SEO for Shopify: A Comprehensive Guide to Optimizing Your Rankings

Sure, your Shopify store may be brimming with great products - but is it getting seen? Find out how to craft a winning SEO strategy with our comprehensive guide to SEO for Shopify.

Woman writes product descriptions

1. What is SEO?
2. Why does SEO matter for Shopify?
3. Increasing your shop's visibility with SEO: the 3 Pillars
4. On-page SEO
5. Off-page SEO
6. Technical SEO
7. Conclusion

Shopify is a powerful eCommerce platform that allows you to start an online store with just a few clicks - no coding skills required! The platform includes everything from creating product pages, managing inventory and orders, making payments through PayPal or Stripe (one of the most popular payment gateways), creating marketing campaigns and organizing inventory among other things.

You may already know that SEO is a cornerstone of any successful eCommerce business. You may also already know that Shopify has built-in SEO functionality. But how do you leverage the power of Shopify and its SEO features to drive more traffic to your online store?

This blog post will equip you with everything you need to successfully optimize your SEO for your Shopify store. Read on to learn about increasing your shop’s visibility, attracting more visitors, and growing your customer base through search engine optimization.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the philosophy, methodologies, and process involved in improving your visibility in organic search results. 

Appearing higher in search results is a boon to your eCommerce business because the top spots are the ones that get the most clicks. When someone searches for a product or service like yours, they click on the search engine result that appears at the top of the page. 

SEO is everything you do to help your site appear in the top results.

Why Does SEO Matter for Shopify Shops?

While there is no shortage of eCommerce platforms out there, Shopify is one of the most popular ones. But why is SEO so important for Shopify stores in particular? 

The truth is that SEO is pivotal for all eCommerce businesses. To drive consistent traffic and sales, every eCommerce store needs to rank well in search engines. Shopify, however, makes SEO easier than ever before. 

Shopify’s built-in SEO functionality gives you an enormous advantage - you don’t have to learn advanced SEO techniques or hire an expensive consultant!

With Shopify SEO you'll be able to target specific keywords on your page. This is particularly useful if you want to attract customers who are looking for something specific: they might not know the exact name of the product they want, but they'll know the type of product they're after (and when they do a search on Google or another search engine, that's what their search will say).

Using this kind of targeting means that Shopify SEO can help guide people to your site specifically because it matches what they're looking for in an ideal way. And if someone does manage to find their way onto your page through regular SEO? They'll still see whatever products fit their needs best—and hopefully buy them from you!

Ready to take your Shopify shop to the next level and boost those rankings? 

Let’s jump in.

Increasing Your Shop’s Visibility with SEO: The 3 Pillars

To get started with SEO, you’ll want to focus on on-page, off-page, and technical SEO. Each of these is critical to achieving increased visibility and driving more traffic to your Shopify store. 

Let’s take a closer look at each one to understand how it works and how to make it work for you. 

On-page SEO 

On-page refers to all the things you can control yourself on your shop page to make it more search engine friendly. This includes things like the page’s title tag, meta description, URL structure, images content, and internal linking structure. 

Off-page SEO 

Off-page refers to any activities that impact your shop’s visibility on external websites. Manual outreach to promote link-building and online mentions are examples of off-page SEO activities. 

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO refers to behind-the-scenes operations that ensure a smooth, solid user experience for your visitors. This includes things like making sure your shop is mobile-friendly, has a fast load time, and is easy to navigate with a well-organized site structure.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the various SEO pillars, let’s dive deeper.

On-Page SEO

Conducting Keyword Research

Keyword research is the foundation of any effective SEO strategy. It's the first step in any SEO campaign and the most important factor in determining its success. It’s key because you need to ensure that you show up in the search engine results when someone is looking for products like yours. 

In fact, your goal is to show up on the very first page of results! This is how you’ll get the most organic traffic to your website. 

It’s often thought of as something that you do after you've already done some other preliminary work (like getting ready for your Shopify store), but in fact it's best to think about keyword research at the very beginning. A good keyword search strategy will have a huge impact on how well you do in search engines like Google and Bing—and even Amazon! 

Not only that, but it can help you pick out a name for your store, find products you want to sell online, and even craft messaging around those topics once they're live on your site!

