In today’s SaaS technical SEO guide, I’ll discuss common issues with SaaS websites and how you can fix them.
You can have the best content but if Google can’t crawl and index it, you won’t be visible to potential customers.
SaaS Technical SEO Checklist for 2023
Here are some common Technical SEO problems for SaaS websites:
- Subdomains vs. Subfolder
- Core Web Vitals
- Canonical Tags
- Duplicate Content
- Response Codes
- Broken Links
Some require simple edits while others require a developer’s touch.
It’s important that you take care of these first, before you begin creating content and building links.
SaaS Tech SEO Audit Items Explained
You have to make sure you have solid foundation before you build out your SaaS company’s website.
It starts with technical SEO.
Let’s break down the most important technical SEO audit items in a SaaS business context.
Subdomains vs. Subfolder
There are distinct differences between the two.
Subdomains act as separate entities from the main domain, so they can be used for specific purposes, such as organizing website sections.
For example, blog.example.com could be used to host all the blog content.
Subfolders are “child directories” located beneath its parent (Home) folder.
The best setup for a SaaS website is to have your backend app located on a subdomain. Your frontend website and blog should be on the same domain with your blog preferably under a subfolder like “/blog/”.
Some SaaS companies put their blog on a subdomain, but this is less than optimal.
Google treats subdomains as two separate sites.
Most of your link equity will be on your homepage and if the blog is on a separate subdomain it’s not ideal.
If you really have to keep your blog and your front-end website separate, consider using a reverse proxy into a subfolder for your blog.
If you’re not sure what CMS to use for your blog – the answer is always Wordpress.
Unfortunately, these frameworks make it much harder and more resource-intensive for search engines to crawl and index the content on your website.
When this happens, Google will crawl your site and check for updates less frequently which means you may have to wait longer to get new content indexed or wait longer for Google to see your page edits.
Use best practices when structuring your website and its code.
- Use server-side rendering to create HTML content that can be crawled and indexed by search engine spiders.
Frameworks like Next.js and Gatsby take advantage of server-side rendering and progressive enhancement techniques to serve static content for Googlebot.
This makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site while also providing a faster loading experience for visitors.
Core Web Vitals
Google uses Core Web Vitals metrics to measure how well websites are optimized for speed and usability.
Core Web Vitals assess the performance of a website based on three essential metrics:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the time it takes to load the biggest element above the fold
- First Input Delay (FID) measures the time it takes for a page to become interactive
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures the amount of element shifts on a page
Most SaaS companies have numerous interactive elements, such as forms and applications, and animated elements, such as product feature carousels and video players.
Optimizing for Core Web Vitals can help improve your website’s performance and user experience. Here are some best practices to follow:
- Optimize images and videos to reduce their file size and loading time.
- Minimize the use of third-party scripts that may affect page loading time.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN) to replicate your content across servers in different locations.
- Leverage caching techniques, such as HTTP caching, to store resources and minimize server requests.
- Eliminate any redirects that can cause additional loading delays.
- Prioritize above-the-fold content so that it appears first when the page loads.
- Monitor the performance of each page on an ongoing basis and address any issues as they arise.
Indexation is the process of adding web pages to search engine databases for them to be discovered and included in results pages.
If you aren’t in Google’s index – you won’t be visible during a search.
SaaS companies using programmatic SEO or a high number of web pages will need to optimize crawl budget.
Googlebot has limited resources and the best way to use those resources is to direct them to the pages you actually care about.
That means noindexing pages with duplicate content, thin pages or pages that don’t have value to searchers.
Canonical tags are a way to avoid duplicate content.
When you have similar or identical pages on your website that users need but search engines don’t, you can use a canonical tag to point them to the preferred page.
To check for problems with canonical tags, use tools like Screaming Frog or Fetch as Google.
Link multiple versions of a page with rel=”canonical” tags so search engines know which one to include in search results.
URL parameters, session IDs, and tracking codes can cause duplicate content so make sure those canonicalize to the original URL.
Cannibalization is a common problem we see in SaaS SEO. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to fix.
It refers to pages with identical—or nearly identical—content, which affects how well your website performs in search engine rankings.
When two pieces of content have the same intent, Google doesn’t know which one to index, so it can end up choosing the wrong page. The result is that neither piece of content performs well.
