Welcome to our first edition of SaaS Growth Stories, where we decode the playbooks of highly successful global SaaS businesses so others can learn from them & grow. Today, we deep-dive into the marketing strategy of one such SaaS superhero, Zapier.
From a ‘startup competition submission’ in 2011 to a $ 5B empire a decade later, Zapier has undoubtedly come a long way. However, this wasn’t without challenges. Like many middleware SaaS products, Zapier is not “end customer-facing”— The app works behind the scenes to ensure seamless automation and integration of other existing apps. And yet, today, everybody who is anybody in marketing, product, or tech knows Zapier and its capabilities. What made this possible? And how can you replicate their remarkable success? Read along to find out.
6.6 Million visits a month!
As per SimilarWeb, Zapier gets around 6.6M visits every month
More than half of this is through organic search, which means they get 2.6M visits every month organically.
Impressive, isn’t it?
Being marketers ourselves, we deep-dived to figure out what levers they used for this growth, and here are the four key marketing strategies that we zeroed down on:
- Programmatic SEO
- Content Marketing
- Partner Marketing
If Zapier had taken the traditional B2B SEO approach, they would have tried to optimize for their domain keywords like “automation tool” which has a monthly search volume of about 2400. Even if they had captured the whole universe around this KW theme, the search volume wouldn’t still be close to what they are ranking for today.
Then how does Zapier get such huge organic traffic? Well, that’s where their genius programmatic SEO strategy comes into play.
Early on in their journey, folks at Zapier realized that they could leverage keywords of the apps they were integrating with and tap into the search universe of all these apps. And that’s when they decided to create three types of templatized landing pages for each of their partner apps:
- App landing page - A landing page for the app itself like this
- App integration page - A separate landing page for every app-to-app integration, e.g., a page all about connecting Gmail with Slack.
- Workflow/Zap pages - Separate landing pages for every app to app-triggered workflow or “zap” between each app like this
Let us understand this better with an example.
When you land on one of Zapier’s most visited pages, Apps, you are presented with details of every app that Zapier integrates with.
Once you click on the desired app (Gmail in this case), a brief about the app pops up.
You are then prompted to visit the app profile (the app landing page), where you can look at the different apps to integrate with Gmail. This is the first type of landing page - the app landing page.
Notice how they build credibility by showcasing impressive customer logos.
When you click on an app to integrate with, you are taken to another landing page specific to the two apps in question. This is the second type of page - the app integration page.
See how they are prompting users to try the integration with many well-placed CTAs. While many might assume that the persuasion ends with “Try it,” Zapier brings out the next killer strategy: a landing page for each “zap.” That is a unique landing page for each workflow or use case within the apps. This is the third kind of page - the zap/workflow page.
This strategy is used for all of their app integrations. Overall, Zapier has 70,000+ landing pages driving 343,000 high-intent organic traffic per month.
These pages rank on the top 10 search results for 38,285 related keywords driving 13.19% of Zapier’s overall organic traffic. Imagine the organic conversions Zapier might be getting from here.
Wait, but doesn’t Google hate Programmatic SEO pages?
Well, Google hates SEO pages that deliver no value to users. But Zapier is different.
When they started, Zapier leveraged the content shared by their partners to create these landing pages (around 25,000 of them). This meant unique content on each page without Zapier’s editorial team taking much load. However, now they seem to have moved to a more templatized format with minimum content.
While this would have meant a significant dip in traffic for many brands, Zapier still manages to get millions onto their website. Why? We think there are two reasons:
- These landing pages have a total of 24.3 Million backlinks! Way to demonstrate authority to Google.
- These pages are relevant to user search intent. Users find these useful and engage well, sending signals to Google that they are not spammy pages.
Who wouldn’t be happy with this kind of organic traffic and insane numbers, right? Well, here’s the thing: Demand changes. And traffic from programmatic SEO traffic might plateau after a while. The folks at Zapier were smart enough to anticipate this, and they invested in another lever of growth simultaneously— content marketing.
