SEO is fundamental to eCommerce websites.
However, despite the importance of SEO for eCommerce, many businesses are not properly optimized for search engines.
Here at Pedestal Search, we conduct website audits regularly in order to help business owners excel on Google, Bing and other popular search engines.
Today, we’re sharing exactly how we conduct an audit, including our eCommerce SEO audit checklist.
Benefits of an SEO audit
Online shopping has increased exponentially over the past few years. In fact, it’s projected that by 2023, 91% of Americans will shop online. Of those shopping experiences, 97% will begin on a search engine.
To ensure you’re getting your fair slice of this massive pie, you need a website that performs organically. An SEO audit is your first step in this process. Specifically, it will help you:
1- Understand your current organic performance
2- Identify issues preventing visibility and traffic via search engines
3- Identify opportunities to increase your organic conversion rate
Keep in mind, an audit is just the beginning. After it is complete, you need to implement strategic optimizations, create a thoughtful and realistic content strategy, and upkeep your website to ensure you’re always meeting the latest technical best practices.
eCommerce SEO Audit Checklist
At Pedestal Search, our audits focus on three areas: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.
On-page SEO elements include anything that affects your website’s performance on search and is editable on your own website. For example, content or meta data.
Off-page SEO elements include anything that affects your website’s performance on search but is hosted/generated on an external website. For example, customer reviews or backlinks.
Technical SEO refers to anything that impacts how your website is crawled and indexed. It may also include UX and performance metrics like page speed and mobile-friendliness.
To help you review your website, here’s our internal eCommerce SEO audit checklist.
On-Page SEO Audit
Before conducting an SEO audit, we always review what keywords a website is already ranking for and then conduct keyword research to decide what they should be ranking for.
Keyword research helps us understand how prospective customers are using Google to find your products and/or products like yours.
When conducting an SEO audit, we generally focus on three types of keyword groups: Primary, Product, and Content Keywords.
Primary keywordsare the holistic keywords we want the entire website and/or brand to rank for. For example, a primary keyword for an eCommerce website selling soccer gloves and other protective gear might be ‘soccer equipment’.
Primary keywords tend to be short- and medium-tail.
Product keywords are the specific keywords we want each individual product to rank for in search. For example, the aforementioned eCommerce brand might want its glove product page to rank for ‘professional soccer gloves’.
Product keywords tend to be medium- to long-tail. Try and find keywords with ‘transactional’ or ‘commercial’ intent. In other words, bottom-of-funnel keywords.
Content keywords are often the top-of-funnel keywords we want to use in our content strategy. For example, we may want to write a blog post titled How to Prevent Soccer Finger Injuries that ranks for the content keyword ‘prevent soccer finger injuries’.
After we’ve conducted thorough keyword research, we review the website’s title tags. Specifically, we want to ensure each indexable page has a unique title tag that mirrors the keyword we want the page to rank for.
Similar to title tags, we also scan the website’s meta descriptions.
A meta description is the short blurb in an organic listing that describes what the webpage is about.
During our audit, we ensure every page’s meta description is unique, reflects the keyword we want the page to rank for, and also contains active CTAs like ‘Shop’ or ‘Learn More’.
Like title tags, meta descriptions directly impact click-through rate. Here’s how a title tag appears in Google.
One of the most important SEO on-page variables are headings.
Headings (especially H1s/Page Titles) help Google’s spiders understand what the entire webpage is going to be about. You can think of an H1 as the title of a book – it should clearly explain in layman’s terms what the user will find if they read the content.
When we’re conducting an eCommerce SEO audit, we ensure there’s no major duplication between H1s. We also want to ensure H1s more often than not contain the keyword we’d like the webpage to rank for.
If the page is a product page, we want to ensure the H1 is descriptive and niche. For example, if an eCommerce website selling women’s clothing had a category page with the H1 ‘Tops’, we’d want to change it to a more specific H1 like ‘Formal Blouses’ or ‘Women’s Tank Tops’.
Alt text (aka Alternative Text) is a short description coded into images to help the seeing impaired and other individuals using page screen readers understand what an image is.
Alt text is important to SEO because it helps Google understand what images to rank in an image search. Alt text should clearly but neatly describe what the image is. If possible, it should also contain a relevant keyword. For example, a good alt text might read, ‘A woman wearing a formal blouse in an office.’
Linking between pages is essential to a SEO-optimized website for two reasons.
First, interlinking helps Google’s spiders jump from page to page and easily index your entire website. If a web page only has one link (or no links) pointing to it, it’s difficult for Google to find and crawl the page.
