Are you eager to improve the SEO of your e-commerce website to gain more customers? If so, then it’s time to learn how to harness the power of an e-commerce SEO audit.
By auditing your current website, you’ll learn quite a bit about your SEO needs. There’s no quicker way to identify your areas for improvement than through an audit which will help you uncover:
- Whether your content is within “striking distance” of more SEO traffic
- Which keywords competitors are driving traffic from and how you can leverage those for your site
- What technical elements of your site are holding you back from more SEO traffic
- And much, much more
An e-commerce SEO audit provides invaluable insight for your strategy going forward.
So how do you create one?
I’ve provided 4 essential “groupings” of vital checklist items for your audit to make things easy, but before we get to that, let’s cover some companies I’ve helped & 6 of the most common questions I get asked. Stay tuned to find out how you can conduct the ultimate SEO audit without missing a beat.
Which Section Do You Want to Read First?
SEO Success of Ecommerce Clients & 6 Questions You’re Probably Wondering About
Through the SEO strategy I’ve provided a number of companies, these clients have seen growth in quality leads and sales.
“Miles is a growth marketing expert deeply committed to his clients’ goals. He leads with inquisitive patience to explore ideas clients aspire to bring to fruition. His deep SEO knowledge and expertise in content marketing includes foundational wisdom as well as impactful inbound marketing trends.”
–Phyllis Nortey, Director of Digital Marketing & Ecommerce
If you’re looking for e-commerce SEO tips, you probably have some questions on your mind, and I’ve prepared 6 frequently asked questions.
1. What is Ecommerce SEO?
It may not seem clear what e-commerce SEO ecompasses. Here’s a concise definition:
E-commerce SEO refers to search engine optimization for e-commerce stores. It involves optimizing on-page and off-page content to rank higher on search engines. The higher that you rank on engines such as Google, the more traffic you will drive to your store.
2. What is an Ecommerce SEO Audit?
Now that you know what e-commerce SEO is all about, what is there to audit?
An e-commerce SEO audit refers to going over all your current content with a fine-toothed comb. That means scouring your on-page content, as well as technical elements. The goal is to identify areas for improvement and size yourself up to competitors.
3. Why Do I Need an Ecommerce SEO Audit?
A map won’t do you any good if you don’t know where you are. An e-commerce SEO audit is necessary because it lets you know where you stand.
It’s your way of getting your footing and establishing a foundation. From there, you can go about constructing a solid strategy for SEO backed up by actual data.
4. How Much Does an SEO Audit Cost?
On average, the price range for an quality & actionable SEO audit is anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands depending on the site and number of sites to be audited. The pricing depends on the size of your organization and the level of depth required for the audit. If you only have a few web pages, the cost will be less than if you have dozens.
Plus, it’s important not to simply focus on the costs, but how much more revenue could it generate when these items are fixed?
5. How Long Does It Take for Ecommerce SEO Results?
The answer to this depends on the type of work you’re doing:
- Optimizing “quick win” existing pages typically takes around 2-3 months after publishing those changes to start seeing the fruits of your SEO labor.
- Creating new pages (articles, products, etc.) take 3-6 months after publishing
I prefer to use “SEO quick wins” to score results for my clients in a shorter period of time, but it’s key to understand that it takes time to identify the pages with the most potential and focus on those, not the entire site.
6. How is an SEO Audit Done?
Glad you asked…that’s precisely what we’re going to talk about next.
The following 4 groupings will break down each step of an e-commerce SEO audit. You’ll learn about which on-page and off-page elements matter for your SEO. You’ll also learn what matters for your content and the technical aspects of your website.
I. What Elements Matter for On-Page SEO?
As an e-commerce store owner, certain on-page aspects will matter more than others. Most important is to ensure that your content is:
- Descriptive of your products
- Easy to read and have a seamless flow
- Full of relevant keywords without spamming the page with them
The user experience of your store is also crucial. In particular, it should be obvious how to order a product for your customers. Here are some more critical on-page elements to consider.
a. Are Your Existing Pages Focused on the Right SEO Keyword Research for Search Engines?
It’s not so much about ranking for a keyword; it’s about ranking for the RIGHT keywords. During an audit, you need to look at which keywords you have the best chance at getting high up the ranks.
Analyzing keywords that your competitors are ranking for is another essential step.
It takes some in-depth research to find those ideal keywords perfect for your store.
