Shopify SEO: The Definitive How-To Guide For Beginners

Shopify SEO: The Definitive How-To Guide For Beginners

Outline

You must have read tons of selling on Shopify guides at this point, and most of them talked about how you should jump straight to Paid Ads to drive traffic and buyers to your store, which is not entirely wrong. If you're on an expert level, you can balance nicely between Income and Advertising cost. However, too often, we found that Organic traffic, and to be more specific, Shopify SEO, is glossed over, despite the fact that SEO has the highest ROI of any marketing strategies

how SEO can boost your traffic

This graph from SEMrush.com reviews 4 of the popular marketing channels in terms of time/outcome ratio. 

With that being said, people have a reason to bank on Paid Ads - you can get a quicker win. On the other hand, SEO is a demanding marathon that requires you to bring forth your efforts upfront to get it right from the very starting steps - but once you rank, you can rather sit back and enjoy a passive income with no recurring cost. 

SEO-organic-traffic-case-study

Hollywood Mirrors - a Shopify store, was able to double their revenue from organic search online (Source)


So in this article, we will walk you through the very basics of Shopify SEO - or to put it simply, what you need to do the moment your trial ends and you embark on a serious journey of growing your store, organically. Hence, this tutorial would be be best for: 

  • New Shopify merchants who are building your Shopify stores and learn how to improve SEO on Shopify and grow organic traffic 
  • Growth marketers who want to employ innovative methods Shopify SEO optimization and sales growth. 

Step 01: Understand Shopify SEO

What's the difference between Shopify SEO, and let's say, regular SEO?

Not much, both follow the same principles and set of basic rules. Shopify SEO tactics can also be categorized in the same three buckets: 

  • On-page SEO: On-page SEO covers all approaches you use to help search engines better understand and rank your content - which includes making content friendly and useful to your target audience; then optimizing your headings, tags, links so it can also be friendly to search engines. 
  • Off-page SEO: Off-page SEO covers all activities carried out on another site or platforms, including, but not limited to Link Building, Social Media, Local citation, landing reviews. 
  • Technical SEO: Technical SEO covers all activities that play a deciding role in whether your Shopify store gets indexed by search engines, including: site speed optimization, structured data, canonicalization, hreflang, and more all classes as technical SEO.

However, when it comes to Shopify SEO, there are several differences, both good and bad: 

Is Shopify Good For SEO? 

Is Shopify Bad For SEO? 

Speed: Shopify's CDN allows your online store to load quickly around the globe

Low capacity for content customization: Your options for customizing your blog pages, or regular pages are limited, which can be a hinder to your content marketing approach

SEO built-in features: Shopify has all the basic built-in SEO options that most stores need: Automatic sitemap, 301 redirects, URLs personalization, etc. 

Strings in URL: Shopify add some defaults fixed string to URL, etc. For example, a product page will have a mandatory ‘/products/’ in their URL.

Apps: A wide variety of apps supporting you in improving your SEO performance 


With a quick analysis, the Goods outweighed the bad

If you’re an SEO expert, you might need to rethink. But as an online store owner, Shopify makes it simple and efficient enough to navigate around lots of SEO's mind-boggling terminologies, and quickly pick up the basics to improve SEO. 

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Step 02: Setting up Google Search Console and Submit Your Sitemap

Let’s take a look at this detailed tutorial to learn how you can set up your Google Search Console, understand Shopify sitemap and how to submit one so that your customers can locate your treasure in the forest of Google search results.

Step 03: Setting up Google Analytics For Shopify Store

Check out how to connect eCommerce data from Shopify to Google Analytics to better measure your sales performance and your online store performance. 

For more in-depth analysis and tutorials, check out our guide: Shopify Google Analytics Convesion Tracking For Beginners

Step 04: Define Your Store Structure

With Shopify SEO, we'd recommend you use Hierarchical model, that should look like this: 

seo structure

In Shopify, you'll generally use the following page types: 

  • Homepage
  • Collection Pages
  • Product Pages 
  • Informational Pages (contact us, about)
  • Blog 

The Homepage should be on top of the hierarchy, followed by the main categories (level 1), sub-categories (level 2) and finally the product pages (level 3).

This structure helps you to achieve the 1st golden rule in the site structure: No more than 03 clicks - simply put, potential buyers should be able to find what they're looking for in three clicks or less. Besides a better navigation experience for users, this 3-click rule allows your Homepage to distribute its authority to all of your major categories and product pages, thus, providing them a better chance to rank highly. 

