SEO should never be an afterthought even though the return is not immediate
Optimizing your site for SEO can feel intimidating and tedious, but really it’s all about understanding how search engines work and how searchers use them and implementing that insight into your pages copy, then methodically running through some completely accessible backend tinkering.
We've put together a step-by-step guide to optimizing your Shopify store—no SEO experience required.
Why is SEO so important?
1. The majority of traffic comes from organic search
If you don’t have an SEO strategy for your store, you might be missing out on traffic and revenue.
Online stores can expect 35% of total traffic to come from search engine results pages and 33% of revenue from this organic traffic making it the marketing channel that can produce the highest traffic and revenue, according to Wolfgang Digital.
2. Paid advertising costs are increasing and SEO is “free traffic”
If you’re generating most of your sales through paid advertising channels like Facebook or Instagram, this can eat into your profit margins. Although generating organic traffic takes time, it should eventually become your best acquisition channel which makes its costs sustainable.
Putting work in to increase organic traffic through SEO may cost you time and effort, but its compounding effect makes organic traffic the best value for money channel to produce customers.
3. Ranking first in search engines can get you up to 30% more daily traffic
There’s a joke in the SEO world that if you wanted to hide a dead body, you’d put it on page two. That’s because being in first place gets the most clicks—disproportionately so compared to ranking in 11th position.
If you happen to have a page that is performing well for organic traffic even without having done any optimizations for search, the likelihood is you can improve the page to bring more traffic, sometimes with the smallest tweaks.
Before you start: Essentials to improve your Shopify SEO
There are a few vital things you need to set up before jumping into improving your Shopify store’s SEO. These are:
Purchase a custom domain. Simply put, your store needs its own domain to succeed in SEO. Custom domains create more trust with potential shoppers clicking through from search engines and they’re also more memorable. If you still have brandname.myshopify it’s time to upgrade to a custom domain like brandname. You can pick up a custom domain for anywhere between $10–$20 a year. If you need help, we have a resource on how to choose a domain name for your store.
Ensure you have Google Analytics installed on your site. Google Analytics is free to install on your website and lets you see how much traffic and what it does on your site. Learn how to set up Google Analytics on your Shopify store.
Ensure you have Google Search Console installed on your site. Google Search Console gives you insight into what pages rank for which queries, where they rank, and how many clicks you get amongst other useful insight. Learn how to set up Google Search Console on your Shopify store.
Remove password protection. If you’re still getting your product pages created and sorted, you might want to wait to unlock your store to the public and search engines. But if your store is password protected, search engines won’t be able to see beyond your homepage and crawl or rank your pages on their search engine results page.
Be on a paid plan. While stores on free trials can be crawled and indexed, if you’re not on a paid plan you’re going to put all this work and not see the fruition of your efforts once your trial is over as waiting for a new store to rank will take longer than 14 days.
Once you’ve confirmed all of these are in place, you’re good to go. Use this SEO guide to improve your store's organic traffic and visibility in search engines like Google and Bing.
Technical SEO is the under-the-hood type of SEO. Like the fresh engine oil that keeps a car running, it often can’t be seen but can dramatically improve search performance of your website.
Technical SEO ensures that your website is optimized for search engine crawlers, has good page speed, and is mobile device optimized.
It also optimizes your site for humans by making sure its structure, navigation, and internal links allow easy browsing, and that meta tags are filled in so both search engines and humans know what the page is about.
If your website has discrepancies in these areas, it can stifle your rankings until errors are identified. By resolving these errors you’ll see the benefits like:
Users engaging more with the site because it’s faster and all important content and pages are easy to access
Increased crawling activity from crawl bots because the site is easier to crawl, which increases organic traffic over time
Note: This is not a full guide on technical SEO for Shopify, it’s a list of the must-haves you need to get in place for your site to perform well in search.
It’s easy to overlook internal linking, especially in the early days of building your online store. I understand—it simply doesn’t seem that important compared to publishing new pages and promoting your business.
