CONTENTS

Quick Summary

1. The Average Word Count for is 2,484

2. Using Certain Words in the Title can Help Rankings

3. Using Certain Words in the Meta Description can Help Rankings

4. Keep Comparison Pages within Your Blog

5. Including a Question Mark in the Title can Help Rankings

6. Including a Date in the Title Doesn’t Seem to Matter

7. Search Results are Dominated by Reviews & Affiliate Sites

8. Many “Comparison” Keywords Have a Low KD

9. The Dominant SERP Features Are “People Also Ask”, “Sitelinks”, and “Videos”

Conclusion

Data Source & Access to Data

10 mins

A Data-driven Study on “Comparison” Keywords for SaaS Companies

ClickUp vs Asana. Airtable vs Google Sheets. AWeber vs Mailchimp. Canva vs Visme.

Does this remind you of something?

We bet it does! It’s part of a set of keywords with commercial search intent, called ‘comparison keywords’.

Their main characteristic is the “vs” modifier, which indicates a comparison between two (or more) solutions with similar capabilities.

These keywords are important for SaaS companies, and since we’re serving the B2B SaaS industry, we wanted to dive a bit deeper into what drives organic rankings for comparison keywords.

So, we analyzed 114 comparison keywords for brands like ClickUp, Asana, Airtable, AWeber, Mailchimp, and Canva, as well as the top 10 search results in Google for these keywords.

Here’s what we found.

Quick Summary

Here’s a quick summary of our findings of the comparison pages in the top 10 organic search results:

  • The average word count is 2,484 words
  • Some of the most frequently used words in the title tag are “comparison”, “differences”, and “pricing”
  • Some of the most frequently used words in the meta description are “comparison”, “features”, “compare”, “pricing”, “read”, “reviews”, and “choose”
  • Some of the most frequently used words in the URL slug are “blog”, “compare”, “software”, “comparison”, and “marketing”
  • 64.69% of the organic search results that rank for “comparison” keywords include a question mark in their title tag
  • More than half of the organic search results for “comparison” keywords don’t include a date (e.g., 2022) in their title tag
  • The top 10 results for “alternative” keywords are dominated by review and affiliate sites like GetApp, The Digital Merchant, and Capterra
  • A staggering 95.66% of the top 10 results don’t include a result by one of the compared companies
  • 58.7% of “comparison” keywords have a keyword difficulty (KD) of 0-10, which means they’re still relatively easy to target and rank for
  • The dominant SERP features for these keywords are “People also ask”, “Sitelinks”, and “Videos”

Let’s dive a bit deeper into each of these findings.

1. The Average Word Count for is 2,484

Our study showed that the average word count for comparison pages in the top 10 organic search results is 2,484 words.

Author’s Note: Based on results from data by Screaming Frog.

More specifically, we can see that a staggering 75.25% of the top 10 organic search results have between 1001 and 5000 words.

Of course, we all know and understand that averages aren’t perfect numbers.

However, we believe that the above numbers draw a somewhat clear picture.

We shouldn’t overdo it when it comes to word count. At the same time, we shouldn’t be lazy and create pages that don’t go in-depth when it comes to the solutions we’re comparing.

The number “2,484” shouldn’t be treated as a benchmark, but rather as a general guide as to what’s considered normal for comparison pages.

Key Takeaway: Try to create the best and most comprehensive resource out there without overdoing it on content length and word count.

2. Using Certain Words in the Title can Help Rankings

In the table below, you can find the most frequently used words that articles had in their title tag.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 1014 pages. Data by Screaming Frog.

We can see that search engine users seem to appreciate title tags that indicate a comparison (through the use of words like “comparison”, “differences”, “choose”, and “compare”).

So, in general, these are words that should be included in your title tag.

At the same time — but, not with the same frequency — we can see words like “pricing” are things that people also appreciate in a software comparison.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

An element like pricing is a prominent one and people use it as a factor in their decision-making process.

So, when and if it makes sense to include those words in your title tag, we’d recommend that you do so.

Apart from words, it’s interesting to note that some 2-word phrases that were often used in our dataset were:

  • which is
  • is better
  • is best
  • for you
  • best for
  • the best
  • should you
  • for your

If we had to make something out of the phrases above, we’d say that the ideal search result should be something like this:

Of course, every case is different and every content creation process should start with search intent classification in an effort to understand the dominant intent behind the query, as well as what search engine users expect to see for it.

People nowadays are way more familiar with how search engines work and thus have certain expectations from the searches they conduct.

However, using these words and phrases doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get visibility and visits back to your website.

The reason being we haven’t found a direct correlation between including any of these words and getting higher rankings.

