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

10 mins

Quick Summary

1. Search Results Are Dominated by Reviews & Affiliate Sites

2. Including the Word “Best” Inside the URL Slug Doesn’t Seem to Correlate with Higher Rankings

3. Almost ⅓ of the Top 10 Organic Search Results Include the Target Keyword Inside the URL Slug

4. The Most Prominent Domain Extension was .com

5. Two Specific SERP Features Appeared Most Prominently

6. The Vast Majority of Keywords Have a Low Search Volume

7. The Vast Majority of Keywords Have a Keyword Difficulty (KD) of 21-80


Data Source & Access to Data

This piece of content is the work of a human mind.

For some time now, we have wanted to conduct a study on keywords that include the word “software”.

Why is that? 

Well, as an agency that serves primarily SaaS companies, we have a natural curiosity to uncover any patterns and opportunities that will help our clients—and anyone who’s reading our content—achieve better results from their organic search efforts.

Since software keywords (in most cases) have high commercial intent and are the starting point for creating or assisting in generating conversions, we wanted to dive a little deeper  into the organic search results in our effort to understand what drives rankings.

So, we analyzed 473 software keywords in the US as well as the top 10 search results for those keywords. Here’s what we found.

Quick Summary

  1. An astonishing 42.88% of the top 10 organic search results are either reviews or affiliate sites.
  2. Only 14.80% of these organic search results include the word “best” inside their URL slug.
  3. Almost ⅓ of the top 10 results include the target keyword inside the URL slug.
  4. The most prominent domain extension is .com, with a percentage of 90.67%.
  5. The SERP features, ‘People also ask’ and ‘Sitelinks’ appear most often in the search results.
  6. The vast majority of keywords have a search volume of less than 1000, as calculated by Ahrefs.
  7. The vast majority of keywords have a keyword difficulty (KD) of 21-80, as calculated by Ahrefs.

Let’s take a better look at each of the points outlined above.

1. Search Results Are Dominated by Reviews & Affiliate Sites

As you can see below, 42.88% of the top 10 organic search results that appeared were review sites (e.g., G2, Capterra) as well as affiliate websites and bloggers who seem to have an affiliate relationship with the websites they’re promoting.

Before delving any further, let’s break down each of the page types presented above:

  • Review Site: A website that reviews products OR software and services on the basis of an affiliate relationship. (These are websites that also characterize their content as “content-supported”.)
  • Feature Page: A web page from a software company that’s dedicated to a specific feature or use case of a product.
  • Homepage: The homepage of a website. (Here, we included both software websites and other websites that had visibility in the top 10 search results.)
  • Blog Post: List posts that include different software, where there doesn’t seem to be an affiliate relationship between the publisher and the softwares that it’s featuring.
  • Informational: These are pages with definitions and intent that is (in general) not commercial.
  • Wikipedia: These are Wikipedia entries.
  • Other: Anything that we couldn’t label as one of the types above.

What the above data shows us is that, in most cases, creating a feature page targeting a specific keyword that’s connected to the product’s capabilities (e.g., video editing software) isn’t enough. Even creating a list post alongside it that suggests your company’s solution is the best doesn’t quite cut it.

There are other, more indirect ways to increase traffic for those terms that aren’t controlled by your own website’s visibility and overall performance.

You need to have a strong presence on reviews sites and affiliate sites, since a big number of searches end up on these websites.

Thus, imagine if, for example, you don’t have any reviews on websites like G2 and Capterra, nor an established relationship with affiliates in your category.

That’s a missed opportunity for acquiring referral traffic for your website.

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

2. Including the Word “Best” Inside the URL Slug Doesn’t Seem to Correlate with Higher Rankings

The vast majority of the search results in our study did not include the word “best” inside the URL slug.

This is an important point because both the software pages and list posts (with and without an affiliate relationship) seem to be including the word “best” inside the title tag and meta description.

It’s interesting to note though that the same does not apply to URL slugs.

Thus, with some confidence, we could say that including the word “best” inside the URL slug doesn’t seem to play a role in rankings.

Here, we could add an assumption of ours (so, take it with a grain of salt), which is that a product or service can’t make claims that they’re the best in the market, especially on their feature pages (AKA money pages).

Google is capable of understanding that this claim is biased and thus — especially when done at scale — this is a practice that can cause trust issues for your website.

That’s an assumption, of course, but it’s something that software companies should pay attention to.

Key Takeaway: Don’t include the word “best” in the URL slug of your feature pages since it doesn’t seem to help when it comes to organic search rankings.

3. Almost ⅓ of the Top 10 Organic Search Results Include the Target Keyword Inside the URL Slug

As we can see in the chart below, 27.97% of the top 10 organic search results include the target keywords inside the URL slug.

That’s something we expected, of course.

One of the best (and quite frankly, most basic) SEO practices is including the target keyword as an exact match inside the URL slug.

