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Ecommerce SEO Audit: Your Complete 20-Step Checklist (2023)

Need help with an ecommerce SEO audit? You’ve come to the right place.

This checklist will show you exactly how to complete an SEO audit for your ecommerce website, step-by-step.

We’ve split our checklist into three sections so you can pick exactly which area of SEO you want to focus on.

They are:

Let’s get right into it:

What is an Ecommerce SEO Audit?

If you need help understanding your website traffic and how to attract more customers, an ecommerce SEO audit is a must.

But what exactly is it?

An ecommerce SEO audit is a review of your website to understand your visibility on Google and identify areas of improvement.

By the end of this checklist, you should have a full list of actionable steps to increase your organic traffic.

What’s Included in an Ecommerce SEO Audit?

You can be as detailed as you like when auditing your website.

But at Converted, we recommend auditing four key aspects of SEO during an ecommerce audit. 

This includes:

  • Technical SEO – which assesses how crawlable and fast your website is for Google bots and users.
  • On-page SEO – which evaluates the content on your pages and the keywords you use. 
  • Off-Page SEO – which assesses the authority of your site in your niche.
  • User Experience – which evaluates the experience of users on your site. Technical SEO and on-page SEO usually factor into this. 

From a page perspective, there are three types of pages you should think about during your ecommerce SEO audit:

  1. Product pages
  2. Category pages (by far the most important for traffic)
  3. Blog pages (if applicable)

Ecommerce SEO Audit Checklist

Part 1: Ecommerce Technical SEO Audit

In the first part of our checklist, we’ll show you how to audit the technical performance of your ecommerce website.

Technical SEO is a vital part of the audit process as it lets you identify how fast and crawlable your website is.

This will uncover potential bottlenecks on your site that could limit your organic performance.

The tools you’ll need:

1. Check Your XML and HTML Sitemaps

Your first port of call in assessing your site’s technical performance is ensuring you have a sitemap.

There are two types of sitemaps you’ll want on your website.

  1. An XML Sitemap
  2. An HTML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is the most important.

It’s a file that lists a website’s essential pages, which makes it easier for Google to find and crawl pages and better understand your site’s structure.

You can make multiple XML sitemaps that cover different areas of your site.

For instance, you can have one sitemap that contains all your category pages and another for product pages or blogs. 

Most Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress will create and update the sitemap for you whenever you add or remove a product or category.

(But you can build and submit your own)

You can submit XML sitemaps directly to Google Search Console by submitting the URL.

2. Check Your Robots.Txt File

A robots.txt file tells search engines like Google which URLs it can crawl on your site.

Although it’s mainly used to avoid overloading your site with requests, it can sometimes accidentally block crawlers from accessing parts of your site that you want them to.

A website crawl (see step 3) should reveal if robots.txt blocks any pages.

But to ensure you’re pointing crawlers to the right sections of your site, you can add your sitemap to the file to help the Google bot discover it.

Just simply add the link to your XML sitemap to the bottom of the file.

Robots.txt files are also good at managing your crawl budget, which can be an issue for large sites.

Crawl budget is the number of pages a Google bot will crawl your site within a set period.

If you notice that some of your important pages aren’t being crawled or indexed in Google Search Console (more on this later), it could be that less important sections are using up your crawl budget.

You can then block certain parts of your site to help ensure Google reaches the right pages.

3. Run a Website Crawl

Now that we’ve got the prep work out of the way, it’s time to run a website crawl.

To do this, you’ll need a website crawler, sometimes referred to as an SEO spider.

SEO spiders are bots that crawl websites to gather data.

In effect, they simulate Google crawl bots to uncover any technical issues that could be causing issues.

We use two here at Converted: Screaming Frog and SEMrush.

Screaming Frog is likely the most popular choice for ecommerce sites, and you can crawl up to 500 URLs for free.

The crawl will identify all HTML pages, images, Javascript, and CSS.

It will also show you which pages are indexable and list any issues found with the technical performance.

In our next steps, we’ll show you what issues to keep an eye out for.

4. Document Your Response Codes

The first thing you want to look at following your website crawl is your response/status codes.

Most URLs should have the 200 status code, which means they’ve been found and are visible to search engines.

But other response codes you may find are:

  • 301 – which means there’s a permanent redirect from that URL to another.
  • 302 – which means there’s a temporary redirect from that URL to another.
  • 401 – which means the request hasn’t gone through as you lack authorisation for the resource.
  • 403 – which means the server understands the request but refuses to authorise it. In other words, you might need permission to view the resource.
  • 404 – which means the server cannot find the resource, such as if the page has been temporarily or permanently removed.
  • 5xx – there are several 5xx errors you could see, with most implying web server issues.

