There are not a lot of content creation strategies that are as impactful and rich in ROI as having a template library. I want to share with you the story of the most undervalued asset a B2B SaaS company can create.
And I have data from 800+ SaaS businesses and almost 4000 words to make my case.
I liken SaaS templates to the avocado. The avocado is considered a “super-food” because it’s a type of fat, protein, and fiber source at once.
SaaS templates can be a good source of:
- Organic lead generation
- Product onboarding and education
- Customer retention.
They can have an impact at almost every point in the SaaS customer journey! Especially if you couple that with a product-led growth framework.
And because they are so versatile, it’s easy to miss the big picture.
Stakeholders see templates from different perspectives. It can be either a customer acquisition tactic, a user activation action, or part of customer retention.
Why not all three at once ?
We’re going to go through all these scenarios and give you some examples. And as always, I’ll show you the dos and don’ts ( with lots of examples ).
Templates and product-led-growth
I’ve looked at over 800 SaaS websites – around 63% of them had a multi-touch sales funnel. It’s still the favorite go-to-market strategy for VC-funded B2B SaaS companies in 2021.
And only 23.45% offered Free Trials and 13.66% had a Freemium model.
The SaaS industry is heavily skewed toward a multi-touch sales model, with lots of handholding, demos, and controlled onboarding.
Interestingly 90% of the SaaS companies that had a template library also have a product-led-growth framework.
Product-led growth is a go-to-market strategy that uses the product to generate demand, activate, and retain customers. It’s usually characterized by having a freemium or a free trial model and a self-service customer journey.
That’s why templates have an impact across the customer journey, given that there’s no salesperson or account exec to hold your hand.
Template ROI goes way up when you have a self-serve customer journey where the users need to onboard and educate themselves.
How to achieve organic search growth with a template library
One of the biggest impacts you have by building a template library is on your SEO strategy.
With SEO moving deep into EAT and topical authority territory, it’s important to expand the area of expertise as much as possible.
Template pages help focusing on low volume – high intent keywords that actually target real pain points.
Here are the main reasons you should introduce a template library into your SEO/Content strategy:
- It increases topical authority because you’re enlarging the keyword pool with all these templates on different use cases.
Google’s algorithm loves a broad selection of content themes on a website. You increase your targeting by avoiding over-focusing on product and feature keywords.
By going deeper on subject relevance, not just the *ONE* keyword, you end up growing your topical authority in Google’s eyes.
You gain Google’s trust, it rewards you with higher rankings.
You won’t get higher in SERP by creating more content targeting “project management software”.
- You create landing pages that target high intent long-tail keywords. Not only will you be able to rank higher for those keywords but you’ll have really high engagement.
Would you rather have 5 users from 1000 visitors or 20 engaged users from 100 visitors?
After all, the goal is not to get as much traffic as possible. It’s to get qualified leads!
Most SaaS companies treat template libraries as an afterthought and end up with thin content pages that don’t really rank for anything.
Miro does a phenomenal job at creating useful and engaging template pages.
Google’s algorithm is a fluid network of ranking factors that change from SERP to SERP. But one thing doesn’t change – the algorithm loves a clean structure that is not only deep on a page level but also on a horizontal level.
You can have product/feature pages that talk from a solution perspective, template landing pages that offer a practical implementation of that solution, and blog posts that talk from a top-of-the-funnel perspective.
You create a connected web of different types of content that address a whole topic rather than individual keywords.
Helping users make better choices
Can you make the default option one that nudges new users towards better outcomes?
Most new users have an idea of what they want from the platform.
Users can envision how success within your product might look like. Your ONLY goal in the activation stage of the customer journey is to help users achieve “initial success“.
But what a new user has in mind and what they achieve in the product might be a lot different.
By prioritizing templates in the onboarding sequence, you modify the choice architecture so that the user won’t end up with a blank canvas.
You can make sure to segment users at signup, you can offer them a more personalized experience that resonates with their initial success goals.
Chatbot copy can be intimidating to create from scratch, and Landbot.io has a beautiful library.
While they do nudge you towards templates if you want to create a bot, the onboarding sequence takes through a long and unnecessary walkthrough of most product functionalities.
I think they are missing out on guiding the user through their first chatbot launch by overloading the user with unessential feature information like “Metrics”.
Miro captures the intent and the goals in a 3 step process in order to personalize the choice architecture of the new user.
The next step is choosing a template for your first project.