Creating internal links isn’t just about pasting links to appropriate anchor text across your website.
It’s about creating the necessary pillar pages that will pass authority to dozens of other relevant website pages and blog posts, and/or vice versa. This can be done with a clear navigation system from your homepage that’s designed for both user experience and search engine crawlers.
Take Gymshark, a fitness apparel brand. Its homepage lists only two top-level menu options—simple.
Once you hover over either Womens or Mens, you get a dropdown list of products and collections offered. The dropdown is split into what’s trending, Gymshark’s staple products, styles that are specific across its product range, and accessories that don’t quite fit into other categories.
What is worth calling out here is that this menu structure is built for humans first and search engines second.
This is vital for building buyer trust. Our research on what solidifies trust with new shoppers found that category navigation that is easy to understand and use across all devices is a must-have if you want to win sales.
Yes, while Gymshark does create an easy to understand menu and category navigation system, it also lists its most important pages that will get organic traffic in this menu and optimized the anchor text for it.
You can see this under Womens > Products. When you click through to Shorts, you’ll find that this page ranks for ideal search terms like “workout shorts” and “women’s workout shorts,” which draw ideal customers in from search engines.
Now the question is, "how do I apply this to my business?"
Let’s take our content demo store, Kinda Hot Sauce, which sells hot sauces, as our example. Say we hear from customers that they love our habanero hot sauce and want more variations of it, and so we've added three new flavors to our habanero range. Here’s what we do next:
Conduct keyword research. We use a free SEO tool like Ubersuggest and type “habanero hot sauce” into the keyword analyzer to get an idea of monthly search for that term (4,400). Great! We’ve found a new category for our new line of products to be nested under.
Create product pages. In our Shopify store, we go to Products > Add product to create the product listing, and we ensure that everything is filled in from the title and descriptions to the SKUs and shipping information.
Create a collection page.
Navigate to Products > Collections to create a new page and add the three new product pages.
While creating the collections page, we make sure to follow on-page SEO best practices when filling in the Search engine listing preview by aiming to use “habanero hot sauce” in the page title, description, and URL and handle.
Add our new page to the menu. In our Shopify store, we go to Online store > Navigation > Main menu. From there we easily add our new habanero hot sauce collection to our navigation system under Shop.
Add a breadcrumbs app to your store.
An app like Category Breadcrumbs ($4/month) makes it easy to show your customers the path they’ve navigated down through your category tree.
Vietnam SEOOr simply understand, that is when you have the need to buy anything, what information, you go to google search with that keyword and the website appears at first become your credible address, when That, the site at the top of the search results are successful SEO sites, simply.
SEO is the work you do on the computer, you will also manipulate the website, use a lot of data, resources from the usefulness of the internet. And, one of the most important things is that you will make money online (even if it is really terrible) if you develop right, and properly apply your knowledge of SEO.
For example, you’re reading this blog post on the Shopify blog, and you can click “Shopify blog” to take you back to the blog homepage.
In the beginning of this article, we noted that you should create a Google Search Console account.
Once you’ve done that, the next step is to submit your sitemap. Submitting your sitemap on Google Search Console allows your store to be crawled and indexed by search engines.
This simply means that a crawl bot visits your ecommerce site, explores the homepage, and makes its way down all your product categories, collections, and product pages and back up again until it’s complete.
It does this so it can list them on search engine results pages.
The good news is that Shopify creates a sitemap for all stores right out of the box. You won’t need to build your own—this is only recommended for truly advanced SEO managers.
If you’re on the Basic plan, you’ll get one auto-generated sitemap; if you’re on the Shopify plan or higher and use international domains, then you need to submit the sitemap file for each domain.
This six minute video will teach you how to submit your Shopify store sitemap to Google Search Console.
