Shopify SEO from A to Z

Shopify is the most popular CMS for e-commerce in the world. People appreciate its automation and user-friendliness — there’s hardly any other platform across the web that would let you start an online store that quickly. As for SEO, the Shopify guide assures you that all you need is to optimize content and navigation. Nonetheless, people keep complaining that the platform is… em… not as SEO-friendly as it claims.

Are those complaints reasonable? Let’s see how easy it is to bring your Shopify website to the first lines of SERP.

1. Shopify SEO basics

Here are a couple of things you have to consider before starting any SEO work on your website:

  • Use a paid Shopify plan. Otherwise, your pages will not be indexed at all.

  • Think of a custom domain name for your website. Standard domain names that feature myshopify in the URL are considered low-quality and get fewer clicks. To make your domain custom, you can connect an existing domain or buy a brand new one (prices start at $11).

  • Set up Google Analytics and add your domain to Google Search Console. This will give you insights into user behavior, page speed, mobile-friendliness, indexing issues, and keyword performance.

2. Site structure optimization

A good website should have a simple and scalable structure. A structure is simple when any page on the website is located no further than three-clicks away from the home page. A structure is scalable if you can add as many products and categories as you need, and the structure’s simplicity is not affected.

Luckily, you don’t need to take much care of simplicity and scalability if you use Shopify — it goes by default. The content follows a logical hierarchy with all the product pages placed under the category pages (called collections on Shopify).

First, you need to sort your products into collections. Otherwise, the collection page will be empty, and will be ignored by Google.

Go to your Shopify admin, then products > collections, choose a collection, and set up conditions to make certain products get into this collection. The number of conditions is unlimited, and you can choose if the product reaches the collection when all or any of the conditions are satisfied.

conditions

Then, you need to set up the properties to let your products get into the necessary collection. To do this, go to products > all products, and click on a product.

add-product

Once collections are set up, it’s time to attach the collections to the main menu. Go to Online store > Navigation > Main menu > Add menu item, and add the collection to the menu.

add-menu

To make navigation even easier, you can divide the collections into subcategories by creating drop-down menus. The process is simple: drag the menu line to where it’s meant to be:

shopify-seo-tree

Top level items can feature up to two secondary items.

A good thing to remember is that Shopify treats both collections and subcollections equally as collections. Thus the simplicity of the website structure is not affected, which makes it easy for Google to crawl and index your website.

3. Keyword research for Shopify SEO

In terms of SEO, Shopify suggests concentrating on content — product titles, descriptions, etc. The key to success here is to use powerful keywords that would meet the search intent of your potential customers.

To find the right keywords, you’ll need to perform keyword research. Here you’ll need some special research tools. For example, you can turn to Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner.

Keyword Planner offers a set of keywords and consults on their competitiveness and popularity. To get the suggestions, you can either enter some of the terms related to your business or analyze a competitor website.

keyword-trends

To check how popular a search term is, you can also turn to Google Trends. The tool will show if the trend is popular, where it is popular, and which other trends are related to yours.

google-trends

Note: don’t forget to specify the location when analyzing keywords. Pay attention to what is popular in the locations where you operate.

To analyze keywords at scale, you can use a dedicated keyword research tool, luckily there are many to choose from (SEMRush, Wordtracker, Rank Tracker, and so on).

For example, Rank Tracker offers a research method suited to e-commerce, which is called Amazon Autocomplete. Launch the tool, and go to Keyword Research > Autocomplete tools > Amazon autocomplete. Then, enter some of your seed keywords, and the tool will show the most popular autocomplete suggestions from Amazon’s search engine:

Ranktracker

Amazon search feature is also present in Wordtracker:

wordtracker


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4. On-page optimization

It’s not a secret that page structure and technical soundness are key ranking factors. So, if you are a Shopify user, here’s what you have to do to optimize H1 headings, title tags, content, images, and links.

First, see what pages need optimization. To audit your pages, get a dedicated SEO tool, such as MOZ, Ahrefs, or WebSite Auditor. These tools offer a summary of on-page issues from your website, and provide the list of affected URLs. So you will not waste your time on the pages that are sound and focus on those that do need optimization.

This is what the on-page audit performed via WebSite Auditor looks like.

shopify-seo-website-auditor

H1 headings

Despite the importance of H1 headings for search, some Shopify themes completely ignore their existence. Here’s how you bring them back.

The most common H1 issue with Shopify is that the H1 tag is missing from the homepage and product pages.

If the H1 tag is missing from your homepage, go to your Shopify admin, then go to Online store > themes > edit code > sections > hero.liquid, and find the following code line (ctrl+f may help you):

<h2 class="h1 mega-title{% if section.settings.text_size == 'large' %} mega-title--large{% endif %}">{{ section.settings.title | escape }}</h2>

Then, change h2 to h1. You will get this:

<h1 class="h1 mega-title{% if section.settings.text_size == 'large' %} mega-title--large{% endif %}">{{ section.settings.title | escape }}</h1>

Remember to do a backup before you edit or save any changes.

