If you run a Shopify store, organic search traffic is valuable because it allows you to increase your sales numbers without paying for external marketing or advertising campaigns. So, when it comes to your online store, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing skill you’ll want to nail. The great news is that you don’t need to be an SEO expert to improve your search ranking. We’ll go through eight key steps on your Shopify SEO checklist to kick start your journey to the top.
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What is Shopify SEO?
Shopify SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing your Shopify store and its content to rank higher on search engine results pages. This can be accomplished through on-page optimization, such as optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions, and product descriptions, and off-page optimization, such as building backlinks and creating social media content.
Today, we’re going to review both on-page and off-page optimizations. But before we do that, let’s review what you must have in place beforehand.
Shopify SEO Checklist Pre-Work: Must-Have Shopify SEO tools
Before optimizing your Shopify store, you’ll need to have some things set up.
👩🏻⚖️Seek legal counsel
Find local business experts on advice related to taxes and laws for eCommerce. You won’t get into trouble with the law if you unknowingly make a faux pas.
🏷 Choose your Shopify sale channels
Shopify offers several sale channels. There’s an Online Store option with a Shopify subscription plan, a Shop channel through the Shop app, a Facebook store, a Buy Button for blogs, an Instagram channel, a Wholesale channel, and the Handshake wholesale marketplace.
💰Decide on the best pricing plan for your needs
Shopify offers several options for businesses. Their Basic plan starts at $29 USD/monthly and scales up to the Advanced plan for $299 USD/monthly.
🏪Selling in-person as well?
If you want to sell in person too, Shopify offers point-of-sale hardware.
💸Consider purchasing an existing Shopify business
Shopify’s Exchange Marketplace is the perfect place to buy or sell a business. With a wide variety of businesses on offer, and seller support available after the sale, it’s a great option for entrepreneurs looking to get started in business ownership. This way, you can find the perfect one for you without putting too much work into setting it up.
🖥Create your store and pick a URL
If you want to sell online, you will need a Shopify URL. This is the web address that people will use to visit your store. You can choose any URL you like, but it’s best to use your business’s brand name.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your Shopify URL. First, it should be easy to remember and spell. Second, it should be relevant to your business. And finally, it should be available!
Did you know Shopify has a domain name generator? Enter your brand name and Shopify gives you ideas for domains you can buy.
🎨Design your store
Once you’ve chosen your URL, you need to design your store by customizing your theme, adding and organizing your products, and adding a blog to your store.
🧪Test your store
If you’re planning to launch a Shopify store, it’s important to test it out before going live. This will help you work out any bugs and ensure that everything runs properly.
There are a few different ways to test your store. You can create a dummy account and add items to your cart or use the Shopify Checkout Simulator.
To test your store using the Shopify Checkout Simulator, go to Settings > Checkout and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Then, click on the Launch Checkout Simulator button.
This opens up a new window where you can enter your credit card details and simulate a purchase.
Once you’ve tested your store and worked out any bugs, you’re ready to launch! Make sure to let your customers know when you’ll be going live so they can be one of the first to shop at your new store.
Download your first optimization tools
If you want to get started with Shopify SEO, you need to download the right tools.
A few different Shopify SEO optimization tools are available, and each has its own set of features and benefits.
The most important thing is to find the tool that best suits your needs and budget.
Here are a few of the most popular Shopify SEO optimization tools:
Setting up Google Analytics on your Shopify store is a crucial step that provides insight into how your site is performing and where you can make improvements.
Plug in SEO
We also recommend an app like PluginSEO for Shopify. PluginSEO audits your website for SEO. It helps you fix broken links and optimize headings, image ALT tags, filenames, and more. It’ll also periodically check your SEO’s health.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a tool you can turn on (here’s a quick how-to video) within Google Analytics to check your indexing status and optimize your store’s visibility. You must verify your site with Google, otherwise, Search Console won’t gather any data for you.
Keyword Research Tool(s)
You also need to use a keyword research tool to help you figure out which search terms have the highest potential volume (and therefore value) for your store and products. We recommend Google Keyword Planner, ahrefs, and Moz, but there are many options out there, free and paid.
Last, we recommend Yoast SEO for Shopify. As of January 2022, Yoast is available for Shopify and we couldn’t be happier! Yoast SEO offers suggestions on how to optimize your content. It will remind you to add internal links, recommend using keyword variations in your headers, and more. Yoast SEO remains a favorite among online store owners.