Remember, you’re looking for keywords related to your e-commerce niche. The more specific you can be with what users commonly search, the better.
So what do you sell? What have you found users most commonly search for and then buy your products? Those should be the keywords you go after more of. Plus, you should be using a paid keyword research tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs to access the best data.
b. Are the New Content Pages You’re About to Spend Valuable Resources Creating Using Ideal SEO Keywords?
It would be best if you held off on creating new content before doing sufficient keyword research first. The last thing you want is to spend a bunch of resources on developing new pages that don’t rank.
How can you avoid this?
By doing rigorous keyword research!
Before releasing new content, ensure that you’ve found the absolute best keywords for your store. Remember to take a close look at what your competitors are up to with their SEO.
If you find a lot of steep competition for a particular keyword, it’s best to focus your efforts elsewhere.
It’s worth the time to find the ideal SEO keywords for your e-commerce store, so don’t skip this step!
c. Does Each Page Have a Unique & Catchy Meta Description?
Meta descriptions are a crucial part of SEO that people often forget. For every page on your e-commerce store, you need a meta description.
Not just that, but they need to be unique, catchy, and preferably filled with relevant keywords. Common issues with meta descriptions include:
- Missing. Any page you find without a meta description needs one on the double! You are missing an opportunity to give Google info about your page.
- Too long/short. You don’t want to write a novel when writing a meta description. Conversely, a couple of words won’t do, either. The ideal range for a meta description is ~160 characters.
- Duplicate. Are you using the same meta description for two different pages? That’ll only confuse Google and hurt your SEO. Every description needs to be 100% unique.
- Not keyword optimized. When Google crawls your page, it will look at your meta descriptions first; plus, this is what they use to place in the search results (and entice a searcher to pick your result over others). As such, they need to contain your targeted keywords.
d. Does Each Page Have a Unique & Catchy Meta Title?
Equally as crucial is your meta title for each page. Google will look at your meta title just as it will your meta descriptions. That means they need to be unique, catchy, and filled with keywords.
Just like meta descriptions, meta titles are often neglected.
That’s a shame because they’re vital parts of your on-page SEO.
The same four issues with meta descriptions are also present with meta titles:
- Missing. Each page needs a meta title for Google to see. It may be hard for you to see, but it’s one of the first things Google will notice. You need to make sure each page has a meta title.
- Too long/short. Once again, you can ruin your meta title if it’s too long or too short. The ideal length for your meta title is no more than 60 characters. And don’t use too few, not because it violates anything Google says, but because we don’t want to miss using the real estate space.
- Duplicate. You do NOT want duplicate meta titles for the same reason listed above.
- Missing keywords. If you want to make a great first impression with Google and searchers, including keywords in your meta title is necessary.
e. Missing Image “Alt Text” Tags?
An ‘alt text‘ or ‘alt tag’ is necessary for every image on your store. It’s a short line of text that reads that description of the image to a person who can’t see.
You need one for every image, including all your product images!
Why are they a requirement?
Because they’re how Google understands the subject matter of an image, the alt text is also what Google will display if the image fails to load.
It lets Google know what the image is about and what your article is about as a whole. That’s why you need to include alt tags. When writing them, be as clear in your description as possible. Keyword spam isn’t a good idea here, as it will confuse Google as to what your image means.
II. What Off-Page SEO Items Must We Audit?
Off-page items aren’t immune to your e-commerce SEO audit. An off-page element contributes to your SEO, but isn’t on your website. It refers to all the efforts you take through backlinks, email lists, social media, and more.
If you aren’t using any off-page elements, you need to start immediately. If you are, here are the essential checklist items for your audit.
A. Researched Competitor’s Content Strategy?
You can’t form a successful SEO strategy without sizing up the competition; trust me, it will help you shortcut things when you see what is already working for others. When it comes to competitors, there are two different types:
- Direct competitors offer similar products or products that compete with yours.
- Indirect competitors offer information about products similar to yours.
The idea is to explore both to find content gaps. Is there a subject that competitors haven’t written about yet? Are there keywords that have little to no competition?
You can’t answer these questions unless you look at your competitors.
B. Is Your Backlink Profile Balanced or Toxic?
Is your backlink profile totally toxic? If so, then it’s time to switch things up.
A backlink becomes ‘toxic’ when it’s seen as unnatural by Google, and it will hurt your SEO.
You don’t want that, so here’s how you can balance your profile and remove the toxicity. Which web pages qualify as toxic?