To identify and fix cannibalization issues, the process looks like this:
- Crawl your entire website to find any duplicate or similar intent pages.
- Look for similar page titles, meta descriptions, headings, and content.
- Identify any issues, use canonical tags or 301 redirects to point Google to the correct page you want to rank.
Have you ever tried to visit a website only to get an error message?
That’s because the server is sending out a response code that tells the browser not to display the page.
Look out for response codes such as 403 Forbidden and 503 Service Unavailable.
Here’s a cheat sheet of response codes and what they mean:
- 200 OK: This indicates that the page is available and everything is working correctly.
- 301 Moved Permanently: A 301 redirect informs search engines and visitors of the new location for a web page or resource.
- 403 Forbidden: This means that the page is blocked from being accessed. Typically, this occurs when the browser is unable to authenticate the user.
- 404 Not Found: This occurs when a page can’t be found or no longer exists.
- 503 Service Unavailable: This indicates that the page is temporarily unavailable due to a server issue.
Pagination are clickable links that divide content into multiple pages.
SaaS companies often do this to split their product features into multiple pages, or to separate their blog content into different categories.
Here are some best practices:
- Google Webmaster guidelines state to treat each paginated page as a unique page
- Make sure each paginated page is self-canonicalized
- If you use infinite scroll – Add a link inside your show more button to a view all page that search engines can crawl
For best Technical SEO practice, SaaS organizations should always create and upload a robots.txt file to their website.
Robots.txt helps search engines determine which what content they should crawl or ignore.
Think of robots.txt as a map for crawlers—it tells them where to go and which areas to stay away from.
The sitemap plays a critical role in technical SEO. It’s a list of all the pages on a website, which search engine crawlers use to crawl and index content.
A sitemap tells search engines when content gets updated so they can reflect the changes inside the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Creating and submitting a sitemap to search engines is the first step in optimizing your SaaS website for search engine visibility.
Best practice for sitemaps is to use your CMS to generate one automatically.
If you’re familiar with SaaS link building, you probably know what broken links are—links that lead to non-existent pages.
Broken links can hurt your SEO performance, as they result in poor user experience and crawler errors that search engines don’t like.
Checking for broken links is an important part of technical SEO. You should regularly scan your website for any broken links, as this will help you identify any issues quickly and take corrective action.
Tools like Ahrefs or Screaming Frog can scan your website for any broken links.
Best Tools For SaaS Technical SEO
Here are the best tools for SaaS technical SEO:
- Google Search Console
- Screaming Frog
- Deepcrawl (Now Lumar)
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a free web service offered by Google that allows users to monitor and manage their website’s performance in the search engine results pages.
It provides data such as keyword rankings, organic visibility levels, backlinks, and crawl errors. It also helps users identify areas of improvement and take corrective action.
You can use Google Search Console to do several things:
- Monitor your website’s performance in the SERPs
- Receive notifications about any errors or issues
- Submit a sitemap to Google
- Identify and resolve crawl errors
Its interface is similar to that of Google Analytics, making it easy to use and navigate. You can also integrate Google Search Console with other services such as Oncrawl and Sitebulb.
To use Google Search Console to optimize your SaaS site for technical SEO, follow these steps:
- Sign up for a Google Search Console account and verify ownership of your website.
- Add your domain name and www version to the account.
- Set up Sitemap and Robots.txt files to identify all URLs on the website that should be indexed by search engines.
- Crawl the website using “Fetch as Google” in order to view how Googlebot sees your pages.
- Identify any issues such as 404 errors, incorrect canonical tags or redirect loops.
- Fix any issues that are identified
- Submit a fresh XML sitemap to ensure all of your content is visible to search engines.
- Use “Search Analytics” to monitor how frequently keywords appear in organic searches, as well as track page impressions, click through rates, etc. for each keyword/page.
- Make use of other features such as Schema Markup Testing Tool, Mobile Usability Report, Fetch & Render report, etc.
If you want to get the most out of Google Search Console, you should also take advantage of third-party tools. This will make it easier to analyze data from GSC and provide insights into how your website is performing in terms of SEO.
Sitebulb is an SEO crawler and audit tool that offers detailed reports on technical SEO issues, page speed, content optimization, broken links, and more. It helps you identify problems quickly so you can take corrective action.
