Building your SEO strategy is always made easier when you’re starting with a good foundation. Especially if you’re running an ecommerce storefront, knowing that certain technical elements are ready out of the box allows you to focus on what’s important - selling your products and delighting your customers. If you’re looking for a platform that truly understands this, look no further than Shopify.
Today we’re going to look at what tools Shopify sets you up with from day one, along with five ways you can make the most of the platform’s SEO capabilities.
Why Shopify is good for SEO
Whether you’re a start-up with a small team, or a large enterprise with SEO marketers, Shopify starts all of its merchants with a really solid base from which they can optimize and refine their SEO safe in the knowledge that many technical elements are taken care of.
Mobile responsive - All themes from the Shopify Theme Store are mobile responsive as standard. This means all stores will automatically adapt to different devices, and takes a lot of the optimization work out of mobile SEO.
Shopify Content Delivery Network (CDN) - Speed is a huge part of SEO, and is massively important to user experience. Shopify’s CDN ensures your content is delivered as fast as possible to users around the world, regardless of their proximity to your store’s location.
Security - Especially in ecommerce, security is vital to customers and search engines. Shopify automatically generates an SSL certificate during domain registration.
Site architecture - Shopify stores follow an easily navigable structure that is simple for search engines to crawl and users to follow.
- URL structure - When you create a new product or page, Shopify by default generates a URL that follows a simple, readable structure using simple characters which is far better for your SEO. Plus, these are easy to customize as we’ll see later.
All of the above puts Shopify stores at an advantage, but this is just a starting point. Through further optimization, development, and content, merchants can make the most of that advantage and develop a really strong SEO strategy that puts them well ahead of their competition.
#1 - Optimize image alt tags, titles, meta descriptions, and URLs
When optimizing for SEO, we want to make the most of every opportunity to implement keywords and make it easier for search engines to crawl and display the information we want users to see. Let’s take a look at a product page in a search engine results page:
In the above example, from top to bottom, we have:
- URL - www.pipsnacks.com > collections > cheese-balls
- Meta title - “Cheese Balls - Pipsnacks”
- Meta description - “Try the first better-for-you…”
These are three prime places for your keywords. When a user enters a query, this will be the first thing they see on the SERP and therefore one of the first points where they decide whether or not to visit your store. Therefore you want to ensure they summarize your target keywords, what the page is about, and details about the product or page in question.
These are easy to change in Shopify. Simply navigate to the page in question, then scroll down to “Search engine listing preview” and click “Edit SEO”.
From here, you can edit these three key elements for each page’s SEO. When doing so, ensure that you:
- Create unique meta titles and descriptions for each page
- Include your target keywords in the title, description, and URL
- Summarize the page’s contents, purpose, and unique selling point (USP)
- Consider the kind of information that would make your target audience want to click your link over competitors
We also mentioned image alt tags, another important SEO element you can control easily. Google and other search engines cannot crawl an image itself, but they can crawl the image alt tag. These are descriptions embedded within your page’s HTML that tell search engines what an image on the page actually is. These are good not just for search engine bots, but also for accessibility as it allows screen readers to describe the image.
In practice, they look like this:
The text in quotations is the image’s alt tag, describing the image on the product page with the brand, product name, and a short summary of the product. Google’s recommendations for alt text/tags is simple - keep it useful and informative without keyword stuffing.
To edit image alt text for images on pages such as blogs, navigate to the page then “Edit Image” within the editor.
When uploading images and inserting them, you’ll also be prompted to add alt text.
For products, go to the product, navigate to “Media”, click on the image, and then “Add alt text”.
#2 - Add schema/structured data markup
Google wants to ensure that their results pages answer user search intent, and to do that they make use of various features to better satisfy that intent. One such feature is called a rich snippet or rich result, where additional details are included along with a link on a SERP.
These are achieved by implementing structure markup throughout your store. This is data embedded into your page’s HTML that tells search engine crawlers more information about your page, for example the price, product availability, or reviews. Standing out on a SERP is hard, especially if you’re competing with other brands and products for unbranded keywords. Therefore you want to do as much as possible to capture the attention of your target audience, and rich snippets can do just that. These aren’t necessarily guaranteed to appear, however optimizing for them makes it much more likely for snippets to appear.
Implementing structured markup typically requires knowledge of JSON-LD or the help of a developer. However as a Shopify merchant, implementation of structured markup is as easy as installing an app. SEO Manager, for example, can automatically apply structured markup to your store, saving you time and the headache of wrapping your head around code.
