Your Definitive Guide To SaaS Technical SEO
When it comes to digital and content marketing, the race to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) is one of the most crucial aspects of any SaaS business.
That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is something that SaaS companies cannot afford to skimp on.
Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing a website so as to increase its visibility and organic search results.
But even SEO itself covers a wide scope. There’s on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.
In this article, we will zero in on SaaS technical SEO and discuss some best practices that can bring your SaaS website to the top of the SERPs.
What Is Technical SEO?
To better understand technical SEO, we need to differentiate it from the other types of SEO.
Technical SEO VS On-Page SEO VS Off-Page SEO
On-page SEO is a more traditional SEO strategy. It is the process of optimizing the content and design of your website to make it more visible and relevant to search engines.
This includes things like doing proper keyword research and optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions, and content for a target keyword.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, is the process of optimizing your website’s exposure and authority.
It mainly involves link building, which is the process of getting high-quality backlinks from other websites.
Technical SEO, as the name suggests, is the process of optimizing the technical aspects of your website.
Its goal is to make your website more visible and easier to crawl for search engines.
This includes things like site speed, sitemaps, structured data, and website architecture.
Technical SEO & Web Crawlers
Now, let’s focus on that word, “crawl”, and why it’s so commonly used in the world of SEO.
You see, search engines have what are called “web crawlers” or “spider bots.”
Web crawlers are programs that scan the world wide web and index all websites’ content so that they can be included in the search engine’s database.
The better your website is structured and the easier it is for these web crawlers to crawl, the higher your website will rank in the SERPs.
And this is where technical SEO comes in.
By optimizing the technical parts of your website, you make it more visible and easier to crawl for web crawlers, which can eventually lead to a higher ranking.
3 Main Aspects Of Technical SEO
Technical SEO seeks to improve three main aspects of your website:
Later in this article, we will talk about specific technical SEO practices that you can do. And it’s useful to note that they all revolve around optimizing one or more of these three aspects.
So let’s take a closer look at each one.
As we’ve mentioned, web crawlers are programs that scan websites and index their content so that they can be included in the search engine’s database.
The easier it is for these web crawlers to crawl, the higher your website will rank in the SERPs.
That generally involves making sure that your website is easy to navigate (even by bots) and removing any obstacles that may prevent them from indexing your website’s content.
The performance of your website also plays a role in your technical SEO strategy. After all, no one wants to visit a slow website
Search engines know this and they factor in the speed and security of your website when determining your ranking. The faster your website is, the higher it will rank.
Indexation is the process of adding a page to the search engine’s database.
As the spider bots crawl your webpage, they also analyze its content. If they think your webpage is relevant to a certain keyword, they will add it to the search engine’s content index.
The more pages of your website that are indexed, the better. That’s because it increases the chances of people finding your website when they search for a keyword related to your content.
Technical SEO Tactics & Best Practices
Now that we’ve talked about the three main aspects of technical SEO, let’s take a look at some specific technical SEO tactics and strategies.
- Organize your website structure
- Improve your website loading speed
- Regularly measure your website health
- Fix broken links
- Find and manage duplicate content
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
- Make sure your website is secure
- Use schema markup
- Create an XML sitemap
- Create a “robots.txt” file
Let’s talk about them one by one.
1) Organize Your Website Structure
One of the most important things you can do for your website is to organize its structure. That’s because a well-organized website is easier to navigate, both for users and for web crawlers.
How do you do that? Here are a few practical tips:
Use a hierarchical website structure: A good way to organize your website’s structure is by using a hierarchical system. That means having a main “parent” page, with different “child” pages branching off from it.
For example, let’s say you have a website about dogs. Your parent page could be titled “Dog Breeds” and your child pages could be individual breed pages, like “Labrador Retrievers”, “Golden Retrievers”, etc.
This practice is also called siloing, as in keeping related web pages within a silo (or a section) of your website.
This hierarchy makes it easy for both users and web crawlers to find the content they’re looking for.
Use a breadcrumb navigation trail: Breadcrumb navigation involves adding a trail of links that shows the user (and the web crawlers) where they are on your website.
