Published: 31 August 2023
Updated: 20 September 2023
As SaaS founders & marketers, we write content to get paying users.
But, if we want to be efficient with our marketing budget, the type of content we write changes with market evolution.
First, near the birth of the market, investing in educational content (think ‘what is’, ‘how to’, and ‘benefit’ type of posts) is the most efficient investment. The market is unaware. When we mention a new opportunity, they’re excited. Lots of readers are willing to try our software. Conversion rates are high.
We get a lot of users per invested energy.
However, markets then become hyper-educated.
New companies emerge. They copy what others are doing — educating. They add their pot to the stove. Being bombarded with information, novelty & mystery wear off. And because of the influx of new companies, more names get tossed around, and confusion sets in: “Which software should I even try?”
This confusion adds another ‘step’ in the prospect’s journey. The one right before buying.
It creates demand for comparative content.
Comparative Content helps people make a choice of which software is ideal for them.
And comparative content gets conversion rates such as these.
Note: The conversion rate here is a free trial signup. This does vary across industries, somewhere from 2 to 10 percent.
I experienced both stages of Market Evolution firsthand.
In 2023, I co-founded a SaaS startup.
We are in the AI space, helping companies fine-tune their AI models.
Few people even know about AI. Even fewer about prompt engineering. And almost no one knows of fine-tuning. Yet the novelty and mystery are high — we are seeing up to 10% of people who read our educational content try our software. It’s insane. I know it won’t last long. That’s why we’re seizing the moment.
On the other hand, we can’t write comparative content.
There are three other companies in this market. Imagine the field of market awareness. Currently, each one of us occupies an undisputed spot. Our awareness bubbles don’t overlap.
There is no confusion.
In 2020, I was hired as a content marketing manager.
The entrepreneur I worked for acquired a B2B SaaS in a hyper-competitive market. I was to lead the charge to increase monthly sign-ups. I tell that story here. Those were formational months for me. It’s where the seed of comparative content marketing got planted in my mind.
It was a small market, populated with 163 companies educating it.
The brand ‘loyalty’ that comes with educational content lost all power. “Loyal to whom?”, prospects got their education from multiple companies. Brand awareness bubbles overlapped.
Confusion was high.
At the moment of acquisition, our company already had over 200 educational articles. All topics were covered in this small market.
Prospects didn’t need more education.
They needed a guide.
We launched a Comparative Content Marketing Program. The effectiveness I’m seeing with educational content for my startup was the effectiveness I saw with comparative content in the competitive market.
After our success, I wanted to spread the word about my discovery.
But there was no official language I could use.
Creating an Official Definition of Comparative Content Marketing.
As with all good things, Comparative Content Marketing is not new.
It’s been cooking in our collective subconscious for a while.
Underground affiliate marketers have been talking about ‘high buying intent keywords’ for years — most of which are comparative keywords. And a few SaaS companies have already adopted a Comparative Content Marketing program, though they aren’t aware of it.
Since they aren’t aware of what they’re doing, most of those who do it, do it wrong.
That’s because content marketing focused on educating readers, and content marketing focused on software comparisons, are two different types of marketing, with distinct skill sets.
To educate, one needs:
- Writing skill: Conceptual writing.
- Information source: Expert interviews.
- Required intuition: For teaching and explaining.
- The realm of: Teaching methods and teacher’s empathy.
To compare, one needs:
- Writing skill: Product copywriting.
- Information source: Hands-on product testing.
- Required intuition: For product positioning.
- The realm of: Product design, offer analysis, and competitive intelligence.
With this article, we’re taking the idea of Comparative Content Marketing and putting a name to it.
Thank you for being a part of it.
Real-World Example of Comparative Content Marketing.
The Session Replay industry is an old market.
Competitors like Hotjar and Fullstory have been educating it for years.
Organic traffic & number of pages on hotjar.com
Organic traffic & number of pages on fullstory.com
And there are 67 other Session Replay companies doing the same.
Number of product listings in the G2 Session Replay category
Naturally, with so many companies educating the market, this creates confusion: Which software to pick?
(Remember the overlapping awareness bubbles.)
Which means more and more people Google things like “hotjar vs fullstory”.
Now here is the interesting part.
We can see Hotjar targeting this keyword, and ranking #1…
But we also see SessionStack targeting this keyword, and ranking #3.
This is a perfect example of Comparative Content Marketing in action. Used by an established company and a startup — one to solidify its presence as the market leader, the other to carve its spot as a market contender.
