Technical SEO for Ecommerce Sites: Ultimate Checklist | Linkflow
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Technical SEO for Ecommerce Sites: Ultimate Checklist

August 15, 2023

More than one-third of all ecommerce site traffic comes from search engines.

Even if yours doesn’t, nobody wants to shop on a slow and clunky site. Your ad, email, and social media campaigns won’t reach their full potential if your site isn’t optimized properly.

That’s what ecommerce technical SEO is all about: creating an excellent user experience for your online shoppers while making sure Google loves your site just as much.

What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is the practice of optimizing technical aspects of your ecommerce site to make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand. In layman’s terms, it’s all about making sure your site loads quickly, is easy to navigate, and follows ecommerce SEO best practices.

Core elements of technical SEO for ecommerce websites include:

  • Improving your website’s loading speed
  • Creating a logical, user-friendly site architecture
  • Adding product pages, category pages, and helpful filters
  • Making your site responsive (mobile-friendly)
  • Creating an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google
  • Utilizing canonical tags to avoid duplicate content issues
  • A whole lot more

By addressing these issues, you can create an environment where it’s easy for search engine bots — and shoppers — to navigate your website.

Whether you realize it or not, you definitely care about this.

  • When the technical aspects of your ecommerce site are optimized, it ranks higher on Google.
  • More people see and click on your products when your site is among the first they see.
  • Since ‘technical SEO optimization’ directly translates to ‘better shopper experience,’ they’re more likely to buy once they’re on the site.

Quite literally, you cannot monetize online without prioritizing technical SEO. Not sustainably, at least.

How to Conduct a Technical SEO Audit for Ecommerce Sites

The good news is, checking your website’s technical SEO isn’t difficult. If you have the time right now, you could literally do it in less than 15 minutes. For free.

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog SEO Spider is well-known (and loved) across the SEO community. And we totally get it.

Screaming Frog is an SEO audit tool that lets you analyze all the pages of your site in a few clicks. It’s fast, easy to use and works like a charm.

To get started with Screaming Frog, all you have to do is follow these steps:

  • Download and install the SEO Spider
  • Copy/paste the URL of your ecommerce website
  • Click start
  • Once you get the results, check for any issues that may affect the crawling and indexing process of your site (such as broken links, redirects, or duplicate content).

 

Once it’s parsed your whole website, you can click on any of the individual web pages located at the top of your dashboard and check:

  • how many pages are indexed by Google
  • your website’s page speed and response time
  • any missing metadata, such as title tags or descriptions
  • any redirects (301 or 302) and their destinations
  • 4xx and 5xx error codes
  • orphan pages
  • and so on.

 

Then, you can turn the dashboard into a downloadable report everyone in the company can understand.

The free version is limited to 500 pages and only the program’s core features. If you want an ecommerce SEO tool that tells you everything you need to know (and integrates with your website for immediate updates), it’s only $239 per year.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is Google’s own webmaster tool. It’s free and provides a wide range of functions, including:

  • submitting your XML sitemap
  • tracking manual penalties from Google
  • viewing pages Google indexes
  • analyzing internal link structure
  • checking crawl errors and speed optimization

 

You can also use Google Search Console to add context to your ecommerce store’s performance.

Use it to find out how frequently your site appears in Google search results, what specific searches your product pages show up for, and how often people actually click on your link instead of others.

You don’t need to check it religiously, either. Search Console sends you alerts when your website experiences an unusual traffic drop or when certain pages are removed from the Google index.

It also notifies you whenever there’s a problem with your ecommerce store, such as website crashes, spam, or 404 errors.

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals is a set of metrics that measure user experience, specifically focused on loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability.

Google uses these metrics to assess the quality of your website — which is essential if you want your ecommerce store to rank higher in search engine results pages.

Your Core Web Vitals report (available in Search Console) shows how well your site performs for desktop and mobile users and if any improvements are necessary.

While it’s only one page, it can tell you a lot if you know where to look:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) — the time it takes for a page to load
  • First Input Delay (FID) — the amount of time between when a user clicks and when they can actually interact with your site
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) — how often elements on the page move around without the user doing anything

These are important because they directly affect how quickly and easily your shoppers can find what they’re looking for.

To stay ahead of the curve, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to test your pages and get performance advice.

You can also use Lighthouse, another free Google tool specifically designed to break down your ecommerce site’s website’s performance and measure each page’s Core Web Vitals.

Navigation & Site Structure

Site architecture is important no matter who you are. It’s the cognitive framework for your website — the foundation of how you want people to find and interact with your content.

