SEO has become a catchword in the digital world. As a developer, you may think it's for SEOs and marketers only. But the thing is it touches everyone on the team. Unless you develop rank-worthy software, bringing it to the Google top will be like a deadlift for your teammates. And if your software doesn't get there, it'll lose a lot of exposure to potential customers.
According to the BrightEdge report of 2014, 51% of traffic comes from organic search. Due to multiple changes in Google algorithms, they repeated their research in 2017 to find out if the data was still relevant. Unsurprisingly, their findings showed the same - organic search is still the primary traffic channel, and it doesn't seem to change any time soon.
Since you're playing in the same league with marketers, you can develop software that will be easier to promote to the top. Check out the major SEO practices to keep in mind.
Part 1. How keywords influence your software exposure
The first thing to think of is for what keywords users will be able to find your software. The more keywords it can fit in, the more times it may appear in front of your target audience. If the keyword tool you use gives no suggestions related to your software, it means there'll be nothing to rank it for.
Develop software that will fit in more keywords
Let's say you are going to develop a time management app. Your target audience is people who waste a lot of time, so they will search for the info on how to organize their workflow. The more features your product has for that, the more keywords it will rank for:
- planning wizard - how to plan your business hours;
- email reminder - how to meet deadlines;
- automatic scheduler - how to easily assign tasks, etc.
For maximum exposure, your fellow marketers may want to create a separate page for each feature. As shown in the chart below, a single page can rank for hundreds of keywords. So, "the more, the better" formula works perfectly in this case.
Note that your software is unlikely to rank high for broad queries like "accounting software." They work only for domains with a high domain rating (DR) and tons of traffic. As you can see, sites with 70+ DR hold the first positions in SERP for such a keyword.
To promote your software, content writers will use more specific phrases, aka long-tail keywords. And it's your duty as a developer to make sure your product can fit in them. Here's another example of how feature-rich software can work in your favor.
To fit in more long-tail keywords, you can also make your product compatible with different operating systems and devices.
Another way to boost your software ranking potential is to make it suitable for different audiences (people from different niches, companies of different sizes, etc).
The bottom line is to develop multipurpose software so that it could rank for a lot of keywords. Just note that each piece of functionality must be helpful to users. Don't overload your product with tons of unnecessary features just for the sake of ranking. Even if it drives traffic faster, people may get disappointed with it. Worse yet, some of them may spread negative comments around the web, which will frighten a lot of potential users away.
Understand search demand for your software
The next crucial SEO aspect to note about keywords is their seasonality, i.e. for how long your software will be in demand among searchers. If you build a product for some special occasion, it'll attract new users during a limited time only. The rest of the year, there'll be little to no interest in it.
Let's say you are building an app specifically for the Olympics. Naturally, people will google it shortly before and during the Games. When the event is over, the demand for your app will drop and stay close to zero until the next Olympics. You can track the year-round demand for your products with the help of Google Trends.
Find fresh ideas for your software functionality
Let's face it. The world doesn't need another Snapchat. Instead of re-inventing the wheel that's not even broken, try to figure out what users need today but can't find. It can be either a separate feature or the entire product. If you develop software based on their requests, it will rank for unique keywords that none of your competitors have used yet.
To get an idea about the most sought-after features, go to the places where people share their concerns and seek advice. It can be anything from Reddit and Quora to Facebook groups and forums that you can find with search operators. If some concerns get on your radar way too often, there's probably no software that makes things easier. This is your fair chance to become a groundbreaker in the target field. Just imagine how rewarding your work will be.
Then, marketers will need to comment on those threads. Not only will they spread the word about your product that way, but also attract quality backlinks to it. That's what the next part of the guide is about.
Part 2. How backlinks determine your software rankings
Keywords only tell Google what your software is about, while backlinks can prove its worth. If the engine sees many sites link to your product, most likely they do so because it provides genuine value. Thus, the more backlinks point to your software landing page, the easier it will rank in the Top 10.
Build a free version for your software
A sure-fire way for software to earn backlinks is a freebie. It doesn't mean you'll have to give away your whole product at no cost. You can build it in a way to include there a free version (or plan) with a limited set of features.
Bloggers commonly post compilations of free tools for their readers. Plus, if they have access to your product, they may want to test and review it in a standalone post. But make sure your freebie offers value, not just a few actions per month, after which users have to pay to access more. This bait and switch won't bring you many backlinks, if any.
Moreover, keywords including "free software" get thousands of searches per month, that's why your free plan will definitely pay off.
Supply your software with link bait
Free stuff is not the only bait to get people to link to your software. If you develop a product based on some research like a market analysis or audience survey, it will increase chances of earning backlinks. Content writers link to stats to make their stories well-reasoned and prove they didn't get those stats out of nowhere. So, they may want to link to your software page where research findings are mentioned.
You can also supply your product interface with charts, especially if it has some sort of reporting. This is another type of content known as link bait. Plain text looks boring to readers, that's why bloggers often illustrate the info with visuals and, most importantly, link attribution.
Take advantage of discontinued software
The web is an ever-changing environment. Some digital products come into play, while others get discontinued. If you know that some popular tool is dead, it's a good time to develop an alternative and take its place.
Your fellow marketers will be able to reach out to bloggers who mentioned the dead tool in their posts and ask about a possibility to replace it with yours. It's in the interest of both parties. Your software will get new backlinks, while bloggers will provide timely solutions for their readers.
Feel free to check out more link building strategies that can work for your software promo in this video.
Even though you don't do SEO on your own, the stage of product development can influence its overall success. If you stick to these SEO practices, you'll be able to launch potentially rank-worthy software and do your marketing team a big favor. They'll find it easier to promote it, which will result in more sales and hopefully have a positive impact on your paycheck. Of course, it all depends on the company you work for and their rewarding policy.
This is a guest post by Nick Campbell. Nick is a content marketer and outreach manager at Ahrefs. He is passionate about technology, SEO, and blogging trends. When Nick is not researching a new topic, he's probably at some tech event.