Second, interlinking between pages helps users easily navigate your website. For example, including ‘Related Products’. Or using blog posts to draw traffic in from search engines, and then including links to relevant products or category pages.
Category & Product Pages
Most eCommerce websites have two unique page types other websites don’t: Category Pages & Product Pages.
Category pages will aggregate related products into one page. They serve as a simple solution for customers to browse all of the products a business has.
Product pages are specific to individual products. They usually contain the product name, a description of the product, images of the product, and customer reviews.
Both page types are extremely important to SEO and should be an important part of your SEO eCommerce audit.
Targets Specific Mid-Funnel Keywords
When auditing an eCommerce website, it’s important to ensure each category page is optimized for a specific, Mid-funnel keyword.
For example, an online shoe store may want a category page optimized for the keyword ‘women’s tennis shoes’. This page would then aggregate all of the store’s women’s tennis shoes.
Unique Meta Descriptions, Title Tags, & Headings
While reviewing your site, it’s important to ensure every category page has unique meta descriptions, title tags, and headings.
All three of these SEO elements should reflect the exact keyword you want the page to rank for.
Targets Specific Bottom-of-Funnel Keywords
Product pages should be optimized for a single bottom-of-funnel keyword. Product page keywords tend to be long-tail; often the more specific, the better.
Unique Meta Descriptions, Title Tags, & Headings
Also just like category pages, it’s important that every single product page’s meta description, title tag, and heading is unique. This ensures each page has its own chance to rank in search engines.
Product Name Template
An advanced SEO strategy most eCommerce brands don’t execute is creating a product name template.
The exact product name template you use will depend on the type of product you’re selling. A good apparel template might look like this:
Gender, Item, Style/Fit, Colour, Material,
In practice, this might look like: Men’s Loose-Fit Jeans Dark-Blue Denim.
No matter what template you create, avoid using too much branded terminology. Instead, focus on using language similar to what a prospective customer would type into Google.
Robust Product Descriptions
Also unique to product pages are product descriptions.
Depending on the website, a product description may be a paragraph detailing what the product is. It could also be a series of bullet points highlighting various aspects of the product (for example, furniture size ratios). In many instances, it’s both: a description plus bullets with important aspects.
When Google crawls a product page, it will read the description to try and understand what the product is. It’s important that you write clean, robust descriptions of the product to ensure Google gets a good picture of what it is.
In order to improve conversions, it’s important that product pages contain at least one bold call-to-action.
A good CTA should pop on the screen and encourage the user to make a purchase.
If the user doesn’t know how to buy or add an item to their cart, it could result in a lower conversion rate.
The final item we like to ensure all product pages have are authentic customer reviews. In our experience, having positive reviews on a product page plays a significant role in building trust and often drives higher conversion rates.
It’s important that user reviews be aggregated from third-party review sites like TrustPilot or Google My Business. These sites prevent business owners from tampering with their reviews, ensuring they’re reliable.
Off-Page SEO Audit
When conducting the off-page portion of an audit, the first item we check is the number of backlinks pointing to the website.
From an SEO perspective, it’s important to have a robust backlink profile. This proves to Google that your website has E-A-T (Expertise, Authority & Trustworthiness).
Quality almost always trumps quantity. And backlinks are no exception.
When we audit a new client’s website, we use SEMRush and other third-party tools to see how many of the website’s backlinks are coming from sites with Domain Authorities of at least 30.
When it comes to backlinks, your website will get more link equity based on the following factors:
Domain Authority of the linking website (higher DA = more link equity)
The relevance of the linking website to your website (the more relevant = more link equity)
The placement of the link in the webpage (links higher up in the page, and within the content will carry more link equity than links in bios, for example)
As previously touched on, Google will largely decide a website’s E-A-T based on backlinks and off-site reviews.
And just like backlinks, both the quantity and quality of your site’s reviews will matter.
First, Google will scan the web to check the number of reviews on sites like Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, the BBB.org, and TrustPilot. Quantity is important because Google needs a robust pool of reviews before it can decide on an overall sentiment.
After scanning the web for the number of reviews online, Google will then check star ratings and general sentiment. If the overwhelming majority of reviews are 5-star and positive, Google will more than likely think your website is trustworthy and authoritative within its space.
Technical SEO Audit
The final section of our eCommerce SEO audit focuses on technical elements that affect a website’s crawlability, indexability, and UX.
To ensure a website appears on Google and other search engines, we must decide if it’s ‘crawlable’. In other words, when Google’s bots come around, are they able to enter and read every important page on the website?
