U.S. consumers showed a lot of love for e-commerce companies at the end of 2016—a move that surprised many who earlier predicted a sales slump during the tumultuous election season. As we move into a new year, it’s safe to say that 2017 will be an excellent year for online retail businesses.
That said (because there’s always a caveat), now is not the time to kick back and rejoice. Yes, e-commerce is in high demand. But that doesn’t mean that online shoppers are guaranteed to find you the next time they set out to make a purchase.
If you’re serious about growing your business in 2017, now is the perfect time to give your e-commerce website an SEO audit.
A Guide to Auditing Your E-commerce Website’s SEO Efforts
You’ve got a website. It looks great. It functions smoothly. And you have swarms of people visiting it daily. But that’s not enough. As consumers turn away from brick-and-mortar shops in search of more convenient online shopping experiences, the amount of competition will grow. If you don’t keep your website aligned with SEO trends, you may find your store getting lost in all that distracting noise.
Here’s the thing: if you have a great website and you offer visitors a lot of value through your products, services, or content, then Google (and other search engines) want you to get found. But Google’s not going to do that work for you. In fact, they continue to make their search algorithms tougher and tougher for websites.
In short, let’s just say that Google’s been burned before. Years ago, when people discovered ways to game the system, it wasn’t just Google users who were led to irrelevant, spammy and even dangerous websites that got hurt. Google’s reputation and trust were hurt. And so too were the companies genuinely trying to rank in search.
Google doesn’t mess around anymore. And this means that businesses really must work hard in order to rank well in search.
Regular SEO audits are especially pertinent for e-commerce businesses. They tell you how your website is performing with current visitors, give you a clear direction of where to go with your website, and ultimately pave the way so you can work on more advanced SEO efforts outside of the website.
The following list will guide you through an initial SEO audit. Your goal, to start, is to come out of the audit with a “yes” to each of the following questions:
- Do you use Google Analytics to track visitor data and relevant website performance statistics like bounce rate, referral/search/social sources and goal completion?
- Do you have a heat mapping and A/B testing tool to assess page-specific activity and test alternative scenarios for better results?
- Do you have an SEO plugin (or other third-party integration) to help you add metadata, optimize each page for search results, and inform you of potential issues?
- Do you have a speed optimization plugin to help you enhance your site’s performance?
- Do you use security plugins or tools to protect the back end and front end of your website?
- Does your website include secure payment gateways or logins for your customers?
- Do you have an SSL certificate and HTTPS web address?
- Is your website listed with Google Shopping Campaigns or Google My Business (if you have a locally-based business)?
- Is your website’s sitemap indexed and all updates sent immediately to the search engines?
- Is your website’s design responsive?
- Are your product images optimized for speed, search, and the user experience?
- Have you researched and identified multiple, specific keywords to optimize your content?
- Is your content easy to read and scan (for people and for web crawling bots)? In other words, do you use header tags, shorter sentences, list formats and other experience-enhancing optimizations?
- Is your website regularly updated with fresh, relevant and valuable content?
- Is your website free of duplicate content?
- Does your content link to other pages within your own website?
- Does your content link to high-authority websites?
- Do high-authority websites link to your content?
- Is your website free of broken links?
- Do you have tools to help you prevent scraping (or theft) of your site’s content?
- Are links to your social media profiles present on every page?
It’s important to understand that a successful SEO strategy must go above and beyond this initial auditing phase. Once you’ve completed the process a few times, you’ll find that your “yes” answers come more quickly. Then, it will be time to focus on SEO that extends beyond your website, helping your e-commerce business become the authority and brand consumers (and search engines) trust the most.