It’s easier to get your creative juices flowing if you already have some idea of the direction you are going. Especially if you are new to a platform.
You are more likely to activate a user if you control the input and the output of their initial success. There’s a big difference between the capabilities of a new user vs. a power user.
It’s very demotivational to look at screenshots and videos on the landing page and then do an inferior version within the app.
It’s also a big factor in product adoption within an org. Ain’t no way you’re going to share anything if it looks half-baked!
Templates are a core part of UserLeap’s activation stage.
They do have a “New Survey from Scratch” button next to all the templates. But you can clearly see that they are nudging towards a template onboarding rather than a blank onboarding.
By having control over onboarding they control the outcome and initial success.
I also love the fact that their templates are bundled around customer goals. It makes it easier for the end-user to choose what they want to achieve based on their pain points.
The only issue I have with their onboarding flow is that they are prioritizing custom templates as their first pick.
Given that you are fresh to the platform there are no custom templates to be had.
Another solid example of onboarding choice architecture using templates is Guru.
They know starting from scratch will not only hurt the users but also their retention rates.
There is a 2 step onboarding process that gets the right pre-build frameworks in front of you.
In the first step, you’re asked about the department and the role. This step makes sure that they not only display frameworks for Marketing but also for admin-type roles.
Their next step in their onboarding sequence is personalized based on their previous step. You can still start from scratch but they obviously want you to start with a ready-made framework.
Product-led-growth products are dependent on whether the end-user sticks around or not. If your onboarding and activation are not helping them reach their initial success, most likely they’ll go try one of your competitors.
Templates provide a clearer and faster path toward the aha moment and initial success.
Providing value after the “initial success”
It’s the point in the customer journey where most product-led-growth SaaS companies fail.
That’s why you’ll usually see high churn rates.
PLG to educate the users and expand their knowledge on all the use cases of the product.
That’s why SMB users with an NPS score of +9 just leave the platform. They are finished with their initial success.
They achieved initial success. They are done with your product. Until next time.
These are happy customers. But they need to learn how to derive value from your product beyond the initial goal that made them sign up for the product.
It’s your job to educate and nudge users on how they can replicate success within the product.
Here’s where templates and content centered around templates come to the rescue ( yet again ).
End users might feel creative on their first try because they have a goal they want to achieve with the platform. But the next time around is like looking at a blank canvas.
You need to jumpstart their creativity and open their view to all the different applications your SaaS product has.
This is the basic layout for every new project you create within Notion. They make use of the Von Restorff effect to nudge users into enriching their projects with templates.
Beyond all the shades of gray, the colorful templates icon stands out and invites the user to start their project from there.
Another important way templates can be injected into the customer journey is through emails.
Miro sends me tons of emails that tie templates to goals in order to generate recurring success.
I’ve received 7 emails from Miro and 5 of those were about templates.
They know that a happy user is a successful user. And they try to enable success with the fastest and easiest way possible – templates.
All through activation and beyond, it’s good to offer users a reminder to start another project from a template. And it’s even better if it’s personalized based on their role and goals.
These emails act as reminders of what else they can accomplish within your product, beyond their initial success.
Educating and expanding their knowledge about the product can begin right from the activation stage. I would not prioritize this too early as it might steal the spotlight from the primary goal they signed up for.
A step-by-step guide for SEO optimized template libraries
Templates are so versatile that you can create them for any stage of the customer journey and repurpose them as you grow the library.
In this part, I’ll try to go through the main elements of a web template library that is UX and SEO-friendly.
There are two important parts to the template library – the main library interface and the template page itself.
The main template library interface
- Dedicated library menu
Because we’re aiming for a scalable library that could have tens or hundreds of templates, it’s important to be able to browse through them.
The library should have it’s own menu. Separate from the main menu.
Out of all the SaaS websites that have a template library, only 58,54% have a dedicated menu.
It’s not only good from a user experience perspective, but it also offers the library a good taxonomy. The Google algorithm loves structure and pages neatly tucked into folders like:
Exponentially.co / templates / marketing / marketing-template
Trying to visualize the structure and the categories should be part of the initial go-to strategy. It’s easier to research and explore the potential of your template library.
The menu can be on the side as you can see in the Pipefy example, or it can be a horizontal one like MURAL has.
Although I would not go with a horizontal menu if you have too many categories. It makes the scanning process a lot harder.
- Template layouts
The main problem here is to optimize for everybody. It’s hard if your product has a lot of applicability across different roles and industries.