Next up is to fix any potential errors on your site. If you’ve just submitted your sitemap, you’ll have to wait until a crawl has taken place to get this insight, so perhaps bookmark this section and come back to it in a week or so. Here’s what to do:
Log in to Search Console and view the Coverage report. On the left hand side, click Index > Coverage. You’ll see a graph appear with the tick box options Error, Valid with warnings, Valid, and Excluded. For now, you want to pay attention only to Error.
Identify any 404 errors or redirect errors (if they’re reported). Search console will report these in the list as:
“Submitted URL not found (404),” which is when the page does not exist on your site. To the user it displays a page-not-found message. This error occurs because somewhere on your site you are linking to this broken page, or another site is, and the search engine crawler is trying to index it.
This is bad for SEO and users because you’re sending them to a dead end. It’s essential we fix this issue. Click on “Submitted URL not found (404)” and you’ll get a list of all the URLs that are returning errors. Click “Export” on the top right of the screen and export to your spreadsheet program of choice.
“Redirect error” is when a Googlebot crawled the URL but the page didn’t automatically update to the new location for the user. This is because the chain is too long, there is a redirect loop, the URL exceeds the maximum URL length, or there is a bad or empty URL in the redirect chain. As above, click on “Redirect error” to get a full list of these URLs and export the list.
Fix 404 and redirect errors in your store. This is where being handy with spreadsheets can help you out. These problems can be complicated to fix, but here’s what to do:
Reference your spreadsheet of 404 errors (this is the sheet marked “Table”). Now you need to find the most relevant page to redirect to. For example, on our Kinda Hot Sauce demo store, if we discontinued a product it would make sense to redirect its page to either the closet match or the collections page. Make a note of these next to the URL (you can remove or hide the “Last crawled” column).
If you can’t find a match, redirecting to the home page is a good default.
From your Shopify admin, go to Online Store > Navigation. Click “URL Redirects” and then “Add URL redirect.” Here, reference your spreadsheet of 404 errors and enter those into the relevant fields and click “Save redirect.” If you need more detailed steps for this, try our help article on creating redirects.
If you have more than a few redirects to create, you may want to consider using the bulk import function for URLs.
Next, I’ll briefly recommend how to fix redirect errors. Redirect loops make visitors and search engines literally get stuck in a loop by trying to load a sequence of two more pages on your website that all point to one another. The redirect is configured so that page C should load page A, page A is configured to load page B, and page B is configured to load page C.
Search engines not only crawl the text on your webpage, they also crawl your images. Optimizing your images doesn’t stop you from displaying beautiful photography. In fact, it better helps show off and display your images to shoppers.
Reducing image sizes should be a priority for your store. HTTP Archive reports that images make up 46% of the average webpage’s overall size—meaning images are large and can make a page load slowly if not optimized.
The good news is that since Shopify is hosted ecommerce software, you don’t need to worry about technical aspects of finding a CDN that is secure and readily loads your images, as that’s included in your plan.
However, here are some simple tricks for reducing the file size of your images to help them get found and indexed easier by search engines:
Use images in JPG or PNG formats. Shopify automatically serves images in WebP, a format that provides superior compression for images on the web, with an average saving of over 30% in file size over traditional file formats like JPEG and PNG.
Alongside this, when possible, use only JPEGs and PNGs for images when uploading them to your site, as they’re already the smallest image file formats. This can be done in most native image programs that come with your system. For example, on a Mac, you can use the Preview app to save images in different formats by clicking File > Export, then choosing either JPG or PNG from the dropdown menu.
Note: A good rule of thumb is to use JPEGs for photography and PNGs for custom graphics or illustrations, etc., and never GIFs, unless it’s for a moving image.
Reduce the file size of your images. In short, the larger the image file size, the longer it can take a load a page. Reducing your image dimensions speeds up the loading of your images and the page. Resizing images can affect their quality. Be sure to use standard resolution, which is 72 pixels per square inch (PPI). If you’re new to this, we recommend you use Shopify’s free image resizer to get started.
Add images to your sitemap. It’s vital to have your images appear on search results, as many people are visual searchers, especially when it comes to products like apparel.
