E-commerce enterprises require an SEO strategy. According to Google, 59% of shoppers use Google to research a purchase they plan to make in-store or online. Making sure your products appear first on search engine result pages (SERPs) can make the difference between growth and stagnation for popular brands and retailers.
E-commerce success depends on building your brand, delivering a great user experience, and handling customer interactions well. In addition, search engine ranking is vital for generating growth as it creates awareness and drives users to your site.
Just look at prominent e-commerce players in niche markets: Kroger (grocery), Williams Sonoma (home decor), Home Depot (home improvement), and Nordstrom (fashion). By leveraging SEO fundamentals, they improve product positioning in SERPs and grow their business.
But, before you put together a comprehensive SEO growth strategy, you need to perform an SEO audit. In this guide, we’ll show you how to audit your e-commerce site while showcasing SEO elements you can leverage to improve search rankings.
With a website audit, you can analyze your website’s traffic patterns, ranking keywords, backlinks, and competition. Regularly monitoring your website’s SEO allows you to notice traffic patterns and catch any issues before your website’s sales are affected.
When planning an SEO strategy, all projects should start and end with an audit. We typically analyze the following to create long term SEO strategies:
We’ll take a deep dive into each of these categories to analyze some of the more common issues and what to look for when planning your site’s strategy.
By examining the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, you can improve your e-commerce SEO strategy and marketing goals. You can analyze anything from keywords to content type, brand messaging, website metrics, and more.
Using Ahrefs, we found a sample competition for Adidas based on keyword data:
Ahrefs finds keyword similarities between your domain and other domains indexed in search engines. This will help find competition outside of your geographical area. Putting more emphasis on these specific companies is beneficial for your research.
The “keywords unique to competitor” column pulls sites based on common keywords. Thus, a bigger number signifies a bigger competitor. To evaluate your competition, you may want to create tiers based on the metrics of your current website.
With their variety of online products, Dick’s Sporting Goods makes a strong competitor. Your site’s competitors may be like Dick’s Sporting Goods, making this a helpful analysis.
Before jumping into the data for Dick’s Sporting Goods, let’s look at SEO metrics.
When using software to audit your website, there are some general terms for understanding your site’s performance. Although each software may brand these metrics differently, having a high-level understanding will help you know your site’s performance.
The most common metrics are:
Using this legend as a reference, let’s analyze the key metrics for Dicks Sporting Goods:
What’s notable is this site’s considerable investment in PPC. Their paid budget is fairly widespread in this particular case and makes up a relatively low percentage of Dick’s estimated traffic value.
When websites like Dick’s, which has a strong Domain Authority, optimize for particular keywords, they have a better opportunity than most to rank highly for that given keyword. Over time, Dick’s Sporting Goods has become an informational authority in the sporting goods space.
Over the past year, Dicks’s has slightly declined in keyword ranking, which directly relates to their site’s overall traffic. It highlights the importance of targeting keywords with higher search volume.
A typical website health check looks like this:
Note: To analyze the website’s health, we use Ahrefs and Screaming Frog. Ahrefs provides high-level breakdowns for each of the charts.
NoThe health score reflects the proportion of internal URLs on your site that doesn’t have errors.
Here is a breakdown of some other common issues your site may be experiencing:
Capturing your potential readers
Direct your traffic
Getting started on building an SEO strategy can be challenging, especially with no technical background. You can take advantage of experts from Fabric Digital Services to overcome these obstacles.
The metrics from this test are called Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals are Google’s indicators for page speed as well as user experience. In the summer months of 2021, Google has been rolling out an update that applies more weight to the results of this test.
Making sure your e-commerce store is user-friendly has SEO implications, but the primary beneficiaries are your customers. Providing an easy-to-use and fast-loading shopping experience is critical for conversion.
User experience can be the difference between making or losing a sale, especially in e-commerce. Although it is a broad metric, we tend to break it down into technical/web development and content.
Tools like PageSpeed Insights focus on the technical portion and suggest what elements slow down your website. Regarding content, having an accurate product page is extremely useful for potential customers. In addition, heatmap applications or plugins are valuable for determining a customer’s response to your site.
Here is PageSpeed Insights’ report on Adidas:
Let’s first break down the test criteria and passing score ranges.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long the primary content renders in the user’s browser. Google PageSpeed Insights identifies the LCP loaded content in the user’s viewport before any scrolling. Adidas measured at 8.4s and thus is red.
