Slack’s Bold SEO Strategy: Why It Garners 100+ Million in Traffic

Ever heard of Slack? Of course, you have!

It’s the most widely-used business communication platform on Earth, where crucial work chats happen, and channel productivity sometimes detours through memes and cat GIFs.

Slack turned 10 this year. And with 100 million+ monthly website visitors, its SEO stats are out of this world.

But how did Slack skyrocket to this level of ubiquity? 🚀

Well, Slack’s marketing strategy is diverse and effective, with SEO as an indispensable piece.

Slack’s inbound marketing mainly draws traffic from direct sources. However, thanks to their massive traffic stats, the modest percentage of organic traffic translates to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of visits.

Studying the success of Slack’s SEO strategy can provide valuable insight for any digital marketer looking to improve their own site performance.

In our exploration, we’ll look at the challenges that led Slack to develop their unique marketing approach. We’ll also dive into their SEO strategy and how it fits into their overall digital marketing plan.

You’ll Learn About:

Slack’s SEO Challenges
How the Slack SEO Strategy Contributes Across 9 Traffic Sources
Key Takeaways from Slack’s SEO Strategy

Let’s dive right in!

Slack’s SEO Challenges

Slack entered the B2B software scene with a rock-solid product addressing a clear gap in the market.

However, it faced two main challenges that would define its SEO approach:

  1. Its broad ideal customer profile (ICP): Slack is aimed at businesses in general. Any large or small business in any industry can use Slack.

    That’s great for their potential user base. But it created a challenge for their content marketing team — figuring out how to target and attract every buyer persona and business type with such a wide net.

    It would take an enormous amount of time and effort to create content for every use case. On the other hand, marketing to the business sector in its entirety could be too vague.
  1. The success of its word-of-mouth marketing: Slack started its journey with a highly effective word-of-mouth push.

    Again, this was enormously advantageous, but it created an environment where a traditional approach to SEO would be redundant.

    They already had brand awareness. A potential customer didn’t need to see 10 TOFU (top-of-funnel) articles about “improving workplace communication” or “best B2B messaging apps” to warm up to Slack.

Slack’s SEO experts needed to create their own roadmap rather than simply following the SEO 101 playbook to the letter.

So, let’s assess their approach.

How the Slack SEO Strategy Contributes Across 9 Traffic Sources

These are nine methods that Slack used to acquire more traffic than a Los Angeles highway:

1. Direct Traffic from Word-of-Mouth

Slack’s first order of business with their MVP (minimum viable product) was making the most of networking opportunities to encourage everyone they know to try Slack. They also gathered testimonials from these first pseudo-beta testers.

Press releases came next, with a captivating declaration that Slack wanted to “kill email”.

From there, the conversation rose into a crescendo of social media chatter.

In 2013, the public was able to request a Slack invite. 
Incredibly, 8,000 people signed up on the first day!

In another thoughtful move, Slack encouraged its early users to invite others to the app. And they persisted with social media marketing and some creative podcasting.

Aside from an impeccable start for Slack’s user base, this media strategy also meant that Slack’s name was out there – easy to remember and quick to type in. 

The result?

Take a look at Slack’s traffic sources today:

About 95% of its website traffic is direct traffic from people typing in the URL, using bookmarks, or clicking on direct links.

So, does this mean Slack can ignore all its other traffic sources?

Remember, 3.02% of 100 million (Slack’s approximate monthly traffic) is still over three million visits from organic search! That’s the kind of traffic everyone dreams of.

2. Slack’s Blog Strategy

Slack has a blog called Several People Are Typing, which they moved from Medium onto their own domain in 2021.

This was likely to gain full ownership and control of its archives and prevent a third party from profiting off its readership.

Now, Slack’s blog content covers how people are using Slack to transform work, improve productivity, and collaborate with ease. They also post news, case studies, research, and guides for developers.

Overall, the blog seems less optimized to target keywords for SEO and more optimized for shareability, backlinks, newsletter content, and regular readership.

One ingredient in Slack’s recipe for blogging success is original content. Every article is packed with engaging images, animations, and research, all of which Slack makes in-house.

For example, this recent article announcing Slack’s AI suite contains three original animations, several relevant quotes from executives at Slack and other companies, and statistics from internal and external research.

This makes articles more relevant and engaging for readers, and search engines “eat” it up. 🍽️

No, really. Check out Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines. Original content is a fool-proof way to show search engines you can cook up content with trustworthiness and authority.

3. Focus on Branded Keywords

Slack’s brand name is of utmost importance in its SEO strategy.

Just look at their top keywords in terms of traffic:

Nearly all the keywords contain the word “Slack”.

Compare this to Clickup’s top-ranking keywords:

Clickup’s branded keywords are much less prominent in this list. You can also see that their blog posts bring in a lot of their traffic.

Many other companies investing in content marketing gain organic traffic from blog posts. However, Slack’s SEO traffic comes largely from optimizing their feature pages, integration pages, download pages, and other pages for their brand name.

Here’s the crazy part:
The keywords you might expect Slack to target for organic search, they’re actually handling with Google ads! 🤯

4. Streamlined Paid Search Ads

Earlier, we saw that 0.14% of Slack’s traffic (over 140,000 visits) comes from sponsored search results.

Take a look at some of the keywords they’re targeting:

This is a surprising inbound marketing approach for two reasons.

First, these keywords remind us of those that most companies would target in their organic SEO content strategy. Yet, they’re nowhere to be seen in Slack’s organic list.