Keyword research is the process of finding out which terms people are searching for online - that is, which terms are getting the most “search volume.” Search volume refers to the rough number of monthly user searches for any given keyword, and relates directly to organic traffic. 

You can also use keyword research to discover new topic ideas, either for products or your content marketing strategy. A good keyword research tool will allow you to easily find the most popular terms and phrases your customers are searching for. It will also allow you to evaluate what the competition for these terms looks like - how difficult is it to rank for them? 

keyword research results for ecommerce automation showing search volume and seo ranking difficulty

This will help you make informed decisions on which terms to target and how to target them. You want the terms you’re targeting to be general enough that they get plenty of search traffic, but specific enough that they aren’t too competitive (more specific terms are called long-tail keywords).

There are a multitude of keyword research tools out there. Favorites include:

Ubersuggest

SEMRush

Moz’s Keyword Explorer

These tools all have roughly similar functionality; whichever tool you choose, stick with it and really learn how to leverage what it offers.

It’s important to note that when it comes to SEO, you are not ranking your entire website as a whole - individual pages from your website rank for individual keywords. This means you can tailor different content types to different keywords! 

For example, your blog post pages can target more informational keywords (“what is screen printing”), while your product pages can target more transactional or commercial intent keywords (“buy screen printed shirts”).

 

Optimize Web Pages on Shopify stores

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the changes you can make on your Shopify pages themselves. On Shopify, the following elements can be found in your content editing section (for editing individual product pages).

Before jumping in, it’s important to note a general on-page SEO rule: your content must, above all, focus on the user. It’s important to think about what’s most helpful, informative, and natural for the humans looking at your pages - “keyword stuffing” is frowned upon and could even be penalized by Google’s algorithm.

That said, let’s take a look at the most important elements to optimize on your Shopify product pages, and where you can edit them.

Title tags/header tags, meta descriptions, and URL handles can be optimized on your individual product pages. 

Go to the “Products” category on the left hand navigation bar and choose the product whose URL you want to edit. Scroll all the way down to the bottom and “Edit website SEO.” 

Shopify interface for editing SEO content starting with products section

Shopify interface for editing website SEO with blue arrow pointing to edit link
Shopify interface view after scrolling down to the bottom. Edit Website SEO link in blue.

Shopify interface for editing SEO content showing page title, meta description, URL handle, search engine listing preview
Shopify "edit website SEO" interface with search engine listing preview, page title, meta description, and URL handle fields.

Title tags

Title tags designate a page and usually appear in search engine results as the page title. The title tag contains the most important keywords that indicate to the user what the page is about, and is what people click on to continue to the page. It’s also what’s used as the clickable link in social media posts.

Sample search engine listing result with blue arrow indicating title tag

Ensure your page titles are short but unique and descriptive, offering value to the reader and urging them to click. Your title should include your main keyword. As much as possible, try to avoid repeating keywords that are already in your product name. You want to highlight the product and not the brand. 

Other general guidelines:

  • Keep the length between 30 and 60 characters - any longer and the title will likely get cut off
  • Put your main keyword as close to the beginning as possible

Header Tags

Header tags denote the various important headings on your page, with H1 tags carrying the most weight on your page. Of the header tags, they’re also the most important for your SEO - it’s important to make sure you only use one H1 tag per page. In Shopify, your page titles are used as your H1 tags by default.

Meta descriptions

The meta description is what shows up below your title in the search engine results and is the second most important part of your page. It’s where you briefly summarize the page and mention your page title. 

Sample search engine listing result with blue arrow indicating meta description

Your meta description is an opportunity to include your main keyword, but wrapped in secondary and long-tail keywords. Make sure it is snappy, actionable and compelling - clear CTAs (Calls-to-Action) can help encourage readers to click on your page title. 

Other general guidelines:

  • Keep the length under 155 characters - any longer and the description will likely get cut off
  • Make sure it matches the content of your product page - a mismatch can result in your visitor bouncing 

URLs

If you’re using Shopify for your ecommerce store, it is important to keep in mind that search engine optimization (SEO) on this platform starts with the URL structure. URLs should be short, descriptive and easy to read. It should include your keyword(s) as close to the beginning as possible, while excluding filler words. Use hyphens, not underscores. 