Note: By default, the h1 tag is assigned to the website name or logo for the homepage. If you want to change this, go to Online store > themes > edit code > sections > header.liquid, and replace h1 with h2.

If there’s no H1 tag on your product pages, go to Online store > themes > edit code > templates > product.liquid, find {{ product.title }}, and change it to:

<h1>{{ product.title }}</h1> 

There’s also an option to go to Online store > themes > edit code > sections > product-template.liquid, and find and change the same line there (location of the line may vary from theme to theme).

Your page may also contain multiple H1 tags. This may be caused by adding extra features: announcement bars, featured products, pop-ups, etc. In this case, you’ll have to find all the H1 tags with ctrl+f, and replace them with h2, h3, or div depending on what place in the structure you want them to take.

Titles and meta descriptions

Your homepage’s title and meta description can be edited in the online store > preferences of your Shopify admin.

shopify-seo-titles-and-meta

Titles and meta descriptions for collections and product pages are edited in products > all products/collections. Choose the product and click edit website SEO at the bottom of the page.

shopify-seo-se-preview

Here you will see what your page looks like in Google SERP. Shopify also shows recommended title and meta description lengths.

shopify-seo-preview

URLs

URLs can be edited via edit website SEO, too. Shopify ends URLs with a product/collection title, but you are free to optimize them if they are too long.

All the Shopify URLs are well-structured, readable, and don’t contain any characters that could prevent users and search engines from understanding them properly.

Most product URLs will look like this:

https://partakefoods.com/products/chocolate-chip-cookies

This type of URL is marked as canonical by default, which prevents duplicate content issues. Today, Shopify has fixed almost all of the dynamic URL issues, but some themes still have this problem — the URL changes depending on how a user reached the page.

Product and collection descriptions

Product descriptions serve both users and search engines. Users get all the information about the product, and search engines understand the contents of the page. To make them both happy, write unique, catchy descriptions that contain relevant keywords.

Note: Use unique descriptions even if you do dropshipping and get product descriptions from distributors. Duplicate content pages rank lower than pages with original content.

Alt texts for images

Search engines use alt texts to learn what the image is about and rank it in Google Images (which is a nice source of additional traffic). So you need to make sure the alt texts you provide are informative enough. Don’t overdo it with keywords — alt texts that are too optimized are considered spammy.

As for Shopify images optimization, it starts not in your Shopify admin but on your device. Your images have to be properly named before you upload them, as Shopify doesn’t let you rename images once they are up.

Once you upload a properly named image, click on it and then click Add alt text.

shopify-seo-image-alt-texts

Enter your descriptive alt text, and click Save alt text.


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5. Schema markup and rich snippets for Shopify

Schema markup is a must for an e-commerce website, as it lets Google see the properties of your goods and create rich snippets in SERP. Rich snippets are more appealing to users; they rank higher and attract more clicks. Here’s what these rich snippets look like:

shopify-seo-schema-markup

Luckily, Shopify has taken care of Schema markup and integrated it into most of its themes by default. You only need to add the product details in your Shopify admin to have Schema markup appear in the code.

There’s a low possibility that your Shopify theme doesn’t feature Schema markup. If it doesn’t, you can easily add Schema markup with plugins, such as Smart SEO or Schema App Total Schema Markup.

Inexperienced Shopify website owners often don’t pay much attention to backlinks, and then curse Shopify for not being SEO-friendly. Funny thing is, obtaining backlinks for an e-commerce website might be easier than for any other type of website.

All you have to do to get you initial backlinks is approach your business partners: distributors, producers, suppliers, etc. You can ask them to link to your website from their top pages, or you can write a review of their services and suggest placing your review on their website.

You can also check what websites link to your top competitors, and reach out to them to get a backlink, too. Explore a competitor’s website with a free backlink checker tool to see their main backlink partners, or perform a more in-depth competitive analysis with a dedicated tool to find the closest backlink opportunities. Be ready to offer something in return.

7. Core Web Vitals optimization for your Shopify store

Core Web Vitals are a set of user experience metrics, which are mostly about page speed.

Core Web Vitals consist of three metrics:

  • LCP (largest contentful paint) — how fast the largest content element (image, video, text) loads within the viewport;
  • FID (first input delay) — how long it takes for a page to react to a user’s action;
  • CLS (cumulative layout shift) — how stable the content of the page remains.

User experience is especially important for e-commerce websites, as slow pages with heavy elements will result in fewer Add to cart clicks. Shifting elements on the page may make users complete actions they don’t want, thus users get irritated and end up closing the page.

