Vetting Your E-Commerce Store’s Technical SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) remains one of the biggest revenue drivers for e-commerce companies looking to acquire new customers and develop more repeat business. But depending on niche and competition, rising to the top of the SERPs may take anywhere from months to years…to never. After all, Google’s algorithm includes 200 ranking factors divided between on-page and technical SEO.

On-page SEO plays a big role in a site ranking well, especially when it comes to satisfying user intent. But if your technical SEO is flawed, your on-page efforts will be in vein. Your store will have an anchor dragging it to the depths of the SERPs. That’s why regularly vetting your e-commerce store’s technical SEO is so important. Learn how to stay on top of your store’s technical SEO below.

404s

When a page no longer exists, a 404 code usually appears. Broken internal and external pages aren’t always damaging to your SEO, but they do impact user experiences. In fact, 77 percent of people who try to visit a webpage but receive a 404 make no additional effort to access the page again. Broken pages and links can also eat into your site’s crawl budget.

You can check your store’s 404s by visiting Google Search Console and reviewing “Crawl Errors,” which will list your 404 pages, and all pages linking to them. Don’t worry about fixing 404s that resulted from user error, but do setup 301 redirects if there’s a page closely related to the 404. Another best practice is to create a custom 404 page that explains the issue in an engaging way and links to popular category or resource pages. The best 404 pages combine humor with good UX to convince users to stay on the site.

Duplicate Content

Because e-commerce stores often have numerous pages, they have a higher risk for duplicate content. According to SEO PowerSuite, duplicate content in itself isn’t as much of an issue as the underlying problems contributing to it. For example, failing to use canonical tags to differentiate between two pieces of content that are the same but have different URLs will add to your crawl budget and dilute any backlinks the pages have generated. Another risk is that when Google doesn’t know two pages are the same, the algorithm will choose which page to display, and it might not be the page you prefer.

So where do you look for duplicate content? Perform an exact match Google query of a few sentences of your page’s content to check if it’s been scraped. You should also look for http/https and www/non-www pages to see if you have two different versions that users can access.

And for e-commerce stores in particular, watch out for dynamically generated URL parameters. These happen when search filters trigger various URL strings for the same page, resulting in multiple indexed versions. You can implement parameter controls in GSC to alert Google to ignore specific URL strings.

Page Speed

Even with the rise of mobile shopping and and an increased focus to enhance the mobile-browsing experience, many sites are still failing to meet user demand. According to a Google study of 11 million mobile ads, most landing pages (70 percent) took longer than five seconds to load content above the fold. These same sites took longer than seven seconds to load below-the-fold content.

The tricky thing about page-speed issues isn’t detecting them, but finding a proper fix. Per Bitcatcha, slow page loading can stem from server performance, unoptimized images, inefficient coding, excessive file requests, unnecessary redirects and too many plugins. However, things like high web traffic and server location can also play a role, so consider all details when looking to improve your store’s page speed.

Tools Make Technical SEO Easier

After you’ve learned how to build an e-commerce website with a store builder like Shopify, you’ll certainly have your work cut out for you in monitoring your store’s health. Vetting your e-commerce store’s technical SEO is a non-stop job. It’s not enough to know the areas that can affect your search performance — you need to be able to detect them. Try audit tools like Netpeak Spider or Screaming Frog to get a high-level view of website errors and other areas you can address to improve the crawlability—and ranking—of your e-commerce store.