Before you get started, it is important to understand what SEO is and why it is so crucial for every eCommerce business. A search engine is where most internet searches begin, with Google being by far the most popular one, holding 80% of the search engine market share. For most search terms, the engines can usually find millions of websites. To ensure the user gets the best results first, they rank these millions of websites according to how relevant and useful they are for the user.
People tend to not look much further than page 1 or 2 of Google to find what they are looking for. In fact, 75% of internet users never scroll past page 1. It is therefore crucial for your website to be ranked as high as possible so that your potential customers can actually find you. In theory, paid ads are a way to make it on page 1. These are often ignored by users though, with 70-80% of people ignoring such paid ads. So, how can you rank high without them? There are several factors influencing your Google ranking. Unfortunately for website owners, the algorithm is very complex and changes frequently. Also, some factors like natural links to the website or engagement are quite difficult to build if your business is only just starting out. However, you can still improve the content and structure of your website to make it easier for search engines to categorise and rank it properly. This is called Search Engine Optimisation.
6 steps to get your Shopify SEO right:
- Do your keyword research
- Optimise your content
- Optimise your URL and file names
- Add your Sitemap.xml to Google Webmasters
- Create and promote relevant content
- Use professional tools
1. Do your keyword research
To get started with your Shopify SEO, you will first need to do some research. What are the relevant keywords for your online store and your products? What search terms will online shoppers use when they are searching for the products you are selling? You can find these keywords by searching on Google yourself or with the help of tools, like Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner and by studying your website’s analytics, for example with Google Analytics.
Be aware that your potential customers might search for other terms than the ones you use on your site. For example, in the case of our Cloud ERP software, people might search not only for ERP software, but also for terms like business management software or stock control etc. As a next step, you should also ensure that you know where your Shopify store ranks on Google for the identified search terms. There are many SEO ranking tools available that can help you with this task.
2. Optimise your content
After you’ve conducted your keyword research, it is now time to optimise your existing (and of course forthcoming) content accordingly:
The page title will appear in the browser tab of the user as well as the search engine result. It helps potential customers to decide which page is relevant for them. And it is also used by search engines to find out what the page is about.
So, what does the ideal page title look like? First of all, it should include the target keyword, ideally at the beginning. The title should also be relatively short, with 70 characters regarded as the maximum. And you should include your store name at the end of your title, for example after a vertical line. In Shopify, you can set up your page title individually for every page, no matter if it’s a product page or any other page type. You can do that by scrolling down to the Search Engines section for each page in Shopify.
While Shopify automatically uses text from your page to create the meta description, it often makes sense to optimise it manually for keywords. Each page should have an individual meta description. It is not only good for your search engine ranking, but also helps potential customers to decide if your page will be relevant for them as the meta description appears in the search engine results.
And in addition to the meta description, you should also optimise each product description! You should never just copy the product description from the manufacturer, as search engines do not reward duplicate content. Again, try to optimise the product descriptions for key search terms. But don’t forget that you are still writing for humans and that the main aim of product descriptions is to help customers make their purchase decision!
Optimising the images on your page is crucial for a successful Shopify SEO. Search engines cannot understand what is behind an image if you don’t tell them, as they can only understand text. As visual content is increasingly important and Google’s image search is also used to search for products, it is recommended to have an ALT tag defined for every single image on your page. An ALT tag is used to describe the content of an image, not only for search engines but also for visually impaired people and if the image cannot be shown for whatever reason. Make sure the ALT tags are descriptive, accurate and individual. They should also include a keyword where it makes sense.
3. Optimise your URL and file names
One area of SEO that is probably less obvious is your URL. You should make sure that it fits with the content, is clear, short and ideally contains keywords. You will also need to be careful to not duplicate your content in cases where customers can reach your page via many different paths. Instead of having many URLs for the same page of content, you should have just one URL for the page and then always redirect your users to that one. You can find a detailed guide on how to do this in Shopify’s SEO guide for designers. And similar to the URL, another factor that is often forgotten are file names. So, whenever you upload a file, whether that be an image, a document or anything else, make sure it is optimised for SEO. It shouldn’t be too long but it should be descriptive and tell the search engines what the file is about. Again, it should include a keyword where applicable.
4. Add your Sitemap.xml to Google Webmasters
One of the many advantages of using Shopify is that it automatically creates a sitemap.xml file for you. The file includes all the URLs for your site and helps search engines to crawl and index your site more intelligently, leading to a better ranking. However, in order for Google to use your sitemap, you will have to upload it to your Google Webmasters Account. Click through for a step-by-step guide on how to do that.
5. Create and promote relevant content
Google loves fresh, relevant content. This is the reason why a strong content strategy is so important for a good search engine ranking. Make sure you constantly publish fresh and relevant content on your site. Shopify already has a blogging platform implemented in their stores. Why not write about your inspiration as an entrepreneur or the story behind your products? Or show your customers how they can get the most out of their products?
Try to include relevant keywords in your content to improve your ranking even further. And don’t let that valuable content just sit around on your site, waiting for somebody to discover it by chance! You will need to promote it. A great tool for that is social media, as long as you avoid these social media mistakes.
6. Use professional tools
If you follow the above steps, you are already on a good way to improve your search engine ranking and increase traffic for your online store. However, as already mentioned, SEO is very complex and we have only covered a small share so far. The good news is: You are not alone! There are so many professional tools out there – for free and paid – that can help you with your Shopify SEO.
Probably the most important one is Google Analytics. It is available for free and it should therefore be a no-brainer for any business owner to leverage it. The tool helps you understand your visitors’ behaviour more thoroughly and improve your website accordingly. In addition to Google’s own analytics tool, there is huge variety of Shopify SEO apps available in the Shopify app store. You can browse through them and try which one fits best for your business needs. And of course, you can always hire an external SEO expert to help you improve your site’s ranking. But be aware that this is usually the most cost-intensive option.