By contrast, quality domains carry the most clout with Google because they are a trusted source. The best strategy is to include a mix of high, medium, and low-domain authority links, but aim high and you will get some all across the board. That will make your backlink profile appear more natural, which is a good thing.
Also, pay attention to dofollow and nofollow links. What are those? Here’s a quick definition.
- Dofollow links pack more positive punch on your search engine rankings.
- Nofollow links have less effect on your search engine rankings.
Yet, to achieve a natural backlink profile, you should include a mix of both.
c. Using Social Media & Email to Promote Pages?
These are indirect ranking factors, but they still get more eyeballs on your products. You should leverage social media and email lists to promote your store.
A robust social media presence is crucial for any type of business, and e-commerce is no different.
The same is true for email marketing. It produces a fantastic ROI and will get the word out about what you’re selling.
Take to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to engage with customers. Try coming up with interactive quizzes and campaigns for your store.
For email marketing, you’ll need to start building an email list. Creating a squeeze page is a fantastic way to collect emails from prospects. Plus, the more engagement data you have (dwell time, bounce rate, etc.), the easier it is for Google to rank you.
If you’re outsourcing your email marketing function, it’s important to go with companies that understand the subtle nuances and deep expertise required to succeed with email in e-commerce. For example CodeCrew is an email marketing agency that has worked with many online stores and generated measurable ROI and growth for their clients.
III. What Content Elements Should We Review?
Okay, now it’s time to take a cold, hard look at your existing content. The good news is that you can correct any mistakes that you find.
After all, these mistakes are likely what’s holding you back in the SEO game. With a proper content audit, the only direction you can go is up.
a. Low Word Count (Thin Content)?
Check each page for its word count during your content audit. In doing so, know that thin content is the enemy.
Google defines a content page as thin when it contains less than 200 words. Google prefers to see pages that have substantially more content than that because it knows searchers expect this.
If you notice any pages with less than 200 words, beef it up or consolidate it with a similar page.
That doesn’t mean you should settle for the bare minimum, either. Strong content has plenty of information along with internal/external links, videos, and images.
b. Got Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content is awful for your SEO because it confuses search engines. For example, if Google sees two pages with the same copywriting, it won’t know which one to include in the rankings.
That hurts your SEO and can lead to Google not ranking either page.
Should you come across duplicate content, here’s what you can do:
- 301 Redirect. The idea here is to eliminate the duplicates from the equation. That way, Google will only rank the original page and ignore the others. Putting 301 redirects on duplicate pages will send visitors to the original instead.
- Canonical Tag. Another way to remedy Google’s confusion is to use a canonical tag. The rel=canonical tag tells Google to rank 1 page in search and ignore all the others.
3. What About Keyword Cannibalization?
It may seem strange, but if you have two pages ranking for the exact same keyword, you’ll run into problems. It’s called keyword cannibalization, and it won’t do you any good.
Keyword cannibalization both confuses the search engine and the user.
With two pages ranking for the same keyword, it isn’t clear which to choose. That leads to problems, so it’s best to only have one page. For the second page, use a 301 redirect to send all that SEO juice to page one.
d. Featured Snippet Opportunities?
When you type a question into Google, you often see a ‘featured snippet’ that provides the answer in bold.
That’s helpful for users, but it’s also a golden opportunity for your SEO.
Landing a featured snippet is a fantastic way to drive lots of traffic to your e-commerce store. To put this into action, type some common questions about your products into Google.
If there are some weak answers or no answers, you should target a ‘featured snippet.’ An excellent technique is to include the question within the first 100 words. From there, you should highlight the answer in bold or use ordered/unordered list tagging. Make sure the answer is in a single paragraph too.
e. How Do You Handle Out of Stock Product Pages?
With an e-commerce store, sometimes products run out of stock. The bad news is that your product pages go away whenever your supply runs out.
The good news is that there are lots of ways to change that.
You should add a ‘temporary out of stock’ notification to display whenever you run out. Some apps can automate the process if your inventory is too extensive to do this by hand. You should also:
- Add a signup form that notifies users the minute you restock.
- Redirect the out-of-stock page to a similar product that is in stock.
- But NEVER delete a temporarily out-of-stock page without a 301 redirect
F. Is Your Internal Site Search Performing at its Highest Level?
E-commerce stores are unique in that they have internal site search features. They allow users to search for your products to find what they need quickly.
