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Link building for SaaS: A niche-specific guide for better rankings and traffic

Author: Debbie Chew

an image of author Debbie Chew, accompanied by various search-related iconography

Building backlinks for your SaaS business the same way you would for an online store or a local business is a mistake—one that could end up costing you time and giving you little ROI in return.

From buying cycles to stakeholders to the types of content those stakeholders look at, your link building must cater specifically to the demands of your SaaS company if you want to increase your exposure, rankings, or traffic.

For the past few years, I’ve focused specifically on SaaS link building at Dialpad, working with dozens of clients and enabling me to conduct a study of SaaS link building tactics, which I presented at SearchLove 2023. You’ll find some of those tactics in this article, along with a framework that specifically focuses on what SaaS companies should know about link building.

Table of contents:

The benefits of link building for SaaS businesses

The benefits of link building for SaaS are stronger E-E-A-T, better rankings, and more leads and revenue

Despite any link building myths you may have heard, backlinks play several crucial roles in SEO. They help search engines find and understand your content, as well as evaluate your relation to other websites. I’ve previously written about why link building is important, and now I want to highlight three key benefits in this section:

  • E-E-A-T

  • Better rankings

  • More leads and revenue


Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) is one way that Google measures web page credibility. Google relies on E-E-A-T (amongst other signals) to determine which pages to rank. Links and mentions of your site contribute to E-E-A-T, which can lead to better rankings for your SaaS business.

“Google’s algorithms identify signals about pages that correlate with trustworthiness and authoritativeness. The best known of these signals is PageRank, which uses links on the web to understand authoritativeness.” — Google, How Google Fights Disinformation

Better rankings

If we were to simplify what the SEO process typically looks like for a SaaS company, there are four key steps:

  1. Research keywords to identify what your audience searches for.

  2. Create content for those keywords.

  3. Optimize the content to rank.

  4. Drive signups and revenue, and repeat.

Link building helps contribute to the third step—optimizing your content to rank. Especially in competitive and saturated niches, quality content and a fast-loading site alone may not be enough to rank well, so having quality links to your page can act as a tiebreaker.

Leads and revenue

Let’s say, for example, you’re an SEO at a project management SaaS business. A backlink from a listicle about the “Top 10 Kanban Software” not only increases your visibility to potential leads, but it also makes it easy for them to navigate directly to your site to sign up (and possibly become a paying customer that drives revenue). 

This referral traffic is extremely valuable for SaaS companies. It’s one of those links that you want to have even if links did not matter to search engines.

Going back to search engines, this backlink (and its referring article about the top kanban software) can also help Google understand your company as an entity. In semantic SEO, entities are real-world concepts like people, places, and organizations. Google relies on various sources (including your relationship with other entities) and what others have said about you to understand your SaaS company.

How to get started with SaaS link building

In this section, I’ll cover what you should do before you start building links to your site (outreach and securing links to your SaaS business are covered in the next section).

By now, your site should already have foundational pages (like a homepage, pricing page, and a product page). Unlike local SEO link building, which focuses more heavily on citations and links to the homepage, SaaS link building primarily focuses on SEO pages—pages that target specific keywords your potential customers are searching for. 

Type of website

Link building focus

SaaS business

SEO pages that target specific keywords, such as:

  • Product/feature pages

  • Guides

  • Glossaries

  • Blog posts

  • etc.

Local business

Foundational pages, such as:

  • Homepage

  • About Us page

  • Location or contact page

  • etc.

Online store

Product/service and supporting SEO pages, such as:

  • Homepage

  • Category pages

  • Product or service pages

  • Buying guides

  • etc.

Identifying these keywords requires a bit of research and an understanding of your audience. You can also ask yourself (or your wider team) questions like, “What are decision-makers searching for?” and “What are pain points that our product helps solve?”

After identifying these keywords, you can turn them into feature pages and blog posts that cover the entire customer journey.

The marketing funnel, with various content types associated with various stages of the funnel (i.e., blog posts and videos for awareness, about and contact page for interest, product and case study pages for decision, and shopping cart or form submissions for conversion).

Using the example from earlier (for a project management SaaS), your site should have feature pages that target keywords related to how your product can be used, like [gantt chart] and [todo list]. To address customers higher up in your marketing funnel, you should also publish high-level blog posts that inform or educate your audience on more general topics, like [how to manage tasks] and [what is scrum].

