Canva’s SEO Strategy CaseStudy: Keyword, Content, Backlink
Canva offers users a vast and completely free graphic library with a wide range of features and styles. Even if you need to become more skilled in design, with Canva, you can create professional design products.
This is a case study of how one of the unicorn companies applied SEO, Outreach & Content strategies to achieve a valuation of $6 billion. The case study has been widely shared, and I find it quite interesting, so I’m sharing it in this article.
In this article, I will analyze the SEO and Content Marketing strategies that helped Canva acquire over 4 million high-quality backlinks and more than 270 million organic users yearly.
Using User Intent to create Landing Pages
Google Search Intent is a tool you can use to determine User Intent. When you know exactly what users are searching for, you can optimize your Landing Pages to provide them with the best possible experience.
Canva has two main types of Landing Pages for most of their use cases:
- Discovery landing page
- Creation landing page
In Figure 1 – on the left, we have a page for those who want a design certificate; on the right, we have a Landing Page for those searching for certificate templates.
Both types of search queries aim to find Canva’s solution, but they approach the problem differently.
The landing page in Figure 1, ranking for search queries like “design certificates” and “create the certificate,” receives 16,000 visits per month.
The destination page in Figure 1 on the right, ranking for search queries like “certificate template” and “free certificate template,” generates 33,000 visits per month. Both of these landing pages play a role in Canva’s SEO strategy, which we’ll dive deeper into throughout this article.
But at its core, Canva’s success with these landing pages stems from a few fundamental ideas:
- Understand the intention of Google users
- Develop parent-child relationships for other landing pages
- Create scalable landing page structures
- Invest in outreach backlinks
- Establish a strong content culture.
Understanding the user intent when using Google
User Intent is fundamental to SEO, but SEOers and Content Marketers often overlook it. Most SEOers focus on keyword search volume rather than the search intent behind those keywords.
Search intent is a person’s goal when they enter a query into a search engine.
There are four main types of online search intent:
- Informational: Searching for information, for example, “Who is the prince?”
- Navigational: Searching for a specific location, for example, “Canva blog.”
- Transactional: Searching for content to buy, use, or download, for example, “create invitations.”
- Investigational: Trying to compare content, for example, “Canva vs. Adobe Spark.”
Let’s revisit Canva’s two landing pages. Both landing pages have the intent to attract transactions. However, the first landing page attracts people who want to do something – “create certificates.” The second landing page attracts people who want to explore something – “free certificate templates.” We will refer to these as “Create Page” and “Template Page.”
- Create Page: Use Case – Certificates
- Title: Free Online Certificate Maker: Create Custom Designs Online
- Top Keywords: Certificate maker, create certificates, create your own certificates
- Search Volume: 16,000/month
- Template Pages: Use Case – Certificates
- Title: Customize 1,649+ Online Certificate Templates
- Top Keywords: Certificate templates, free certificate templates, award certificate templates
- Search Volume: 32,400/month
Landing Page & Directory for Niche Intent
Choosing a niche market in 2021 helps businesses limit competition with numerous competitors. Niche markets allow businesses to create products that quickly resonate with customers’ psychology.
One of the strategies that Canva has applied to improve is using Content Directories focused on different use cases and long-tail keywords.
The website structure used for both DO (Create) and Discover (Template) pages is excellent.
For example, in the DO (Create) pages for “invitations,” the URL would be:
For the Discover pages (Template pages) for invitations, the URL would be:
That URL will then have subsequent links to different invitation templates, such as:
Throughout the entire website, we can see that Canva has over 55 parent pages, each with up to 78 child pages.
For example, in Figure 5, we examine the parent-child relationship for the destination pages focused on “Invitations” and different keyword variations that create child pages (such as Landing Page for event invitations, grand opening invitations, birthday invitations, wedding invitations, etc.).
These are not even all the child pages for invitations. There are a total of 73 child pages in total!
But each of these child pages can acquire a significant number of backlinks, resulting in a considerable amount of traffic. The “Invitations” category has 900 backlinks and generates over 65,000 organic monthly visitors across parent and child pages.
Backlinks are crucial for SEO because they play a role in attracting users to your website. Pages with many quality backlinks have more authority and a higher chance of ranking well in Google’s SERPs.
The more links a website has from reliable and trustworthy sources, the more credible it becomes in the eyes of search engines.
Below is an image showing how backlinks work on the child pages of “Invitations” (invitation design pages).
These child pages receive backlinks from sites such as The Next Web, Yahoo, Thrillist, The Spruce… with domain ratings (or domain authorities) ranging from 80 to 95. These backlinks are considered trustworthy by Google and not evaluated as spam.
The landing pages are interlinked and impact Canva’s internal linking, allowing your website to rank highly for niche or long-tail keywords.
Linking these landing pages/content together as a topic cluster also optimizes the power of backlinks. When a backlink points to any content within this topic cluster, the authority is passed to all the remaining content within the cluster.
