SEO, Thought Leaders

Ecommerce SEO Audit: What to Prioritize and What to Avoid

February 26, 2021

by Leigh-Anne Truitt

SEO Specialist, BigCommerce

An e-commerce SEO audit can help businesses identify do's and don'ts to improve search performance.

By 2022, e-commerce revenue in the U.S. is expected to reach $638 million.

Although there are still sales that happen offline, Forrester predicts that by 2023, 58% of sales will be influenced by online efforts. So, even if the final purchase happens in a brick-and-mortar, a majority of the research and influence is happening online.

As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) is becoming even more important.

Well-informed and executed SEO services help your customers find your website and social media profiles, drive sales, and can have long-term positive effects on your business.

But before you start rewriting all the content on your website, your business should audit your e-commerce SEO to determine opportunities for improvement. 

This article outlines 4 main areas to focus on and avoid to best optimize your e-commerce site for SEO. 

4 Do’s of E-Commerce SEO

There are several actions you can take to improve your e-commerce SEO. However, we're focusing on the most important and effective steps you can take to get started in the right direction.

1. Unique Product and Category Descriptions

It's important to have separate pages for your products, which should be organized into product categories. Search engines, such as Google or Bing, use crawlers to understand what a website is all about — very much like consumers do.

Having your products divided up into categories helps your visitors learn more about the products you're offering while also telling Google what your page is all about.

If there's no text content on the page, a search engine crawler won't be able to take away any valuable information. Customers may not either.

Get useful written content on the page by creating unique descriptions for your category and product pages. Don't fall into a trap of copying and pasting the product descriptions from the manufacturer's website.

Burrow, a direct-to-consumer furniture company, organizes their pieces by type. For example, some of their categories are seating, storage, and lighting.

Product Pages Optimizaiton

Then, each product page includes several sections of information, such as the product dimensions, a detailed description, and several key features.

Nomad Sleepers_Product Descriptions

There are some things you should keep in mind when creating the content for your category and product pages. Remember to:

  • Include your target keywords in the description
  • Utilize long-tail variations of your keywords, along with synonyms
  • Make them readable and useful for potential customers
  • Keep your messaging concise

Overall, make each category and product page focused, but with enough unique detail to ensure it's useful. Following these guidelines makes it informative for the customer and for search engines.

2. Optimize URLs

Often, e-commerce website builders will automatically generate your URL slugs for you to make them unique from the other links under your domain. While convenient, this often results in URLs that have random numbers, dates, or letters mixed in.

To avoid this, take the extra step and make your URLs as clear and readable as possible. Think of naming them in a tiered way, such as:

  • forexample.com/category-name (category page)
  • forexample.com/category-name/subcategory-name (subcategory page)
  • forexample.com/category-name/subcategory-name/subcategory-name (sub-subcategory page)

Another example is Camelback, which sells unique hydration solutions for sports and recreation. They have their URLs set up like this:

  • camelback.com/recreation/shop/bottles (category page: bottles)
  • camelback.com/recreation/shop/bottles/stainless-steal (subcategory page: stainless steel bottles)
  • camelback.com/recreation/shop/bottles/stainless-steal/CB-2367 (product page: specific model of stainless steel bottle

Camelback URL example

If you put a system in place, it will make it easier to name new pages in the future. Remember, search engines look at all of the details of your site, so cleaning up your URLs is another way to include relevant keywords while keeping things organized.

Here are some additional SEO tips for writing ecommerce URLs:

  • Keep them short and precise
  • Use your primary keyword
  • Create a clear hierarchy for the page
  • Use hyphens to separate words instead of underscores or other symbols
  • Avoid URL parameters wherever possible

Using your keywords in your URLs, while also keeping them neat and tidy, sends a clear message to search engines telling them what to expect on the page. This type of naming system is also beneficial for customers because they can look back at their browsing history and easily recall what they were looking at.

3. Add Schema Markup

Schema markup provides additional information about each page in the search engine results page (SERP). Not only does it look more appealing (with the colorful review stars and all), but it can also increase your click-through rate (CTR) by as much as 30%.

The more visitors that click to your site, the more traffic you get, and the more you'll drive sales. Schema markup also provides the search engine with another piece of information that will help them understand what your site and products are all about.

From the SERP listing for Di Bruno Bros., searchers can easily see what their business is and how customers rate it.

Schema Markup Example

There are several different elements you can add for the schema markup, but the most common ones are:

  • Name
  • Image
  • Description
  • Aggregate rating
  • Price
  • Currency

You can add schema markup to product pages, category pages, and breadcrumbs.

