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Technical SEO for eCommerce Sites | eCommerce SEO Audit

By
Scott
on
Thursday, January 7, 2021
Table of Contents

There is usually confusion about what constitutes eCommerce SEO versus technical SEO for eCommerce sites.

Fundamentally, technical SEO is all about fixing errors that prevent search engines from quickly understanding what your web page is about. It’s one of the best way to extract all the benefits of eCommerce SEO.

That may mean your site has broken links that lead to dead ends and wasted time when Google encounters them during a site crawl.

It may also mean duplicate content, which confuses search engines.

So here are the top things to look out for with technical SEO for eCommerce.

Run a Technical eCommerce SEO Audit

First thing’s first, you should run a technical audit for SEO eCommerce. And for this step, you’ll definitely need an SEO tool.

A full technical eCommerce SEO audit consists of two steps: using a crawler and testing site speed.

Check out our complete list of the best SEO tools to find the one that will work best for your use case. 

Use a Website Crawler to Find Errors

A very reliable and commonly-used crawler is SEMrush’s Audit Report. When you input your URL, it’ll scan your website’s links, code, and images. Then it provides an in-depth summary that includes any broken links, missing metadata, missing headers, errors, and so on.

Here’s what you should look for when digging through your SEMrush results:

  • Pages with 404 errors. That means the server was unable to retrieve any content for the page. AKA the page doesn’t exist anymore and the URL is a broken link. Redirect any 404 pages to live pages with current, relevant content.
  • URLs with HTTP codes. HTTPS web pages, the “s” stands for “secure,” is required because of security regulations. Any HTTP URLs you have will error out and a technical eCommerce SEO audit will find them. To make sure all your URLs are HTTPS, you’ll need to ensure you have an up-to-date, correct SSL certificate.
  • XML sitemap status. Every site has an XML sitemap. Google uses it as a map that helps it navigate your website’s pages when it crawls and tries to deduce their meaning. Every XML sitemap should be formatted as an XML document, follow XML protocol, and include all current web pages on your site. Then you must submit the sitemap to Google Search Console. Here’s how.
  • Duplicate content. Any pages with duplicate meta information (titles, description, headers, etc.) will be flagged. You can then update the information and make it unique. The best eCommerce platform for SEO will have built-in functionality to help you avoid duplicate content.
  • Meta information length. Meta descriptions and page titles have optimal lengths: 160 and 60 characters respectively. But a better way to look at it is pixel width. Meta descriptions should have pixel widths under 920px, and meta titles under 512px. SEMrush will show you all of your pages with meta information that’s too long.
  • Pages with 302 redirects. A 302 redirect is used when a page is temporarily redirected to another page. But most redirects aren’t temporary. If you have any 302 redirects instituted for permanent redirects, change them to 301 redirects.

You can spend many hours combing through technical SEO crawl results. But the above is the lowest-hanging fruit.

Test Your Page Speed

How quickly your web pages load affects the user experience. That’s why clunky, slow web pages are a negative in Google’s eyes.

To test your website speed, head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Once there, input your websites URL:


page speed results



You’ll then be given an overall page speed score, a breakdown of four important Core Web Vitals scores, and a list of opportunities to increase your scores.

These are the four Core Web Vitals Google looks at when using PageSpeed Insights:

  • First Contentful Paint (FCP). FCP measures the time from when the page begins loading to when any part of the page’s content first shows up on the screen. Content refers to text, images, and non-white canvas or background elements.
  • First Input Delay (FID). FID is a measure of interactivity. It measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page to when the page is able to process that interaction. It’s how quickly a page can become fully responsive to clicks or other inputs from when it starts loading.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). LCP measures the time it takes the largest image or text block to become fully rendered on the screen.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). CLS gauges visible stability. You know when you scroll on a web page and everything shifts because something loaded late? That’s visual instability, and it’s a bad user experience. A better CLS means less of that happens.

All four of these directly impact the user experience and are considered by Google when ranking pages. And, along with Speed Index, Time to Interactive, and Total Blocking Time, they make up your total page speed score.

So, how do you make sure these scores are up to snuff?

Two ways. The easiest is to get an eCommerce platform that’s built for mobile and designed specifically for page speed and user experience.

Alternatively, you can do it yourself. PageSpeed Insights gives you a hit list, and you can pass that list directly to a developer to make any necessary changes to your website.

Here’s Chewy’s:


Google PageSpeed Insights


Bubble that up to your developers and tell them to take a look. With some time, they’ll likely be able to clear some of those opportunities out and increase your scores.

Check the Robots.txt File

Your robots.txt file is a text file that contains a list of URLs that you don’t want search engines to scan and index.

