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Peek Inside the Top 10 Fastest Growing SaaS Companies

Working in a SaaS company, I am always on the lookout for insightful, metric-driven articles to learn from. I recently found an interesting link on Product Hunt created by Tom Blue, Founder of Lead411 called SaaS 1000. Tom has curated a list of the world's fastest growing SaaS startups with over 40 employees, ranked by employee size growth over the past six months. While I was looking through the list, I was working on an internal review of our website after some large upgrades. This got me curious to see how Klipfolio stacked up against the Top 10.

Here are some insights I thought our Klipfolio blog readers would find interesting…

The Top 10 SaaS Startups

First let’s have a quick look at who made the Top 10. Although these are all SaaS startups, you quickly realize it’s a broad spectrum of companies from tools to platforms across many different industries and verticals. This should be an interesting experiment to see what we learn from comparing these startups...

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | the top 10 SaaS startups
Source: http://saas1000.com/
Note: I did not use LogMeIn since they had such a huge employee account compared to all the others in the Top 10 list but wow that is impressive growth.

Website Performance Review

I started the comparisons with two free and very useful ranking tools: Hubspot Website grader and Google PageSpeed Insights.

Bizible would have ranked top with the HubSpot tool but did not have an HTTPS domain (i.e. no SSL certificate) which Google penalizes fairly heavily. I’d be curious to see how their SEO rankings would jump up with that one simple change.

Using the Google PageSpeed webmaster tool, it was not surprising to see Google prioritizes your mobile scores first before reviewing your desktop performance issues. That is a pretty great hint that Google rankings weighs your mobile performance higher as a key metric for success. For those of you who have never used this tool before, it's extremely helpful. It tells you exactly what problems it has identified and, more importantly, provides great advice on how to solve them. Give it a try!

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | HubSpot website grader results

With the Hubspot tool, I picked out three key performance indicators (KPI’s) to share that I thought were interesting because they had to do with website design optimization. Most of the Top 10 websites were successful with the first KPI -- a page size target of under 3MB. With page load speeds we can see only 4 met the threshold of 3 secs and most surprising of all was how we were all guilty with Page Requests. It just shows that we all love our tools and collecting data, so we have way too many things going on when a page is trying to load.

My Key Takeaways:

  1. Meta Tags, Titles, and Headings: While there is still a lot of debate over how much value these basic concepts help with your SEO rankings, it’s simple low-hanging fruit. So don’t get lazy and always remember to tag everything properly -- especially image alt tags and naming images with something relevant. Why, you ask? Very simple, if you optimize your website from an accessibility point of view, then that is what the Google crawlers will see, therefore ranking you higher. So do a quick audit on your Missing Meta Descriptions, Page Titles and Headings. Some of you are probably wondering, aren’t these the basics? Yup, but some fast-growing startups are adding new team members so quickly that they may need a quick refresher on basic website optimization with perhaps a checklist. Plus many of us are guilty that we are launching so many A/B landing pages tests that once we get excited on our winner, we forget to go back and add the proper tags!
  2. Speed is Key: For speed loads, one of the simplest areas for improvement would be to stop going for super high res images. Seriously, how many people are “printing” images off your website? Compress them, compress them, compress them!!! If you’re not already compressing and sizing your images appropriately, then check out Google’s WebP, “a modern image format that provides superior lossless and lossy compression for images on the web. Using WebP, webmasters and web developers can create smaller, richer images that make the web faster.” Speed is much more important than image quality. Remember that Google’s brand relies on how well the websites they recommend perform. Now how many of us want to wait for a page to load? None, right? So let’s look at how the slowest-performing startup, in this case WhiteSource Software, looks when it loads:
    peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | loading screens
    Note: This image result was created using Chrome’s Inspect functionality and simply running an Audit using Lighthouse: https://developers.google.com/web/tools/lighthouse/
    As you can see above, the website doesn’t start loading until around 10s. That’s a long time and many users who are accustomed to fast internet speeds would have started to think that their internet was dropped. The good news is that their website has an impressive 47% bounce rate and most of their traffic is coming from web search, meaning that for the keywords they are ranking for (apache licensing being #1), users are willing to wait and learn how they help.
  3. Reduce your HTTP Page Requests: I know you love add-on widgets just as much as me, but try to remove as much JavaScript and CSS code that interferes with loading above the fold content. When the page first loads, what a user sees before having to scroll down needs to be fast. Really fast. The number of HTTP requests your webpage requires affects page load time, which ultimately influences user experience, bounce rate, and other key metrics. So each time someone visits your webpage, here's what typically happens: Your web browser pings the web server that hosts the webpage which triggers a request that the server send its files containing the content for that page. These are all your files containing any images, text, links, videos, etc. that are used on the webpage. Once your server receives that HTTP request from a web visitor, your server then responds and delivers the files to that user's browser which then gets rendered on their browser. With Bizible having one of the highest number of Page Requests, let’s see what is going on under the hood.
peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | view critical network waterfall
Source: A waterfall performance diagnostic from Chrome’s Inspect functionality and simply running an Audit using Lighthouse: https://developers.google.com/web/tools/lighthouse/