However, in general, using some of these words and phrases as part of your title tags can help in rankings.

Key Takeaway: Use words and phrases that indicate a comparison, along with words like “pricing” (and “features”) which seem to be appreciated in the search engine results.

3. Using Certain Words in the Meta Description can Help Rankings

In the table below, you can find the most frequently used words in the articles’ meta description.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 1014 pages. Data by Screaming Frog.

Results for meta descriptions give us a similar view as the title tags we just saw.

It seems that here as well, words that indicate comparisons are appreciated and are seen more often in the search results.

It’s interesting to note that when it comes to meta descriptions, we’ve seen that words like “features” and “pricing” are more often used than in title tags.

Apart from words, it’s interesting to note some 2-word phrases that were often used in our dataset, which were:

  • for your
  • the best
  • is the
  • for you
  • find out
  • which one
  • help you
  • your business

Taking this a step further, we’d say that the meta description is the place where you can get more creative and even more specific about the audience that you’re trying to reach.

Let’s illustrate using the example we’ve seen above for a comparison between Asana and ClickUp.

If you think about it, some terms that are semantically relevant to these two tools are:

  • project management
  • project planning
  • task assignment
  • goal tracking
  • team collaboration
  • remote work
  • business planning
  • to-do list
  • kanban board
  • sprints

Including some of these terms inside the meta description (and in the body of your comparison page) can help you feed Google’s crawler with semantically relevant terms so it understands that your piece of content is indeed topically relevant to what searchers are looking for.

So, based on our example from above, here’s what the meta description for a comparison between Asana and ClickUp would look like:

Key Takeaway: Use words that indicate a comparison as well as semantically relevant terms.

4. Keep Comparison Pages within Your Blog

It’s good practice to keep your comparison pages in your blog, rather than on a separate page. We found that the most-used word in the URLs we analyzed was the word “blog”, while the second most frequently used one was “compare”.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 1014 pages by Ahrefs.

The fact that the most common word found was “blog” shows us that most SaaS companies and websites (e.g., affiliates) include these pages in their blog.

However, we have a close second here with the results that include the word “compare” in their URL.

This happened mainly because results were dominated by review sites (e.g., Capterra), where one of the folders in the URL slug is “compare”, exactly as shown below:

https://www.capterra.com/appointment-scheduling-software/compare/128285-148036/Acuity-Scheduling-vs-Calendly 

The question, of course, is whether this is a good practice for SaaS companies to follow.

The truth is that there’s no definitive answer here.

In general, we recommend that these pages live on the website’s blog and exist as blog posts, not landing pages.

However, in several cases, we’ve seen a different structure work well for the company that has adopted it.

For example, ClickUp has created a hub page under the following page:

It has all comparisons as cluster pages under that subfolder, as shown below:

And, it seems to be working pretty well for them since it gives this section of the website visibility in high enough positions for both comparison (e.g., “asana vs clickup”) and alternative keywords.

Thus, even though we generally advise keeping all comparison pages under a website’s blog, we can’t say that using a different URL architecture is wrong.

After all, there are many factors that will determine whether you should place everything under the blog or follow a different structure.

Key Takeaway: Use the blog as the place where you keep all comparisons, unless you have serious reasons to follow a different URL structure.

5. Including a Question Mark in the Title can Help Rankings

64.69% of the organic search results that rank for “comparison” keywords include a question mark in their title tag.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 1014 pages. Data by Screaming Frog.

This was by far one of the most interesting findings of our study.

It seems that a very common pattern among the top 10 search results for comparison keywords is to include a question in their title tag.

We can’t really explain why this happens and why search engine users who are commercially investigating feel more inclined towards clicking results that include a question.

However, having tried this tactic ourselves prior to conducting our study, we can confirm that it can have a positive impact on performance.

Key Takeaway: Include a question and a question mark in your title tag.

6. Including a Date in the Title Doesn’t Seem to Matter

60.75% of the organic search results for “comparison” keywords don’t include a date (e.g., 2022) in their title tag.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 1014 pages. Data by Screaming Frog.

Even though 39.25% of results we saw included a date in their title tag, we didn’t see a strong connection between having a date (such as the current year) and getting better results.

Of course, like with other findings of our study, you have to perform search intent classification and see whether there’s a pattern around that element in that particular search engine results page (SERP).

Even though including a date is something that seems to help performance for “alternative” keywords, it doesn’t seem to play a major role in “comparison” keywords.

Key Takeaway: There’s no need to include a date in the title tag unless results in the SERP indicate otherwise.

