Ultimate Shopify SEO Guide. Be Your Store’s Expert
SEO is a far reaching and broad topic, but it is absolutely vital for your Shopify store’s success.
SEO is a mixture of technical techniques, creative marketing, and brand promotion, and for many businesses it is a daunting and scary topic.
However, with all the tools at your disposal and knowledge online, you can be your site’s SEO expert and not need to hire any agency or contractor to manage your SEO and still be able rank your eCommerce store on the internet.
The benefits of doing your own SEO are many:
- You will learn how to operate the levers that drive traffic to your website.
- Any SEO work done by you will be reflected in what you produce because, let’s face it, no one cares about your business as much as you do.
- Your attention to detail will be greater because you’re not simply getting tasks done, everything you do can boost your potential revenue, so you’re going to do it right.
This guide on Shopify SEO will be straightforward and focus on the hardest hitting parts of SEO to enable your site to pull in that sweet sweet organic traffic, but still be as approachable as possible.
So, without any further delay, let’s get started.
Creating an SEO Friendly and Technically Sound Shopify Store
Your website must be the total package to score a sale.
It needs to look professional, load fast, have compelling offers to get someone to add a product to their cart and check-out.
Beyond that, it needs to be SEO friendly so search engines can understand your site so they can present it to interested buyers-to-be.
There are a few crucial elements that you have to get right so that search engines will even take your site seriously.
Luckily, Shopify handles a lot of the heavy lifting for you, and that’s one of the reasons people use Shopify in the first place.
Let’s go over a few areas you need to understand and implement into your site to increase your site and site’s products relevance on search engines.
Keywords are the foundation of search engines.
Whenever someone types something into a search engine bar, that search engine logs that “keyword” and notes how many people have also entered that keyword.
With that data, you can start to understand the volume of people searching for different keywords on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Conveniently for you, you can see all of this data through use of online keyword tools.
With tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and Semrush, you can see exactly how many times people have collectively searched for keywords on Google in search of a question they need answered, a product they’re looking for, or whatever they desire.
As an eCommerce business owner, it is your job to find all of the keywords (and variations of keywords) that match your product line the best.
When using keyword tools, log all of the relevant keywords that match your products best and either save them within your keyword tool, or log them on a spreadsheet.
Keywords are what you base your product pages and content around, and are what virtually all online websites use to form their content.
In the above example, you can see a sample of various keywords around bird cages.
Immediately, you will notice that beyond searching for simply “bird cages”, people are looking for “decorative” bird cages, “large” bird cages, “antique” bird cages, bird cages that come with stands, and so on.
If you sell bird cages, then you can see from this data it would make sense to have pages dedicated to these specific types of cages, and if you didn’t categorize them by size, you could see that it might make sense to have a unique page on your site dedicated to large bird cages.
Through keyword data, you can see how much demand there is for certain products, you can get inspiration for content creation, you can get ideas for product variations, and more.
Now that we understand keywords, let’s see how to utilize them on your website.
Titles – The most important SEO element on your website.
It can’t be overstated how important the title tag on every page of your website is.
What is a title tag?
A title tag is an HTML tag that labels a page and gives it a concise description as to what’s contained on the page.
Search engines utilize title tags to help contextualize what’s on a web page, and through a combination of factors they rank pages based on how relevant they believe a page is for a given search term.
Therefore, it’s in your best interest to have a title that very accurately describes what the page is about, that it relates to the keyword you are targeting, and that it is enticing for people to have them click on your title.
Pulling from our bird cages example again, let’s look at what pops up on a Google Search Engine Result Page (SERP):
You can see that each of them lean into a different set of keywords that we saw in the keyword data image above for “bird cages”.
One site is prioritizing bird cages by bird type (parrots, parakeets & cockatiels), one is emphasizing same day delivery, and the other is focusing on cage size (they even managed to get a free shipping bonus in there, not bad).
How to Edit Title Tags on Shopify
There are a few different ways to edit a page’s title tag in Shopify based on what type of page you’re editing.
To edit your store’s homepage title, from your store’s admin page, go to the Preferences menu and edit the box called “Homepage title”.