The above Critical Request Chain (21 chains: 14,297ms over 2 requests, totalling 13.75KB) demonstrates what resources are required to first load this page. So to improve the page loading speeds the above chain should be simplified including reducing the number of resources being called especially those dealing with the fonts as these are really impacting the success of this page.

Key Website Metrics

Now let’s benchmark these SaaS companies’ high-level website KPI’s with most of the data coming from SimilarWeb. Something that quickly stood out, is that all these companies URLs were .com and not .co, .io or .ai! If you have seen a study comparing domain names, please reach out and let me know.

My Key Takeaways:

  1. Data is not always as easy to interpret as we all think! Clearly this data shows that August traffic is down for most of these SaaS companies which is most likely due to August vacations. So for many of you webmasters, take note that the Avg visits was -9.82%! Which is why it’s extremely important to track trends and also compare last year’s month vs. last month. (We at Klipfolio do this regularly for many of our metrics to help us better understand and answer the question frequently asked by our Chief Success Officer, Rupert, “Is it me, or is something else?”.)
  2. The Top 10 startups averaged 2:43min website duration, 3.1 pages per visit and 50.45% bounce rate. These are fairly decent benchmarks for you to compare against!
  3. Lastly, there was no real correlation between the success of a startup generating web traffic vs. the number of years a website ranked. Obviously, if your site has been around longer you have more opportunities to develop content, backlinks, etc. However, new startups like Serpstat were quickly able to build out a robust SEO strategy in a very competitive space with some great success.

Keyword SEO Ranking

Using the free version of Spyfu, you quickly realize success definitely does not come overnight! The data showcases that it takes time and effort to build out a strong, defensible online presence. The other thing to note is that once you’re finally ranking for some key keywords you are constantly battling to keep them on the first page. Look at ActiveCampaign where a whopping 312 keywords just fell from the first page, so all of us must be constantly monitoring how to keep our SEO strategies fluid to stay on top.

My Key Takeaways:

  1. Success of getting first page seems to be a 2-4% win ratio! For the total number of organic keywords ranked divided by how many are successful on the first page avg to 3.12%!
  2. Staying on the First Page is tough. We all know how important it is to be on the first page, but it’s a constant battle that probably feels like for every step forward, it’s two back. For as many keywords these startups ranked on the first page, they had almost an equal number of keywords falling off.
  3. Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the startups were driving a significant amount of traffic through organic search.

Top Web Traffic Sources

I debated on sharing this data point, as it is much harder to pull out any meaningful lessons learned. Depending on the startup’s stage, their focus and their challenges having a percent of their traffic generated from one source vs. another, it’s hard to compare. Probably a more useful thing to do with your own direct competitors. But you can clearly see a few things such as who has a high brand awareness due to their higher direct traffic and who is driving much of their traffic through paid display advertising (hopefully they really track their adwords metrics and attribution tied to cohort churns so that they are not burning through cash).