On-Page SEO Checklist: From Keyword Research to Content Strategy
Do Your Keyword Research
Keyword research is the foundation of your Shopify SEO strategy, so find a favorite keyword research tool (like one of the ones we mentioned in the Pre-Work section, above) and make it your new BFF.
Understand How Customers Search for Products Like Yours
The goal of doing keyword research is to understand how your potential customers search for your products.
For example, if you sell handmade phone cases, and you’re naming your products “Leather smartphone case,” but most people search for “Leather iPhone case” or “Leather case for Samsung Galaxy phone,” you’re missing out on potential traffic to your site (and sales).
Look at Search Volume on Keywords Related to Your Products
Once you understand how users search for the types of products you sell, you’ll want to look into how many people search for a particular keyword, or the search volume.
The higher the volume, the more value a keyword has, and the more competitive it will be. You can use Neil Patel’s free ubersuggest tool to see how difficult it is to rank for your keywords.
Narrow Down Your List of Targeted Keywords
Look for keywords with high potential search volume, and a low to medium difficulty to rank. You’re probably not going to be able to rank number one for “phone case,” so you’ll need to get more specific.
Longer, more specific keyword phrases are called “long tail” keywords. They have smaller search volumes but will be more targeted to your store, which means a more highly-qualified sales lead coming straight to your site. A keyword like “handmade leather iPhone case” has a much lower volume, but the person searching this phrase is probably in a buying mindset and is much more likely to purchase from your store.
Optimize Your Images for SEO
Another important item on your Shopify SEO Checklist is image optimization. So much of how we understand SEO is all about text and keywords, but your images have a role to play.
Images matter for SEO because Google’s algorithm pays attention to behavior metrics that reflect user experience, like the amount of time visitors spend on a web page. And visitors tend to spend more time on pages with high-quality images.
Images can also be optimized to more directly help with SEO as well. The average visitor to your page will only see the image itself, search engine crawlers see the text behind the image (like the filename, and alt-tag) that you can fill in to help them understand what your image is about.
Filename: this is the name of the image
Alt-text: this is the description of the image
This is the Parallax Shopify theme. The designers for this particular image chose the file name leather-wallet-case-for-iphone-6-plus-tan and the alt-text is tan leather wallet case iphone6.
Notice how the file name has hyphens in between every word. This is to ensure legibility for the reader.
So, before you add an image to your website, take some time to customize the filename, using your primary target keyword, and the same best practices you used on URLs above (and of course, make sure that you have the right to use the image!).
You should also always include a brief description for your images that uses your target keyword as the image’s alt text. You can add alt text by selecting an image, clicking “Edit,” entering your description in the “alt text” field, and then clicking “Save.”
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Optimize Your Pages
Once you have a list of keywords (we’d recommend starting with 5-10) that are possible superstars for your store, optimize specific product catalogs pages for those keywords to improve your ranking.
Pick a main, unique keyword for each product page
First, pick the best possible primary keyword or phrase for a specific product page. You want this keyword to show up everywhere – your page title, your URL, your meta description, your H1, and your body copy.
It might seem counterintuitive, but more isn’t better for keywords per page. You want to avoid just filling a page up with a million different keywords because Google wants to serve people up a page focused on a particular search term.
How and Where to Use Your Page’s Primary Target Keyword
- In your Header 1 (title) tag, Shopify will generally be the page title field. Note: you should use only one H1 tag per page.
- In your page’s meta title, towards the beginning. Google displays the first 50-60 characters for most page titles, so keep your page title concise.
- In your meta description, towards the beginning. Page descriptions are truncated to 160 characters, try to keep yours around 150-155 characters.
- In your URL, see tips for formatting your URLs below.
Notes on Optimizing Your Page URLs
A well-crafted URL gives both people and search engines an easy-to-understand indication of what the destination page will be about.
Shopify automatically generates a URL for your product pages based on your page title, but you can edit it by going to your Shopify admin > Online Store > Pages. Click the title of the page you want to edit, then in the Search engine listing preview, click “Edit website SEO.”
- Your main keyword should be in the URL. So using our phone case example, you might set a product page URL to “mystore.com/handmade-leather-iphone-case-tan.”
- Use lowercase letters, and use hyphens to separate words (not underscores, or spaces).
- Eliminate filler words like “and” and “for.”
If you want to update the URL on an existing product, redirect any old links and traffic from the old URL to your new one. (This also comes in handy if you ever delete a product. Using a redirect you can send people to similar, current inventory).
Use Social Media to Expand Your Audience and Sales
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest give potential customers another opportunity to find you and your products. Plus, links back to your pages from social media sites can also help improve your search ranking. Plus, now you can also sell products from your Shopify store directly on Instagram, and Facebook.
