The E-Commerce Marketer’s Guide to Technical SEO
The speed and convenience of online retail are making it easier for people to buy what they want with a few clicks or swipes. No wonder, purchasing products or services online has become a common practice across the globe.
The digital retail trend is only expected to grow. In fact, it is estimated that by 2040, 95 percent of purchases will be done online. What more? 93 percent of all online experiences start with a search engine.
All this data is enough to conclude that e-commerce marketers can no longer afford to ignore the power of search engine optimization. Regardless of whether it’s a bootstrapped startup or a Fortune 500 firm, every e-commerce website needs a solid SEO strategy.
SEO comprises of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. However, in this post, we will focus on how you can improve your online store’s visibility from the technical SEO standpoint. But first, let’s understand what is technical SEO and how optimizing it can help your site get the visibility and organic traffic it deserves.
What Is Technical SEO?
Search engines have become more intelligent. They offer preferential treatment to websites that pay attention to their technical characteristics, namely site architecture, responsive design, and crawlability among others. Thus, optimizing technical SEO is central to improving your site’s visibility and ranking.
Technical SEO relates to your site’s design, format, foundation, and backend structure that allow search engine spiders to crawl and index your site and improve its organic ranking. Optimizing technical SEO makes it easy for search engines to crawl and understand your site content, thereby improving your site traffic and user experience.
While focusing on the other types of SEO, namely on-page and off-page SEO, the technical aspects of a website often go unnoticed. Hence, we have a few hands-on technical SEO tips that will help you maximize your e-commerce site’s searchability and profitability.
1. Conduct a Site SEO Audit
Though most digital marketers understand how technical issues can adversely affect a site’s rank, they often fail to conduct a thorough site audit. In fact, in a study conducted by SEMrush, 80 percent of websites examined had 4xx broken link errors, nearly 66 percent had duplicate content, and 63 percent had a missing H1 tag. This just shows how marketers tend to ignore these technical aspects of their site.
Optimizing technical SEO is all about fixing such issues. Therefore, begin by conducting an SEO audit. Check aspects, such as hosting, indexing, mobile-readiness, site architecture, page loading speed. Here are a few important technical SEO elements you should watch out for when conducting an SEO audit.
Crawl Errors: Use tools like SEMrush or DeepCrawl to identify broken links, page title issues, and poor keywords.
XML/HTML Sitemap Status: Check whether your sitemap is clean, concise (less than 50 thousand URLs), and is registered with Google Search Console.
Common HTTPS Issues: Related to links, canonicals and redirects.
Site Load Time: Given that more than half of visitors leave a site if it takes more than three seconds to load, it is important that you check and rectify this issue.
Mobile-Friendliness: 70 percent of internet traffic comes from mobile phones. Therefore, it is critical to check the mobile-readiness of your website.
Keyword Cannibalization: If not checked, keyword cannibalization can confuse Google’s spiders, leading to lower CTR and poor authority. Use Google Search Console’s performance report to identify the pages that are competing for identical keywords.
Duplicate Metadata and Content: This is a common issue faced by most e-commerce sites. A detailed crawl report will alert you of such issues that can adversely affect your rank.
Robots.txt File: Auditing this file is a must as sometimes site owners accidentally block search engines from crawling certain web pages. Make sure none of your pages have the “Disallow: /” sign in the robot.txt file.
Broken links: Too many broken links not only lead to poor UX but also waste your crawl budget. Dr. Link Check can help you identify broken links within a few minutes.
Check out the broken link report for Stationery Xpress, an online stationery store.
Finally, use tools like Google Analytics and MozBar to track the site’s performance metrics. For instance, MozBar tells you the page authority for each page.
Websites like SEO SiteCheckup offer an SEO score to websites and point out the issues that need to be rectified for a better online ranking. Here is a screenshot for Beardbrand, an American men's grooming company.
2. Optimize Your Crawl Budget
The number of web pages crawled and indexed by Google’s search bots within a given timeframe is your site’s crawl budget. A poor crawl budget can negatively affect your site’s ranking.
