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Technical SEO is dead!
Okay, maybe not. But how important is it, really? How much valuable time and effort should SaaS companies invest in technical SEO when there are so many other opportunities competing for their time and attention?
After all, SaaS websites are usually relatively simple, especially compared to large, sprawling ecommerce sites. SEO strategies are often more focused on content, specifically publishing blog content and optimizing key landing pages. When should some of this focus be shifted to technical projects?
The answer, as with almost everything in SEO, depends on whom you ask.
So, rather than shrug our shoulders and leave it at that, we reached out to a few of the brightest technical SEOs in our network (if you haven’t yet connected with these folks, do it now and we’ll see you back here in two minutes):
Lidia Infante, SEO consultant, writer, and speaker
Kavi Kardos, Director of SEO at Uproer and frequent event speaker
Nick LeRoy, SEO consultant and author of the SEO for Lunch newsletter
Brenda Malone, Sr. Technical SEO Specialist at NP Digital
Read on as they share insights about the importance of technical SEO for SaaS companies, how to measure ROI from technical SEO, and which technical SEO initiatives yield the best ROI.
Note: Some contributor comments have been slightly edited for clarity.
Insight #1: Technical SEO is important for SaaS websites but the context matters
At Uproer, we often refer to technical SEO as “foundational SEO.” What we mean is that it’s important to have a strong technical foundation so that nothing is standing in the way of a website being easily crawled and indexed by search engines.
The consensus among our contributors echoed this idea. A solid technical foundation is important for virtually every website, including SaaS websites. If search engines can’t properly crawl and index a site’s pages, even the best content won’t rank.
However, the relatively small size and simplicity of most SaaS websites often limit the scope and emphasis placed on technical initiatives. Once best practices are in place, it may be time to move on to content and on-page optimization.
Nick: “I believe that there is a baseline of technical SEO that is important for all websites, especially when you think of components such as robots.txt, meta robots, and canonical tags. These technical components can have significant indexing impact regardless of the size/complexity of a website.
However, with that said, I believe the importance of technical SEO substantially increases with size and complexity. A sub-500-page website may see value from a tech analysis once per year, whereas a site with 500K pages+ can have enough technical SEO debt to justify resources for year(s).”
Kavi: “Any website can be chock full of technical SEO problems if it's poorly put together or if it lives on a CMS that's not SEO-friendly. But in my experience, SaaS company sites are often simple enough to avoid technical problems like the ones we see with big, complex ecommerce brands. The glaring SEO issues I see on SaaS sites tend to have more to do with content and architecture (you could call website architecture part of technical SEO; I consider it more of a UX concern). The success of a SaaS site depends on its ability to tell users what the software does and move them efficiently down conversion paths. A lot of sites are surprisingly bad at both!”
Lidia: “SaaS companies drive a lot of growth from organic traffic, from their docs and help content to actual marketing pages. Technical SEO is most relevant for SaaS companies in its role of allowing search engines to access, index, and understand the content. Of course, we should still aim to delight our users in their experience of the site, but that's not going to make or break a SaaS SEO strategy.”
Brenda: “Though often overshadowed by more flamboyant SEO tactics, technical SEO is critical in safeguarding the very foundation of an organization's online presence.
For a SaaS company, whose existence hinges entirely on the digital realm, a website that is effortlessly navigable, indexable, searchable, and free of glitches is not merely an option but a necessity. Moreover, it must exude an aura of reliability and trustworthiness.”
Insight #2: Measuring ROI from technical SEO doesn’t need to be rocket science
The question we’re seeking to answer is how much SaaS companies should invest in technical SEO, so a logical follow-up question is how to measure the return on that investment. Fortunately, simpler is often better. What we found when we asked our contributors is that while there’s no one best way to measure ROI, none of the methods require an MBA. The important thing is that we’re able to clearly demonstrate impact, whether in the form of an increase in visibility, traffic, or leads.
Brenda: “It is possible to measure the ROI of technical SEO. However, it is important to note that the ROI of technical SEO can be difficult to measure directly, as it is often one of many factors that contribute to a website's organic search performance.
