Unbeknown to many owners of eCommerce sites is the power of search engine optimization (SEO) and the amount it factors into the clickability and effectiveness of their websites.
Excellent SEO is at the core of any prospering eCommerce business. And one of the key components of any SEO strategy is the audit, which is how you refresh and adapt to continue to grow your business.. However, if you follow this simple guide, which is tailor-made for improving SEO results on eCommerce sites, then all of your fears will be assuaged.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of improving internal website functionality to increase web traffic through search results. For example, if you are an eCommerce site that sells graphic t-shirts, you would want your website to rank high on the Google search engine for clothing-related terms. These terms, also known as keywords, are phrases people search for that will bring them to your website.
Google’s search algorithm looks for relevant phrases for an individual’s search to match websites to online visitors. Generally speaking, improving your SEO should make your web pages pop up for more search terms. In the case of the previous example, a clothing eCommerce site using SEO should rank highly in terms such as “graphic tees,” “graphic t-shirts,” and other variants of the name, including various details about the product.
What is an SEO Audit?
Taking this to the next step is the SEO audit, which is typically thought of as the process of refining your website to increase its web presence. Ecommerce SEO audits shouldn’t be considered one process, but many. To do an effective SEO audit, you must use multiple resources and factor in numerous variables.
SEO audits must come with direct knowledge of a particular brand’s marketing position and strategy. Ecommerce sites generally sell specific products, and you want your web traffic to be looking for those products without directly advertising to them. Your audit, in turn, should point out potential flaws on the web development side.
SEO audits should not only point out technical flaws but should also address expansion opportunities through SEO web strategy and in-person marketing opportunities. You will find new marketing opportunities once you address your issues in finding new web traffic.
The Essential Resources to Conduct an SEO Audit
Before you can conduct an effective eCommerce SEO audit, you have to understand what tools and resources are needed to assess the status of your site. Each term listed below needs to be accounted for and optimized differently using unique sets of web-based tools.
What are Meta tags?
Meta tags, also known as meta elements, are text segments within a website’s HTML or XHTML code that represent key representative features that Google uses to index web pages. Meta elements come in the form of a web page’s meta title, meta description, meta keywords, and meta robots attribute.
Meta titles, or title tags, are brief phrases you see on the Google search results page. Meta titles should be a more abbreviated version of a web page’s main title, potentially combining the brand name and the content/article name.
Meta descriptions are generally two shorter sentences that describe the content on the web page. Meta descriptions are essential for natural web traffic because new potential visitors may not be familiar with the items you sell.
Meta keywords function as a list of essential terms relevant to the web page’s content and within the main text or code of the web page. Keywords are meant to link customers to relevant pages or products. Let’s say you specialize in selling water bottles. In this particular case, someone is looking for an aluminum water bottle. While the item you are selling may be titled based on its brand name, other content would have the keyword phrase “aluminum water bottle.” By including this phrase, the likelihood of people finding this item on your website increases.
The meta robots attribute, or meta robots tag, optimizes your website for search engine crawlers, or “bots.” These “bots” check your website to learn about how your website can be indexed, crawled, and represented within the search results.
What is Indexing?
Web page indexing uses the meta information from your website to compile comprehensive lists of web content following different search parameters. It is easy to check whether your web pages are indexed or not. All you have to do is add “site:” before your web page name (i.e., site:mywebpage.com) to determine how many pages you have listed with Google.
Once you figure out which pages are indexed, you can begin to synthesize information about your website. Let’s say you have a newer product on your website that you just created the page for. Making sure that product is indexed is the first step in optimizing it through SEO. The indexing process also makes you aware of web pages with technical errors.
What is a Web Crawler?
Web crawlers are internet bots that survey the web for indexing. You should have internal bots downloaded that give you information about your web pages, signifying where you can improve overall details. Bots, by giving you meta titles, meta keywords, and meta descriptions, archive your pages in an index.
Like the meta robots attributes, external bots are used by search engine operators, such as Google, to index information from your website. Both internal and external bots crawl through the internet in the same way. Internal bots can tell you what information Google is grabbing from your website to rank it within different search results/parameters.
What is Web Search Traffic?
Pretty much everyone who uses SEO already knows what search traffic is. The number of impressions you get on your website accounts for the overall activity different users have when interacting with your website. However, most people don’t realize that there are other ways of characterizing search traffic, too.
Search traffic can be generated by different means, generally correlating with marketing strategy and advertising effectiveness. In terms of SEO, there is both fresh and stale web traffic. A well-designed site using the tenets of SEO will have active fresh traffic along with a consistent number of prior users who come back to purchase more goods. Different types of sites, which sell items for different prices and other qualities, will target their strategies to reach out to different customer types.
If you sell only one type of higher-quality product, you’d expect your customers to not be active on the site. Still, you want to have an excellent social media presence and a high consumer rating, so you want consumers to continue to go on your website. In that case, improving the SEO and web design of blog sections, newsletters, and active social media widgets would be to your advantage.
There are many downloadable and web-based tools available to track overall web traffic.
What is a Content Gap?
A content gap is the difference between the content users want to see on your website and the content that is currently on your website. When doing an eCommerce SEO audit, you have to look objectively at the strengths and weaknesses of individual sites to determine strategies for developing new content.
