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eCommerce SEO Audit: Step-by-step Guide & Checklist

The Importance of eCommerce SEO Audit

Unlike other types of businesses that might view SEO as just one aspect of their overall marketing strategy, eCommerce sites often heavily rely on organic channels as their main source of traffic. Therefore, it's vital to ensure that your eCommerce site is as well-optimised for search engines as possible.

An SEO audit is a critical process that examines the health and performance of your website in search engine rankings. It's similar to a health check-up for your online store, identifying strengths to capitalise on and weaknesses to improve. Regular SEO audits are crucial for eCommerce sites, as they ensure that your website keeps up with the ever-evolving algorithms of search engines and the changing behaviours of online consumers.


How is eCommerce SEO Different from Standard SEO?

eCommerce SEO differs from standard SEO primarily in its focus on optimising product pages and driving sales. It emphasises specific product-related keywords, user reviews, and high-quality images to enhance product visibility and appeal. The structure of an eCommerce site is also more complex, with a greater emphasis on navigational efficiency to facilitate easy access to a wide range of products. Furthermore, eCommerce SEO involves unique challenges like managing duplicate content across similar products and adapting to seasonal trends. In contrast, standard SEO is broader, focusing on content engagement, information dissemination, and lead generation across a variety of website types. If you are looking for an SEO agency to manage your organic marketing channel, keep in mind that not every agency has extensive experience in eCommerce sites. Therefore, it's important to speak to an eCommerce SEO agency who has a lot of experience in the field and understands the competitive landscape of eCommerce.

This comprehensive guide and checklist will walk you through every step of conducting a thorough SEO audit for your eCommerce website. From the technical intricacies of website performance to content improvement, we will delve into each aspect that influences your site's SEO. Whether you're a digital marketer or a business owner looking to improve your online presence, this article will equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to conduct an effective SEO audit for eCommerce websites.


Step by Step to Conduct an eCommerce SEO Audit:

Step 1: Technical Audit

Screaming Frog's technical SEO report dashboard
Screaming Frog's technical SEO report dashboard

A technical SEO audit is a comprehensive evaluation of the technical aspects of a website's SEO. eCommerce websites often manage a large number of landing pages, frequently launching new product pages and removing outdated ones. This constant updating can lead to numerous technical issues, which might impede Google's ability to effectively crawl and index the website. Therefore, a technical audit is vital to “clean up” eCommerce websites and ensure they are technically sound. Popular and trusted tools that are used to audit technical issues of a website are Screaming Frog, Ahrefs Site Audit and SEMRush Site Audit reports (all come with paid subscription though). Below is the checklist of essential technical aspects we should examine during a technical audit for eCommerce websites:


1. Robots.txt File

The "robots.txt '' file is a crucial component for any website, particularly for eCommerce sites with their extensive amount of pages and content. This file acts as a guide for search engines, indicating which parts of your site should be crawled and which should be blocked from indexing. It's typically located at “yoursite.com/robots.txt.”

When auditing your robots.txt file, it's essential to ensure that it isn't inadvertently blocking search engine crawlers from accessing parts of your site that you want to be indexed. A common best practice is to include the location of your XML sitemap in the robots.txt file. This can be done by adding a line like “Sitemap: https://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml” at the end of the file, which aids crawlers in discovering your sitemap more efficiently. Not sure what XML sitemap is? More on this later.

For eCommerce sites, which often have numerous pages, subdirectories, and subdomains, managing your crawl budget becomes a key concern. The crawl budget refers to the number of pages Google will crawl on your site within a specific timeframe. During your SEO audit, it's advisable to check the “Crawl stats” in your Google Search Console. If there's a significant difference between the number of pages discovered and those actually crawled, your site might be hitting its crawl budget limit. In such cases, using the robots.txt file to block less relevant parts of your site can be an effective strategy. This ensures that your crawl budget is focused on the most important pages, optimising your site's visibility and search engine performance.

Examples of popular parts that should be blocked in robots.txt:

  • Admin Areas: Sections of the website used for administration, like /admin or /login, are typically blocked to keep them private and secure.

