Download the eCommerce SEO audit checklist
Whether you’ve launched a new eCommerce website or have an existing one, a regular SEO audit is a key part of a strong SEO strategy. A good audit informs your eCommerce SEO strategy and ultimately helps you improve your search engine rankings.
In some cases, maybe an algorithm update occurred and you’re seeing your organic traffic drop consistently or maybe your conversion rate is dropping and you’re losing organic revenue. If any of these sounds familiar, the best place to start getting things right is by getting a specific technical SEO audit.
If you’re looking to hire for an audit, we’ve got a checklist of 8 things you should make sure are included. But first, let’s cover some basics about SEO audits and what you should expect.
How is an eCommerce SEO audit done?
While popular platforms like SEMrush and Ahrefs offer “audits” and website scanners, an audit from an expert SEO with experience in eCommerce websites will uncover the exact issues you need to fix and improve.
Agencies and consultants with technical SEO and on-page SEO experience have the tools at their disposal and a strong knowledge of how to use those tools to provide relevant, actionable insights for your SEO. Most SEO audits start with a crawl of the website and then plug in data from Search Console, Google Analytics, and a variety of other sources to understand the website’s organic footprint. Experts often use tools like Screaming Frog, Sitebulb, and custom scripts to efficiently gather data. For enterprise stores, audits can leverage data from 100s of platforms if needed.
Once the data analysis is done, a presentation is created that runs through the problems and tells you what needs to be done to fix them. Presentations are usually slideshows but might be a video or live walkthrough. Check out our example eCommerce SEO audit.
A checklist of 300 problems from a website scanner might be convenient, but these often contain irrelevant information about social media profiles, SSL warnings, blocked pages, “slow” pages, and other points that won’t actually affect search engine results. A professional SEO audit takes years of experience to create and deliver correctly.
What is the purpose of an SEO audit?
An SEO audit should find the primary issues affecting your search engine optimization and should make recommendations for how to fix them. There are dozens – if not hundreds – of technical issues that affect your organic traffic like meta tags, canonical tags, content strategy, backlinks, keyword selection, page speed, and many others. For site owners, sifting through an automated report can be exhausting and make their SEO efforts feel pointless. The benefit of an audit from an expert is the ability to identify the SEO issues that really move the needle so you can get more organic traffic.
Here are the 8 most important parts of any eCommerce SEO audit.
1) Robots.txt and XML sitemap
The first step of a technical audit for eCommerce sites is to review the most fundamental technical parts of the website. To do this, every audit should include a review of the robots.txt file.
The robots.txt file contains “rules” that search engines read. These rules tell crawlers which web pages they can – and can’t – crawl. This information is especially important for large eCommerce stores where search engine bots can mistakenly crawl millions of URLs they shouldn’t be, which means they may ignore your most important product pages.
The XML sitemap is a simple file search engines read that acts like a “map” of your website. These files contain a list of URLs and some associated data. This file is uploaded to your server and sent to search engines to tell them the list of pages they absolutely should crawl.
Many eCommerce stores have multiple sitemaps, so setting these files up correctly can help more of your website get indexed faster.
2) Core Web Vitals / Page Speed
Core Web Vitals (CWV) are a set of metrics Google uses to measure overall website performance. They focus on factors like site speed, load times, and how efficient the website processes code, but they also measure mobile friendliness and user experience. The three main Core Web Vitals are:
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Does your website load without the user experiencing unexpected shifts to the page layout?
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Does the main element (text, images, video, etc.) on your website page load fast and efficiently?
- First Contentful Paint (FCP): How many seconds does it take for a user to first see the content of your website? (How good is your website loading speed?)
As of 2021, Google includes these metrics as ranking factors – the higher you score, the better your website can rank for its target keywords. And increasing your website’s performance isn’t just an SEO issue – fast websites have improved conversions and a lower bounce rate.
A good eCommerce SEO audit will include how your website scores with CWV and what main improvements can be made to pass these tests.
For a quick check on how your website performs, you can log in to your Google Search Console account and see how your website scores under the “Core Web Vitals” tab, or enter a URL in Pagespeed Insights: https://pagespeed.web.dev/.
Note: A site audit may include the primary issues your website faces with Core Web Vitals, but it may not cover how to fix them. Oftentimes, fixing a page speed or CWV issue requires advanced programming knowledge and HTML updates. Make sure you know what is included in the audit.
3) On-Page SEO
If you’ve never done SEO on your store before, you might not have paid much attention to the content side of your website. However, it’s arguably the important factor to get right for more organic traffic. An on-page SEO review will help you understand the content and keywords search engines read on all the most important pages of your website. Here are some basic parts included in an on-page review.
Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions
These are the pieces of content search engines use to understand the page. They’re usually not visible to users and are instead edited on the backend of the website. Platforms like WordPress and Shopify have fields to add this content. A good meta title tag and meta description will include the main keyword the page is targeting while accurately describing the content on the page.