4. Remove Duplicate Content

For one reason or another, you may have duplicate content on your site. This means that the same content is housed in different places, under different URLs. Having the same content in more than one place is confusing for search engines because they can't figure out which page to serve up.

Additionally, many search engines, such as Google, will actually penalize your site for having duplicate content if it feels this was done maliciously.

To prevent this from happening, perform a content audit to see if there are any pages or large blocks of text that are the same. If you find any duplicate content, the first option is to rewrite the content if you can so that it's original.

If that's not an option, you can use a 301 redirect to remove the page with duplicate content and direct search engines to the right page. Additionally, you can use a canonical link, which tells the search engine which page to index. You can also utilize a "noindex, follow" Meta Robots tag, which communicates to the search engine that you do not want a specific page indexed.

4 Don’ts of Ecommerce SEO

It's easy to take a wrong turn with ecommerce SEO. Avoid these 4 e-commerce SEO mistakes to maintain the search health of your site. 

1. Keyword Stuffing

When you're creating a content marketing plan for your website, one of your goals will be to put as many keywords on the site as possible. But the content has to be relevant, and it has to make sense.

When search engines were created, many webmasters used a method called keyword stuffing to trick search crawlers into thinking their site was the most relevant because of all the keywords on the pages.

Keyword stuffing is a technique businesses still use sometimes, which overloads their pages with the same targeted phases in hopes of ranking higher in search engines. It might sound clever, but it's a giant mistake.

Some examples of keyword stuffing include:

  • Repeating words or phrases unnecessarily
  • Adding keywords out of context
  • Creating large blocks of the same keyword
  • Using keywords that don't fit topically on the page

Keyword stuffing could lead to a penalty from the search engine, which would negatively affect your rankings for an extended period of time. This technique also can be very confusing for users if those terms don't organically fit into the content on your page.. Plus, it makes your site seem untrustworthy and that's no way to drive sales.

Instead of overusing keywords, create content that is useful for anyone that visits your site. FlexFire LEDs has had SEO success by creating in-depth user-guides and building an entire learning center on their website.

Flexfire LED_Keyword Content Success

Their unique content makes them an authority on LED solutions and their mission to educate visitors results in having trusted customers.

2. Using Oversized Images

Having a site full of huge images will slow down your site load time. It's no secret that Google takes your site load time into consideration to search rankings. Visitors also don't like a website that loads slowly,

As many as 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in just 2 seconds or less, while 40% of people leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

There are various tools you can access online that will tell you what your average site load speed is and often, you'll get a list of things you can do to speed things up.

3. Failing to Optimize for Mobile

A survey from Statista in December 2019 revealed that as many as 46% of respondents stated they had used a mobile retail app to look for more information about a product or a service. If you don't take the steps to optimize your site for mobile devices, you'll miss out on a large segment of potential customers.

Statista Mobile Optimize Data

Sites that aren't fit for mobile viewing also turn off search engines. Google or Yahoo! isn't going to recommend a site that won't appear correctly on all devices.

You can see if your site is mobile-friendly by using Google's mobile-friendly test tool. If your site is mobile-friendly, you'll see a green checkmark and a rendering of the way the site looks from a mobile device.

If your site doesn't pass Google's mobile-friendly test, you'll get a list of things you can do to optimize it. Given the number of people using their smartphones to view sites and make purchases, completing the updates makes good business sense.

4. Ignoring Product Pages

SEO changes everyday. In 2018, Google updated its search algorithm more than 3,200 times. So, even though you've completed a content audit and things are improving, you've got to make SEO a regular part of your business routine.

In fact, when your metrics start to improve, use that as motivation to keep tweaking your site and making it better. The way people use search engines also changes all the time. For example, there was a moment when no one had smartphones and we all used specific words and symbols to get the relevant search results we needed.

Today, a majority of people search using their smartphone and an additional segment of people utilize a voice assistant. According to Statista, 42% of the worldwide online population had conducted a voice search via any device within the past month as of 2019.

Stay up-to-date on SEO trends by following industry experts and influencers. Do keyword research to see if people are talking about your products in a different way. It also never hurts to keep an eye on your competitors and see what changes they're making.

Optimize and Audit Your E-Commerce SEO for Positive Site Changes

As you begin or continue your journey with ecommerce SEO, focus on the things you should do to create a positive change:

  • Write unique, informational descriptions for product and category pages
  • Optimize your URLs with a clean naming system
  • Implement schema markup for a better listing on the SERP
  • Take care of duplicate content

Once you complete that, make it a routine. Stay on top of your SEO efforts and you'll be rewarded with more site traffic, better engagement, and improved sales.

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