How to Carry Out An E-Commerce SEO Audit

How to Carry Out An E-Commerce SEO Audit

Is your website overdue for an e-commerce SEO audit? If you’re not getting the results you want from your site, it’s likely that you would benefit from an audit. Building a website doesn’t guarantee that you will get traffic. There are billions of web pages on the Internet. If you don’t take active steps to rank high on Google and other search engines, you’ll find it very difficult to attract organic traffic. That’s where search engine optimization comes in. 

However, many online sellers believe they can “set it and forget it” where SEO is concerned. This is far from true. Google’s algorithm and ranking factors are always changing and your e-commerce website needs to keep up. You must consistently evaluate your site and respond promptly to the findings. Otherwise, your perfectly optimized site from 6 months ago could now be lacking in key areas.

Why SEO Audits Are So Important for E-commerce Sites

People are shopping online more than ever and there are no signs that online retail is going to slow down. If people aren’t shopping with you, they’re shopping with your competitors.

Carrying out an e-commerce SEO audit will give you a clear picture of where you stand right now. It will help you to identify what you’re doing well and what you need to improve. When you audit your site and take the necessary steps, you can boost your organic traffic, improve your search engine rankings, and increase conversions. 

ecommerce activity overview: % of users who bought smth online in the past month

If you want to appear on page 1 of the Google search results and get people to click on your link and follow through with a purchase, your SEO strategy needs to be robust. You can only develop a solid strategy if you carry out an e-commerce site SEO audit on your platform and also analyze the competition’s SEO strategies.

So, are you satisfied with the traffic that search engines are driving to your e-commerce website? If you have concerns about the quality or quantity of the leads you’re getting, you may be tempted to give up. However, what you should really do is perform an e-commerce SEO audit. This will help you to identify the areas of your SEO strategy that you need to improve. If you’re clueless about where to start, the following e-commerce SEO audit checklist is for you.

What Needs to Be on Your E-commerce SEO Audit Checklist

You’ll need to look at on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO to get the best results. Let’s discuss how you can audit each type of SEO.

On-Page SEO Audit

On-page SEO refers to improvements made to the content and HTML source code on various pages to rank higher on search engines and get more relevant traffic. You’ll need to go through a series of steps to analyze the most important aspects.

letters “SEO” with arrows pointing towards various aspects of search optimization  

1. Assess How You Use Keywords

Keywords are extremely important since they play a major role in where your website appears in the search engine rankings. If your e-commerce site appears on the first page when users search for relevant keywords, you’ll likely get more website views and more sales. The first step in your e-commerce SEO audit is to make sure you’re using keywords properly. 

Google Search Console can help to determine which pages don’t rank well. If you’re not using your main keyword enough, increase the density by adding the word or phrase to both your audience-facing content and your metadata. If you’re already using your main keyword enough, look for other relevant keywords you can incorporate. You can start this process by analyzing the queries that people use to reach your website.

2. Assess Your Meta Descriptions and Title Tags 

This is the next important step in your e-commerce SEO audit checklist. Your title tags and meta descriptions are what people see in the search results. You need to make sure they are accurate and that they drive people to click on the link. Analyzing your click-through rate will help you to determine if your tags are pulling people in. However, keep in mind that CTRs vary by industry and if you rank on the second page of the Google search results or lower, your CTR will be lower.

screen of first result when searching “amazon smart home” in Google

If your CTR is too low, make sure you optimize your meta descriptions and title tags to make them more descriptive and appealing. Remember to include relevant keywords. Meanwhile, if your CTR is high but your conversions are low, it could be that your metadata doesn’t accurately reflect what’s on your pages. People may be drawn in by your title and your description but when they click the link, they realize the product on your e-commerce website isn’t what they were looking for. Consider revising the tags to make them more accurate as you work through the e-commerce SEO audit.

3. Assess Your Content

Keywords aren’t the only thing you need to consider. Content is extremely important so you must take an in-depth look at it as part of your e-commerce SEO audit. People who visit your site want valuable content. Depending on what you sell on your website, that content may need to be inspiring, educational, entertaining, or some combination of these characteristics. 

Look at your content and determine whether it meets the needs of your target audience or if there are gaps. Analyze the content your competitors create and compare it to your own. If you need to come up with a new content strategy for your business, make sure you’re covering the topics that your audience wants you to cover.

Off-Page SEO Audit

After you’ve taken care of your on-page SEO, the next part of your e-commerce site SEO audit deals with off-page SEO. This covers those factors that you can influence but can’t directly change. Your off-page audit will include two things:

1. Evaluating Backlinks

Backlinks are links to your site from another website. When you have high-quality backlinks, you’ll be more likely to rank high in the search results. That’s because links from authoritative sites help to build trust in your e-commerce site. Ahrefs’ backlink checker is a useful tool for checking both your domain and individual pages as you carry out your e-commerce SEO audit.