So you need to make it as simple as possible for the user to be able to scan the library.
Keep the template grid at a 3 post width. It’s the ideal dimension in order to not overcrowd the layout. You have to remember that each post has its own image, title and short description.
It’s also good to have the most popular templates for each category highlighted. If the users don’t see what they need, they at least get an idea of what type of templates you’re offering.
It’s also good to highlight your most popular templates at the top of your main library page. From an SEO perspective, this signals the search engine that those pages are important to you and to the users.
- Search bar
This is something that most SaaS template libraries miss out on.
Only 31.71% of template libraries have a search function.
If you have 5-10 templates you might not need that. But if you plan to scale up your template library, it will be harder for users to find what they are looking for.
Pandadoc has over 450 templates. It’s extremely important for them to give users the options to straight-up search for what they need instead of browsing through hundreds of options.
It’s also good to have this type of freeform input field. It gives you an insight into what people are interested in that you might not have.
The template page
This is not only a page with a template. This is also a landing page for visitors coming from search engines.
People who might not know what your product does. The template is your bridge between their problem and your solution.
That’s why templates are a brilliant piece of content. They are basically presenting your software solution in an applicable and understandable way to the end user.
A new website visitor that is not familiar with project management software can see Asana as a platform for event planning, business strategy, board meeting agenda, RFP process.
And so many other applications that you can’t really pitch on a product page.
We’re going to go through a couple of elements that are detrimental to the success of a template page on the web.
- Template page content
43.90% of the SaaS websites that have a library don’t have content on their template pages.
It just breaks my heart when I see template pages without content, or better template libraries that don’t even create unique pages for their templates.
One of the main issues that I’ve seen is just putting an iframe of the template from within the app. There are two problems with this approach:
- Caffeine, Google’s indexing system, has a hard time unwrapping and understanding iframes and JS in general.
- Most of the time, the content of the template is not relevant to the search intent.
Landbot.io has many well-crafted templates, they didn’t really try to add some context around the template. What does it do, who is it for?
Another relevant example is the template pages from Pitch.com.
They have a really beautiful gallery of premium templates. But they use modals to display the content of the template dynamically. And they don’t really offer too much information regarding the template.
Here’s a starting framework to creating SEO & UX friendly body content ( behold, the mythical beast ):
- WHAT – WHY – WHO – It’s easier if you stick to a simple framework for starters. You just have to respond and expand on 3 simple questions:
What is a %template_name%? – It allows you to write a description of what the template is about, the elements, and the definition.
Who is this template for ? – It mentions the relevant departments and industries that are relevant to the template.
Why should you use this template ? – It speaks to the pain points of the user. Why should they care about this template, how is this relevant to the target audience and when they should use it ( it’s actually 3 W’s in one because I wanted to keep it at 3 main questions ).
This framework does 2 things – it splits the content up and creates whitespace to make it more readable and it offers a logical structure for users and search engines.
Of course, you can go wild with the content and add all kinds of particular things. But it’s important to start somewhere.
What I love about the process.st templates is that they are very rich in content and they are also actionable at the same time.
While not the most SEO-friendly page out there, they try to make it as packed with useful information as they can.
- SEO friendly HTML
Again, it’s important to make it as SEO-friendly as possible. And don’t forget some basic SEO rules:
- Title / Meta Descriptions should reflect the content on the page. Don’t skip on that.
- URL slug should be optimized for the template page content. Don’t be shy to go a bit deeper into the folder.
- Use H1s and H2s headings accordingly.
- Use schema.org markups – you can use either Article, FAQpage ( if you have the above-mentioned framework ), or CreativeWork.
- Make sure it doesn’t have a wonky loading speed. Won’t go into all the nuances of core web vitals, but it’s going to be a technical ranking factor soon.
- Compressed images, served at an appropriate size with relevant image alt text
Besides having original and engaging content on the page, I wouldn’t stress too much with on-page SEO beyond the checklist above.
- Related templates and Internal links
From an SEO perspective, internal links are most useful for establishing site architecture and spreading link equity.
From a UX perspective, template pages should be treated as landing pages. As such, the attention ratio should be 1:1. The main goal should be to get the user interested in using the template.
So you need to use internal links sparingly or not at all.
The “related templates” section is one of the few places where you can add internal links without diluting the attention ratio.
Only 43.90% of the SaaS template libraries have a “related templates” section.
