You own a great Shopify store. Your website looks amazing, and your products are just wow! But, do you feel that your store isn’t getting the traction it deserves? Are you looking for ways to enhance your customer base? Then it’s time to think about the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your Shopify store. Is SEO important? Absolutely!
Did you know that 68% of people stick to the first five search results while searching for products similar to the ones you offer? Search Engine Optimization enables your Shopify store to grab one of those top positions in Google search results. Do you feel that it is an impossible task? Don’t be, in this article, I will walk you through a six-segment SEO strategy that is tailor-made for your Shopify site. Just like you brought up your store brick by brick, we will optimize your Shopify store to rank top in Google search results.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
If you already know what SEO is, it’s great! But don’t panic if you are hearing it for the first time. Search Engine Optimization, as the name suggests, is an umbrella of techniques that can help your shop rank high in search engine results. In this article, we will look at various components of SEO - like keyword research, product page optimization, Shopify site structure optimization, SEO tools, content marketing, and collecting backlinks through collaboration.
Is SEO difficult to implement?
Passionate entrepreneurs like you work diligently towards the success of their business. However, you may not have the time to learn and implement the SEO principles. You might have tried, but guides that beat around the bush would have overwhelmed you. But SEO is not difficult to implement. What you need is a set of crisp and clear guidelines customized for e-commerce websites. As you will see shortly, your Shopify store needs a unique SEO guide that talks in the Shopify language – You have come to the right place!
Standard SEO techniques won’t work for e-commerce sites. Why?
Your Shopify store is a unique kind of website that is quite different from say, a news portal, or a travel website. E-commerce sites face many additional challenges when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. One of them is the lack of potential content. While crawling an e-commerce website, the search engines are challenged with sparse and limited text. On a product page, all you can write about is your products, and that might revolve around your brand name, model name, and specifications of the product. However, the customers don’t search based on model names or technical specifications. So, the first challenge is creating product descriptions that have potential search terms. You should strike a perfect balance between your brand identity and customer friendliness.
High loading time
An e-commerce site has a pretty heavy backend compared to informational websites. This might pose another challenge for SEO. Slow loading pages aren’t exactly the search engine’s favorites. It’s a challenge to have fully functional e-commerce machinery and still maintain a fast and responsive website. According to researches, 52% of the total search volume originates from mobile browsers. Optimizing your Shopify store for mobile browsers is another challenge.
Wait a minute, have I scared you with all these complexities of SEO? Well, don’t worry! In this comprehensive guide, I would give you a six-stage action plan to boost your Shopify store’s search rankings. Even though it sounds difficult, you shouldn’t overlook the benefits of Search Engine Optimization.
Also, when considering product options, people first do a search rather than directly visiting any e-commerce store. You might be trying to create a marketing campaign with paid advertisements (such as Google Ads). According to NewsWhip Sales VP Thomas Stern, SEO, along with the Pay-Per-Click strategy, can make up to a 57% reduction in advertisement cost.
Six-segment SEO strategy for your Shopify store
Segment 1: Keyword research and optimization
When people search for a product, they use a wide variety of words to describe what they want. Take an example of a sweatshirt. Based on the customer’s gender, needs, priorities, and tastes, there could be a wide range of search terms associated with the simple sweatshirt. These are known as the ‘Long-Tail keywords’ – phrases that consist of three or four words and that are very specific to a particular product.
‘sweatshirt for men’, ‘sweatshirt for women’, ‘men’s XL sweatshirt’, ‘sweatshirt offers’, ‘hooded women sweatshirt’, ‘dark color sweatshirt’, ‘sweatshirt with zipper’ – There are umpteen possibilities.
If you want your Shopify store to top the search results, you must find out what are the search terms that your potential customers use. There are tools (which I would introduce later) to find out those search terms. However, there is a catch. You cannot directly incorporate all the ‘search terms’ into your Shopify website. The term ‘keyword’ comes to light at this point. A keyword could be thought of as an abstraction of a search term. While search terms can closely resemble real-world conversations - they may be jumbled, out of order, or long - the keyword is a boiled-down version of the search term.
For example, the above search terms for a sweatshirt could be condensed into a few keywords like – ‘sweatshirt’, ‘sweatshirt for men’, ‘sweatshirt for women’, and ‘hooded sweatshirt’.
How to select the perfect keywords for your Shopify store?
