Shopify is the most popular e-commerce solution on the planet. So how do you compete with all of the other shops on search engine optimization (SEO)? That’s what we’re going to look at in this guide to Shopify SEO. It’s not all that different from doing SEO for a regular site. In fact, Shopify has some amazing features and plugins that make doing SEO a whole lot easier than you think.
Quick Overview of SEO
Just in case you are unfamiliar, SEO is a set of techniques and practices used to make your site easier to search engines to crawl and analyze. Search engines use information from your site to rank it relative to others. The upshot is that the higher your site is placed, the more likely you will get a click to your site and an opportunity to make a sale. The number of clicks increases dramatically the higher you get, so fighting for the top positions is crucial!
SEO techniques come in three varieties:
Technical – SEO techniques on your site that don’t involve content (e.g. site speed)
On-site – SEO techniques on your site that are content-related (e.g. metas)
Off-site – SEO techniques involving factors outside your site (e.g. backlinks)
Off-site SEO techniques are pretty much the same for any e-commerce site, so there’s nothing specific for Shopify. Moz has an excellent guide to off-site SEO that you should investigate after you get your technical and on-site SEO in order. Off-site SEO works best when the other two are in order.
Shopify takes care of most technical SEO issues, but it isn’t perfect. Depending on your themes and plugins you could find your site isn’t doing as well as it could be. Slow e-commerce sites are a big reason for cart abandonment. Therefore, you should make site speed your primary focus for technical SEO.
The first thing to do for technical SEO is to get a site audit. Plug in SEO is a popular Shopify app that will identify technical SEO problems on your website and give you fixes for them. It comes in both free and paid versions. You can also use SEMRush as another check for potential troubles.
Many of the fixes suggested will require knowing a bit about how websites work. One of the reasons Plug in SEO is so popular is because it walks you through the steps and tells you how much of a hassle it will be to fix the issue.
Here are some things that Shopify automatically handles for you:
- Sitemaps are updated every time you update a page.
- Canonical URLs (a huge plus that removes duplicate content worries for your products.)
- WWW redirection (shop.com will redirect to www.shop.com)
But what about speed? Shopify does have speed improvements built in, but the theme you choose can greatly alter the speed your site loads. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to compare the speeds of different themes by using a speed tool like GTMetrix or PageSpeed Insights. Choosing a theme that loads fast will increase the chances your visitors will stay on your site.
Shoot for a load speed that is under five seconds, but don’t be shy about pushing it even faster search engine optimization if you can.
The part of SEO most under your control is on-site SEO, i.e. your content. You can never go wrong with improving your content. It doesn’t just improve your SEO. Good content brings in more conversions. It can also lower your ad spend if you’re using PPC.
From an SEO perspective, good on-site SEO has two factors. First, you need to write content that is easily scannable by search engines. Second, you have to write content that aligns with the things your audience searches for. Good content has to appeal to both search engines and to the audience, not just one or the other. The usual mistake is to try writing just for the search engine.
Honestly, if you write good copy that reads well, is related to what the page is about, and isn’t a duplication, you’re 80% of the way there. Here are some other things to look for:
Images – Use your alt tags! Alt tags tell Google (and people who can’t load images) about your images. Your alt tags should identify what the image is or how it contributes to the piece. Think of them like hidden captions.
Titles/Metas/Headings – Without getting too deep into the weeds, the most important thing about these is that they should align. The most important keyword for the page should show up once in all three locations. However, individual headings on the page should all be different from each other.
Avoid Manufacturer Descriptions – This is a big error. Manufacturers will create descriptions for their products to help retailers describe it to their customers. Great for the physical retail market and direct mail, but a terrible idea online. You should create your own product descriptions for all items to avoid duplicating content.
Shopify takes care of many SEO hassles for you, but there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of getting a high ranking. Follow the tips in this SEO guide and you’ll have a better chance of achieving a high position.
Chris Hickman is the Founder and CEO at Adficient with 15 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. Since 2006, he founded GetBackonGoogle.com, helping businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to Get Back on Google