8 Expert Tips to Run an SEO eCommerce Audit
Does your eCommerce website rank high enough on Google?
That’s a trick question.
Whether you answered yes or no to that question is beside the point. You routinely need to take stock of your website’s SEO (search engine optimization).
Search engines change their algorithms frequently. An SEO audit will help you keep up with the changing times so you don’t gradually fall behind. SEO has a broader impact other than ranking at the top of search engine sites. There’s a lot of nuances that will help steer consumers into a purchase quicker.
Which, if I’m not mistaken, landing more sales is every company’s highest priority, right?
Just like you wouldn’t wait until you’re deathly ill to see your physician, it’s essential to make a regular SEO checkup to ensure everything is in working order. Well, we’ve got exactly what the doctor ordered for your SEO audit!
SEO professionals from all walks of life in the eCommerce world weighed in on the most critical steps brands need to take to get the most out of an SEO audit. Keep reading to learn the 8 expert tips they shared for your SEO audit for your eCommerce website in 2021! Once you are done reading, we highly recommend you study our expert interview about A/B testing for e-commerce websites.
More about an SEO eCommerce Audit
It seems SEO has become a confusing buzzword for some people. The idea itself is not complex, although some of the tactics can get technical.
Ecommerce brands optimize their website primarily for user experience, but customers aren’t going to find your website without optimizing it for SEO.
Search engines like google use algorithms to scroll, crawl, and index your website to display content for search engine results. An SEO eCommerce audit evaluates your website’s execution on search engine queries – and it can also benefit the overall health of your website.
An SEO audit will increase a website’s performance, visibility, and organic traffic. Proper SEO will guide people interested in your brand directly to your site and streamline them right into your sales pipeline.
8 Expert Tips to Run an SEO eCommerce Audit
1. Keyword Research
Ah yes, keywords. I’m sure most readers are, even on a basic level, familiar with them.
Picking high-ranking keywords to place on your website is the fundamental step of any SEO audit; however, eCommerce websites need to change up their keyword selection compared to other websites.
Sam Orchard, the Creative Director of Edge of the Web, explains which keywords work well for eCommerce brands. “Your aim isn’t to inform or educate. Ultimately it’s to sell. Make sure your keyword planning reflects this and opt for commercial keywords with transactional intent.”
Make sure your keyword planning reflects this and opt for commercial keywords with transactional intent
Sarah Scherer of SEOteric Digital Marketing further elaborates on keywords that will help your eCommerce website stand out from the rest. “Digital marketers might find themselves doing more longtail keyword research as they encounter tough competition in an e-commerce search market.
Maybe your client sells running shoes, but what makes their shoes different? Longtail keyword research can reveal opportunities to help your client rank faster and better for more specific terms. For example, "running shoes for pavement."
Maybe your client sells running shoes, but what makes their shoes different? Longtail keyword research can reveal opportunities to help your client rank faster and better for more specific terms
2. Keyword Placement
Selecting the perfect concoction of keywords is half the battle; the other half is where to place them on your website. Even with high-ranking keywords, unless search engines can scroll and index them on your website, you are out of luck.
Besides placing keywords in the common titles & headers, Sam Orchard recommends going a step further for eCommerce sites. “Each page should contain a unique, relevant, and keyword-rich product description too. Depending on how many products you offer, this could be a long process, but it'll pay off in the search results.”
Doug Liantonio of Gravy Solutions has some more great advice about adding keywords to your descriptions on your eCommerce website. “you want bullet points or your marketplaces equivalent to headers to have the same keywords but more elaborated on. If you are selling boots, get into their features and details.”
If you are selling boots, get into their features and details
Sometimes basic keywords work the best. For many eCommerce companies, ideal keywords are the product name and manufacturer part number. Brands need to make sure they are updated and put in the right place.
The company Hydra Creative explains it like, “When performing audits on product-based websites, if it is applicable, ensure that both the manufacturer's part number and the product name are included within the H1 tag, the image alt text, and the meta tags. This enables the products to be found if a user is searching online for the specific manufacturer and part number when they are carrying out price comparisons.”