Let's do a thought experiment: Think of page authority as water, and links between pages are canals, and each page is a pool. Simply put, the more canals connected to a pool, the more water that pool has, the more important that pool is in the eye of the Search engine. That's why your canals system needs to be simple and scalable. 

SEO-Site-structure

Source: Kissmetric.com

Let's take at a simple example from our Demo Shopify store: 

On our homepage, we have two main categories: Blog and Collection. 

categories-example

Under the collection category are our subcategories - which are smaller collections. And of course, within each collection are product pages. 

Navigation-link

This led us two the 2nd rule: Create a simple menu that replicates the site structure. Menu can be easily managed under Online Stores -> Navigation in your Shopify dashboard. 

How to create your menu

Step 05: Perform Keyword research your Shopify SEO

Keyword research is the very foundation of your SEO success - the reason is simple: we Googled in keywords. Thousands of search queries are typed into search engines every second - our job is to find out which one converts! 

It sounds simple, but not so in reality. 

Let's say you're selling Dog Chew Toys - which will be the keywords you're going to target? 

  1. How to keep my dog happy? 
  2. Dog toys near me
  3. Buy dog chew toys online

Now you want to target the last one right, but should you? 

Hold off your horse - Before jumping right into it, let take a step back - these three options are three types of keyword: 

  1. Informational keyword - this type of keyword matches the first stage of the online buyer journey - Awareness. Buyers use informational keywords to help them learn more about a topic, problem, product. 
  2. Navigational keyword - this type of keyword matches the second stage of the online buyer journey - Consideration. Buyers use Navigation keywords to learn about a specific offering (dog toys) - these keywords often include brand-specific terms and navigational phrases like Near me, Features of, Reviews, Prices. 
  3. Transactional keyword - this type of keyword matches the 3rd stage of the online buyer journey - Conversion. Buyers are ready to buy, and they are using transactional keyword (or product-focused keywords) to take action. Hence, these keywords often include phrases like: Discount, Buy, For Sale, Where to buy, etc. 

“What am I going to do with this information?” - asked you? 

Simply put, you use Informational keywords and Navigational keywords for creating content (blog posts, video, tutorials) to lead potential buyers to your store, and get them to be familiar with your brand. 

At the same time, You use Transactional keywords for your Product Pages, to tailor the product pages and match it with the conversion step of the buyer's purchase process. 

Now, let’s go over the keyword research process 

Step 5.1: Keyword research tools 

1. Aliexpress 

Head-to-head with Amazon, Aliexpress is one of the biggest eCommerce sites, and also a goldmine of keywords. To tap into its potential, first head over to Aliexpress, enter a keyword that describes your products and check the suggestions. 

How to find keyword ideas on Aliexpress

The suggested keywords are often long-tail keywords, which tends to have a clearer buying intent, convert better and have lower competition. 

This tactic can be easily replicated on Amazon as well! 

2. Answerthepublic


Answer the public is a great tool to explore long-tail keyword ideas. Head over to Answerthepublic.com, enter your broad keyword (dog toys). 

Answer The Public keyword tool

Wait for a for minutes, and get access to a bountiful of long-tailed keywords that can be used for your blog pages, or for your product pages. 

answer-the-public-keyword-tool

3. Keywordtool.io

Similar to Answerthepublic, Keywordtool.io helps you explore long-tail keyword ideas. Free plan is available, but you'd need to upgrade to see more details, like search volume and keyword difficulty

keyword-tool

Step 5.2: Keyword selection tools

The above approaches should help you get plenty of keyword ideas for your Shopify store - the next question is What keyword should you select? 

To decide it, use these 02 main criteria: Search Volume and Keyword Difficulty. 

  • Search volume tells you how many people have used a specific search query. 
  • Keyword difficulty tells you how competitive that keyword is. 

So the ideal approach is that we'd want to target keywords having medium to large search volume, and medium to low competition. We'll introduce how you can get access to these data

1. Google Keyword Planner 

Google Keyword Planner is a built-in tool in Google Ads, you’d need to create a Google Ads account to get access to it - which should take you just a few minutes, plus, it's a free tool - so why not? 