Use Google Search Console to keep a tab on your site’s crawl budget. The Crawl Stats section in Search Console can offer your interesting insights on your site’s crawl rate, the pages crawled every day, and the time spent in downloading a page.
Improve your crawl budget by optimizing your site’s link structure, working on your link profile, getting rid of duplicate content, and fixing broken links.
3. Correct Your Site and URL Structure
The site and URL structure for e-commerce sites can easily go haywire as these sites have multiple pages, subcategories, and tags. Keep your site structure clear and consistent to make it user-friendly and easy to navigate. That way your visitors can easily get what they are looking for.
Create a Hierarchy
Whether you are optimizing an existing e-store or creating a new one, maintaining a hierarchy of the categories and subcategories will ensure a clear and consistent site structure. Ideally, e-commerce sites should follow this hierarchy -
Home Page > Category Page > Subcategory Page > Products or Details
If you have a smaller range of products, it is wise to omit the ‘subcategories’ section altogether. Also, your priority products should not be more than 2-3 clicks away from the home page. Ideally, it is advisable to list your top products and offers on the home page.
Notice how Bebe features its priority product range and offers on its home page.
Use the Hierarchy to Create a Good URL structure
Your site’s hierarchy should feed its URL structure. So, the sequence can be as follows -
Category page/subcategory page/further subcategory page/ product page
Check out how Speed Addicts, an online store for bikers, has mastered the art of creating URLs that are short, focus on the keywords, clearly state the hierarchy, and use hyphens to separate words.
4. Make It Quick
As shared earlier, visitors don’t appreciate waiting for more than three seconds for a site to load. In fact, a one-second delay in load time can cost you seven percent loss in conversion and 11 percent fewer page views.
Consider these tips to improve your site’s load time.
Compress Heavy Images
Though e-commerce sites need to have larger and good-quality images, compressing them can save space and improve your site’s load time. Optimize your images by getting rid of unnecessary colors and data.
Use image optimization tools, namely Smush.it, Trimage, ImageOptim, and CompressNow to boost your website’s performance and the visitor’s shopping experience.
Make the Website Code Lighter
AMP versions of web pages load quickly, speeding up the delivery of the website on various devices, including mobiles. Consider enabling AMP for your webpages to boost your site’s speed and make your site mobile-responsive. Google also gives special treatment to AMP pages by highlighting them in prominent carousels, thereby improving your online ranking and traffic.
Check out how these webpages from various online stores get a special treatment from Google.
5. Fix Duplicate Content
According to an audit conducted by Raven‘s Site Auditor tool, 29 percent of pages crawled have duplicate content issues. Further, e-commerce sites often have multiple URLs or domains pointing towards the same content. Hence, duplicate content is one of the most common SEO pitfalls encountered by them.
Fix duplicate content on your website using the below-mentioned hacks.
Learn to Detect Duplicate Content
Online tools like Google Search Console and CopyScape can easily help you point out the duplicate content, meta titles, and meta descriptions on your site.
Keep a Tab on Your CMS
Whether you are using WordPress or any other CMS, make sure it is not publishing multiple versions of a product page or post. For instance, disable session IDs and comment pagination to avoid content duplication.
Similarly, if your CMS creates duplicate printer-friendly pages and you link to them, Google’s bots are bound to find them. So, it is wise to block such pages to avoid confusing Google’s bots.
By using canonical tags you inform the search engines about where they can find the canonical content, enabling them to index and rank that page.
6. Count on Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup helps search engines better understand your website, allowing them to easily index the pages. Further, adding structured data markup to your website code enhances search results through the addition of ‘rich snippets,’ thereby improving your click-through rate (CTR) and conversions.
Most e-commerce owners fail to realize the adverse effects of not optimizing the technical SEO for their websites. However, the fact remains websites that do not pay due attention to the technical aspects, such as the site architecture, broken link profile, loading speed, and mobile-friendliness among others do not rank well on Google.
Use the effective technical SEO tips shared in this post to meet the expectations of search engine algorithms and boost your online ranking.