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Updated: April 29, 2022

A Shopify SEO Guide: How to Optimize Your Shopify Store For Search Engines

Over one million businesses in 175 countries utilize the Shopify platform to run their eCommerce websites. In the past year, the global number of merchants employing Shopify’s point of sale (POS) app has increased by 22%. As one of the best eCommerce platforms, Shopify is designed to accommodate scalable online stores, offering hundreds of customizable and SEO-friendly features and apps.

Global brands, with excellent SEO, like Gymshark, Unilever, Red Bull, Pepsi, and Tesla Motors, have built their digital presence with this powerful eCommerce platform. Surveying Shopify Plus customers by industry, we can see that retail (20%), fashion (13%), wholesale (6%), and computer software (5%) are the largest segments.

Shopify is one of the most versatile, full-featured, and constantly evolving eCommerce platforms available. Its integrated SEO features provide a robust starting point; however, you need to know how to leverage these SEO elements to increase the chance of making sales from search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

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How Shopify SEO Works?

Sellers seeking to improve their online presence look for the ability to connect directly with buyers and encourage them to spread the word, thus growing their customer base and market footprint. Just like any other website, Shopify SEO success is dependent on a variety of factors:

  • The number of backlinks pointing to your Shopify store from other websites
  • The authority of your website, based on engagement and 200 other ranking factors
  • The age of your domain name
  • Your website’s structure and content optimized for search engines

Developing a reputation online and ranking at the top of Google search engine results (SERPs) takes time and forms part of a long-term SEO strategy. In the short term, an effective way to increase organic traffic is to optimize your content so search engines recognize it as relevant to queries related to your products. This is Shopify SEO in a nutshell.

Shopify and Search Engine Optimization

SEO has a high ROI that improves with time. The top 10 ranking pages on search engine results pages are 2+ years old. Those that gain top 1 rankings are almost three years old. Roughly 95% of newly published pages don’t reach a top 10 ranking within a year, and most that do stay there for about 2-6 months.

Businesses unfamiliar with Shopify SEO typically rely on social media or paid ads, which are effective short-term but require constant effort and a significant budget. On the other hand, SEO needs upfront effort and updating, but once you rank and maintain your position, you’ll receive free, recurring high-converting traffic.

This matters because 49% of shoppers use Google to find products. An online store with no SEO strategy likely won’t appear in search results, losing out on potential clients. When technical, on-page, and off-page SEO align, visibility and leads increase.

high-converting traffic by SEO

How to Optimize Your Shopify Store for Search Engines?

Optimizing your Shopify site for users, creating pages that address specific keywords and user intent, and getting backlinks from other websites all form part of a strong Shopify SEO strategy.

Remove Duplicate Content

Google does not officially impose a penalty for duplicate content. However, it can impact search engine rankings because they struggle to determine which version is most relevant to a given search query. When there are several versions of the same content available online, Google inadvertently lowers the performance of all of them, since they’re competing against each other.

Duplicate content can occur onsite and offsite. Onsite duplication is when content appears twice or more on multiple URLs. Offsite duplication is when two or more different websites publish the same content.

There is a caveat, though; It is impossible to create 100% original content. Think about it, with the sheer volume of eCommerce descriptions on Shopify sites, unintentional duplication is bound to occur. Even a quote in a blog post is considered duplicate content. So, as a rule of thumb, while it’s impossible to remove all duplicate content, you should always eliminate it when and where you can.

Duplicate content isn’t merely limited to the copy and multimedia on a webpage. It also appears in search snippets via meta titles and meta tags. The free website health monitoring program Google Search Console is helpful to detect such content.