Product Descriptions (PDPs and PLPs)
For eCommerce stores, product descriptions serve two main purposes: One is to market the product and help users understand it, but the second purpose is often overlooked — search engine optimization.
A great product description or product category description gives a search engine specific information about your product. It means including primary keywords in your product title (when possible) and inserting specific terms throughout your description so your page content is fully optimized.
We’re gonna stretch the limits a bit here, but that’s because we want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Having a solid internal link strategy is one of the most effective ways to boost your SEO.
Internal links occur when specific text on your website hyperlinks to another of your website’s pages. By default, most websites have hundreds of internal links in their main navigation menu, footer menu, and sidebars.
However, internal linking should be much more strategic for the best search engine optimization. A strong internal link program will pass authority correctly to the most important pages of your website. It will help crawlers understand your website’s content strength and focus by linking related content together using optimized anchor text keywords. This means your “target pages” get plenty of power on your website and important pages get indexed quickly.
Schema, also called markup, rich results, and a host of other terms is fancy code (JSON) that provides specific details about your content. For eCommerce stores, the main focus is on product markup that search engines use to display information on the search engine results page (SERPs), like rich snippets, product prices, product images, shipping times, discounts, and reviews.
With search engines putting more and more emphasis on showing product pages in special sections, having the correct schema is more important than ever to get more organic traffic.
Building backlinks to a website is a common SEO strategy. For eCommerce stores, more backlinks help increase domain authority and rank higher for the products that matter.
But many stores have a history of poor link-building efforts that search engines can consider spammy. In really bad cases, a search engine may issue a manual penalty if they know a site builds links in an unethical manner.
Using tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, you can run a backlink audit to determine how many “good” links you have and how many “bad” links you need to get rid of. An audit can include a backlink report that tells you whether or not you need to disavow any links. It can also tell you which pages might need more backlinks to rank higher.
Note: In order to remove bad backlinks, you need to disavow them, which tells search engines you no longer want these backlinks associated with your website. Once you have your list of spammy backlinks from the audit, you can upload a disavow list in Search Console. It’s always a best practice to consult an SEO expert before disavowing any links. Uploading an incorrectly formatted disavow file can be disastrous for your website’s SEO.
5) Crawl Budget
This particular fix applies to large eCommerce stores in particular. Over time, your store has likely had thousands if not millions of URLs created through adding new products and product variants.
When your store becomes that large, it needs to be optimized for search engines to crawl your product pages, category pages, and other relevant content.
By analyzing your server’s log files, you’ll see what URLs, directories, and file types search engines are crawling the most (also called the crawl budget). If the audit finds search engines are spending way too much time crawling your blogs and ignoring your product pages, you can make adjustments to your website’s architecture and internal linking strategy.
6) Keyword Research/Analysis
If you’re struggling to rank your products on the first page of Google, one of the first places to start is with keyword research.
Keywords are the primary search terms your want your website pages to rank for. They’re used in virtually every part of the website — from page titles and headings to product descriptions and internal linking. No audit is complete without a review of where you rank for specific target keywords and what you can do to rank higher.
Commonly included keyword information includes search volume, keyword rankings, keyword competitiveness, a keyword gap analysis, and keyword strategy.
7) 301 Redirects and 404 pages
Ensuring your website has the correct 301 redirects is key to avoiding a major traffic loss. A 301 redirect is a simple rule created for a URL that no longer exists. The redirect makes sure the old URL goes to a new, relevant page whenever someone clicks on it.
www.example.com/blue-t-shirts gets replaced with www.example.com/shirts/blue. Since both pages contain virtually the same content, a 301 redirect will help ensure the new /blue/ page keeps the organic traffic from the old page. 301s are important because the organic “power” like keywords and keyword rankings can be passed from the old URL to the new URL with a 301.
If a page doesn’t have a redirect, you’ll likely see a “this page doesn’t exist 404 error” when trying to visit it. While not all 404s are “bad”, too many can signal an SEO problem. When you have lots of broken links, it’s a sign your website needs a much closer look.
8) Content Review
The final part of a great eCommerce SEO audit is doing an in-depth review of your existing content. This review goes beyond keywords and on-page SEO and looks at how you’re using and publishing content on your site.
Having a strong content strategy is key to driving the right kinds of organic search traffic and ultimately increasing conversions. While most eCommerce stores understand the value of optimizing product pages, they leave valuable organic traffic on the table by not creating content to target other potential customers.
A content review can help you identify issues like:
- Poor/thin content that search engines ignore
- Duplicate content issues where two pages are competing for the same keyword
- A lack of relevant keywords and content that targets searchers at different parts of the buyer journey
Whether you’re just not having luck rankings for your main keywords or you’re experiencing a major traffic loss, an SEO audit is always helpful. So the next time you’re ready for one, make sure they include these 8 factors so your SEO is always in good health.
eCommerce SEO Audit Checklist