Identify pages that need links

After giving your SEO pages some time to rank, you’ll need to review their search rankings to see how they perform. 

Let’s say, for example, you created a page to rank for the keyword [gantt chart templates] but you’re not ranking on page one.

Assuming you created better content than your competitors, building links to your page can help it eclipse the competition. As you can see in the screenshot below, the top five pages have a handful of domains that link to those pages.

A screenshot of the SERP overview for "gannt chart templates" in Ahrefs
Source: Ahrefs.

However, understand that this does not mean you need at least 90 links from different domains to rank, as the quality of those links may vary (from highly authoritative to nearly worthless). This also doesn’t guarantee that you will outrank competitors if you get that many links. What this does indicate is that Google prefers recommending content that has “proven itself” to be helpful, and those backlinks are an indication of that.

Now, you might end up with a long list of pages that aren’t ranking as well as you hoped—this is normal. So, how do you prioritize? There are a few things you can consider:

  • Pages that have high conversion rates

  • Pages that target keywords with high cost-per-click (CPC)

  • Pages that target keywords with lower keyword difficulty

You should prioritize the metrics that align best with your business or campaign’s goals (e.g., if your primary goal is traffic, then you can prioritize pages based on keyword difficulty). I’ll explain how to actually get links to these pages in the section about how to secure links for your SaaS business.

Conduct a competitor audit

When auditing a competitor’s links, many guides recommend a link gap analysis to help you identify sites that link to your competitors (but not to your website). This data is often difficult to act on since there may be a large gap between you and your competitors, especially if they have strong brands and/or have been link building for much longer.

Other link building guides may also tell you to find your competitors’ links and try to replace them, also known as the “skyscraper technique.” Generally, this tactic doesn’t work so well in practice—particularly when your competitor’s brand is more widely known than yours.

Instead, understand what actually gets links in your niche, why, and then start ideating from there. To do this, find your competitor’s top pages by links (while skipping over any foundational pages, like the homepage and pricing page). If you’re an Ahrefs user, you can use the Site Explorer’s “Best by links” report to find this information (although similar functionality is available on many SEO tools). In the example below, I’ve used this report to explore Asana’s backlink profile:

A screenshot of Ahrefs' Best by Links report for Asana
Source: Ahrefs.

This analysis can help you understand:

  • What types of pages get links: Are they feature pages? Glossary pages? How-to guides?

  • Infer how your competitors earned the link: Was it a guest post? Did they contribute a quote? Did they conduct a study? Was their page much more helpful than others?

  • Which domains linked to them: Can you outreach to these domains? Are there similar businesses you can also reach out to?

I highly recommend analyzing at least three to five competitors, but the more the better as this helps you get a less biased view of how your niche builds links and the pages that they go to. These insights help inform the types of pages to create and topics that you may want to cover for your own SaaS website to earn backlinks.

Create linkable assets

Your competitor audit (from the previous section) should help you understand what page or content types tend to get links in your niche. These are the linkable assets for your specific industry. 

Put simply, linkable assets are pages on your site that others can’t help but want to link to. They may be extremely helpful, unique, informative, authoritative, or all of the above.

Aside from link building to your existing SEO pages, creating linkable assets can help attract links with little to no outreach. In a backlink tactics study I conducted in early 2023, I looked at the top five pages (according to backlinks) for 23 companies in six industries. Of these companies, 19 of them are SaaS businesses and you can access the raw data to see which companies were included.

The most popular page or content type that received the most links were product/feature pages, guides, glossary pages, and research reports.

Top linkable assets for SaaS companies are 1. product/feature pages, 2. guides, 3. glossary, and 4. research

An honorable mention goes to statistics roundups, such as [project management stats]. This is another type of linkable asset that tends to work well no matter what industry your SaaS business is in.

How to secure links for your SaaS business

To build links to your SaaS tool, there are many tactics you can try with varying success rates, difficulties, resource requirements, impacts, and ultimately, ROI

For example, you could sponsor a conference and get a link that way, but those types of links should have a “sponsored” attribute. Also, those links tend to go to your homepage instead of your SEO pages, which may not have much impact on how you rank for non-branded keywords (though it may bring in valuable referral traffic).

