If you manage a Shopify store, it’s obvious why organic search traffic is so valuable — it gives you the opportunity to boost your sales numbers without paying for external marketing or ad campaigns. So Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing skill you’ll want to nail when it comes to your online store. The great news is that you don’t need to be an SEO expert to improve your search ranking. In this post we’ll go through 8 key steps on your Shopify SEO Checklist to kickstart your journey to the top of the search results.
Shopify SEO Checklist Pre-Work: 3 Must-Have Shopify SEO tools
You’ll want to have a few things set up before you can get started optimizing your Shopify store.
- Setting up Google Analytics on your Shopify store is a crucial step that will provide you with a ton of insight into how your site is performing and where you can make improvements.
- 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 the visibility of your store. It’s very important that you verify your site with Google, otherwise Search Console won’t gather any data for you.
- You’ll want to use some kind of 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 a ton of options out there.
Once you’ve got these three things ready to go, you’re ready to jump into the Shopify SEO Checklist.
1. Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
Your sitemap is just 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.
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 it 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 make sure you 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 so you can see everything in one place instead of going back and forth.
- In your Google Analytics account go to Acquisition > Search Console in the left-hand menu. It will guide you through hooking it up, but you can also hop over to Google’s support page to get step-by-step help.
2. Do Your Keyword Research
Keyword research is the foundation of your Shopify SEO, 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 are searching 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 people search for the types of products you sell, you’ll want to dive deeper 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 often called “long tail” keywords. They’ll have smaller search volumes, but will be more targeted to your store, which means a more highly-qualified sales lead coming straight to you site. So 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 make a purchase from your store.
3. Optimize Your Pages
Once you have a list of keywords (we’d recommend starting with 5-10) that are possible superstars for your store, you’ll want to optimize specific product pages for those keywords to improve your ranking.
Pick a main, unique keyword for each product page
First, pick the best possible primary keyword/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 in your body copy.
It might seem counterintuitive, but more isn’t better when it comes to keywords per page. You want to avoid trying to just fill a page up with a million different keywords, because Google wants to serve people up a page that’s super targeted to a particular search term.
How and Where to Use Your Page’s Primary Target Keyword
- In your H1 tag, which will generally be the page title field in Shopify. 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 be sure to 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 url’s 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”
- Always 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, make sure to 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).
4. 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, too.
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. Where the average visitor to your page will only see the image itself, search engine crawlers see text behind the image (like the filename, and alt tag) that you can fill in to help them understand what your image is about.
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 url’s 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.”
5. 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 SEO success. When other people link to your site, Google notices, and considers your page more relevant than other, 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 very little 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 you’re 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 a bit of time and effort.
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 over and over again 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 be sure to think about their interests before you start.
Here are few content marketing ideas, using the example of a clothing or accessory store:
- Maximize holiday opportunities. Create gift guides leading up to popular gift-giving holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation. For Halloween, show how your products can be used to make an amazing costume.
- Post about looks for the season that incorporate your products, or about 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 really endless. Shopify also has some excellent resources with content marketing ideas that are worth checking out.
7. 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 pay off, and 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. That way 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.
8. Additional Shopify SEO Considerations
If you’ve gone through all the other steps in the checklist, and want to squeeze out a little extra SEO juice, here a few more things that can help your search rank.
- Optimize your store for mobile. Fortunately, pretty much every theme on the Shopify Theme Store is mobile friendly, but this is an absolute must these days, so it’s worth noting.
- Make sure your store’s loading speed is fast enough. Google’s PageSpeed Insights in a great tool to analyze the performance of your store, and here are a few tips to help boost your speed.
- 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 the Google’s Search Console Help Section.
Search Engine Optimization takes time and effort but it’s like compound interest for your store: it keeps paying you back. BackInStock Customer Alerts are another way you can easily maximize sales by notifying customers immediately when a product is back in stock. Sign up for a free, 30-day trial today. It takes less than 5 minutes to set up.
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