Let’s take our earlier example on your website about dogs. Let’s say a user is on your “Labrador Retrievers” page. The breadcrumb navigation might look something like this:
Home > Dog Breeds > Labrador Retrievers
This is helpful because it allows users to easily backtrack if they get lost on your website. And it also helps web crawlers understand the relationship between different pages on your site.
Know when to use subfolders and subdomains: One of the most heated debates among SEO experts is whether subdomains or subfolders are better for website speed and structure.
According to Ahrefs, many of their case studies show that subfolders are better than subdomains.
Generally speaking, subfolders are better for speed and organization because they keep everything in one domain and therefore one server. Subdomains are kept in servers (or server partitions) separate from the root domain.
In our example website about dogs. A URL with a subfolder would look like this:
A URL with a subdomain, on the other hand, would look something like this:
Since subdomains are generally in separate servers as their root domains, tend to be seen as separate websites by search engines. So they may have a hard time indexing your content.
However, it’s also worth remembering that search engines are also continuously developing their algorithms to be able to detect the root URL of subdomains.
Another potential setback for subdomains is diluted backlink strength.
That’s because these backlinks are attributed separately. The backlinks for the subdomain are not counted for the main site, and vice versa.
Still, subdomains have their uses, especially if you have a website with very different content from your main site (such as different SaaS products, languages, etc.).
2) Improve Your Website Loading Speed
Everybody hates a slow-loading website. Web users have short attention spans, so if your site takes too long to load, they’re likely to click away.
And web crawlers are the same. They prefer fast-loading websites because it’s easier for them to index their content.
How do you make sure your website loads quickly? Here are a few tips:
Choose the right hosting and DNS providers: Your hosting and Domain Name System (DNS) providers play a big role in how quickly your website loads.
Web hosting is essentially the space where your website’s files are stored. And if you’re not familiar with DNS, it’s basically the system that translates your website’s URL into an IP address that can be read by web browsers.
So if you have a slow hosting DNS provider, it can delay how quickly your website loads. The same goes for a poor-quality web hosting provider.
That’s why it’s important to do your research and choose providers that are known for their speed and reliability.
Compress your images: One of the biggest culprits of slow-loading websites is large images that haven’t been optimized for the web.
To optimize an image for the web, you need to save it in the correct file format and compress it so that it’s a smaller file size.
The three most common image file formats are JPEG, PNG, and GIF.
For most images, JPEG is the best file format to use because it has a smaller file size than PNG and GIF while still maintaining good image quality.
Use a content delivery network (CDN): A CDN is a system of distributed servers that deliver content to users based on their geographic location.
The goal of using a CDN is to improve website loading speed by delivering content from a server that’s closer to the user’s geographic location. This reduces latency and improves loading times.
3) Regularly Measure Your Website Health
Website health refers to how well your website is performing in terms of things like speed, uptime, user experience, and so on.
Google evaluates the overall user experience on a web page using the Core Web Vitals.
These are three key metrics that measure how fast a web page loads, how stable the content is, and how easy it is for users to interact with the content.
The three Core Web Vitals are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This measures how long it takes for the main content of a web page to load. The ideal LCP score is 2.5 seconds or less.
- First Input Delay (FID): This measures how long it takes for a user to be able to interact with a web page after they’ve clicked on something. The ideal FID score is 100 milliseconds or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This measures how much unexpected movement of content or its layout occurs while a web page is loading. The ideal CLS score is 0.1 or less.
To measure your website’s Core Web Vitals, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool or the Web Vitals Chrome extension.
4) Fix Broken Links
Broken links are links that go to a web page that no longer. This can happen if a web page is deleted or if the URL is changed without setting up a redirect.
Why are broken links bad for SaaS SEO?
Well, broken links can frustrate users because they result in a 404 error page. And when a user lands on a 404 error page, there’s a good chance they’ll click away from your site.
Not only that, but broken links also prevent web crawlers from being able to access the content on your site.
This can hurt your crawling and indexation rate, which can negatively impact your SEO campaign.
So what can you do about broken links?
It depends. If the URL of the linked page has simply changed, then you can set up a redirect from the old URL to the new URL.
If you mistakenly used the wrong URL or used a typo in it, you can simply update the link.
