How to Make your Shopify Site Rank: SEO Shopify Guide

shopify seo checklist

Why do entrepreneurs choose Shopify to start their online store? It’s simple and convenient, provides a variety of customizable themes, can be easily integrated with social media and email marketing services, and includes numerous built-in tools. At the end of all settings and work of a designer, business owners get a fully working website ready to take hundreds of orders and sell thousands of goods.

But not many of them know from the start, that sites made on Shopify need search engine optimization. Like any other web resource, e-commerce sites require careful tuning and fixing errors. For many beginners, Shopify search settings may cause some problems. To avoid this, we offer you a comprehensive guide on how to optimize the Shopify store.

Why Shopify needs search engine optimization

It’s not enough to make a site that works. Any web resource should be optimized for search engines for significant reasons:

  • Increasing organic traffic. This indicator is crucial for a site’s development. Search engines are the most available and preferable channel of traffic. Each day millions of people search for goods and services using Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and other engines. Though you have to invest in the SEO of your site at the very beginning, later you won’t need to pay to attract organic users.
  • Providing the image of a trustworthy expert. As users apply to your site to get some information, they start recognizing a true expert of the industry your work in. Another important feature of credibility is your backlink profile that indicates your online store as safe and trustworthy.
  • Long-term results. The outcome of proper optimization accumulates for months and even years ahead. A properly SEO-optimized online store will bring customers with no extra spendings on advertising.
  • Improving user experience. Page loading speed, site’s security, correct titles and descriptions, nice pictures, comprehensive content – these are only some of the main Shopify SEO problems (that refer to any site on the web) business owners need to solve to make their resource appealing and convenient for visitors.

Now, you see why each site needs optimization. Now, let’s see how to optimize the Shopify store and what you need for this.

Does Shopify have SEO tools?

shopify seo help

Making a site using a ready-made theme may be a very tempting idea. You don’t need a full staff of web developers and designers – one or two specialists may be enough to support your Shopify store. Even if you’re not a qualified developer, upper-intermediate knowledge in CSS and HTML will give you freedom in tuning.

Unfortunately, not every site constructor provides a full range of search engine optimization tools or flexible site structure. Guess what? It doesn’t refer to the object of our article, otherwise, we would not know what to write about!

How to edit SEO on Shopify is only a matter of time and experience. Except for some moments, which we will talk about later, this platform is absolutely SEO-friendly and provides clients with a full range of instruments. But before you start implementing Shopify best practices to life, make sure you’ve made some preparations.

Make preparations to start optimization of Shopify store

Our instructions of Google optimize for Shopify won’t be effective until you work on the following tasks:

  1. Be sure you have a secure certificate. Though the platform provides clients with an SSL certificate, double-check this moment before you proceed.
  2. Buy a paid plan. Sites with a free membership do not range in Google, so you’ll need to buy a subscription. Luckily, the prices are affordable for any kind of shop.
  3. Connect your site to GoogleAnalytics and SearchConsole. These two instruments are irreplaceable in digital marketing. Analytics provides you with full data on visitors, channels, paid campaigns, audience, etc. GSC gives the information on key phrases you rank for, click, impressions, and many more.
  4. Submit your sitemap. This file is automatically created for a Shopify site, just make sure it is submitted to Google Search Console.
  5. Adapt your site for mobile devices. The trend of making purchases online using smartphones will remain for the next few years and will only prevail. Don’t shut your eyes on this factor.

Now, you’re ready. Time to start doing magic and optimize Shopify store to make it rank in search engines!

Shopify SEO checklist: 10 steps

1. Develop a logical site structure focused on search queries

A site structure is a priority, no matter what platform you choose. Blows and whistles won’t add any points to your Shopify site SEO, but the structure contributes the most at the very beginning.

The first step is to collect the semantic core. After processing thousands of search queries in your niche, you get a complete picture of custom searches. After you have collected all the possible keywords, you need to cluster them into logical groups. These groups will allow you to form the structure of the site and identify potential categories and subcategories of the online store catalog.

site structure for ShopifyChoose the most relevant search queries for page optimization, but do not forget about the frequency/competition ratio, because it will be much more difficult to get the TOP for highly competitive queries.

2. Optimize page meta tags on Shopify

Title tags, meta descriptions, and keywords exist for a reason. They must be filled in any case, and furthermore, should be unique on each page of your store. Duplicated titles and descriptions make different pages look the same for search engines, that’s why one of such pages may not rank, which is a complete disaster for an eCommerce site.