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | traffic sources

Direct traffic should be high, especially for anyone whose product is focused on DAU (Daily Active Users) because people will type/bookmark their page and then login into the application. Also, what looks healthy at first glance would be hard to analyze without a bit more trending data -- as you grow your customers, you will want to grow your other channels even faster as that will help trend/predict your future growth.

Referral Traffic

When looking at the Top 5 Referral sites for each SaaS startup, I was surprised to find that saas1000.com was in 7 out of 10 of the companies!!! Now SaaS1000 is only 2 months old and got its traction from being highly featured on Product Hunt.

Not surprising was the fact that several of the other top referring sites were Review Sites such as Capterra and GetApp.

My Key Takeaways:

  1. Ensure you have a great profile on Review Sites. Here are a few others to check out: TrustRadius, G2Crowd and FinancesOnline. If you are wondering how to get more reviews, it’s fairly simple. After you conduct your NPS scores for those that rank high enough (you can pick your own bar), then you simply trigger an email to go out asking them to share their love for your product with others. A little bribery like free stickers and shirts can go a long way here.
  2. Use job postings to generate backlinks. HR sites provide a ton of useful competitor information but it is also an easy way to get a great backlink from a reputable site! So it’s worth the effort to post jobs on many different sites not only to widen your net for potential candidates, but also to get those nice reputable backlinks.
  3. Building tools and other hot topic sites like SaaS1000 can be a massive traffic generator. SerpStat in this case is fairly unique compared to the other companies in this review since they are a high value tool to start with, yet also provide you free access to try it out by simply entering any url into their tool to see the results.

Social Traffic

Most SaaS companies seem to be focused mainly on one social channel. From the % distributions weights many of them had one social channel delivering more than 70% of their traffic. The winners in order were:

  1. Facebook
  2. LinkedIn
  3. YouTube

Some effective strategies that can be seen across these social channels include: 1) Uploading videos natively in Facebook, 2) Using video ads in Facebook with a call to action to register for a webinar, 3) When posting in LinkedIn try using just text in your post vs including an image (you may find the image gets more likes but the text post gets actual more click-thrus/views where people actually read what was linked) and 4) While YouTube continues to be the dominant video platform of choice don’t forget to experiment on Snapchat where 10 billion (that’s a B) videos are being watched every single day and 100 million hours of video are being watched on Facebook per day. So experiment with different video lengths and messaging styles on each platform with their key social demographic characteristics in mind.

Homepage design for growth

I did a manual review of each homepage just to see what people were doing well and what common things could I find. All had a common call to action of a free trial and most of them seem to offer 14 days with no credit cards. There was a mix of value propositions that focused on key product differentiators or on 3 key use cases and of course some had both. Almost all the homepages included customer testimonials and third party validation from either big name news sites, review sites or analysts.

If you recall, Serpstat had the lowest bounce rate at an amazing 28.13% meaning that 3 out of 4 people continued to explore their website beyond the homepage. This is because their first call to action prompts users to insert their URL to quickly discover what insights the Serpstat tool can provide them. They provide a frictionless experience with no login required, so like most of us we will type in our companies url, so this was Klipfolio’s results:

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | serpstat
Link: Serpstat

So let's dig a bit deeper into the next top 3 websites homepages (Bounce Rate):

ActiveCampaign.com (36.25%)

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | ActiveCampaign

CTA: “Try It Free”

Key Message: “Finally, marketing automation that's powerful and easy-to-use”

Voice of Customer: Yes, Customer quotes and videos at the bottom of the page

Additional Notes: Feature key partner integrations leveraging their brand logos

Algolia.com (42.31%)

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | Algolia

Two CTAs: “Request a demo” and “Create an account (Free Trial - no credit card required)”

Key Message: “Algolia is the most reliable platform for building search into your business”

Voice of Customer: Yes, they show four big brands in how they power their search bars

Additional Notes: Less technical, showcase Top 3 use cases in SaaS, Ecommerce, Media

Instabug.com (44.79%)

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | Instabug

CTA: “Get Started for Free”

Key Message: "In-App Feedback and Bug Reporting for Mobile Apps"

Voice of Customer: Customer logos right under the fold and they include customer quotes near the bottom

Additional Notes: Top 3 features highlighted, they then showcase top 2 Use Cases as well as the logos of big known key integration partners logos

Algolia also designed a beautiful customer testimonial section. Beyond the customer testimonials that are showcased, they do an awesome job of highlighting the key use case for each customer. This is done by changing the button dynamically to highlight what is working for each customer reinforcing the key industries/verticals they target that require their search technology!