“Content is king,” and Zapier seems to know that. The brand heavily invests in its blog, which drives ~2 Million organic visits every month. That is 72% of its overall organic traffic!
Their content marketing efforts seem to have two goals:
- Demand generation
- Day-to-day user engagement to stay on top of the mind
Demand generation strategy driving 1.5M organic visits per month
There are only so many app integration landing pages Zapier can create. While those pages will help them get BOFU (Bottom Of Funnel) traffic and drive conversions, what about millions of other users who aren’t product aware but are the right TG and have a latent need?
To help generate demand for themselves (and their partners), Zapier came up with yet another brilliant strategy - Listicles. These are the “Best apps to do XYZ” kind of articles that a user would search for while looking for an app. With listicles, Zapier could tap into almost all categories of apps that they partner with. Cool, isn’t it?
Today 170+ listicles drive 58% of Zapier’s organic blog traffic, amounting to ~1.5M visits.
Be it the best screen recorder or the best calendar app, Zapier has a listicle for everything!
What we love is how they managed to interlink these blog posts to other blog posts and landing pages within their website, driving users further down the funnel.
Let us look at the best productivity apps blog post. See how they have placed a prominent banner redirecting users to another blog that convinces users to automate tasks and indirectly creates the need for their product.
Next, you will get to see multiple internal links to app pages or other blog posts that would help the visitor make an informed decision. Remember, Zapier isn’t looking at just informing/educating a visitor– their ultimate aim is to convert the visitor into a user.
Look at how they talk about multiple apps in different categories when the visitor might have just searched for “Productivity apps”. Other very popular types of blog posts from Zapier include the how-tos and the comparison blog posts. They don’t just help the user understand how to use certain apps but also help them choose between two competing apps.
With listicles, Zapier was able to tap into a larger pool of high-volume keywords that are not related to its core business at all.
While the keyword “Zapier” has 3,68,000 average monthly searches, the keyword “screen recorder” has an average monthly search of 6,730,00. With their top 8 listicles alone, Zapier is able to target 14,374,00 search volume keywords as shown below:
Their top 10 ranking content pieces are listicles, they rank for around 52K keywords driving ~ 0.5M organic traffic which is 30% of their organic traffic from listicles.
Engaging content to stay on top of the mind
Unlike Slack, Zapier isn’t a product that users would use every day. To ensure the brand is always on top of the mind of their TG, Zapier focussed on writing blog posts around productivity, well-being, business, and remote work (Yes, they still have a CTA to drive traffic).
In this blog post, they share cool tips for using automation when working remotely and manage to talk about a few zaps! Genius.
If you thought that was all, let us tell you about their strong backlinking game.
Backlinking through link bait content
Zapier has over 24.3 M backlinks from 13.8k domains. In the last six months alone, they have received ~1M backlinks overall!
However, it isn’t enough to just have backlinks— You also need to have backlinks from websites with high domain authority to truly rank on the SERPs. Zapier has backlinks from many high-DA websites.
How do they do it?
They have a two-pronged backlinking strategy:
- Backlinks through partner apps for useful content
- Backlinks through short data reports
Backlinks through partner apps for useful content
Zapier leverages high-intent partner-focused content to garner more backlinks. These could be the integration pages, zap pages, listicles, how-to articles, and the like. This kind of content is widely linked to and is shared by partner apps to increase their own product usage.
For example, look at the Zapier integration on Slack’s app directory.
Backlinks through short data report
Another short, yet powerful link bait content that Zapier uses is the data reports which get picked up by other writers and publishers.
These are short, data-packed blog posts that share key stats on various topics. Let us take the example of the work-from-home report.
This report alone has 439 backlinks. Zapier creates these reports after conducting polls and surveys in association with other research associations.
Additionally, Zapier also ‘outsources’ its link building to its trusted partners. More on this below.
One of the key levers Wade Foster, founder of Zapier, considers a “gift that keeps giving” is partner marketing.
Zapier has a well-planned partner program. With over 5000 integration partners, Zapier has a goldmine for marketing. For example, when they onboard a partner, there are a few activities Zapier recommends the partner do. Look at the image below.