It looks like this:


technical SEO robots.txt file


You can see that Toyota doesn’t want Google or any other search engine to crawl (or discover and put into public Google search results) all the listed URLs. They “disallow” the specific URLs.

If SEMrush or your crawling software isn’t picking up some webpages, it could be that they’re accidentally being disallowed in your robots file.

That’s why it’s always wise to include a check on your robots file in every technical eCommerce SEO audit.

You can access your robots.txt file by appending “/robots.txt” onto your homepage URL. Or you can typically access it through your content management system.

Review Overall Site Architecture

The overall structure of your website—how all the pages are structured and linked together—is a big part of eCommerce SEO. Ideally, you hammer a search-optimized structure out at the beginning.

There are three rules you must follow for your eCommerce site’s architecture.

Rule 1: Three Clicks Deep, Max.

No page on your eCommerce site should be more than three clicks away from your homepage. That means a user can navigate to any page, from your homepage, on your site in three clicks.

No page on your eCommerce site should be more than three clicks away from your homepage.

SEO site architecture

Here’s why that’s so great: 

  • Often, your homepage will have a lot of SEO authority. With most other pages only a few clicks from your home page, your SEO power is concentrated and able to be deployed as needed. Remember, you can add inlinks to cornerstone pages to distribute some of that SEO power around your site.
  • It’s super easy for Google to crawl (i.e. scan, read, and understand). And the quicker and easier it is for a search engine to crawl and understand your site, the better your rankings will be.
  • It’s a great user experience. No more endless clicking, everything quickly discoverable.

The farther a page is away from the homepage, the less SEO benefits it gets from the homepage. So don’t have subcategories nested in subcategories nested in subcategories. Keep your structure nice and tidy, three clicks deep.

Here’s an example of poor site architecture, with too many clicks required to get to the farthest page:

SEO site architecture

Rule #2: Keep Your Hierarchy Logical

When you visualize a good sitemap, you see a hierarchy that descends from general content to specific content.

Always make sure the pages on your site flow downward and gain specificity, like so:

General content ---> More specific content ---> Even more specific content

Rule #3: Make Sure It’s Scalable

This is more of a quality check than an individual rule. Because if you keep your maximum click depth at three and abide by simple hierarchical logic, your website will be scalable.

This means that its structure can be easily replicated as your business grows and you add more products to your digital storefront.

You’ll be able to add product pages, category pages, and subcategory pages easily. All without reorganizing your website structure. All slotted in logically and simply.

Also, another note about scalability:

The SEO content for eCommerce websites is published and managed via content management systems (CMSs). To publish and edit content at scale, CMSs use templates.

Here’s how CMS templates work:

  • You create the Product Page template in your CMS
  • When creating individual product pages, you select the Product Page template
  • You add in your content
  • The content is automatically formatted according to the Product Page template

If your site architecture has internal logic and is replicable, you can use templates to publish at velocity and scale. Incidentally, BlueCart Digital Storefront does this.

Make Sure You’re Mobile-Friendly

“Mobile-friendly sites show up higher in search results.”

That’s a quote from Google.

Mobile traffic accounts for roughly half of all global web traffic. 

That means if your website isn’t designed to provide an optimal experience for 50% of users, your search rankings can, and likely will, suffer.

So how do you go about ensuring your site is mobile-friendly?

Again, the easiest way is to use an eCommerce platform that’s built for mobile responsiveness and optimal user experience at any screen size.

Or you can do it yourself. It’s relatively straightforward, actually. Here’s a mobile site test from Google.

Enter your URL and you’ll be given a list of ways to improve the speed, personalization, and usability of your site.

You should also try to achieve:

  • Flexible text and image sizes, so no matter the size of the screen being used to view your web page, the text and images will remain legible and visible
  • A fluid grid layout, or a web page layout that automatically resizes based on the size of the screen being used to view your web page

Often, modern content management systems, or the software you use to create and publish your web pages, will be mobile responsive. This is more of an issue for older web pages. 

But, nevertheless, it’s something that can always be improved, if even in marginal ways. And sometimes marginal SEO wins make all the difference.

Use Logical URL Structure and Composition

How important is your eCommerce site’s URLs?

According to SEO experts:

  • URL length is the 54th most important ranking factor
  • URL path is the 55th most important ranking factor
  • Keywords in the URL is the 59th most important ranking factor
  • URL string on the SERP is the 60th most important ranking factor

There are over 200 ranking factors. Pretty important, then.

URLs should be relatively short. The sweet spot for URLs is around 50-60 characters. Don’t go above 80.

