SEO for eCommerce is essential. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. There are methods and structures of conducting an eCommerce SEO audit to boost your site's performance and bring in more sales and revenue. This guide will help you through the process and make your SEO life more manageable.
An eCommerce SEO audit is a process of evaluating the current health and performance of your entire eCommerce store. And at the end of the audit, you will have a good idea of where your e-store stands and get an action plan to improve it.
The processes of these SEO audits are virtually the same. It's the performance focus that differs.
You still have to check your rankings with a keywords rank checker, determine pages that convert the best and the worst, establish performance benchmarks and so on. The difference here is that you're doing so for product landing pages and category pages instead of blog posts. You will also need to focus much more on technical SEO, as load speeds, canonicalisation, domain security, mobile-friendliness, number of indexed pages and other stats are vital for eCommerce sites.
We wrote an in-depth guide on performing SEO content audit in a different article here.
But don't worry, we'll still give you a rundown and showcase different approaches that eCommerce audit requires.
There are three basic steps that any SEO audit should follow:
To gather the data effectively, you will need these tools:
These tools will give you a clear picture of where your website stands in the eyes of search engines.
Based on the data, you can lay out the steps you and your team needs to take to boost your website's performance.
Running an audit is a relatively frequent task that will run faster and smoother if you set up a standard operation process.
Next is the evaluation of your data findings.
Like in a standard SEO audit, you need to set the minimum and the desired performance for your pages.
Benchmark is the aggregated industry data that sets an approximate baseline. For example, if you're selling shoes online, running an SEO audit on the product page shows you that this pair of shoes have been purchased 11 times this month (i.e. a number of conversions), the product page where the shoes are listed was visited ±1000 times, and the page ranks 7 on the SERPs. If these numbers meet your business needs - that is your approximate baseline.
A threshold is the desired performance on a particular item. If you want the same pair of shoes to sell 25 items and attract ±2000 visits - that is your threshold for a well-optimized page.
You can decide what to do about each product or category page based on these parameters.
Setting Up an eCommerce SEO Audit Action Plan
Based on your benchmarks and thresholds, you can then manually review all your product and category pages and decide what to do with them: leave as is, delete or optimize.
Leaving a page as in means that it has passed your target threshold: it brings enough traffic, sales and ranks well on the focus keyword.
Deleting the page means it doesn't even reach the baseline. Here's where a significant difference comes compared with a standard content audit.
To get an in-depth understanding on using categories, check out this SEO content audit guide.
Technical review of your eCommerce store is the crucial first step. If your e-store is large, with over 2000 product pages, you're bound to face technical issues. Here are the steps to go through when running a technical SEO audit.
A simple test to start with. Check if the domain is secure by simply entering it into Google search. Follow these iterations of the domain:
If all of there are secured and lead back to the main domain - all is well.
Another quick way to check if the domain is secure is this:
SSL is a protocol for encrypting internet traffic and verifying your server identity.
An SSL certificate is what enables your website to move from HTTP to HTTPS, which makes it more secure. An SSL certificate is a data file that is hosted on your website’s server. Needless to say that SERPs prioritize websites that have these certificates due to the security they provide.
You can get an SSL certificate from a third-party certificate authority (CA). These authorities digitally sign your certificate with their own key so your device can verify it.
Usually, CAs charge nominal fees for SSL certificates. There are also options for trusted CAs that generate and give out SSL certificates for free.
There's a simple manual check you can run to make sure all your pages are correctly indexed.
Depending on the size of your website, this number will help you determine if there are any discrepancies between the indexed pages and the actual number of pages, which we will cover in the next step.
To make your site indexable and crawlable, you must introduce a robot.txt file that allows search robots to crawl through the site and find relevant keywords and other information. You have to place this file on all internal and relevant pages. Once you do, backlinking will also help you introduce more crawlers to your eCommerce website and boost it even more.
The XML sitemap is another file you have to introduce to your eCommerce site. If the robots.txt allows crawling, the XML sitemap shows them where to crawl and where to access information. Both are crucial to have on your eCommerce website.
You can look for discrepancies between indexed pages and the actual number of pages using Google Search Console or Ahrefs as a secondary third-party tool. The discrepancy indicates that Google doesn't see all of your pages, and you will need to index them properly.
Using Google Search Console (you will need Google Analytics set up as well), submit your website for a crawl here.
It’s going to take some time, so you can follow the next steps until the crawl is done.
Once the crawl is complete, check the Index Status of your website and how many pages have been indexed. You can also see the change of the number of indexed pages over time.
If you’re using Ahrefs (Semrush or other similar tools are fine too), enter your domain into the Site Audit tab and let the tool crawl your site. It's going to take a while, especially if your site has a lot of pages.
Once the crawl is done, you can look for discrepancies between indexed pages and the actual number of pages.
A quick and straightforward check to see if your page loads fast enough. SERPs hate slow-load times. And so do your site visitors. An average time a user will wait for your site to load is 3s.
To run a speed test, use PageSpeed Insights by Google. Simply enter your domain into the search bar and wait. Make sure to check speeds on both desktop and mobile.
Your eCommerce site speed is low, consider adjusting the image resolution - a frequent issue. There might be issues on the server end as well, so if you find nothing wrong on the site, check the server side too.
According to eMarketer, mobile eCommerce is expected to reach $431B in 2022, from $362B in 2021. No wonder mobile site development has also skyrocketed. Your eCommerce site must be optimized for mobile, because Google prioritizes websites that are mobile-friendly.
Google saves the day again with the Mobile-Friendly Test tool. You can check if your site is ready for mobile users.
If you're having issues here, consider how you can optimize your eCommerce site for mobile users. Converting to an app is a good option, but it takes time. Either way, this technical SEO issue will take time to fix, but it's crucial that you do.