And if the content of the linked page no longer exists, then you can either delete the link or replace it with a link to another relevant page on your website.
5) Find & Manage Your Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is any content that’s exactly the same or very similar to other content on the internet.
This can happen if you have multiple pages on your website with the same or similar titles, descriptions, and so on. It can also happen if you copy content from another website.
Why is duplicate content bad for your SEO strategy?
Well, when there’s duplicate content on the internet, it’s hard for Google to determine which piece of content is the original.
As a result, Google may not index any of the duplicate content, or it may only index one version of it.
This can hurt your SEO campaign because it means that your web pages are competing with each other for the same keywords, which can split your search traffic.
So how do you take care of duplicate content? Here are a few practical steps:
Use a duplicate content tracking tool: A tool like SEO Review Tools’ Duplicate Content Checker will help you find any duplicate content on your website so you can take action to fix it.
With it, you simply input your domain and the platform will crawl your website to find any duplicate content.
Add canonical tags to duplicate pages: This is a great solution if you want to keep the web pages with duplicate content.
A canonical tag is an HTML tag that tells Google which piece of content is the original.
It looks like this on your link’s code:
You can add a canonical tag to each page of duplicate content on your site, pointing to the original page. It will then tell the web crawlers to index the original page, not the duplicate one.
Use a 301 redirect: Another scenario you may have is wanting to get rid of a page that contains duplicate content
However, you don’t want to get rid of the URL because it may have backlinks pointing to it or it’s getting a lot of traffic.
In this case, you can use a 301 redirect. This is a permanent redirect that will send users (and web crawlers) from the duplicate page to the original one.
6) Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to have a mobile-friendly website.
That’s because the majority of internet users are now accessing the internet from their mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets.
Google is well aware of this trend, which is why they introduced the “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update back in 2015. This update favors websites that are mobile-friendly in the search results.
So if you want your website to rank high in the SERPs, you need to make sure it’s mobile-friendly.
Here are a few tips for making sure your website looks good on mobile screens:
Test your site’s mobile friendliness: Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test is a free tool that allows you to test your website’s mobile friendliness.
To use it, simply enter your website’s URL and the tool will analyze your website and tell you if it’s mobile-friendly or not.
If it’s not mobile-friendly, the tool will also give you specific recommendations on how to fix it.
Use responsive design: One of the easiest and surest ways to make your website mobile-friendly is to use responsive design.
With responsive design, your website automatically adjusts its layout and design to fit any screen size. This includes everything from smartphones to desktop computers.
If you’re using WordPress, then you can easily find themes with responsive design. If you’re not using WordPress, then you’ll need to hire a web designer to create a responsive design for you.
Use large fonts: Another important tip is to use large fonts on your website. This will make it easier for mobile users to read your blog content.
Mobile users typically have a hard time reading small fonts. So by using large fonts, you’ll make your content more accessible and user-friendly.
7) Make Sure Your Website Is Secure
Another ranking factor that’s become more important in recent years is website security.
Google places a high priority on the safety of its users. That’s why websites with poor security are penalized or even blacklisted.
What’s more, you also need to note that web crawlers are not the only bots that can visit your website.
There are also malicious bots, like spammers and hackers, that try to break into websites.
So it’s important to make sure your website is secure in order to protect your potential customer’s information and prevent these malicious bots from wreaking havoc on your site.
Here are a few tips for making your website more secure:
Get an SSL certificate: Google prefers websites that are secure, which is why they give preference to websites that use HTTPS.
Yes, that “S” at the end stands for secure.
HTTPS is a protocol that encrypts communication between your website and the user’s web browser. This makes it much harder for hackers to steal data from your website.
To add HTTPS to your website, you need to get an SSL certificate.
You can usually get one from your web hosting company or your domain registrar. Once you have the certificate, you can install it on your server and enable HTTPS.
If you’re using WordPress, then you can also use a plugin like Really Simple SSL to automatically configure your website settings to run over HTTPS.
Use a security plugin: If you are using WordPress, you can also use a security plugin to boost your website’s security.
Both of these plugins offer features like malware scanning, two-factor authentication, and firewalls. They also have built-in tools for blocking malicious bots and hackers.