Onsite Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can be eliminated by doing the following:

  • Meta tags: Use canonical meta tags to tell search engines which pages not to index.
  • Heading tags: Ensure heading tags (labeled H#) within a web page’s body copy differ from other pages’ headings. Using non-generic, meaningful words and keywords will make this easier.
  • Unique product descriptions: Put in extra effort to write unique product descriptions. This may be challenging, but it will help differentiate your product pages from thousands of other product pages online.
  • 301 redirects: Applying a 301 redirect URL steers Google towards the page you deem most important for ranking. This resolves the issue of overlapping product category pages.

Offsite Duplicate Content

Even though you aren’t responsible for duplicate content on other online store websites, the onus is still on you to ensure your Shopify store rank remains unaffected. Manually finding duplicate web copy is possible but tedious, hence why most organizations use tools like Copyscape that’s designed to detect plagiarism and similar content on the web.

Once you’ve identified duplicate off-site copy, you should first ask the duplicating website to remove it. If they don’t, you can request Google remove the pages by filing a request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, whereby the search engine withdraws the content from the Google Index.

And remember, about 25%-30% of content online is duplicate, so don’t be disheartened by it. Just keep careful tabs on it and do away with it when and where possible.

Optimize Your Shop’s Structure

There are many Shopify sites, and competition is fierce. Therefore, it’s essential to optimize Shopify store elements like UI, product pages, load times, and site structure. A typical website structure with eCommerce functionality includes pages like categories and products.

A smart SEO structure should look something like this: Homepage > Category Page > Sub-Category Page > Product page.

An intuitive SEO structure

This Shopify site structure is intuitive and can be easily navigated by users and search engines. When adding new pages to your store, you should ensure each has a link in your store’s main navigation, and it’s no more than three clicks away from the homepage.

Website structuring aims to group content topically, so it’s simple for search engines to find and determine the importance of pages and ultimately achieve a high search engine ranking.

There are four main types of website structures for Shopify stores:

  • Hierarchical: This is the most common site architecture. Its layout is like a tree trunk. The homepage is the trunk, and the pages are the branches. For example, CNN.
  • Sequential: Whereas hierarchical structure leads visitors down or across to another page, sequential structures guide visitors through a step-by-step process. wikiHow’s individual pages are a good example of this.
  • Matrix: This structure is one of the oldest and lets visitors choose where they want to go next. Usually, these sites are navigated via search or internal links—for example, Wikipedia.
  • Database: Building a website with this structure requires careful planning because it integrates a database using searches. Medium’s posts and pages are excellent examples.
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Use Product Tags

Shopify store tags are customized descriptors used to categorize products, customer data, orders, blog posts, transfers, etc. As many as 250 tags can be added to a single product, which helps to improve business organization, communication, and marketing tactics. While they don’t rank in search engine result pages, they can be used as keywords on a pages’ content, titles tags, meta descriptions, and URLs.

Enhance Shopify SEO With Product Tags

Essentially, product tags offer optimized product taxonomy to your product page links, which improves Shopify SEO. For example, tags listed on the main product area, count towards page content, impacting SERP ranking. Similarly, using product tags as relevant keywords in a page title will enhance SEO.

Before attempting this, it’s important to conduct keyword research to know what terms users are typing into Google and other search engines. This allows you to strategically include them in your content. An SEO tip: You should always tag products according to function and physical attributes. For example, “wooden, serving utensils.”

Shopify Product Tags in Page Content

So long as product tags align with users’ queries and don’t appear more than 20 times, it’s perfectly acceptable to use them in page content to help boost SEO success. You can also optimize Shopify meta descriptions with product tags.

A meta description is a small blurb that appears under your website on SERPs, providing a brief summary of what a page is about. It’s advisable to keep characters below 60 characters, as Google won’t display more.

Shopify Product Title Tags in URLs

Shopify product selections can be browsed by tag, and each tag receives a URL. For instance, https://www.example.com/collection/[collection]/[tag]. It’s vital the keywords in a URL are unique; otherwise, you may have duplicate content. As we mentioned earlier, technically, it’s not a penalty; Google just ignores the URLs and doesn’t rank them at all.