Once you have identified the potential search terms, you should condense them into a few keywords. There are different aspects to consider when you decide on the keywords.
Volume: You should choose keywords that have a reasonable search volume. Search volume indicates the number of searches for a specific keyword during a time period. There is no point to rank for keywords that nobody searches. How do you determine the search volume for a particular keyword? The keyword planner tool from Google can show you the projected number of searches each keyword gets on a monthly or weekly basis.
Competition: While you go for a ‘reasonably popular’ keyword, you cannot target something that has a lot of competition. If you try to rank for the keyword ‘best sweatshirt’ it may not be a good idea. You can find out what keywords your competitors are ranking for and try and use similar terms.
Relevance: A rule of thumb for selecting keywords is that they should be relevant to your content. Search engines are intelligent enough to recognize your content if it tries to rank for bogus keywords.
Intent: The intent of a search means, with what purpose the target audience is searching. The search could have a ‘buy-now’ intent or an ‘informational’ intent. As an e-commerce site, you should have a mix of keywords with different intents. The ‘buy-now’ intent keywords often have modifiers like ‘buy’, ‘coupon’, ‘cheap’, ‘free shipping’ to list a few. The informational intent would have something like ‘how-to’, ‘best way to’, ‘why’ or ‘how’. While it is important to focus on the ‘buy-now’ intent keyword in your product pages, you should also have a good volume of information intent, especially on your blog pages.
Once you have identified the set of keywords that you want to rank, you can incorporate them in the following areas of your Shopify store.
Keywords in the product title
On a product page, the title is the most prominent text. It is common sense to add your most important keyword in the product title. However, you should be careful while placing your keyword in the product title. While you try to improve the SEO, you should also remember that humans are going to read it eventually. Your product titles should be descriptive and enticing. You should strike a perfect balance in your product title, which will please both your customers and search engines.
Keywords in the product description
Your product description is a goldmine while trying to score with the search engines. A unique, well-thought-out product description can significantly boost the Search Engine Optimization of your Shopify store. First, you need to create unique product descriptions for each of your products. If you repeat the product descriptions or slightly alter them for different products, the search engines might mark your pages as duplicate. Instead, invest in creating informative, enticing and unique product descriptions with intelligent placement of keywords. The bottom line is, you need to incorporate the keywords that you target to rank, but at the same time, you should keep the description natural.
Keywords in meta descriptions
You might be familiar with meta descriptions of your Shopify store pages. They show up under your page title in the search results. Did you know that meta descriptions are a great place to plant your keywords? Each page in your Shopify store - the front page, product pages, collection pages, blog posts – needs to have a unique meta description. You can aim to incorporate a few of your relevant keywords into the meta descriptions.
Keywords in image and alt titles
Beautiful and stunning images might be the strength of your Shopify product page. But, did you know that the same images could help you in SEO? In 2018, Google image search accounted for 22.6% of the total internet searches. You can incorporate your target keywords in the image filenames as well as in the ALT text of the image.
A word of caution…
While keywords are a great way of Optimizing your Shopify store, you shouldn't go overboard with them. You should place a keyword only once in the page URL, the product page title, and image alt text. You can plan to have two or three keywords in the product description. Search engines have evolved, and they have multiple algorithms to flag if a web page tries to do keyword stuffing.
Rule of thumb: Keep your product pages human-friendly and realistic. Seek out creative ideas to place your keywords most naturally.
Segment 2: Product Page Optimization
Your product page is the most important asset when it comes to the Search Engine Optimization of your Shopify store. Here are some tips and tricks to create super product pages that would help you ace in the Search Engine Optimization.
Length of title and meta description: You need to keep your product page title and meta descriptions short and punchy. Often, when the search engine shows a result, it limits the page title to 60 characters. The meta descriptions often clipped at around 155 characters. You need to pack your keywords and the most exciting content within this word limit.
Customize your URLs: Even though it is often overlooked, URLs play a crucial role in SEO. You shouldn’t be satisfied with the auto-generated URL for a product page. They may not contain your keyword or emphasis your product. Shopify usually has a canonical URL structure that includes your collections, products and, finally, the product page. If it doesn’t help your SEO, you should edit the Shopify product page URL.
Product descriptions: We have earlier seen how product descriptions could be a gold mine in keywords optimization. They are also crucial for optimizing your Shopify product page. There are several points to remember while writing an SEO friendly product description.
- Include two or three instances of the targeted keywords.