3. Keyword Cannibalization
Overusing the same keywords throughout your website’s pages can have a devastating impact on your SEO. The result is known as “keyword cannibalization.”
Sarah Scherer goes into more detail about the phenomena of keyword cannibalization and how to rectify it. “A common problem with eCommerce websites is that there is very similar optimization for keywords on both a product category page and related product pages. This can result in keyword cannibalization, in which both pages rank for the same search query in Google, negatively impacting the website’s rankings.
“A common problem with eCommerce websites is that there is very similar optimization for keywords on both a product category page and related product pages.
To determine if this is a problem, export your ranking data from Google Search Console and sort it by “query” to check if multiple pages rank for the same keyword. Typically, you want your product category page to rank for the targeted keyword. Therefore you may need to de-optimize your product page to boost rankings.
4. Duplicate Content & URL Canonicalization
As the new inventory of products become available, eCommerce companies create tons of different pages on their website constantly. A lot of duplicated content gets inadvertently created, which trips up search engines while indexing your website.
Dean Olave, SEO Manager at Sixth City Marketing, expounds on the problem of duplicate content and offers a solution. “eCommerce sites are known to have thousands upon thousands of pages, and the most common SEO issue is within duplicate content. eCommerce sites tend to create duplicate content from URLs with parameters due to having different versions of the product, such as color or size.
eCommerce sites are known to have thousands upon thousands of pages, and the most common SEO issue is within duplicate content
Identifying duplicate pages should be a priority, and implementing fixes through canonical tags can point search engines to the one correct version of the site.”
5. 404 Error Pages
404 error pages are on the opposite spectrum of duplicate content. Ecommerce websites are constantly deleting outdated inventory they no longer carry, but sometimes the page URLs stick around – like digital carcasses drawing search engines to the wrong place. When Google recognized a 404 alert on any of your pages, your search rating goes into the garbage.
Sixth City Marketing has more on the topic of 404 pages. “A 404 occurs when you go to the URL of a page that no longer exists. And if your e-commerce store is consistently switching out products, meaning you are deleting product pages that are no longer usable, you likely have a lot of 404s on your site.”
“A 404 occurs when you go to the URL of a page that no longer exists. And if your e-commerce store is consistently switching out products, meaning you are deleting product pages that are no longer usable, you likely have a lot of 404s on your site.”
You can use software like Screaming Frog or Xenu Link Sleuth to hunt out the broken 404 pages on your website. Delete any backlinks that point towards a deleted page.
6. Augmented Category Pages
Ecommerce products can range quite a bit and can be incredibly unique. It’s important not to overgeneralize your product categories on your eCommerce website so that search engines can catalog your inventory appropriately.
Adam G, Paid Advertising officer at Majux, gets into the nuts and bolts of improving your eCommerce page categories. “In your audit, specifically check whether or not the client has enough category pages. Ideally, you'd have a high-level category page for each high-volume keyword. The reason: these pages have more content, are often attached to the site navigation, and have a better shot at ranking on Google.
“In your audit, specifically check whether or not the client has enough category pages. Ideally, you'd have a high-level category page for each high-volume keyword.
For example, let's imagine that your new client is a skincare brand selling face masks. Rather than having one parent category page optimized for "facemasks," have category pages optimized for "Korean Face Masks," "Charcoal Face Masks," "Green Tea Face Masks," etc. Then you would organize the various products within those categories beneath them.”
As you begin to expand your category pages, make sure you leave a breadcrumb trail on each page. Breadcrumbs act as a marker to the consumer. They show where they are shopping within the website’s hierarchy. Breadcrumbs have a tremendous impact on SEO too.
For Mark Condon, SEO specialist at Shot Kit, checking for breadcrumbs during an SEO audit is necessary. “I always check all my web pages for breadcrumb navigation.
It helps the users to understand where they are within your site and allows them to navigate back to the previous sub-categories page easily. An easily navigable site ensures a smooth buying experience for customers, which is very important for increasing traffic.”
