Everything you will need to audit your eCommerce store
In this article, I will review the most important SEO parameters and explain how you can perform an eCommerce audit to increase your organic visibility. Including the most important improvements, you should make.
The order is not random, it follows the most effective roadmap to build a sustainable organic strategy for growth. You do not start with backlink improvements if your site structure is completely wrong, for example.
I have divided the 14 steps of this eCommerce audit roadmap for SEO into 4 chapters.
Chapter #1 Content Structure: Create the framework for a strong eCommerce website.
Chapter #2 Site Performance: Get more impressions in Google because of great site performance.
Chapter #3 Content Expansion: Increase the number of queries and keywords for which the site will be shown to potential customers.
Chapter #4 Authority Building: Improve off-site signals to increase domain authority and increase sales.
To illustrate the above-mentioned points, I have included a mix of interesting examples and results from clients that Phanum worked for, as well as other eCommerce stores from around the web.
Chapter #1 Content structure
The first step you should take in your eCommerce audit is an examination of the content structure of your online store. The content structure can be seen as the basis of your site, and something which must be done right before moving to the following steps.
In this phase, you are mainly focussing on improving the current content and internal linking. Some eCommerce stores can already increase their average keyword rankings tremendously in a few months with these tips only, as one of our clients has seen recently:
The tools which you can use to audit the content structure of your eCommerce website are:
- Google Search Console
- Website crawler (Screaming Frog for example)
- Google SERP
Step 1: Optimize your on-page content with relevant keywords
Most eCommerce websites have webpages, predominantly categories, and products, which have a low amount of content, which results in a small number of keywords. Keywords are used by search engines to see if a page is something that could be valuable for users.
If there are no signs, in the form of relevant keywords, then search engines are less likely to show your page in the search results. The more relevant keywords you have, the higher your position is likely to be! There are a few places to put your keywords in a natural and user-friendly way:
- The titles of your pages (H1 / H2 / H3 etc.)
- The meta title of your webpage
- The meta description of your webpage
- In the URLs
- In the image titles
It is best to improve your most important product and category pages first as this can yield the most results in the quickest. What is most important can depend on a few factors such as relevance to your business, number of sales, amount of impressions in the search results, or if its positions are declining.
Step 2: Remove duplicate content
Duplicate content is content that is the same within or across different domains. You should avoid duplicate content on your website as much as possible. Most of the time duplicate isn’t posted intentionally, but it does still harm your SEO.
If two or more pages have similar content on your eCommerce site then chances are pretty high that both pages are penalized for it. Search engines, such as Google, are only searching for 1 page that will be most valuable to users. If you have 2 or more similar pages, search engines will not be able to understand which one is more important. Because of this, both will be shown lower in the search results. Examples of often occurring duplicate content on eCommerce sites are:
- Multiple categories, products posts, or regular pages pointing to the same content
- When search pages get indexed
Step 3: Fix incomplete schema markup
With schema markup (also known as structured data) you can tell the crawl bots of search engines what your most important content is on pages. Incomplete schema markup results in a lesser site structure and search engines not exactly understanding the most important content of your web pages. This results in lower rankings and ultimately lower visibility. With the right tags and schema, you will be able to improve the structure of your webshop a ton.
There are many types of schema markup. However, every eCommerce website should use these three:
For more information about schema markup and how to implement this, you should read our blog on the 5 most important schema markup implementations. (Including implementation and coding examples!)
Step 4: Remove irrelevant content
Irrelevant content is content that is not at all related to the products you sell or which is redundant. It is much better to only have high-quality relevant content than web pages that just exist to add to the total number of pages. When you add too many low-quality pages to your website, the average quality of your web pages suffers and so will your rankings in search engines.
I most commonly see irrelevant content in the form of pages with no optimization at all. This could be for example “tag” or “brands” pages. It is always better to only index webpages that are optimized, instead of indexing all the (unoptimized) webpages.
Step 5: Make sure your content is indexed
Indexed content is the number of web pages that can be crawled by the crawl bots of search engines. Only if webpages are indexed correctly will they show up in the search results, albeit it being very low in the beginning maybe. As an eCommerce store, it is crucial that all your products are being indexed and thus the number of pages that are indexed should be somewhat the same as the number of products you offer.
A common mistake that I see more than I should is that the amount of indexed pages is lower than the number of products being offered. This means that not all pages are showing up in the search results of, for example, Google.
Step 6: Optimize internal linking
Internal linking is the linking of different pages of your website. Internal linking is mostly done through the navigation menus and internal links, in the form of breadcrumbs or contextual links. With the right internal linking strategies, you should be able to make your most important pages have the most amount of internal links.
