Everything you need to know about Shopify SEO
1. Go over Shopify Site Structure
Structure is key, regardless of whether you're using Shopify or another platform. The way the content is organised, how it flows, and how it reads is important to SEO and how successful you are overall.
When the structure is easily navigable to visitors, they tend to spend more time on the website. They're easily intrigued and find exactly what they're looking for in less time. This helps your Google search engine rankings overall.
How can you make this possible on your website?
Don't go overboard with the categories, the sub-categories and create a simple structure that provides value but ease of use.
Having a simple structure also helps search engines crawl the content and pages, essentially giving you better rankings overall.
A simple structure on your site should look like this...
As the diagram shows, your homepage is just a couple of clicks away from the products. So when the visitor enters, they can easily find the products or information they are looking for without having to do heavy searching.
Shopify makes it easier than ever to set up your entire menu structure how it needs to be.
Homepage > Category Pages > Product Pages
Alternatively, you can use...
Homepage > Category Pages > Sub-Category Pages > Product Pages
Your website should not be built just for search engines, but for people and visitors first and foremost.
Currently, there is an SEO on Shopify limitation with nesting and hierarchy URL's, with categories appearing under 'collections' and subcategories as tag filters which cannot be further optimised (refer to the on-page section for further detail).
Make sure not to overlook the About Page or the Contact Us Page because both of these are necessary when building out your content. They help shoppers (and search engines) know you're credible, trustworthy, and a valuable source for the products and information you're offering.
Last, but definitely not least, is to add a Search Bar to your website.
Unfortunately, this will not help with SEO but it will help to make your website easily accessible and help visitors navigate their way around the pages. Thus, making it even more user-friendly.
2. Keyword research really matters
Targeting the right keywords is an important part of your Shopify SEO success – just as with any website.
Keyword research is more than picking out a few words. You need to think about the search queries people make and what your ideal customers are looking for.
The goal of your research is to create a list of keywords that covers:
Short-tail keywords – 1-2 words that most directly relate to your business and products.
For example, if your online store sells beds, your short tail keywords might be “double beds” and “kids beds”.
Short-tail keywords get a lot of traffic, but that comes with a heap of competition too. They can be both more lucrative and more difficult to rank for.
Long-tail keywords – Longer phrases that tend to be more “human” sounding. e.g. “where can I buy a king bed online”.
Long-tail keywords make up over 70% of online searches according to Moz. They also tend to attract more conversions better as they catch visitors further along the buying journey.
For example, someone searching for "laptop bag" is probably in the early information-gathering stage.
But someone searching for "brown leather laptop bag price" is likely to be much closer to purchasing.
How do you know what keywords to target? Get started with Google’s Keyword Planner.
This tool will help you research potential keywords, browse new suggested keywords, estimate search volume and explore traffic in geographic areas.
How to use it:
Sign in to your Google Ads account (now is the time to create an Ads account, if you don’t already have one!)
Click the tools icon in the left-hand corner.
Under Planning, go to Keyword Planner.
In the Find new keywords search box, type in words or phrases that describe your products, or the URL of a web page related to your business.
Hit Get started to see suggested keywords in the keyword ideas page.
Now, you’re looking at two metrics:
Search Volume and Competition
Search volume is typically measured in average monthly searches. In other words, it’s the TOTAL number of searches each month for that particular keyword.
Ideally, find keywords with the highest search volume.
Higher search volume means more potential traffic and more likelihood of conversions for your store.
Competition tells you how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword. There’s no point trying to rank for the same keywords as every other store!
In a perfect world, your keyword list balances high search volume and low competition.
Next, use these keyword research tools for more ideas:
KWFinder – Great for keyword suggestions, autocomplete queries, and actual questions that people ask.
SECockpit – Tells you if the keywords on your list fit your niche.
LongTailPro – Uses your short-tail keywords to generate a list of long-tail variants for your site.
By using these tools, and many others, you can:
Create an excellent list of long-tail keywords that directly relate to your primary keywords.
Check essential metrics, like competition and click-through-rates (CTR), for keywords.
Figure out what other Shopify sites in your space are targeting.
