A Deep Dive into Technical SEO for eCommerce
Technical SEO is one of the crucial aspects of optimizing your eCommerce website. You may have heard about different types of SEO: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, local SEO, and mobile SEO. But what is technical SEO? What does it mean, especially for online stores, and why should you care?
If your online store had been a brick-and-mortar one, technical SEO would have been similar to a solid and structured foundation. It’s not what your customers immediately interact with but what keeps the eCommerce website running.
Your storefront may look appealing. But it should also be easy to find and access. You need to convey clear information to search engines about the store’s contents and purpose. Technical SEO ensures that search engines like Google can quickly locate, understand, and showcase your pages to potential customers.
In this article, we’ll dwell on technical SEO and its peculiarities in the eCommerce domain. So, whether you set up the store or want to improve your rankings, read on.
A Deep Dive into Technical SEO for eCommerce
Understanding Technical SEO: Definition and Its Role in eCommerce
The purpose of search engine optimization, or SEO, is to raise a website’s ranking in search results. It entails writing expert content, adding keywords, linking with other websites and internal pages, etc. Technical SEO zeroes in on what happens under the hood, that is the site architecture.
When performing technical SEO, you need to optimize a website’s structure and server. It includes such details as a sitemap, meta tags, and redirects. The result? Improving search engine spider’s ability to crawl, index, and understand the site content.
ECommerce adds its own set of subtleties technical SEO-wise. Online stores are very dynamic. Something happens all the time, increasing the chances of technical problems. Products go out of stock, customers leave new reviews and user-generated content, and checkout systems may break. Technical SEO ensures these challenges are avoided or addressed promptly.
Here are three main reasons for eCommerce websites to take care of technical SEO:
- Expanding business reach. Probably, the most important thing when attracting an audience is showing up in search results as high as possible. No matter how good your products are and how you price them, they mean nothing without decent website visibility. By tuning up your technical SEO, you streamline elements like an XML sitemap and robots.txt file, boosting the website positions.
- Enhancing user experience. Technical SEO entails fixing issues like 404 error pages, images that take an eternity to load, a slow overall website speed, and instances where the Core Web Vitals assessment failed. If you’ve been on websites with lots of broken links, images, and product filters, you may know how frustrating it can be. Poor user experience also harms search engine rankings and conversion rates. Technical SEO minimizes these problems.
- Ensuring consistent visibility in search engines. Search engines favor websites that meet their criteria. For example, your store should be mobile-friendly, have quick load times, and use secure protocols (HTTPS). Maintaining your good reputation with search engines through attention to these and other technical SEO elements will give you steady, high visibility.
Conducting a Comprehensive Technical Audit
The first step to implementing technical SEO strategies is evaluating your current website. Of course, if you have one. Regular website audits are like health checkups, ensuring the store works as needed. By doing so, you can spot weaknesses on the shopping journey and turn them into opportunities for improvement.
Plus, it’s not a one-and-for-all strategy. The digital sphere shifts and paves the way for new trends. Regular technical audits make you stay afloat and relevant to your target audience. The following are some crucial elements to keep an eye on:
- Crawlability and indexability (how well search engine bots can navigate through your site and whether they index the right pages);
- Broken links (how often users encounter 404 HTTP errors on your website and how you optimize these dead ends).
Site Architecture Essentials
Site architecture unites several components of your store, from taxonomy to user pathways, site menus, navigation, and the relationships between different pieces of content. It involves how the content is organized and how users will move from one part of the site to another.
Here is what you should take into account when optimizing your architecture:
- Website structure and URL patterns. Website structure, or taxonomy, relates to how your layout is planned. Intuitive design helps both people and search engine spiders get a clear idea of their position on your site. Ensure your URLs are descriptive, such as www.shopexample.com/mens/shoes/running rather than www.shopexample.com/product12345.
- Breadcrumb navigation. Digital breadcrumb navigation shows the way visitors have made to get to this page and lets them trace it back. It also enables them to get to higher-level pages and omit interstitial ones. Search engines like breadcrumb navigation for the clear structure they provide.
