Shopify SEO Guide: How to Optimize Your Store for Success

Last updated on 
May 30, 2019
April 2, 2020
Shopify SEO Guide: How to Optimize Your Store for Success

You’ve built your Shopify store, loaded it with well-crafted product descriptions, beautiful images, and almost everything you need to start selling. Now, it’s time to make sure your website shows up in search results; that’s where this Shopify SEO guide will come in handy.

Let’s face it -- between the latest Google algorithm updates, all the bad SEO advice out there, and your already overflowing responsibilities -- learning the right tactics to implement can be confusing. But, there is a right way to do SEO. So, let’s take a look at how you can optimize your online store for search engines and scale your operations.

(Not on Shopify? No problem. Check out our guide to ecommerce SEO instead.)

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is basically the act of describing your content so that search engines understand what it is. It’s implemented both on and off-page. Most aspects of your store should be optimized to have the most impact on where your store ranks.

Your SEO efforts determine your website traffic volume and visibility. If you want to be found by search engines, you need to know the best practices and how to implement them properly.

Which Search Terms do You Want to Rank for?

You already know you want to rank higher for the target keywords your potential customers are searching for. But, how do you know what they are?

Some general Shopify SEO rules of thumb:

  1. Choose one to three target keyword phrases for each product page, landing page, and piece of content.
  2. Make sure your content is easily-readable, descriptive, and relevant to the page topic -- never over-optimize.
  3. Solve the problems your customers regularly face
  4. Include your keywords in your page titles and sprinkle them throughout your content.
  5. Monitor your competitors

Following these rules religiously will set you down the right path.  

This is How to Create a List of Potential Search Phrases

One of the easiest ways to define your list of target search phrases is to use an SEO tool or seek inspiration from your potential buyers. Feel free to get creative, but use real data to make informed decisions.

  • Leverage Advanced SEO Tools - Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMRush are the most popular tools amongst modern SEO professionals. Each offers a suite of tools to help you make informed decisions to optimize your content. If you feel like you have an intermediate or advanced understanding of SEO, check out these tools. SEMRush and Moz offer free trials and you can try Ahrefs for $7 for the first week.
  • Use Beginner SEO Tools - Alternatively, beginners might want to use a tool like Long Tail Pro or even Google Keyword Planner. Use these to measure your potential keyword competitiveness and make informed decisions about your search marketing efforts.
  • Do a Google Search - Are you selling blue sneakers? Find related keywords with a simple Google search. Check out the related searches list at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot source: Google

  • Research Relevant Forums and Social Media - Examine your buyer personas, then determine where your target audience hangs out online. Monitor their conversations and take notes about their questions and common problems.

Note: This tactic is more helpful for article and content marketing than product page SEO.

Between SEO tools, search engines, and your target customers, you should be able to generate a preliminary list of search phrases to optimize your Shopify or Shopify Plus store for. From there, you’ll still need to narrow it down a bit.

What are Long Tail Keywords?

For the sake of relevance, let’s pretend you are still selling “blue shoes.” What are the odds you can rank for that general search phrase? Let’s find out!

Screenshot source: Google

According to Google, nearly 1.6 billion pages already rank for this search phrase. So, the odds that you’ll make it to page one are lower than one in a billion. You probably won’t be able to rank for a keyword like this at all, especially if your site doesn’t already have a lot of authority.

Rather than choose generalized keywords like this, it’s better to start your efforts with long tail keywords that have low competition. As you build your website authority and search engines start to understand what your website it all about, you will have a better chance to rank for search phrases that are more competitive.

Long tail keywords are three to five-word search queries that are specific to your page content (in this case, your products). In most cases, they are much easier to rank for than general search phrases.

Instead of general terms, keyword phrases like “women baby blue sneakers” and “toddler royal blue sneakers” are likely to generate more traffic and ensure that traffic is targeted and qualified.

In most cases, you will want to remove general search phrases from your preliminary target keywords list. Instead, stick to long tail search phrases.

Competitive Ranking Factors to Consider

Even when your keywords are perfectly targeted to your products, there are more factors that increase the likelihood of improving your pages’ search engine rankings. So, learn what else you need to watch for.

Top competitive ranking factors to consider:

  • Quality of existing competitor pages
  • Number of high-quality backlinks to competitor pages
  • Competitor pages domain ranking or domain authority

In a nutshell, you need to make sure that you can create content and build links better than your competition. Keep in mind that your competitors will have the freedom to update their content should you outrank them later, so make sure to monitor your pages and those that rank on page one for the same keywords.

What are the Best Shopify SEO Apps to Use?

The Shopify App Store has a ton of store integrations that can help you with your search engine marketing. Here are some of the best Shopify apps for SEO to try.

1. SEO Manager

Image Source: Shopify

Cost: $20.00 per month

Free Trial Available: 7-day

Star Rating: 4.8 (1,550 reviews)

Function: This app helps store admins understand and implement Shopify SEO tactics to get ranked by search engines. It has over 20 features, only 5 of which are available with other existing apps.