It’s the same concept as stocking a brick-and-mortar store. When things are in plain sight, they’re easier to find. And more people will buy them.

The most important stuff belongs front and center.

You’ll change your homepage content seasonally or with new offers.

But one thing should remain consistent: it should always feature your most important pages.

These could be your featured products, bestsellers, newest arrivals, or widgets for seasonal categories. Make them visible to visitors and they’re more likely to explore your ecommerce store.

Longer time on site + lower bounce rate = better search rankings.

For example, Target’s current homepage reflects back-to-school (likely the store’s biggest revenue driver in August, the time of this writing).

But it also highlights new arrivals for fall.

And it shows shoppers current deals on everyday items.

Navigability starts with your top-level menu.

Even if your ecommerce site has just a few pages, it’s important to have a top-level menu that shows all the different sections.

It’s also a good idea to add a search bar.

That way, customers can easily find what they’re looking for without having to click around too much.

From a technical ecommerce SEO standpoint, it also helps search engine crawlers read your site.

Product pages get increasingly granular.

Ecommerce product page SEO includes category pages and individual product pages.

From a navigation standpoint, it starts with each category page (e.g., toys, furniture, t-shirts).

That way, shoppers who Google basic terms can find your broadest pages on search results pages. And everyone on your site can start their journey with something simple.

From there, shoppers should be able to click on individual categories as they zero in on what they’re looking for.

Then, you can have pages that display all your products that fit each category. 

Mobile-first should be the priority.

More than 50% of all ecommerce purchases happen on a mobile device.

That means your ecommerce SEO strategy should focus on improving the speed and usability of your mobile website.

Start with:

  • adding instant scrolling back to the top of every page.
  • making sure your navigation menus are easy to find and touch.
  • adding a clickable logo (top right) and shopping cart/search bar (top left) to every page in the site’s architecture.
  • enlarging and centering clickable assets (e.g., ‘Buy Now’).
  • adjusting font sizes so customers can read without zooming in.
  • optimizing your product photos for mobile devices.
  • adding semi-automated payment options.

For the best results, go through each page on a mobile device before publishing it. Your ecommerce website should work almost like a smartphone app.

Internal linking helps everyone find more of what they love.

Internal links are everywhere on ecommerce websites (and they should be).

Elements that definitely belong in your internal linking structure include:

  • ‘You may also like…’ suggestions under every product page
  • Links to related products and categories (footer section)
  • Cross-sells in the shopping cart/checkout pages
  • Links to product pages from every main category page
  • Links to other pages in the same category on each product page

On ecommerce sites, internal links are better as widgets and interactive elements (see above).

When a customer clicks on them (or hovers over them), they should automatically open to show more products and categories.

URL structure is the icing on the cake.

Ecommerce URL structure is more important for technical SEO than you think.

It covers every page, unique filter, and parameter.

Short, simple, and accurate URLs increase crawlability and boost search engine results page rankings. They also help you rank for your focus keyword.

Security

You’re continuously handling sensitive customer data and processing card payments. You can’t do that without a secure website.

HTTPS

These days, HTTPS is the standard for ecommerce technical SEO.

  • It verifies your website’s security.
  • It prevents third-party hijacking.
  • It enables secure data transmission.
  • It encrypts customer information before it’s stored in databases.

Google knows this. So search engines prioritize ecommerce sites with HTTPS.

When your site is secure, you’ll see a padlock icon next to the URL. That means your customers know they can shop with confidence.

If your HTTPS web pages internally link to HTTP pages, Google will flag them as unsecure.

You can detect this issue with a simple audit in Search Console.

To fix it, you’ll need to change the protocol of every internal link from HTTP to HTTPS. You can do this using the href attributes in the <a> tag.

Secure Payment Processing

Secure payment processing is the bare minimum for ecommerce technical SEO.

Make sure that the payment gateway you choose has SSL encryption and is PCI compliant.

Site Speed

Your site should load within 1-2 seconds. If it doesn’t, tons of your visitors will bounce.

Your images, content, and Javascript/CSS are the main focal points here.

To know where you need to fix page speed problems, use one of the three technical SEO audit tools we listed above.

Image Compression

Compressing images speeds up your page load time and reduces data usage (especially for mobile shoppers).

It improves your user experience (and, thereby, your SEO performance) because shoppers don’t have to wait for the images to appear on their screen.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Using a content delivery network (CDN) helps you deliver your page’s content and images to shoppers all over the world. Quickly.

It stores static resources on multiple servers that are geographically close to your visitors. When someone visits a page, they get the version of the page from a server closest to them.