Did you know that you need to optimize your internal search the same way you do SEO for Google?
It’s true – your internal site search can do so much more than you may think. Coveo software is the perfect secret weapon here. It allows you to deliver a genuinely intuitive search experience for your store. With Coveo, you gain:
- Personalized product recommendations.
- Multi-faceted search options, from brand to size to price and more.
- Predictive search and AI-powered ranking for relevance.
IV. What Technical SEO Things Are Important?
By now, you’ve thoroughly audited your content and are ready to pat yourself on the back. Your e-commerce SEO audit is now complete, right?
Nope! Your content is only half of the SEO equation.
When Google crawls your site, it looks at much more than your content. There are many technical aspects to consider, such as page speed, broken links, and much more.
a. Can Google Index & Find Your Ecommerce Site?
All the SEO techniques in the world won’t do you any good if Google can’t index your site.
But how do you know if Google was able to index your site? There are a few ways to check:
- Advanced Search Operators. Google has advanced search operators that let you search beyond the basics. One of which, “site:domain.com”, enables you to see how many pages Google has indexed for your site. If all your pages aren’t showing up, indexing errors could be the culprit.
- Use Google Search Console. Google’s Search Console lets you see your site indexing, among other helpful features. Have you submitted your sitemap to GSC? Is it showing “success” or “error”? You can monitor your performance issues here.
b. Have Robots.txt & XML Sitemap Files? Are they Healthy?
Two files are critical to the health of your e-commerce store or any website. They are:
- Sitemap.xml File. This file tells the search engines about all the pages on your website. It also lets them know the order of importance of your pages and any recent updates. You can think of this file as what tells Google everything it SHOULD see.
- Robots.txt File. Conversely, your robots.txt file tells search engines everything they SHOULD NOT see. That includes individual pages, folders, and directories. This folder also enables you to allow or disallow robots.
You need to place your robots.txt file in your root folder. That’s where search engines are going to look for it. An example looks like this www.website.com/robots.txt.
c. Page Speed Meeting Core Web Vitals Standards?
It’s imperative to have an e-commerce store that loads quicker than the blink of an eye. That’s by no means an exaggeration, either.
If your page takes more than a second to load, potential customers will go elsewhere.
Beyond that, Google has Core Web Vitals that it uses to analyze every page. You can think of it as Google testing your website for its blood pressure and heart rate. Here are the 3 Core Web Vitals for page speed:
- Does it load? The Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) should be less than 2.5 seconds.
- Is there interaction? The First Input Delay (FID) should be quicker than 100 milliseconds.
- Is there visual stability? The Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) cannot exceed 0.10.
As long as you pass the test, Google will grant your store a clean bill of health. That will increase the chances of higher rankings.
d. Mobile Friendly & Sitewide SSL?
Switching to sitewide SSL is a must for any e-commerce store.
It’s because you want your entire site to be 100% secure for customers, not just your login page. Your users are trusting you with their sensitive payment information. It’s crucial to have ample security in place to protect your customers.
What’s that mean for Google?
Well, sites that don’t have sitewide SSL get labeled as ‘not secure.’ Google wants a secure web, so they’re cracking down on sites without SSL.
Having your e-commerce store optimized for mobile devices is also a must.
A large majority of consumers use smartphones and tablets to shop online. If your store doesn’t work in those formats, you’ll lose those potential sales.
It would help if you scoured your online store to find any broken links, images, and CSS files. Upon their discovery, fix them as soon as possible.
When it comes to links, broken internal links hurt more than external ones.
Once you fix everything that’s broken, keep up with your technical audits to keep them that way.
f. Page Canonicalization Issues?
Canonical tags are helpful, but issues can arise with them too. Take a thorough look at each canonical tag that you have in place. In doing so, look for:
- Improper canonical tags. Mistakes happen, and they could happen here. Check to make sure that the formatting and data inputs are correct. Incorrect tags can lead to duplicate content issues.
- Missing canonical tags. If you notice a page that needs a canonical tag but doesn’t have one, add it ASAP. A canonical tag needs to be on every page of your site whether or not you have intentionally duplicated pages.
g. Tracking & Measuring Using Google Search Console & Other Tools?
Every e-commerce store owner should make use of the Google Search Console. It lets you measure your traffic, monitor your performance, and more. As previously mentioned, it’s a fantastic way to check your indexing status.
The Console also suggests how to improve your site’s appearance to Google.
