)
- Subscription Boxes - We had the this happen organically via a few big Reddit Posts
Kick-ass Product Guides
An important part of growing your business is understanding the type of content that your core demographic is looking for. For us, many of our customers are looking for guides on how to run a contest. So we built out a whole section with really in-depth guides on what people are looking for.
These guides are read by more than 50k users every month. We also focused on writing guides that show people how to use our product. You'll notice above that one of the guides has been read over 100k+ times in the last 6 months. We link to this guide in:
- Almost every email that we send
- On all social media channels
- In employee email signatures
- In nearly every support email
- Even in our Linked-in profiles
It is vitally important that you have guides that show users the potential of your product.
Write Compelling Case Studies
I don't know about you, but I usually find most case studies really boring. We purposely wanted to make our case studies engaging, so we decided that we would add 5 Key Growth Takeaways to each. Quite often these takeaways are completely unrelated to our product, but they really add value to the case study and make it much more actionable and enjoyable to read. Here's a quick example of just one of the takeaways in a case study:
This has really helped our case studies be....less like case studies.
Run Promotions Utilising Your Product With Partners
Where possible we always try to use our own product to an advantage. This means that if ever there's a partnership opportunity we will try to do some joint marketing or giveaway our own products.
Why do this, I hear you ask? It's possibly the cheapest form of marketing you'll ever do, if you can get free exposure to another businesses entire customer-base and also provide huge value to them. Then it's a huge win win situation. Gleam makes it super easy to do partnership marketing campaigns, just work with your partner to decide on the prize, how you want users to enter. Then get everyone involves to promote the campaign.
If you're stuck for ideas we've created this huge guide on promoting these types of campaigns. Our most recent contest drove over 10k social actions in just 24 hours, with an actual monetary outlay of around $500. When we compared this to the ROI on what we spend on Google or Facebook Ads it outperformed them as a channel by 500%.
Maximise Your In-App Branding
Probably our biggest driver of growth involves users that are exposed to our campaigns that contain branding. This accounts for over 30% of referrals to our marketing site. Over a year ago we split tested our footer branding to see what could be better than Powered By Gleam.
Then we spent almost 6 months split testing which combinations of branding would get the most benefit out of this traffic. We knew as we added more customers we would see the incremental gains come in (and be able to forecast easier).
Things we tested included:
- Widget branding
- Links in emails
- When users interacted with our demos
- Notification emails post entry
- Examples in our guides or blog posts
One caveat here is that this entire marketing channel is much easier to optimise when you have a free user-base. But the downside is that you increase your support costs, your running costs and a number of various other factors to consider. For Gleam though, this method drives an additional 1M+ visitors through our inbound marketing channels every 6 months.
What Can You Do To Get Similar Results?
Obviously every business and website is completely different. My biggest suggestion is to continually test what you think might work, then scale all the things that do work as hard as you can. Here's a quick list of ideas to try:
- Get better at collecting emails
- Get better at sending emails to customers/prospects
- Write more engaging content that is actionable
- Build great docs that really teach your customers how to use your product
- Work on your on-boarding to increase conversion rates
- Build dedicated landing pages for key terms that users search to find your products
- Write guest posts for other blogs in your industry
- Convert your popular posts to slideshare presentations
- Run regular webinars to educate potential customers
Now get to it, and have fun growing your own business! Here's a more detailed look back at how we grew our business in 2015 💪
Originally published May 18, 2016 6:00:00 PM, updated May 18 2016