After logging in, you have two options: You can explore more keyword ideas (whose functions are similar to those of Keywordtool.io) or to get search volume data of your selected keyword. 

Google Ads keyword planner

Since we’re talking about how to select a keyword, head to option 2: 

You can either enter your keywords, or put all of your keywords in a CSV file and upload it onto the search box. 

Google Ads tool 

After that, select Historical Metrics tab, you'll see Search volume and Competition information. Top of the page bid indicates how much money you'll need to spend to get Ads about Dog Toys to the top of the page. A high CPC indicates buyer intent - however, “high” is relative, for some niches, $3.73 is a bargain, but with Dog Toys, $3.73 is considerable. 

Google Ads tool result

As you can see, dog toys has an attractive Avg. Monthly searches, but high competition. So you might want to try out other long-tail keywords.  

2. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Ahrefs is an SEO software suite that provides tools for keyword research, link building, rank tracking and many more. The pricing can be a bit too high for new Shopify store owners, but I can tell it's worth every cent! 

Let see how we can use Ahrefs Keyword Explorer to determine which keywords can help you grow sales? 

First, head over to Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, enter your keywords or upload a CSV file containing all keywords. 

Ahref keyword explorer

You'll get a detailed report including Keyword difficulty, Search volume, and a list of your direct competitors who are also ranking for that keyword. 

Keyword report from Ahref

Scroll down to see whom you're competing with - this helps you estimate how much efforts, SEO-wise, you need to make to get to Top 10 of search results. For example, the #1 result (Chewy.com) has strong Domain Rating (the strength) of a domain, over 1000 backlinks - can you compete with that? If you're a new Shopify merchant building your store, taking a long-tail keyword route might be a better idea. 

Ahref keyword results

Or if you're on budget, you can use Ahrefs's free tools like Keyword Difficulty checker to check more details about the competitiveness of a keyword, or Keyword generator to get more keyword ideas. We'll come back to Ahrefs' free tool later in Step 5 and 6. 

Ahref free tools

If you want to get really technical about keyword research, check out this tutorial from Ahrefs themselves: Keyword Research guide for beginner.


Step 6: On-page SEO for Your Shopify Pages

Before we dive in, check out this sweet summary of a perfectly optimized ecommerce product page: 

Anatomy of On-page SEO

(Source: SEMrush.com) 

Related article: How To Make Your Product Pages SEO-Friendly [Tutorials]

Step 6.1. URL 

A simple rule to follow: 

The URLs of your Product pages should be short, easy to scan and contain your focus keyword. 

You might have seen an URL for a product page like this: storename.com/collections/collection-name/products/products-name and there are discussions about why long URLs like that are not preferred by search engines. 

While it is true that Google, or any other search engines, prefers short URLs, Shopify’s built-in SEO capacity also helps you canonicalize your product pages - to put it simply, it tells Google which version of your product page is the primary version. 

In this example, we can see that even though, the current URL is: https://beariestore.com/collections/bearie-t-shirts/products/short-sleeve-t-shirt-bearie_sleep 

The canonical one is a shorter version: https://beariestore.com/products/short-sleeve-t-shirt-bearie_sleep

Shopify Cannonicalization 

So you can rest assured that Shopify makes your URLs look good in the search engine’s eyes. 


Step 6.2. Title 

Naturally, you want to include your focus keyword in the Title tag, whether it's a product page or a blog page. 

But that's also what everyone is doing. To take it to the next level, you'd need to: 

  • Add emotion-triggering, click-magnet words: Buyers are human too :) they are influenced by powerful words like X% off, Free Shipping, Guarantee

These click-magnet words help you increase your CTR, a higher CTR = more clicks = more sales. Quick math! 

  • Be mindful of the length of characters: The Title tag should be less than 70 characters, while your meta description should be less than 320 characters. 

Check out how Shopify SEO built-in tool makes it much easier for you to edit Page Title and Description. 

How to edit Shopify SEO

Step 6.3. Meta description

Similar to the Title tag, Meta description should have less than 320 characters (as indicated in Shopify SEO section), including focus keyword, related keywords and product features. 

Now this is where most SEO beginners got it wrong - by cramming keywords into the meta description - in fact, it won't help at your SEO at all. Your meta description should be: 

  • Contain power keyword: Try now, Get it now, Buy now, Sales off 
  • Be descriptive - tell audience what to expect 

Why? A persuasive copy helps your page get more clicks, and a higher CTR tells Search Engines about the attractiveness of your page - playing effects in climbing to a higher ranking. 

