Marketing research: SaaS reviews site for business

Online marketing strategy research (Feasibility Study) for launching a software reviews site for small & medium business (SMB)

Part I

1. State of the Market Research

Commoditization of technology

What used to be tech services or hi-end solutions are now becoming more of a commodities. ‘Commoditization’ entails 1) multiplication of supply, 2) standardization of requirements and 3) even greater problem of choice. Likewise, web content management systems (“WCM”), etc are becoming more of a commodity in the digital world. There are hundreds of systems on the market, and it’s hard to find anyone these days with a website that isn’t already employing some form of a WCM system – whether homegrown, open source, or off-the-shelf.

Websites and digital technology are still evolving, so are Search Topics

Topics (and search terms) are ultimately dependant on ever-evolving user’s digital experience. New buzzwords appear quickly. Likewise, Web Content management (WCM) system / platform term appears where there used to be a simple Content management system (CMS).

Another point worth noting is that there are going to appear more ‘wrapper’ terms that overarch customer experience. For example, Customer Experience management (CXM) covers the spectrum of interactions that a customer may have with a company, i.e. it is just a wrapper for any and all platforms that involve the “customer experience” (see below).

What’s the Big Picture?

Customer digital experience touch points define the success of business. As well as tech. The outcome: the marketing technology market is huge, almost too big sitting at a US$20 billion market. It’s no wonder marketers or SME are confused. What software do I need? What does particular software provide? What integrates well with it?

Last month’s Forrester research identifies fourteen key technologies for digital experience. They are listed in the chart below and range from web content management, digital asset management, email and content marketing, e-commerce, mobile and location technologies.

‘Big buys’ customer experience pattern

The Lithium survey found that 81% use an online source to research big purchases, and 67% use at least two different online resources. So, online purchasers hunt for useful information and won’t stop until they found it. It means that it’s more of an issue to make them stop and convert than to simply browse a page.

The takeaways

  1. We’re now in the era of CXM – or customer experience management.

  2. All touch points of customer interaction with a business are apprehended as the enterprise’s points of growth.

  3. System integration is the new focal point of web solutions. Finding ways to tie your systems together to create one unified, manageable, and enjoyable experience for your customers is the key to growth.

  4. Currently there’s no one in the marketplace offering a true CXM solution - specialization still trumps generalization in the web solutions arena, at least for now.

What about small business?

Small business should mean basic… or what? In practice, I have not seen any approach to software reviews that has been scaled down to the needs of small business. So, the question persists… The key takeaway is that small / medium enterprises – SME require a special due diligence when choosing software online. SME vendors are great at marketing.

Another point is Cost and the Scope of the technology. All singing all dancing solutions: some vendors appear to be heading in that direction (Adobe, IBM, Sitecore) through R&D and acquisition of platforms, but the reality is that there are many best-of-breed solutions for each of the systems that CXM encompasses – and most of them are not offered under one umbrella.

2. The vision

The current approach to buying business technology is obviously broken. Buyers spend too much time sifting through spin, reading outdated analyst reports or review websites. Look at the date of pages that give a review on the project – they all have been outdated! Users give them hints and updates right in the comments – this is how it goes.

After all this, buyers still lack confidence in their choice of technology and most projects fail to meet their expectations. It’s all been before and it won’t work at all in the near future. The solution is capturing our collective wisdom. So soon as technology becomes a commodity, purchasing business technology should be as easy as buying consumer products.

The corners stones of the vision:

  1. Crowd-Sourced Wisdom

  2. Attributed Reviews, i.e. review that are attributed in to a Real person

  3. Reward for Wisdom Sourcing and Sharing

The model

Most review sites have been relying on an ‘expert’ review style and a lengthy analysis. Still, it does not withstand the risk of being 1) outdated, 2) one-way, 3) lack of confidence, and, finally, 4) not-as-easy-as-it-should.

The solution is obvious and the signs of it come from different places. has built its review template around the Summary of other reviews on the web. has incorporated Attributed user reviews in the brands page and even put it in the corner of its marketing strategy.