Let’s explore their approaches separately.
Why did Hotjar (Market Leader) target this Comparative Keyword?
First, consider who is searching this keyword:
- Curious or disgruntled users of Hotjar
- Curious or disgruntled users of Fullstory
- Confused prospects not using either tool
Which means Hotjar’s goal with this article is either to:
- Keep the user
- Steal the user from Fullstory
- Convince confused prospects that Hotjar is the tool they need
That is no small feat.
Which is why Hotjar wrote a thorough, 4110-word-long discussion comparing Hotjar and FullStory:
Hotjar vs Fullstory, written by Hotjar. Read it here.
They want no concern left unmended, and they want to rekindle the embers of interest in churning users.
Landing Pages — common mistake Market Leaders make with Comparative Content
Most companies target comparative keywords with short & nicely designed landing pages.
(Ones that are typically used for Google Ads campaigns.)
For SEO, that is a mistake.
Landing pages are too short to convey your message effectively. There is little chance you can quell concerns with merely 500 words. Because of that, landing pages don’t rank well. If they do, it’s nearly always because there is no competition for the keyword. And they always fall off with time.
Note that such landing pages do work with Google Ads though, because 1) you’re targeting a different keyword, and 2) people who click on ads have self-selected as interested in your product.
It’s a different environment.
Now imagine if Hotjar didn’t write this comparison — what is the alternative?
Then the comparison article made by their competitors, bloggers, and affiliate reviewers will take the spot.
And they won’t do a good job. They will misrepresent Hotjar’s positioning, do sloppy research, list outdated features, overlook their unique strengths, and claim that Hotjar is made for the wrong type of user.
They’re not malicious, they’re just not incentivized to get it right.
(Still, imagine how much of Hotjar’s time, effort, expertise, and marketing budget would be lost. Imagine all the education, nurturing, and selling that had to happen before a prospect even searches for something like “hotjar vs fullstory”.)
And the competitors are doing it for one reason only: to piggyback off Hotjar’s popularity.
Which brings us to SessionStack.
Why did SessionStack (Startup) target this Comparative Keyword?
SessionStack is also a Session Replay tool.
And if this is your first time hearing about SessionStack, that’s precisely the point.
They’re a new company in an old market. They missed the opportunity to get needle-moving ROI from educational content. They are bootstrapped or operating on a lean budget. There is no way to catch up with Hotjar, who has a 2000 article head start, huge content team, and a honed-in content creation process. Not even with egregious funding.
So what can SessionStack do?
Remember who is searching for keywords such as “Hotjar vs Fullstory”:
- Curious or disgruntled users of Hotjar
- Curious or disgruntled users of Fullstory
- Confused prospects not using either tool
No point claims that users will stay loyal to Hotjar or Fullstory if presented with a better opportunity.
That’s the exact fact I’ve leveraged in SessionStack’s comparative marketing.
You can read the entire article here.
First, right in the intro, I position Hotjar and Fullstory as “best for aggregated user data” and “best for customer journey analysis” respectively. (Note: I’m not gerrymandering. I’ve used the tools hands-on for a week before coming to that conclusion. It’s crucial to be honest, as I’ll explain later.)
Then comes the important part: I give the reader a reason why I included SessionStack in the comparison. In this case, the previous two positionings left a gap for a third type of audience — SessionStack’s Ideal Customer.
Look at everything we’ve achieved in the first three paragraphs:
- We give the reader an immediate, specific answer.
- We honestly give Hotjar & FullStory their own wins.
- We highlight that, for a specific use case, a third tool is a better choice.
Readers are open to our suggestion (Point 3) because we’ve set the expectations that we don’t fluff around (Point 1) and that we are trustworthy since we give credit where credit is due (Point 2).
Throughout the rest of the 4216-word comparison, I present the research backing up my claims.
Results: Despite SessionStack not having any brand awareness—they don’t have educational content or social media presence—they get 2-3 trial signups every 100 clicks, and 1 paying user every 300-350 clicks to comparative content. (More on these results later.)
That’s how a startup, combining comparative content with its unique offer, is able to successfully find loyal users in an established, competitive market.
How you can launch your Comparative Content Marketing Program today.
There are three things you need before launching a successful Comparative Content Marketing Program.