Using clean SEO-friendly URLs is also encouraged by Google. If you can read and understand a URL, then it is clean. If you have URLs that are ranking but not clean, it’s best to keep them to avoid losing a page’s social proof. Ideally, you want to get the URL structure correct when creating pages and uploading products.

For example:

  • A bad URL: https://happyshoes.com/about.html
  • A good, clean URL: https://www.happyshoes.com/about

Improve User Experience

User experience has to do with how an individual interacts with an eCommerce site. Websites are lead-generating tools. They must lead users through the process of understanding what your Shopify site is about, why your product or service is valuable, and what they need to when they’re ready to purchase. A website is useless without user experience consideration; 88% of online shoppers say they won’t return to a site after having a bad experience.

Improve Your UI

UI or user interface design focuses on a website’s look or style. Obviously, an eCommerce site should be easy to navigate with clear and simple menus. Implementing the following also helps:

Use White Space

Of all the ways to improve website design, using “white” or negative space is the easiest because it makes content legible, and helps users focus on specific elements. For example, research indicates negative space between paragraphs and in the margin increases comprehension by 20%.

A website design should breathe, and you won’t know how yours reads until you test it. However, as a rule of thumb, try not to cram information into pages. A clean and spacious UI automatically calms a viewer’s mind and leaves a stronger visual impression.

Consider Page Intention

Every web page should have one intention. While an internal linking structure can connect all pages, each should be devoted to a particular subject or goal. Navigational elements, blocks, and page titles should immediately inform visitors of the page’s goal. Additionally, having clear calls-to-action makes it easy for them to know what to do next, too.

Focusing on the most relevant page is also important. For instance, if you open a blog post, it’s possible to view other articles below, but their headlines or icons don’t detract from the page you’re reading. The same goes for product pages. To keep users interested, eCommerce stores often have “you may also like” sections at the bottom of the main product listings.

Choose Color Carefully

Color is the first thing visitors notice when they visit a site. If you think about brands like Nike, McDonald’s, and Burger King, they all have specific color schemes, making them immediately identifiable online and offline. Every website requires a color scheme to attain brand consistency.

Colors convey mood and define emotional states. To quote branding strategy insider: “Having [online shoppers] be in the most receptive mood is essential for their engagement with your brand. Color sets the mood of brand expression, and more importantly, creates mental associations to the meaning of your brand within the context of the world it lives in.”

Using color sets for web design

Work on Responsive Design

Responsive design aims to build web pages with layouts that change according to screen size and orientation. This helps optimize web pages for mobile search, providing a consistent user experience across all devices. Considering 80% of website visitors use their smartphone when searching online, being mobile-friendly is a must to remain competitive.

Thankfully, there are several great Shopify themes already optimized for mobile. Choosing one of them alleviates a fair amount of UX work and ensures your website displays perfectly from a tablet, smartphone, desktop, or laptop. Fair enough, but why does this matter?

On a rudimentary level, happy customers spend more money. And a great site = happy customers. But, there’s more to it than that; mobile-friendly sites experience a higher search ranking due to Google’s mobile-first indexing, which was introduced in 2020

It means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of your Shopify site to index and rank pages. Historically, it used the desktop version, but since most website visitors come from smartphones, it makes more sense to evaluate relevant mobile pages relating to a user’s query.

A quick SEO tip: Related to responsive web design is Shopify site load time. Google’s acceptable loading time for an eCommerce store web page is under two seconds. This matters because the search engine will push slower loading sites below relevant ones that load faster. Therefore, you must ensure load speed is optimal.

loading time is 2 seconds

Optimize Your Pages for the Right Keywords

Keywords determine where Shopify stores appear in search results. If you want to rank higher, you have to optimize your site for relevant keywords that users are searching for. The way to do this is through keyword research. A useful keyword research tool like Google Search Console and Google Keyword Planner will help you find target and related keywords for your site.

