So you’ve built an amazing storefront and have a killer product that everybody wants to buy - or so you think - but you need to get people through the front door first.
And to do that, you need to make sure that your customers can find your store first.
Online shopping is the norm today; because of that there is a lot of noise out there, and that means you’re competing with an ever-increasing number of brands for your customers’ time and loyalty.
Luckily, there’s plenty of things you can do to ensure you’re getting in front of as many motivated buyers as possible. But before we dive into that, let’s address one extremely common question:
Is Shopify even good for SEO?
Not only are you working on a great platform that gives you extremely granular control over every aspect of your online store - SEO included - you get the benefits of an enterprise-grade CDN (content delivery network) powered by Fastly.
You don’t need to be a tech expert and get into the details, what matters is this means that your store will load reliably, and quickly anywhere on the globe. Site performance is a major technical SEO factor, so the fact that Shopify eliminates the time and cost overhead of site optimization and management means you get to spend your time focusing on running and growing your business.
The short version is that not only is Shopify good for SEO, it makes it easy to do.
So, what can you do without having to hire a pro to maximize your Shopify store’s SEO? I’ll split this into two categories: things specific to Shopify, and things relevant to web SEO in general.
This is the stuff you need to be doing at the bare minimum for all your web properties. It’s not hard, just tedious, so the sooner and more often you get it taken care of and set up, the easier your life will be!
I’ll only touch on the major points of these, but for a really in-depth look at SEO go read my How To SEO Audit series of articles.
The first thing you absolutely must do is nail down your keyword research. You might think you know exactly what keywords to target, but this will let you figure out that out for sure and give you a better understanding of both your market and how they’re looking and searching for what you offer.
Keyword research is probably going to be the most time consuming portion of your Shopify SEO journey, but trust me - it will pay off dividends later.
And remember - it’s automatically giving you a leg up on your competitors who don’t take the time to do this step right, or at all!
First things first - most ‘first pass’ keywords are broad and don’t have intention.
Let’s take a step back and figure out:
- Who is it that you’re targeting?
- What problem do they have that you solve?
- Why are they trying to solve that issue?
- When searching for solutions to this issue, how do they do so?
- What questions are they asking?
- What specific words are they using?
- Why does that issue exist in the first place?
- How do you solve that issue for them?
Going through the exercise of these questions puts you in a much better place to “get” your buyer’s behavior, intent, and search habits, letting you better form your keyword strategy.
Not only that, it has the secondary benefits of informing both your content strategy and your lead capture system and sales funnels!
From this point you can jump into determining search volumes, related keywords, expanding into long-tail keywords, recording the competition landscape - but above all else, ensure that while you’re going through that exercise you keep in mind your buyer’s intent, and how you are solving a problem for them.
Review and Grow Your Content Marketing
Content is king in the eyes of Google, and it’s your number one tool in winning the SEO game when you don’t yet have an established backlink profile.
This is your time to shine with content that directly addresses those buyer problems we were talking about earlier. Giving them content where they can be the hero of the story using your products to achieve success is one of the most tried and true and timelessly-effective strategies.
Also, realize that you often need to build up a relationship with prospective buyers. Consumers aren’t impulse purchasing as much as they used to, and for better or worse there’s a significantly longer sales cycle for consumer goods than we’ve seen in the past as reviews and ratings are only a few searches away.
So leverage your content to start establishing a relationship where you provide value before any money has even exchanged hands. No one likes the pushy salesman, don’t let your content be that guy!
And then remember: great content gets shared - and really great content that gets shared gets backlinks. This is ultimately what we want to aim for; make sure your blog and other content pieces are genuinely useful to your audience and not just a sales pitch.
Technical Shopify SEO
This is thankfully mostly hands off here because of Shopify’s infrastructure. Even so, there are a few due-diligence and sanity checks you should do.
First up is to review your site’s link profile. If you have any old products that moved or were discontinued, you will end up with a 404 error, and Googlebot doesn’t like that any more than your customers do!