For individual product pages, when adding a product or editing a product in your admin, scroll down to the very bottom of the page and you’ll see the area to edit the Title tag and Meta description:
In the many ways that search engine factors are ranked, having relevant keywords that match the intent of what searchers are looking for in your title always sits near the top.
Titles can be and are often done very wrong.
I’m not one to say there is a “best” way to do anything in SEO, but for Titles (and more specifically product pages), here are a few pointers to keep your titles clean, optimized, and effective:
- Always include at least one main keyword that has search volume backing it up in your title. Like our previous example, this would be something like “Decorative Bird Cages”
- Make your titles 50-60 characters in length. You can use this fantastic SERP preview tool from Portent to see what a title, along with a meta description, would look like on Google search results to prevent your title from getting truncated.
- In terms of what should and shouldn’t go in there, anything that can entice someone to click through is fair game. If you’ve got the main keyword in there, extra goodies like free shipping can help someone go to your page over someone else’s
Those general guidelines should help you create titles for all of your products and pages on your site. It’s a pretty straightforward process, but it’s easy to get wrong.
Meta descriptions are the little paragraph of text underneath your titles that show up on search engine results pages.
While they don’t have any direct SEO impact, they can help entice people to click through to your website by providing them with more information, product benefits, and special offers, so in that regard they can be a search ranking factor.
Fill up meta-descriptions for each product you have, make sure they’re all unique and actually describe the product accurately (no boilerplate identical copy for every product), and leave it at that.
In Shopify, wherever you edit Title Tags, you can immediately edit Meta Descriptions immediately after.
Product Descriptions and Product Content
Beyond Titles and Meta Descriptions, a great place to put a lot of keywords, variations of keywords, and provide context for what your product is all about is with the actual words.
A big weakness of eCommerce sites is that their product pages are too light on content.
And it’s understandable, it’s hard to come up with words to uniquely describe every single product on your site, but it’s something you have to do.
For some inspiration on what to put in your product page descriptions:
- Keyword variations for your product (use a keyword research tool for this)
- The history of how you came up with the product.
- Some use-cases of when people should use it
- Anything technical about the product someone could be looking for when researching products
- An FAQ section with unique questions tailored toward that specific product
- Testimonials from real customers who have used the product
Beyond the words, things like high quality images and video go a long way to help with SEO, because they keep people engaged and interested in your products.
More places for keywords
Pictures and Images
Did you know that pictures, photos, and images are a great place for keywords?
On images, you can put keywords in 2 places:
- The file name (blue-suede-shoes-side1.jpg for example)
- The alt-text (a description of an image that shows when an image breaks or used to assist the visually impaired)
Both have SEO value and can help give your pages even more context for search engines.
Beyond your home page, product category pages, images, and product pages, every single other type of page on your website should be targeting some type of existing keyword that has search volume behind it.
The most obvious type of page for keyword targeting is content, and we’ll get to content in the Promotion section of this guide.
This should provide you with enough information and knowledge to make your Shopify store target keywords in the most optimal way so search engines clearly understand what your site sells and is all about.
Whenever you view a Google search results page, and you see all the different pages ranked, sometimes you’ll see little bits of extra information beyond the title and meta description.
Things like review count with star ratings, a picture of a product, product price, etc.
These all exist because of something called Structured Data.
Certain parts of a web page can be marked up with structured data tags, and sometimes Google will display those pieces of data on search results pages.
As you can expect, having this information show up on search results pages is very valuable, as people can see things like price, reviews, and even pictures of your products before they click through, which can be a great incentive to learn more and visit your site.
Shopify does a bit to integrate some structured data into its stores automatically, but if you want to make sure you’re utilizing all the different structured data markup properly, the simplest and fastest way to get it going is through Shopify SEO apps.
Many apps offer structured data markup for your products. For example apps like Smart SEO and Plug In SEO Optimizer can help you structure your pages for displaying information about your products on search results pages.
If you do implement structured data and don’t see it show up immediately, don’t worry too much, as Google can be very selective about what they show on search results. Be patient and accept what they will and won’t show, because it’s entirely up to Google.
Site speed is of huge importance, because a slow site is looked down upon by both human visitors and search engine bots.