Good URLs should also be human readable. Looking at a URL should immediately tell a user where it leads.

And that shouldn’t be too difficult. Because the URL structure you use is dependent on your site’s hierarchy. The URL represents the pathway to a specific web page. If you’re using a logical hierarchy and naming pages clearly, you’ll have human-readable URLS.

Something like this:

https://www.eCommercesite.com/category/subcategory/product

Which, given actual words, looks like:

https:///www.bluecartcoffee.com/whole-bean/arabica/gold-hill-roast

The category page is for whole bean coffee. The subcategory is for arabica coffee. And the product itself is Gold Hill Roast.

When creating the slugs for all your pages, use one or two words that represent the category. If you use multiple words, separate each by a hyphen. If you do this and keep the click depth to three, the URLs are all short, sweet, and readable.

SEO URL slug definition

Use Semantic Markup

Semantic markup is a way of structuring and writing the HTML code behind your web pages to emphasize the page’s semantics, or meaning.

In other words, it’s a piece of code you place in a page’s existing code that clearly labels a certain part of the page for the benefit of search engines.

The most widely-used system of semantic markup is known as Schema. Schema is a collaborative effort to come up with a vocabulary that developers and search engines can use to make the meaning of websites as clear as possible to search engine crawlers.

How can your eCommerce site use semantic markup to boost SEO?

By using the review Schema tag to generate rich results. 

You remember rich results, right? We mentioned them in our page about SEO for eCommerce product pages. They’re when your result on the SERP is enhanced by some visual or interactive element. 

Here’s an example of a rich results on the search results page:


SEO ecommerce rich results


See that “$8.50” beneath the Fulton Fish Market result? See “In stock” beneath both results? 

Now here’s an example of a regular old result with no rich content:

SEO ecommerce no rich results


Womp. Sorry, Always Fresh Fish. But your result is far easier to ignore than Fulton’s or Wholey’s.

So how did they get that content on the results page?

They inserted the “Availability” and “Price” Schema tags in their web page’s HTML code:


Schema tags for technical ecommerce SEO


Now when a search engine crawls this page, it can immediately find and understand the product’s availability and price. And because additional information like that is valuable and the search engine is 100% sure of this information’s accuracy, it displays it all right on the search results page.

And that makes for a more attractive search result—and hopefully a higher click-through rate.

So what other ways can Schema be used to make websites easier to understand for search engines?

Let’s look back at Wholey.

They’ve got a list of links at the top of their monkfish product page that starts out with “Home” and ends with “Atlantic Monk Fish (3 Lb. Avg).”

That’s called a breadcrumb. It’s a trail of links that shows which higher-level pages narrow into the page you’re currently on.

Technical ecommerce SEO breadcrumb



Having a breadcrumb helps in many ways, which we detail in our post about SEO for eCommerce product pages.

And here’s the HTML for the breadcrumb feature:


technical SEO schema for breadcrumb


They used the Schema tag BreadcrumbList to label their breadcrumb.

By marking up their breadcrumb list, they make it far more likely that a search engine uses it for rich content on the results page. And any rich content is better than none. Search results pages are walls of black, blue, and white. Anything to differentiate your link is hugely valuable.

The Schema vocabulary presently consists of over 2,600 tags that can be used to label parts of your web page.

For eCommerce SEO, the most useful are:

  • BreadcrumbList
  • AggregateRating
  • Price
  • Availability

Successful companies use Schema markup for the static sections of their website, too. Here’s code from the footer of Wholey’s website that labels “Wholey’s” as the name of the company and identifies it as a website.


schema markup for technical SEO



Every little bit of help you can give a search engine in understanding your page, the better. Any most high-performing eCommerce sites—and certainly enterprise-level sites—use a lot of Schema markup.

Keeping up on technical SEO for commerce is an ongoing process. You don’t do it once and you’re done. You do it periodically because Google changes, best practices change, and your website changes.

The easiest route for small-to-medium businesses looking to succeed in eCommerce SEO and technical eCommerce SEO is to use an eCommerce platform that provides this stuff out of the box.

That’s what BlueCart Digital Storefront does. It’s an all-in-one eCommerce solution that comes jam packed with SEO-ready features to help your business show up in search results.

We help businesses across the country grow online visibility and sales. Let us help you.

Technical SEO is the last part of an SEO strategy that you are directly responsible for. The next step is off-page SEO for eCommerce. Which often requires the participation of outside actors. Like other people linking to your website, for example.

That’s as opposed to on-page SEO for eCommerce.

BlueCart is a member of the SEMrush affiliate program and makes commission through advertising and linking to SEMrush.com.