Title and meta description on Shopify can be checked and changed by clicking “Edit website SEO” in section “Search engine listing preview”. Then, follow the next rules to improve Shopify SEO title and description:

  • make title and description unique for all pages of your store;
  • title and description should contain the main keywords for promotion: title 1 search queries, description 2 keywords. Requests must be different;
  • do not exceed the character limit (up to 60 characters for the title and from 155 to 300 for description);
  • metadata should be attractive to users and contain useful information (price, benefits, delivery terms, etc.)

meta tags shopifyApart from making pages understandable to search engines, clear and optimized meta makes your snippet look click-worthy and comprehensible on SERP.

Also, pay attention to the URLs of your pages. They should contain only lowercase Latin letters and hyphens. It is better to avoid other characters when forming URLs of pages.

3. Optimize images

The next step of SEO for Shopify – optimizing images. Imagine you’re searching for pictures of a little black dress or a professional cocktail set. 90% of images in search results will be from online stores. An interested user will likely click the image they liked and get on an eCommerce page. Now you just knew about another way of attracting organic traffic (to be clearer, this is the second most popular way to bring traffic from search engines).

To make this real for your site on Shopify, image optimization must include writing alt tags (alternative text). And by “writing” we mean “searching for a relevant keyword with high search volume and put it as an alt-tag”.

shopify optimize imagesFinally, image alts make your store accessible for people with visual impairment as they help in navigation via screen reader. Availability and comfort in use are key features of user experience that influence your site’s ranking.

Another important part of optimizing images is compressing them. “Heavy” images slow down site speed, and this parameter is extremely important for optimization.

4. Eliminate duplicate pages and fix non-canonical URLs

Probably, the priority problem of Shopify SEO is cutting down duplicate pages that are created by the system. Links and page iterations create problems for search engines, since they may not always be able to determine which of the two pages should be the canonical version, i.e. which of these two duplicates should be indexed and which should not.

Shopify can create duplicate URLs like this:

  1. duplicating pagination pages,
  2. duplicating product pages.

How to fix duplicate pagination? Shopify creates duplicates with the built-in pagination function. In particular, a duplicate of the first page is created. It happens because the link to the first page of the category is “/category/? Page = 1” instead of just “/category/”. And in this case “/category/? Page = 1” is always a full duplicate of the “/category/” page.

We strongly recommend that the programmer implement the page structure so that for the first pagination page “/category/? Page = 1”, the page “/category/” was specified as canonical.

shopify seo helpHow to fix duplicates with product characteristics? Shopify creates duplicate product pages. Products can be displayed at 2 different URLs:

  • /products/ – the product page itself;
  • /collections/.*/products/ – product page that belongs to a category or a collection.

These 2 pages are full duplicates.

Shopify is aware of the problem and takes it into account when crawling by search engines, indicating that for all product URLs “/collections/./products/”, the page “/products/” is canonical and that it needs to be indexed. But at the same time, Shopify, in its internal linking of the site, by default refers to secondary links “/collections/./products/” and not to primary “/products/”.

This way, Shopify builds your site structure around non-canonical links. And while the canonical tag usually works correctly when search engines crawling on a site, remember that Google considers the canonical tag as a recommendation, not a rule. Therefore, to fix this problem, you need to consult with an experienced SEO specialist and programmer in order to arrange the correct indexing of pages.

5. Using Robots.txt

The Robots.txt file is a kind of instruction for crawlers which pages to crawl and index and which not. For many sites, this file can be changed, and you can select specific pages that should not be indexed.

The really bad news is that Shopify only hides some pages in robots.txt by default. You cannot edit it by adding or removing indexing rules. Use the “noindex” tag instead.

robots txt shopifyTo exclude pages with a search template from indexing, insert the following code into the section:

{% if template contains 'search'%}

{% endif%}

To close a specific page from indexing, insert the following code into the section:

{% if handle contains 'page-template-you-want-to-exclude'%}

{% endif%}

6. Add links and create an outreach strategy

Link building is one of the tools that make points of authority for your site. You should think about your backlinks in advance and make a plan to increase the number of sites that will link to your online store. How to do it?