The more internal links a page has, the more important it is perceived to be by search engines. However, I have seen three common problems with the internal linking structures of eCommerce websites:
- Low amount of internal links in total
- An excessive amount of internal links per page
- Most relevant internal pages not matching the right content (categories/products)
Chapter #2 Site performance
The second step in your audit should be checking your site performance. This is about making sure that your site loads fast and smoothly for users. Search engines, such as Google, will tend to show websites on the first page of the search results which load very fast. But what happens when your site doesn’t perform well at all? Then your impressions may look something like this:
Thus, impressions are directly related to a “Good URL” score, which you can find in the Google Search Console. The higher this score, the more impressions you will probably get. You should optimize your URLs until you reach the 90% mark. There is no need to go above and beyond as from this point onward the extra upgrades might not impact the site’s performance that much.
The tools which you can use to audit your eCommerce site’s performance are:
- Google Search Console
- Site Speed Test from Google
- Plugins and apps
Many eCommerce websites use many plugins to have extra implementations on their website. However, all these extra plugins and apps come with additional coding, which can add up if you have too many. Most of the time, these plugins can be reduced with plain HTML coding, an API connection, or with Google Tag Manager.
Step 7: Fix the layout files
Sometimes when you load a website you will see that it doesn’t load correctly the first time. Instead, you see certain elements jumping around or rearranging themselves, before loading correctly. This causes trouble when users want to interact with your webshop as they are not able to see the page immediately and are unable to interact with it.
This happens almost always because there are multiple layout files for the CSS, whereas the eCommerce store should have only 1 layout file for optimal performance. When multiple layout files cause your site to have suboptimal site speed performance, you should fix this as soon as possible. When your site doesn’t show any issues when loading a page and loads fast, the search engines will not penalize your page and show your page higher in the rankings.
Step 8: Lazy load your images
Some eCommerce sites have a lot of large files on their pages in the form of scripts or images. When these files need to be loaded before the page can be shown, this can sometimes cause a delay for users when they click on your page link. To avoid this, most resources should be lazy-loaded on pages. Lazy loading images or scripts only load when the user scrolls on a page to the specific resource, an image for example. This reduces loading time and increases the site’s performance and speed.
Step 9: Make your eCommerce site mobile-friendly
Mobile retail eCommerce sales are projected to exceed $430 billion in 2022 and $710 billion in 2025. Mobile will become the main source of traffic (therefore transactions) for any webshop. Nowadays it is already a big chunk of the whole retail industry and it will become more important in the next 5-10 years.
This means that you should focus on having an eCommerce webshop that works well on a desktop or laptop but also on mobile devices. However, I still see thousands of webshops that have not taken mobile layout seriously. Not only the layout but also usability. You have to make the website clear and easy to navigate. Some common mistakes I have noticed are:
- A cookie bar that is too large (blocking the relevant content on the page)
- No products in the first fold
- A header that is too large
- An initial description that is too large
This example happens on the product page, which is the highlight page of your site and the main door for new visitors, specially if you run Google Shopping campaigns.
– The product is not directly visible to users because of the cookie banner.
– No image. No price. No delivery date. Nothing.
– Header is too big.
Needless to say, the product page should show easily all the main features of the product and also an easy way to interact with it (buy button, wishlist, compare products, etc). That is why you invest money to get people to the product page.
– All features are visible at once. Without scrolling down, users get to know everything about the product.
From there it is easier to improve engagement as users might want to see other products or categories.
To improve even more the results now you can take care of other parameters like pricing, pictures quality, copy, etc.
Chapter #3 Content Expansion
When you have improved your current content structure and optimized your site performance, you should start by expanding the amount of content. From this point onwards, you should start to focus on ranking for more different keywords and showing up for more different queries.
This is different from improving your current on-page content as in this step you are going to add additional content to fill in gaps or support existing content.
The tools you will need to expand and increase your content are:
- Google Search Console;
- Competitor research tools;
- Keyword research tools (Ahrefs, SERanking, AnswerThePublic);
- Text editors (Word, Google Docs, etc.);
- Possibly AI content writers;
Step 10: Research your competitors
Most eCommerce stores don’t have a monopoly – they have competition. In order to identify which content to add to your eCommerce site, you need to audit the competition first. Search engines want to provide the most relevant information and products to users, therefore, they often show results that show the most relevant information and products. Because of this, you need to be on par, or preferably, have better content than your competitors for categories and products.
You can audit the content of your competitor with different tools such as competitive research tools from SERanking or Ahrefs. However, I also recommend you do manual audits of your competitors as well by reading their content for products, categories, and blogs. All to see, where you need to improve and increase your content.
Step 11: Prioritize the content that needs improvements
When you have audited the content of competitors, you should start to prioritize your content expansion. Your time is valuable and you want to have the biggest improvements for the least amount of time you have to work.