On large eCommerce websites, these get lost often. With many product pages, category pages and product descriptions, meta tags and descriptions can either be forgotten or mixed up with general descriptions. This can seriously impede your SEO efforts.
Check page title tags on every category page and product page. Make sure each product has an appropriate meta description and meta title. Fill them in with relevant keywords, especially the pages where you're running discounts or more extensive marketing campaigns.
To check if each meta title and meta description is of appropriate length, use the Higher Visibility tool.
This small change will significantly impact your eCommerce website and has a high chance to increase the click-through rate (CTR).
An essential item for any eCommerce store. They are used to differentiate between similar or copied content, i.e. it tells the search engine straight up that the content is, although similar, still good enough to send traffic to.
Canonical tags also help eliminate the duplicate content issue.
With minor item differences (color, size, etc.), it is hard for the Google bots to tell if the content is duplicate or not. Canonical tags help differentiate between them. It's an HTML tag, which means it will need to be inserted into the header of every page.
Our eCommerce partners BigCommerce have created an in-depth guide on working with canonical tags.
On-page content for eCommerce includes not just having a blog on the side. It also consists of all product descriptions, text on promotions, pictures and videos of your products, etc.
Amazon has mastered this type of content. Look at their product page breakdown:
When running an audit, make sure the product information is displayed correctly. Not only will this help you rank better, but it will also smooth out the customer experience.
Having a blog related to your merchandise is also an excellent way to drive organic traffic to your site. With a strong content strategy, eCommerce sites tend to score much better performance and during SEO audits.
Keywords here come in three types:
In eCommerce business, these keywords are often related. When setting up a list, use the head terms as keyword categories. Then break them down into long-tail keywords. Don't forget to add branded terms to head term categories, or use branded keywords as a category of its own.
You can run the keyword audit with Ahrefs or Semrush. To show you how it works, well use Ahrefs - a powerful tool to run all types of SEO audits.
Compare this to long-tail keywords, where the difficulty is much lower. While the traffic is much lower, ranking on the term is easier. This means there's a higher chance a user will find your store that offers exactly what you're looking for.
You can also do the keyword audit starting from the page.
You can run these checks for every product and category page and, branded keywords included.
So, to sum up: your category pages can be covered by broader head terms. Then your product pages under that category can be covered by long-tail keywords derived from category head terms. Finally, if you sell established brands, use branded keywords to help your clients find your stock.
Everybody talks about the importance of search intent. In the eCommerce business, it matters even more. Based on your keyword research, look at which types of pages the audience clicks on. Answer yourself these questions: are the audience looking for product categories to browse through? Or are they looking for specific products?
You'd be right if you think that this is a lot of work for every product page. It is a lot of work. But if done correctly (and preferably before launching the e-shop), meticulous keyword research and tactical use of that information can help grow your organic search traffic.
Backlinks are a powerful tool in your SEO arsenal. When coming from web pages with high domain authority, they can boost your search visibility and improve your search engine results. Most eCommerce sites tend to focus their SEO efforts on products and their descriptions. But paired with a robust content strategy, backlinks can boost your organic traffic like nothing else.
It definitely takes more effort to get links to your eCommerce website. The first thing you can do is to check your competitor's domain and see where they are featured. Going back to the example of shoes, perhaps they're featured in a magazine that recommends their store to find that ONE piece. Or they used influencers to bring traffic to their site. Try following the pattern. Check with sites that do reviews and solicit influencers' services - the more links you get to your site, the better.
Here's how you can check your competitors with Ahrefs:
In our example here, you can see quite a few links to coupon sites and domains for finding the best deals. Some of these links are lost, meaning that they were likely removed from the referring site. Most of these links don't have high domain authority, which could be worse for rankings than having no links at all.
Ensure those sites are of high authority and not just traffic farms. If you find such pages, disavow poor quality links by using Google Search Console. If you find any broken links, fix them or remove them and exchange them for higher-value, working links.
So these are some basic eCommerce SEO audit steps for client-facing content. But there are also things you can do on the back end of your eCommerce site that can help with organic traffic.
After running an audit, you have a good understanding of where your e-store is at. Setting thresholds for each page and the whole store for SEO performance will provide you with a goal to reach. Now how do you monitor the goal progress?
With Whatagraph, you can add all your metrics into a single board and track their progress. The platform allows you to integrate with Shopify, BigCommerce, Woocommerce and PPC that give you a holistic view of your performance in one place.
Here you can see a BigCommerce report built using Whatagraph. In a single window, you can review the performance of your entire e-store: your sales figures, transaction values, costs and other financial metrics.
As a part of the same report, you can also look at your top-performing products, order statuses, payment statuses, refunds and much more valuable information.
Returning to SEO, this is how your performance dashboard could look like. It’s built using Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Ahrefs. You can also build your own or use a free template from Whatagraph's library to get started.
You can also set targets and track their progress using the goal widget, track performance trends and always have a clear picture of your eCommerce business at hand.
Additionally, Whatagraph also provides you (and your clients if needed) with a great reporting experience. You can view analytics in real-time or send frequent reports to team members and clients.
To get the maximum value from Whatagraph, you can connect multiple sources from direct integrations to over 40 different channels.
How often should you run an eCommerce SEO audit? The standard recommendation is every three or six months. With eCommerce, it also depends on how often you rotate your stock. If you do so often, audit your site regularly, maybe once a quarter. If you have a more stable stock, an SEO audit every six months should be more than enough.
If you're just starting with an eCommerce business, this guide is a way for you to do it right from the beginning. If your site has been running for a long time but was never properly audited, do so as soon as possible. Either way, you will have to audit your eCommerce site regularly and keep improving it. An insightful SEO audit guide and strong eCommerce analytics can really help your performance!