How to Run an SEO Audit for your E-commerce Site
Organic search traffic is the most value type of traffic you can bring onto your website. However, sadly, when running an online business you can’t just build a website and expect people to find you. There are billions of websites on the internet, so you need to always evaluate and improve your website to attract organic traffic.
You need to constantly and consistently look for problems that are holding you back as well as opportunities to improve what you’re doing right. It’s a full time job.
Luckily, an SEO audit can help you increase your organic traffic and your conversions.
The Importance eCommerce SEO Audits in 2021
Around one in four people are shopping online at least once a week, so the competition is fierce to make those purchases yours. By 2021, global mobile eCommerce sales are expected to be worth $3.56 trillion, according to an eMarketer prediction from 2018. Back then, online sales were estimated to reach $2489 trillion in 2018.
Where many ecommerce sites struggle is competing with online giants such as eBay and Amazon. If you have any hope of appearing on page one of Google, you need your SEO game to be strong.
Google examines ranking signals to make a decision about where a site should appear on the search engine results page (SERP). There are more than 200 ranking signals that Google takes into account when evaluating your site.
In order to identify and improve your site based on these ranking signals, you need to run an SEO audit. Making adjustments will increase your organic traffic and increase your chances of ranking highly in SERPs.
Where Do You Start?
An SEO audit run on an ecommerce site is no different than any other site – that’s why it’s important to understand and improve all of the SEO elements that need fixing.
However, it is true that there are certain elements that will have a bigger impact on ecommerce sites, so we will look at those in more detail.
First and foremost, you need to use an SEO audit tool to help you truly understand how your site is performing. Once you run an audit, you can see the aspects of your site that need immediate attention, like the ones detailed below.
These elements should be optimized for any ecommerce product, category or landing:
- Meta tags
- HTML header tags
- HTML headers
As an ecommerce site, it’s critical that your keywords appear in those on-page elements. This way, you are giving both search engines and users a clear idea of what you have to offer. Don’t forget to re-evaluate your meta descriptions with the increased snippet length in mind, and optimize them for search intent.
The more technical elements you want to optimize include:
- XML sitemap
These two files help guide robots to find, crawl and index your website more efficiently.
If the number of pages discovered during an SEO audit is far less than you’d expect, it’s likely that Google isn’t indexing your pages. You likely need an SEO crawler will diagnose the problems that are stopping your site from getting indexed.
Indexing issues could be caused by a wide variety of issues, like the two listed above, but also broken links. Broken links prevent users and bots from finding all of your pages (and are terrible for your brand!). A crawler will build a list of your broken links.
Mobile friendliness is a key element for ecommerce sites. In fact, 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months of 2018 – just 2 years later in 2020 – more than 50% of all website traffic shops and pays from a mobile device. It’s still a huge SEO high priority to ensure your website design is primed for mobile viewing with HTTPS. Because so many of your users are coming from handheld devices, your success hinges on your site’s mobile friendliness.
Elements like how your site renders and touchscreen compatibility are important, but the most essential factor for user experience is mobile speed. If your site is failing to load quickly, your user will bounce over to your competitor. With an SEO audit, you can diagnose what is making your site lag, as Google takes into account loading speed with it’s SEO algorithm.
Site Speed Loading SEO Advantages for Google Ranking
As we just stated, site speed is vital to success.
Online shoppers are impatient; if your site takes more than 2 seconds to load, around half of your users won’t stick around.
We know that Google places importance on user experience, so it’s no surprise that speed has a massive impact on your SEO.
An SEO audit will help you discover what might be causing your site to slow down:
This is the stripping out of unnecessary characters from your code, including line breaks, code comments, etc. By doing this, you allow browsers to read the page faster and easier. You can learn more about how to do that Google Minification.
- Compression: This reduces the size of a file and can improve load time by up to 90%. All modern browsers are able to handle gzip compression, so you should learn how to enable compression or pay a freelancer to help.
- Caching: Uncached files need to be downloaded by the browser every time a user visits a page — that slows your site down tremendously. Use Cache-Control headers to tell how browsers how long to cache a particular asset.
- Image Optimization: Google advocates using lossy compression for images so you can lose some data without really impacting how a user sees the image. Additionally, don’t use HTML to resize the image on your page, this just changes the dimensions. Changing the file size itself will reduce the load time.
SEO Audit Continued – Site Security
No eCommerce SEO audit is complete without making sure your site is fully secure. After all, your users are giving you very sensitive personal information (home address, credit card information, etc.) and you need those people to trust that your site is safe.
Google has been identifying all non HTTPS (SSL secure) sites as being “not secure” in the browser bar.
Users will be dissuaded if they see that Not secure header, so you can understand why we stress this point. If you aren’t sure how to migrate your site to HTTPS, check out this guide. After you migrate your pages, make sure all of your images, scripts and videos are also on HTTPS URLs.
Pretty much everyone knows that backlinks are an essential element of good SEO, but it’s about so much more than the quantity. Having a lot of backlinks means nothing if they are from spammy sites, irrelevant sites, use irrelevant anchor text or don’t give you the link juice you need.
A good SEO audit tool will count the number of backlinks pointing to your site and their overall quality. You should be able to look at data such as referring URL, anchor text used, and the destination URL on your site.
Duplicate is one of the few sure things in eCommerce SEO (along with death and taxes). If your site allows users to filter by item types, color, size, etc., it’s safe to assume your site will show duplicate content. The same goes if you have pages for every color, size, and/or model of your products.
Every time a product page appears, Google will classify that as duplicate content when it sees all the other instances of that page. You can sidestep this by adding canonical tags that point back to the version of your product you want to appear in the search results.
However, with canonical tags, you have to be careful since getting them wrong can result in Google ignoring them or consolidating ranking factors in the wrong URL. So you need to check and verify all of your canonical tags, even when (or especially when) they’re created automatically by your CMS.
This can be an overwhelming and daunting task for an ecommerce site, though, since there are likely far too many pages to check this sort of thing yourself.
Using an SEO crawler, you can check through all of your pages for the correct implementation of canonical tags.
If you are running an e-commerce site, it is vitally important for you to know how you are doing from an SEO perspective. Finding and fixing the issues on your pages will increase your organic traffic and conversions. This should not be a one-time audit, though. Checking up on your site’s optimization often will help you stay always up-to-date on SEO best practices and avoid any potential issues that can tank your traffic.