  • Checkout Pages: URLs related to the checkout process, such as /checkout or /cart, are often blocked to prevent search engines from indexing these private, user-specific pages.

  • Dynamic Pages: Pages that are generated dynamically and don't offer value in search results, like search results within the site or sorting parameters, are often blocked.

  • User Profile Pages: Personal user profiles or account pages, typically found under paths like /user or /profile, are blocked for privacy and security reasons.

It's important to note that while blocking these parts can be beneficial for SEO and site security, it should be done carefully. Blocking crucial content can inadvertently harm your site's SEO performance. Therefore, it's always recommended to consult with an SEO professional when configuring your robots.txt file.


2. XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap acts like a roadmap for search engines, helping them understand the structure of your site and locate all your important pages and subdirectories, ensuring they can efficiently find and index your key pages. Here's some guidance on optimising your XML sitemap:

  • Contains only indexable URLs: the sitemap should only contain URLs that you want search engines to index. Make sure that these URLs don't have 'noindex' meta tags and aren't blocked in your robots.txt file. Including URLs that are not meant to be indexed can waste your crawl budget and confuse search engine crawlers. For canonicalised URLs, make sure only the main canonical versions of your URLs are listed in the sitemap. Not sure what canonical is? More on this later.

  • Automatic update: Given the dynamic nature of eCommerce sites, where products and pages are frequently added or removed, your XML sitemap should be configured to update automatically. This ensures that new pages are quickly discovered by search engines and that deleted pages are removed from the index in a timely manner.

3. Response Codes

This is one of the most important phases in your technical audit: reviewing the response codes returned by your pages. These codes are crucial as they indicate the status of each page and how search engines interact with them. Make sure your key pages that drive traffic and rank for keywords are returning 200 status code:

  • 200 status code: This code means the pages are successfully loading and are visible to search engines. It's a sign of a healthy website where content is readily accessible.

  • 3xx status code: Response codes starting with 3 indicate redirects. There are 2 types of redirects: permanent (301/308) and temporary (302/307). Ideally, you should use 301 redirects to maintain the page authority. Ensure your URLs are redirected to the indented URLs. Avoid redirection loops, where URLs endlessly redirect to each other, and long redirect chains. Redirects should take users (and crawlers) directly to the correct page without passing through multiple redirects, as this can slow down site access and complicate the crawling process.

  • 4xx status: Pages that return 4xx codes, like the common 404 Not Found error, indicate broken links or missing pages. If these errors are due to incorrect links, correct them to point to the right URLs. For pages that are no longer relevant or have been removed, ensure to redirect them to the most relevant live page, and delete or update any internal links pointing to them. 4xx errors are really bad for user experience and SEO and are one of the most critical technical SEO issues.

4. Canonicals

Canonical is always one of the most tricky technical SEO concepts. Basically, canonical tags are an HTML attribute to tell search engines which version of a web page is the 'master' or 'original' version. Imagine you have several pages on your website that are very similar or even identical (like a product displayed on multiple URLs). This situation can confuse search engines as they try to determine which URL to index and show in search results. A canonical tag is like a signpost that says, "This is the main page that should be considered for indexing and the others are just the “copycats” and should be ignored" It helps prevent issues of duplicate content in search engine results. Here are the best canonical tag practices:

  • Canonical Tags on Alternate Versions: For every other version of the product page (like those with different URLs due to sorting or categorisation), use a canonical tag that points back to the original version. This guides search engines to recognise the original page as the primary source.

  • Point to Indexable URLs: Your canonical tags should always point to URLs that are indexable and not blocked by robots.txt or 'noindex' tags. This ensures that the pages you want to be indexed and ranked by search engines are correctly identified.

  • Avoid Multiple Canonical Tags: Each page should have only one canonical tag. Having more than one can confuse search engines, making it unclear which URL is the preferred one. Consistency and clarity are key. For example, if page A, B,C are identical, you cannot declare both page B and page C to be the canonical of page A. Only one of the three pages can be declared as the canonical of the other two.