Time to Interactive (TTI) measures the time taken for a page to become fully interactive. It relies on the FCP, event handler loading, and response to user interaction within 50ms. Measuring at 4.2s, Adidas can improve its TTI.
Speed Index measures the time it takes to display content during the page load visually. Adidas’ ranking is 3.1s and thus good.
Note: As test results differ by a few points, we recommend running the test 2-3 times for accuracy.
PageSpeed Insights also offers opportunities and diagnostics for remedy. For example, see the recommendations it provides for Adidas:
There are many great features and applications to help you speed up your website.
Here are the solutions to more common issues:
Compress and manage image files
Minimize main thread work
Differ off-screen images
Certain plugins/applications can strain your site but are necessary to conducting business. Before making changes to these plugins consult with your web developer to see if you can apply compression. We recommend using Minify when compressing CSS.
This section of your audit consists of many components. The more common issues stem from your site’s structure. To understand how closely related these issues are to your site performance, we recommend consulting your web developer.
Another component to keep in mind when designing your site’s architecture is usability. Ultimately, you want to transform the complex multiple categories, products, and descriptions into something easy to use.
You want to index all your pages within Search Engines to maximize the opportunities to rank for keywords. Creating a hierarchy allows search engine crawlers to categorize your site, making it easier for users to identify which sections associate with your target keywords.
Your website’s sitemap defines site Architecture. Search Engines can then define the appropriate weight of each category stemming down from your home page. Clear structure leads to easier navigation for your customers and increases your opportunity to rank for more keywords.
A website hierarchy will look like this:
The information architecture is ideal for SEO as it places all of your searchable content within two levels of the core landing page. When a search engine crawls your site, it will start at the top level and index through the various categories, sub-categories, and product landing pages.
Here is an example from Adidas:
Though most sites naturally categorize products based on product line or service category, websites’ back ends may not reflect that. Thus, it is essential to build a clear path in the back end of your site to each product page, allowing for proper indexing.
Your e-commerce platform must enable you to craft an information architecture that aligns with your SEO strategy. Therefore, selecting a platform that offers flexibility is vital. Although some SaaS products provide an easy way to start your online business, a one-size-fits-all platform is more rigid.
Utilizing the right keywords is vital. Tools like Ahrefs can formulate and implement a successful keyword strategy. You can also conduct keyword research and competitor analysis to create SEO-friendly content and achieve your objectives.
When reviewing keyword research, it’s essential to understand some metrics. These depend on the software you use.
Some metrics and explanations for the standard terms are:
Solving these keyword issues can ultimately solve many other SEO issues. Thus, making these changes first will lead to better results.
Optimize current pages
Build out new content
Updating a keyword across your entire site takes time. Thus, you may want to automate your manual SEO process, especially considering the scale and complexity of your site.
On the other hand, some elements need manual updates. Due to their criticality, avoid automating updates on items like core landing pages and their various components, the content container for your product pages, URL structures, and 301 redirects.
Content engages the user, increases search engine ranking, and improves the likelihood of getting quality links from other sites. Your content also needs to be relevant and positions your brand as authoritative and trustworthy.
Having a list of targeted keywords when optimizing your pages will provide better results. When optimizing these pages, section headings are opportunities to include some of your targeted keywords.
The majority of your content resides on your PDPs. As e-commerce removes the possibility of physically touching a product, your PDPs are vital in converting sales.
With 53% of shoppers researching before purchasing, ensuring your PDP content obtains a high search engine rank is crucial. By ensuring valuable content is on your PDP, web crawlers can search it, and users have the information they need to make a purchasing decision.
A well-structured PDP contains the following elements:
Being consistent with publishing new and inspiring content is key to long-term SEO success. New product specific content is a great internal hyperlinking opportunity for your product pages.
The goal with website content is to provide value to users while having all the key attributes necessary to allow your content to appear in search results.
Evaluating your product page
When evaluating your PDP, we recommend using a heatmap or session recorder to understand how users perceive your page. There are quite a few heatmap applications. Here are some features to look for when deciding:
Building SEO-friendly e-commerce sites and content make your products competitive with other e-commerce giants on search engine rankings. Many tools and resources can help plot and manage your SEO journey.
Tools are only half the solution, however. Other key steps include auditing your SEO strategy, building SEO-friendly information architecture, and leveraging keywords to drive traffic to your site and product pages.
Your site’s performance impacts your SEO ranking. Thus, a flexible platform is crucial to improve your site’s performance. Take advantage of the power of microservices with Fabric XM and decouple your e-commerce solution elements to improve your front end shopping experience.