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | market leaders choose Algolia

It was also interesting to see 7 out of the 10 SaaS companies had a chat solution enabled on their website. Iterable, Docebo and Bizible were the three startups without a solution enabled. Here is a quick description of chat experience:

  • ActiveCampaign - Chat shows up only on the pricing page with a small icon that says “Chat”
  • Instabug - User must click on the icon in the bottom right corner to engage a dialogue. But on the pricing page it pops up with the msg “Hi there, Do you have any questions about our pricing? I’d be happy to help”
  • SimScale - Chat shows up in the bottom right corner with a msg of “Hi. This is SimScale Account Management. How may I help you?”
  • WhiteSource Software - Has a fairly large pop msg in the bottom right corner that says “Ask us a question!”
  • Algolia - Has a small icon and msg in the bottom right corner that simply says “Need Help?”
  • AutoPilotHQ - Chat only pops up on the pricing page in the left hand bottom corner with the msg “Hi There! What brings you to Autopilot today, and how…”
  • Serpstat - Has a little chat icon appearing in the bottom right corner across the entire site

From a UX experience ensure your chatbots and pop-up messages are properly timed. I think will see a trend with higher bounce rates for websites where they activate a chat bot too soon and intrusively. Allow your audience to settle in and understand your core messaging before hitting them up with the standard how can I help pop-up msg.

My Key Takeaways:

  1. Clearly articulate the value of your solution through use cases, not just a product overview.
  2. Voice of Customer is key and some websites did a great job showcasing them in multiple ways.
  3. With your Call to Action (CTA): Keep it simple and make sure it is obvious your 14-day trial does not require a credit card to help reduce signup friction.

Pricing page optimization strategies

So let’s now look at the the top three pricing strategies of the websites with the highest levels of traffic:

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | Iterable

iterable(1.69M)

No Pricing Available (Sorry but this is a huge pet peeve of mine….) In today’s transparent world, why not give me a small idea that it's even affordable or not for me.

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | ActiveCampaign Pricing

ActiveCampaign (1.69M)

This is a well laid out pricing page where the plans are easy to understand. The only caveat: users quickly realize that the pricing scales with the usage meter on the left. From a psychological point some users don’t deal well with uncertainty which would result in some users bouncing.

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | Serpstat pland and pricing

Serpstat (1.23M)

There is a lot going on this page, it’s truly overwhelming. I would guess that this page gets a fairly high bounce rate compared to their very low performing homepage. Not sure if they are conducting any pricing page experiments, but I definitely think this would be a huge opportunity for the team to grow their startup by creating a pricing test framework!

Most common growth tools

As we saw from how all the Top 10 SaaS companies scored poorly on Page Requests, let’s quickly look at what technologies we can find that are on their websites using BuiltWith.

The list below is very much aligned with a similar study conducted by Drift on the Top 100 Cloud businesses according to Forbes Cloud 100 list:

peek inside the top 10 fastest growing SaaS companies | top 25 tools and technologies used by the cloud 100 come from a few different categories
Source: https://blog.drift.com/cloud-100-report/

So here is the detailed list on what the Top 10 Fastest Growing SaaS companies are using:

BuiltWith Report Email Services Advertising Analytics and Tracking Widgets Others worth noting
iterable Google Apps for Business, Zendesk, SparkPost AdRoll, TwitterAds, DoubleClick, AppNexus, Openads/OpenX, Yahoo Small Business, Facebook Custom Audiences, IponWeb BidSwitch, LinkedIn Ads, Bizo, Pubmatic, Rubicon Project, Index Exchange, Taboola, Google Remarketing New Relic, Google Analytics, Iterable, Google Conversion Tracking, Segment, Hotjar, Rapleaf, Twitter Analytics, Bizible, Twitter Conversion Tracking, LinkedIn Insights, Twitter Website Universal Tag, Bing Universal Event Tracking, Quantcast Measurement, LiveRamp, Woopra, MadKudu Google Font API, Typekit, Font Awesome, SnapEngage, Sitelinks Search Box, Twemoji, Google Tag Manager, Wordpress Plugins, Drift Open Graph Protocol, Twitter Cards
ActiveCampaign Google Apps for Business, Zendesk DoubleClick, Google Remarketing, Facebook Custom Audiences, DoubleClick Bid Manager, Rubicon Project, Pubmatic Google Conversion Tracking, Google Analytics, Active Campaign, Facebook Pixel, Zarget, Heap, Amplitude, Google Optimize 360, Ambassador Google Font API, LiveChat, OptinMonster, Google Tag Manager Vimeo
Instabug Google Apps for Business, Sendgrid, Amazon SES, Intercom Mail DoubleClick, AppNexus, Facebook Custom Audiences, AdRoll, TwitterAds, OpenAds/OpenX, Yahoo Small Business, IponWeb BidSwitch, Pubmatic, Rubicon Project, Index Exchange, Taboola, ONE by AOL, Google Remarketing Optimizely, Google Analytics, New Relic, Heap, Hotjar, Rapleaf, Twitter Analytics, Segment, Wootric, LiveRamp, Google Conversion Tracking Google Font API, Offline JS, OAuth IO, Intercom, Ipify Open Graph Protocol, Twitter Cards, Workplace by Facebook
Docebo Google Apps for Business, Zendesk, SPF, Amazon SES Google Remarketing, Google Adsense, DoubleClick, Facebook Customer Audiences, Bizo, LinkedIn Ads, AppNexus, Aggregate Knowledge, Dstillery, DoubleClick Bid Manager, Pubmatic, Rubicon Project, The Trade Desk, Neustar AdAdvisor, eXelate, Eyeota, Rocket Fuel, Videology, Media Innovation Group, Semasio, Tapad Google Conversion Tracking, Hubspot, Google Analytics, Piwik Web Analytics, Bing Universal Event Tracking, Facebook Pixel, FullStory, Datalogix, LinkedIn Insights, Cross Pixel Media, Lotam Crowd, Signal, Capterra WPML Multilingual, Google Font API, Wordpress Plugins, Yoast Plugins, W3 Total Cache, Slider Revolution, Font Awesome, ThemePunch, Cookie Law Info, Sitelinks Search Box, Twemoji, ShareThis, Simple Share Buttons Adder, WP Missed Schedule, OneSignal, Adobe Connect YouTube, TidalTV, Open Graph Protocol, Canonical Content Tag
SimScale SPF, Act-on Mail, Google Apps for Business, MailJet DoubleClick, Facebook Custom Audiences Google Conversion Tracking, Google Analytics, Act-On, Facebook Pixel, Capterra, Google Optimize 360, Heatmap IT Font Awesome, Google Font API, Google Tag Manager, Yoast Plugins, Sitelinks Search Box, Wordpress Plugins, Twemoji, Add to Any, Intercom Open Graph Protocol, Canonical Content Tag, Twitter Cards
WhiteSource Software Google Apps for Business, Microsoft Azure DNS Google Remarketing, DoubleClick, Facebook Custom Audiences, Twitter Ads, AppNexus, Rubicon Project, LinkedIn Ads, Bizo, DoubleClick Bid Manager, Pubmatic Google Analytics, Google Conversion Tracking, Act-On, Twitter Analytics, Visual Website Optimizer, TrenDemon, Bing Universal Event Tracking, LinkedIn Insights, G2 Crowd Conversion Wordpress Plug-ins, Google Font API, WP Super Cache, Sitelinks Search Box, Twemoji, Google Tag Manager, Autoptimize, AddThis, POWr, Zopim, OptinMonster, WPML Multilingual Open Graph Protocol, Canonical Content Tag, Meta Description
