SaaS

Technical SEO for SaaS: Which Technical Factors Have Impact?

June 29, 2022

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Technical SEO for SaaS is important.

Especially for younger organizations that are building their foundation and getting ready to implement their first full-scale SEO campaign.

With that being said, let me get up on my podium here and preach to you for a quick second:

Although Technical SEO is important, there are really a few core impact items and actions that can actually move the needle.

I’ll go out on a limb and say something like 90%+ of the “Technical SEO” action items I’ve seen mentioned when taking over a new client from a previous agency or consultant, these items were low to NO impact items.

These are simply fluff actions and deliverables where time is being spent where that time spent will have no positive impact on organic traffic, MQLs, trial signups, demo requests – anything.

Look – I’m not saying that’s always the case – but I see it way too often.

For the majority of businesses, and especially for businesses that have their front-end running on popular CMS platforms like WebFlow or WordPress, Technical SEO for SaaS boils down to the following SEVEN core items that we look at 👇

1. Does the website load fast?

This is the basic starting point

If your website loads slow, you’re hurting your chances of users engaging further with your website (think content leads, demo requests, and trial sign-ups).

Here’s what we normally take a look at to start:

  1. Run a page-by-page speed test and audit to review page speed across your main search pages. You can use tools like GTMetrix to run a quick crawl.
  2. Check in Google Search Console your Core Web Vitals tab – this will report back performance across the website, and poor pages according to Google.

If you see a large sub-set of pages listed as “poor” or “needs improvement” either on mobile and/or desktop, there’s your starting point.

This is a google example of a larger, more complex website where fixing and resolving technical issues such as site speed and mobile performance can have BIG wins:

If your Core Web Vitals look similar to the above, you have some work to do.

Start digging in by opening up the report, and Google will lead the way in handling LCP, CLS, and FID issues.

Regarding website loading times, the question often comes up:

How fast should our website load?

Under 2 seconds is the short and easy answer. Not more.

What we usually recommend to fix a slow-loading website:

  • Implement image compression site-wide
  • Minify both CSS/JS
  • Setup proper serving and caching via a CDN such as Cloudflare

Start with these before diving in further – normally the issue lies somewhere in one or a few of those items.


2. Is it crawlable and indexable?

Crawling your website’s pages is a core function of Google and other search engines, as is indexing them, AKA pushing them into their search results.

When your website’s pages are crawlable and indexable, they can then rank in Google and be found by your audience.

Our core starting point when working with clients and an action item in our Growth Audit after campaign kick-off is to de-index and remove any pages that are not built to rank in Google.

We only want Google crawling and indexing pages that are of value to our users.

We want to avoid index bloat, better known as putting hundreds or thousands of pages into Google’s index which causes irrelevance and erodes our topical authority.

So what do we do to ensure we’re properly being crawled and indexed?

  1. Locate your sitemap.xml file – normally, it’s on the root folder and can be found at …/sitemap.xml – if you don’t have a sitemap.xml file, you’ll want to set one up.
  2. Manually check the pages in the sitemap.xml and ensure that the core pages you want to rank are included in the sitemap.xml file
  3. Remove any pages which are not relevant for search by adding a no-index tag to those pages
  4. Once you’re happy with the sitemap, visit Google Search Console under Index => Sitemaps and request Google to crawl the sitemap URL by entering it and clicking submit:

It’s good to take a quick look in Google Search Console and see which sitemap(s) if any have already been added.

Outside of the above, we usually work with clients on the indexing side to:

  1. Implement crawling rules and properly configure robots.txt
  2. Update and implement sitemaps
  3. Increase internal linking

📝 Internal linking is one of the most underused and underrated “quick wins” in SEO that most marketing teams are not aware of, and don’t take advantage of. Proper usage of internal links can skyrocket your organic performance. We closely work with all of our clients to implement a winning internal linking strategy for existing content, as well as TO build out content silos to squeeze maximum impact from our backlink profile. If you’re not already actively working on internal linking or have a strategy on how to use your internal links for the biggest impact, it’s probably worth scheduling a Free Grow Faster Session with our team to take a closer look.