See what may trend in your niche in the coming months.
Take this critical data and lift your Shopify SEO to the next level.
3. The faster, the better
Fast page speed is a major ranking factor for Google and its search results.
But there’s another HUGE reason you should care about your site speed:
Customers hate slow sites.
The slower your Shopify site, the less likely people will stick around to buy your products. People expect your site to load INSTANTLY – especially when using their mobile.
Slow loading web pages lead to a high bounce rate, low user engagement, less time on site and less traffic.
As soon as Google sees this happening, and people are bouncing quicker than you can say “wasted budget”, you’ll start dropping in rankings.
The proof is in the numbers:
So, what can you do?
Run your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
Google will check how fast your site is and provide a personalised list of improvements to help make your online store faster, on mobile and desktop.
Once you’ve got the lowdown from Google, follow these extra tips from Shopify to help improve site performance and page speeds:
A. Stop using pop-up Quick View windows
Pop-up Quick View windows display a product directly from a product listings page, so people don’t need to click through to the actual product page.
They look like this:
(Image Source: Shopify)
They might seem like a slick feature, but in reality, they can obstruct a customer’s experience, causing confusion and frustration.
The biggest reason NOT to use them is they can significantly slow down your page load times.
If you really must use them in your store, do so only where you know they add value.
B. Reduce thumbnail image sizes
Are you using a carousel feature for “Best Selling Products” on your homepage?
This pulls information from product pages and displays as thumbnails.
But sometimes a product image is pulled in too large, causing the user’s browser to scale it down and slow right down in the process.
Check that your theme uses Shopify’s built-in image size parameters to pull the smallest possible image and still maintain quality.
C. Scale back on homepage hero slides
We know you love showing off your best brand images in hero slides. They’re eye-catching, beautiful and engaging, right?
But be careful before adding them to your site.
The size and quality required for it to look good can make your load times soar.
Cut them down to two or three slides, or better yet, stick to one high-quality dazzling image with a strong call to action:
D. Compress images
Images are by far the biggest culprit of slow sites. After all, they can account for up to 75% of your page’s weight!
You can see how important it is to compress.
For every new image you upload, Shopify recommends using TinyJPG or TinyPNG to compress without losing quality.
For existing images, Shopify apps Crush.pics or Image Optimizer come highly recommended.
E. Cull your apps
Count how many apps you’re running on your store. Now count how many of those you’re using.
Chances are you installed them on a whim and forgot to remove them. This often happens with store owners.
But every app running silently in the background is hurting your site performance.
Go through one by one and de-install any apps you aren’t using.
Then go back to PageSpeed Insights and get another test done.
4. Get the basics right with On-Page SEO.
Shopify makes it easy to optimise your pages to rank higher. There are heaps of on-page tweaks you can and should do to maximise your search rankings. Let’s take a look at the most important on-page elements:
On-Page Element #1. Meta Titles
The title tag is one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. Not only does your title tag tell Google what your page is about, but it's also what people see in the search engine results. A killer page title (together with the meta description) will get people to click through to your store.
Optimising your title tag is easy:
Log into your ecommerce site and navigate to Search engine listing preview. Click Edit website SEO.
Go to the Page title field and enter your title.
You can enter up to 70 characters, but it’s best to stay under 60 character to make sure you’re not cut off in the search results.
Include primary keywords and target keywords near the beginning of the page title.
On-Page Element #2: Meta Descriptions
Along with meta titles, meta descriptions are critical to great SEO.
To optimise your meta descriptions, follow the same steps as for the title tag.
Keep in mind:
Shopify gives you 320 characters, but research from Moz says a meta description is usually cut off around 155-160 characters.
Include target keywords and the strongest copy at the beginning.
Check out this example from The Horse ecommerce store. It tells you everything you need to know. From this we’d say that “leather goods” is a primary keyword:
On-Page Element#3: Images
Google Images account for nearly 23% of all web searches, so ensure search engines can “read” your images with alt text. That's why alt text is so important!
From your Shopify admin, go to Products and click the product with the image you want to edit.