Minify Javascript and CSS Files

Minifying your Javascript and CSS files removes unnecessary comments, spaces, line breaks, and other characters that take up space.

You can minify these files in just a few seconds with online tools like Minify.

Indexing

Indexing is the process of adding relevant web pages to Google’s search results. Search engine crawlers will find new and updated content on your website and add it to the search engine’s index.

XML Sitemaps

An XML sitemap is a file that tells search engines about the pages on your site. It also includes how often those pages are updated and their importance in relation to one another.

You should submit your XML sitemaps to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

You can generate XML sitemaps using Screaming Frog. All you have to do is crawl your site. Then, navigate to the sitemap generator and deselect the pages you don’t want Google to read.

4xx

400-status error codes pop up when search engine crawlers access URLs that don’t exist. The most common ones are 403 (forbidden), 404 (page not found), and 405 (method not allowed).

These errors are bad for ecommerce SEO because they:

  • Waste search engine crawl budget.
  • Are a signal of poor website management and content quality.
  • Can prevent Google from indexing certain pages on your site.

If your content still exists and just moved to another page, use a 301 redirect to update the existing URL. If not, reroute to the most relevant page (usually the homepage URL).

5xx

500-status error codes show up when search engine crawlers access URLs that require server resources but the server isn’t equipped to handle them. The most common ones are 500 (internal server error) and 503 (service unavailable).

It’s important to fix these ASAP — if you don’t, you’re losing sales and search engine rankings by the minute.

To fix them, you have to pinpoint the source of the issue. Check your web server logs for more information.

Redirect Chains

A redirect chain is when you have multiple redirects (301 and 302) in a row.

They’re bad for ecommerce technical SEO because:

  • They slow down page speed significantly.
  • Google sees them as ‘soft 404’ errors, which means they don’t index the pages as quickly or efficiently as they should.
  • If too many redirects are in the chain, it can break and create a 404 error.

If you have too many redirects, you’ll need to go through them one by one and remove the unnecessary ones.

Linking to a broken page indirectly harms your ecommerce site conversions by reducing your shoppers’ time on site and increasing your bounce rate.

It’s important to periodically check for broken external links pointing to your website. You can use Screaming Frog’s built-in link report.

Once you find them, fix them by:

  • Updating the URL on the source page (if the content still exists).
  • Changing/removing the URL to a related post or page (if it no longer exists).

Broken Images

If you’re using Google Chrome, you can quickly identify broken images by pressing Ctrl+Shift+C and looking for ‘Failed’ requests in the Dev Tools console.

To fix them, replace any distorted or missing images with high-quality, optimized versions.

Duplicate Content

This is common with ecommerce stores because it’s easy to create multiple versions of the same page (e.g., same product and description, multiple different colors).

Duplicate content hurts your SEO performance because search engines don’t know which page to prioritize in their index. It also dilutes your keyword rankings and confuses customers.

You can fix this issue using canonical tags (which indicate the original version of the page) and by using the rel=”canonical” tag (to indicate duplicate versions).

Metadata

Metadata is the information behind the scenes that tells search engines what each page on your website is about.

Titles

Your title is the big blue link your shoppers will see when they search for something on Google.

It should be no longer than 60 characters and include your brand name and target keywords.

Meta Descriptions

The meta description is the small snippet of text that shows up beneath your title and URL in the search results.

It should be no longer than 150 characters and include your target keyword. It should also tell people what they can expect to find on the page.

Image Alt Text

Alt text is text that appears in place of your site’s images when they fail to load. Google’s crawlers use it (and computer vision algorithms) to understand the subject matter of an image.

It also helps Google display photos of your product listings on search results pages.

Structured Data/Schema Markup

Schema markup is important for ecommerce technical SEO because it presents your store’s data to Google (and other search engines) in a way that helps you stand out from competitors with rich snippets.

You can add structured data to your website using JSON-LD or Microdata. It’s best to start with product, breadcrumb, and local business markup.

A lot of info? We know…

It’s second nature to us, but we do this kind of thing every day.

If you’re new to the ecom game, maybe you’ll want to learn the basics yourself.

But if you’re consistently hitting five- or six-figure MRR, you’ll make a lot more money (a lot more sustainably) by enlisting the help of a reputable SEO agency.

Talk to an ecommerce SEO wizard.

Brittney Fred, SEO Analyst
Brittney has been working in SEO and digital marketing for ten years and specializes in content strategy for the B2B SaaS industry. She is based in Denver, CO and absolutely fits the Denverite stereotype. You’re just as likely to find her hiking, snowboarding, or doing yoga as reading sci-fi or playing video games.