  • Self-Referencing Canonical Tags: Though not mandatory, Google recommends self-referential canonical because it really makes it clear to them which page you want to have indexed, or what the URL should be when it is indexed. In case you’re unsure how a self-referential canonical works, it’s basically a canonical tag on a page that points to itself. For example, if the URL were https://example.com/sample-page, then a self-referencing canonical on that page would be: <link rel=“canonical” href=“https://example.com/sample-page” />. Most modern popular CMS’ add self-referencing URLs automatically, but you’ll need to have your developer hardcode this if using a custom CMS.

5. URLs with Parameters

URL parameters are extra bits of information added to the end of a URL, and they serve various functions, such as tracking user behaviour for analytics, managing product sorting and filtering, or displaying minor product variations like different colours.

Examples of URL parameters:

  • https://www.theiconic.com.au/womens-clothing-coats-jackets/?page=1&sort=popularity&special_price=1

  • https://www.theiconic.com.au/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=au_sem_brand&utm_content=%5BCB%5D:+The+Iconic&utm_campaign=AU_PB_THE+ICONIC&utm_term=the+iconic&gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAiAjfyqBhAsEiwA-UdzJJiFxSxnj3hXrpzIQNg-2Q1hdq9W9wh2eUpJOmJc80ZQi2ktH9QNMBoCNVkQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

If your website has many parameterised URLs, it’s important to signal to crawlers which pages shouldn’t be indexed by consistently linking to the static, non-parameterised page by setting up canonical tags on the parameterised URLs, referencing your preferred URL for indexing. In this case, it’s important to be careful and consistently add internal links only to the static page—never to the versions with parameters. Another method to prevent parameterized URLs from being indexed is to set up a rule in the robots.txt file to block them


6. Pagination

Pagination refers to the practice of dividing content across multiple pages, and it's commonly used in eCommerce to organise large numbers of products into more manageable sections.

In eCommerce, category pages often list many products. Pagination helps by splitting these into smaller sections, typically showing a set number of products per page (e.g., 100 products). For example, the first page of a category might be “yoursite.com/category”, displaying the first 100 products. The next 100 products would be on “yoursite.com/category?page=2”, and so on.

Some key considerations when examining pagination for eCommerce websites are:

  • Ensuring paginated pages are indexable: on the paginated pages, avoid implementing “noindex” tags and canonical tags that point back to the main category page. These tags would prevent search engines from indexing these pages, which could be detrimental if you have products on these pages that you want to be found in search results.

  • Also look for any other issues such as broken links between paginated pages, incorrect use of rel="next" and rel="prev" tags (which help search engines understand the relationship between paginated pages but is not mandatory anymore), and ensuring that all paginated pages are accessible to search engine crawlers.

7. Navigation & Crawl Depth

Navigation & crawl depth do not only impact the user experience but also play a significant role in how effectively search engines can discover and index your site's content.

  • Make sure that all vital categories and pages are present in the navigation menu. The pages included in the navigation should be crawlable and indexable (no broken links).

  • As a general guideline, important pages on your eCommerce site should not be more than four clicks away from the homepage. If key pages are buried deeper, they might be harder for both users and search engines to find. If you find that important pages are too deep in your site's structure, consider adding them to the navigation, or creating links to these pages from higher-level category pages or other prominent areas of your site. This not only improves crawl depth but also enhances the internal linking structure, which is beneficial for SEO.

8. Internationalisation

Internationalisation SEO involves managing different language and regional versions of the same products, which may be hosted on various URLs, subdomains, or subdirectories. The key to handling this complexity effectively is through the use of “hreflang” tags.

Hreflang tags are the HTML attribute used to indicate to search engines the language and geographical targeting of a webpage. They help search engines serve the correct language or regional URL in search results, improving the user experience for international audiences.

Key considerations when auditing the hreflang tags for your international eCommerce website:

  • Ensure that your hreflang tags are pointing to the correct URLs. Incorrect hreflang tags can lead to search engines displaying the wrong version of a page in search results. For example, you don’t want to point to your Australian webpage in the “en-US” hreflang tag.

  • Each page should have hreflang tags for all its existing local versions. This means if you have a product page in English, Spanish, and French, each of these pages should reference the other language versions.

  • Make sure that every URL referenced in your hreflang tags is indexable. If a URL is blocked from indexing (e.g., through a robots.txt file or a 'noindex' tag), it defeats the purpose of the hreflang tag.