So, the model should combine the crowd-sources wisdom (attributed user reviews) with multi-criteria evaluation report. It also should have a venue for the feedback / conversation – Q&A or the Company’s expert talk. In addition to that, video comparison or how-to tips should be given.

The strategy

As suggested above, business technology boils down to customer experience management (CXM). I suggest that CXM shall become a primary target of your comparison website.

The strategy shall fulfill the Goal of becoming a Final stop of the users’ research for business software purchases. To that end, the site’s page has to give users a confidence in their buying decision. It means the content has to be full, informative and involve users themselves as a source of the collective wisdom.

The customer acquisition plan lies in production of 100% search query relevant content as well as sharing that content through the Social. Content production shall involve users input given through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – Attributed Reviews. User will be encouraged to sing up via Social to see who of his/ her peers have given reviews on the product. Later on, registered user will be encouraged to participate in Surveys to rate their experience with the software as a mean of producing a collective wisdom.

The Crowd-sourced content production strategy hinges on generous Rewards for Wisdom Sourcing and Sharing. It means that a user who participates in a Survey gets an instant gratification – bonus, coupon, etc. Users who leaves an attributed review gets a chance of winning a Prize (software package, etc) – a weekly giveaways that should be shared and marketed via Social as well.

What about experts? In the long haul, you would want to invite 1) company representative or 2) a runner-up blogger / specialist to answer users’ questions on the site. In addition to that, you would want to have expert interviews, stories or news in the Experts Talk section on the web page.

The site’s structure

There are 3 types of Advertisers content:

  1. Product review (for example, Lead Management Tools).

  2. Vendor / Brand Review (for example, Salesforce).

  3. Vendor / Brand 1 to 1 comparison (for example, Salesforce vs. SAS).

In addition to that, there shall be a Non-Profit content, i.e. content that’s not made for conversion but for attracting additional users and serving as a fragment of a larger conversion funnel. Since SMEs fall for the magic of suites / kits I suggest that Non-profit content feature:

  1. Strategy templates

  2. SME startup kits ideas,

  3. Marketing campaign ideas, etc.

A page’s layout shall include 1) main content and 2) supplementary content (navigation, widgets and suggested items).

I. Product review

  1. Overview – before you buy

  2. Brands Comparison Table General

  3. Multi-criteria evaluation report

  4. Q&A

  5. Expert talk

  6. Related external research content

  7. Supplementary content (vendor 1:1 comparison, vendor profiles, etc.)

:: 3: Multi-criteria evaluation report

  1. User overall rating

  2. Review excerpts

  3. Pricing

  4. Usability

  5. Setup

  6. Maintenance

  7. Support, etc

II. Vendor profile (for example, SAS Marketing Automation)

  1. Overview – company whereabouts

  2. User reviews

  3. Product profile (description, link to a relevant external product review)

  4. Pricing

  5. Key takeaways from the Multi-criteria evaluation report

  6. Editorial video review

  7. Q&A

  8. Expert talk

  9. A Twitter vendor talk feed

III. Vendor / Brand 1 to 1 comparison – an excerpt from the Product review

:: 6: Video content usage

According to research of social habits of digital marketers by Leadtail ( of the 15 possible social sources shared, YouTube was number one, followed by Slideshare, Instagram and LinkedIn. So, quality editorial video review is a 1) linkbait as well as 2) a tool to engage SMEs and marketers into a crowd-wisdom sharing.

Content Topics targeting

As suggested above, customer experience management is a good starting point of a site focusing on business software comparison.

Overall, ‘comparison’ predicate is more promising than a ‘review’ one. Search terms featuring ‘comparison’ are less competitive. In addition to that, a good landing page needs a proper comparison table, which is something one needs to plan from the start.

Quite expectedly, most of the review websites have been focusing on ‘expert talk’ instead of producing a comprehensive and easy to read comparison tables. Therefore, carefully planned & well built website should have an advantage here. Review predicate shall still be used on the site’s pages as a header in review-related tabs / sections.