PRO TIP 1: Now, Shopify SEO built-in tool shown above, without a doubt, is pretty handy to most SEO beginners. Unfortunately, the configuration was a bit outdated - Google no longer counts Title tag and meta description in the number of characters, it uses pixels instead. So how do you get the perfect SEO title and meta tag for your Product Pages? 

Use this tool as an additional resource when crafting your Shopify SEO copies: 

On-page SEO tool for Shopify store

Simply enter your Title, Meta and URL, and get an accurate SERP simulator to see if your Title or Meta are chopped off where it matters! As you can see, the Title should be under 560 pixels, URL should contain less than 560 pixels and META tag should be 990 pixels. 


PRO TIP 02: It's easy to get lumbered with writing title tags and meta tags for your product pages, especially when you have hundreds of pages. How can you make it easier? By spying on Google Ads results of that keyword! 

Head over to Isearchfrom.com, enter your keyword, choose your Language, Country and Device. 

Shopify SEO tool

In an instance, you can see all Google Ads results, plus organic results for your keyword. The 1st Google Ads results are often the ones with the best Click-through-rate, which means you can take them as the standards, or inspiration to write your own copies. 

Notice the meta tag of the Ad from Chewy.com - it has the focus keyword, brand name, a number of proof (18000+, 24/7), power words (Free, Now, Low Prices). This is a good example to learn from and apply for your own Product pages. 

 

Ideas for Meta description copies

Step 6.4. Body content 


Most category pages or product pages get straight to the products with no introduction — which isn’t good for User experience, and for Search Engines. 

You should aim for at least a 300-word intro with your keyword included at least 2-3 times. (But don’t stuff it in there — make it flow and look natural.)

After that, you can use User-generated content, especially Product Reviews to rank for more keywords and increase conversion rate probabilities. Check out this example for Solo Stove where they masterfully combine Long-form content, Video content, Product Reviews and Excellent product usability wrapped up in a nice design. 

To sum up, check out this format from Bigcommerce.com 

Body content sum up

Learn more about how to design a rocking product page with PageFly's Ultimate Guide to eCommerce Product Page Design


PRO TIP 1: Avoid using jargon, overcomplicated words. Use words and phrases that your customer uses. 

Use Hemingway app to check if your content can be easily scanned and has good readability. 

Copywriting tool for SEO

PRO TIP 2: Use LSI (Latent Indexing Intent). 

LSI keywords are essentially keywords that are semantically related to your main keyword, used in a search query. These LSI keywords supplement the main keywords and act as helpers to give stronger contextual information to the search engines and users.

Simply enter your focus keyword in LSIgraph.com 

LSI graph tool

Let LSI database do the heavy work, and get a list of LSI keywords that you can use for your Product Page content 

How to find LSI keywords for your Shopify store

Step 6.5. Image ALT 

Google can’t read images, they rely on alt text to know what it’s about which provides you another opportunity to include your keyword on the page, but only if it's relevant. 

Keyword cramming is never good, whether in Page content, or in Image ALT. Write ALT text like you're describing the images to a visually-impaired person. 

To optimize your Image ALT, check out this Shopify SEO app: 

Avada SEO Image Optimizer helps you quickly optimize your Alt tag, among other great options like Meta tags optimization, SEO checklist or auto-complete Google Structured Data. 

Shopify SEO app Avada

Step 6.6. Structured data & Rich Snippets 

This is an example of rich snippets

Structured data example

(Image Source)

Rich snippets are results of implementing structured data markup. 

Structured data markup gives search engines more information about your website and its content. 

It does not only help users get a better idea of your pages, especially product pages, it also provides Google with valuable information about your products (e.g. pricing, availability, rating, number of reviews, etc.). 

It can also give detailed information about your business (e.g. logo, address, contact information, connected social media pages, founders, subsidiaries, etc.).

In short, Using rich snippets can make your SERP look more attractive, in the eyes of both online buyers and search engines, which adds up to a higher ranking and a better click-through rate. 

You can easily implement rich snippets for your Shopify store, using this SEO app

Shopify SEO app

Check out this guide on how you can implement Structured Data for your Shopify store. 

Step 6.7: Page Experience & Page Speed 

Google explicitly tells us that Page Speed and Page Experience are one of the ranking factors. 