The most common ones you’ll want to watch out for are 3xx, 404s, and 5xx.

Although 404s aren’t inherently bad for SEO, they can become an issue if they are still visited and have links pointing to them.

You should review your flagged 404s, decide if they are intentional, and remove any links pointing towards them.

For 3xx status codes, check that the redirection is intentional and if they are pointing towards the intended page.

You should try redirecting to topically relevant pages for the best SEO results.

(So likely not your homepage).

You’ll also need to avoid any redirection loops, which are URLs that redirect to each other, and redirect chains, which include multiple redirected URLs.

5. Check Out Your Indexed and Non-Indexed Pages on Google Search Console

Although website crawlers like Screaming Frog are worth their weight in gold for SEOs, many people overlook the value of Google’s Search Console.

This is especially true when monitoring indexed pages and their issues.

Under the Pages tab in Indexing of Google Search Console, Google will tell you how many URLs haven’t been indexed and why.

This can be a 404 issue, a page with a redirect, pages tagged with noindex, and pages that haven’t been crawled.

From here, you can make a tonne of great insights to work out exactly why your important pages aren’t being indexed or found.

6. Review Your Canonical Tags

Canonical tags are one of the most important features ecommerce website owners should be aware of.

But what exactly are they?

A canonical tag, or canonicalisation, is a way of showing Google what the main URL is for a piece of content if there are multiple duplicate pages.

Google notes five main reasons you might need to use a canonical tag.

  1. 1. Region variants, like if you had a piece of identical content for USA and UK users.
  2. 2. Device variants, like a page with both a mobile and desktop version.
  3. 3. Protocol variants, like the HTTP and HTTPS versions of a site.
  4. 4. Site functions, like filtering.
  5. 5. Accidental variants, like if the demo version of your site is accidentally accessible

But for ecommerce sites, the most common reason is having multiple variations of the same product across different URLs.

For example, let’s say you sell jeans and have a particular style available in five different colours, with each on a separate URL.

To avoid confusing the search engines on which page should rank for the target keyword, you can use a canonical tag to tell Google which page is the focus.

We recommend you go through your product URLs and:

  • Make sure the main page has a canonical tag that points to itself. You can check the canonical version of a page on Google Search Console by typing in the URL in the top search bar
  • Find all your product’s alternate versions and ensure the canonical tag points to the original version.
  • The canonical version of your page is indexable i.e it doesn’t have a noindex tag.
  • Each page has a single canonical tag.

Google can often pick the canonical version for a URL, but it’s better not to rely on Google’s intuition and do it yourself.

7. Need to Know: Tracking Parameters on Your URLs

URL parameters are a query string added to the end of a URL.

They’re mainly used to specify and sort content on a webpage, such as when a user adds a filter on an ecommerce website.

But many ecommerce sites also use them for tracking.

In previous years, we recommended using the URL parameter crawl tool in Google Search Console to manage how URLs with parameters are handled.

However, in March 2022, Search Console actually removed this tool.

Instead, Google’s crawlers now learn how to deal with URL parameters automatically.

This is something to be aware of, but if you need more control over your parameters, you can use robots.txt to specify parameter orders and language variations.

8. Review Your Navigation Bar

The navigation bar is a vital element of every website, from both an SEO and UX point of view.

Navigation bars allow users to locate relevant pages quickly and tell search engines what you value as the most important pages on your site.

Internal links that appear higher up a page have more value than ones at the bottom.

And since a navigation bar should be at the top of every page of your ecommerce site, it helps Google easily locate your important pages.

Be sure to review your navigation bar, check that all your important pages appear and that all internal links work and go to the intended target location.

9. Check Out Your Page Depth

Page depth refers to how many clicks it takes to reach a specific page from the homepage via the shortest path.

It’s often confused with crawl depth, which refers to how many pages a search engine’s bot will crawl and index on a single crawl.

Generally, pages that are easier to access via internal links from the homepage and have a shorter page depth have a higher chance of being crawled.

As a rule of thumb, no page should be more than four clicks away from your site’s homepage.

This is why you should ensure all your important pages are linked to in the navigation bar and that there are no orphan pages – a page that doesn’t have any internal links pointing towards it.

Crawlers like SEMrush can identify the number of orphan pages on a page and flag if any URLs are more than four clicks away from the homepage.

10. Measure Your Page Speed

Page speed is how long it takes for a webpage to load.

It’s been an important SEO ranking for a long time (since 2010, in fact) and had its usefulness for SEO increased in 2018 with Google’s speed update.

Put simply:

A slow website can impact Google rankings.