But, second, look at those URLs. They’re all the same (bar two). Slack bids on a long list of vastly different keywords with one landing page — This one:

This means that, for searchers who aren’t yet solution-aware (searching branded keywords), Slack wants to reach and channel them to convert in one fell swoop. They’re skipping all the ToFu, MoFu, BoFu stuff and sending searchers straight to the finish line. 🏁

5. Referral Traffic from Integration Partners

Slack has a library of over 2,600 apps and integrations you can incorporate into your Slack workspace — ranging from bots to developer tools to social and fun add-ons. This is a gold mine for link builders.

1.65% of Slack’s traffic – about 1.65 million visits – comes from referral traffic. A large chunk of this results from visitors clicking through to the site from Slack integration partners’ sites.

See below, where the Zapier integration page for Slack links to their website with the “Learn more” button:

Of course, Slack also completes the link exchange by linking to their partners from their app directory.

Note: Some of Slack’s app partners don’t have a page linking to Slack’s website. As part of their link building strategy, Slack then links to an app integration page on their website, like the Microsoft Teams page shown below.

6. Organic Traffic from Integration Partners

In addition to the referral traffic, the Slack app directory pages are optimized to rank in the organic search results for its integration partners’ branded keywords.

For example, looking at Ahrefs (an SEO tool) data, Slack ranks on page one and two for the keywords “google hangouts” and “dealbotz”.

It also ranks on page one for dual keywords like “salesforce slack integration” and “pipedrive slack integration”.

7. Freemium Model and Product-Led Growth

From the start, Slack let its product do the talking by allowing users to access a version of it for free, forever.

The freemium product is brilliantly set up to be highly usable. Not every Slack customer needs a paid plan.

Sounds counterintuitive?

Slack uses usage restrictions to incentivize users to upgrade. The paid tiers afford you benefits like:

  • More storage space
  • More integration slots
  • Improved search features
  • An extended message archive
  • Group huddles (audio and video)
  • Secure collaboration with external parties
  • Workflow automations

The bottom line is: People can use Slack for free, discover the benefits, and hopefully become reliant on it. They can decide to upgrade whenever the incentives are worth the cost.

Meanwhile, the user base keeps expanding. More and more businesses love it, which makes the Slack app even more desirable.

The freemium and PLG approach sets the stage for Slack’s whole marketing dynamic.

What does it mean for SEO?

Everything should be geared to getting potential customers to try the free product.

Slack does this, in part, by consistently incorporating its features into its blog content.

For instance, in an article about employee onboarding, they suggest setting up a greeting bot Slack channel to welcome new hires into the workspace. Such valuable insight can help readers understand how the app would fit into their operations.

8. Referral Traffic from Review Sites

Another noteworthy traffic source for Slack is from third-party review sites like Capterra, G2 Crowd, and PCMag.

Once they were listed on various review sites, Slack encouraged users to leave reviews. This resulted in Slack getting over 23,000 reviews on Capterra and over 30,000 on G2 Crowd.

How does this help?

Look at the Capterra page below that’s ranking for the keyword “team communication software”. Slack is displayed as the first non-sponsored listing due to its high number of reviews.

9. Slack’s Site Design

On-page and technical SEO are two vital elements that affect user experience and how search engines view your website.

Slacks web design is beautifully optimized and streamlined, making it easy for visitors and search engines to navigate.

Here are just a few things it has going for it:

  • A pleasant and cohesive web design that makes it readable, professional, and engaging
  • Clear messaging regarding the app’s features and benefits
  • Prominent CTAs (calls to action) with descriptive copy
  • Plenty of social proof, including the “trusted by companies” section and the stats section shown below
  • Helpful navigation that covers the app’s features, use cases, support, and pricing
  • A user-friendly site-search feature
  • Strong mobile optimization, ensuring it looks just as good and works seamlessly on any device

Key Takeaways from Slack’s SEO Strategy

Slack’s SEO strategy fits it like a glove. But that doesn’t mean you can copy and paste it for your own company.

Still, there are a few lessons SEO professionals can learn from Slack that any marketer can apply to their content marketing efforts:

1. Using SEO as a Feature of a Well-rounded Marketing Strategy

SEO might be a big hitter in your website traffic, or it could be a small (yet not inconsequential) part like it was for Slack.

Either way, SEO shouldn’t exist in a vacuum. You can still drive results through growth marketing tactics like word-of-mouth, social media, guest post writing, podcasting, networking opportunities, email outreach, Google ads, etc.

An SEO specialist must tailor a content strategy that performs well in the context of your company’s unique digital marketing multiverse.

2. Creating and Capitalizing on Brand Awareness

Slack did an incredible job at getting its name out there, which helped skyrocket it into early success. For them, word-of-mouth and PR was the avenue that worked.  

But there are many ways to nurture brand awareness. SEO is one of them — And we’ve seen it do amazing things!

The right SEO strategy can make your business a household name for your industry in a matter of months.

What you do with that brand awareness matters, too. Slack capitalized on it by making branded keywords a major focus of their keyword research and SEO efforts. Additionally, they created content their brand’s fans would love to read. The ultimate goal was to foster brand loyalty and encourage conversions.

A thorough SEO audit would reveal the best strategy for compounding your brand awareness. However, most companies can benefit from ensuring that they rule the SERPs for their own branded keywords.

3. Making the Most of Your Partnerships

Slack created a symbiotic relationship with its integration partners. For each one, they can give and receive a backlink, organic traffic, and referral traffic.

Note: Google won’t consider this reciprocal connection a nefarious link exchange because the companies have an authentic, long-standing relationship.

This strategy works exceptionally well for software and SaaS SEO — Zapier is another perfect example.

Unsure how to make SEO work for you (instead of the other way around)?
We can help.

Let Startup Voyager Cut You Some Slack

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About the author

Startup Voyager is a content and SEO agency helping startups in North America and Europe acquire customers with organic traffic. Our founders have appeared in top publications like Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Inc, Huffpost, Lifehacker, etc.