- Faceted vs. hierarchical navigation. The choice between these two types of taxonomy relies on the number of products and the store size. Faceted navigation works well for versatile eCommerce stores, allowing users to filter and find what they’re looking for by applying several attributes or criteria simultaneously.
For example, you can choose “16GB RAM”, “SSD storage”, “15-inch screen”, and “under $1000” all at once to get a list of products that match these criteria. However, you need to mind a duplicate content issue as faceted navigation creates a new URL for each filtered search.
Hierarchical navigation, on the other hand, better suits websites with a more defined product range. It’s straightforward and categorizes pages based on a single dimension or criterion.
Usually, content goes from top to bottom, like in a tree structure where you start with broad categories and narrow down to specific items. Consider a fashion eCommerce store. If it adheres to this type of navigation, it should have categories like “Men”, “Women”, and “Children”.
Then, each category may have sub-categories like “shirts,” “trousers,” and “Accessories”. You can choose men’s shirts and children’s trousers, for example. And as you dive into a sub-category, say, “Shirts”, you may see further divisions like “Casual”, “Formal”, and “T-shirts”.
Take a look at Betty’s online store. It separates products into several categories, and you can sort them out only by price. The sections on the left side (“Gifts for Her”, “Gifts for Him”, “Gifts for Teachers”, etc.) are organized in a hierarchy or tree structure, allowing users to drill down from broader categories to more specific ones.
Optimizing Site Visibility
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is particularly true when talking about eCommerce. We pass by multiple beautifully arranged storefront windows every day. But customers may overlook your brand if it doesn’t catch their attention or, worse, doesn’t display the desired goods.
That’s where we need to bring up sitemaps, robots.txt, orphan pages, and canonical tags. Our previous discussions centered around building a solid foundation and structuring your store for both users and search engines. Here, we’ll discuss the next step: opening the store’s “doors” and rolling out the welcome mat.
Let’s begin with the fact that an eCommerce website doesn’t necessarily need XML and HTML sitemaps. Yet, they are beneficial and enhance the user experience and URL discovery by search engines. An HTML sitemap is an HTML page that displays your site architecture and acts as an index of all the pages on your website. It’s aimed at human users.
An XML sitemap, in turn, serves robots and provides them with a curated roadmap, leading them to the most crucial content you wish to highlight. To find out how Google views and indexes a specific URL on your site, try integrating your URLs with the Search Console Inspection API. This tool is a feature of Google Search Console, answering the following questions:
- What is the current index status of a URL?
- Why hasn’t Googlebot indexed a URL?
- How did Googlebot fetch the page, including the rendered HTML?
- Are there any page loading issues Googlebot encountered?
Next, a robots.txt file. If you want to specify what pages you want crawlers to index or not, you need to create a robots.txt file. It’s useful for online stores as it enables you to control your crawl budget (the number of pages scanned within a certain timeframe). So you can direct the spiders to the needed pages rather than, say, a wish list page or a shopping cart.
Note that it doesn’t mean that Google won’t analyze these pages at all. It will, but the robots.txt file maintains a website’s functionality and helps prevent overwhelming it with excessive requests.
Check whether you have orphan pages. These are the ones with few or no links to and from them. They may have outdated information and be isolated from the rest of the website content. As a result, Google won’t index them properly. Plus, if they have relevant and high-quality information, don’t leave them hidden from visitors.
At last, canonical tags. Canonical tags are HTML code that tells search engines which version of a page is the “main” one.
Suppose you have a separate link for every product variation. Or the product appears in various sections. Google will crawl the website several times, indicating it contains duplicate content. It’s very harmful to website rankings. That’s where canonical tags come into play. They are essential for online stores, preventing content duplication penalties.
Technical SEO for eCommerce: 3 Extra Tips
As you can see, eCommerce success doesn’t only depend on the brilliance of your offerings. You also need to provide a clear and easy path to reach the desired destination (product pages and checkout). Let’s touch upon three more strategies for your eCommerce technical SEO.