Keep in mind, too, that your URL will also be used in social media posts. A long and complicated URL will be difficult to fit into a Facebook post.

In Shopify, the default URL comes from the page title as well. In many cases it’s best to manually make sure the URL doesn’t contain filler words and is as short as possible (e.g. note how the URL for this post is “seo-for-shopify-comprehensive-optimization-guide” rather than “seo-for-shopify-a-comprehensive-guide-to-optimizing-your-rankings”).

Images

Let’s face it: the web is impressively overflowing with content - and it’s only continuing to grow exponentially. That means your screen time in front of visitors is more precious than ever before - and SEO optimizing your images is a great step to help you snag those prized seconds. You can set yourself up to appear in image search results with intentional file names and ALT text. 

File names

Name your image files with something descriptive so Google can associate your image with the proper keywords (i.e. don’t leave your image titles as the random jumble of numbers and letters they often are - avoid that “DCIM83640.jpg”)

ALT text

These texts for your images are sort of like behind-the-scenes captions; they’re descriptions of what the image is about. Their aim is to improve accessibility of the image for those who are unable to see the image - perhaps because they’re using screen readers or have unreliable internet connections.

Make sure your ALT texts are as descriptive as possible, and include your keywords. They should be relevant and unique to the image. Keeping them to about 125 characters or less also ensures optimal consumability for users.

Shopify interface for editing image alt text with blue arrow indicating media section
Shopify interface to edit image alt text: choose image in media section.
Shopify interface for editing image alt text with blue arrow indicating link to add alt text
Shopify interface image alt text entry field

For more details on optimizing your alt text, Moz has a great alt text overview.

Off-Page SEO

Link-building strategy

Your link profile is the collection of links on the internet that link back to your website (also known as backlinks). It’s a bit like your digital resume and references - it indicates to Google how known, relevant, and respected your website is by others. 

Your link profile can reward you best when your backlinks are from 1) a variety of different sites, and 2) well-respected (“high authority”) sites. Hey, if other reputable websites trust you, Google can too!

A great way to work on your link profile is to build partnerships with others. What other websites in your industry could you exchange value with?

You can guest post or guest comment on other blogs, and build relationships with influencers in your industry. For example, if you know a fashion blogger who writes about trends relevant to products in your Shopify shop, reaching out to start an exchange could bring both of you some SEO value.  

Competitive analysis

Another way to get inspiration for the types of mutually beneficial partnerships you could be building is to take a look at the link profiles of your competitors. There’s a variety of tools out there to help you explore what websites are linking to them, including the Site Explorer from Ahrefs.

You can check out not just who is linking to your competitors and what the quality of those links is, but also what kind of traffic your competitors are getting and from which keywords. This, in turn, can inform your own strategy and activities.

Ahrefs interface showing competitor backlinks analysis
Image source: Ahrefs Site Explorer

Press mentions

Have you launched a special new product? Have your products or business won an industry award? Tell the world about it! Press mentions and releases are yet another way to strengthen your off-page SEO optimization and build backlinks. Some common press release websites:

www.newswire.com

www.prweb.com

www.ereleases.com

You can also use brand-monitoring tools to check for any mentions of your business online that haven't properly linked you - and reach out to ask for a link.

Technical SEO

Last but definitely not least, technical SEO is a crucial aspect of ranking your website - but it can be difficult. Technical SEO is all about making sure your website is easy to use and provides a good experience for your visitors.

Mobile-friendliness

A majority of our time on the web these days takes place from some of the smallest devices - our smartphones. This means you need to make sure your website is easy and intuitive to browse not only from desktop computers or laptops, but also from the small screen-real-estate devices like phones. 

How do blocks of text look? How do images render? Are buttons an appropriate size without affecting other content? All of these factors contribute to your website’s mobile-friendliness.

If you’re using Shopify, you’re in luck - all Shopify themes are quite mobile friendly with responsive layouts - meaning they adapt to whichever screen size they’re being rendered on. If you’re not using Shopify, Google offers a tool to evaluate your website’s mobile-friendliness: Mobile-Friendly Test.