When it comes to eCommerce stores, it’s a good idea to focus on long-tail keywords. These contain three or more words, like “buy iPhone 12”. These work better for eCommerce because they provide specific details that help improve visibility in a niche, rather than just writing “buy smartphone” or “buy iPhone.”

Once you’ve identified relevant keywords, you’ll want to include them in the meta description of pages, headings, and title tags. Positioning keywords in these high-value spots ensure you rank better for them because Google can quickly determine what each page is about and its relevance to users.

A sentiment that Shopify holds, and something worthwhile reiterating, is the usage of keywords in a natural and readable way. It doesn’t matter how high a keyword ranks; if it doesn’t make sense or is randomly used, search engines and users might ignore it.

Finding the appropriate keywords to match search queries depends on search intent. There are four types of keywords:

  1. Informational: Answer a specific question.
  2. Navigational: Intend to find a specific page or site.
  3. Commercial: Suggest an intention to buy something
  4. Transactional: Answer how to complete an action or purchase

The intent assigned to different keywords reveals if a searcher is looking to buy something immediately, shop around, or gather information. For eCommerce, the majority of keywords will be commercial or product-based. In most cases, you’ll want to rank for commercial keywords.

So, here is the list of actions we recommend to optimize your Shopify Store:

Optimize Your Shopify Store

Technical Optimization to Improve Your Shopify SEO

Disclaimer: There are many Shopify apps available to supercharge SEO. However, when it comes to technical SEO, Shopify is developed in Liquid, an open-source template language written in Ruby. If you aren’t an expert web developer, it may not be possible to solve all technical SEO issues by yourself.

Robots.txt File Access

A robot.txt is a text file that informs web robots about which areas of the website should not be scanned or crawled. Getting “crawled” is essential to rank on search engines, and preventing search engines from accessing certain pages is vital for site privacy and SEO.

Unfortunately, regardless of the Shopify subscription you have, Shopify creates default robots.txt files that are optimal for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but they can’t be edited. Incorrect use of a robot.txt can result in the loss of traffic, so if you’re having SEO issues, related to robot.txt files, it’s most important you hire a Shopify expert to edit the code for you.

Tag Pages and Category Pages

Another technical SEO issue that arises with Shopify is the inability to optimize pages easily. For example, if you were a fashion eCommerce store, you might want to set up tags on a dress collection as follows:

  • /collections/women-dresses
  • /collections/women-dresses/short-sleeve
  • /collections/women-dresses/long-sleeve

While the main collection page is one you’d optimize for general women’s dresses target keywords, you’d also want to optimize for each category. However, there is no easy way in Shopify admin to add content to these pages. You either have to edit your Shopify theme (time-consuming!) or use Shopify apps, which are still limited. Again, the best solution is to get expert help.

Image Optimization

While you can’t edit image URLs or filenames, you can edit alt tags, which still contributes towards SEO online. You have to edit alt tags each time an image appears on your website, even though the same image may appear on different pages. This means keeping concise and consistent with descriptions and including keywords each time.

Shopify SEO apps like TinyIMG SEO will automatically compress images and upload them to your store. Optimized images reduce loading time to improve site speed. Even a few milliseconds can be the difference between losing or gaining new customers.

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Conclusion

By implementing these SEO techniques, you’ll convert prospects into customers and improve overall sales for eCommerce success. As you can tell from our Shopify SEO guide, SEO is a complex undertaking with many moving parts. From doing keyword research to developing structured data, there’s a lot that store owners need to implement to ensure the best SEO practices.

Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone! Comrade Web Digital Marketing agency specializes in helping Shopify businesses with SEO. We’ll do everything to make your website runs fast and receive organic traffic to boost sales. With our team of experts, you’ll increase search engine traffic by 175%. To start, try our complimentary SEO audit.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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About the Author
Stan Bogdashin
Stan co-founded Comrade Digital Marketing and serves as its marketing strategist and IT expert recruiter.
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