‘Software’ vs. ‘Tools’ term is used interchangeably. Arguably, Google understands that there’s no practical difference as to the meaning between the two. So, both terms shall be used reasonably on-page.

‘Small business’ focus may be done on the level of Online Marketing alone. The search term does not have practical significance to the organic search results.

Search terms formulae

:: 1: {product} [for small business] compare | comparison / reviews

For example, marketing automation software comparison or marketing automation software reviews

:: 2: {brand} vs. {brand} compare | reviews

:: 3: {brand} [{product}] review(s).

For example, ‘dharma merchant services reviews’ or ‘dharma reviews’

:: 4: [best] {product} for small business.

For example, ‘best CRM for small business’

:: 5: {product} {geography}

:: 6: {product} software vendors

For example, marketing automation software vendors

Suggested Advertising topics:

  1. Lead-to-Revenue Management platforms (L2RM)

  2. Marketing automation software

  3. Web Content management software

  4. Customer Experience Management (CXM)

  5. Ecommerce Software

  6. Marketing software suites

  7. Social analytics software

  8. Video marketing software

  9. Customer Relation management (CRM)

Prospective search terms

In my opinion a good starting point is to target lead management, sales, analytics, content management, and video hosting –comparison related search terms.

State of Competition Research

Affiliate software comparison

#1 -> has only 38 pages featuring the search term

Web analytics Comparison

Sales analytics software comparison, Sales management software for small business

#1 -> has only 35 page(s) featuring the search term

Landing page software comparison

#1 -> has only 1 page featuring the search term

A/b testing software comparison

Multivariate testing tools comparison

#1 -> has only 5 page(s) featuring the search term

Lead management software comparison

Real estate lead management software reviews, Lead nurturing software comparison, Lead-to-revenue management platforms comparison, Lead tracking software comparison, L2rm automation platform

#1 -> has only 189 page featuring the search term

In general, lead management goes alone with CXM. Notably, has only about 370 pages related to the whole CXM scene.

Social media software comparison

Social media management tools comparison, Social media analytics comparison, Social media integration tools

The organic search results for ‘Social Media’ & ‘Comparison’ are dominated by that has built virtually the whole website around the theme of Social. The runner-up (#4) has 294 pages mentioning social media & comparison

Yet, they have no page with title featuring Social Media + Comparison. What they do have is 120 pages dedicated to reviews of various Marketing and Social Media tools – it’s just the way they shape Headers:

Marketing automation software comparison

Marketing engagement platform comparison

Here again dominates the landscape. #2 has some 180 pages on ‘automation’ ‘marketing’ and comparison:

Campaign management tools comparison

#2 has only 7 pages featuring ‘campaign management’ and ‘comparison’ terms:

Content marketing tools comparison

Content marketing platforms

#2 has only 8 pages featuring the search terms:

Seo management tools comparison

#2 has only 17 pages featuring the search terms:

Crm tools comparison

Customer engagement platform comparison, Customer relationship management software comparison

#3 ( has some 50 pages featuring the search term:

Video hosting comparison

#1 has only 21 pages featuring ‘Video hosting comparison’ search term:

Key takeaways

  1. The market for CXM software comparison sites is yet has to be shaped

  2. Larger sites like or take use of proper organization of supplementary content, which results in relatively large overall number of pages featuring a search term.

  3. To step in the game a site does not need large number of vendor review pages. 50 vendor reviews will do. What plays the most is navigation (on-page organization of supplementary content), Non-profit content, as well as top quality Comparison landing pages.

  4. ‘Comparison’ predicate is something one shall stick to secure proper online identity and relevance to an array of search queries.

  5. Organization of future product categories is a High Priority – you should know from the start what’s going to be the structure of your content.

  6. It’s prudent to start content production from medium competition search terms, which are not too ‘technical’ though.

3. Competitors overview

Estimated total monthly traffic: ~ 820,000 visits. Including, estimated Mobile daily traffic: ~270,000 visits.

Website traffic is US-biased: 62%.

Search traffic: 82%.