But it can be super easy to spend a ton of time managing social media channels without much payoff. Facebook in particular is making it more difficult for businesses to show up in people’s feeds.
So before you start posting, it’s a good idea to cruise some competitor pages to see what channels they have, what kinds of posts are doing well for them, and which ones seem to be low interest. You’ve already let someone else do the heavy lifting for you.
Once you set up your social channels and start posting content, monitor your analytics carefully to see which platforms and types of content are really driving traffic that converts into sales, and focus your time and energy on those.
Create a Content Marketing Strategy that Supports Your SEO
You can’t come up with an infinite number of products to sell to help you rank for every keyword on your list. This is where content marketing comes in. Having a blog on your site where you create posts that target your keywords can help bring in more traffic, and keep your email and social media marketing fresh and engaging.
You want to make sure your efforts pay off though — just getting more traffic isn’t the point. You want sales. So make sure every post you create has a clear call-to-action, whether it’s signing up for your email list, unlocking a special discount code, or buying a specific product.
Your content marketing should be all about putting a new spin on your products so you can pitch them repeatedly without just sending people to the same old product landing page. It should also be about providing value to your audience to create customer loyalty, so think about their interests before you start.
Here are a few content marketing ideas, using the example of a clothing or accessory
- Maximize holiday opportunities. Create gift guides leading to popular gift-giving holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Graduation. For example, for Halloween, show how your products can be used to make a costume.
- Post about looks for the season that incorporate your products or the newest color trends with links to items you carry in those colors.
- Show people how to copy a popular celebrity’s look using items from your store.
The possibilities are endless. Shopify also has some excellent resources with content marketing ideas worth checking out.
Get Backlinks to Boost Your Ranking
A backlink is just a fancy name for an external link to your website, and they’re an essential part of Shopify’s SEO success. When other people link to your site, Google notices and considers your page more relevant than similar pages with no backlinks. Get a lot of backlinks, and you’ll start moving up the search rankings.
Getting backlinks is never guaranteed, though since it depends on other people, and it can take some time to get them. Here are a few tips to increase backlinks to your Shopify store.
- Guest Blogging: One of the most popular ways to get backlinks from other sites is through guest blogging. Bloggers generally love having guest writers because it gives their site fresh content for minimal effort, so it’s worthwhile to try to look for guest posting opportunities where you can include a keyword-rich link or two back to your site.
- Get Links From Your Makers & Manufacturers: If your store sells other people’s products, ask your makers and manufacturers to list and link to your shop on a “Where to Find Our Products” page. It helps them to make their products easy to buy too, so this is usually an easy win.
- Get Your Products Reviewed by Influencers & Bloggers: Another easy way to get backlinks is by sending your products to influential bloggers within your niche to do a product review. This can certainly earn you a few links and high-quality traffic, though it takes time and effort.
Technical “Off-Page” SEO
Use a responsive design
Another important factor to consider is how your site looks on mobile devices. With more and more people using their phones and tablets to browse the web, your site must be designed for smaller screens.
A responsive design automatically adjusts the layout of your site to fit any screen size. As a result, your site will look great on all devices, from desktop computers to smartphones.
Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
Your sitemap is a list of your website’s individual pages in a format that search engines can easily read. Shopify automatically generates a sitemap for you, and you can find it by entering “mystore.com/sitemap.xml” in your web browser. Submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console helps Google know about all the pages on the site, which can help your site rank better in search results.
Follow these steps to submit your sitemap:
- Sign in to Google Search Console.
- If you manage multiple stores, or sites, select the store you want to submit a sitemap for at the top left.
- Then click on Sitemaps from the left-hand menu.
- In the Add a Sitemap section, enter the URL for your Shopify store’s Sitemap that you grabbed earlier (“mystore.com/sitemap.xml”), then click Submit.
- Google will use your sitemap to index your Shopify store and its pages. This can take some time, so make sure to check back later in the day, or the following day to see Success under the Status column for your sitemap.
- If you see Errors as a status, click on it for details and fix any issues so your site indexes properly. Here are some common errors, and how to fix them.Now that you have Search Console set up, you can configure it in your Analytics account to see everything in one place instead of going back and forth.
- In your Google Analytics account go to Acquisition.
- Then, click Search Console in the left-hand menu. It will guide you through setup, but you can also go to Google’s support page to get step-by-step help.