So if you’re serious about securing your website, then you should definitely consider using one of these plugins.
8) Use Schema Markup
Schema markup, also known as structured data, is a code that you can add to your website to help search engines understand your content better.
For example, if your webpage includes a product listing, you can add the schema markup that indicates that it’s a product listing.
This helps Google understand what your content is about and can even help your website show up in rich snippets.
This is how Google knows what elements to put in rich snippets.
Snippets of product listings usually include prices and ratings. Ones for events often include dates. While content with lists generally has bullet points in its snippets.
Here are some steps on how to add schema markup to your website:
- Go to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper
- Select the data type of the element you want to tag
- Enter the URL of the page you want to markup
- Highlight the elements you want to markup
- Click the “Create HTML” button (this generates your schema markup)
- Add the schema markup to your site (using your CMS or source code)
You may also want to test the validity and effectiveness of your schema markup. You can start with the Rich Results Test to check which items on your web page are eligible for Google rich results.
You can also use the Schema Markup Validator tool to check if your structured data is implemented correctly.
9) Create An XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file that contains all of the important pages on your website.
It’s like an outline of your website that helps search engines crawl and index your content.
XML sitemaps are especially important for websites with a lot of pages, or for websites that have pages that are difficult to find.
Creating an XML sitemap is relatively simple. You can use a tool like XML-Sitemaps.com to generate one for your website.
If you’re using WordPress, then you can also use a plugin like Yoast SEO, which automatically generates an XML sitemap for your website.
Once you have the sitemap file, you just need to upload it to your server and submit it to Google Search Console.
10) Create A “robots.txt” File
A “robots.txt” file is a text file that tells web crawlers which pages on your website they can and can’t index.
The format of a “robots.txt” file is pretty straightforward. The general syntax looks like this:
The “user-agent name” is the name of the web crawler that you want to target. And the “URL not to be crawled” is, well, the URL that you don’t want that web crawler to crawl.
If you want to block all web crawlers from indexing a certain page, then you can just use the “*” character in place of the user-agent name.
Here’s how you can create your robots.txt file in various scenarios.
If you want to block a web crawler from multiple pages:
This tells Googlebot (Google’s web crawler) not to index the pages “page1.html” and “page2.html”. But they’re still free to index other pages on the website.
If you want to block all web crawlers from indexing a specific page:
This tells all web crawlers not to index the page “page-not-to-be-indexed.html”. But they’re still free to index other pages on the website.
If you want to block all web crawlers from all of your content:
This tells all web crawlers not to index any pages on the website.
If you want to allow all web crawlers to index all of your content:
This tells all web crawlers that they’re free to index any pages on the website.
If you want to block a specific web crawler from indexing all of your content:
This file tells Google’s web crawler not to index any pages on the website. But other web crawlers are still free to do so.
If you want to direct a web crawler to your XML sitemap:
Yes, you can also use a robots.txt file to tell web crawlers where your sitemap is located. Here’s how you would do that:
This tells web crawlers that the sitemap for the website is located at “http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml”.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The text file has to be named exactly “robots.txt”.
Web crawlers will only recognize “robots.txt” as the file name.
Once you’ve created your robots.txt file, you just need to upload it to the root directory of your website. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, then you can use a plugin like Yoast SEO to automatically generate and upload a robots.txt file for you.
Another important note: Make sure that your robots.txt file is in your website’s ROOT directory.
If you have other robots.txt files in your subdomains’ or subfolders’ directories, they will only be applied to the subdomains or subfolders where they are located.
Final Thoughts About SaaS Technical SEO
SaaS SEO truly has many aspects and facets. On-page, off-page, and technical SEO—all of them are important. But the technical side of it lays the whole foundation of all other SEO practices.
After all, if your website isn’t technically sound, the web crawlers might not even get to your content and relevant keywords.
This is why technical SEO should always be your starting point. Once you have the technical aspects of your website sorted out, you can move on to other things like link building and SEO content creation.
What’s more, optimizing your website isn’t just beneficial for web crawlers. It also makes for a great user experience for your website visitors.
At the end of the day, you’re doing this for them—to attract, engage, and hopefully convert potential customers.
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