The path to sales success can be a real challenge! Auditing your website is crucial, especially if it is an e-commerce site.
SEO expert Tim Capper @GuideTwit shared his 10-year of experience and exclusive knowledge in an SEMrush webinar this September. Tim is the Director of Search at Online Ownership, a Google Top Contributor and a moderator in the popular SEO Questions community on Google+.
Tim covered the most common problems encountered with e-commerce websites. Many viewers who joined our webinar got the opportunity to discover how to audit their websites and check for these problems using both free and paid tools.
At the very beginning, we analyze different tools for auditing your website, including SEMrush, Google Search Console, the Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool and a few more. Nevertheless, your most important tool is you. No matter which one you use, tools are only useful if you interpret and evaluate the data they provide correctly. It is crucially important to use them the right way.
One of the most important issues with e-commerce sites is setting your preferred domain, whether it is www or non-www address. Domain canonicalization, or redirection to the preferred domain, used to be quite a big issue with e-commerce platforms, but the majority of modern CMS platforms seem to deal with it just fine. This usually isn’t a serious problem with your top-level domain (TLD) now.
Still, it is always worth checking, if you have an older CMS module or version running. You can go to your next category page and do your checking manually. Depending on your preferred domain, you can just remove the “www” from your search bar and hit the “enter” key. If the domain is correctly canonicalized, it will redirect to the preferred version. Otherwise, you are presenting search engines with two versions of your site. And that is the opposite of your goal. Generally, if it’s incorrect and you are using an old CMS system, you can put a redirect in your .htaccess. Obviously, you will need a developer for this.
- Manual checking: Remove www or add www to the URL in the address bar.
- com: Use its redirection tool. But keep in mind that it doesn’t crawl your entire site, so you need go page by page and look for particular issues within each page.
- SEMrush Site Audit tool: It will show you issues you should take into consideration, including incorrect redirects.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
If you are not using HTTPS, you don’t have to sound the alarm. But you need to start serving your entire e-commerce site through HTTPS from now on, especially on your checkouts. Even if Google says there is only a slight ranking benefit to this, it is likely to develop in time.
Many e-commerce sites only switch to HTTPS on their very last page, where credit card details are required. And this is not ideal. Some CMSs may handle this for you, but it is better to double check top-line, category and page-level URLs. When you move to HTTPS, you need to go back to the previous page and check all your redirections.
- Manual checking: After a developer has completed the migration to HTTPS, it is still better to manually check all redirections.
- com: Use its redirection tool.
Product Canonicals and Parameters
This is also one of the major issues concerning e-commerce websites. You will often find some kind of an error on retailers' sites relating to product pages and how they are displayed to search engines. Most e-commerce sites will display the same product in different categories, but that product is still the same product, just displayed elsewhere.
The crucial thing is to tell search engines which of these is the actual product page that you want them to display in search. The rel=”canonical” tag allows you to specify which is the original product and which one you would like to be displayed in search. If you do not specify the canonical, you end up duplicating your products in search, which can lead to your product being filtered out of search results all together.
- Manual checking: You can view the product on your parameter page, view its source and check for your canonical tag in <head>.
- SEMrush Site Audit tool: You will find duplicate pages.
- Google Search Console: It will show you duplicate pages.
Using Google Search Console, you can select the Fetch and Render in your crawl section, enter the page, which should ideally be a product page, and it will produce two versions. One of them is what Google’s bot sees and the other one is what visitors see. When you scroll down below that, the search console will tell you if something is being blocked by a robots.txt file.
- Google Search Console: Review blocked pages in your robots.txt file, and make sure what you’re showing to Google’s bot is actually visible via your robots.txt file. Make sure your sitemap.xml is submitted to the search console and error-free.
ICYMI: Today it is better to be on a responsive web design or have a mobile version of your site. But one of the most common mistakes is not updating your site’s CMS versions and not making it mobile-friendly. But even if you are using the latest CMS version, if your developer has blocked CSS and JS in your robots.txt file, this will render your site unresponsive or non-mobile-friendly.
Tools to use:
- Google Mobile-Friendly test: You can quickly check your entire domain or specific pages. Just use the Mobile-Friendly test, and it will analyze any URL and tell you if the page has a mobile-friendly design.
- Google Search Console: Again you can use the Fetch and Render, and this will tell you if there is an error with your CSS and JS.
Crawl Errors and Redirects
The most common error is a 404 page. This is a page on the site that no longer exists, or has been removed. The thing is that 404 pages reduce your crawl rates unnecessarily, because Google’s bot will try to find what is going on with these pages, if they repeatedly come across links pointing to these pages.
So, the first thing you should do is check your crawl errors. You should fix internal links to any 404 pages, if they have been redirected double check the redirect is a 301, because some developers may use 302 incorrectly – 302 is a temporary redirect. Check your 404 pages to understand whether or not they have any equity and can be redirected.
Tools to use:
- SEMrush Site Audit tool: With its help, you can find any particular issues with your site.
- Google Search Console: It will show you any crawl errors, and it will list your 404 pages.
Site and Page Speed
You can check this via a Google Speed Page test or by using Google Search Console. Enter your domain, and Google will come back with a suggested page speed. With the help of page speed insights, you can diagnose where the content of a webpage is slowing down its display. One of the most common errors is having multiple CSS files.
Tools to use:
- Page speed insights: A competent developer is needed who can determine if the tool is being used correctly. They can also provide suggestions to help improve page speed.
You certainly must fix broken and missing images. Also, there are several more important things to do. Always try to use the correct image dimensions according to the dimension of where it will be displayed on site. Make sure you describe your image properly. It is also important to provide informative file names.
Depending on your CMS, if you are able to provide an alt attribute, it is always best to provide additional informational descriptions of that image. Google will use this information to help determine the best image to return for a user’s query.
Tool to use:
- SEMrush Site Audit tool: It can show you how many of your images don’t have an alt attribute.
Tim describes content as your one shot to sell your product. So, the three key things here are: 1) describe it; 2) sell it; 3) love it. Ask yourself the following questions. Would your description sell that product to a customer? Does your description accurately describe the product? Provide unique and descriptive information about your products.
An e-commerce site audit is not an easy task. But it is necessary for running a successful website that sells products. In the webinar, we analyzed the most common problems with e-commerce sites and discovered what steps you and your developer can take to prevent them.
Do you have any questions or e-commerce site success stories? Let us know in the comments.
Again, thanks a lot to Tim Capper and his invaluable advice! We will keep you updated with more tips for e-commerce sites!