Link building for SaaS tends to center around two major concepts: 

  • Creating linkable assets

  • Building relationships

How to get backlinks (for SaaS) are with linkable assets and building relationships

Becoming proficient in these two areas is how you succeed in link building for your SaaS business. Since I’ve already covered linkable assets that can help you get backlinks naturally, I’ll go into more detail about building relationships. This can be split into two target groups: other SaaS companies and journalists/writers.

Building relationships with other SaaS companies

Before going further, I want to emphasize that building relationships isn’t so much striking a deal that’s “if you link to me, I’ll link to you”—Google calls this behavior “excessive link exchanges” in its link spam policies. Instead, you should approach relationships with other SaaS companies with the same care as you would if you were building co-marketing relationships (think demand generation partnerships with other companies with a similar audience).

Essentially, you should not knock on every single door (or accept everyone that comes knocking on your door), but rather filter opportunities that actually make sense for the SaaS brand that you represent and its audience.

Start a list of relevant companies

Some companies/industries will naturally complement your own. Compiling a list of these industries and companies to research will help increase the odds that the relationship works out for both parties.

For a task management SaaS provider, for example, there are a number of other SaaS companies that share a similar audience or provide tools that are also used in project management. For instance, time tracking tools or collaboration tools would be ideal relationships to build and cross-promote. On the other hand, certain niches like telemedicine (e.g., Teledoc) or point of sales systems for restaurants (e.g., Toast) wouldn’t be the most beneficial (or relevant) partners to have.

Once you have a list of potential companies, take a look at their websites. You can use an SEO tool to see what their top organic pages are, or do a site search to see if they have published content related to your industry.

A screenshot of the Google results for the query “site: time tracking” showing two results: “top time tracking software apps,” and “6 best time tracking apps in 2024”
You can conduct a site search using the “site:” search operator.

Then, you’ll need to identify the point of contact to reach out to. This could be the company’s content manager, SEO manager, or someone similar. You can use LinkedIn or an email finder tool to find their contact information. The next step after that is to work on your email outreach.

Define your request

Before you compose your outreach email, you first need to decide on your request. There are typically two types of outreach requests: a link insert or a guest post.

A link insert, also known as a “niche edit,” is when a link is added to an existing web page—typically, these should be informational pages like blog posts or guides. Let’s say you notice that the time tracking tool that you want to collaborate with has a blog post titled “Guide to workplace tools,” which covers the use of task management tools. Your email should explicitly highlight this request.

The other type of request is a guest post, which is when you write a blog post for another website and link back to your own site (guest posts should never be spammy in nature, otherwise the backlink is unlikely to improve your SEO). 

Instead, I’d recommend guest posts as a way to share your company’s expertise with a new audience. Therefore, your end goal should be sharing knowledge that another company’s audience would find helpful—rather than writing a mediocre piece of content in order to get a link to your site.

Email outreach tips

Since email outreach is complex and can be its own standalone guide, I’ve outlined some key points to remember when writing emails for link building:

A graphic, with an image of a shiba inu on a laptop, that says “email outreach tips for link building: the best cold outreach is wa

  • The best cold outreach is warm. As a SaaS product, you may have existing relations with other companies (such as ones that integrate with your app). Cross-promotion with these companies is often the easiest to secure.

  • Avoid using templates and email blasts. Oftentimes, people (especially SEOs) are tired of getting the same emails in their inbox. If you want to build a relationship with another company, personalized outreach is a way to show you value the opportunity to collaborate with their company.

  • Add value. Most link building outreach emails sound something like this: “I saw your blog about X. Can you link to my blog about Y?” This kind of outreach lacks motivation for someone to act on your request. Being able to provide value to the email recipient can help cultivate a win-win relationship. It can be in the form of promoting their blog post in your newsletter, including a quote from their team in a future blog post, and more—just be sure not to offer cash as that violates Google’s guidelines.

  • Personalize and follow-up, but don’t overdo it. Personalization ties back to my earlier point about not using email templates, but you should be careful to avoid coming off as creepy (e.g., “You recently posted about how your brother likes sushi and I like sushi too!”).

Also, following up once or twice is acceptable, but constantly following up increases the risk of getting your emails marked as spam (which can hurt deliverability) or an angry response from the recipient.

Building relationships with journalists and writers

Another group of people that you can build relationships with—and not just to get a link from—are journalists and writers. Journalists and writers often look for experts to quote for a story that they’re covering or a topic that they don’t have expertise in. Journalists are also on the lookout for stories that may interest their readers, and this is where digital PR comes into play.