  • Hreflang tags must use the correct language and region codes (e.g., en-GB for English in the United Kingdom, es-ES for Spanish in Spain). Using incorrect or non-standard codes can lead to search engines misunderstanding your page targeting.

  • Include a self-referencing hreflang tag on each page. This tag identifies the page itself as being targeted to a specific language or regional audience. It's an important signal to search engines about the primary audience for that page.

  • Reciprocal linking: Check that every page with an hreflang tag has a corresponding return link from its alternate versions. For example, if your English page lists a Spanish page as its alternate version, the Spanish page should also list the English page as its alternate.

  • Consistency across versions: Ensure that the set of hreflang tags is consistent across all versions of the page. Each version should list all the other versions, including itself with a self-referencing hreflang tag.

  • Though not mandatory, the X-default is recommended as it serves a specific purpose in guiding search engines on which page to show in search results when no language or regional URL is an exact match for the user's preferences. For example, if you have English, Spanish, and French versions of a page, you would include hreflang tags for each of these, plus an x-default tag pointing to your international or language selection page.

9. Page Speed

Slow-loading pages can negatively impact organic search rankings and are detrimental to user engagement and conversion rates. Therefore, optimising page speed should be a high priority in your eCommerce SEO audit. During your SEO audit, assess the loading speed of your pages. You don't need to test every single page; instead, focus on a few representative URLs for each type of page template your site uses (e.g., homepage, product pages, category pages).

The most effective tool to test page speed is Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, which does not only give you a score of your webpage’s performance on mobile and desktop devices, but also tells you which are the areas that you can improve on, such as optimising images, optimising CSS and Javascripts files, and more. Some other popular and highly trusted tools for page speed examination include Pingdom and GTMetrix, but you might need to pay to access the advanced features of these tools.


Step 2: On-page Audit

1. Titles Tags & Meta Descriptions

These snippets, displayed in search engine results pages (SERPs), often provide the first impression a user has of your site. They act as a brief advertisement for what the user can expect on the page. Therefore, it's important to optimise them effectively.

Each product page should have a unique meta title and description. This not only helps in distinguishing your products in search results but also in enticing users to click through to your site. The content should be compelling and relevant to the product, highlighting key features or benefits. Key points for consideration include:

  • Character Limit: This is crucial for ensuring that they display properly in SERPs without being cut off. The recommended limits are:

  • Meta Title: 50-60 characters. This range ensures that the title is long enough to be descriptive but not so long that it gets truncated in the search results.

  • Meta Description: 160 characters. While search engines sometimes display longer descriptions, sticking to this limit ensures that the most important information is visible in the snippet.

  • Optimisation Strategy: To make the most of these character limits, focus on including primary target keywords and a clear, concise description of the product or page content. Avoid stuffing keywords and aim for natural, readable text.

  • Check for consistency in your meta titles and descriptions across your site. They should accurately reflect the content of each page. Misleading or irrelevant meta tags can harm user experience and bounce rates.

2. Heading Structure

Heading structure and Heading 1 not only help in organising content for readers but also play a significant role in how search engines understand and rank your pages.

The H1 tag is typically the most prominent heading on a page, often used for the title. It's a strong signal to search engines about the primary subject of the page. For eCommerce sites, this could be the product name on a product page or the category name on a category page.

Headings should be used to logically structure the content of a page. They typically follow a hierarchical format, with H1 as the main heading, followed by subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) that denote different sections or aspects of the content.

Guidelines on H1 and heading structure:

  • Unique and Descriptive H1 Tags: Ensure that each page on your site has a unique H1 tag that accurately describes the page content. For product pages, the product name often makes an ideal H1.

  • Hierarchy and Clarity: Check that your pages use a clear heading hierarchy. H2 tags should be used for main subsections, with H3s, H4s, etc., for further subdivisions. This structure helps users and search engines navigate and understand the content more effectively.

  • Keyword Inclusion: Include relevant keywords in your headings, especially the H1 tag, but avoid keyword stuffing. The focus should be on making the headings informative and natural-sounding.