2. Image Optimizer

Image source: Shopify

Cost: $5.00 + per month

Free Trial Available: No

Star Rating: 4.9 (662 reviews)

Function: Automatically adds image ALT tags and image file names to your product photos based on templates customized by you. Compresses images to minimize file size and increase page speeds. Converts png images to jpeg format.

3. SEOMetriks Marketing Tools

Image source: Shopify

Cost: $7.99 per month

Free Trial Available: No

Star Rating: 4.9 (20 reviews)

Function: Empowers you with a step-by-step Shopify SEO roadmap. Delivers crucial SEO data. Simplifies your search marketing processes.

4. Plug in SEO

Image source: Shopify

Cost: Free +

Free Trial Available: 7-day premium

Star Rating: 4.7 (1,832 reviews)

Function: Automates Shopify SEO audits. Delivers worthwhile search marketing recommendations. Integrates with Google, Bing, other search engines, Langify, and Locksmith.

5. Benchmark Hero

Image Source: Shopify

Cost: Free

Free Trial Available: N/A

Star Rating: 4.9 (144 reviews)

Function: Automates the SEO audit process while you work building pages. Delivers benchmarks and analytics. Suggests action items for you to take.

6. AMP

Image Source: Shopify

Cost: Free +

Free Trial Available: N/A

Star Rating: 5.0 (207 reviews)

Function: Optimizes Google accelerated mobile pages, increasing your store’s mobile traffic. Integrates easily with review apps.

Note: In addition to the available marketplace apps, you can also leverage helpful Shopify SEO tutorials to read current best practices straight from the horse’s mouth.

Shopify On-Page SEO and Product Descriptions Guide

Learn to optimize your product pages with SEO-friendly descriptions. Keep in mind that all content you create should be original, as to avoid duplicate content in the eyes of search engines. So, don’t just copy and paste the content from manufacturer websites.

Here’s what to do instead.

Page titles guide

Two of the most important pieces of an SEO-optimized page are the title and meta description. The page title is the first thing a search engine (and a customer) sees when visiting your page -- make it count.

All of your page titles should be unique and relevant. They should also be catchy.

While your product page title should be descriptive (ex: “Women Classic Baby Blue Converse Sneakers”), your collection page titles should be actionable.

For example, you might use a formula like the following to title your Shopify collection pages:

“[browse/shop/buy] [collection name] at [store name]”

Essentially, this helps you create page titles that are clickable and move the reader along. At the same time, you let the search engines know that your pages feature products.

  • “Shop Classic Converse Sneakers at ABC Footwear”
  • “Browse Women’s Shoes at Sportswear-R-Us”’
  • “Buy Sneakers at The Women’s Outlet”

Keep in mind that the slug (the words following your domain) for your pages don’t need to be the same as your page titles.

An optimized URL for a collection page titled “Shop Classic Women’s Shoes at Sportswear-R-Us” would be http://sportswearrus.com/collection/classic-womens-shoes, NOT http://sportswearrus.com/collection/shop-classic-womens-shoes-at-sportswear-r-us (the latter is completely redundant and more likely to confuse search engines).

Meta descriptions guide

Your meta descriptions are approximately 155-character “snippets” of your web page that summarize the page content. Some search engines use the meta description to display in search results.

Screenshot source: Google

Your product meta descriptions should include your target keywords, but they also need to speak to the reader in a way that entices them to click through to learn more and ultimately make a purchase.

Product descriptions guide

As stated above, when writing product descriptions, you want to be unique. You never want to copy text from your manufacturer’s website. Furthermore, you need to make sure that your site pages are unique from one another.

Then, an SEO copywriter will tell you that you need to create unique yet keyword-optimized content for each page of your website; this is also true.

So, if you want a fully-optimized web store -- Trust me, you do! -- you can’t just copy and paste sales text from your own pages either.

You don’t want a product page description for your women’s red Converse sneakers that has the same text as your women’s blue Converse sneakers with the color descriptions swapped out.

Screenshot source: Converse

Instead, when the products you’re selling are similar, combine them in a single product page with multiple variations and focus your energy on describing the common features in a way that gets visitors to convert.

User experience (UX) guide

Your website’s e-commerce UX is in a category all on it’s own. Many web designers focus solely on UX, which determines the way a shopper experiences your online store.  

So, what does UX have to do with SEO? In addition to reading the indicators on your pages, search engines also measure how long visitors stay on your pages. If your bounce rate is high (users move away quickly), modern search algorithms will rank your pages lower.

On the contrary, when search engines measure traffic that stays on your site for more time, they will rank your site and pages higher -- it’s like they’re assuming there’s something good to see because people want to stay and read or watch or shop.

One of the greatest determining factors in the efficacy of your store’s UX, what really gets qualified shoppers to stay on your site, is your navigation menu and search features.

e-Commerce Navigation Optimization

Shoppers are only going to purchase products when they find what they’re looking for, so you need to make it easy for them.

