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How to carry out an eCommerce SEO audit

June 18, 2023
Paul Gordon

an eCommerce SEO audit

I am going to guide you on how todo your own e-Commerce SEO audit. Auditing your website can help you to identify areas for improvement. The nature of eCommerce websites is that they are typically very large, with lots of products, category pages and navigation pages to keep track of. Errors on these pages can lead to broken links, poor user experience and an increase in bounce rate.

In the worst case, you might also experience problems with abandoned baskets which could start to harm your profits. An eCommerce audit can help you to spot these issues and fix them before they start to harm your income.

What is an eCommerce audit?

An eCommerce audit is a common process of examining the on-page and off-page elements of your website to ensure that everything is functioning as it should. Your audit should be unique to your website, as every website is different and will have different considerations.

An eCommerce audit can be carried out periodically to monitor for changes, improvements and issues with your website. Ideally, the audit should offer some actionable insight that will help to improve the health of the website in future. All too often, the website audit doesn’t lead to any changes or improvements and the same issues will keep cropping up time and time again.

Who needs an eCommerce audit?

Anyone running an eCommerce website should consider adding regular audits to their marketing plans. This can help to identify areas for improvement and stop small issues from becoming widespread and damaging. As your website grows, you need to ensure that errors on your site aren’t multiplying.

Another instance when you might need an eCommerce audit would be following a website migration. Migrations can cause lots of issues with websites, and eCommerce sites are often hit the hardest because of the scale of the website.

What should be included in an eCommerce audit?

As we mentioned, every eCommerce audit should be unique to the website. Some factors won’t be relevant to your site, so feel free to adapt the audit to your specific needs. These are some of factors you might include in your website audit:

Indexation

Head to the Coverage tab in Google Search Console to check how your website is viewed by Google. This will show you if there are errors that might be impacting the indexability of your website. If there are errors, you should be able to dig into the cause of these errors. And if you have a large number of excluded pages, you can also confirm if this is happening for the right reasons, or if there is an error.

Robots.txt

The Robots.txt file of your website will let search engines know what to crawl and what to exclude. Check that this file is in place and configured correctly to make sure your website is discoverable.

Website speed

Website loading times can make or break a site. If your website is slow to load, visitors won’t wait around, they will simply look for an alternative. With an eCommerce experience, this can be particularly damaging as users want to be able to browse quickly, and sometimes on a mobile device.

Google PageSpeed Insights will give you a good idea about how well your website performs. This will cover both mobile and desktop devices. It also offers recommendations for how to improve, which you can take directly to your web developer to implement.

Structured data

Schema markup is essential to let Google know the intent of your website. Using this correctly can also lead to you landing a spot in the rich results in Google. It can add things like star ratings to your SERP listing, which can help to increase customer trust. A good eCommerce audit should cover the presence of structured data to ensure you’re making the most of opportunities in the SERP.

International setup

If your website is structured for multiregional or multilingual iterations, you need to make sure that everything is set up correctly. See this post for further info. This includes checking that canonical tags are used correctly, making sure that hreflang attributes are implemented, and ensuring that your website loading speeds are sufficient in the regions you are trying to target.

Core Web Vitals

This became a ranking factor in 2021 and places focus on the importance of user experience. It looks at a range of metrics, including Largest Contentful Point, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift. These are all technical terms for how and when a user interacts with your website. You’ll need to use the Looker Studio to create a CrUX dashboard to monitor this.

Mobile UX

Since Google switched to mobile-first indexing, the mobile user experience has never been more important. And this is particularly true for eCommerce websites that will often rely on large volumes of mobile traffic. Google offers tools that will allow you to check how mobile-friendly your website is.

website content

Auditing your website content

Once you have an overview of your website from a technical standpoint, you can then start to think about the content. Content is very important for an eCommerce website as it will be the main source of motivation to encourage users to make a purchase. Content includes things like images, product descriptions and category pages. Navigation is also essential to a good user experience. Consider the following factors for your website audit:

Keyword targeting

It’s important to keep track of the keywords you are targeting so you know if your efforts are successful and if you need to change course. The keyword research will form the foundation of your content strategy. Review this regularly to make sure you are making the most of opportunities available to you. 

