Shopify SEO Guide: How to Drive Free Traffic to Your Store
January 13, 2022
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the lifeblood of ecommerce shops looking to compete in today’s online landscape.
So many companies vie for the top spot on Google. Even incremental improvements to your site’s SEO can mean the difference between receiving the lion’s share of traffic and a pittance.
But how does using Shopify affect your rankings?
While you benefit from the convenience of not having to build your online presence from scratch—do you need to take additional steps to optimize your online store?
In this guide, we’ll answer these questions and also discuss:
- What is Shopify SEO?
- How to improve SEO on your Shopify store
- How to create SEO-friendly pages with Shogun
Let’s dive in.
#cta-visual-pb#<cta-title>Build SEO-friendly product pages without code<cta-title>Discover all of Shogun’s customizable elements for free today.Start building now
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the process of getting your online store’s web pages to rank higher in search engines like Google.
The ultimate goal is to drive targeted traffic to your website that increases conversions and sales.
Shopify SEO refers to a lot of the same fundamental practices as regular SEO, but they are more specific to ecommerce and Shopify.
The second most popular CMS, Shopify has some nuances to be mindful of when executing an SEO strategy on its platform.
It comes with a host of built-in features and a few issues. Let’s take a look at both.
Common Shopify SEO issues
Shopify does come with a couple of individual SEO issues you’ll want to watch out for. They are:
- Forced URL structure. There can be a lack of control over the URL structure due to their predetermined hierarchical structure. Every product and collection page will contain “product” or “collection” in the URL.
- Duplicate content. Shopify creates duplicate product pages when a product is added to a collection page. All product pages contain the same content, but each has a different URL. This issue has a technical fix: Editing your Shopify theme’s code.
Shopify is constantly improving the platform, so you can be sure they are working on fixes for certain shortcomings. Luckily, the SEO benefits of Shopify outweigh the downsides.
So, let’s dive into precisely what Shopify does well in terms of SEO.
Is Shopify good for SEO?
Thankfully for users of Shopify, the ecommerce platform does many things right when it comes to SEO, especially the foundational basics.
Shopify’s built-in SEO features include:
- Comes with a host of mobile-friendly features and themes. There are 70+ professional and responsive mobile themes for store owners to choose from. Shopify also comes with a built-in mobile commerce shopping cart that makes it easy for shoppers to make purchases from their phones.
- The ability to manage and update metadata. Title tag and meta descriptions can be easily edited in Shopify. This includes both basic pages as well as products and collections.
- Automatically generating a sitemap for your store. This sitemap tells Google which URLs to index (so they can be ranked). Advanced SEOs may prefer to do this manually (to exclude certain pages). But in general, Shopify does a good job at creating the sitemap for online stores.
- Creating 301 redirects. Shopify offers an easy way to create 301 redirects to your store. This will redirect traffic from one defunct URL to another without diminishing search rankings.
- Intuitive User Interface (UI). While somewhat dependent on what Shopify theme you use, Shopify generally has an elegant architecture that makes navigation simple for shoppers.
- Canonical URLs. Shopify automatically creates canonical URLs. These URLs tell Google which page is the master version of multiple identical pages.
Let’s take a look at two examples of how Shopify has helped brands to optimize their online stores—and achieve stellar results:
- iHeartRaves saw a 227% boost in revenue and a 130% YoY increase in organic traffic after migrating from Magento.
- BackJoy experienced a 71% increase in sales and a 102% boost in organic traffic after migrating from Demandware.
Shopify gives you the ability to optimize the basic SEO necessities. And you’d be surprised how far ahead of the pack you can get just by focusing on getting them right.
But does your brand really need a Shopify SEO strategy? Is it worth the investment?
What happens when your Shopify store ranks higher in Google?
Implementing an effective ecommerce SEO strategy is playing the long game.
And, it drives powerful results, like:
- Higher visibility and ranking
- Increased brand awareness
- Improved customer user experience
- Boosted credibility
- Targeted web traffic
- Increased sales and conversions
But how can you achieve these results?
Answer: Focus on improving your SEO. Then you will rank better on the search engine results pages (SERPs) and drive more traffic to your store.
A 2020 Study by Sistrix found that 28.5% of Google users click the first organic result. Additionally, it showed a considerable step down from ranking first place compared to second place. The clickthrough rate (CTR) is effectively halved.