- Write unique product descriptions for each product and avoid automating the task. The product descriptions should match the title, and they need to be accurate.
- Product descriptions should be human-friendly. You need rich content that emphasizes the product’s benefits along with its specification. Through your product descriptions, you are creating content for your e-commerce site. This content will help the search engine crawlers to index your site for certain keywords.
Preparing images: As we have seen already, preparing the product page images can be subtle but can have a big effect on the SEO. In addition to providing a descriptive filename and alt text, you need to optimize the image file size as well. You should have high-quality images, but make sure they don't increase the loading time of your product page.
Interlinking product pages: While it’s great to have backlinks from other sites, interlinking your product pages could also be beneficial. You also need to provide descriptive text for the link. The link should take the user to a relevant page. Interlinking your product pages prompt the target audience to stay on your site longer. They also help the search engine crawlers to figure out what content is related to your product pages.
Segment 3: Shopify site structure optimization
It is no secret that a sleek website with neat navigation would delight the visitors. However, you might be wondering how it would help the Search Engine Optimization of your Shopify store. Site structure optimization has several SEO advantages that are usually overlooked.
- A great site structure makes it easy for a web crawler to parse and index your website. Your product pages may go undiscovered, in case you don’t have a proper site hierarchy.
- A great structure provides a great user experience. It would prompt your customers to stay on your website for longer times. Even though there seems to be no direct relationship between dwell time and SEO, the more people stay on your site, the better!
- Have you seen that sub-links appear below some links in the search lists? They are known as the site links. It is a great SEO advantage if your site links appear on the search results. If you have a clear and logical site structure, search engines like Google will reward you with site links.
How do you optimize your site structure?
- Have a clear hierarchy for your site. Your entire Shopify store content should fit into this hierarchy.
- Don’t clutter the main menu - Even though you have a lot to offer, streamline your main menu and include only the most important links.
- While navigating from the main menu to the submenu, there should be a logical progression. At the same time, it should be easy to go back to the main menu.
- Add ‘about us’ and ‘contact us’ pages - This would give an impression to the customers that you are an authentic business. You can also have ‘shipping and return policy’ pages, that will help you increase your content as well as authentically portray your brand.
- When you design the Shopify storefront, have a clear demarcation on what should go into the most prominent menu and what should go to the footer. Your main product categories should go in the header, whereas things like your T&C and return policy could be easily packed in the footer.
Segment 4: Mastering the SEO tools
Since Search Engine Optimization is a hot topic for a very long time, there is an army of tools that would help you with the SEO for your Shopify store. They come in every variety - simple dashboard-based tools to advanced ones, free to premium ones. Whatever be your SEO budget, knowing and mastering a few tools would come handy.
- Google keyword planner – This is a free tool that comes bundled with the Google AdWords account. If you don’t have a Google ads account, you can easily sign up with your Google Id. Google AdWords account is primarily meant to set up Google ads for your website. However, to use the keyword planner, you don’t need to run an active ads campaign. You only have to draft a campaign. From the Ads dashboard, you can see the Keyword planner tool.
The new keyword finder tool will ask you to input words, phrases or URLs related to your Shopify store. Then it will output a huge array of keyword suggestions along with the monthly search volume and the competition for those keywords. If you want to place ads for those keywords, the tool will also show you the approximate cost. This interesting article gives detailed information about the Keyword planner.
- Google search console - GSC was formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools. This tool will help you find out how your Shopify store performs from the Google search engine point of view. It is a free tool. You will have to provide your website URL and verify the domain belongs to you. You can submit your sitemap in GSC for faster crawling. GSC dashboard gives you information about how many times a user clicked through to your website from a search result page. It also shows how many times your URL appeared in Google search results. It will also give you information about whether all pages in your website are indexed by Google if there are any broken links or crawling errors. This article will give you excellent information about how to get started with GSC.
- Google Analytics - This is another free tool from Google that will provide you metrics about your Shopify store visitors. While GSC gives information from a search engine point of view, the GA tool provides information from a user perspective. The Google Analytics dashboard has the total number of users, the number of first time users, the duration of each user session, the average number of repeated sessions, number of page views, and the bounce rate.
