Looking for more ways to catch attention in search results? Let’s talk about meta tags!
Meta tags are a seemingly small detail, however they have the power to influence user behavior and help boost your store’s SEO.
We’re going to explain exactly what meta tags are, why they’re important, and what you can do as a Shopify merchant to really make the most of this SEO opportunity.
What are meta tags?
Metadata or meta tags are pieces of HTML within a page’s code that summarize information about that page for search engines. Here’s an example of what the meta description code looks like for Skims’ “Fits Everybody” Body Suit:
This gives Google a description of the page. This in turn is used as the description for when this page appears in search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are a variety of meta tags, however these are those which are used most commonly as part of ecommerce SEO:
- Meta Title - This is the title of the product that appears in search results.
- Meta Description - This is the description of the page.
- Image Alt Tags - These are attached to images displayed on your site, and tell search engines more about what that image is.
- Header or Title Tags - These summarize the structure of a page.
These offer an additional space for merchants to include their primary keywords, and create a unique opportunity to somewhat control how your pages appear in SERPs.
Why are meta tags and descriptions important for SEO?
When you’re optimizing your store’s SEO, you want to make the most of any opportunity possible. Especially those which make it easier for search engines and users to find and understand your site’s content. Meta tags and information are one of the easiest SEO wins for your store, as they’re not only easy to optimize but also to automate. (We’ll come back to that later!)
Metadata isn’t a ranking factor, but it can influence ranking indirectly. The information you provide can improve both discoverability and user experience. For search engines, it tells them more information about the page in question in a concise, easily readable way. For users, it gives them a really clear idea of the content on that page. Combined, this can essentially act as a way to assess the page’s suitability for a particular query.
Here are some examples of how each type of metadata can help with experience:
Meta title - This provides users with the product, key attributes, and brand name. This gives a concise summary, in a clear and easily understood way.
Meta description - If the title alone doesn’t give them enough to go on, the meta description can offer additional information that may help them to assess if the link in question will satisfy their query.
Image Alt Tags - Say a user is looking for a specific style of clothing item, and they don’t want to click through a lot of different links. They may instead use image search, inputting the features they want. A detailed image alt tag may make it more likely that the image will rank for these keywords in image search, thus helping the user.
Header/Title Tags - The user can quickly scroll through the content, glancing at the title tags to determine if the content is suitable for their needs. Equally, Google can also scan these tags to better understand the content itself and rank it for the users who will benefit from it.
By optimizing meta tags, you could also improve bounce rate and click-through rates (CTR). If your meta title and description is accurate and useful, only users who are interested in your products or content will click on it. This means a higher quality of user lands on your site, and engages with it, thus improving your page ranking.
How to optimize meta tags for Shopify
On SERPs, the meta title tag will always be the feature that stands out the most. This is essentially the first impression for the link in question, so it’s important that it’s optimized to grab attention. This is also where social shares and links will pull from for the page title, making it even more valuable.
Your meta title should be:
- Concise - Only essential information about the page
- Unique - No duplicate content!
- Clearly state the product name or blog topic
- Describe the product i.e. type, size, color, variant etc.
- Include your brand name
It should also be between 55 to 70 characters. And when editing on Shopify, you won’t be able to input more than 70 characters. This is due to the fact that after 70 characters, Google will truncate or cut off the title to fit. It’s also worth remembering that it isn’t necessarily the number of characters, but how much space that character occupies. So for example the letter “i” takes up less space than the letter “w”. This may mean your maximum meta title length will change depending on the product name.
Where to edit meta titles in Shopify
To edit a page’s meta title, simply navigate to that page in Shopify Admin. Scroll down, and below the editor you’ll see a section titled “Search engine listing preview”. Here you can edit the meta title, description, and URL for that page.
When you input details into these fields, Shopify will also generate a preview for the metadata as it would appear on SERPs.
This makes it simple to edit your meta information, and gives you a clear picture of what the user will see when it appears in search results.