Check out the chart from Sistrix below.
A 2019 survey showed 51% of shoppers surveyed say they use Google to research a purchase they plan to make online.
In a similar vein, data gathered from a survey conducted by RePortal found that shoppers across all age groups have an increased propensity to shop online since the pandemic.
Have a look at the data below.
This means that if you want your Shopify store to stand out amongst its competitors in the SERPs—it needs to follow ecommerce SEO best practices on how to improve SEO on Shopify.
This can be done by breaking up the process into different tactics.
Let’s see how and discover some Shopify SEO tips that will drive valuable traffic to your store.
Now that we have an understanding of ecommerce SEO, let’s dive into a Shopify SEO checklist full of best practices that can boost your store’s traffic.
1. Site structure
Since they tend to be large and complex—site structure is an essential consideration for every ecommerce store.
If your ecommerce website structure is unorganized, it makes it difficult for search engines to crawl and index your pages.
If you initially neglect the planning of your site’s structure, problems may appear that are difficult to fix later on.
On the other hand, if your site structure is optimized in a simplified way that is helpful to your website visitors and search robots—your shoppers will find it easy to locate products.
Good site structure will directly boost your SEO in a couple of ways:
- Google will be able to find and index your store pages
- Link authority* will pass through to all the pages of your site
*Link authority is the ranking power a link carries over and it is relative to other pages on a website. The higher the authority a link has, the better.
But how do you build an optimized site structure for your Shopify store?
You do it by creating a search-friendly structure that looks like this:
Homepage > Category Page > Sub-Category Page > Product Page
Homepage > Category Page > Product Page
To get a visual sense of what this looks like, refer to the image below.
It’s important to note that category pages are known as “collections” in Shopify.
Collection pages group products together and act as navigation elements that help shoppers find exactly what they are searching for.
2. Use redirects and custom 404 pages
As the content changes on your website, a common technical SEO issue for Shopify will rear its head—the dreaded 404 pages.
Shoppers often feel disappointed when they land on a 404 page. It means they hit a dead-end.
Luckily, this has an easy fix.
Just create a customized 404 page that matches your brand. The 404 page will help your customers stay on your Shopify store and give them helpful links to get back on track.
Additionally, you can make use of 301 redirects—a signal that lets search engines know a page has been moved elsewhere.
This helps customers trying to visit an out-of-stock product, for example. Instead of landing on a 404 page—they’ll be redirected to a similar product.
3. Keyword research
Shopify keyword research is an essential step in developing an effective ecommerce SEO strategy. This step is an absolute must, whether you are a beginner or an advanced SEO.
Keyword research helps your business understand what its potential customers are already searching for—and allows search engines to recognize what your content is about.
Ultimately, finding the right search terms will increase your conversions and sales.
There are three types of keywords used to classify search intent:
- Navigational: Lead to a brand or a specific web page
- Commercial: Suggest an intention to buy something
- Informational: Provide general information or answer a specific question
The majority of the keywords you choose will be commercial and product-based.
Although informational keywords also have their place in Shopify SEO, you primarily want to rank for commercial keywords.
First, let’s look at how you can find keywords for your Shopify SEO strategy.
Use Google Keyword Planner to find keyword ideas
A powerful tool, Google Keyword Planner helps Shopify store owners find keyword ideas for their SEO campaigns. It’s quick, free, and easy to use.
Simply place your chosen keyword in the search box. In this case, we’ll use the term “mountain bike”.
Then Google Keyword Planner returns suggestions that are relevant to the keyword you entered.
You’ll also see the monthly searches and competition for each keyword, amongst other criteria.
You need to have a Google account to use the Google Keyword Planner, but it’s totally free.
Use SEMrush to analyze the keywords your competitors already rank for
SEMrush is an excellent paid keyword research tool. It can be used to spy on what keywords your competitors are already ranking for.
Why is this a good tactic to gather keywords?
The keywords your competitors rank for give you insight into what your Shopify store can also rank for.
Below, you can see the keywords for which the online store Bikes Online is currently ranking. It ranks position 2 for the term “mountain bike” along with additional commercial keywords.
These results provide a hefty list for competitors to choose from for their own keyword research.
Use Google to find related searches
The great thing about Google is that it offers many ways that help online stores find keywords for their Shopify SEO strategy.