  • Avoiding Multiple H1 Tags: Traditionally, it's recommended to have only one H1 tag per page. While modern HTML5 allows for multiple H1s, it's generally best to stick to one main H1 for clarity and focus.

  • Visual Presentation: Ensure that your headings are visually distinct and appropriately sized. Headings should stand out from the regular text, making it easier for users to scan through the content.

3. Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a common challenge for eCommerce websites, often arising from the nature of online retail operations. Addressing this issue is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your site in the eyes of search engines and providing a unique value to your customers.

eCommerce sites frequently have multiple instances of the same product page, especially when a product fits into multiple categories or is accessible via different navigational paths. Also, many eCommerce sites use product descriptions provided by manufacturers. This practice can result in content duplication across different websites selling the same products.

Some popular strategies to handling duplicate content issues on eCommerce websites include:

  • Technical SEO solutions:

- Canonical Tags: Use canonical tags to indicate the preferred version of a page. This helps search engines understand which page to index and display in search results.


- Noindex Tags: Implement "noindex" tags on pages that you don't want search engines to index, such as duplicate or similar content pages.


- Robots.txt: Use robots.txt to prevent search engines from crawling duplicate content areas of your site.

  • Content Optimisation:

Unique Product Descriptions: Create unique product descriptions instead of using generic manufacturer-provided text. This not only helps with SEO but also enhances user experience.

Rich Content Elements: Add value to your product pages with unique elements like FAQs, user reviews, and shopping guides. This enriches the content and differentiates your pages from others.


4. Structured Data

Structured data is a standardised format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content. It helps search engines understand the context and content of your pages more effectively. Structured data is a powerful tool for eCommerce websites, improving the way search engines interpret and display your site's content in search results. By implementing structured data, you can provide more detailed information to search engines, which can lead to richer, more informative search engine results pages (SERPs).


For eCommerce sites, structured data can significantly improve visibility in SERPs. It allows search engines to display rich snippets, such as product information, pricing, availability, and ratings, directly in the search results, making your listings more attractive and informative to potential customers.


Popular structured data types for eCommerce businesses include:

  • Product Schema: This is crucial for any eCommerce site. It allows you to provide specific details about your products, such as name, price, availability, and customer reviews. This information can be displayed in rich snippets in SERPs, enhancing visibility and click-through rates.

  • Breadcrumb Schema: Breadcrumb markup helps search engines understand and display the page's position within the site hierarchy. This can improve user navigation and also helps Google understand the structure of your site, potentially leading to better crawling efficiency.

If your eCommerce website is not utilising these structured data, it’s time checking them out and implementing them to catch up with your competitors.


5. Keyword Targeting & Keyword Cannibalisation

Proper keyword research and mapping ensures that your product pages are uniquely positioned in search engine results, avoiding internal competition and maximising visibility. Keyword cannibalisation occurs when multiple pages on your site compete for the same or similar keywords. This internal competition can dilute your SEO efforts and confuse search engines about which page to rank for a given query.

Therefore, make sure your websites are following the below practices to avoid keyword cannibalisation and target and rank for the proper keywords:

  • Differentiate Product Pages: Ensure that each product page targets a unique set of keywords. This can be achieved by focusing on specific features, uses, or other unique selling points of each product.

  • Use Long-Tail Keywords: Incorporate long-tail keywords into your product pages. These are more specific and less competitive than broad terms. For example, instead of targeting "running shoes," target "women's trail running shoes size 8."

  • Optimise Category Pages: Use broader keywords for category pages and more specific keywords for individual product pages. This helps in clearly defining the hierarchy and relevance of pages to search engines. For example, “dresses” → “mini dresses” → “black mini dresses”

  • Content Review and Audit: Regularly review your site's content to identify and resolve instances of content cannibalisation. Look for pages that target similar keywords and consider merging, deleting, or re-optimising them to focus on different terms.

  • Unique Product Descriptions: Write unique descriptions for each product. Avoid using the manufacturer's generic descriptions, as these are likely used by multiple retailers, leading to duplicate content issues.