Furthermore, finding content gaps doesn’t rely strictly on SEO skills. You should do deep research into your competitors’ eCommerce sites to find differences between your site and theirs. This could be a formatting difference, but for content gaps, it is generally related to products they sell that you don’t. Remember, this is only surface-level research; you don’t know if those products sell particularly well. Don’t make too many grand conclusions about a competitor’s successes in SEO because you can’t see the wiring under the hood.
Other common content gaps include blog pages, advertising redirects, promotions, and social media pages. When working on content gaps, make sure the content you create is relevant and doesn’t distract new page viewers without any incentive.
The Ultimate SEO Audit Checklist
Hopefully, by now, you have some general ideas about the different parameters people use to conduct a basic eCommerce SEO audit. Read through to learn about more specific things you can look for to improve your SEO.
The Importance of a High Search Rank
It’s ingrained in any competitor’s nature to be ranked number one.
In SEO, a higher rank means a greater likelihood of your website being clicked on. Think about it from a customer’s perspective; when you begin to research a product to buy, you generally click on the first link you see. If you don’t like the content on the first link or find it complicated, you continue to the second link or type in a different search term. Each of these variable inputs negatively impacts the chance that one single person clicks on your website.
Higher SEO rankings can mitigate this risk. It should also be noted that getting to the top spot of the search results, especially for non-niche eCommerce sites, is very difficult.
Always take into account various pop-ups or boxes that may appear above your website. Paid Google search ads generally appear at the top of search results for eCommerce results. If you sell goods that are also available in-person, or if someone searches using general terms, then it is likely that a Google Business section will appear before your website. ECommerce websites operate at this disadvantage because they don’t have a physical location for selling goods.
Manual Page Checking
Every one of your web pages should be checked for configuration, technical, and content issues.
Repeat all of the eCommerce SEO checklist processes for every web page; after all, high rankings for multiple search inquiries will result in a higher clickthrough of all web pages. This may be a generalization, but improving each web page will increase natural search traffic.
Another important thing you should check is the meta name and meta description of page titles within the Google search results. Ensure that the meta names and descriptions of a particular page are consistent with the content within it. Title tags can be checked within the Google search engine by using the “intitle” search query (Site:websitedomain.com intitle:possibleotherwebsitedomain.com)
Similarly, if you notice formatting issues with one page’s URL, you can use the term “inurl” instead of “intitle” to get a list of web pages that have particular phrases that may have caused the error.
Determine the Value of Each of Your Web Pages
To do an eCommerce SEO audit, you must constantly check the information on each of your web pages from both a tech and a content perspective. Determining each web page’s value combines both skill sets to improve a customer’s experience by fixing errors that may confuse them.
- Strength: You want to make sure all of your content is formatted similarly and that no web page looks too thin. The sell page and payment page for all of your products should look the same. Use a consistent coloring palette and similar formatting so you don’t confuse buyers.
- Duplicate Content: If you have multiple web pages with the same content or single web pages with general filler text, buyers will doubt the legitimacy of your site. Buyers want a unique experience with each of your products.
- Simplify Content: If your website has too much information, simplify each page. Some goods are more complicated, so you have to include extra information with them, but you should try to reduce it down to the simplest terms. Home pages and link pages shouldn’t be filled with too much content, nor should they have similar text descriptions to general product listing pages.
Web Page Loading Speeds
The faster the speed of your website, the greater likelihood that it will be ranked higher. The Google PageSpeed Insights Tool will directly tell you your site speed and give it a ranking.
How you improve your site speed is based on external factors with the site and server provider. If you sell goods internationally and have servers only in the United States, international times will be much slower.
If you have a successful eCommerce site, consider purchasing servers at international target markets. As users of digital technology, we expect to see fast information and fast loading speed. Many people will close a web page if it doesn’t load within a second. Many people also believe that slow web pages are filled with malware and are insecure.
Along with those keys, there are some other things you’ll want to stay on top of:
- Connection Security: When you load a web page, you should make sure that your connection is secure. This is indicated on the top left corner of your search bar. Secure web pages using the Secure Sockets Layer Certificate (SSL) ensure that user data is encrypted.
- Broken Links: Always make sure to check with Google to see which web pages are correctly indexed. Removing broken, old, or default links is essential to have a high SEO ranking.
- Structured Data Errors: A common type of structured data error sees information from your web page’s body within your meta description. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool will point out any data errors you may have. Remember to use it for all web pages.
World Wide Web Redirect: If you search your web domain or URL using “www.” you should be redirected to the web page without the server name (www.) You can see your web pages that use www by searching site:yourdomainname.com inurl: www.
HTTP/HTTPS: Redirect: Similarly, you want to choose from either protocol links to redirect your search results too. HTTP, also known as the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, communicates between web browsers and web servers. HTTPS, using the protocol tag HTTPS://, is an encrypted protocol link. HTTPS is the best protocol link to use, and all web page searches should be redirected to pages with it. You can also see your web pages that use HTTP by searching site:yourdomainname.com -inurl: HTTPS; This gives you a list of unsecured web pages.
If you want to do an effective eCommerce SEO audit, you should be following each of these steps repetitively for all of your web pages. SEO audits must be done frequently, and you should constantly be staying on top of changes in the Google search algorithm, which can change how much different factors matter in terms of ranking results.
Remember to keep an internal bot installed to feed you information about your site’s metrics and meta information. Always make sure your content is accurate and formatted properly; this is one of the few things you can do without SEO knowledge, and it is one of the few direct things visitors can see when browsing your site. Finally, make sure you use relevant keywords for your topic.