  1. Consider how many backlinks you can afford a month;
  2. Search for credible sites (industry leaders, manufacturers, lifestyle and news media) using professional software like Ahrefs or MOZ;
  3. Email sites’ webmasters or owners for placing backlinks;
  4. Each month, search for other ways of putting backlinks on other different sites and unlinked mentions;
  5. Submit your store to local directories;
  6. Be active on forums;
  7. Analyze the quality of your link profile: the unscrupulous rivals can deliberately place your links on the trash and 18+ sites that can lead to a ban.

shopify seo checklistIf you don’t know where to start, analyze your competitors’ link profiles, you can find many credible sites that can help you to build trustworthiness or order a backlinks audit and link building from an experienced specialist.

7. Improve site’s speed

There are dozens of factors that slow down your site’s loading and among them are:

  • HTML, CSS, JS excessive code elements and files, “heavy” scripts, unused styles, comments, etc.
  • redirects,
  • unoptimized images,
  • plugins,
  • server response time.

The slower your site is, the less useful it is for users. You hardly use a site that loads for ages. So take care of this on the very first step of creating your Shopify site. To begin with, choose the quickest and “light” theme. Refuse from heavy and overly loaded scripts, use only the most necessary plugins. Later, when you add products and blog articles, optimize image weight and sizes.

To check up this important SEO parameter, use GTMetrix or Google’s PageSpeed Insights: these tools will give you recommendations on what to optimize. Remember that starting in 2021, Core Web Vital parameters will be a very important ranking factor.

8. Start blogging and create a content strategy

A blog is one of the most powerful tools for attracting organic users. While your product pages and categories attract mostly commercial traffic, blog articles are aimed at bringing informational traffic: how-to and tutorials, tips and advice, ideas for gifts, and many more. These topics are very likely to attract thousands of targeted internet users, and your shop may provide them with goods and services they would like to buy.

shopify search engine optimizationHowever, it’s not enough just to write nice articles. Remember we’ve mentioned keywords research above? They are useful not only for products and categories but for posts as well. There are dozens of thousands of potential keywords your shop may rank for. So…

  1. study your competitors;
  2. search for actual and high traffic topics that are relevant to your industry;
  3. make keyword research via Ahrefs or Semrush, look at the most attractive organic keywords and topics;
  4. add potential topics to your content plan ( try to update it every month – new topics appear every day);
  5. create content so that it is strikingly different from competitors and includes relevant keywords;
  6. pay attention to product reviews – a powerful driving force in eCommerce.

Shopify allows creating and setting a blog as you wish. Important tip: do not forget about the on-page optimization we’ve talked about in paragraphs 2 and 3. Your articles hardly are ranked up on SERP and crawled by search engines with no meta tags and with errored URLs. Furthermore, strengthening the positions of blog posts with backlinks and social media.

9. Set up 301 redirects

What happens with non-existing pages on any website? They get 404 status. Why is it harmful to any site?
Your potential users may click on such a page and see… nothing. Very unpleasant for a buying experience, isn’t it?

A large number of 404 pages in the site’s code or in the index of a search engine can lead to a slight pessimization of the site in search results.

Pages with 404 status should not be present at a site under any circumstances. That’s why setting 301 redirects is one of the phases of search optimization. 301 redirect is a tool that sends a user from one page, mostly closed or non-existing, to another page. Using this method is a must in such cases:

  • for pages of products that are no longer on sale;
  • for pages that are moving to other locations;
  • for outdated content.

On Shopify, it is easy to do by clicking Online Store -> Navigation -> URL Redirects -> Add URL redirect. Here, you can write an old URL and change it to a new one.

10. Enrich your snippets

Marked-up content plays a huge role in search engine optimization. Additional information under your site’s or page’s name looks prettier, more click-worthy, and raises the page on SERP. Product markup is easily made on most Shopify themes, you just need to fill in as much information as you can to make your pages look remarkable in Google. Also, there are numerous Shopify SEO apps that can help you with that.

shopify seo best practicesTypes of micro-markup that you can apply to your store:

  • “BreadcrumbList” for marking breadcrumbs;
  • “article” to mark up blog posts;
  • “products” to mark up product information;
  • “faq” to mark up frequently asked questions about a product;
  • other.

So, you might have understood that the answer to the question “How to add SEO to Shopify?” is much more complex than you could expect. Sure, there is no magic pill and you will have to learn something, but note that search optimization is the most powerful tool so far, if we’re speaking of digital promotion. Guarantee your shop thousands and dozens of thousands of users with time-consuming and regular, yet budget-friendly and effective tools. In any case, you can always apply to simple SEO apps for Shopify or contact a professional SEO team to help you.

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