Opening your online store on the Shopify ecommerce platform gives you a head start when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). Shopify does a lot of the work for you.
Your SEO success depends largely on how well you know your target shoppers and how well you know the products you sell. This knowledge contributes to your ability to select keywords that will get the right people to visit your online store and increases the likelihood that the visitors you attract will stick around and buy something. Since about half of the traffic to any website is organic traffic following a link from search engine results, your attention to SEO will pay off in sales revenues.
Keywords are the Key (duh!)
Understanding how your target audience searches the web for products like the ones you sell is the first requirement for selecting the right keywords. You need to know what they most frequently type into a search box, which you can find out from Google’s Keyword Planner. Brainstorm a list of all the words and phrases you think potential customers are searching for, and then use the Planner to find out the search volume, or relative frequency of use, for each of them. The keywords with the highest search volumes are the ones you should aim to rank for by featuring them in titles, descriptions, page content, blog posts, and anywhere else you can work them into.
Shopify Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Two of the most important places where those keywords come into play are the title tags and meta descriptions for your Shopify store. Your store’s Home page and every product page, collection page, and blog post gets its own title tag and meta description.
The title tag and meta description are the clickable links potential customers see when your store appears in the search engine results for a query. (The title appears in blue and the description in black.) If what searchers see makes them believe they may find what they’re looking for in your store, they’re likely to click on the link. Think of titles and meta descriptions as advertisements for your Shopify store and your products.
Shopify automatically generates title tags and mega descriptions based on your page content, but you can use Shopify’s admin function to modify them. Even if you don’t edit them initially, you’ll probably want to do so over time, based on SEO data analysis and your conclusions as to what is and is not working well in getting the right shoppers to your online store.
Optimizing Title Tags
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo do a comparison between a page title tag and the content on that page to make sure they match. The purpose of this match is to ensure WYSIWYG—that what shoppers see in search results is what they get when they view that page in your store. The better the match, the higher the page will rank in search results, so make sure that each title tag is a unique, accurate, and concise representation of the page content.
Search engines typically truncate title tags that exceed 70 characters, and you have no control over what gets dropped, so observe the length limit. Higher priority is given to keywords that appear at the beginning of a title, so position your most significant keywords at the front end of each title.
Optimizing Meta Descriptions
Search engines don’t look at meta descriptions, but searchers do. They read meta descriptions and decide whether or not to click through to the corresponding page. You’ll get more traffic if you use simple, complete phrases meant to be read by human beings, not strings of keywords read by search engine algorithms. Choose your words carefully, because meta descriptions are limited to 160 characters.
Content is King
The phrase “content is king” has become ubiquitous in SEO circles for the simple reason that it is true. Nothing influences an online store’s search result ranking more than its page content. It has to be compelling for shoppers, but it also has to score points with search engines. Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other won’t get you anywhere. And both quantity and quality matter.
When writing content, less is not more. Aim for clarity, not brevity if you want your pages to be highly visible to search engines. Every page should have a minimum of 250 words of text that includes your most important keywords—the ones you want to rank for. Blog posts should be at least 500 words long.
Avoid duplication of content, such as using the same description for a number of very similar products. It might save you some time in building your product database, but it will hurt your store’s search results. If you do use the same product description on more than one page, Shopify themes enable canonical tags for those pages so that search engines don’t view them as duplicates. And never, ever, ever use the manufacturer’s product descriptions or you’ll risk duplicating content used by the many other store owners that sell the same products and are using the same manufacturer’s descriptions. To be highly ranked, your content must be unique.
Shopify offers a free Product Review App that enables shoppers to post product reviews on your product pages. Installing the app and inviting visitors to use this function yields several important benefits:
- You get additional content for your product pages without having to write it.
- Positive product reviews boost conversions by giving shoppers confidence to make a purchase.
- Search engine algorithms reward frequently updated content, and every post is treated as new content.
- Search engines also reward uniqueness, and reviews reflecting customer experiences are authentic and original.
- Inviting shoppers to post reviews encourages them to engage with your store, strengthening their relationship with your brand.
Once the app is installed, customers can leave written comments on a product or collection page and assign a rating, Google will display an aggregate review score in your organic search results.
Increasingly, shoppers search for images that allow them to see what a product looks like. Images can, and should be described using the same keywords you use in your content. Shoppers who are blind or visually impaired use a screen reader, a browser that reads aloud what is on the screen. All images are automatically assigned IMG tags, but Shopify enables you to set up ALT tags for your product images to provide a text alternative describing the image for the benefit of those using a screen reader. Creating ALT tags also make your product images visible to search engines which read words, not images. It’s particularly important for image names to be very descriptive, but refrain from overloading them with too many keywords.
All Shopify stores include a blogging platform that unfortunately is often not used to its full advantage, which is a terrible waste of a great tool for generating inbound traffic. The blog function enables you to present yourself as an authority and provide information shoppers may find of interest, such as tutorials or ideas for using the products you sell. If you want to encourage engagement with your brand, consider enabling blog readers to comment on your posts, with or without moderation.
Selecting the moderation option gives you a chance to review all comments and publish only the ones you approve; without moderation, all comments are published automatically. You may also choose to provide a link to a blog on another platform or to import a WordPress blog. See Shopify’s online manual for detailed instructions for creating a blog for your store.
Links to Your Store
Unpaid inbound links that lead people from other websites to your store can raise your ranking in search results. Paid links, however, can lower your ranking. Try to build relationships with other sites and offer to provide links to them if they establish a link to your store. All parties benefit from such arrangements.
Adding Your Sitemap to Google
So far, our emphasis has been on the various elements of a Shopify store and how they contribute to your store’s search engine visibility and to your products’ ranking in search engine results. Your sitemap is generated automatically when you set up your store and contains URLS for all of your product and collection pages, images, and blog posts. Search engines’ web crawlers use your store’s sitemap.xml file to scan for content that will help determine your ranking in search results. It’s more difficult for web crawlers to index websites that are modified frequently, which is often the case with Shopify stores that undergo frequent inventory updates.
Before your pages can be ranked by Google, they must be retrieved by Googlebot, Google’s web crawler that scans billions of web pages for content and adds it to the Google Index, where it is ranked.
You can submit your store’s sitemap to Google Search Console to enable Googlebot to “see” and access your pages, content, and links. The end result is that Googlebot is able to more intelligently crawl and index your store.
For Further Information
Shopify’s Help Center provides detailed information and tutorials on a variety of SEO-related topics that you may find very helpful.