The following navigation features will optimize your navigation and search.

Autocomplete: Adding an autocomplete feature to your search bar can get shoppers to stay on your site longer because it is convenient and it gives them new ideas about items in which they may be interested.

Screenshot source: Macy’s

Filtered and Faceted Search: You might hear the terms “faceted” and “filtered navigation” used interchangeably; this refers to the act of filtering delivered search results for relevance. Help users browse your site with ease by offering a faceted search experience.

Screenshot source: Amazon

Subcategories in Display Menu - Rather than take multiple steps to navigate to the category they’re interested, make sure your navigation menu displays categories, subcategories, and individual collections. This way, it’s easy for shoppers to find what they need.

Screenshot source: Walmart

Promotional Banner - Another great feature to improve UX and keep people shopping on your store is to include a promotional banner (or pop-up) “above the fold.” Let people know what items are on sale and other discount offers, contests, and more.

Screenshot source: Forever 21

Optimized User Support - Chat boxes and other instant user support tools can help your customers find what they seek when all else fails. Ideally, it will be the last place they go to search for products. Still, you keep them on your site and even gain ideas for FAQs to add more SEO content to your website.

Screenshot source: Marine Layer

By implementing the above navigation optimizations, you provide your shoppers with an assortment of opportunities to find what they’re looking for and eventually convert on your site. As a bonus, the longer people stick around, the more clout Google and other engines will give your store.

Image descriptions guide

All online store owners put a lot of emphasis on using great product photographs on their websites. They hire commercial photographers, photo editors, and even graphic artists. But, many of them forget or are ignorant of the fact that your images also need to be described to search engines.

So, let’s take a look at how Google understands your pictures.

I’ll start by stating that, yes, the technology does exist to search for an item by uploading an image of it. But, this does not mean that a major consumer search engine automatically knows what your pictures are simply by crawling them.

The following photo is not a scientific example of what a search engine actually sees when they crawl an image on your store. But, it provides an idea of about how much Google knows when looking at a picture alone.

Think of this image as an illustration to showcase why you need to add ALT text and title tags to your images.

  • ALT text is what site visitors will see when an image doesn’t load on your site.
  • Image title tags are the file name of your images.
  • Image descriptions are the optional text you can include on your product pages to describe your image.

Search engines will read the above text fields for each image to bring things back into focus.

Try to use your main target keyword phrase at least once in the ALT text of your image to fully-optimize your pages for search engines.

Shopify Off-Page SEO and Content SEO guide

Once your on-page SEO is fueled with best practices, it’s time to look at your off-page SEO. As you scale, you will need to start monitoring and taking action on off-site reviews, websites linking back to you, and brand mentions on social media.

What happens off-site can be just as crucial to your efforts as which structured data appears on your pages.

Content Marketing

In e-commerce, content marketing refers to your blog, off-site guest posts, social media posts, stories, and videos, and other content that helps move traffic to your product pages. Unfortunately, most brands get it wrong.

You’re not going to learn it all under one subheading in an SEO article, but mastering the art of content will skyrocket your SEO efforts.

So, what is it that most brands get wrong about content marketing? -- They make it all about themselves.

Many online stores launch a blog only to share news about their store and product features. While customers might need to know about updates and promotions, this kind of info is better left to press release submission sites and targeted subscriptions (to your qualified leads and existing customers segment).

Instead, what online stores should be doing with their content is solving their customers’ pain points. Articles, infographics, and videos should build trust, establish authority, nurture customer loyalty, and eventually lead consumers to make a purchase.

When it comes to SEO for content marketing, you should focus on keyword phrases that are relevant to the problems that your products solve, NOT the products themselves.

For example, if you are selling women’s blue shoes, here are some topics you might want to write about:

  • What should I wear to an interview?
  • 10 best accessories to wear with your brown pants suit
  • This is what Ariana Grande wore to the oscars

By providing your shoppers with expert fashion advice, these topics (if written well) would eventually lead people to your email list and later your product pages.

So, while content is an amazing tool to help you scale your ecommerce operations, just remember that it is not all about you, but rather helping your target audience.

Backlink Building

It’s crucial to create and implement an informed backlink building strategy.

Note that e-commerce product pages can be some of the hardest pages to build high-quality links to, aside from adult, personal injury attorney, and gambling websites.

So, your strategy needs to be well-thought out.

Here are some of the best places to start.

  • Get Listed in Niche Directories
  • Publish “Edutaining” Infographics and Images on Your Blog
  • Create and Share Free Tools
  • Run Contests
  • Offer Sponsorships

Most existing backlink building services are cheap, which usually means they’re not exactly trustworthy. This is one area of your search engine marketing that you’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort into learning and implementing.

Final Thoughts

Chances are you don’t actually sell blue shoes. Nevertheless, this Shopify SEO guide should provide you with enough search marketing knowledge to build a successful ecommerce venture.

Use what you’ve learned here and keep building upon your search engine knowledge. Subscribe to our email list to keep reading expert advice and continue to grow your online store.

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