“As an editor at Search Engine Land, professionals from Microsoft, Google, Yelp, etc. would reach out to me with news from their companies to see if I wanted to write a story about it. I would also reach out to them for quotes about industry developments. These partnerships were mutually beneficial and were far more effective because we had relationships, instead of simply acting transactionally.” — George Nguyen, Director of SEO Editorial at Wix, former Editor at Search Engine Land

Use HARO, Help a B2B Writer, or similar services

HARO, which stands for “Help a Reporter Out,” is a free service that connects journalists to sources. The journalists that use this platform tend to be quite broad, from entertainment to health to technology and beyond, so you’ll need a system to help you filter out irrelevant requests. You can refer to the HARO link building guide for a step-by-step overview of how to do just that. 

Another similar platform is called Featured (previously Terkel) that requires a subscription if you want to answer queries on their platform. If you’re in B2B SaaS, be sure to subscribe to Help a B2B Writer. And if you’re SaaS company based in the UK, you can monitor the #journorequest tag on X (formerly Twitter) to see if there are any relevant opportunities.

When you find a source request that you can respond to, be sure to craft your response according to the requirements and deadline (when applicable). You should avoid using AI content creation tools because those submitting the request are looking for expertise and opinions about a certain topic, not an AI-generated answer.

With this link building tactic, there are some disadvantages you should be aware of:

  • You may not always get a backlink

  • If you get a backlink, it may be to your homepage

  • It may take a while for the quote (and your link, if applicable) to get published

With that said, the advantages of these types of platforms are that they’re a less resource-intensive way to get links. Also, this is a great way to build up a network of journalists that you can potentially reach out to for future PR campaigns.

Run digital PR campaigns

Digital PR is about getting online publications to mention or talk about you. Digital PR campaigns aim to create interesting stories about your SaaS company that relate to topics that journalists want to write about. Oftentimes, they tend to be reactive or latch onto trending topics.

One common example of a digital PR campaign is identifying a recent (or upcoming) event and pulling relevant data (such as a statistic) that journalists can then use to contextualize what’s going on. 

For example, AAA (American Automobile Association) publishes an annual study to predict the busiest days to drive during the Thanksgiving holiday. It releases the study ahead of Thanksgiving and shares it with journalists so that if they’re writing a news article about Thanksgiving travel, it would be very relevant to mention AAA’s findings.

As for a campaign that utilizes a trending topic, here’s one that HubSpot published shortly after the adoption of ChatGPT in early 2023. The company conducted a survey to understand how sales professionals use AI and created a report based on the findings. This report has links from publications like Business Insider and Yahoo! News.

A horizontal bar chart that shows the top benefits from leveraging AI and automation tools from a HubSpot study
Source: HubSpot.

Now onto the pros and cons: Digital PR campaigns are one of your best bets to get backlinks from very authoritative publications—think The Verge or Wired, for example. They’re also some of the hardest links to get, but the advantage is that they have a very wide reach, which can lead to a lot of positive brand exposure and referral traffic. Also, when top-tier publications talk about you, it’s almost guaranteed that mid-tier publications will also do the same. Therefore, it’s a way to potentially get a lot of backlinks and visibility.

On the other hand, digital PR campaigns tend to cost a pretty penny. They’re one of the most resource-intensive link building tactics. And with any tactic, results are not guaranteed, so you’d be taking on risk. Like HARO, another disadvantage to consider is that journalists are not required to link to you (it may even be against their publication’s guidelines). And if they do, you’re either getting links to your homepage or whatever page the campaign is focused around.

Measure and optimize your link building efforts for continued success

Once you begin link building for SaaS, it’s important to also keep a record of your activities.

You might find that certain linkable assets work better than others, which will inform your future strategy. Similarly, you might find more success building relationships with other SaaS companies rather than doing the same with journalists. I’ve previously covered how to measure your link building efforts, including the different metrics that will help you understand the impact that link building has and what areas you can improve on.

Remember that if you’re in a competitive niche, link building (amongst other areas of SEO) is an important lever to stay competitive and improve your organic visibility. Good luck out there, and may the odds be ever in your favor!


Debbie Chew

Debbie Chew is an SEO Manager at Dialpad with over 8 years of experience in digital marketing. She specializes in content and link building, and is passionate about sharing her learnings with other marketers. Twitter | Linkedin

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