In ecommerce, websites play a central role, serving as a touchpoint between retailers and customers and performing key marketing, sales, and data management functions. This importance calls for regular ecommerce website audits to determine if online stores perform correctly or need improvements.
Ecommerce website audits require a strong knowledge of core ecommerce business processes, site performance, user experience, and infrastructure. Digital merchants who aren’t sure how to proceed can rely on the expertise of ecommerce consulting companies to examine their online stores and generate practical improvement ideas.
In this article, I will highlight the key benefits of ecommerce site audits and provide a step-by-step checklist of what site areas ecommerce experts usually flag for possible improvement.
What Is An Ecommerce Website Audit?
An ecommerce site audit is a detailed, comprehensive online store review by a third-party ecommerce consultant. Ecommerce site audits generally include performance assessment, technology analysis, user experience and SEO reviews, and security checks.
After collecting and analyzing necessary website data, the auditing company identifies the strengths and shortcomings of the store, pinpoints areas for improvement, and develops an actionable remedy plan.
Benefits of Ecommerce Website Audits
Here is a rundown of payoffs online retailers can get by performing regular ecommerce website audits.
Early detection of performance issues
Audits help root out and fix potentially critical technical problems and spot nascent performance issues with the online store that merchants aren’t even aware of, preventing the deterioration of customer experience and conversions decrease.
Improved buying journey
Merchants can use audit findings to eliminate friction points in various customers’ journeys and provide highly convenient shopping experiences.
Increased search engine visibility
With website problems detected and solved before they negatively impact search engine optimization, online stores can keep high positions in search engine rankings.
Ecommerce Website Audit Checklist: 4 Key Areas To Analyze
1. Technology and website performance
A technology audit helps identify website elements that function well, can be enhanced, or need replacement with something better.
Usually, experts review the effectiveness of the current tech stack, integrations, and backend and front-end features and compile a list of necessary upgrades and changes with recommendations on how to fit them into the ecommerce ecosystem.
A technology audit typically covers the following components:
- Architecture: Experts can review a site’s architecture for still essential and obsolete structural elements, map and analyze existing workarounds, and suggest possible code improvements.
- Website speed: Page speed is a vital ecommerce metric affecting a website's search engine ranking, customer experience, and conversions. According to Deloitte’s study, a 0.1s improvement in site speed can lead to retail consumers spending almost 10% more. Therefore, ecommerce audit specialists run a speed test to reveal what is slowing down a website and offer load time improvement options, such as optimizing images or upgrading cache plugins.
- Load and stress testing: Audits allow you to see how your online store handles sudden traffic increases that can happen after successful marketing campaigns or during peak shopping seasons. Moreover, such testing will determine how much traffic your website can support without crashing and how it will behave under an extreme load caused by, for example, DDoS attacks. These assessments help detect and fix issues in the website’s code and prepare for unexpected circumstances.
2. Website design and user experience
This type of audit is aimed at detecting design flaws and user interface issues that can make customers leave your online store dissatisfied or even without making a purchase.
- Mobile experience: With mobile commerce accounting for nearly two-thirds of global ecommerce sales, according to Statista, ensuring a satisfactory experience on mobile devices is now a priority for businesses. In addition to creating mobile-responsive storefronts, merchants should have their store’s mobile version reviewed periodically, especially after major changes in the website.
- Search: Since many users search for the products they need using on-site search, merchants should regularly check their performance. During a search audit, ecommerce experts can spot issues with search algorithms and filters and provide recommendations for making the search faster and more accurate.
- Site navigation: Specialists can check how easy it is for users to navigate an ecommerce website and find products by analyzing the homepage, menus, breadcrumbs, categories, FAQs, and footers and assessing the navigation logic. Based on the results, they can compile an optimization plan to improve navigation and accessibility.
- Checkout: Audit experts review the entire checkout flow, from the shopping cart to the completed order. In particular, they focus on finding faults in cart design, account creation and sign-in, guest checkout options, payment enablement, privacy, order confirmation, and form field usability. In addition, they can spot errors and friction points during the checkout process leading to cart abandonment.
3. Technical SEO & on-page SEO
An ecommerce SEO audit enables merchants to detect the store’s aspects that lower its search engine rankings and affect organic traffic and new customer acquisition.
- Broken links: Broken links affect SEO rankings, bounce rate, time on site, and, in the end, conversion rates. However, they are common for ecommerce sites because certain products are discontinued, or product descriptions and categories change, and respective product pages can’t be found. During the audit, experts find inactive external and internal links, analyze backlinks, fix 404 errors and faulty redirects, and resolve problems with search engine indexing.
- Images: While merchants can upload high-quality images to showcase their products in the most appealing way, heavy images can slow down product page loading, leading to poor user experience and higher bounce rates. An audit will locate big-sized images for further page content optimization.
- Tags: Search engines use meta description and image ALT tags to rank your site in the search engine results page, so missing or unoptimized tags can negatively affect your website’s SERPs positions and engagement rates. Through a content audit, store owners can find items that need tag optimization and plan minor tweaks to help search engine crawlers index their sites better.
Cybersecurity analysts check the ecommerce platform’s compliance with the key ecommerce security standards, such as PCI, GDPR, and CCPA.
During the security audit process, specialists check security certificates’ validity, detect vulnerabilities in code, assess existing security risks, and advise how to protect the store and customers against cyber attacks and fraud.
How Often Should You Audit Your Online Store?
The optimal audit frequency depends on the store’s size.
For example, two audits per year are enough for a small store. In contrast, a large marketplace with frequently added products, multiple features, and complex integrations needs at least four audits per year.
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It—If It Is, An Audit Will Tell You Why
Various problems can occur with ecommerce websites as they grow, impairing site operation, customer experience, and sales.
However, business owners that have their websites audited regularly can get a detailed overview of their site’s flaws and timely and properly resolve them, putting their ecommerce stores in a better position to succeed.
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