Want your Shopify store to rank in Position 1 on Google? No matter the platform, the same SEO principles apply if you want your e-commerce store to be found in search results.
With some simple tweaks and optimizations to your Shopify store, you can improve your visibility, rank on the first page for your targeted keywords, and make the sale.
While you may not outrank Amazon on day one, this Shopify SEO guide will walk you through everything you need to position your store for success.
Launching Your Shopify Store
Your store theme should match your brand style and make sense for your inventory. But also think about the impact on speed and usability, as these factors will greatly affect SEO.
Before you buy or install a theme, verify that it won’t hurt your speed and performance.
- Run the theme URL through a tool like GTMetrix or Web Page Test. While the numbers will be different on your store, it will give you an idea of the resource demand of the core theme you’re building on.
- Run the theme URL through PageSpeed Insights. Since Google’s analysis of your page is ultimately what matters when you want to rank, verify that Google evaluates the code positively.
When it comes to speed, the Turbo Shopify theme from Out of the Sandbox is my favorite right now. This theme is optimized for speed without sacrificing form or functionality.
Installing this theme on a client site cut loading time by 75 percent. We routinely see clients keep load times under five seconds when they launch to a lean and clean theme.
A smart theme selection will set you on the right path in terms of branding, user experience, and SEO.
Without a strong foundation, SEO is just wainscoting on a pile of rubble. But when you build, reinforce, and maintain a strong foundation, SEO tweaks will add that decorative flourish to set you apart from the competition.
Always optimize your site for customers, first and foremost.
The same SEO elements that apply to a regular site apply to Shopify (here’s a great SEO checklist):
- Upload a robots.txt file so bots can crawl your site.
- Ensure you have an XML sitemap to guide Google through the architecture of your site.
- Install Google Analytics.
- Validate HTML and CSS.
- Purchase an SSL certificate and upgrade to HTTPS.
- Correct any crawl errors and redirect issues.
- Include target keywords for a given page in the title and H1.
- Optimize meta descriptions, as this can affects click-through-rate (CTR).
- Optimize headings (H1s, H2s, etc.) in a natural way.
- Optimize images (file name, alt text, and image size).
Optimize all future pages as you add them, including collections and product pages.
You’ll also need to re-optimize your content periodically to better target the keywords that convert the most.
SEO is an ongoing process. Tweaks will always be needed because search algorithms are constantly changing – and so are your customers’ wants, needs, and behaviors.
Run your site through an auditor like WooRank. Check back in every few months to make sure your corrections have taken hold and identify any new issues.
On-page Optimizations in Shopify
Shopify makes it easy to set your basic on-page details directly in the backend.
Navigate to Sales Channels > Online Store > Preferences. On this page, you can update your homepage title and meta description. This is also where you can link your Google Analytics account.
Individual product title and meta descriptions can be set directly on the page:
Need to set up redirects? This can be done via Sales Channels > Online Store > Navigation. Click the “URL Redirects” button in the top right. Here, you can manage redirects and add new ones.
Shopify automatically generates an XML sitemap of your store. You can find it by going to http://ift.tt/NXUDQh.
While Shopify isn’t quite as SEO-friendly as sites on WordPress with a plugin like Yoast, you can optimize almost everything directly through the dashboard.
Shopify has a pretty awesome collection of free or low-cost app integrations to take your store to the next level.
Our clients have had great success capturing abandoned carts and re-engaging past customers with Conversio (formerly Receiptful). Bold Apps can help with sales and upsells, not to mention Sweet Tooth Loyalty Program and MailChimp integration for your email marketing efforts.
The Shopify Reviews App or Yotpo are amazing as they add review schema right onto the product to help click-through rate in the SERPs.
Apps can help with everything from driving newsletter sign-ups to running sales. However, apps can slow down stores and cause some conflicts, so choose wisely.
Speed should always come before cool features. Why? Forty percent of users will abandon a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In fact, a single second delay in page loading can drop conversions by 7 percent.
For an e-commerce store, that could cost thousands in lost sales each year. Mobile users are impatient. A slow store is bad business.
Optimizing your Shopify store for speed is almost exactly the same as any other website. Small improvements like the ones listed below should help improve load times:
- Compress images
- Minimize redirects
- Enable browser caching
- Use a content delivery network (CDN)
You can see a full list of recommendations and see how your store measures up when you run your domain through a tool like GTMetrix.
Speed matters for user experience, but it’s also a Google ranking factor. The faster your site can be without stripping elements that provide an optimal user experience, the better.
Ask yourself these questions to evaluate whether your Shopify store offers an excellent user experience:
- Does the homepage explain what your store is all about? Is it easy to understand?
- Is the site structured well?
- Is the page layout clear, consistent, and visually appealing?
- Are the graphics welcoming and consistent?
- Do your product images show high-quality graphics of what you are selling?
- Is there good use of white space? Is the content too dense?
- Are navigation buttons and tabs consistent and intuitive?
- Is the relationship between the page and navigation clear?
- Is there a clear “path” for users to follow from first landing on the site to buying a product?
- Is the content unique, well-written, and accurate?
- Are there ads, interstitials, pop-ups, or any other obtrusive elements on the page? If so, are they displayed in a professional manner?