7. Search Results are Dominated by Reviews & Affiliate Sites

This is something we’ve found in both our “alternative” keywords study and “software” keywords study.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 1014 pages. Some of these results such as G2 haven’t been taken into account as they have blocked our crawler from crawling them and analyzing elements like their word count, title tag, and meta description, which would result in not being able to perform the study. We decided to exclude those results from our study altogether.

On a very practical level, this means that review sites are becoming an increasingly important part of the customer journey when it comes to SaaS.

As a SaaS business, you should try to enhance your presence on these websites and make sure that you’re part of the conversation.

In other words, you should try to get compared to solutions that are similar to yours (AKA your direct competitors).

A great way to do that is by building up a strong presence on review sites, which helps Google identify you as a prominent competitor in that space.

Key Takeaway: Try to bolster a strong presence on review sites. Getting visibility for the keywords you’re interested in through your own assets (e.g., website) isn’t enough.

8. Many “Comparison” Keywords Have a Low KD

Our study showed that the vast majority of comparison keywords have a low KD (keyword difficulty), as calculated by Ahrefs.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 114 keywords. Data by Ahrefs.

This happens mainly because, by design, these pages don’t attract backlinks.

In other words, they’re not easy to link back to or promote as part of your content efforts.

The scope they serve is very specific: getting organic traffic and translating some of that traffic into conversions.

This means two things:

  1. Many “comparison” keywords are (still) relatively easy to target and rank for; and,
  2. You’ll have to find creative ways of acquiring backlinks for these pages.

Regarding the second point, we believe that a great way of acquiring backlinks for comparison pages is through guest posting.

The reason for that is that you essentially have more editorial control compared to other link-building tactics such as email outreach.

Ultimately, this can help you get things off the ground faster since, as we’ve seen, competition for these pages isn’t as fierce as software keywords for other keyword categories.

Key Takeaway: Try to acquire backlinks through guest posts on other websites.

9. The Dominant SERP Features Are “People Also Ask”, “Sitelinks”, and “Videos”

As you can see below, the vast majority of comparison keywords in our study have the features “People also ask”, “Sitelinks”, and “Videos” inside them.

Author’s Note: Based on results from 114 keywords. Data by Ahrefs.

Even if we don’t have as much control over SERP features, there are still some things we can do – specifically for the three SERP features that dominated the organic search results in our study.

Starting with “People also ask”, you can include some semantically relevant questions people ask for the keyword you’re targeting and give short and precise answers without being promotional or including links to your content inside those answers.

When it comes to Sitelinks, there are generally two things you can do:

  1. Include a Table of Contents in your piece of content; and,
  2. Include internal jumplinks for people to jump to specific sections of the page.

We’ve seen that a combination of these tactics can work tremendously well when it comes to getting more real estate in the SERPs in the form of Sitelinks.

An interesting finding is that the third most popular SERP feature among the search results is video.

This isn’t something we expected and something we haven’t seen in previous studies we conducted.

Even though there are several brand and legal implications when it comes to mentioning competitors in one of your videos, it seems that video is a prominent format for these keywords.

Our suggestion isn’t to create a video for every comparison you make, but rather identify the YouTube channels (which, in many cases belong to affiliates) that can make such a comparison for you.

You can make sure to provide the channel with all the tools they need to conduct the review and become part of the conversation.

Key Takeaway: Optimize for SERP features like “People also ask” and “Sitelinks”, and partner up with YouTube channels that can create comparison videos for your business.

Conclusion

There are many questions surrounding “comparison” keywords.

Do they work? What’s the best way to target them? Should you target them in the first place? Can they have a negative impact on your brand integrity? Should you go for a 2-way or 3-way comparison?

All these questions could be answered in a future blog post or a webinar.

For now, we tried to understand what drives rankings for these pages so that you can set up yourself for success.

As long as we all try to advance the conversation around content marketing and SEO for software companies, try and fail, experiment, and find new ways to drive growth, we believe that more and more SaaS companies will experience the value of organic search as an integral part of their growth journey.

We hope that the findings of our study will help you understand organic search a bit better and bring you a step closer to understanding what it takes to drive organic growth for your SaaS company.

Data Source & Access to Data

For the metrics KD, Global Search Volume, Referring Domains, and Keywords, our data provider was Ahrefs. Distribution of SERP features is also something that we got from Ahrefs. For the word count, our data provider was Screaming Frog.

By no means are SEO metrics provided by SEO software such as Ahrefs perfect; you should always take them with a grain of salt.

At the same time, results on the search engine result pages (SERPs) change constantly. This means that we’ll try to repeat our study on a regular basis and update our data to make sure that we provide you with the most up-to-date information.

At this link, you can access the dataset we created and used for this study. For proprietary reasons, anyone with access to this link can only view the sheet.

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