Technical SEO Requirements Checklist

Inflow’s SEO team has worked with dozens of eCommerce platforms. The majority of platforms our clients use are homegrown in varying states of quality as it relates to search engine optimization. Overtime, clients may “rebuild” their platforms to update the technology which can present an opportunity to improve upon long-term SEO.

We’ve put together this basic list of “technical” SEO requirements to assist our clients and the rest of the eCommerce community when planning for a new or upgraded homegrown eCommerce platform. Rather than diving into great detail on anyone factor we’ve included the most helpful links we could find to help explain.

Site-wide Conventions and Configurations

The following are technical SEO specifications we recommend that affect the site at the root level or affect content across the site.

  • Maintain the same URL structure as the existing site while removing use of URL parameters wherever possible. Any changes will require redirects which have “costs” from an SEO perspective. If URL parameters are used, a list of parameters including a description of what they do and where they are used should be created. You should then configure Google Search Console appropriately. If it isn’t possible or there is significant opportunity exceeding the “cost” of changing URLs site wide then employ an SEO friendly URL structure.
  • A robots.txt file should be created that blocks out any sources of content or potential cruft from being indexed. For example, typically internal site search results pages should be blocked from indexing. Admin directories and other non-public resources should also be blocked. The last line of the robots file should feature a link to the XML Sitemap Index (more on that below). JS and CSS content should typically be crawl-able as well.
  • The site should feature proper usage of CDN to avoid duplicate content.
  • Pagination should implemented with proper use of rel prev/next as well as self canonicalizing URLs which are also noindexed, but followed using the meta robots tag (note that last bit is diferring advice from the article here).
  • Site speed scores in the “Good” range for desktop and mobile when using Google’s Page Speed Insights tool on the homepage and other important “templates” like category pages and product pages.
  • Dev, Test and Staging Sites should be blocked from search engines via robots.txt and/or firewall, and NEVER transfer their robots.txt to Production which will feature a unique robots.txt file as described above.
  • All content should be secured with SSL and served via https.
  • Unless a URL is set to canonical somewhere else (more on that below), it should feature a self-referencing canonical tag.
  • All redirects should be updated to their new destination if the URLs are changing. Redirect chains should be eliminated and should not be introduced as part of the migration effort.
  • Google Search Console should be verified on the new site when the site goes live. If Google Tag Manager is installed, this task can be delegated to the team in charge of managing GTM.
  • 302 redirects should not be used unless approved by the SEO team for special circumstances.
  • A Custom 404 Page should be created. In the hopefully rare event a user ends up on a 404 page, a custom error message can greatly improve your chances of retaining the user on the site.
  • Every page on the site should feature a unique HTML title tag and meta description tag.

Mobile Considerations

Typically clients are planning to create a responsive website for mobile.  The following recommendations are based on the responsive assumption though there are many other viable options for a mobile site:

  • Supports mobile-friendly viewport features.
  • The mobile site should implement a similar internal linking structure/site architecture as the desktop site.
  • The mobile site should maintain a high level of content parity with the desktop site.
  • As a future requirement/consideration, AMP versions of main page templates should be created and published.

Homepage

Product Pages

  • There should be a single page/url per product regardless of the number of categories to which the product belongs. Do not create multiple URLs for size color etc.
  • Customizable title tag, meta keyword tag, meta description tag, meta robots tag, H1 headline, and body description.
  • Implement Schema mark-up for Products and Reviews.
  • Use breadcrumb navigation on category, sub-category, and product pages.
  • Utilize a section of “People Also Buy…” links to related products.  

Category Pages

There should be one indexable page per category and no indexable duplicates from sorting, pagination, etc.

  • Customizable title tag, meta keyword tag, meta description tag, meta robots tag, H1 headline, and body description.
  • Depending on how the site architecture and internal linking are implemented in the design, the proposed faceted navigation may need to include followable html “links” to some content. When working with clients, Inflow will raise this as a concern if necessary. Otherwise if there are links present in the faceted navigation those links should all have a nofollow=”true” attribute added them.  For reference here is a great guide to SEO for faceted navigation.
  • Use breadcrumb navigation on category, sub-category, and product pages.

Required Functionality

  • The ability to adjust content on individual product and category pages, including altering the HTML Title Tag, Meta Keyword and Description Tags, H1 Tags, and the category or product description.
  • The ability to enable a “noindex” robots meta tag for product pages.
  • The ability to edit image alt attributes.
  • The ability to use different content for “Shopping Feeds” vs. what is used on the website. For example there could be two description fields in the database for product descriptions: one featured on the site and one featured in Shopping Feeds.
  • An updatable XML sitemap, following best practices. Use sitemap indexes for large sites. Organize sitemaps based “page/template type”. The sitemap can be updated dynamically when pages are added or removed from the site OR the sitemap can be updated periodically (weekly for example) by automated process or simple manual kickoff process.
  • The ability for non-technical staff to create 301 redirects for categories, subcategories, and product pages.
  • The ability to export log files for analysis in a log analysis tool.

If you have any requirements you’d like to add, please let us know in the comments below. Together we can make this a complete resource for the technical SEO and eCommerce developer community.