So, you’ll want to ensure your website is as speedy as possible, especially on mobile.

This is because Google uses mobile-first indexing, which means it’ll crawl and index the mobile version of your site.

You can check out page speed with two tools.

  1. PageSpeed Insights
  2. Google Lighthouse – an add-on for Google Chrome.

Both do exactly the same thing and can tell you how fast a particular page is and if it meets Google’s core web vitals.

There’s a lot we can discuss regarding page speed, so be sure to check out our dedicated guide for full details.

11. Review Your Pagination

You may have multiple pages for your categories depending on the number of products.

This is known as pagination.

While splitting product lists into more manageable chunks is good for user experience, it can cause some SEO headaches.

You should have clear URLs that show what page number variation it is.

The chances are Google will understand your page order and index them.

But during your audit, you should ensure your paginated pages are indexable.

12. Go on Search Console to Identify Structured Data

The last thing you’ll want to look at regarding technical SEO is your site’s structured data.

Structured data is a form of data that allows you to tell Google detailed information about a page.

This can be vital for website performance as Google uses structured data to understand content on a page and be able to show that content in a rich search result.

Rich search results/rich snippets can work wonders for click-through rates and you’ll certainly want them on your site.

You can check what structured data features are on your site by checking out Google Search Console, which will flag if there are any issues impacting rich results.

Check out these articles from Google for more information on structured data markup and how to add structured data to a web page.

Part 2: Ecommerce On-Page SEO/Content Audit

In part 2 of our ecommerce SEO audit, we’ll show you how to optimise your on-page SEO – specifically the content on your page.

Now:

Content doesn’t just mean the written words on a page but rather everything a user will experience, from images, internal links, and metadata.

In our experience, content is the most important part of SEO performance, and small changes can impact traffic and conversions.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Google Search Console
  • A keyword volume tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs.
  • Screaming Frog/website crawler

1. Identify Broken Internal Links and Add New Ones

From a technical perspective, broken internal links can prevent Google from crawling throughout your site.

But from a content and user experience point of view, broken links can be even more harmful.

In an ideal world, an internal link should point a user to a helpful page or product related to their landing page.

But by having broken links, you can stop this journey halfway.

Not only will this likely cause a user to exit the page immediately, but you could be missing out on taking the user to a page they’re more likely to convert on.

The solution is simple: Use a site crawler.

You can find broken links using crawlers like SEMrush and Screaming Frog.

From here, you can simply swap out the broken link for a working one.

As a top tip for ecommerce sites, we’d advise not adding too many internal links to products.

Why?

You might regularly change your product range, and it’ll be tough to keep track of what products have internal links.

A category page is a much better target, as you’ll be unlikely to remove it.

2. Be Careful of Keyword Cannibalisation

Keyword cannibalisation is when you have multiple pages ranking for the same search query.

Although it might seem positive to have multiple pages that can generate traffic, you’re actually creating a net loss.

Here’s how:

By having multiple pages, you’re competing with yourself for ranking in Google.

This results in Google being unable to decide which page is the best answer for the query.

Backlinks and CTR also get diluted by having multiple pages competing for a term, resulting in pages that rank lower than one would by itself.

You can see keywords that are potentially being cannibalised using the Position Tracking Cannibalization Report in SEMrush.

If you see obvious cannibalisation issues, you should decide which one to keep: merge the content, delete the page, or add a permanent redirect.

3. Review Your Primary Keywords of Your Pages

To avoid keyword cannibalisation, it’s a good idea to review the primary keywords of your pages and have one page per search topic.

We’ll have a separate guide covering ecommerce SEO keyword research, but the basic premise is this:

Find keywords that result in the most relevant traffic possible, as relevant traffic is more likely to convert.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’re an ecommerce company specialising in dog food.

You might be tempted to target the term “dog food” as it has 22,200 searches a month, according to SEMrush.

But when people type in “dog food”, they could be searching for multiple different types of dog food, like dry, wet, natural, organic, etc.

A much better search term for your business could be “hypoallergenic dog food”.

Although it has much fewer searches a month (6,600 vs 22,200), you’ll be far more likely to rank for this query and find the right type of customer.

You can find potential keywords using various online tools, like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, SERPstat, and more.

Once you’ve got the right keywords for your page, you can then review if the page is relevant, has optimised content, and optimised headlines.

(More on these later.)

4. Check Your Pages Are Matching Search Intent

Here’s the brutal truth:

You could have the best product in the world and still not rank for your target term.

Although there are plenty of reasons this can be the case (website authority chief among them), search intent is a big factor.

Every term searched on Google has intent behind it – an expectation from a searcher on the type of content and results they will see.