1. Boost Website Performance
Website speed influences user satisfaction and the desire to purchase. Loading speed is also a Google ranking factor, and you can measure it using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. There, you’ll see Core Web Vitals metrics:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
- First Input Delay (FID)
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) and other notable indicators
They illustrate the following elements of user experience:
- how fast a website loads
- whether the content moves up and down when appearing on a screen
- how rapidly the store reacts to user actions, swipes, clicks, etc
To improve these metrics, follow these recommendations:
- Pick quick hosting. It impacts server response times and the site’s performance.
- Minimize HTTP requests. Streamline your content, delete unimportant elements, and merge files where possible so as not to overload the website.
- Streamline CSS and minify code. The code may contain unnecessary spaces and characters. Remove them. As for CSS, make stylesheets more efficient and compact, minimizing the code a browser should process.
- Optimize images and videos. Media are critical for consumers to make a purchase decision. The better you present the product, the more people will buy it. Yet, media can slow down the website, so users will close the page before seeing the goods.
That’s where you need to compress images. Remember to preserve the image quality when doing this. Consider modern formats like WebP. As for videos, serve them via efficient codecs and lean on lazy loading.
2. Follow the Mobile-First Route
For many, smartphones have become the primary device for accessing online stores. You may see something on social media that you’ll want to buy right away. You may remember the gift you need to purchase for your sister on the go. Whatever the case, a laptop or PC may not be by your side. But who needs them if you can order a product with several clicks from your phone?
According to statistics, a mobile-optimized website has 74% more chances to encourage repeat visits. 67% of users of such websites are more likely to buy. 61% feel more positively about a company providing a convenient mobile shopping experience. A negative mobile experience reduces a brand’s chances of engaging with 52% of its potential customers.
That’s why your online store should be mobile-friendly so as not to lose this audience. Mobile optimization also contributes to better rankings, as the mobile version is the primary one when indexing a website. Here are the principles of mobile-friendliness:
- The website should load rapidly from smartphones. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) may help to achieve that.
- Users should be able to see the content without pinching and zooming to hit a “Buy Now” or other buttons.
- The layout should be responsive to accommodate various screen sizes.
Use tools like Google Mobile-Friendly Test to identify issues with the mobile version.
3. Implement Structured Data
Have you seen those search results with additional information like product ratings, price, availability, and so on? It’s possible thanks to including structured data in the store. It’s code explaining to search engines what the page contains.
Schema markup is the language of structured data. And it means a lot in eCommerce. Shoppers may spot the link to your website faster as it’ll stand out from the rest. It may increase the click-through rates by 20-30%.
To create structured data, choose the needed content type. Google provides a list of the types of content it supports with structured data (e.g., Articles, Products, Events, Recipes). Settle on the format: JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa are the most common ones. Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper and follow the recommendations. Add the generated code to your page HTML. For example, the JSON-LD code may go inside the <head> tag but can also be placed within the <body>.
Test the code with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and Schema Markup Validator. Leverage Google Search Console to monitor your structured data and make adjustments as necessary.
Technical SEO is essential for every eCommerce company hoping to boost organic search traffic. As a subset of overall eCommerce SEO services, technical SEO is a complex process that, when done right, offers chances to convey pertinent information to potential buyers. A well-designed technical website can provide you with the following advantages:
- outperforming competitors
- improving user experience
- having better positions in search results
- allowing search engine bots to crawl and index pages more effectively, among others
If you need to address or avoid some of the most prevalent SEO issues eCommerce websites face, check this guide. We’ve provided some urgent steps to create a strong technical foundation for your online store. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to optimize your website, it’s now.
Stay updated. Invest in top-notch hosting. Optimize your images and videos and ensure your site’s mobile responsiveness. Communicate with search engines via clear, structured data and URLs. Make your store user-focused so that it can flourish throughout any time of year.
- Blogger by Passion | Contributor to many Business and Marketing Blogs in the United Kingdom | Fascinated with SEO and digital marketing and latest tech innovations |
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