An easily navigable site ensures a smooth buying experience for customers, which is very important for increasing traffic
7. Google Merchant Center
You should leverage every eCommerce tool that search engines offer while completing an SEO audit. If you aren’t familiar with the Google Merchant Center, now is the time to utilize it. The Google Merchant Center lets you manage how your in-store and online product inventory appears on Google.
Hydra Creative has the low-down on the Google Merchant Center and how to get the most out of it. “With free organic listings now being available on Google Merchant Center, there has never been a better time when conducting an audit to ensure your website and Merchant Center are showing the same data.
With free organic listings now being available on Google Merchant Center, there has never been a better time when conducting an audit to ensure your website and Merchant Center are showing the same data
Most websites allow your development team to directly extract the product data into an XML feed that you can insert straight into Google Merchant Center through a scheduled fetch. It is also recommended to feed this information into your business manager on Facebook through your catalog area and into Instagram and Pinterest if you have them. Consistency is key across your platforms, and the more product data you can present, the more chances you have at achieving a sale.”
8. User Experience
You wouldn’t think it, but the user experience has a lot of sway on SEO. Whether or not your eCommerce website flows and how quickly consumers can access your content determines a lot about how well you rank on search engines.
Morgan Hennessey, the Digital Content Manager at Belvoir Media Group, sums up the impact user experience has on SEO perfectly. “When completing an SEO audit for an eCommerce website, it's essential to dive deep into the user journey to purchase. It’s easy to get lost in the keywords for your products and forget about one of the most important factors of search performance – User Experience.
When completing an SEO audit for an eCommerce website, it's essential to dive deep into the user journey to purchase. It’s easy to get lost in the keywords for your products and forget about one of the most important factors of search performance – User Experience
With an eCommerce SEO audit, I’ll always look at the behavior flow for organic traffic on Google Analytics to determine if the organic landing pages drive users in the right direction to purchase. We’ll usually find a lot of great insights on the type of traffic the current SEO strategy is bringing In.”
Dean Olave of Sixth City Marketing is back again to shed some light on user experience. They define it as “making sure that your site is designed “conversion-friendly.”
This means that you easily have ways for them to check out (quickly) and that your site is easy to understand that natural flow for making purchases. Bad design for conversion is one of the things that can lead to cart abandonment, which is a metric that other niches never have to consider.”
In eCommerce, speed is of the essence. Page loading times have a tremendous impact on user experience. Ashish Goswami with 21Twelve Interactive puts page loading speeds into perspective.
“Slow website loading can negatively impact SEO. It can reduce your traffic, sales, leads, and ROI. You can check your website speed into GTMetrix or Google Page Speed Test by entering your URL. Once it gets finished, it will show you the problem you will need to fix to increase your website speed. Some of the common fixes are:
- Reduce the page size to keep page load times to three seconds or less.
- Use a content delivery network to cache your content.
- Compress data sent to the browser.
- Upgrade your hosting server.
- Add image sizes to help search engines create placeholders.
Slow website loading can negatively impact SEO. It can reduce your traffic, sales, leads, and ROI.
Generally, 90+ desktop speed and 75+ mobile speed are ideal. Hence make sure your website desktop and mobile speed are up-to-date.”
A Wrap-Up of an SEO Audit for Your eCommerce Website
Don’t become complacent and think you’re SEO will always remain on point. You’ll need to re-evaluate your strategies & refine your implementation every once in a while.
A routine SEO audit will help your website keep up with shifting search engine processes. It’ll even make your website run better!
Brands that avoid updating SEO lose out on big profits. Some SEO evangelists would say SEO is a make-it-or-break-it must-do for eCommerce websites.
You don’t have to take our word for it – we pooled leading experts in the SEO realm to give us their best practices on completing an SEO audit for eCommerce websites. This is their winning formula.
Whether or not your SEO is performing well, this list of 8 expert tips will guide any level of an eCommerce website to perform well on search engine results. Your clientele will have no problems finding your site, viewing your inventory with detailed product info, and making a purchase quickly.