- Keyword Strategy: Figure if Comparative Content Marketing will work in your market
- Expected ROI: Calculate revenue per click from comparative content for your company
- Comparative writing process: Three-step process to create effective comparative content
Before I give you the SOPs for each, I’ll gloss over our service offering, if you’re more interested in that.
My agency & I have been writing nothing but Comparative Content for SaaS companies for the past 3 years. We’ve analyzed 1000s of comparative articles and cracked the code on how to get ranks and conversions. Our content creation process is honed in.
Now, you have three options.
Option 1: We handle everything.
If you would like to:
- Have the very best comparative content
- Have things done right the first time
- Not worry about any of it
Then we can do the entire comparative content marketing campaign for you. However, we can only serve markets that we haven’t served before. We believe in exclusive dedication, and won’t compete with ourselves on identical keywords.
Service includes everything: from research, to content creation, to after-publishing support for a year.
Request DFY service details & pricing by sending me an email to email@example.com
I’ll email them over within 24 hours and confirm if we can serve your market.
Option 2: We coach, you execute.
If you’re on a tight budget, have in-house writers to spare, or are in a market that we already served, then we can coach your team through the nuances of comparative content marketing.
The standard program includes unlimited coaching calls, feedback sessions, and support for 3 months.
Option 3: Read our content, do it yourself.
If you want to figure this out on your own—because of personal achievement, sheer determination, or severe budget constraints—I respect that.
Eventually, I’ll publish all our internal SOPs and how-tos on the website.
After all, we’re here to pave quicker paths to success, not keep secrets.
(However, a word of caution: we have yet to train a writer who could write a perfect comparative article just by reading the SOPs. Although I give my best to write thorough SOPs, there are simply too many details & intuition involved to effectively teach this through one-way conversation.)
In return for using our resources, all we ask is that you share our mission with your SaaS colleagues 🙂
And hey — a little bonus. If your referral ends up investing in our services, we’re happy to create some comparative content at no cost to you. If you’re curious, here are the details of our referral program:
Now let’s dive into the SOPs and kick-start your journey.
Micro SOP-01: The Search Volumes of Comparative Keywords
This example is based on the Session Replay market.
1. Prepare a list of at least 10 popular competitors and drop them into Ahrefs (or SEMrush)
2. Then go under ‘Matching terms’ and add a filter for keywords that include “vs”.
3. Export keywords that compare Session Replay tools to Session Replay tools.
That’s your list of Comparative keywords.
Micro SOP-02: The ‘Keyword Difficulty’ of Comparative Keywords
To find true ‘ranking difficulty’, type the keyword in Google along with “allintitle:” modifier.
This will find all results on Google with that keyword in the meta title. This is essentially content supply. Depending on this number & my past experience, here is how fast you’ll rank:
- 0-20: Expect to rank in the top 3 immediately after publishing.
- 20-100: With exceptional content, you can hit the first page right away.
- 100-250+: It takes a few weeks/months to reach the first page with top-tier content.
Action Step: Combine this data with search volumes, and you got a strong keyword strategy.
Micro SOP-03: Expected Conversions, Revenue, and Value per Click
After analyzing my client’s results across different markets, I can say this:
Expect to get 1 paying user every 300-350 clicks.
To back this up, here’s a dashboard of one affiliate program I’m part of:
- Divide [ARPPU]/350 to get how much your MRR will increase with each click on average.
- Divide [Yearly User Value]/350 to get how much revenue will one click get you in one year.
With this, you can understand that even keywords with ~10 monthly search volume can turn out to be lucrative for your SaaS. Either if your LTV is large enough or if you’re willing to wait a little while longer.
Action Step: Multiply click value with search volumes to get how much each keyword is worth to you.
Micro SOP-04: Write world-class Comparative Content
Three steps that are easy to understand, but take years to master.
To simplify as much as I can:
1. SERP analysis: Analyze existing articles. Look at the ranking history in Ahrefs to see which results are climbing. Write a comparison like that. Then look at which results are declining. Don’t write a comparison like that.
For example, Blue, Orange, and Green (that’s SessionStack) look good. But avoid Purple and Teal.
2. Product Testing: List out the use cases for the software in your market. Help yourself with the marketing claims on their websites. Then do the use cases with each software, side-by-side. Take detailed notes on your experience. Don’t forget about screenshots & gifs.
3. Product Copywriting: Organize your notes into an article structure that looks like the best comparisons from step 1. Over time, after analyzing hundreds of search results like this, you’ll pick up the overall best practices. That’s when you’ll develop an intuition for seriously engaging article structures