Therefore, your site must be operating at an optimal speed in order to be competitive.
Shopify once again does a pretty good job of automatically having your site load fast, but some things are out of their control, namely the images you upload to your site.
In our Shopify Image Guide, we go over the best way to have the most optimal, fastest loading images, and it basically comes down to this:
- Use 2000 x 2000 pixel square images for every image on your site. This ensures optimal zoom functionality, visual appeal, and going any larger than this offers no benefits and only serves to increase file size.
- Use .jpg for all images as they can be optimized the best while still looking good. Other file sizes aren’t supported well or don’t compress well.
- Use either a Shopify app to compress images or use an online free tool like Compress JPG or TinyJPG.
Doing this, you will have images that load quickly and are at the perfect resolution for customers.
Avoid Duplicate Content
While there is no specific punishment from search engines for duplicate content, they don’t like duplicate content as it can hurt the relevance of your pages if different pages targeting different keywords say the same thing.
A few rules to follow to avoid duplicate content hurting your site:
- It may sound obvious, but make sure you only have one URL per product page. Shopify should keep this automatic for the most part, but make sure you don’t have multiple pages for the same product.
- Avoid long boilerplate paragraphs on every page pitching how great your company is. Keep pages as unique as possible. It’s amazing how many companies dump the same paragraph on every page of their site thinking it’s a good thing.
- If you sell products that aren’t your own creation, don’t just copy the description provided by the manufacturer as the only words on the page. Everyone does that, and if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, Google will just ignore you.
- If you’re targeting a specific keyword with a page, there’s no point in making new pages also targeting that keyword. Otherwise your site is literally competing with itself for an identical keyword, diluting the strength of your pages.
A great benefit to modern platforms like Shopify, in combination with easy-to-use apps, is that they handle a lot of the SEO heavy lifting that used to require experts to dive into your code costing thousands of dollars to implement.
Today, it’s just a matter of making sure your images are optimized, you aren’t putting duplicate content everywhere, and you’re targeting keywords properly, and you’ve handled 99% of what you need for on-site SEO.
Now let’s move on to the Promotion part of this SEO guide, which involves things like content creation, brand promotion, link building, and more.
Promoting Your Shopify Store for SEO Benefits
We’re going to take a different look at link building since it’s such a hot topic for SEO.
It’s weird how link building is considered a core SEO practice, even more than making quality content, but who in the world would want to link to low quality content?
There’s a ton of services that will get your pages linked to “legitimate” blogs and sites, but are there measurable, long term, sustainable advantages from doing this?
People only care about the best, most helpful, and well designed content.
As a starter, your content, your products, anything you create and push out to the world needs to be world class.
Google’s mission is to serve up the highest quality content that most accurately serves the target keyword.
You’re not going to get there with generic link building services that everyone has access to.
In my opinion, your site design, the quality of your content, and your branding are as valuable and as much SEO as “building” a link is.
Rather than building links by doing generic outreach and begging people link to your site, or by simply buying them, try some tactics that will naturally lead to links:
- Collaborate with complementary products and content producers that have overlap with your customer type.
- Create world class content related to your products and your customer type. Like I mentioned earlier, if you run a trail running shoe company, you can list the best trails in a given state, you can break down what makes a great trail shoe, you can educate on the best type of trail shoe for a specific terrain or goal.
- Never underestimate brand promotion that leads to secondary links. Branding and advertising off the internet, running a popular social media profile, having an informative Youtube account will naturally lead to links over time.
- Find where a community exists that is within the niche of your product and participate in it. Answer questions, be helpful, and insert yourself as a thought leader within a given internet community. Places like reddit can work well for this if your product category is specific and the group of people within it are passionate about a particular product.
- Start a podcast that is about something your audience would be interested in. If you made keto-friendly snacks, start a podcasting on living a low-carb lifestyle, for example.
If you’re focusing on creation and promotion, then the links will flow in naturally. Establish yourself as a leader in your product category, and the links (and sales) will follow.
Making content for your brand is THE way to get long term, sustainable growth for your business, and how to give your website an SEO boost.
In the link building section we highlighted some content creation possibilities, and here we can go into more detail.