And if you fail to match this intent, you will not rank – no matter how good your content and authority is.

Let’s say you sell hair dryers and want to brag that you have the best hair dryer in 2023.

Although you might think “best hair dryer 2023” would be an amazing keyword to rank for, a quick Google search reveals that the search results for this term are exclusively blogs giving recommendations on the top hair dryers.

Unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose search intent.

Instead, we must adapt to what Google thinks if we want to rank for a search term.

In this case, we’d need a listicle blog filled with hair dryer recommendations.

When reviewing the performance of your pages, type in your desired keyword to check if the search results are similar to your page content.

If you see a bunch of blogs, you’ll need to follow suit to have a chance of ranking.

5. Make Sure Your Transactional Pages Have Helpful Content

It’s a common misconception that helpful content on ecommerce sites means blogs.

And while we recommend blogs on most ecommerce sites, optimised helpful content on your category and product pages can result in some really great results.

Here’s a case study from one of our ecommerce clients:

We optimised a category page for one of our ecommerce clients in the gifting space.

We removed some broken links, changed the metadata, and added around 750 words of helpful content that appeared below the product listings.

The results?

A 111% increase in daily clicks!

Google is keen on websites that provide useful and informational content, with a major Helpful Content update in September 2023.

The takeaway is that providing useful content on all your pages, including your transactional stuff, is a good idea.

If you notice a page that isn’t ranking well, inject some new life with on-page helpful content – you’ll be amazed at the results.

6. Consider Your EEAT

E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness.

It’s a set of guidelines from Google on how it judges pages based on credibility, its author, and its website.

Most SEOs recommend having business addresses, phone numbers, author bios, and peer-reviewed blogs on your website (if applicable) to boost E-E-A-T and improve SEO rankings.

But despite the common misconception, E-E-A-T is not an official or direct ranking factor.

In fact, Google Search Liaison acknowledged as much on Twitter. They said:

In other words:

Things like the number and quality of backlinks are far more important to Google for assessing reliability and authority.

So, should you forget about E-E-A-T?

Not at all!

E-E-A-T are part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines – a handbook that real people use to review search results.

Put simply, it’s a way of seeming more reputable to a user.

And by appearing more reputable to a user, they’re far more likely to interact with your site – improving UX metrics like engagement rate, which can boost SEO signals to Google.

Be sure to review your website and check you’ve got author bios, contact details, and addresses.

7. Look at Your Headings – Especially Your H1 Tag

Headings are a great way of splitting chunky content up into more digestible pieces.

(Just look at this checklist).

But did you know that they’re also great for SEO?

By putting keywords in your headings, particularly your title tag, you can instantly tell Google (and the user) that your page is hyper-relevant to their search.

And a hyper-relevant page is far more likely to rank for your target term.

You should employ a range of headings from H1 to H6, depending on the importance of the section.

The H1 tag is by far the most important.

There should only be one per page, and it’s crucial you have your main target term within it.

8. Check the URL Slug

URLs are a minor ranking factor used by search engines like Google to understand a page’s relevancy.

Although most site owners treat URLs as a way to structure a website, they can really help with SEO performance.

Your URLs should include the primary target term of the page.

They should also:

  • Use hyphens to separate words – not underscores or spaces.
  • Use lowercase letters.
  • Be short and simple – Backlinko found that short URLs rank better than long URLs, with an average of 66 characters for the top 10 search results.

9. Optimise Your Meta Tags

Our final step in our ecommerce SEO checklist is checking and optimising your meta tags.

Meta tags are snippets of code that tell search engines important information about your webpage.

You’ll likely be most familiar with meta titles and meta descriptions, which appear on the search engine results page.

Meta titles are the most important for SEO, as they are a confirmed Google ranking factor.

Although meta descriptions aren’t a direct ranking factor, they can massively help with click-through rates.

Your title tags should be a maximum of 60 characters, while your meta descriptions should be 160 characters or fewer.

Title tags and meta descriptions that are too long, short, or missing will be flagged in website crawls using SEMrush or Screaming Frog.

If you’ve got a meta description that isn’t showing in Google, we have a guide with potential reasons.

And you can learn more about writing effective title tags in our blog on bad strategies to avoid when creating a quality title tag.

Part 3: Ecommerce Off-Page SEO Audit

The final section of our ecommerce SEO audit covers all off-page factors you need to know when reviewing your website.

Off-page SEO refers to any activities outside a website that can impact search engine rankings.

Examples of off-page SEO can include building backlinks, PR, and social media interactions.

Our SEO checklist will focus solely on backlinks and the authority they cause.

