As an SEO, I’m frequently asked what to audit for in e-commerce websites. This checklist might seem basic, but we all know SEO is the basic step sister of UX. SEO should always be logical, methodical, and should make sense when explained in layman’s terms. If you’re considering SEO recommendations that sound outlandish or even a little shady, it’s probably not really the best route for SEO success. Onto the checklist!
1) Evaluate Your Static Pages Onsite.
You can’t rank for what you don’t have a page for. Just because you have a page about something doesn’t guarantee you’ll rank for it, but if you don’t have a page about it you can say for certain that you wont have a shot at throwing your hat in the ring.
For instance, if the site Mejuri wants to show up in Google SERPs for “single earrings” they first need to create a category titled as such. This may sound obvious, right?
Take a scan through your site, competitor’s site, and search analytics and find out what “common sense” pages your site may need. Creating net new pages, or updating old ones can often be a valuable way to bring in new organic traffic.
2) Clean Up Redirects And Response Codes.
Let Search Console be your best friend. A core portion of e-commerce SEO will be error maintenance and cleanup. While any site will always have some number of 404s, i.e. old products that will never again return, you’ll want to make sure to redirect broken backlinks and 404 pages with strong value.
3) Avoid Orphan Pages.
An orphan page is exactly what it sounds like – neglected. A blip in space.
Imagine if we all attend a serious meeting at Google. Google says to us “which one of you in the room is the most important person?” We all point to a guy standing outside, not even in the room. Google objects, angrily. “If he’s so important, why didn’t you bother to include him, or link to him anywhere?”
Imagine if we all attend a serious meeting at Google. Google says to us “which one of you in the room is the most important person?” We all point to a guy standing outside, not even in the room. Google objects, angrily. “If he’s so important, why didn’t you bother to include him, or link to him anywhere?”Ariel Kozicki, SEO Lead at Reformation
The moral of the story is, avoid orphan pages at all costs, unless you’re leveraging a landing page purely for a paid campaign, or de-prioritizing a seasonal page due to low inventory levels.
4) Audit, Test, and Re-Test Your Navigation Menu.
Category pages, mega menus, dropdowns, oh my! This goes hand in hand with the pages you’ve chosen to have onsite, and with your site’s URL structure. If something is important to your users, don’t bury it multiple clicks deep.
Use Google Tag Manager to tell you what’s getting clicks (and what’s not) and continuously evaluate and improve your navigation based on performance.
Use Google Tag Manager to tell you what’s getting clicks (and what’s not) and continuously evaluate and improve your navigation based on performance.Ariel Kozicki, SEO Lead at Reformation
If users are constantly searching for a product or category within your search box, chances are they’re having a hard time finding it where it’s placed within your top level navigation menu. Maybe during the holiday season you feature your holiday collection and gifts on sale, but during summer months you focus on selling sandals and clothes for summer.
5) Utilize Search Analytics And Site Search To Gain Consumer Insights.
Site search and analytics can be an extremely useful way of finding out exactly what your users are looking for, and what they truly want.
If your audience is constantly searching for a product or service that’s no longer available, maybe it’s time to consider bringing it back. Maybe users are repeating related queries over and over – it may be time to further customize and personalize internal results pages to reduce search abandonment.
“If your audience is constantly searching for a product or service that’s no longer available, maybe it’s time to consider bringing it back.”Ariel Kozicki, SEO Lead at Reformation
Search analytics can be an excellent early indicator of what’s working on your site, what’s not, and what can be improved and re-organized.
6) Address Canonical Tags to Avoid Content Duplication.
Canonicals are important, yet underrated, and sometimes overlooked when it comes to e-commerce sites. Especially for product variants, canonicals are essential to ensure you don’t have URL bloat or content duplication.
This can especially be true for those working with Shopify. Due to the way the Shopify platform works, multiple versions of a single product page can exist concurrently at multiple URLs with identical or near identical content.
There is no way to turn off these extraneous URLs or to prevent them from being generated in the first place, other than by removing a product from a collection.
“Let canonicals be your best friend when it comes to telling search engines ‘Hey, this is the main version of the page! Defer equity here.'”Ariel Kozicki, SEO Lead at Reformation
Removing products from alternate collections may have unintended consequences in other areas of your Shopify store, so it’s not always an ideal solution. Let canonicals be your best friend when it comes to telling search engines ‘Hey – this is the main version of the page! Defer equity here.’
7) Tailor Your Metadata And Keyword Research, Automating Where Possible.
What fields does your CMS have that you can leverage to automate title tags and meta descriptions? Product name, color, style, material, ingredients, fabrics, dimensions?
Perform keyword research to provide you with insights on how your users are searching — and use that information to decide what fields to focus on auto populating into metadata, if you can.
If you’re updating your metadata manually, concatenate formulas and Excel will be your best way to speed up meta creation.
8) Make Sure Your Product Variants Are Set Up Correctly.
There’s more than one way to do this, but the main goal is to avoid having variants that are identical unless you have canonicals set up.