Depending on what you sell, there is a social media platform that matches best with where your customers are.
If you can get popular on a social media platform, then it will naturally lead to a lot of brand buzz, and buzz means links and people searching for your store on Google.
Let’s go over a few platforms to help you see where your brand can do well.
Instagram and eCommerce go hand-in-hand. If you have a visually appealing product, or your product is tied tightly to a lifestyle, Instagram is an easy choice. Beyond that, if it’s harder to directly promote your products on Instagram because it’s hard to consistently come up with content about your products, you can talk about a topic that is related to your products and be a thought leader on that topic.
Do what you can to get followers, be informative, make funny memes, share the latest news, whatever you find works best.
TikTok is obviously huge right now, and is similar to Instagram in finding the right content type to serve to your followers. If you have a TikTok account, you can see what you like about the platform to see if you can make something with a similar style that people would like to see.
Reddit is a tricky social platform. On one hand, they hate business promotion, unless they really like a business, then the user base will actively promote whatever you’re selling.
It’s a tricky place to navigate and most simply fail when they try. The way to win on Reddit is if your product has a passionate enough customer base that they would be interested in interacting with someone who owns a business and sells products within that category. Think speciality products like mechanical keyboards, espresso machines, 3D printing, things like that. Since they’re so technical and unique, actually interacting with businesses would be fun, rather than seeing a Pepsi representative making a post saying “Pepsi is good, buy some!”.
Use your judgment here.
Youtube is obviously huge. They are the world’s second largest search engine, and an absolute ton of people across all age groups visit the site daily.
What you make on Youtube if you decide to get into making videos is up to you. Usually you need something informative, entertaining, and engaging.
Making quality videos is a giant investment though, but the payoff can be equally large.
There are many other social platforms you can target, like Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, but make sure that you really hone in on 1-2 platforms to create content for, because otherwise you’ll spread yourself too thin and not get any traction anywhere.
Blog posts and other written content
Writing content for your site is a classic SEO tactic that thousands of businesses use to give their site a strong search engine presence.
The benefits of having a lot of great content on your site cannot be understated:
- Relevant traffic brought in by content can convert to customers
- More content leads to more potential for links
- A site with a lot of successful content will have their non-content related pages rank better
- More people seeing your site means a stronger brand
- Content works 24/7, so having a lot of strong content can do a lot to bring in customers
Probably the biggest weakness of most Shopify stores is that they aren’t utilizing blog posts, and while that hurts potential sales for most stores, it doesn’t have to be that way for your store.
Deciding on the content you should create is based on the products you sell, the product category your products are within, topics your audience would be interested in beyond your product category, and any interesting expertise you can offer.
Every site and business is different, so you’ll have to decide which route you take with content creation.
Make a Podcast
Podcasts are tough, they all start out slow, and it’s hard to know if you’re close to breaking through a tipping point and starting to consistently gain listeners, but that tipping point may never come.
Regardless, if you think you have a subject matter to talk about that you find interesting, and can get some great guests, it’s likely you can eventually have a hit on your hands.
A popular podcast can be a huge boon to your brand, and by extension your site and your link profile. When you’re popular, the links come automatically.
Influencers and Microinfluencers
Collaborations and promotions with influencers can be a great way to get your brand out there, and will put your company within people’s consideration set when they’re shopping around for products within your category.
Getting in front of eyeballs and ears in the form of doing something together with an established influencer is a great way to have a secondary SEO boosting effect.
Promotion and Content Creation Summary
To put it plainly, you should always be looking at content to create for your target audience, and try to go to the places they are online.
If you can manage to create content that hooks people in, or be a standout voice within your product category, you create a brand and identity that is extremely hard for other businesses to emulate.
Shopify SEO on one side is about making a site and brand that is appealing to both search engines and people, and on the other side is about existing on the web in as many places as possible that will eventually lead people (and links) back to your site.
If you can have a technically sound site with great content that has strong brand recognition on the web, you will be far ahead of your competitors (and potential future competitors) when it comes to SEO, marketing, and your brand.
With the on-site techniques and inspiration for different ways to promote your store, you can make your site an SEO powerhouse that will consistently rank well for big money keywords.