That way, you can optimize your visibility to the algorithms. Google Search Console is a secret weapon that you need to use. There are lots of other excellent SEO performance tools out there, too; these are all the ones I routinely count on to help clients with their SEO strategy:
- Ahrefs. This is a suite of SEO software that has some amazing tools. You can conduct site audits, build links, track your ranks, etc.
- SurferSEO. Surfer is a writing editor optimized for SEO. You can write blog posts and articles while taking suggestions for keywords, structure, etc.
- ScreamingFrog. This website crawler is for you if you want to improve onsite SEO. You can crawl your URLs while extracting data and auditing for common issues.
- SEMRush. This is an all-inclusive tool for improving online visibility. It also contains valuable marketing insights.
h. If You Have an International Multilingual Site, Are There HREFLANG Tags?
Does your e-commerce store sell in a bunch of different countries and languages? If so, you’re going to need proper HREFLANG tags to keep track of it all.
These are HTML tags that tell search engines which language to display for users.
You see, there are different URLs for regions and languages worldwide. You need HREFLANG tags to let Google know which language to display for a multilingual page. For example, a French URL with a corresponding HREFLANG tag will display the page in French.
During your audit, make sure that your HREFLANG tags are not missing or incorrect.
i. Unnecessary or Poor Use of Subdomains & URL Directories/Folders Structure?
Take a look at your URL directory structure and folders.
- Do you have things well ordered hierarchically?
- Are you using SEO keywords in the url folders?
- Do you have too many subdomains which can spread your SEO authority too thin?
- Your SEO might be tanking as a result of these…
It would help if you got your ducks in a row to organize and seamless your URL structure with an SEO focused mindset. That will make it easier for Google to crawl your site and rank it accordingly.
j. Good Use of Internal Linking or Not?
Your internal linking is a big part of your SEO. If you aren’t already, you should use breadcrumbs on your site.
What are those?
Breadcrumbs are internal links that let users track where they are on your site. They usually hang out at the top of the website or underneath the navigation bar.
An example of breadcrumbs looks like this:
“Homepage < Our Capabilities < SEO Services”
Breadcrumbs make it easier for search engines to crawl your website.
You should also identify orphan pages. They get their name because no internal page links to them. Thus, they are like orphans without a home. To get these pages indexed, add internal links.
k. Missing Or Incorrect Structured Data/Schema Usage?
Your structured data (schema) is anything that lives in a file in a fixed field. In other words, it’s the markup that lets search engines know how to display your content in SERP results (ratings, reviews, pricing, etc). It’s essentially the language that search engines speak.
If your structured data is incorrect or missing, Google won’t be able to interpret your data.
As you can imagine, that’s terrible news for your SEO.
Go through your structured data and make sure that it’s intact. The same is true for any schema usage, which helps you create rich snippets for search results.
l. Using 302 Redirects Instead of 301 Redirects?
Do you use 302 redirects on your e-commerce store? If so, it’s time to put an end to that. Where a 301 redirect is a permanent relocation, a 302 is only temporary.
What’s the problem with that?
The problem is most people use a 302 redirect and forget about it. Not only that, but 302 redirects DO NOT pass domain/page authority as 301’s do. For this reason, it’s crucial only to use 301 redirects. The only case to use a 302 redirect is if the page truly is temporary.
m. 404 Pages?
If you notice any 404 pages on your store, you should convert them to 301 redirects. There are several reasons why.
For one, 404 pages hurt your user experience.
A 404 page is a dead-end, forcing users to hit the ‘Back’ button and search elsewhere for their needs.
Next, a 404 page is a missed opportunity. With a 301 redirect, you get the chance to salvage the click. You can transfer the link authority to another page on your website, improving your UX.
Our Ecommerce SEO Consulting Services
That’s quite a lot to take in, so let’s recap. If you have an e-commerce store, there are a number of areas you should consider optimizing for SEO. The first step is to conduct a thorough audit. The 4 groupings I provided here contain all the checklist items you need for an ideal audit.
The next step is to prioritize the items on that list so that you implement fixes that give you the most bang for your buck sooner, and others that are worth doing but may take longer to see results, to implement later.
If you’re ready to take things to the next level, don’t wait to check out my e-commerce SEO consulting services. I have a proven track record in guiding companies with an audit, strategy, and prioritizing implementation.
I’d be more than happy to speak with you, so feel free to get in touch if you’d like to chat.