First, let’s take a look at its autocomplete feature.
Designed to help users complete a search, it offers predictions—not suggestions. These predictions are made based on data, like location, past searches, trending searches, and more.
For example, when I started to type the search term “mountain bike” into Google’s search bar—it displayed a list of predictions.
These predictions are incredibly useful keyword ideas to add to a keyword list.
Additionally, Google’s related searches display eight “related” search results that appear at the bottom of the SERP.
These include “mountain bikes for sale” and “trek mountain bike”. Relevant keywords with high user intent.
Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA) feature is a box of questions that appear after you type a search query into Google.
These questions are related to the keyword that was searched.
They provide insights into the questions that your potential customers may have about your products—and can help you choose the correct keywords.
Choose the best keywords from your list
Next, narrow down your large list of target keywords by using the following criteria:
- Search Volume: How frequently a specific phrase is searched on Google each month
- Keyword/Product Fit: How relevant is the keyword to your target customers?
- Commercial Intent: The chances of a person searching for the keyword will become a customer
- Difficulty: How difficult the keyword is to rank for on Google
After you have used the above criteria to choose your final list of keywords—you’re ready to start optimizing your ecommerce store’s web pages.
Let’s dive into these Shopify SEO tricks.
4. Optimize your store’s products and collection pages
Optimizing the product and collection pages on your Shopify store will boost your SEO and increase the amount of traffic your store receives.
And since customers spend a bulk of their time browsing these pages while visiting your store—they also play a key role in the customer experience.
Here’s how you can boost the effectiveness of these pages.
Search engines like Google use the alt tag (‘alt’ stands for ‘alternative’) to understand the context of an image.
Adding this descriptive text will increase the chances of your product images appearing in the search results.
Alt text also helps with accessibility.
Screen readers announce the alt text in place of the images. This means that if your website visitors have a visual impairment, they will know what your product image is displaying.
Here is an example of a bad alt text, according to Google.
Here is an example of a good alt text.
Keep these in mind when writing the alt text for your product images.
A meta description is an HTML tag that provides searchers a brief summary of your product and collection pages.
They are displayed as part of your website’s search snippet on Google, above the title tag.
While they don’t directly influence search engine rankings, they do affect your click-through rate by acting as the sales copy for your page in the results page.
Here’s how to write a good meta description:
- Keep it between 120 to 156 characters
- Include a call-to-action
- Use your target keyword
- Don’t shy away from technical specs
- Write unique copy
The ecommerce brand BooHoo shows a great example of what a meta description should look like.
Similarly to meta descriptions, page titles are a piece of HTML code. They tell search engines like Google the titles to use for your web pages on their SERPs.
They can also boost your Shopify SEO.
According to Ahrefs, placing your target keyword in the title tag increases rankings.
They appear on the SERPs as a clickable headline, just like below.
Title tags also appear at the top of browser tabs. This lets users know what they’ll see when they click on the page.
Well-designed URLs play a role in determining a page’s relevance, which helps Google better understand the page.
Additionally, correctly optimized product and collection page URLs also benefit shoppers. They make it easier for them to understand if they should click through.
Indeed, Google recommends using descriptive words in URL paths (your target keyword) instead of random words and numbers.
The below example illustrates this point nicely.
Here is an example of a well designed URL in the SERPs that leads to a collection page.
Internal links to products and collection pages
Typically, ecommerce stores have many collection and product pages that include variations of similar information.
This is why internal linking is critical. It lets search engines know what pages you consider a priority.
To develop an effective internal linking strategy you need to choose your store’s key product and collection pages.
These pages need to be linked to high authority pages. This can be either your homepage and/or higher-level collection pages.
The links’ anchor text (the clickable text in a hyperlink) is another important factor to keep in mind.
It tells search engines about the page that’s being linked to. Similarly, it provides further context and creates a relationship between the two pages.
This boosts your store’s SEO and gives your collection and product pages a better chance of ranking in the SERPs.
A case study by Ninja Outreach shows internal links can boost organic traffic by 40%.
Unique product descriptions
If you publish duplicate product descriptions on your Shopify site—it will hurt your SEO.
On the other hand, if you write unique product descriptions, your organic traffic will increase.