Meta titles and descriptions

You can use a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl your website and extract plenty of useful information about how your website appears in SERPs. From here, you can review your meta titles and descriptions to make sure they are making the most of the space available. If your meta titles and descriptions are auto-generated from website content, this step is essential to ensure they are generated correctly. Meta titles and descriptions that are too short aren’t making the most of the opportunities, and if they are too long, they might be cut off. 

Page structure

Search engines expect websites to follow a particular structure, including a clear hierarchy of headings on the page. Check that each page on your website has a clear header and footer, and then the most important keywords are present in the H1 and H2 tags. These simple steps will help to ensure that search engines know how to categorise your content.

Category and product pages

Every product page and category page should include well-written content that helps the website visitor to make an informed decision. This content should be well laid out and include information about the products that will enable shoppers to make an informed choice. The product description should also include a clear link to your brand tone of voice and messaging. This will help to ensure a cohesive experience across the site.

Additional content

Users need more than just product information to make an informed purchase decision. They also need to know things about your shipping pricing, your brand values, what to do if something goes wrong with their order, and how long they can expect to wait for delivery. Make sure that additional content like your shipping and returns page are easy to find and there are no broken links heading to these pages. Broken links can impact the user experience and make shoppers likely to look elsewhere.

Cannibalisation

It’s common for eCommerce websites to have multiple pages trying to rank for the same keywords. This can cause issues and should be avoided if possible. If you have multiple pages ranking for the same keyword, you are competing with yourself. To avoid this, revisit your keyword research to determine if there would be a more appropriate term to target and shift focus to this.

Image compression

Very large images on your website are going to slow down the user experience and make it difficult to load your website on a mobile device. Monitoring how you upload images and prepare them for use on your website using a tool like Screaming Frog will allow you to spot any potentially oversized files.

User experience factors

Now we’ve reviewed the website from a technical angle and looked at the content, it’s time to consider how users interact with your website. The user experience audit can help you to identify potential issues with your site that are standing in the way of conversions. Amazon is famous for running lots of small experiments to see what user experience factors will increase conversions the most, and this is likely to continue as shopping habits change and develop.

Here are some user experience factors you should consider during your audit:

Site search

Customers need to be able to find what they are looking for in the search bar. You should regularly look into the search terms that are used to help identify any potential roadblocks to conversions. By regularly reviewing this data, you can determine if you are using the correct terms to describe your products, or if your customers refer to them in a different way.

Out of stock items

Removing out of stock items from your website can harm your SEO efforts by removing backlinks and potentially creating broken links. Think about the best way to manage out of stock items and regularly review if this is working for your website. For example, you might keep the page live and offer a selection of alternative items. You could also redirect the page to the main category page.

Auditing your off-site content

While off-site content might be somewhat out of your control, it’s still important to include this information in an audit. It can help to identify potentially harmful links or issues with spam. Your off-site content audit should include:

Monitoring backlinks

Your backlink profile is still one of the most important ranking factors for Google, so it’s vital to monitor links pointing at your site. You might be responsible for building some of these, through directories and digital PR, or you might have earned them through content marketing. Keep a close eye on the volume of backlinks and look for spikes in spammy links that could damage your website.

Increasing backlinks

Alongside monitoring your backlinks, you also need an active campaign in place to continue building backlinks. Your audit can form the foundation of a backlink building campaign by helping to identify gaps. An audit can also include competitor research to identify any new links that your competitors have achieved that you could also attempt to acquire. Information from your website audit can form the foundation of a digital PR campaign, allowing you to identify which keywords you should be targeting and which pages need the most support.

Bringing it all together

Remember that your eCommerce website audit should lead to action. Every discovery that you make in the audit needs to pave the way for course-correction or growth. If you discover something is amiss in your audit, then you should take steps to fix it. And if you discover something is working well in your audit, then you need to think about how you can expand this across the rest of your website.

A common problem that companies face is that they know they should do the audit, but they don’t always know what to do with the information. This means that problems remain untouched until they complete the following audit which reveals that nothing has changed. If you want your eCommerce SEO audit to be effective, you need to make sure that it is delivering actionable insight.

Not every item on this list will be relevant to your eCommerce website right now, but remember that your needs can change over time. The audit you carry out when you first launch your website might be very different to the audit you carry out a few years down the line.

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