One approach to measuring the ROI of technical SEO is to track changes in organic search traffic, keyword rankings, and conversion rates before and after implementing technical SEO improvements. Another approach is to use a tool that estimates the value of organic search traffic based on the cost-per-click (CPC) of relevant keywords.”
Kavi: “The majority of technical SEO focuses on ensuring search engines' ability to crawl and index your site, with priority given to your most important URLs. When we pursue some technical opportunity, we're investing SEOs' and developers' time, and the return is increased visibility for those high-priority pages. We should measure that return the same way we do any SEO initiative: by the value of the increase in conversions (or leads, or whatever your goal is) as a result of our effort, which in this case means clearing the path to crawling and indexation.”
Lidia: “If you approach technical SEO as a series of experiments, you can measure traffic growth or loss before and after implementing improvements. But it's worth remembering: Without a basic technical SEO implementation, there is no organic traffic.”
Nick: “Isolate the issues the website is having and demonstrate the effects your technical SEO efforts have had:
- high server errors - show a decrease in these errors.
- indexing issues - show the increase in pages indexed.
- duplication - snapshot SERPs where dev/duplication existed before/after.
- crawl budget - review server logs and compare before/after.”
Insight #3: When it comes to the highest ROI initiatives, it’s all about the fundamentals
Technical SEO encompasses a wide range of initiatives, so we asked our group what the highest-ROI technical activities are. We got a diversity of answers, which was cool to see, but we also saw one consistent throughline, with which we completely agree: initiatives that improve search engines’ ability to crawl and index your website are what you should prioritize.
“1) Enriching your schema implementation, especially for articles, authors, and the homepage
2) Reviewing indexability, canonicals, and sitemap setups to make sure nothing is lost to Google
3) Ensuring the <head> of the site is not breaking”
“1. Properly addressing duplicate/low value content
2. Internal linking through rules/widgets
3. Crawl budget optimization”
Kavi: “I've got two: The first is everything to do with site speed and performance. That doesn’t mean that ensuring that every page on your website loads with lightning-fast speed will somehow increase your revenue by an enormous amount. It's just that if you have a competitor whose site performs relatively well and yours doesn't, they will beat you every time. Literally no one is willing to sit around and wait for a page to load anymore, and the internet is lousy with just-as-good options.
The second is basic crawl awareness, which isn't really an initiative, but I think it's incredibly important. Most site owners without an SEO on their team have never seen a full crawl of their website. It's the most valuable thing you can do to understand what pages search engines can reach, how your site is really put together, and what other initiatives you need to prioritize.
Brenda: “Some of the highest-ROI technical SEO activities include:
- Increased performance initiatives that enhance Core Web Vitals metrics
- Efficient crawl budget management—ensuring that search engines focus on relevant, high-value pages
- Robust security measures, including SSL encryption and third-party script security
- Strategic utilization of robots.txt and XML sitemaps, effectively communicating the site's structure and content to search engines
- Incorporation and upkeep of structured data, enhancing search engine comprehension of the site's content and its connections to established and trusted entities”
Knowing how much to invest in technical SEO requires viewing an SEO program through the lens of a cost-benefit analysis. Stakeholders will need to think critically about the state of the website, how much time and effort is needed to pursue technical opportunities, and how much upside there is to gain from doing so.
That said, there are some useful heuristics we can use to guide us:
- While a strong technical foundation is important for all websites, technical SEO itself can be thought of as necessary but not sufficient for success.
- The importance and scope of technical SEO scales with the size of the site. Because many SaaS websites are relatively small and simple, technical SEO will often be approached as a prerequisite for other initiatives rather than an ongoing priority. That said, occasional technical audits can be useful and technical SEO is never truly “set it and forget it.”
- Measuring the ROI of technical SEO is important but doesn’t have to be complicated. What matters most is demonstrating impact post-implementation.
- When assessing which technical SEO tasks to do first, prioritize anything that aids crawling and indexing, which can be thought of as “table stakes” for increasing organic traffic.
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