If you’ve got a product variant with a cult following, it may make sense to split out a stand alone URL like NARS orgasm, a widely known lipstick and blush shade.
However, if you’re unable to create separate copy and product details for various shades and colors, it’ll still make sense to canonical these variants back to the main version.
In any case, you want to ensure that the main product variant is indeed linked to onsite (either in breadcrumbs or from category pages), and that canonicals are used when needed.
9) Audit Your Filters and Sorting.
Filters and categories should be consistent across categories and subcategory groups. You won’t want filters and sorted pages to be indexable, but there may be static versions of these pages that could be relevant. Whatâ€™s a filter could also be a static landing page, and vice versa. The two are not mutually exclusive.
For example, it may make sense for you to have a filter on a clothing category page for a designer brand, and also a static category page for the same designer brand.
The filter offering provides a better experience for users already onsite and in the clothing category, while the static landing page version can prove to be an organic entry point for shoppers. Both routes will be necessary for different purposes.
Example from Revolve.com:
10) Category Copy: If you Aren’t Doing It, You’re Missing Out.
Wayfair, West Elm, The Home Depot, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Lulu’s are notorious for this. Try a few queries on Google and you’ll see that the top ranking sites have SEO copy blocks on CLPs, either above or below the fold. Once you notice it, you’ll see that this ubiquitous category copy is everywhere.
It’s important to note, this copy should not just be fluff. Anthropologie’s BHLDN is a great example copy that not only helps them rank for non-brand terms, but also provides useful and informative insights and answers questions users may actually have when purchasing.
11) Test out AMP or PWAs.
Accelerated mobile pages and progressive web apps both aim to create alternate page versions or experiences, with speed and mobile experience as the main priority. These require some technical resources, but can be worth it in the long run if set up correctly, and if page speed has been a particular sore spot for your site.
AMP and PWAs can substantially improve conversion rate and can drastically reduce the time needed within the customer journey. Take for example LancÃ´me – whose PWA drove a 36% lift in mobile revenue.
Check out this list of PWAs for further inspiration.
12) Create and curate style guides, blogs, and evergreen content.
Content should be leveraged across the funnel, across seasons, for various intent, and to test different KPIs.
Let us not forget that top funnel, awareness focused content can be essential for successful organic strategy and driving new users! DIYs, resources, videos, listicles, interactive content, style guides, gift guides, how-to’s, and buying guides can not only drive engagement, but can even bring about assisted conversions.
“Let us not forget that top funnel, awareness focused content can be essential for successful organic strategy and driving new users! DIYs, resources, videos, listicles, interactive content, style guides, gift guides, how-to’s, and buying guides can not only drive engagement, but can even bring about assisted conversions.”Ariel Kozicki, SEO Lead at Reformation
For example, Erin Condrin maintains an “Inspiration Center” that adds value to customers and drivers top-funnel traffic to the site:
13) Expanded Product Details.
Glossier is the queen of SEO, especially for PDPs (Product Detail Pages). Headers – on point. Word count – on point. Keyword integration – spot on. They’ve got reviews, videos, before and after imagery, benefits, ingredient breakdowns, and more.
14) Maximize your Schema Markup.
For whichever business type, page type, and content type you’re creating, there’s likely a corresponding schema type to go with it. Check out schema.org and find examples and information. I’m a fan of the following currently, but there are countless more: report schema, local business schema, product schema, and how to schema.
15) Page Speed.
We won’t beat a dead horse here, but you could be losing out on thousands or even millions a year in revenue (for large sites) with even a half a second delay. Users are impatient. Check out Google’s tool here.
16) Name Your Products and Categories for Success: Match Google’s Interpretation of Intent!
For example, if you’re selling children’s glue and glue sticks, name your page “Glue and Gluesticks”. If you start calling a glue stick an adhesive, you’ll be dappling in murky waters with sticky bras and Ace bandages rather than the true product intent that real users are actually looking for.
“There’s a fine balance to strike between branded naming conventions and naming products for SEO and user intent.”Ariel Kozicki, SEO Lead at Reformation
There’s a fine balance to strike between branded naming conventions and naming products for SEO and user intent. Let’s say we are looking for a brand new Isabel Marant handbag. It’s cute! It’s branded! The Maskhia bag is a must have.
A user might search “cognac purse” or “cognac leather bag”, or even more basic than that – “brown leather bag”. Maybe your user even knows they want to splurge and goes so far as to search “designer leather bag” or “luxury leather handbags”. You’ll want to decide the right balance of brand and intent for your site, and go from there.
Figure out the right mix of keyword integration in metadata, product details, product naming conventions, and schema markup.
There are infinite more checklist items, to-dos, and tasks that could be added to this list, but if you’re looking for the basics and for ongoing maintenance, start with these first to help you prioritize foundational efforts for organic success.
Did you like this checklist? If so, be sure to bookmark it for future use!
Ariel Kozicki is the SEO Lead at sustainable fashion brand, Reformation. Scroll down to read more articles written by Kozicki.