Tools you need:

  • SEMrush/Ahrefs/or equivalent

1. See How Your Authority Compares to Others

Your first step in understanding your off-page SEO is working out how you compare with competitors.

To do this, you’ll need a site that audits authority and backlinks like SEMrush or Ahrefs.

(We use SEMrush at Converted, so that’s what we’ll focus on here).

Firstly, go to Backlink Analytics on SEMrush, underneath Link Building.

Next, type in your own URL.

(We’ll use Amazon as an example.)

From the resulting page, you’ll see a lot of great insights, including how many referral domains and backlinks you’ve got.

You’ll also see Authority Score, a metric that measures a domain’s reputability by accounting for the number and quality of backlinks, search traffic, and how “natural” the backlink profile is.

(In other words, the backlinks aren’t spammy and have been acquired without payment).

From here, you can compare how all these metrics match your competitors.

The authority of a website is one of the biggest ranking factors.

And although content is hugely important, you’ll unlikely rank for the most competitive and desirable keywords without being an authority in your niche.

To close the gap, you’ll need to produce more quality content and acquire more relevant backlinks for your niche.

You can check out our white hat link-building strategies guide to learn more.

2. Review Your Backlink Profile for Toxicity

Although increasing the number of backlinks pointing to your site can be helpful, not all backlinks are made equally.

In fact, some backlinks can be doing more harm than good.

These are known as toxic backlinks.

Toxic backlinks are links that come from spammy or malicious websites.

They could be purchased as a way to inflate your backlinks or could be acquired organically.

Now:

You obviously can’t control who discovers and links to your website.

And Google knows this, so you’re unlikely to be punished for having toxic backlinks.

But if you’ve got many spammy, artificial, or low-quality links, your website could be held back or even manually punished.

To rectify this, you can remove toxic backlinks from your website.

Google officially allows this and has a step-by-step guide you should check out on disavowing links to your site.

Just keep in mind that not all links flagged as toxic by SEMrush are bad for your site, and removing them could cause more harm than good.

Google officially recommends disavowing backlinks if:

  • You have a high number of spammy or artificial links.
  • You’ve had a manual action or might have a manual action on your site because of the links.

3. Identify Broken External Links

The final step in our ecommerce SEO audit checklist is identifying broken links.

A broken link is a backlink that points to a dead page – one that has been removed or 404’d.

You can do this using the Ahrefs Broken Link Checker.

Here, you can see what domains link to your 404 pages, allowing you to identify the pages and then redirect them to a live page.

(Although, the quality of the backlink will be diluted due to this redirection).

By fixing these broken links, you could see a big boost in authority potentially lost when the pages were removed.

But that’s not all:

Broken links can be more beneficial than simply benefitting your SEO.

Instead, you can use broken links to leverage backlinks from other websites and potentially steal good backlinks from your competitors.

Here’s how:

Let’s say you’ve noticed that your competitor has a backlink from a blog in your niche that you also want a link from.

Instead of just reaching out to advertise your content or page, you can help them out by saying you’ve spotted a broken link on their site.

By helping them first, they’re far more likely to be receptive to linking to your content.

Another tip is to run the broken link checker on your competitor’s site.

You can then reach out to the websites that link to your competitor, tell them that the link is broken, and then offer your similar piece of content as a replacement for the link.

  • It’s always beneficial to complete regular ecommerce SEO audits as you can identify potential issues or opportunities.

    Some sites would benefit from a monthly SEO audit or when a significant change has been made to a website, such as a migration.

  • Conducting regular ecommerce SEO audits can benefit your business in three main ways:

    1. An audit can identify any technical issues that could be impacting your website. Technical issues can constantly crop up, so we recommend conducting a technical audit bi-weekly.
    2. Identifying opportunities for content improvement can lead to increased traffic on your site.
    3. Optimising metadata and improving your rankings can lead to a better click-through and conversion rates.
  • Ecommerce SEO is the process of making an online store more visible in search engine results pages like on Google.

    Ideally, you’ll want to appear highly in search results for queries related to your products and categories to boost traffic and conversions.

  • As you can see, a lot of work goes into a thorough ecommerce SEO audit.

    But that’s just the start.

    After your audit, you’ll need to action all of your findings and make time to conduct regular ecommerce audits at least once a month.

    If you don’t have the time for this or need some extra guidance, we’re here to help.

    Converted is an award-winning SEO agency (among other services like PPC and CRO) that has helped several major ecommerce sites like Prezzybox, Menkind, and United Carpets increase traffic and conversions on their site.

    Be sure to contact us today to learn more about we can help you and get your free ecommerce SEO audit.

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