Indexing on the flip side is when Google and other search engines pull in your content and gauge how relevant it is to include it in the search results. We work to implement during this step:

  1. Canonical tags
  2. 301 and other redirects
  3. Dynamic and JS rendering

Crawling and indexing are two essentials to get right to ensure you’re on the right path to organic success.


3. Are we optimized for mobile?

Providing an excellent mobile experience is a HUGE benefit to search rankings.

Google’s search rankings actually vary for example, from mobile to desktop.

This is also why Google has implemented Core Web Vitals into Google Search Console to easily allow businesses and users alike to keep an eye on their mobile experience score.

Mobile rendering issues often occur on custom-built themes for WordPress or WebFlow, as well as custom-built websites which are behind no popular CMS.

It’s good to check the mobile experience across a multitude of devices and to ensure that everything is properly rendering across all relevant search pages.


4. Are we running HTTPS?

We can keep this one pretty short, as it doesn’t occur as much as it used to – but still surprisingly pops up from time to time.

HTTPS ensures that a website is encrypted, and search engines use this as a very minor ranking factor. Where this can hurt you, even more, is causing a drop in trust of users converting for a paid conversion for your product.

Check the top-left of the URL in your browser, and you’ll see a padlock icon across browser types that signifies the page is secure.

If your website is not secure for some reason, or the security certificate expires, you’ll want to resolve that immediately.


5. Are we properly using canonicals?

Canonical tags can be very, very dangerous to search rankings if used improperly.

If you’re not familiar, canonical tags are a way of telling Google and other search engines that a specified URL is a copy of another page or page.

Canonical tags allow you to prevent content duplication issues and tell Google the preferred page you want to be indexed in the search results.

If canonicals are accidentally set to the wrong pages, or simply added by accident to one or multiple pages, these pages will stop ranking in Google as we’re telling Google:

“Hey, don’t rank this page – rank that one – it’s the preferred page.”

During our Growth Audit, this is a core item we look at as too often we see pages wrongly canonicalized which are completely stopping them from appearing in Google’s search results, meaning no traffic.

Want to dig into this yourself?

Run a scan using SiteBulb and manually check the parent URL vs. canonical URL, or grab a free Chrome plugin such as “Detailed SEO Extension” which lets you quickly check a page’s attributes, including canonical usage.

If you see a canonical places on a page that shouldn’t be there:

You’ll want to take a much deeper dive into what exactly is going on behind the scenes.


6. If we’re serving multiple languages and multiple countries, do we have our International SEO in check?

Multi-language and multi-location SEO is probably one of the more involved SEO action items within the Technical SEO bucket that deserves alone its own deep dive, but high-level we often times see:

  • SaaS websites mixing content in multiple languages on the root domain
  • No proper URL structure or handling for the languages/countries attempting to be served
  • No hreflang usage within the content pages

Setting up the right architecture for targetting multiple languages and multiple languages is a complex subject, where also some business decisions need to be made.

Why?

Because it’s not as simple as simply adding those pages to the website and letting them rank quickly and get to work.

We need to set this up in a proper manner and consider across the three core solutions here what makes the most sense for us as a business.

This also depends on where the business sees itself for example in 5 years, as that will have an impact on the potential route taken when setting up these pages and the structure itself.

Here are the three high-level core solutions for an International SEO setup:

  1. Multiple domains, each individually targetting that market and language
  2. One single domain, where the languages live within their own sub-folder
  3. Sub-domains for each language, which target each language/location respectively

Each of these

If your pages setup to rank in other languages are not being indexed in Google, and are not ranking at all, it’s most likely because:

  1. You’re not utilizing hreflang tags properly, or at all.
  2. You’re trying to

7. Are we populating meta titles and descriptions?

This for me falls more into the “On-Page SEO” bucket and should be handled on a page-by-page basis.

But.

This is often an issue that is overturned when we run our Growth Audit and are looking for high-impact technical issues.

Within our Growth Audit, we pull back and merge a bunch of metrics and data from Ahrefs, SEMRush, Google Search Console, SiteBulb, and Google Analytics to basically give us all of the data in one singular place to make important page-level decisions.