Not all links are good links so even though you may see a lot of links to your site, you need to make sure they are reputable. Low-authority sites or spammy sites won’t help you to rank high on Google or any search engine. If you discover that you’d rather not have some of the links, reach out to the owners of the sites and ask them to remove the links.  

If you find that you’re getting links from high-quality sites, see if you can get even more. If links of any kind are rare, you may need to look into how you promote your content. Contact some industry professionals and ask them to check out your site and link to it if they believe it would add value.

2. Evaluating Your Social Media Profiles

You may not think that your company’s LinkedIn profile or Facebook page has anything to do with your e-commerce website. However, many digital marketing professionals believe social media pages do have an indirect impact on search engine rankings. 

This is because you can share content and product pages from your website on your social media profiles. Social media provides an opportunity for you to increase traffic to your website and build additional links. Your e-commerce site SEO audit, therefore, needs to include a check of whether you regularly post content from your website.

If you’ve been neglecting your social media pages or posting irrelevant content, it’s time to work on your social media strategy. Let your social media followers see the content and special promotions you’ve been posting on your website. If you’ve been sharing links, take a close look at your analytics to see which posts are most popular. Post more of what your audience wants.

Technical SEO Audit

On-page and off-page SEO are extremely important but your e-commerce site SEO audit can’t stop there. There’s also a need for an e-commerce technical SEO audit. Some people find this aspect boring but it needs to be taken care of. Technical SEO determines how your site works and how Google and other search engines find your webpages. E-commerce websites have lots of pages so there’s potential for several technical issues to arise. This aspect of our e-commerce SEO audit checklist will help you to get the technical side of things right. Here’s what you need to do.

1. Check Your Robots.txt and XML Sitemap

Your robots.txt and XML sitemap help search engines to understand your site. The robots.txt file tells Google which sites to crawl and which to ignore. As you would imagine, it would be a waste of time for Google to crawl your customer’s wish lists or their shopping carts. However, you’ll want search engines to crawl your blog and product pages.

Your XML sitemap is a file that guides search engines to the most important pages on your site so they can index them. It also indicates when those pages were last updated and helps search engines to interpret the structure of your site 

scheme comparing sites with vs without robots.txt

If you want search engines to crawl your site and index the pages easily, you need to have both robots.txt and an XML sitemap. Google has published guidelines for creating robots.txt and setting up a sitemap. As you begin fixing issues revealed by your e-commerce technical SEO audit, be sure to follow Google’s advice.

2. Check Your Website’s Indexability and Crawlability

If you already have your XML sitemap and robots.txt implemented, the next step in your e-commerce SEO audit is to make sure they’re working as they should. Your site won’t show up in the search results if Google, Yahoo, and Bing can’t index or crawl it. Therefore, you need to assess your e-commerce website’s indexability and crawlability.  The Google Search Console makes it easy for you to check if Google has the ability to crawl and index your site.

If you discover that Google can’t crawl or index your pages, check your robots.txt file, add some internal links to your pages, and try to get backlinks from authoritative sites. This will help to make Google’s job easier.

3. Check How Quickly Your Pages Load

No one likes a website that loads slowly. If it takes more than two or three seconds for pages to load on your site, people will give up. If your competitor’s website offers a better experience, they’ll go there. The slower your site is, the higher your bounce rate will be. Even a second or two can make a huge difference in whether people stick around. Your content may be amazing but no one will get to see it.

Analyzing your site’s load time is, therefore, an important part of your e-commerce technical SEO audit. A useful tool to try here is Google Pagespeed Insights. If your website is too slow, begin implementing Google’s suggestions for speeding it up. You may need to do a number of things such as compressing your files, reducing HTTP requests, lowering the server response time or even changing your hosting provider.

4. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly 

In the first three months of 2021, 47.07 percent of web traffic in the USA originated from mobile devices. This was an increase from the 45.95 percent recorded in the previous quarter and mobile traffic is only going to continue increasing. Therefore, your e-commerce site SEO audit checklist needs to include a test of your site’s mobile-friendliness. If people can’t comfortably use your site on tablets and smartphones as well as laptops and desktops, they will leave. This means your bounce rate will go up.

comparison of website when adapted to mobile site screen vs. not adapted

However, this isn’t the only issue you’ll encounter. Mobile-friendliness is a ranking factor for Google. In fact, the search engine uses the mobile site first for crawling and indexing. Therefore, if you don’t offer a good experience to mobile users, your site won’t rank as highly. Once again, you can turn to a Google tool to assess how your site is performing. This time, you’ll need to use the Mobile-Friendly Test. 

If your e-commerce site isn’t ideal for people using mobile devices, you’ll need to get a responsive site. Responsive web design means that your site will adapt to the device the user has so they can comfortably read content, search for products, and make purchases.