What we could say here is that when a product has several features with an obvious job to be done (Veed.io is a good example of that), it’s better to put those pages inside a folder – and don’t create a new folder for every page.

This may “push” every feature page one level deeper into the site architecture, but from a practical standpoint and a website crawling perspective, it makes a better practice.

What we mean here is that the site architecture, when it comes to feature pages, should look like this…

  • example.com/features/feature-one
  • example.com/features/feature-two
  • example.com/features/feature-three

… and not like this…

  • example.com/feature-one
  • example.com/feature-two
  • example.com/feature-three

Even though we’ve seen websites get great results from their landing pages without including the target keyword inside their URL slug , we generally recommend including your target keyword inside your URL slug, but without forcing it.
Key Takeaway: Include your target keyword inside the URL slug of your feature pages, but make sure to keep in mind the overall architecture of your website when making selections about the folder structure of your feature pages, and try to not force it.

4. The Most Prominent Domain Extension was .com

It’s evident that the .com domain extension dominates organic search results.

Of course, that may be due to the fact that our target country for this study is the US.

However, in general, the fact that 90.67% of the organic search results had a .com domain extension means that you should optimize for every single point — especially if you’re competing with major players in a category where everything matters (e.g., project management software).

Thus, selecting a domain that doesn’t have a .com extension may not be a good idea.

Key Takeaway: Choose a domain with a .com extension. Domain extensions like .co, .io, or .ai may have been trending for a long time, but they’re not the best for organic search purposes, especially if your target country is the US.

5. Two Specific SERP Features Appeared Most Prominently

Below we can see a distribution of SERP features for the 473 keywords we used for our study.

The ‘People also ask’ and ‘Sitelinks’ SERP features were shown almost half of the time.

What does this mean on a practical level for the way you create content and optimize it for a search audience?

For ‘People also ask’, you can make sure to include questions in your content that people are asking and give clear and concise answers to those questions.

You can also include an FAQ schema to make sure that the answers will be picked up on a meta level as well, although that’s completely optional.

For ‘Sitelinks’, we’d recommend including a Table of Contents with internal jumplinks to each section in your piece of content.

Even though we can’t attribute achieving sitelinks directly with internal jumplinks, we’ve seen it happen for our clients time after time, and now simply recommend it every time.

Key Takeaway: Include questions in your piece of content that people ask and give concise answers to them. Additionally, include internal jumplinks to the sections of your content piece.

6. The Vast Majority of Keywords Have a Low Search Volume

Our study has shown that the vast majority of software keywords have a search volume of less than 1000 searches per month.

In the name of transparency, we need to mention that our data source here is Ahrefs.

The search volumes that we retrieve from Ahrefs — and any other SEO software for that matter — are just estimates, and are by no means absolute numbers.

At the same time, we need to understand that:

  1. In most cases, a page ranks for many keywords. Evaluating a term solely on the basis of its search volume is wrong as we should care about the combined volume of all the keywords that we may get visibility for. However, this is quite difficult.
  2. We have to consider other factors when evaluating a term: the value that a page has from a product marketing perspective. In other words, don’t pay as much attention to search volumes and create the page if you have to.
  3. Even if the search volume for a particular keyword is too low, these keywords have a high commercial intent (and value), which means that the (few) visitors who’ll visit that page are likely to convert or take some action that’s important to you.

Key Takeaway: Always take into consideration other factors when evaluating software keywords under the lens of their search volume.

7. The Vast Majority of Keywords Have a Keyword Difficulty (KD) of 21-80

As we can see below, 80.97% of the keywords we analyzed for our study have a keyword difficulty (KD), as measured by Ahrefs, of 21-80.

Most keywords fall under the 21-60 section of the KD spectrum, which is measured on a 0-100 scale.

While the numbers are affected by the specific keywords we’ve selected for our study up to a certain point, we believe that the above distribution can work as a benchmark and help you understand how high the KD for your own SaaS company is compared to what’s out there.

We wouldn’t say that the above numbers helped us reach any assumptions, rather they can help us understand what’s considered ‘normal’ when it comes to KD for software keywords.

Key Takeaway: You can use the above distribution as a way to understand how difficult your category is compared to other software categories.


Organic search traffic can be a great growth channel for many SaaS companies. There are several examples of SaaS companies that have managed to attain growth using organic search. These are companies that have content marketing and SEO in their DNA.

We believe that for most SaaS companies out there, there are many untapped opportunities for growth through organic search. Some of those opportunities have been highlighted through this study. Others are yet to be found.

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 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 company.

Data Source & Access to Data

Our data source for this study was Ahrefs. By no means is 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 results 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.

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

As stated above, the Page Type table was difficult to create as we had to manually review and label every page included in the dataset. The way each of us labeled and evaluated these pages is different and therefore may have some discrepancies. However, we’ve tried very hard to maintain data integrity, even though it’s a difficult task when there are opinions and interpretations involved regarding how data points can be labeled.

This piece of content is the work of a human mind.

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