Within this, we’re looking high-level across:

  • Pages missing a meta description
  • Pages missing a meta title
  • Pages with multiple H1s

These are core on-page SEO items that have a BIG impact on your position in the search results.

When we find missing, and or metas and titles which need re-written, we push those to another process where we build a content outline for that given page to re-touch, re-write and re-vamp the content, including these important on-page factors.

You can easily look for issues across your meta and titles by running a site-wide crawl using a tool like SiteBulb to pull back the data, and quickly get the high-level


8. Sub-domain vs. sub-folder

There generally should be a very good case for serving content on one or multiple sub-domains.

The root folder of a website and the homepage itself are (almost) always the strongest pages of the website and for good reason.

You don’t want to be creating a bunch of sub-domains for your content and pages, again unless there’s a very good reason for doing so, which could be:

  • International SEO targetting
  • No-indexing a sub-domain that does not search-relevant
  • Creating an entirely new sub-domain that attempts to cover a separate topic set

The usage of sub-domains is on a case-by-case basis and depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

Content can be easily structured and placed in an architecture that is built on sub-folders.

A sub-folder structure and how you name URLs will help Google to more easily understand the sections and pages of a website and allow for better organic performance over time.


Client Example #1: Wrongly Canonicalized Pages

A client in the B2B SaaS space was looking to diagnose a sudden traffic drop that occurred in Q4.

Built on a custom build, it turns out another change completely flipped canonicals on a sub-set of pages to incorrectly canonical to another page, causing rankings for the core conversion pages to drastically drop:

You’ll notice the drop around November 2021, whereas a fix was implemented in late December 2021 causing a sudden growth in organic traffic.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take some time to re-gain back that previous traction, but this is a good time to say:

It’s better to be proactive about Technical SEO.

You don’t want to get caught flat-footed, chasing down the solution to a massive traffic drop that has management asking questions about why organic MQLs are down 40%.

Crawl frequently, and take time to keep a pulse on organic performance – even if net new organic growth isn’t your primary goal at the moment.


Client Example #2: Internal Linking Optimization – 40%+ Organic Increase

Internal linking is one of the most important factors for any website, regardless of size.

Technical factors become even more important in the equation as you start to get into more-complex websites with larger page sets and more advanced serving of content (dynamic, geo-location, etc).

The below is a perfect example for a client in the technology space, which simply by only optimizing their internal linking structure, they were able to increase organic clicks by 40% over a 5-week period:

The solution for improving the internal linking structure was simple, and knocked out in four steps:

  1. Run the website through our Growth Audit – determine poor-performing, high-conversion pages
  2. Review current internal linking structure – these pages had little, or no internal links pointing to them
  3. Develop a natural internal linking structure flowing from low-link depth pages, and hyper-relevant top-funnel content pages to pass link equity and drive relevancy
  4. Implement this solution across the subset of pages

Internal linking is one of the highest impact, technical SEO items for SaaS you can hit on.

👉 Technical SEO issues got you down? Struggling to scale MRR with organic? If you’d like to learn how we can help you grow faster and overcome those hurdles, book a Free Grow Faster Session with our team.


Final Thoughts on Technical SEO for SaaS

The above core technical factors are what we most often see holding back SaaS organizations when we run our Growth Audit.

Is this an exhaustive list? Certainly not.

But for most businesses, a lot of the Technical SEO factors that get thrown around are no-impact items.

It’s one thing to follow best practices, but it’s another to dedicate your resources in a smart way to achieve desired milestones.

If you’re running into organic roadblocks, and believe are technical in nature, the above is the perfect starting point for diagnosing what’s holding your business back from hitting new heights.

A few things you should know:

We love providing value and giving away our expertise to help SaaS brands grow. Here are two ways we can help you grow faster:

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  1. Learn from our resources for free. We create weekly content and share with our audience the exact steps and strategies we use for our clients to help them grow faster. Check out our blog, as well as our resources which include templates, guides, and other tools to help you on your journey.

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