Start Auditing Your Ecommerce Website with these steps

Sometimes you need to look under the ‘hood’ of a website. Got an ecommerce website audit coming up? Not sure what to prioritize? Here is how to set up, run, and keep track of a successful ecommerce audit. Cover all bases and factor these points into your next audit.

Have a structured audit plan

Don’t just run off in all directions – have a structured auditing plan for your ecommerce website so that you can keep track of all the moving elements. Make sure you have a running order of what you need to be doing (and when) as you go along.

     When capturing data in spreadsheets always save them, even in their ‘raw’ form – otherwise you might be duplicating efforts later on.
     Start of with a detailed audit document (a checklist format works well) to help you manage workflow. Add things to the checklist as new priorities arise.
     If you are working with other teams, a shared drive is a great way to pass on information efficiently (and it allows for group editing). Project management tools like Slack and Trello are also good. Make sure everyone is up to speed with what needs to be done next.

                                               Image Credit: Pixabay

Is it primed for sales?

Any ecommerce website’s primary purpose is to sell, so you need to make sure that you audit the site from an online sales perspective. Investigate how well the site is converting and whether there is a strong enough value proposition that ultimately leads to closing a sale.

     Have they made enough of their lead generation opportunities? What is their upselling and cross-selling like? As an auditor, it’s your responsibility to provide strategic commercial advice as well as web advice. Don’t get caught up in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture – the website needs to earn money.
     Prioritize high-earning products and product categories where the biggest commercial gains can be made.
     Design and imagery have a big impact on people’s willingness to buy. Split test call to action buttons and product imagery to explore what can be improved.

Analyze the user-experience (UX)

What do people make of the site? How easy it is to find a certain product? Look at the site’s user-experience from a customer journey and a usability perspective.

     Think about the user-journey: how are people going to find the products they need on the website? Are the categories clear? Can people easily self-select? Is the search bar easy to find?
     How does the site behave when in contact with a user? Are there any usability issues you need to address?
     Mobile UX and usability are just as important as desktop – test the entire purchase journey on mobile as well.
     Invest in remote user testing and user research for a cost-effective usability audit.

Check up on the keywords

Be clear on exactly what keywords each page is targeting – ecommerce landing pages need to rank for specific product keywords. Always avoid having too many similar pages – they will all try to fight it out in the rankings game.

     Think beyond keyword basics; try to cover themes from multiple angles. Asking and answering product-related questions in web copy is a great way to rank for informational searches.
     Make sure that any location pages are using a wide range of co-occuring keywords and semantic variants. Just repeating the name of a town does NOT qualify for local relevance and will make the site look spammy.
     Use an SEO crawling tool like Screaming Frog to quickly analyze page titles, meta descriptions and headings. Evaluate the use of keywords across all these crucial SEO elements.

Evaluate imagery

Product images are very important for conversions and have a big impact on brand consideration. An ecommerce site needs to be visually appealing to compete effectively online.

     Images can slow a site down – make sure they are compressed and optimized for speed. Avoid huge hero images on every page.
     Make sure that product images are optimized with good alt text descriptions, including product variables like size and color. This will help individual products rank in search engines.
     Make note of any bland stock imagery and find suitable alternatives. Overused stock imagery makes a site look amateurish and is unappealing to customers.

Test site speed

Speed is super important for ecommerce conversions – a slow site will frustrate and disappoint.

     Use a speed testing tool like Pingdom and make note of the site’s response time. Investigate whether speed issues lie on the server side, the frontend, or the backend.
     Make sure that all the usual speed conventions like browser caching, minification, and compression have been implemented.

Audit the backend code

Don’t just focus on the site’s frontend features – delve deep into the site’s backend to find out how the site has been developed in the first place.

     Pay special attention to product categories and the site’s menu structure – make sure there aren’t any missed opportunities or crossed wires. Be wary of any duplications.
     Bad coding can slow a site down, so make sure that all the best practices have been followed. Spend time tidying things up if it’s worth it – a badly developed site can become a real millstone if not addressed in time.

Find the small print

Ecommerce websites are judged on how well they sell, but also how well they serve the user. Selling online is like being in the service industry; you need to make sure that all bases are covered in order to reassure the customer.

     Does the site have good returns, privacy, and terms & conditions policies? It’s imperative that all these areas are adequately covered in order to protect the business and the user. Check out these free ecommerce policy generators for some ideas on how to implement good ecommerce policies without the hassle.
     Make sure that users can access key information on deliveries and returns easily – people often look there when deciding on whether to go ahead with a purchase.

Review the content

Ecommerce copy must be persuasive and compelling, moving seamlessly from selling to providing information in order to enhance the customer experience.

     Are the landing pages doing enough to sell? Have product descriptions been well-written and modified from bland manufacturer’s copy? Thin, uninspiring product pages are going to damage conversions.
     Does the blog have a wide range of user-friendly content? Make sure that content is interesting and adds value.
     Pay attention to formatting like headings, bullet points, bold text – is it being used effectively?
     Are the latest content trends being reflected on the website and its blog? Check out some content trends for 2017 for some ideas on where to head next.

Hope you got some ideas from here on how to review an ecommerce website!  What do you think the most important area for improvements will be?

About Author : Gareth Simpson – Technical SEO & Startup Founder

Gareth has worked as an SEO for almost a decade now and has recently started working as a freelancer SEO in the UK. His SEO specialisms are content and blogger outreach...and he likes green tea. You can follow him on Twitter @SimpsonGareth.
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