5. Make Sure Your Site is Secure

Security is of the utmost importance for both shoppers and e-commerce website owners. This is the last step on our e-commerce technical SEO audit but it shouldn’t be ignored. When shoppers hand over personal details like their addresses and credit card details, they expect that this information will be handled securely. News of a breach would be very damaging to your company. Security also plays a role in your search engine rankings since Google prefers secure sites. If there are loopholes in your security, you won’t get as much traffic.

To find out if your e-commerce website is secure, type in the URL and check the address bar to see if there’s a lock next to it. Your site’s URL should also say “https” rather than “http”. If your site is properly secured, all you need to do is ensure your  Secure Sockets Layer certificate doesn’t expire. On the other hand, if your site isn’t secure, you need to purchase an SSL certificate as soon as possible. This will ensure that shoppers’ financial and personal details are protected.

Why You Also Need An E-commerce SEO Competitor Audit

You shouldn’t stop at auditing your site. You also need to look at what your competitors are doing. The aim isn’t to copy everything they do but to see what they’re doing well and then do it even better (if it’s appropriate for your business). If you don’t keep up with your competitor's SEO practices, you could easily be left behind. However, you don’t want to adopt a content strategy that won’t help your e-commerce operation. 

Let’s look at how you can perform an e-commerce SEO competitor audit.

1. Identify the Most Important Keywords and Competitors

You should already know the keywords that you want to rank for as well as who the other players in your industry are. If you believe there are gaps in your knowledge, do the necessary research.  If you need to come up with keywords, you can start by brainstorming the broad themes relating to your business and then identifying five to ten keywords related to each theme. You can use Google Keyword Planner to help you.

As far as your competitors go, you should go beyond the obvious businesses. If you are solely an online seller, keep in mind that some of your potential competitors may be companies with brick-and-mortar locations. Similarly, if you operate both physical and online operations, some online-only retailers are likely to be competing with you. 

You should also consider businesses of varying sizes if they’re serving a similar demographic. Also, if you sell various categories of products, you may have different competitors in each category. If you choose the wrong sites to compete against, your efforts to improve your rankings won’t work. Identifying the right sites helps to inform the rest of your e-commerce SEO competitor audit.

2. Rank the Sites

What we discussed above is just the start of your e-commerce SEO competitor audit. It may even be the easiest depending on how much work you’ve already done on your keyword strategy. The next step is to analyze how your competitors rank for each keyword. 

Tools like Searchmetrics make this easy since you just need to plug in the keywords and the URLs. However, you can also do it manually using a spreadsheet. You can use Google to see how each site ranks. However, use the Google Ads Ad Preview instead of a regular Google search so the ads won’t be personalized for you. List the top ranking sites for each keyword.

3. Analyze the Data

The next stage of the e-commerce SEO competitor audit is to examine the sites that outrank yours. Try to figure out why they’re doing better. Maybe they’ve published more content or better content or their keyword optimization is better. Think back to the factors we encouraged you to consider during your own site audit. Are your competitors’ pages loading faster? Is their mobile experience seamless? Do they have lots of internal links? Try to identify all the things they’re doing right.

4. Devise a Strategy 

The whole point of an e-commerce SEO competitor audit is to refine your own marketing strategy. Once you’re clear on why Google favors certain sites, look to see what you can improve on your e-commerce website. You probably won’t be able to do everything that your competitors are doing, at least not immediately. Some things may simply not be relevant. However, there are likely to be some small tasks that you can begin doing right away. 

Maybe you can start a blog if and insert some internal links if you haven’t yet done so. Maybe you’ve been ignoring metadata because it seemed like an unnecessary step. Go back through all your content and product pages and add the relevant information. If you need help with some of the larger, more technical aspects, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. The investment will pay off when you start ranking higher in the search engines and attracting more high-quality leads and conversions.

Don’t Delay Starting Your E-commerce SEO Audit!

Every company’s website is important but if you have an e-commerce site, it’s even more crucial that you have everything in order. An e-commerce site SEO audit will allow you to take stock of where you currently stand so you can make improvements as needed. By following the above recommendations for on-site, off-site, and technical SEO, you’ll know exactly what to look for. Analyzing your competitors’ websites can also help you to improve your search engine rankings.

If the idea of doing everything we've described seems like too much, there’s no need to be ashamed. Not every business owner has the time or resources to get their website up to scratch. If that’s the case and you’d rather have someone else carry out a comprehensive e-commerce SEO audit, reach out to Direct Line Development. We have a team of experts who can analyze your site and give you ideas as to how you can improve it. We can even develop a site that is more in keeping with your requirements if necessary. Contact us today to get started!

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Nick Larsen
Nick Larsen
(737) 275-0006
(484) 808 4766

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