If you are a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider and deliver your product over the Web, then by definition you are Web publisher, so act like one. Web publishers, whether their business is news, games, e-commerce, or a simple blog, are obsessed with increasing site traffic and converting it to registered users. On the Web, there is one and only one source of site traffic: links.
Links from search results, links from search ads, links from banner ads, links from websites, links from blogs, links from feeds, links from widgets, links from bookmarks, links from toolbars–links, links, links. Becoming a hub on the Web means creating a nexus of incoming, high quality links to your website from sources that are relevant to your business, and most importantly relevant to your prospects’ needs. There is nothing else online as cheap or as effective in generating demand.
Links come in two categories: paid/transient and free/permanent. The more free links you have, the fewer paid links you need. Most SaaS vendors immediately jump on the SEM bandwagon to get paid search traffic. They also apply SEO techniques to optimize keywords on their websites, but only obscure keywords are useful without high PageRank, and high PageRank requires (that’s right, you guessed it!) links.
What is your link strategy? Links opportunities abound and arise naturally from your online business, but you have to be conscious of their critical improtance to captialize on them. For example, who is part of your potential online community e.g., customers, partners, investors, employees, colleagues, expert blogs, social networks, events, associations, directories, etc. and have you engaged them in a manner that generates online content and discussion that results in links? Do your traditional online marketing and PR activities generate tons of effective links?
Clicking on a link is often the first step in the online sales cycle. Understanding and improving your Web presence is as important as (more important if you are a startup) improving your sales pipeline close ratios, because you have to get the leads in order to close them. So, are you measuring your Web visibility as acurately as your pipeline? Can you identify a qualified link as effectively as you can identify a qualified lead? Do you have a concrete plan to get more links and increase your PageRank? If not, it is almost certain that the ROI on spending your marketing dollars to increase your organic web presence will be much higher than increasing your budget for SEM or banner ads.
This is post number 3 in a series of 5 on transforming SaaS for Web 2.0 success.