Optimizing SEO setup for landing pages automatically (and increasing conversions)
In addition to creating links between landing pages, Canva aims to expand the scale of linking between pages. The landing pages created have a similar structure and are shared across most child pages:
Each section of the landing page serves a specific purpose. For example, H1 conveys the page’s value and provides additional value. The content is optimized for both SEO and conversions.
This method has been so effective that even Canva’s competing rival, Adobe Spark, had to learn and follow suit:
Note: Outreach backlink methods are not widely used in the Vietnamese market but are quite popular and effective in foreign markets.
The landing pages created by Canva to rank service-related keywords such as “create infographics” or “certificate templates” not only have strong SEO optimization but also focus on content quality, UX, and UI to collect backlinks from third parties such as bloggers and journalists.
For those unfamiliar with the Outreach Backlink method, it essentially involves creating high-quality content, reaching out to relevant websites, and introducing your website to them so they can link back to you due to the excellent quality of your content.
Canva has established a dedicated Outreach team whose task is to identify content related to “invitations,” “posters,” “templates,” or “Digital Marketing Tools.” They then reach out to the owners of those websites.
Here is an email Canva sent to a blog owner in 2016:
And here is one of the responses I received while writing this post (2020):
Some notes to achieve results like Canva (during COVID-19):
- Start with an empathetic message.
- Include the title of your article in the email.
- Write as “here” and link the URL instead of displaying the full URL.
- Use images to highlight the email.
- Bold text.
Over the past 5 years, Canva has invested heavily in backlinks and has seen significant growth indicators.
Currently, Canva has over 4.24 million backlinks from 100,000 domains, generating over 270 million annual visitors from organic traffic alone. This doesn’t include their investment in paid traffic when they focus on highly competitive keywords.
The chart below illustrates how Canva’s backlinks have grown over time:
How did Canva achieve these results?
The most important aspect is investing in content quality. To achieve high-quality content, a competent team is required.
Canva’s Content Marketing team consists of leaders/managers, developers, outreach specialists, and content creators. Canva has invested heavily in personnel and developed marketing tools prioritizing SEO. Currently, over 75 individuals are working on SEO at Canva, either part-time or full-time.
The individuals working on website development are referred to as “SEO Outreach experts,” and they are present worldwide. They have also contributed to establishing SEO communities in the Philippines, Indonesia, Estonia, London, Kyiv, Australia, and more.
I noticed that Canva had posted a job opening for the position of “SEO Outreach Specialist” like this:
- Identify high-authority blogs and websites for outreach
- Analyze competitor analysis and discover new linking opportunities
- Maintain link diversity
- Achieve monthly minimum goals
- Provide weekly and monthly reports
Two notable aspects of this job listing:
- They refer to an established approach to outreach
- SEO specialists are held accountable with KPIs similar to sales employees
Based on this description, SEO experts are responsible for building backlinks by identifying, pursuing, and reporting opportunities. There are minimum benchmarks for the volume of backlinks per month, and there may also be quality criteria for backlinks.
I know that in some organizations, SEO experts receive monetary bonuses for exceeding benchmarks.
The initial marketing platforms that Canva has utilized include SEMrush, Ahrefs, Mixpanel, Heap Analytics, Google Analytics, Mention, and BuzzSumo (according to an AMA on Inbound.org).
Let’s see how creating high-quality content has helped Canva continue to develop its backlink empire, even during the pandemic.
Creating content to meet user trends
The shift from office work to remote work has led to a significant increase in the use of Zoom for communication and meetings.
Zoom software became popular and widely used when COVID-19 broke out. At first glance, it may seem like Canva wouldn’t benefit from this trend.
However, the situation is quite different. The increased use of Zoom has led to a demand for “Zoom backgrounds.”
Here is the Google Trend data for the search query “Zoom backgrounds”:
When the search trend increased, Canva responded quickly.
Canva developed a vertical platform for Zoom and Landing Pages targeting the keyword “Customizable Zoom Backgrounds” and obtained 351 backlinks (60% “do-follow”) from 154 domains.
At the end of March, these Landing Pages didn’t exist. Since their launch, they have gained an average of 15 new backlinks per week. Within the same category of “Zoom Backgrounds,” the destination page “Create a Zoom Background” has 298 backlinks from 132 domains.
No marketing professional can read this essay and expect to unlock similar results as Canva within 48 hours. Building a backlink empire and creating a sustainable chain of landing pages takes time.
Time is needed to write job descriptions, train employees, develop reward models, and engage with a team of experts and community developers.
It’s impressive to see what Canva has achieved.
Although it will be challenging for any new brand to replicate this success, you can certainly look to Canva for inspiration in the future. The best organizations will recognize that everything revolves around creating high-quality content and truly believing that content is the key driver of success.
If you’re a company owner or marketing professional aiming to achieve similar accomplishments, we hope that our B2B growth strategies will benefit you. Learn and apply these strategies to drive your organization’s growth in the future.
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