If Google can’t crawl a website, then it can’t index it and consequently won’t list it in its search engine.
Some reasons a website might not be crawlable include robots.txt, NoFollow Links, broken links, gated content, limited server capacity, among many others.
Misused robots.txt is the most common issue we see. Essentially, this is a snippet of meta data that tells Google which pages it should and should not crawl. If it’s incorrectly configured, you may prevent crawls of your site.
XML Sitemap Submitted
XML sitemaps are web pages that link out to every other page on the website. They act as a roadmap to the website specifically for search engine spiders.
By submitting an XML sitemap to Google Search Console, you’re guaranteeing that Google can easily find and navigate your entire website.
To ensure you’ve submitted an XML sitemap to Google, visit the page in the image below.
Duplicate Content & Canonical Tags
All websites contain a certain degree of duplicate content. This is normal.
However, it’s important to tell Google which page is the ‘canonical’ version. In other words, the duplicated page you actually want listed in Google.
When we audit websites, we check Google Search Console to see which duplicate pages are declared canonical. If there’s ever a discrepancy we use the ‘mark as canonical’ tag to help Google easily understand which page we want to rank.
Another common SEO issue are 4XX errors. Most notably ‘404s’.
A 404 occurs when a URL is taken down but links to the URL still exist. For an eCommerce store, this might occur when you want to remove a specific out-of-season product but external websites are linking to it.
Too many 404s results in a poor user experience. Google may derank your site if you have too many 404 errors.
To fix a 4XX error, simply create a 301 redirect. This type of redirect will automatically bounce a user or a bot to a similar page of your choice.
Broken Links: Internal & External
A broken link is any link on your site that leads to a webpage that doesn’t exist. Either the hyperlink was input incorrectly or the destination page has since been removed.
Broken links result in the aforementioned 404 errors. Too many broken links results in poor user behavior.
To resolve broken links, either remove the problematic external link altogether. For broken internal links, either change the link destination or create a 301 redirect.
All domains are either HTTP or HTTPS.
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol.HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.
HTTPS websites encrypt a user’s data, providing an extra layer of cybersecurity.
Because eCommerce websites handle financial transactions, using a HTTPS URL is critical to protecting your customers. So much so, if you don’t use it, Google almost certainly will not rank your website.
Schema or ‘structured data’ is a type of code that allows spiders and bots to quickly read relevant information on a webpage.
Google has a large gallery of structured data sets that may be relevant to your website. Common structured data sets include Articles, Job Listings, Recipes, Reviews, etc.
View the full gallery of structured data Google recognizes here.
At Pedestal, we always audit eCommerce websites for Breadcrumb and Product Schema.
Breadcrumb Schema helps users easily identify how a webpage fits into the site’s URL hierarchy. It improves site navigation and results in a better user experience.
Product Schema helps Google pull all relevant information to correctly list your products on Google Shopping and on the normal Google results page. Product structured data fields will include Product Name, Product Description, Price, etc.
To quickly check what structured data sets have been configured on your webpages, copy and paste the URL into Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool. It will scan the webpage’s code for structured data and identify any errors or warnings.
Page Speed is one of the most important user behavior variables Google considers when deciding how high to rank your website.
In recent years, Google has begun greatly prioritizing page speed in its ranking to ensure users are being delivered high-quality experiences.
When we audit a website’s page speed, we use Page Speed Insights. Simply copy and paste a URL into the tool and it will generate a grade from 1-100 for the page’s mobile and desktop speed. It will also provide very specific suggestions to improve page speed.
The biggest culprit of slow page speed is large image files. Use websites like Image Compressor to shrink your images before uploading them to your website.
The final element we always consider when auditing an eCommerce website’s organic performance is mobile friendliness.
First, we check the mobile site’s page speed using the aforementioned Page Speed Insights tool.
After reviewing mobile page speed, we also review Google Search Console’s Mobile Usability report.
The Mobile Usability report will identify any webpage that may contain mobile errors such as links that are too close together.
Contact Us: SEO Technical Audit Service
Auditing a website’s SEO performance is a critical first step to improving organic visibility, traffic and conversions.
While we’ve included a thorough checklist of how to conduct an SEO audit yourself, the process is tedious, time consuming, and often difficult for the average business owner to execute to a high standard themselves.
At Pedestal Search, we’re offering to conduct a free SEO audit of your website to help you better understand the potential of ranking on Google.
Contact us today to receive your free SEO audit.