Head over to your Google Search Console dashboard and check the “coverage” tab. This will give you a list of any errors. Check to see what, if any, errors show up and make a list. If you have any 404 pages that don’t exist anymore, you’ll want to redirect them to their replacement products, or you’ll need to find a relevant landing page to take users to.
You can do this from the
Navigation --> Redirects menu in Shopify. You simply type in the previous URL - the one that’s missing - and then your new URL where you want users to end up, and then click add and you’re done!
And our last item of business here is to just get a health check on site performance. Go check out the technical audit article for more details, but all you need to do here is run your site’s URL though tools like GTMetrix, Pingdom, or Webpagetest.org and make sure there aren’t any glaring issues.
Most likely you’ll be in the clear, but double checking can make sure you aren’t loading any massive images by mistake and causing your user’s experience to be anything but enjoyable and snappy.
Now on to the Shopify SEO specific tasks.
Keep your content clean & organized
I’ve seen some ridiculous site structures before, don’t let your site make it onto my mental wall of shame!
In all seriousness though, what this means is that you want to put your site’s content into clear, hierarchal, sensible patterns. In specific terms, this just means that you aren’t putting sandals in the outerwear category.
It’s really easy for the best of us to get slipped up when building catalogues of hundreds of items, so don’t worry if your tags and categorization(s) are a bit off - the beauty of using shopify over other ecommerce platforms is that it’s extremely easy to restructure and organize whenever you need to without the fear of something breaking.
There’s really not much more to elaborate on here - just double check that your product hierarchy makes sense, remap and reorganize it if you need to, and then let shopify handle all the behind-the-scenes display magic to deliver that new an improved experience to your consumers.
Also, while you’re in there, make sure you don’t have any duplicates. Contrary to popular myths, Google doesn’t actually apply an explicit duplicate content penalty, but it will only show one piece of relevant content of those duplicates - so if you have some overlapping products, it’s very possible only one will show up and you have no control over which because Google will try and guess!
And on that note:
If your product only varies by one parameter - size or color would be the most common examples - make sure you are using product variants and not individual pages. If you don’t do this and have a page for each variant you’ll confuse the search engines, they won’t like your content, your users won’t see your product, and you won’t make sales.
We definitely don’t want that.
But once you’ve gotten your site architecture in order and cleaned house we can get to our final stage!
Product Page Optimization
You’ve locked down your keywords, examined your content strategy, and reorganized and streamlined your site’s architecture, so now we can look at our product page optimization process.
This is very similar to how you’d approach on-page seo (which you’ll want to do anyways for your non-products, but you did already do that when you launched your site, right?)
Regarding product pages, remember what people will see on their SERP (search engine results page):
- The page Title
- The page Description
The title needs to be unique, specific, and relevant, and keep it under 68 characters otherwise it will get cut off! Try and include your keyword in it as well; title tags are factored in by the bots.
The description meta tag, on the other hand, is not! That means you can 100% leverage it any way you see fit to act as your SERP sales copy. Hell, you can even use emojis in meta descriptions now too! That’s your only opportunity on the SERP page to engage with and convince the buyer that you provide the solution to what they’re after.
From there, take care of your on-page copy. Make it customer-centric, and discuss how it solves their problems and helps them rather than trying to directly “sell-sell-sell”.
With changes in SEO, at least at the time of writing, a11y is becoming a bigger concern, so do remember all your alt tags and other necessary a11y items.
And that about wraps up the basics! If you really want to maximize your Shopify SEO, and your store in general, shoot me an email for a free consult, no strings attached - I’m a Shopify Partner and love pointing people in the right direction.
There’s a much larger conversation about how to build and leverage a holistic content marketing strategy, but that’s best kept for a much more expansive eBook or video/podcast. Make sure to subscribe below so you don’t miss it when it drops (whatever form it’s in)!