Interface of Google mobile friendliness tool with entry field to enter test URL

Page load speed

Not only are users inundated with mountains of content, they’re also used to getting it just about as fast as they can blink. 

That means if your website loads even a fraction of a second slower than everyone else’s, it doesn’t matter how stellar your content is - you’ve already lost. 

A few tips for trimming your page load speed:

  • Compress images: Photoshop allows you to compress images while retaining control over their quality. In a pinch, you can also use websites like TinyJPG. This will decrease the data that needs to be processed for your page to load.
  • Optimize code: Keep it clean! Comments, formatting (even extra spaces or commas), and unused code in your website drag your load speed. Really trim it down to only what’s absolutely necessary.
  • Use a content delivery network (CDN): It turns out the earth is big, and digital data packets traveling huge distances actually take time. By using CDNs, your website content can be stored simultaneously in various data centers around the world - so users accessing your website from different geographical locations experience snappy site speed.
  • Use browser caching: If visitors check out your site multiple times, their browsers can give you a hand with your page load speed. By caching information from your site, browsers don’t have to reload the entire page when visitors come back. 

For more details on improving speed for your Shopify store, check out Shopify help.

Site architecture

A well-planned site structure will go to work for you on two fronts: 

1) it’s pivotal to a solid user experience for your visitors, and 

2) it makes the search engine crawler’s job easier.

If your website is laid out well and mapped properly, it will get indexed more easily. Your intentional structure will clearly distinguish different topics and sections of your site from one another, and navigation - from humans and bots alike - will be seamless.

What does a good layout look like? For Shopify stores, generally a logical hierarchy from product categories to individual products works best. 

A key rule of thumb, however, is to keep your hierarchy shallow. This means you’ve limited your subdirectories so users can get to relevant pages in as few clicks as possible, and you don’t have any pages that are hidden deep down some rabbit holes. Each “ / ” in your URL represents a subdirectory taking the user further away from your root-domain homepage.

This is grounded in how Google interprets pages that are further away from the root-domain (the website core). To Google, they are “less important” than pages that are closer. For example, Google interprets a page URL like:

http://www.shoes.com/usa/mens/winter/leather-shoes

as less important than a page URL like:

http://www.shoes.com/mens-leather-shoes

The first example is a page located 3 subdirectories away from the core (usa, mens, winter), where the second example is just one click away from the homepage.

There’s no hard and fast rule dictating a specific number of clicks, but it’s generally optimal to keep it within 3-4 clicks.

Your internal linking strategy is also key to smooth navigation and clear SEO signals. As you link between pages of various sections within your website, keep groups of pages with similar content linked to each other. These can be items that are related, similar topics in your blog, or popular “bestsellers”.

Conclusion

Shopify is one of the most popular and easy to use eCommerce platforms out there today - but that doesn’t mean the best way to do things is clear. Building your SEO strategy for your Shopify shop can certainly feel tricky without the right guidance, but luckily you’ve come to the right place. 

Now you’re equipped with the most important aspects to consider when trying to get better organic rankings. 

Start with On-Page SEO and keyword research to direct your content and structure efforts. Optimizing your pages according to your keywords comes next, focusing on title tags, meta descriptions, URL structure, and images. 

Strengthen your Off-Page SEO game with an intentional link-building strategy and by earning a diverse set of high-quality links from other reputable websites. Have a look at what your competitors are doing for inspiration!

Lastly, make sure your user- and bot-experience is up to snuff - optimize your site responsiveness for mobile-friendliness, fast load speeds, and logical, shallow website structure for easy navigation.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the SEO tasks for your Shopify store that are ahead of you? We’ve got good news for you - you can automate much of the content in your store! To learn more, check out our article on using AI-based content writing to automate Shopify stores.  

If you’re interested in leveraging automation technology to streamline your SEO for Shopify and scale faster, Xanevo is here to help! One of our automation specialists would be happy to jump into a discovery call with you and discuss how you can harness the power of automation in your individual situation.

You have the tools - now you can make it happen. Ready, set, Shopify SEO!

Stacy Yee content marketing specialist

Stacy Yee

Content Marketing Specialist

Stacy designs, conceptualizes and creates marketing content to increase Xanevo's digital presence and impact.

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