- Answer the public- This tool will help you visualize the possible search terms that your customers might use. Once you provide your target keyword, the platform will generate hundreds of potential search queries (including questions, comparison queries, and long-tail keywords in alphabetical order)
- Ahref’s Backlink checker - Do you want to know the online presence of your Shopify store? the Backlink checker will provide information about all the sites that have has backlinks to your website. It is also useful to research your competitors. With this tool, you can find out what kind of websites, blogs, influencers promote products like yours and then try to contact them to get similar references.
There are a multitude of other free and paid SEO tools like Serpstat, Seobility, Keywords Everywhere, Morningscore, Long Tail Pro. You should do proper research before purchasing or using any of these third-party tools.
Segment 5: Design a content marketing strategy
You have seen multiple ways to make search engines find and index your content. However, the most essential raw material in your SEO strategy is the content itself. If you carefully design your product pages, product descriptions, and blogs, the content itself will do the marketing. There are a few sure-shot content marketing strategies that you can practice while enhancing the SEO for your Shopify store.
- Write rich product descriptions - One of the challenges in SEO for an e-commerce site is the sparse content. Descriptive and accurate product descriptions are a remedy for this problem. You shouldn’t duplicate the product description and shouldn’t fill it with monotonous essays about product features. Your description should be enticing for a customer to click the buy button. It should be interesting enough to keep a prospective customer to stay on your page for longer durations and tempting enough for people to come back.
- Include product reviews - The strongest point of hot-shot e-commerce sites like Amazon is customer reviews. Don’t shy away from displaying customer reviews on your product pages. It is helpful in two ways. One, it increases the authenticity of your product. People trust the firsthand experience of other people. Second, the reviews contribute towards the content on your product page. It gives more input for the crawlers to binge on.
- Blog posts - You might be a merchant in heart, but you need to wear many hats while selling your products online through Shopify. Blogs are the best way to establish your brand’s online presence as an authentic seller. Blogs that contain keywords targeted for SEO will help to complement your Shopify store content. So, have you added a WordPress blog to your store, or are you using the Shopify blog? Let us know what you prefer!
- Participating in forums - When you sell a product on Shopify, you become the part of a large community of new-generation merchants. You need to collaborate and contribute to your online community. Shopify forum specific to your product group is an excellent place to start. You can also ask or answer questions on online platforms like Quora. The more you participate online, the better visibility your products get.
Segment 6: Earning backlinks and collaborative marketing
One thing that can boost the SEO for your Shopify store is quality backlinks. Backlinks are those links to your web pages from other websites. If you get backlinks from popular sites, it increases the authenticity of your content. Search Engines algorithms can understand that your links appear on multiple places on the web and its high relevance. It’s good when people quote you!
Building backlinks to your Shopify store is a slow process. Don’t fall for advertisements that assure you thousands of backlinks for a price. Backlinks need to be genuine and organic
There are several ways you can build them over time.
Product Reviews - There are a lot of professional product reviewers out there who will give you a genuine opinion of your product. You need to find out who are the reputed product reviewers in your domain. Once they agree to review your free sample, they might create content on their blog or YouTube channel. Most of them, if they find your product useful, will give a backlink to your Shopify store. In an era when everyone looks for review before buying, it could be helpful in your offline marketing as well.
Co-advertisements - You should always lookout for an opportunity to do collaborative advertisements. Assume your Shopify store sells sneakers, you could always look out for collaboration with sports-accessory brands. You can also try to partner with your product manufacturers in advertisements. Even though it does not directly help SEO, co-advertising is a great way to get attention and maybe a few backlinks.
Influencer marketing - Advertising with a movie or sports star has been a thing of the past. In this social media era, there are people called influencers. They are the social media heroes from different domains with a huge number of followers. Getting a backlink on the social media profile or blog posts of these influencers can be a great boost for your SEO.
Guest post on Shopify and other blogs - We have seen the importance of having a blog for your Shopify store. However, your blog might take time to gather enough traffic. However, you can guest post on popular sites like Shopify blog to get more visibility. It is like you are borrowing their popularity for a short while to push your content. In your blog post, you might be able to add a few legitimate links back to your site (with the site owner’s permission). Also, you can get a backlink through the author bio.
Congratulations!! You have made it to the end of this guide. Now, it is time to go out there and start the Search Engine Optimization of your Shopify store – one brick at a time. Before you go, let me give you a few non-technical thumb rules for a successful Search Engine Optimization plan.
Be patient and consistent!
Keep adding great product pages that enrich the customer experience!
Write great blog posts, but not just only about your products!
When there is a chance, collaborate!
Get out there on the social media and brag about your products!