Adding images to your sitemap makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index them. Shopify includes your primary product page image in the sitemap, but if you want to include all images on your products pages, I recommend installing Image Sitemap ($4/month), an app that automatically builds and submits to Google Search Console an .xml Sitemap for all images associated with each product, blog article, and page in your Shopify store.
Optimize your alt attributes carefully. Alt attributes are the text alternative to images used when a browser can’t properly render them. They’re also used for web accessibility, meaning if a person with impaired vision is looking at your blog they will be read the alt text.
Alt text is important for ecommerce stores and image SEO as it helps products show up in Google images. Our advice here is to describe in plain language what’s in the image to help people with imparied vision have an idea what the image displays. In turn, this can also help your images rank. Instead of “facial toner 250ml” try “Image of Pixi’s Glow tonic facial toner in 250ml, a highly concentrated, invigorating facial toner to deep clean your pores”.
Name your images in plain language. This is the file name of your image when it’s saved to your computer.
When you upload it, its web address will be the same. Ideally, it should match the keyword on the page. For example, if our page is about habanero hot sauce, we want to save the image file name as “habanero-hot-sauce.jpg.” This means that alongside our product page appearing for queries “habanero hot sauce,” our product images hopefully also will appear under the images tab on search engines.
For more information on on-page factors, this Moz article is a great resource.
Here, we’re going to cover the basics of keyword research, how to decode search intent, and some content optimization tips to help your pages rank for their target keywords.
A simpler way to think about keywords is as queries people use and type into search engines. Often, this replicates how we talk when asking questions; sometimes it is more of a “caveman speak” format, where you might type “buy new iPhone” versus “I want to buy the new iPhone.”
First up, let me share how there are two different types of keywords: short tail and long tail.
Short tail keywords are two or three words in length and typically of high volume, e.g., “mens shorts,” which returns 38,000 monthly searches in ahrefs keyword explorer.
Long tail keywords are four words or more in length and generally of lower volume, e.g., “mens shorts with pockets,” which returns 40 monthly searches in ahrefs keyword explorer.
How people use keywords in search engines to buy products
When it comes to choosing a keyword you want your page to rank for, it helps to understand the intent behind the associated search query. Search queries fall into the following categories:
Navigational queries are searches entered with the intent of finding a particular website or webpage. For example, a user might enter “facebook” into a search bar to find Facebook’s site rather than entering the URL into a browser’s navigation bar or using a bookmark.
Informational queries normally begin with “how to,” “what,” “why,” etc. Content that genuinely provides helpful information relevant to the query ranks for these keywords.
Transactional queries are searches that indicate an intent to complete a transaction. This entails typing a product name directly into the search bar, e.g., “samsung galaxy.”
When it comes to the customer journey in search engines, it’s important to understand how people move from not knowing what product they are looking for or want to confidently making the choice to purchase.
Let’s start with a general product such as smartphones. If you’re a long-time smartphone user, then you may use or have considered using the current iPhone model. But what if you want to see what else is on the market before you jump to your next upgrade?
At this point, you’d turn to a search engine and type in an informational query such as “best smartphone.” You’d get a lot of buyer’s-guide-type articles listing the top 10 to 15 smartphones, and you’d most likely click the top result. After reading the article, you might come away thinking the new iPhone model doesn’t sound too bad after all, but you also like the look of the new Samsung Galaxy.
Here, you’d probably like to learn how they compare on features and reliability, so you’d turn back to a search engine and search another informational query, such as “apple iphone vs samsung galaxy.”
After reading one or more of the articles on the first page, you’d have a clearer idea of what smartphone is for you, and maybe you’d decide to give the new iPhone one more chance. You turn back to the search engine and type in a transactional query “buy iphone.” From there, you most likely find Apple’s site, and you complete your transaction.
How to choose a keyword
Now you know how users go through the purchase journey and how to understand the intent behind a search, so let’s now find ways to do keyword research.