- Are there calls-to-action (CTAs) on the page, and are they clear and intuitive?
If you can say an emphatic “yes” to all of these questions, you’re on the right track to delight your users and Google.
If you’re hesitant about any of the above elements, go back to the drawing board. You can draw in visitors through paid ads, organic traffic, or social, but the page has to serve their needs. Otherwise, metrics will confirm your site just isn’t cutting it and everything will suffer — including search rankings.
User testing can help you get a more accurate sense of how customers interact with your store and shine a spotlight on problem areas.
Optimizing Your Store for Conversions
Conversion optimization is all about getting visitors to engage with your content, like you, trust you, and ultimately buy your product.
Each of these actions at one level or another is associated with a site-level metric that influences your site’s Google rank. After all, users who take an action on your site contribute a lower bounce rate, longer time on site, higher pages/session, and more.
Without worrying about a single technical detail, shifting your mindset to associate conversion optimization with rankings benefits will pay tremendous dividends.
If Google sees that users click to your store and buy something, that can positively influence your rankings.
Google wants to show the most relevant and useful results to users. Make your site exactly what your customers want and need.
A beautiful website without quality content is like a top-line Viking range with no ingredients to cook — a total waste.
All the little optimizations and tweaks I detailed earlier mean nothing if they’re not building on a rich, deep, and insightful foundation of high-quality content.
Your Shopify homepage represents who you are, what you do, what you offer, and your unique value proposition.
Harris Farm Markets is one site that does a great job with their homepage layout and content:
It’s hyper-visual and rich in content. From the first look at the page to the final scroll, you get a total sense of who they are, what they do, and what makes them different from a supermarket.
Muse is another great example:
Must makes it clear what the product is and how it can help from that first hero image to the research partners that provide credibility.
Ensure your product pages are fully optimized. Pasting the same generic sentence on each page won’t cut it.
- Write a unique, captivating product description.
- To avoid duplicate content, add variants to each product. This way, you won’t have to come up with new content for red and blue versions of the same shirt.
- To better serve your customers, have shipping, return, and sizing information available on the page.
- Ensure your images are optimized with a descriptive file name and relevant alt text.
- Consider enabling reviews on the page. Not only does it provide more value/info for customers, but it’s free content!
- Don’t use manufacturer descriptions! Write your own.
Duplicate Product Pages
If duplicate products are unavoidable, apply the rel=canonical tag to the product you want to take priority. If this is an ongoing issue like if your store is duplicating products across collection pages, you can install an app like the NoFollow and NoIndex Manager to take control over what gets followed and indexed.
When a model becomes obsolete or you move on to a different stock, do you just delete the product? This can cause big SEO issues.
Ensure you set up 404 redirects for all deleted products. Link to the most similar live product if you can, or the most relevant collections page. If nothing applies, redirect to the homepage.
The Perfect Product Page
Here’s an example of an exceptional product page:
- Tons of content broken up into different chunks for readability and flow.
- Variants all on the same page to avoid duplicate content issues.
- Visual, informative content about features and specs, and even includes videos of the product in use.
- A review app, giving 800 words of additional content.
Tabbed content allows you to add depth to the page without cluttering it. Here’s a great example:
Shopify automatically creates collections pages. You don’t have to make the pages visible on your site, but they represent a huge ranking opportunity for category keywords if you choose to use them.
If your collections pages are just product lists, you’re missing an opportunity.
We’ve been doing content projects for a lot of our e-commerce clients to grow their collections pages, and we’ve seen great results.
For instance, instead of just a generic “jeans” or “men’s jeans” page, make a “skater jeans” or “baggy jeans” landing page building on a collection. These hyper-targeted keywords convert really well.
A blogging strategy is really important, especially for e-commerce. Maintaining a blog will:
- Provide value to users.
- Help you target long-tail keywords.
- Improve your organic search visibility.
- Give you more content to promote on social.
Use tools like Google Trends and BuzzSumo to identify keyword opportunities and stay ahead of the curve on evergreen and trendy topics.
Remember, a blog can be so much more than pure text:
- Post videos.
- Do a Q&A.
- Post how-tos.
- Create an infographic.
- Post gift guides, style guides, and lookbooks.
All of your on-page optimizations are just one part of the puzzle. Your store’s off-page presence is just as important, if not more.
In other words, you need to market your Shopify store. Get the word out there.
- Put effort into a comprehensive, strategic social media presence.
- Do outreach and online PR.
- Build a robust backlink profile from trustworthy, authoritative domains.
All of these efforts will help build brand awareness and affinity, which will ultimately increase search demand.
From choosing an SEO-friendly theme to core optimizations (on-page, speed, UX, CRO, content, and off-page), the recommendations in this guide should help steer your Shopify store to improved and sustained rankings success.
Plan and deploy your SEO strategy using Shopify’s built-in features; monitor your results through keyword tracking software and Google Analytics, and adjust and experiment until you strike gold.
Just remember: SEO alone isn’t enough for Shopify success. Search engines want to satisfy users, so always optimizing for your customers will delight two birds with one stone.
Featured Image: Shutterstock
All Screenshots by Brock Murray. Taken May 2017.