Sitebulb also provides a comprehensive set of features to help you optimize your SaaS website for technical SEO:
- It allows you to run website audits to identify any issues with on-page SEO
- It helps you track your website’s performance in the SERPs over time
- It provides detailed reports on page speed, broken links, duplicate content, and more
- It offers detailed recommendations for improving your website’s technical SEO
Using Sitebulb, you can easily track and manage your website’s technical SEO health. You can also use the tool to identify potential issues before they become major problems, helping you stay ahead of your competition.
Screaming Frog is a popular web crawler and audit tool loved by many SEO professionals. Its free version is incredibly useful for SaaS SEO, as it allows you to crawl up to 500 URLs for free.
Screaming Frog’s features include:
- Crawling and audit capabilities
- Detailed reports on technical SEO issues such as broken links, duplicate content, redirect chains, etc.
- In-depth keyword analysis
- The ability to generate XML sitemaps
- Integration with Google Analytics and other services
Using Screaming Frog, you can easily identify and fix any technical SEO issues on your SaaS website.
Oncrawl is an enterprise-grade SEO crawler and audit tool. It offers a range of features including:
- Detailed reports on crawl errors, duplicate content, HTML optimization, page speed, etc.
- Monitoring of website performance in the SERPs over time
- Heatmaps to identify areas that need improvement
- Integration with third-party services such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics
Lots of major companies use Oncrawl, including Canon, L’Oreál, and Rakuten. SaaS companies also love its functionality and reporting tools.
DeepCrawl (Now Lumar)
Lumar is an SEO crawler that doubles as an architecture analysis tool. SEOs and web developers use it to analyze the structure of websites and identify potential technical SEO issues, just like the other tools mentioned.
It offers features such as:
- Detailed reports on crawl issues, page speed, duplicate content, HTML optimization, and more
- Integration with Google Search Console and other services
- Monitoring of website performance in the SERPs over time
- Heatmaps to identify areas that need improvement
DeepCrawl Protect safeguards the validity and dependability of your website code before making it public, blocking any SEO violations.
DeepCrawl Connect helps you join with third-party applications such as Google Data Studio, BigQuery Connector, and API for simplified data visualization.
By integrating both technical analysis and these various tool sets, this platform is a great option for SaaS companies that need more complex reporting capabilities.
How Is SaaS Technical SEO Different?
Although many of the same technical SEO principles and best practices apply to most organizations and their websites, SaaS companies face some unique challenges on the web.
- They must build and maintain a robust infrastructure that can easily scale up or down depending on the needs of the business. That means their websites need to be well-structured and properly optimized for SEO in order to keep up with their ever-changing user base.
- They serve multiple customer segments with different interests, languages, and locations. This means they must be extra careful when it comes to international SEO optimization, ensuring their content is available in the right language for each user segment.
- They need certain website functionalities (e.g., login forms and payment gateways) that can influence their website performance. They must ensure these features are properly configured and integrated, so they don’t negatively affect the user experience or SEO rankings.
- They often sell niche products that appeal to highly specific user bases, meaning that content marketing, audience targeting, and search engine optimization must all be tailored to fit their exact audience. Creating timely and relevant content that meets users where they are is much harder than it looks.
- Their websites hold lots of sensitive data (e.g., credit card info, user passwords) that must be properly secured and protected from malicious actors. Since they do business with other companies, a data breach can make a bigger impact than it would at the individual level.
The icing on the cake for software companies is their average deal size.
Ecommerce and DTC brands sell products that are often fairly cheap, while one SaaS deal might be worth millions.
When it comes to website conversions, the stakes are much higher for an annual enterprise contract than for a pair of $80 leggings.
Next Steps for SaaS Companies
Technical SEO is the first step towards search engine domination, but it isn’t the only one.
Link building, content marketing, and other necessary components should all be part of a successful SaaS SEO strategy.
At the end of the day, you want to make sure your website is secure and optimized for search engine visibility while also providing an enjoyable user experience. And doing this requires a holistic approach that takes into account every aspect of your business.
Hiring a reputable SaaS SEO agency is your best bet for achieving sustainable SEO success in the long run.
You could figure all of this out on your own, or you could talk to us instead.