Direct: 11%; Referrals: 3% (productivity & life hacks sites); Social traffic: 2%; Mail <1%

Keywords: ~ 8,000

Daily traffic cost estimate: $351,000

Referring domains: 315; Backlinks: 1.7K

Daily stats below

Top destination sites (most effective affiliate programs):

  1. CRM

  2. Conference calls

  3. Freelance services – design

  4. Online invoicing

  5. Time Clock system

Top-10 organic keywords:

  1. Facebook Ad coupon

  2. Best CRM for small business

  3. Small business blogs

  4. Real Estate marketing

  5. free conference call reviews

  6. insightly vs nimble

  7. insightly review

  8. grand opening ideas

  9. sba loan rates

  10. uline boxes

The key competitor for software review searches:


Other important competitors: family of sites:

Notable competitors in the field (differ by scope):

4. Competitor Content Management Report content management stats:

Overall pages count: 889 pages.

The site has the following content categories:

  1. Reviews - Buyer’s guide

  2. How-to [guides]

  3. Financing articles

  4. Deals: promo

  5. Static pages

  6. Blog

The core difference between Buyer’s guides vs. How-to guides lies in the purpose thereof: How-to guides are essentially a part of conversion funnel of the Buyer’s guides. Likewise, a user from organic search lands on a How-to guide page to read the content and click the article supplementary content: 1) buyer’s guides, 2) generalized table of best small business vendors.

Obviously, the conversion happens there, on destination pages (if at all). Yet, the weakest point is that how-to guides and buyer’s guides and not related, so, predictably, 1) CTR of destination pages is rather low, 2) the overall user experience is undermined.

How-to [guides]: ~ 730 site’s pages featuring buyers guide search term. As suggested above, a distinction between Buyer’s guide and How-to is sometimes thin. The content might enlisted under / accessible from the both categories.

Financing articles: raising money how-tos, widgets (SBA loan) calculator, interviews, etc are intended at promoting loans providers. Arguably, this is the ‘bread and butter’ of the site’s owners since they come from the finance business. Still, the traffic is not there as yet.

Deals are the single page selection of promo options available from different advertisers listed elsewhere on the site.

Static pages are About, How we make money, Privacy, Disclaimer.

Blog is the absolute duplicate page featuring articles enlisted under different categories elsewhere on the site.

Facebook page is not active: 2,152 likes. Twitter has been frequently used to share other’s posts: 2211 followers. Google + is not actively engaging readers also.

Buyer’s guide

The site’s main page contains 9 major buyer’s guides.

All together there are 101 buyers guides, including:

46 guides: software;

31 guides: services.

There are 143 site’s pages featuring buyers guide search term.

A typical structure of a Buyer’s guide:

  1. General Advertisers Comparison Table

  2. When to use each advertiser’s solution

  3. Comparison by criteria (price, customer service, etc)

  4. The takeaway

  5. User Comments

Buyer’s guide Supplementary content: moderate, other buyer’s guide (not related).

Brand reviews

Search term: {brand} [operation predicate] review(s).

For example, ‘dharma merchant services reviews’ or ‘dharma reviews’

Individual product review or Product’s resource page

  1. Whereabouts

  2. Social

  3. Google native reviews & rating

  4. Services

  5. Pricing

  6. Summary of other product-relevant resources on the web

  7. User reviews

  8. Supplementary content

‘Small business Product [review | compare | best, etc]’ search term

Search term: [best] crm for small business. Key takeaway: quite expectedly, ‘small business’ term here is only a qualifying object. So, it does not actually affect the search results, i.e. a page can perform well on search terms with or without a qualifying object.

Key takeaways


  1. Best idea: headers featuring brand 1 vs. brand 2 comparison

  2. Strong focus on keywords targeting

  3. Solid review methodology & page architecture

  4. Most performing content category: Buyer’s guides


  1. The site is not a ‘thought leader’ as it wants to be.

  2. Use of social media is very limited: not Social Media Strategy

  3. Fragmented conversion funnel through How-to [guides]

  4. Only 46 buyers guides (product comparisons)

  5. Weak brand reviews (profiles) lacking expertise and design

Last updated