Check out Guru’s layout for related templates.
So it’s important to stay away from stuff like dynamically generated links and make sure that the “related templates” section is HTML.
The visual collaboration industry – a case study
The team collaboration software market was valued short of $10B in 2019.
Since the pandemic pushed so many companies into digital transformation, we can assume that number increased drastically.
The main contenders for market share in this market are three big SaaS companies – Miro, Mural and Lucidspark ( but we will focus on Lucidchart for now, as it’s older and bigger ).
I am focusing on these three because they are currently the only competitors that can go head to head in terms of market share growth.
The visual collaboration market is the perfect environment for templates to thrive:
- A product-led-growth framework
- A broad target audience across industry and role
- Plenty of use cases and workflows
- Lots of sun and water
All three companies were founded around the same time, around `10 – `11.
While Miro ( formerly known as RealtimeBoard ) and MURAL were always intended to function as visual collaboration workspaces, Lucidchart is at its core a diagramming platform.
Lucidchart has the advantage of starting early with their template library. What that means is that it allowed for the pages to be crawled, indexed and ranked at an organic pace. And they also gathered a lot more backlinks.
But in the last 12 months, Miro had an explosive growth in terms of referring domains.
While Lucid has millions of backlinks, it’s really the referring domains you should be watching. It doesn’t matter if you have 3 backlinks from one domain or 10k site-wide backlinks.
Miro was able to do this also by being the coolest kid on the block. The colourful and sleek design plus some heavy rounds of VC funding gave it a lot of attention.
I think MURAL lags behind because of its free trial model. Being more restrictive than its competitors makes it a bit more prohibitive for early stage startups and individual users which are the unsung heroes of organic growth.
Less users means less opportunities for your users to remember and mention you on the internet.
In terms of keywords and organic traffic, Lucid is again the leader of the pack.
And this is only for the US.
Lucidchart’s real advantage in this race is the fact that they localized their website and product in 9 languages!
Localization is a big part of Lucidchart’s Marketing organic search strategy.
While they do have a more spray and pray approach to targeting, they manage to rank for almost double the keywords than Miro.
I was surprised to see MURAL lagging way behind on this one. But they do have a lot fewer indexed pages in Google.
They got a long way to go but the good thing is they got the VC funding to scale it up.
The template quality test
While it’s true that Google moves into a direction where it implements things like EAT, CWVs and other fluid ranking factors, the page itself still matters.
At an individual level, I would say Miro wins the quality test.
The pages are filled with great content, they are unique and they are technically optimized for smooth indexation. Let’s look at some examples.
All three websites have a template page for the 5 whys framework.
Miro has a template page “/templates/5-whys/” where they use the 3Ws framework and a blog post “/blog/5-whys/” that links back to the template page.
Lucidchart on the other hand ranks with its blog post “/blog/5-whys-analysis” even though it has a template page “/templates/business-analysis/lucidchart-5-whys-funnel”.
Lucidchart, even though they are trying to hit all the marks, is missing out on basic SEO elements.
The template page has thin content and their blog post is not linking to the templates page from the body content.
Another example of missed opportunity, this time for MURAL. The concept map template is highly targeted by all three.
Miro has it’s /templates/concept-map ranking for #4 and Lucidchart is on #2 with /blog/concept-map-templates ( again, a blog post ).
MURAL ranks on #39 with /templates/mind-maps/. While they don’t really have a specific page to target that topic, Google sees them relevant enough to rank their mind maps template in place.
MURAL should take the hint from Google and start creating specific pages for keywords that they are ranking in the 10-50 range.
All in all, I would say in about 1-2 years Miro will dominate the organic landscape due to its superior content strategy. And this creates a strategic moat around the brand that can’t be easily recreated.
Templates are the swiss army knife of content.
They bring so much versatility to the table, you really can’t f**k it up if you invest time and money into creating a library. Regardless if you’re going to use them as a customer acquisition, activation or retention strategy ( or all three at once ).
With more and more SaaS companies adopting product-led-growth, I’m sure there will be more and more use cases for template libraries.
Many companies don’t stop there. Platforms like Miro and Airtable create whole library ecosystems for user-generated content. Not a lot of B2B companies are capitalizing on this aspect since the Slideshare days.
Think about the applicability of your product. Talk with your power users. I’m sure they have a few ideas about what can be templated.
Don’t wait for someone else in your industry to start doing this before you decide. It will be too late.