Blogs, emails, social media posts, and whatnot— leading to free promotion, brand awareness, and tons of backlinks! On the backend, what this also does is an influx of inbound leads for Zapier. In an interview, Foster recalls being contacted by the CEO of Box and asking, “Why is Box not on Zapier?” after seeing a competitor talking about it. This has led to a virtuous cycle for Zapier: Adding more integrations leads to more users, and that leads to more new integrations and so on— Ergo— a gift that keeps giving.
Another brilliant tactic they used here was the multi-step Zap— The ability to connect multiple apps within a single Zap. This way, they got giant businesses to promote each other and saw an increase in daily signups by 70%.
Other Prominent Factors that Aided Zapier’s Growth
While the above levers are the main propellers to Zapier’s growth, there are a few other factors that helped along the way.
Product-led growth: Zapier started off as a pay-to-use product but quickly switched to a freemium model. They kept their end-user in mind and built a product with a bottom-up self-serve engine that anyone could use.
Solving a real problem: Zapier’s initial days saw Foster do real grunt work. He would spend hours in customer forums of companies like Basecamp, Salesforce, Dropbox, and Evernote, seeking out people searching for (and complaining about the lack of) integrations with other tools. This led to them understanding what their audience really needed.
Customer Experience: Zapier is highly customer-centric. Over the years, it has built an opulent resource hub with tutorials, webinars, an active community, and more. What more? Everyone at Zapier does customer support. Yes, you read it right. From the CEO to the technology or the marketing person, everyone actively engages in the customer delight and feedback process.
Remote: While a major part of the business world adopted the remote lifestyle during the pandemic, Zapier pioneered the movement by going remote since day 1. This ensured they hired the best people, no matter where in the world they lived. In retrospect, the team at Zapier seems to have known what the future would look like— be it going remote or connecting the booming world of web applications.
Key Takeaways— The RH Thoughts
Before we dive into the takeaways, here’s something we should remember. While these strategies have worked great for Zapier, it might not be the case for many others. You need to evaluate your business and identify the growth levers that would help you accomplish your goals.
Here are a few takeaways from Zapier’s growth:
- Identify any programmatic SEO opportunity that your business might have & leverage it to drive traffic & conversion at scale. If there is no such scope, look for other SEO strategies that fit your business goals. For example, competition alternative pages, comparison pages, glossaries, and the like are SEO tactics that are known to deliver results for many SaaS businesses.
- Customize content strategy to ensure you have a healthy mix of demand gen and brand awareness content. While creating demand-generation content is a part of almost every organization’s marketing strategy, remember to also create brand content that your audience resonates with. It will help you stay on top of the mind of your audience when they aren’t actively looking to buy a solution like yours. And when they are ready, you will be their first choice. For example, if you have an HR Tech business, in addition to writing product-centric content, produce content around your brand and commitments like DEI, employee well-being, and the like.
- Invest in link bait content that can drive high authority links organically at scale. Short research reports, user guides, and the like are great content types that drive an insane amount of backlinks. Figure out such opportunities and invest in these early on.
- Leverage partners to amplify your marketing efforts. Many SaaS brands have found success in co-marketing. It not only helps build a relationship with your partners but also gives you access to their customers, which boosts your brand’s reach. Plan co-branded social campaigns, guest posting, webinars, shoutouts, etc with your partners to increase brand awareness.
- Be customer focussed always - Instead of thinking, “how do I sell this to the prospect?” think, “how can I help solve the prospect’s pain point?” Your marketing should deliver value to your customers. And this can only happen if you are listening to them. Set up a process to ensure regular customer interactions, understand their pain points, words they use, use cases they have, and more. This information will help you create better products and market them well.
Zapier— From a side project to a $5 Billion Empire
Zapier’s success story is a perfect example of how you can build a billion-dollar business with the right marketing strategy in place. From SEO to partnerships, the team has tried out multiple tactics to ensure they are always on top of the SERPs and their users’ minds.