Now, optimise your images:
File name: Give each image file an informative name (e.g. little-black-dress.jpg rather than IMG1234567.jpg).
Image Alt text: Write descriptive alt text that explains what each image is. Tempting though it may be to cram in more keywords into alt text, only include keywords if it's natural in your alt text.
Image size: Large images can slow down your pages. Compress images to improve page speeds.
On-Page Element#4: URLs
Shopify can prove annoying when it comes to URLs.
It sometimes adds strings to certain URLs that you CANNOT change.
For example, a product page will have ‘/products/’ in its URL.
So your page URL will be yourshop.com/products/product-title.
Repeat – you CANNOT change this.
But you can personalise URLs for SEO. For example, Google loves seeing the keyword in the URL, so add it in.
5. Backlinks are incredibly powerful for Shopify SEO
Backlinks are a big deal for SEO.
When another site links to your ecommerce site, Google and other search engines see that you’re worth linking to.
Google takes every backlink as a sign that you are reputable, high quality and trustworthy – and it ranks you higher as a result.
The key is to ensure you are getting links from high-quality sites that are relevant to your niche.
Yes, word of mouth and link building will happen naturally over time. But there are a few important things you can do to help speed up the process:
Who are the sites you want to earn links from? Consider suppliers, manufacturers, brands, key influencers, and industry media.
How will you reach out to them? You may have contacts you can ask, or you might need to build relationships and prove you are worth linking to.
Are there broken links and mentions you can use?
Use mention.com to find any places your store is mentioned without being linked. Ask them to add the link.
Find websites that have broken links relevant to what you offer. Ask them to link to your site instead.
Who are your competitors getting links from? Use Moz’s Link Explorer and Ahrefs Site Explorer to investigate what sites link to your competitors and why. Use this for ideas.
Use PR to earn quality backlinks. Check our guide for a full rundown of how to get remarkable results from digital PR.
If you've ever done a link-building strategy before, things are a little different for ecommerce sites.
Here’s the main difference:
For the best ROI, you need to earn links directly to your product and category pages.
Much more difficult than getting someone to link to your content, right?
This is where fixing mentions and broken links are the most valuable.
6. Unique product descriptions are SEO gold
You’ve been waiting for it.
Now it’s time for the good stuff.
The key to product descriptions is to make your text unique.
Google doesn’t reward duplicate content, so avoid copying product descriptions from manufacturers and suppliers.
Write your own descriptions to rank higher and win shoppers’ dollars.
We love these content examples on So Worth Loving. Who knew a long sleeve top could do so much!
Keep in mind Shopify recommends that every product page and category page has at least 250 words of descriptive text.
But it can be done.
To prove it, see how Studio Neat describes a simple notepad:
Wait, there’s more…
And so it goes on. There’s even a video about the notepad!
Bottom line, don’t underestimate the power of unique product descriptions (and avoid duplicate content).
7. Product reviews build trust and rankings.
Buyer reviews are a brilliant way to build trust with your potential customers.
They also help your product pages and category pages rank for long tail keywords.
Think about it – great buyer reviews should sum up all the things your potential customers are looking for.
Take a look at this one for Pop Smile:
How do you share product reviews?
Start by installing the free Shopify app, Product Reviews.
Next, you need to encourage customers to share their positive experiences.
You can approach this is a few different ways:
A. The Personalised Approach.
Identify those customers who have bought more than one product from you. If they are repeat customers, they should be happy to say something great in a review!
Send them a personalised email recognising their loyalty and inviting them to leave a review.
Something like this:
(Image source: Shopify)
B. The Automated Approach.
Set up an automated email campaign for your buyers.
For example, the Klaviyo app for Shopify will get all of your ecommerce data for you so you can send emails to buyers after they’ve purchased from you.
Include a quick note in your delivery emails or once the product has been safely delivered:
8. Create unique content
Content, content, content!
Now, you can focus on some unique content to add value to your shoppers, encourage sharing and build your Shopify SEO.
The more useful your content is to your audience, the higher rank you will get to on Google.
How will you know what content your ideal customers want to read and watch?
Buzzsumo is a great place to start.