A good page speed alone would not do for your ranking, it must be supplemented with other page experience factors including Design, Interactivity, Safe-browsing, Mobile-friendliness. 

It's also stated that while Page Experience is important, helpful information must go hand-in-hand. 

Improving Page Experience can start with: 

  • Make mobile and desktop navigation effortless 
  • Decrease landing page load time.
  • Improve your page speed
  • Customize your landing page 

You can achieve all of these approaches with PageFly's recommended customization capacity. 

PageFly customization capacity

Stores built with PageFly 

With PageFly Landing Page Builder, you can bid farewell to the plain old simple product pages, breath your brand personality into your Shopify store, tweak it your way with PageFly's libarary of customization options and optimize page speed. All in one. 


Try PageFly For FREE

Step 7: Internal link building 

So we've been talking about general SEO tactics that can be applied for both Product Pages and Blog Pages - but which one should you focus on? How can you make your Shopify SEO efforts systematic, and especially, scalable. 

Internal links also aid the flow of PageRank around your site. To put it simply, the more internal links a page has, the higher it’s PageRank. However, it’s not all about quantity; the quality of the link also plays a vital role.

Here’s a simplified view of how PageRank works, published by Ahrefs:

how internal links work

Now this is one of the simplest methods when it comes to internal link building, but since we're covering all the basics, let start with it

  1. First, repeat step 04 - Perform Keyword Research. Put all of your keywords in a Google Excel file - separating Informational & Navigational keywords, from Commercial Intent Keywords. 
  2. Use Informational and Navigational to create blog posts, and use Commercial Intent keywords for your Product pages. 
  3. You link your SEO-optimized blog posts to the relevant SEO-optimized product pages.

Remember that the relevancy and quality of internal links  are far more important than the number of internal links. 

Your most important product pages should have the most links. Google even states that: The number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page.

This is when Google Search Console comes into handy, you can easily check out the number of internal links a certain page on your store has: 

how to check internal links of your Shopify store

If instead of your homepage, or your Product Category page, your About Us page has the most links, you might have to rethink your internal link strategy!

Last but not least, you'd need to fix Broken Internal links, fix Internal Redirects and Solve orphan pages. This is where it gets really really technical, so we'd advise you to look into this guide from Ahrefs: Internal Links for SEO: An Actionable Guide

Step 8: BackLink Building 

Another thought experiment for beginners in Shopify SEO and SEO in general: Imagine backlinks as approval stamps

You can hear people talk about that the more stamps you have, the more trusted you are to Search engines.

But it's not about the quantity, it's about the quality as well. An approval stamp from Elon Musk must have more credits to it than one from, let's say, a content writer from PageFly. 

Simply put, BackLink building is the practice of building one-way hyperlinks to a website with the goal of improving search engine visibility. Common link building strategies include content marketing, building useful tools, email outreach, broken link building and public relations.

Backlink building is a huge topic and we can't cover it within this article, so check out these trusted guides on Backlink Building: 

Step 9: Drive social signals to your website

Social signals refer to your overall social media visibility perceived by search engines which often include, but not limited to: Facebook Likes, Facebook Shares, Comments, Retweet, Pinterest Pins, etc. 

Social signals directly impact your Shopify SEO since they indicate the authority of your domain and demonstrate your URL’s value. A large number of users like or share a page tell search engines that the page is providing authentic value to the audience. Hence, building a cohesive social media strategy can not only improve your Shopify SEO, but also help you build better branding and grow sales. 

How Social signals influence ranking

Building social media strategies that encompass the most popular platforms, with aim to both consolidate SEO efforts and build brand awareness, is no easy task - check out our trusted guides on Social media marketing here: 


Conclusion 

In this article, we walked you through the very basics of Shopify SEO, including technical SEO (Step 1 - 3), On-page SEO (step 3 - 6) and Off-page SEO (Step 7 & 8). Since this is a beginner's guide, we want to include as many basic learning points as possible, but needless to say, SEO is huge and we can never predict what Google's next update would be. 

So if you're new to building your Shopify store and lacking the budget to implement SEO - creating great content and excellent page experience are your go-to baby steps - as the one thing we consistently mentioned throughout the article is that no matter what, Google loves it when you provide a pleasant experience to users. 

Creating indelible page experience can be started with PageFly, for Free: 


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