This is a guest post from Courtney McGhee at WooRank.
Let’s look at the facts. In today’s world, only 4% of people report not having shopped online. People are addicted to the ease with which they can find the exact product they want to buy without even leaving the sofa.
With the consistency and efficiency of internet retail giants like Amazon, online shopping has never been safer or more convenient. However, now there’s so many more websites clamoring for a piece of the proverbial pie.
There are billions of websites on the internet. If your site’s purpose is to sell products, how are you ever going to stand out against your competitors?
In order to see a spike in both organic traffic and conversions, you need to make sure your site is as well-optimized as it can be. How do you do this?
Easy! With an SEO Audit.
Why Do I Need an SEO Audit?
Studies have shown that 96% of Americans have made an online purchase in their life – 80% in the past month alone. The competition to be the site users choose against Amazon and eBay is daunting, but it isn’t impossible.
However, if you have any hope of reaching page one in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for your products, you need to make sure your site is as well-optimized as it can possibly be.
Google and other search engines use ranking signals to determine where a site should appear in the SERPs – ecommerce sites are no different. As far as we know, there are more than 200 ranking signals that Google takes into consideration.
An SEO audit will allow you to identify the issues that could be impacting your position in the SERPs. Tweaking and fixing your site could be the difference between the coveted Page One of Google and a devastating quarter.
What To Look For in an SEO Audit
Essentially, anyone running a business online needs to pay attention to every SEO issue that is identified. However, an ecommerce site has certain criteria that deserves some extra time and attention.
An SEO audit tool is the easiest, fastest and most comprehensive way of garnering the information you need. Once you have identified your website’s issues, you can take action!
Below is a list of the top priorities for any ecommerce website audit.
1. On-page SEO
In terms of on-page elements you need to care for, take a look at your meta tags and HTML header tags for keyword consistency.
As an ecommerce site, it is important that you are using your target keywords in these places. Search engines and users will appreciate your telling them exactly what they can find on your pages.
Don’t forget: you are trying to sell something (or, lots of things). Your meta descriptions and content need to be captivating, so punch up your copy to entice those clicks.
For your more technical elements that need optimization, focus on your robots.txt and XML Sitemap. Making sure these things are properly created and maintained will help search engine robots crawl and index your pages.
Using a site crawler will allow you to diagnose the on-page issues stopping your site from getting crawled and indexed.
Another technical SEO element that should be addressed is the presence of broken links, which is horrible for user experience. You can use a Chrome extension like Check My Links to identify any issues.
Flash, as you may know, isn’t compatible with every type of smartphone. So, if you want people to make purchases from their mobile device (which 62% of mobile users did in the last 6 months) you need to ditch the Flash.
2. Mobile Friendliness
Speaking of users having a pleasant and profitable experience on your site, mobile friendliness is one of the most important SEO elements you need to implement.
Search engines use ranking factors like touchscreen readiness and mobile viewport to make sure you are giving your mobile users the best experience.
Those things are important, but nothing is more important for your mobile users than speed. It’s no secret that if your site is taking forever to load, your potential buyers will spend their money elsewhere.
An SEO audit will help you understand what is making your mobile site lag. There could also be issues with your site’s design that is making it slow for all of your users.
3. Site Speed
We must emphasize this point once more: site speed is essential to your success. Your site needs to load in three seconds or less – any more than that, and you will lose up to 40% of your visitors.
User experience is paramount in Google’s eyes, justifiably so. If your site is testing your user’s patience with loading time, don’t count on landing that top spot in Google.
Luckily, an SEO audit can tell you what is making your pages lag. It could do with a number of factors, most of which sound a lot more technical than they are:
- Compression reduces the size of a file and can improve your load time up to 90%. Learn more about it here.
- Minification is the removal of any non-essential characters from your code, like line breaks. Without the clutter, search engines can read and crawl your code easier. Learn how to do that here.
- Image Optimization will reduce your load time. Google suggests using lossy compression. This makes it so the image can lose some of its data without having a noticeable impact on how a user sees that image.
- Caching, because uncached files need to be downloaded every single time a visitor lands on a page. Using cache-control headers will tell browsers how long they need to cache a specific asset.
This much should be evident – an ecommerce site needs to load quickly in order to drive conversions.
Here’s a quick question for you: is it better to have a lower number of high-quality backlinks, or a higher number of low-quality backlinks?
If you guessed “high-quality backlinks,” give yourself a pat on the back. A strong SEO strategy places importance on gaining authoritative and valuable backlinks rather than grabbing a link from any source possible.
An SEO audit tool like WooRank will count the backlinks pointing to your site and access their overall quality. The data available will show you the anchor text used as well as destination and referral URLs.
5. Site Security
Since the rise of online retail giants like Amazon and eBay, internet shopping has never been easier or more secure. As an ecommerce site, you need to reinforce that trust with your buyers by making your site as secure as possible.
Google has been pinpointing all non HTTPS (SSL secure) sites with a noticeable warning in the browser bar (see below).
Sites that do use HTTPS are rewarded, which is another clear sign that Google places user experience above most other ranking factors.
If you don’t know how to migrate your site over to HTTPS, check out this helpful guide from Google.
Once your pages have been migrated, run a site crawl to verify all of your scripts, video and images are HTTPS URLs.
6. Site Crawl
You might have noticed, this isn’t the first time we’ve mentioned “site crawl” in this article. That should tell you how important it is to run one for your site.
Generally, ecommerce sites fall victim to duplicate content issues more frequently than sites in other sectors. A clothing site that allows you to filter by color, size and style, for instance, will show duplicate content.
Each time a product is listed, Google will categorize this as duplicate content. Adding canonical tags will tell search engines which of these items is original and which can be ignored.
Because ecommerce sites typically have thousands of pages to inspect for these issues, a site crawler can help streamline the process. A site crawler will tell you how to correctly implement your canonical tags so you don’t have to manually comb each element of your site.
A site crawl can also discover HTTPS issues and broken links.
An ecommerce site typically has one main goal in mind: conversions. By running an SEO audit, you could boost conversions organically and drive some qualified traffic to your site.
Make sure you are vigilant with your SEO audits, though, as search engines are known tweak and update their search algorithms regularly. Ensuring you are up-to-date with SEO best practices will give you the best chance of staying on your audience’s radar and driving those motivated customers to your site.
Courtney McGhee is on the Marketing Team at WooRank, an SEO audit tool that has helped millions of websites with their SEO efforts. A former journalist in North Carolina, Courtney shifted gears and entered the digital marketing world in Brussels, Belgium. Courtney blogs about her dog, SEO, Marketing Trends, Social Media Strategy, and the Semantic Web.