6. Internal Linking

Internal linking refers to the practice of linking one page of your website to another page within the same website. It's crucial for eCommerce websites, as it helps users navigate your website easily, leading them from general information to more specific items, like from a category page to a product page. Furthermore, links pass value and authority from one page to another. This can help boost the ranking potential of key pages. A well-structured internal linking system also helps search engines crawl your site more effectively, ensuring that more of your pages are indexed. In your audit, make sure you evaluate the following:

  • Ensure that internal links are relevant to the content of the page. For example, link a product page to related products, accessories, or relevant blog posts. This can be upselling (for example, linking to products that people often buy together) or cross-linking (for example, linking to similar products).

  • Use descriptive anchor text: The clickable text in a link (anchor text) should be descriptive and relevant to the target page. Avoid generic phrases like "click here."

  • Link from high authority pages: utilise your high-authority pages, like your homepage, to link to important product or category pages.

  • Avoid excessive links: Too many links on a page can be overwhelming and dilute their value. Keep the number of links on a page reasonable.

  • Regularly audit internal links: Check for broken links and update your internal linking structure as your site evolves.

7. Image Optimisation

Image optimisation ensures that the images on your eCommerce site are formatted, sized, and loaded in a way that minimises page load times while maintaining image quality.

  • Optimise Image Size and Format: Large images can slow down page load times. Resize images to the appropriate dimensions and use efficient formats like JPEG for photographs and PNG for graphics.

  • Use Descriptive File Names: Name image files with descriptive, keyword-rich names. For example, "black-leather-handbag.jpg" is more informative than "IMG001.jpg."

  • Alt Tags: Include alt tags for images. These are text alternatives that describe the image, important for SEO and accessibility.

  • Lazy Loading: Implement lazy loading, where images load only when they're about to be viewed. This can significantly improve page load times.

  • Use Image Compression: Use tools to compress images without losing quality. This reduces file size and speeds up page loading.

  • Responsive Images: Ensure images are responsive and display correctly on all devices, especially on mobiles.

Step 3: Off-page Audit

The final step of an eCommerce SEO audit often extends beyond the website itself to examine its backlink profile. Backlinks, which are links from other websites to yours, play a crucial role in SEO. They act as endorsements, signalling to search engines that other sites consider your content valuable and relevant. Moreover, backlinks can drive referral traffic to your site, potentially increasing your customer base.

To conduct an audit on your current backlink profile, you can utilise these highly trusted SEO tools: SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Moz. Google Search Console report also has a “Links” section that contains information about your top externally/internally linked pages, top linking sites and top linking text. However, the third-party tools provide a more comprehensive backlink audit, give you an estimated authority score of your website, and allow you to analyse the backlink profiles of your competitors to narrow down the gap as well. The downside is that these tools often require a paid subscription, which is not affordable for every business.


When performing a backlink audit, you should look at the following:

  • The number of backlinks and referring domains, the quality of linking sites, and the relevance of the links to your industry.

  • Toxic or low-quality backlinks can harm your site's SEO. Identify any suspicious or irrelevant links and use Google's Disavow tool to disassociate your site from them.

  • Analysing your competitors' backlink profiles to learn from their strategies and help you identify potential linking opportunities.

  • When developing a link building plan, focus on acquiring backlinks from high-authority, relevant websites. This can be achieved through content marketing, guest blogging, partnerships, and digital PR.


SEMRush' Backlink Analytics Report Dashboard
SEMRush' Backlink Analytics Report Dashboard

Final Thoughts

Remember, SEO is not a one-time task but a continuous process of improvement and adaptation. The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and staying ahead means being proactive, monitoring changes, and adapting your strategies accordingly. Regular SEO audits are crucial in this journey, ensuring that your eCommerce website not only meets but exceeds the expectations of both search engines and customers.

As you implement these strategies, keep in mind that SEO is as much about understanding your audience as it is about understanding algorithms. By aligning your SEO efforts with user needs and search engine guidelines, you create a win-win scenario that drives organic growth, builds customer trust, and establishes a strong online presence.


If you need help with SEO services, get in touch with SOUP. We are the leading Australia’s independent digital marketing agency with the head office based in Sydney. To adapt to each business’s nature and requirements, we offer custom SEO packages tailored to your needs and budget. To get started, contact us and get a free technical SEO audit on your website’s current performance.

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