Algolia Mailjet, Google Apps for Business, SPF, Help Scout, Mailgun, DMARC DoubleClick, Twitter Ads, Facebook Custom Audiences Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, Twitter Analytics, Pingdom RUM, Pardot, Hotjar, Twitter Conversion Tracking, Twitter Website Universal Tag, Quantcast Measurement, Facebook Signal Google Font API, Algolia, Font Awesome, Google Tag Manager Vimeo, Twitter Cards, Content Type Options, Open Graph Protocol, Content Security Policy, Strict Transport Security, Adobe Cross Domain Configuration, X-XSS-Protection
Bizible Amazon SES, Google Apps for Business, SPF, DMARC, Salesforce SPF, Microsoft Azure DNS, Zendesk DoubleClick, AppNexus, AdRoll, Google Remarketing, Twitter Ads, Bizo, Yahoo Small Business, IponWeb BidSwitch, Openads/OpenX, LinkedIn Ads, Rubicon Project, Facebook Custom Audiences, Pubmatic, Index Exchange, ONE by AOL, Taboola, DoubleClick Bid Manager Optimizely, Hubspot, Google Analytics, Google Conversion Tracking, Twitter Analytics, Rapleaf, Bizible, CallTrackingMetrics, LinkedIn Insights, LiveRamp, Hotjar, Leadin, Facebook Signal SnapEngage, Google Font API, TRUSTe,Font Awesome, HubSpot Vex, Google Tag Manager, AddThis GoDaddy SSL, HubSpot COS, Salesforce Desk Link, Open Graph Protocol, Canonical Content Tag
autopilot Google Apps for Business, SPF, Message Bus, Zendesk, Sendgrid, Autopilot SPF Google Remarketing, DoubleClick, AppNexus, AdRoll, Bizo, Twitter Ads, Yahoo Small Business, Openads/OpenX, IponWeb BidSwitch, Facebook Custom Audiences, Rubicon Project, Index Exchange, Pubmatic, LinkedIn Ads, Taboola, ONE by AOL, Adskom Google Conversion Tracking, Twitter Analytics, Google Analytics, Autopilot, Rapleaf, Optimizely, Full Story, Hotjar, Heap, Mixpanel, Quantcast Measurement, Bizible, LiveRamp, LinkedIn Insights, G2 Crowd Conversion, Bing Universal Event Tracking Google Font API, SnapEngage, Google Tag Manager
Serpstat SPF, Google Apps for Business Facebook Custom Audiences, DoubleClick.Net, OWOX, Google Remarketing, DoubleClick Bid Manager, Pubmatic, Rubicon Project Google Conversion Tracking, Facebook Tag API, Yandex Metrika, Google Analytics, Facebook Pixel, Hotjar, Smartlook Google Tag Manager, Google Font API, Intercom, reCaptcha YouTube
Klipfolio Google Apps for Business, SPF, Influitive, Zendesk DoubleClick, Twitter Ads, Facebook Custom Audiences Google Analytics, Optimizely, Marketo, Twitter Analytics, Mixpanel, Facebook Pixel, Bing Universal Event Tracking Google Font API, Olark, Google Tag Manager, YouTube IFrame Upload YouTube, Vidyard, YouTube iFrame API,Open Graph Protocol, Twitter Cards, Canonical Content Tag, Meta Robot

It was fun looking at these Top 10 SaaS startups, however I think we would all benefit much more doing this exercise with our own competitors. It was great seeing that all of us had our strengths and areas for improvement, but some of the comparisons provided less insightful than expected since the target markets and type of SaaS companies were fairly different. Should you happen to create one of these yourself, please let me know as I would love to read it.

If you made it this far and enjoy reading these types of analyses, I was inspired to create this blog after reading the following:

Happy reading!

Jonathan

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