To see if your website has any Core Web Vitals issues, open Google Search Console, go to Experience > Core Web Vitals, and click on the type of report you need (mobile or desktop) to see the issues closer.

shopify-seo-pagespeed-2

Click on the issue line to see the list of affected URLs. To investigate a page in detail, click on the URL, and go to PageSpeed Insights. The tool will provide you with some suggestions on how to improve user experience depending on the problems the page has.

shopify-seo-pagespeed

As for Shopify, the CWV-related issues are mostly caused by:

Unoptimized images. Big images load slower. To see what images need resizing, click the Properly size images line in *PageSpeed Insight*s. Try to make these images smaller.

Too many plugins. On the one hand, Shopify plugins cover some functions the platform may not feature out-of-the-box and make your life easier. On the other hand, plugins slow the website down. Don’t add the plugins you can do without.

Third-party themes. Although third-party themes may seem more beautiful, Shopify developers don’t recommend using them, because they may cause more problems in addition to page speed. Moreover, Shopify support will not be able to help you with a third-party theme. It’s better to choose a free Shopify theme and slightly customize it.

Heavy or messy code. Too complicated scripts never benefit website speed. Keep the liquid code tidy and simple.

Too many pop-ups or featured snippets. Pop-ups and featured snippets take a long time to load, may lead to an unwanted action if clicked by mistake, and may block some meaningful element of the page from the interaction. Don’t use them for no reason, and make sure they are not too heavy.


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8. Mobile-friendliness of your shop

Mobile traffic makes up 50% of all e-commerce traffic. That’s on top of the fact that Google ranks all pages based on their mobile versions.
You can check if your mobile versions experience any issues in the Experience > Mobile usability report in Google Search Console. All the found issues are listed below the bar graph.
Shopify-seo-mobile

GSC briefly describes the errors, so you can see main issues at a glance. For the list of the pages affected by an issue, click on the issue line. Then, proceed with fixing.

In terms of mobile optimization, Shopify suggests the following:

  • Use a fixed navigation bar;
  • Place the product image front and center;
  • Use minimum text on product pages;
  • Make a fixed Add to cart button.

Mobile-friendliness depends much on the theme you use. To avoid unnecessary work on fixing mobile issues, choose one of the Shopify responsive themes.

Note: Third-party themes may not be responsive, so pay attention to ratings and reviews if you decide to proceed with one of them.

9. Indexing issues on Shopify

A common indexing issue is that Google either cannot access your pages or refuses to index them. With Shopify, the problem is the opposite — Google may index some of the pages you intended to keep hidden. Plus, some indexed pages may be displayed incorrectly.
Shopify indexing issues are related to a sitemap and a robots.txt file.

Sitemap

Shopify updates your sitemap every time you make changes on your pages, but it may take some time for Google to index or reindex the page. As a result, an old version of the page may still be displayed instead of the new one.

To let Google find and index your pages faster, you can submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. Although this is not a guarantee of fast indexing, the chances for success certainly get higher.

Shopify websites have a sitemap placed in the root directory of your domain. To see a sitemap, add /sitemap.xml after the domain URL in the address bar. This is the name of your sitemap file.

To submit a sitemap file to Google Search Console, go to Index > Sitemaps > enter your domain’s sitemap file name > click Submit.

Robots.txt

In Shopify, a robots.txt file is used to hide pages like cart, orders, checkouts, etc. from search engines. To see all the hidden pages, enter /robots.xml after your Shopify domain name in the address bar.

A robots.txt file is generated by Shopify automatically, and you cannot edit it. But it doesn’t mean that you cannot hide any more pages that are not present in the robots.txt file by default.

To hide a page from Googlebot, get ready for some manual coding. Go to your Shopify admin, then go to Online Store > Themes, and click Actions > Edit Code. Go to the theme.liquid file in the Layout folder, and update the

section.

If it’s a search template you want to hide, then paste the following piece of code in the

:

{% if template contains 'search' %}
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
{% endif %}

If it’s a certain page you want to hide, then paste the following:
{% if handle contains ‘page-handle-you-want-to-hide’ %}


{% endif %}
If you want to hide several pages, use the following (you can add as many pages as you need with or):
{% if handle contains ‘page-handle-you-want-to-hide’ or ‘one-more-page-handle-you-want-to-hide’ %}

{% endif %}
Don’t forget to replace the page-handle-you-want-to-hide with the exact page handle you want to hide.

To sum it up

You might have come across hundreds of threads complaining about Shopify SEO, but Shopify developers have seen them, too. And they do listen to what their users are not satisfied with, and solve the issues as fast as they can. May this guide help you with all the SEO things Shopify developers have not fixed yet.

Katherine Stepanova

Katherine is the SEO and digital marketing pro who’s heading the marketing team at SEO PowerSuite. In her free time she’s a bellydancer and a dog lover.

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