#3 - Improve your site speed
While Shopify gives you a good head start with site speed, there is still plenty you can do to make sure your store loads lightning fast. It’s crucial for the customer experience; in one study, 44% of consumers said that if a site is slower than they expect they’re less likely to make a purchase. Moreover, 37% said they’d be less likely to revisit a site with slow load speeds. Your products could be the best there is, but if your site is slow then your target customers won’t even see them.
Improving your site speed can be easily achieved by completing a few simple tasks. The first is to run some speed tests on your store for which you can use tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights. This will show you where there are major areas for improvement and any where you should consider tweaking before they become a problem.
From there, you can do the following:
Reduce image file sizes - Large image files can often be the prime culprit in slow load times.
Remove any large or unnecessary elements - This includes gifs and other animations, large images, videos etc.
Enable browser caching - This means that the browser isn’t sending requests for similar content from other pages or sending multiple requests for the same page if it has already been visited.
- Clear out any unused apps - You can also look for if one app could consolidate the functionality for which you currently use two or more apps.
Any time you’re going to upload new images, add new page content, or install a new app, take the time to go through what is already present on your site and evaluate the impact it may have.
Making these small changes and checking them on a regular basis will ensure that your store stays speedy for all those excited customers eager to check out your products.
#4 - Write and publish blogs regularly
Writing and maintaining a blog can take a lot of time, but your store’s blog is invaluable to SEO. Your product pages and other site content can only do so much to promote your store, and they’ll typically only serve to satisfy transactional or investigative search intent. Blogs allow you to target different types of intent, new audiences, and cement your store as not just a place where people can find great products but also a resource of interesting and useful information.
The first step in maintaining a great blog is to find the right topics to write about. You want to answer the questions your target audience is asking, using the keywords and language they’ll use when inputting search terms. Consider which long-tail keywords they may be searching for, and topics related to your products that people want to know more about.
You should also aim for a mix of seasonally relevant and trending topics, as well as evergreen articles that will serve your store’s SEO long-term. This will help you answer different types of intent, be that seasonal or year-round. A great example of this is Homesick’s blog.
Here’s an example of a seasonally relevant article:
And examples of evergreen articles:
Seasonal articles can target trending topics and the kind of information audiences want at specific times of the year that they may not be interested in the rest of the time. Whereas evergreen articles target questions and topics they’ll be interested in regardless. Homesick in the above articles are targeting questions that are relevant to their products around candle care, cleaning, and repurposing which are questions that a user may search for regardless of the brand giving the advice. This positions them as a great resource for information, and may introduce new potential customers to their brand when they weren’t even looking for a product to purchase.
Publishing these useful, interesting articles on a regular basis will demonstrate to search engines and users that your site is a worthwhile resource of interesting and useful content.
#5 - Make the most of reviews
Reviews are golden resources for any ecommerce merchant. They’re incredibly useful in the customer journey, acting as an additional source of persuasion and confidence for new customers. They’re also valuable to your store’s SEO, as the more positive reviews a store has the better it looks to search engines. It shows them that people trust your store, and that makes it more likely to be ranked in SERPs.
Shopify has a number of apps and integrations that make collecting reviews much easier and more automated. However that’s just the first step, the next is where you actually display those reviews to benefit your store’s SEO.
Product pages - The most obvious and important space for reviews is your product pages. Display star ratings near the top of the page for a quick summary, and then full reviews further down the page for visitors to read for more detail. These can also work wonders for your product’s SEO as they may mention keywords that people are using that you hadn’t considered.
Homepage - Your homepage is likely to be your top landing page, therefore it makes sense to get a bit of social proof displayed there so site visitors can immediately see your store is worthwhile. You could also display some testimonial snippets.
Landing pages - If you have a landing page set up for a seasonal event or for a product you offer such as subscriptions, then displaying reviews can be hugely beneficial. They demonstrate to users and search engines that whatever the landing page is promoting is high quality and useful.
Reviews are also hugely important to local SEO, so be sure to encourage reviews on Google as well as other trusted third party sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor to really boost your SEO.
Search engine optimization isn’t a one-and-done kind of task, and while Shopify sets you up with all the right tools it’s about how you use those to help maintain your store’s SEO in the long-term. With easy optimizations to your meta information, making use of handy apps, and taking action to improve speed and content, you can easily maintain and improve your store’s ranking with search engines.