Check for mobile-friendliness
Mobile optimization is important for any website, but especially Shopify sites. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Enter your website page and see if it’s optimized or not. If it’s not, consider using a mobile-friendly Shopify theme. All pages should be just as readable on mobile as on desktop.
Optimize Your URLs
To ensure your URLs are optimized for search engines, you’ll want to follow a few best practices:
1. Use keywords in your URL
✋🏻❌NOT THIS: www.backinstock.org/blog/post3441412455
See what we did there?
2. Keep your URL concise
✋🏻❌NOT THIS: www.backinstock.org/blog/shopify-seo-checklist-of-your-dreams-read-our-article-now
3. Avoid using special characters
✋🏻❌NOT THIS: www.backinstock.org/blog/234~12###%^2$
4. Use hyphens to separate words
✋🏻❌NOT THIS: www.backinstock.org/blog/shopifyseochecklist
5. Make sure your URL is easy to read
✋🏻❌NOT THIS: www.backinstock.org/blog/shopifyseochecklist
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Don’t Use Duplicate Content
If you have duplicate content on your website, search engines can find it difficult to determine which page to rank. This can lead to lower rankings and less traffic to your site.
To avoid this, make sure that all of your content is original. If you have similar content on multiple pages, use a canonical URL to tell Google which page is the most important. You can also use the nofollow tag to tell search engines not to follow a specific page.
You can help ensure that your website is getting the traffic it deserves by taking these steps.
Use a global navigation menu
A global navigation menu is a menu that contains links to the most important pages on a website. These links make it easier for visitors to find specific web pages, whether they’re the product, collection, or sale pages. Global navigation menus tell crawlers which pages are most important on a website.
There are several types of global navigation menus, each with their own benefits:
Single-bar navigation: all links live in one bar and are limited. This type of menu is great for simple websites with few pages.
Double-bar navigation: primary and secondary links live in the navigation bar. They are stacked above each other. This type of menu is ideal for websites with multiple sections or products.
Dropdown navigation: designed so that a dropdown menu appears with more options when a user hovers over a link. This type of menu is perfect for large sites with lots of content.
The type of global navigation menu you use will depend on the size and complexity of your website. Choose the one that makes it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
Create internal links
When it comes to SEO, internal linking is one of the most important tactics. Internal links help improve your search engine rankings by linking from one page to another within your own website. This helps search engines recognize your topical authority and categorize your content.
Shopify store owners can create internal links in a few different ways:
-Linking to related products on your product pages
-Adding links to blog posts that are relevant to the products you sell
-Including links in your navigation menu
Throw dead links in the garbage
If you have a page on your site that is no longer active, you can redirect it to another relevant page on your site. This will give visitors a new destination instead of a dead link. Redirects can be used for various reasons, such as when you remove a product that is no longer for sale.
To add a redirect in Shopify, follow Shopify’s easy instructions. Redirects are a helpful way to keep your website running and to ensure that visitors always have somewhere to go.
Optimize your website speeds
When it comes to your website, speed matters, a slow website can frustrate visitors and hurt your business. In fact, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% will abandon a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
There are many ways to improve your website’s speed, but one of the best in optimizing your images. Images are often the largest files on a web page, so reducing their size can have a major impact on performance.
There are several ways to optimize images for the web. One is to save them in a more efficient format, such as JPEG. You can also use an image compression tool to reduce the file size without reducing the quality.
These tips will help you improve your website’s speed and keep visitors happy.
Local SEO Optimizations
Make sure customers know how to contact you
To improve your local SEO, make sure your Contact Us page is filled out thoroughly. Include your name, address, and phone number so that potential customers can easily find you. This will help build trust and attract more business.
Use online directories to list your Shopify store
If you want to improve your ranking in search engines, one of the best things you can do is list your business on major directories and platforms.
- Apple Maps
- Google My Business
By listing your business on these platforms, you’ll be more visible to potential customers, and you’ll also be able to improve your search engine ranking. So it’s a win-win situation!
Stay up to date with Google’s recommendations
Google has a long history of algorithm updates, search index changes, and refreshes. They never make the recipe of their secret sauce public, but you can stay up to date with best practices on Google’s Search Console Help Section. You can also read their Google Search Center Blog and Think With Google publications. Finally, always refer to Google’s official recommended practices.
Guide Users to Your Site
Several other factors can affect your ranking in search results, but these are the most important. By optimizing your site for search engines, you’ll be able to attract more visitors and generate more leads.
By following these tips, you can optimize your Shopify website and improve the user experience. This will help you attract more visitors, generate more leads, and ultimately boost sales. So what are you waiting for?
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