Keyword research can feel overwhelming. You’ll have questions like, Where do I start, How do I find one, How do I know if my keyword is going to rank, and How long does it take? We’ll walk you through getting answers to these questions.
Where to start with keyword research. First, think about what your product is or what category it exists within. For example, Shopify is an ecommerce platform, so we want a page to rank for this search term. What’s a general term to describe your product?
Use paid tools or free tools to get competitive insight. There are a lot of free and paid tools available, but the best free tools for Chrome are Keyword Surfer and MozBar, both available as extensions. With Keyword Surfer, you type your keywords into Google and it gives you keyword volume in the address bar and on the SERP.
An important takeaway for on-page SEO
MozBar lets you know the domain authority and page authority of a website—essentially how reputable or strong a website is and how well trusted a page is, respectively.
No matter what type of search query your page is targeting, know that when it comes to choosing a keyword, Google and other search engines want to rank the pages that have the highest likelihood of concluding the searcher’s journey. In the specific case of Google, it wants no additional searches, and it doesn’t want the user to hit “Back” and click on another search result.
When you’re picking a keyword to target, you can get a good idea of what the search intent is from the top 10 results on a SERP.
To do this, simply search the term and make a note of whether the page is either an article or a product page. For now, pay attention to only the organic listings and not the ads, which are marked “Ads” to the left, or any SERP features like People Also Ask, images, videos, or local listings.
You’ll have a score such as “9/10 product pages,” and from there you get an understanding of the user’s search intent, which will be to make a transaction. If you’re doing content marketing for your store, you’ll want to look for the majority of the 10 listings to be articles as articles best cater to informational searches.
To further narrow down the search intent, you can get ideas from Google or other search engines. For example, if I’m looking at building a page to target “habanero hot sauce,” I’ll have a look at the “Related searches” box at the bottom of the SERP. In short, this list gives me an idea of what users are expecting to find from their search queries.
As “habanero hot sauce” is a short tail keyword, if users get to result 10 and still don’t see a listing to click, these pre-populated terms might help get them to the query they’re really looking for but didn’t know how to phrase.
I can make a note of these phrases because some of them are good long tail keywords that I can use while creating my product page with the goal of getting it to rank. I can use them as subheadings, in the product description, or in meta description and title. We’ll dig into how to do this below.
Build your keyword into the URL or slug
The URL is anything that you type into the address bar that ends with , .ca, etc.. The “slug” is what comes after the first forward slash. Slugs and URL paths are used interchangeably but mean the same thing.
Once you’ve chosen a domain name, your URL is set and you can’t change it. However, slugs can be changed or customized. Note: If you are changing slugs, be sure to add redirects to your new pages. We covered how to do that above.
The reason to build your keyword into the slug of each page is primarily to make it clear to both the user and the search engines what the page is about. Also, you want to be careful of keyword stuffing in your URL and slugs.
Build your keyword into your image naming system
Building your keyword into your image naming system means both saving files with the same name as the keyword target (e.g. habanero-hot-sauce.jpg) and using the keyword as its alt text when you upload the file to your store.
If you have more than one image being uploaded and you’re confused on what to name your files, use differentiators like habanero-hot-sauce-ingredients.jpg for a photo of the ingredient label and habanero-hot-sauce-example-dish.jpg for an action photo of a model applying sauce to food.
As we said above regarding optimizing images, you want to write your alt attributes carefully.
Alt text is used when a browser can’t properly render the image, and also for web accessibility. It’s best to describe in plain language what’s in the image to help people with imparied vision have an idea what the image displays.
If writing an accessible alt text attribute and you naturally use the target keyword, that’s great, but it’s recommended to prioritize this approach over keyword stuffing alt text.
Creating an SEO-friendly page is about making the information digestible for the reader, not necessarily the search engines. It’s the formatting that can get readers where they need to go, through use of headings, bullet lists, or numbered lists.
It’s about reducing friction for the reader experience by helping them get there and easily find what they want.
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