Type in your keyword or site, and see what content is getting the most views and shares.
Here’s an example from Buzzsumo:
Next, go to Answer the Public.
This is where you can discover the burning questions your customers are asking. Say you are selling barbecues. You can type in "best barbecues", and it comes up with lots of content ideas for questions.
(Note: This defaulted to the United States version. For the Australian version, you need to create a premium account.)
Now we’ve got heaps of ideas for blog posts around barbecue recipes, the best barbecue tools, the best barbecues to buy, and much more content inspo. All from one quick search!
If you can answer these questions through your articles, videos and FAQ content, you’re onto a winner. This way, you won't run into a risk of churning out any duplicate content.
Finally, go right to the source – speak to your customers.
Use social media or get an email survey out asking what they want to know.
This will give you TONS of new content ideas, as well as (hopefully!) confirming what the other methods have already told you.
Now you have an incredible list of ideas, what are you going to do with them?
Work out the right content structure.
Create a content structure that will be both engaging and rank well in search engines.
Aim for around 500 words for informational pages and blog posts.
Use these content marketing tools to help you create awesome content.
Australian accessories brand Bellroy knows how to do it right:
Now distribute your content using the following methods:
Let’s take a look at email for a moment.
This is an insanely powerful way to boost conversions.
Research from the Direct Marketing Association says the ROI for email is 3,800%!
Plus, Shopify’s email buy button makes it easy for customers to go straight to the checkout when you email them an offer they can't resist.
A final word on content…
Ensure you've got your internal linking strategy down pat too so your customers can easily navigate to your blog whether they're coming from your homepage, browsing category pages or on product pages.
Update it regularly.
Search engines will crawl your site more frequently if you keep producing lots of fresh content.
9. Social + Shopify SEO is the dream team.
Social and SEO are two massive channels that can work together to help boost your search ranking and visibility.
They are the dream team your ecommerce site needs.
Consider these facts:
74% of people check social media to help make purchasing decisions.
43% say they’re more likely to buy a product if they learned about it on social media.
31% say they use social to check out products they’ve heard about elsewhere.
We can’t argue with that!
But before you start throwing money at Facebook Ads, you need a social media + SEO strategy.
Your strategy should cover:
How frequently you will share useful content
How you will engage with followers
Plan for reaching out to key influencers
Paid ads strategy
Start by creating your social media accounts.
Don’t rush this part – social profiles rank too.
In fact, they had a higher presence in rankings in 2018 than ever before.
Remember we were talking about the Aussie brand, Bellroy?
Here’s what comes up on page 1 of Google when you do a quick search:
Pay attention to these steps:
Choose your platforms. Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest are perfect for displaying products and reaching potential online shoppers with your online store. YouTube is great if, like Bellroy, you have lots of explainer videos.
Optimise your profile. Create a bio telling your company story and insert a link to your Shopify store.
Be consistent. Use stunning images that match your website.
Next, add social media buttons to your site.
Your aim is twofold:
Adding social media buttons is easy, depending on your level of web know-how.
You can choose from Shopify apps that will do it all for you. Navigate to the social media section of the App Store.
Some Shopify themes already have social buttons enabled. Just find the theme editor and check the Header, Sidebar, Homepage or Footer menus for social media buttons.
Or you can code the buttons into your Shopify theme.
Take a look at this simple example of a online store using social media buttons on their product pages:
Now you’re ready to put some dollars behind your strategy.
Use Facebook Ads to promote your most beautiful products. Target your ads Facebook’s Lookalike Audience tool, which lets you build a profile of your ideal audience using your previous Shopify sales data.
Boost entertaining, interesting and useful content. The best way to get people to click on your content is to make it valuable. Share posts they will want to read. The longer people spend on your pages, the better it looks for Google.
You made it! Phew, we had a lot to cover, but it'll all be worth it when you start raking in astounding results for your Shopify store.
Now you know what to do and why it’s all about getting it done.
To help you stay on track, we’ve created a Shopify SEO Checklist. It covers all the bases, so you can prepare your eCommerce store for long-term SEO success.
Download your FREE Shopify SEO Checklist and get started!