Therefore, you have to improve and increase your content from the most important pages to the least. How that order will exactly look will depend on your specific eCommerce site and competitors. However, these are some factors that you should consider for sure:
- Current or potential page impressions in the search results
- Current page position in the search results
- How much time it will take to be on par or exceed competitors’ pages
- Difficulty to rank for a certain keyword
- Profitability of a certain category or product
Step 12: Upgrade your content
When you have audited your competition and identified the pages that need content improvements the most, you will be able to start adding content to your site. While this can be different for every eCommerce site, there are 2 content formats that I have regularly used to effectively improve clients’ content:
Content upgrade #1 Supportive content on main category pages
One of the most time-efficient techniques to improve the SEO of your eCommerce site with content is adding supportive content to category pages. Most of the time a category page displays an overview of products that sit in this category. However, often this results in pages with a lot of products, but with a low amount of quality content.
With additional supportive content below the products, you will be able to add more related keywords to the category pages. Both in the paragraphs and in the headers (H2/H3/H4). This will make you rank your category pages for many more different related keywords. Short and long tail!
Another example of extra content is an FAQ. An FAQ adds valuable keywords and relevant content for users that search for certain queries. By adding this to the category page, both the category and product pages of that category will benefit from the additional content.
Content upgrade #2 Blog content
While many eCommerce stores neglect this content format, blogs can generate a tremendous amount of traffic to a webshop. This increases the relevance and rankings of the site overall. But these blog posts can also act as a landing page for your site from which potential customers will go to your product pages.
The key to creating blog posts that will be worth the time and money investment is creating high-quality content which is more valuable for information gathering than any other product or category page online. The goal of these blog posts should not be to convert visitors directly but to answer all their possible questions.
A perfect blog format for this goal is a buying guide in which you explain all the nuances or a direct product comparison. But yet again, the content needs to be based on actual search behavior and your competitor research. If you want to know more about how blog content can boost your revenue you will love to read our article about: the 7 reasons why every webshop should have a blog.
Chapter #4 Authority building
When you have implemented and improved all the previously mentioned points, you will be able to start to build your off-site authority. You should only start to focus on this step when you have a quality eCommerce site, or otherwise, the efforts you make in this step are not as worthwhile of doing. To build your eCommerce site up as an authority you need to improve off-site signals to increase your domain authority. This can be done via either reviews or backlinks.
The tools you will need to audit and build your authority online are:
- Google Search Console
- Backlink checker
Step 13: Improve the number and quality of your reviews
Reviews are an important part of becoming an authority in your space. When you have good reviews on your own site or even review sites, search engines and users will recognize your eCommerce store as something which brings value. And thus your website will be seen as something which search engines should present to users.
Thus, review your own reviews and see if there are methods to increase the number of positive reviews on platforms such as Kiyo.com, webshopchecker.nl, or trustpilot.nl. Also, check your own Google Business Profile and make sure that you increase the number of positive reviews if you allow users to give you reviews.
Step 14: Start to acquire backlinks from relevant sites
Backlinks are links from other domains to your site. The more backlinks you have, the more popular your eCommerce store is and the higher your domain authority will be. And this (Domain authority) is a crucial part of ranking highly in search engines.
When you have done everything else, you can start to focus on getting more backlinks. Entire books have been written about backlinks, but eCommerce websites need to make sure that they:
- Have backlinks from domains with a high authority that are relevant to their business.
- Make sure that backlinks link to the right pages.
- Redistribute “juice” from backlinks to other pages they want to rank highly. This can be done with internal linking.
Whenever your backlinks are from a low-quality domain, or one that is not relevant to your product offering, the search engines will not increase your domain authority that much.
Also making sure that quality backlinks are linked to the right web pages on your site is crucial for getting the most out of these backlinks. If this is not the case, you should consider redirecting your backlinks to the right web pages.
Final thoughts on performing an eCommerce audit
Auditing your eCommerce website isn’t something you can do in an afternoon, you should rather see it as a continuous process of improving and updating your eCommerce store. However, it’s important to remind you that you should first have a foundation and proper content structure before you start to build upon a weak structure with expensive backlink acquisition campaigns.
I hope that this article will have shown you where to start and what actions you should take at which stage of the process to grow your eCommerce store organically. If you would like to know more about growing your eCommerce business, then don’t hesitate to reach out!
If you found this article an interesting read you should consider reading our article on eCommerce product page SEO. This article includes all the SEO best practices for your product pages.
Or you should consider reading our article on the 5 best SEO tools for eCommerce sites, which is a really interesting read!
If you have made it this far through the blog…
Chances are that you are seriously looking to improve your SEO game. That’s great we are here for it!
To get your webshop optimized for search engines, contact one of our eCommerce experts today.
Or learn more about your future SEO Strategist: Jairo Guerrero.