In fact, you should avoid copy/pasting the original manufacturer product descriptions altogether. Write your own instead!
This is an essential part of implementing good Shopify on-page SEO.
Additionally, by strategically placing keywords, you avoid keyword stuffing. Placing too many of the same keywords in a piece of content creates an awful user experience—an important Google ranking factor.
Keep in mind that the unique content written on your pages must be written for humans, and not bots.
Here are some tips to write unique product descriptions that will convert your shoppers:
- Highlight the benefits, not features
- Understand and define your target audience
- Create scannable page content
- Address relevant concerns
- Let buyer awareness determine the length of your PDP page
See below how the brand method describes their dish pump refill product. The product description is unique, fun and relatable to their shoppers.
When your customers leave feedback for one of your products, they create fresh content for Google to crawl.
Typically, this content will contain keywords that are relevant to your product detail page (PDP).
This helps Google understand what your PDP is about—and how high it should be placed in the search results.
Beauty Bay allows customers to leave reviews on all of their products.
The brand sells Viseart’s Spritz Edit Palette. On the products PDP page, you can see the reviews customers left and the relevant keywords they include.
5. Publish a Shopify blog for better content marketing
Publishing and regularly updating a blog is a great way to add high-quality pages to your ecommerce site.
It boosts Shopify SEO, too. According to HubSpot, companies that blog drive better marketing results—with 55% more visitors and 434% more indexed pages.
With a blog, you can create content that answers the questions your customers are searching for by targeting informational keywords.
And since you aren’t exactly selling your products on a blog but instead providing help and answers, you gain customer trust.
Let’s look at another example from Beauty Bay’s blog called “Edited.”
They publish content about topics relevant to current beauty trends, and more importantly, new products they are selling.
They know their customers will want more information about these products before purchasing them. By writing about them on their blog, they move their customers along the buying journey.
6. Site speed
Search engines like Google consider website speed a primary ranking factor, since it directly affects the user experience.
Additionally, Google found that a site’s bounce rate gets worse for every second it takes a page to load.
This means that it’s essential that your ecommerce website contains mobile-friendly pages.
Optimize your Shopify store speed and consequently boost your SEO by:
- Compressing images
- Reducing the number of apps installed on your website
- Prioritizing testing
- Reducing redirects
- Considering professional help
7. SEO tools and apps
As of this writing, 631 apps show up for a search on “SEO” in the Shopify app store.
They cover everything from image optimizers, conducting an SEO audit, building custom pages, and more.
This is a major benefit of using a robust platform like Shopify, and just because you can’t quite do something out of the box doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all.
So, while you can do a good amount of SEO with just Shopify alone, you can do even more with the right SEO app.
#cta-visual-pb#<cta-title>Want to create a product page that Google will rank?<cta-title>Check out Shogun Page Builder and find out what elements you can use today.Start building now
Shogun Page Builder allows brands to create SEO-optimized pages for their online stores easily. Let’s look at a few different ways.
Insert alt tags right into your images
It’s super easy to add alt text into your images with the Image element.
Simply go to the right-hand menu after you have uploaded your image, and you will see the box below.
A few seconds of your time will yield great results for your SEO strategy.
Configure your page’s meta fields
Edit your page’s meta fields in the Page Settings panel. You can find it on the upper-right corner of the editor by clicking on the three-dot button.
Then you will see the meta field forms. This is where you can write out the meta title and meta description for your page.
With that, you get total control over how your store shows up when people search for relevant terms. That way, you get more traffic from people who want what you are selling.
Drive more organic traffic to your store with Shopify SEO
Creating and executing a successful Shopify SEO strategy is a marathon—not a sprint.
Shopify already comes with the SEO basics, but you may need to make the additional tweaks mentioned in this SEO tutorial to outrank your competitors.
Likewise, use apps and tools to increase your organic search engine traffic.
Optimize your Shopify product and collection pages to get the best results for your store—and follow each step as close as possible while implementing your digital marketing strategy.
SEO can take time, but if you put in the work early on, you’ll see the results in a big way later on.
#cta-visual-pb#<cta-title>Build SEO-friendly Shopify pages with Page Builder<cta-title>Have a look at the various elements that you can customize today.Try out Shogun for free
Michelle Deery is a writer and strategist for B2B SaaS companies. She writes content that helps brands convert visitors into paying customers.