“If you build it, they will come” is not exactly true of Shopify stores. To date, the ecommerce platform has helped more than one million brands sell online. But with Shopify’s success comes increased competition for online sellers, who are also vying for consumer attention with veritable retail giants. The secret to standing out and holding your own is Shopify SEO. By implementing the right site strategies, even small sellers can muscle their way into the top search results for relevant terms.
If you’re a Shopify seller looking for more visibility, this Shopify SEO guide is the best place to start.
IF YOUR TIME IS SHORT:
1) Take These Steps First
Before graduating to more advanced Shopify SEO, there are a few simple steps you should take to set your store up for success.
For starters, Google can’t actually index Shopify stores that use free trial accounts, so it’s worth the upgrade to a paid plan as early as possible. It’s also worth investing in a custom domain as shoppers are more likely to click on “YourBrand.com” versus something like “YourBrand.MyShopify.com.”
It’s wise to make sure your site has an SSL certificate to enhance security, as is using a mobile-friendly Shopify theme. (You can easily check the latter with this Google tool.) And, don’t forget to set yourself up in Google Analytics to evaluate site traffic and Google Search Console to see what exactly you rank for.
Now you’re ready to move on to more advanced Shopify SEO:
For a complete ecommerce marketing guide:
2) Create a Logical Site Structure
Your store site structure helps both shoppers and search engines navigate the site, so you’ll want to make sure it’s intuitive. Think of it like a pyramid: Structure your main categories up top first, followed by a broader section of subcategories, and then an even broader selection of specific products.
If you’re an apparel site, one main category could be footwear with a subcategory for socks and then all of the specific types of socks you offer. In Shopify, however, subcategories are known as “collections.” (Product pages are still “products.”) Be sure when you add products, you associate each one with a collection. Shopify offers automated collections to make this process easier.
Bonus tip: Once you have a sitemap, submit it to Google Search Console to make it easier for Google to crawl and index your site.
3) Add Unique URLs
Some SEO experts claim one challenge with Shopify is limited customization options within the site structure. Because each Shopify URL must include the product and collection names, sellers are more limited in their ability to customize URLs. Nevertheless, it’s important to include relevant keywords in the slug or the part of the URL that comes after .com/ to create unique URLs — or at least as unique as possible.
4) Determine Keywords
Keyword research is SEO 101 — and it comes into play with Shopify SEO, too. The good news is you can generally approach keywords for Shopify the way you would for any other ecommerce site. That means Google AdWords remains a great resource. Look for keywords with high conversion rates. And don’t be scared off by low keyword volume. After all, you don’t want to be everything to everyone. Your biggest concern should be targeting the right keywords for your brand.
And don’t forget Google itself can be a source of inspiration if you search for relevant keywords and look at the suggested searches. Those are actual queries consumers are actively searching for. There are also tons of keyword research tools from platforms like Ahrefs and SEMrush to help dig deeper into which keywords are right for you.
5) Create Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Once you’ve compiled your target keywords, you should use them to optimize your title tags and meta descriptions. Shopify makes this process fairly simple — just click on a collection or product page, scroll to “search engine listing preview,” and click on “edit website SEO.”
Each page on your website should include a distinct title and description that compels consumers to click. Use Shopify’s guidance for specifics like ideal character length.
Bonus tip: If you update URL slugs with keywords, make sure to redirect the old URL so search engines don’t end up confused about which page it should rank.
Also, take the time to create descriptions for every product you carry. Similar to your site structure, search engines use product descriptions to better understand your site and determine whether it meets consumer needs. An added plus: A good product description can help convince site visitors to convert.
6) Remove Duplicate Content
Remember our first tip to implement a custom domain? One of the challenges with Shopify SEO is the platform allows search engines to index both this unique domain and the MyShopify version. While Google tends to be more tolerant of duplicate content on internal sites, the search engine can still get confused about which Shopify site to rank. Shopify typically redirects traffic to the custom domain, signaling it’s the one to rank — it’s just worth checking to make sure that’s actually the case.
You can use a tool like the Copyscape plagiarism checker to test your site content and detect duplicate content from external sites. However, sometimes the examples don’t require outside tools. For example, let’s say you sell books and are pulling the product descriptions on your site from back jackets. By creating original content about those titles, you can help boost your rankings.
Some SEO experts have noted that when linking products to collections in the site structure step above, Shopify creates a duplicate product URL within each collection and then treats that link as the main link, which confuses search engines. There’s a fix, however, which you can find here, involving a few tweaks to your site theme.
7) Optimize Images
When optimizing your Shopify store, don’t forget that the images matter, too. Each one should include specific alt tags that describe the photo with relevant keywords, helping search engines quickly recognize what each one includes. This also makes your site more accessible to consumers who might be visually impaired. Accessibility is one of the many factors Google considers when ranking sites.
Adding alt text to images has another benefit: It helps your site rank not just in Google but also in Google Images.
8) Speed Up Load Times
Page speed has been a ranking factor for more than a decade — a slow site does not yield a good user experience — so you should make sure your Shopify store loads as quickly as possible. You can check yours by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
Shopify customers are more limited in their options for improving page speed because they are beholden to Shopify’s servers. But they can still take some steps, such as compressing images before uploading them and only installing the apps they absolutely need.
For the best Shopify apps for D2C brands:
9) Generate Backlinks
There should be no surprises here — links matter in Shopify SEO as much as they do in SEO overall. Research has clearly shown pages with more backlinks receive more organic traffic. Translation: You want backlinks to your Shopify store.
An easy way to figure out sources of potential backlinks is to do a little research into your competitors to see who links to their pages. Tools like Ahrefs’ Link Intersect will do the trick. And say a blogger has mentioned a competitors’ products, it may be worth reaching out to see if you can strike up a link-generating relationship, too.
You can also create store profiles on high-traffic sites like Amazon and Yelp to help generate backlinks and traffic.
10) Set Up 301 Redirects
Let’s say you had a really popular product that was so in demand that it sold out. You don’t want shoppers to search for similar products only to land on your page and find “404 Not Found” because you don’t sell it anymore. This is where 301 redirects come in.
These redirects tell search engines when a page is no longer available, automatically sending the search engine (or a potential customer) to another page. This also prevents Google from thinking your page is not useful when searchers click on it, see the product is out of stock, and quickly bounce. A high bounce rate will pummel your search rankings. Shopify makes it easy to create URL redirects in its admin portal, so make sure to take advantage.
11) Implement Structured Data
Another way to help search engines understand what your site is all about is to add schema markup, or structured data, to signal specific content types, like products or reviews. What’s more, Google rewards sites that use structured data with rich results that display content like images or star ratings. This is an easy way to distinguish yourself from competitors. Plus, many Shopify themes and apps make it simple to add product markup.
If You Optimize It, They Will Come
Search engines like Google are constantly updating their algorithms, so any SEO — including Shopify SEO — is a never-ending job. With the tips above, you can start to set your store apart from the pack and grow your lead.
Depending on the size of your site, SEO can be managed internally. Or maybe you’d be better off with professional help. The same is true of digital marketing overall. And that’s where AdRoll comes in.
Wilson is the Sr. SEO Marketing Manager at AdRoll.