When a user needs a little more information about a page, the meta description can often give extra context that won’t fit in the meta title. It also gives you more space for keywords and important information for search engines that may help determine your page’s relevance to search queries.
To optimize, your meta description should be:
- Unique - don’t recycle descriptions even if the pages are for very similar products or variants of the same product.
- Expand on the information given in the title tag, don’t reiterate the same information
- Summarize the products main features, or the blog’s primary topics
- Include target keywords for the product or blog article
- Consider the search intent of the use
- Around 150-160 characters in length
The meta description you add to a page is often what Google will use to display in the snippet below the title in search results. However in some cases, Google will use a snippet of text from somewhere on a page instead of the entered meta description. When this happens, it can be because Google doesn’t feel the meta description given accurately reflects what the user is looking for. This makes it even more important to write a great meta description that reflects search intent and keywords.
Image Alt Tags
Images are a key part of any ecommerce website, and the good news is they can also be optimized for SEO. Image alt tags, also known as image alt text or descriptions, are pieces of HTML attached to images on a webpage.
This code has a number of different functions. The first is that the text will be displayed on a screen if for whatever reason an image fails to load, giving the user an idea of what the image looks like. The second is for accessibility, as the alt text can be used by screen readers for the visually impaired so they can get the context of an image included on a page. And the third, is that they can be used by search engines to better understand what an image is. After all, bots can’t physically look at an image and know what that image contains, so alt text allows them to “see” what it is.
Here’s an example from Peet’s Coffee:
On the left hand side is the image on the product page of their Red Mocha Haraaz coffee beans. On the right is the HTML for the page, where we can see the image alt tag which reads “Peet’s Reserve Red Mocha Haraaz Coffee beans in a brown 8oz bag”. This is of course more descriptive than just the product name, as it describes:
- The brand - “Peet’s”
- The full name of the product - “Reserve Red Mocha Haraaz”
- The product itself - “Coffee Beans”
- What the image looks like - “In a brown 8oz bag”
There’s a fine line between what makes for good alt text, versus bad alt text. Good alt text should provide the user and search engines with a description of an image that’s both concise and descriptive, as well as offering context to the image. Include keywords where they make sense, and avoid keyword stuffing.
However, there is such a thing as being too concise, as you may miss out vital context for the image. With the above example, poor alt text might be “Coffee beans in brown bag”. This isn’t specific enough, as there are lots of different products which fit that description. Which variety of coffee beans are in the bag? Which brand? Another poor example could be “Peet’s Coffee in brown bag” - is the coffee ground, or wholebean? What size of bag?
Providing good image alt tags make for a better user experience, and provide Google with additional information about your store’s pages. This may make them more likely to appear in Google Image results also, where a user may benefit from visual aids to find a product. For example, if they’re looking for a specific style of shirt and are using very specific keywords. Say they search “Sage green long sleeve dress shirt”. If your image alt tags match those terms, then it may appear in image results, rather than if your alt tags simply read “Green dress shirt”.
Top Tip: Use SEO Manager to create a template for your store’s key metadata
Editing your metadata manually is fine for minor edits on individual pages, or for stores with small catalogs. However, what do you do when you want to optimize hundreds or even thousands of product page metadata? It could take forever…or you could automate the process.
One of SEO Manager’s best features is its ability to automatically add formatted metadata to your products according to a template you set yourself.
With these automation tools, you can create a template for meta titles and descriptions for products, collection pages, regular pages, and blog articles. Using different variables, you can pull information from a given page to populate the metadata fields. SEO Manager’s Google Simulator will then show you what that template will look like in SERPs.
Once you’ve got your automations set up, you can use SEO Manager to edit image alt text, meta titles, and meta descriptions quickly and easily.
Metadata is a key part of any SEO strategy for ecommerce. You can boost your page’s speed, and write keyword-rich content, however it’s the meta title and description that will make that all important first impression in SERPs. By understanding the important role they play and how to optimize them for your Shopify store, you can make the most of this valuable SEO opportunity.