This Shopify SEO guide and checklist are a crucial part of your e-commerce marketing strategy. If you want to rank higher on search engine optimization and results pages (SERPs), complete this list as thoroughly as possible. In this comprehensive Shopify SEO guide, we'll cover everything from meta descriptions and product descriptions, to keyword research tools and page speed optimization techniques.
And if you’re new to SEO, you’re taken care of too. We’ve included a section called “The Basics of SEO”. It will give you a strong foundation upon which you can easily apply our SEO checklist to improve your rankings Shopify SEO.
The Complete Shopify SEO Guide:
The Basics of Effective SEO
SEO is based on on-page and off-page SEO practices. On-page SEO is about optimizing your website and web pages to rank as highly as possible on search engine results pages. In contrast, off-page SEO is about using elements not on your website to improve your SEO.
To succeed with Shopify SEO and take full advantage of all the free traffic available through organic rankings – we recommend combining both. Here’s what you need to know about both types of SEO.
What elements fall under on-page SEO? Here's a complete list of all you need to know produced optimized Shopify pages:
Keywords and search terms are words that people enter into search engines when looking for information or for a product. Every content and product page should include at least one properly targeted keyword. You want to create a list of keywords that you'd like to rank for, and then insert them into your pages during the copywriting process. Don't just stuff them though – this will hurt rather than help SEO performance!
There are short-tail and long-tail keywords. Short tail keywords include one or term words. Long-tail keywords include three or more words.
You'll find that short-tail keywords are high in search volume and high in competition – these are ideal but often harder to rank for immediately. To rank higher for short-tail keywords, you'll have to win more backlinks from higher-ranking sources than your competition (in addition to applying other on-page SEO best practices).
An example of a short-tail keyword is "red jacket".
Long-tail keywords have lower general searches but higher commercial intent – they're great to target as well because there will be fewer competing sites on the first page of Google results. The longer a keyword phrase is (i.e how specific it is), the more relevant it will be towards your products and services too - so you want to aim for something that closely matches what people use when searching online!
An example of a long-tail keyword is "red jacket with green pocket".
While not an on-page SEO element per see, buyer intent is essential. It indicates what your buyers are interested in achieving when searching for specific terms. There are typically three types of intent that support eCommerce sites well. These are:
Commercial search intent
Commercial intent is the most valuable type of search. This means that the user is looking to purchase rather than simply find information about your products.
Transactional search intent
Transactional intent is when a buyer searches for products that they want to buy. They're ready to make an online purchase as soon as possible, and may even be on the hunt for specific items from certain brands.
Transactional keywords typically have high search volumes – but you'll also need strong content to rank highly against competitors who target transactional terms too.
Informational search intent
Informational intent is when buyers are looking for basic information. For example, they want to know the general price range of a product class or what alternatives are available.
These are the short, sentence-long descriptions that appear below your product title on search engine ranking pages. If you want to rank for a target keyword – it's important to adjust this element accordingly. A best practice is to include any relevant target keyword variations within your meta description tag. This way, Google will understand what your page is all about.
Meta descriptions should be between 150 and 160 characters in length. They tell the search engine crawlers what your website is about, so you want to include important keywords that are related to your product or service offering. Since meta descriptions can influence whether searchers click on a result, it's also good practice to make them compelling.
SEO titles (the words that appear under your website's URL in SERPs) should be between 70 and 100 characters. They need to include the keyword you want to rank for, while also including relevant keywords.
Well-written product descriptions are important. These are the write-ups people read on-page when looking to see if a website is relevant to their search query. They also help search engine crawlers understand what your products are about. Product descriptions should be between 300 and 350 words in length, and they should include your keyword.
Images matter for on-page SEO because search engine crawlers use them to understand what your product is about. For example, if you're selling a laptop – people might be searching for information like "best laptops under $500" or "15.36″ screen size." If these images contain the relevant keywords within the file name (e.g. best-laptops-under-$500_01) and alternate text (text shown if an image fails to load), search engine crawlers will be able to easily identify what your product is about. It's important to have a unique description for each image of the products you sell.
Internal Link Structure
Internal links refer to the hyperlinks you use within your site's architecture that link back to other pages on your website. These help visitors navigate your site and search engine crawlers understand how your website is structured.
Search engines want to share the most helpful information with their users.
They use internal link structure as a measure of how relevant your content is, and whether it solves a problem by offering more information that’s relevant to what your visitors are interested in.
This all sounds a little complex, and it is. Search engines use sophisticated algorithms that they don’t completely understand! In short, link to other relevant pages that can help visitors solve problems.
When linking to other pages, you should aim to use anchor text that contains keywords or phrases relevant to the content on that page. This way, Google will be able to categorize and rank each of your web pages based on these internal links.
SEO Page Speed
Search engines prioritize websites that load quickly. If your website takes too long to load, it might not be considered relevant enough for people who are searching online.
The best way to improve page speed is to minimize resource-heavy web pages. Get rid of unnecessary code, shrink image file sizes, and decrease the number of plugins or extensions running on your website.
Not sure how fast your website loads? Try Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It helps test your website speed and find opportunities for improvement. Page Insights identifies any code or elements that slow down your website and provides reports on website performance for desktop and mobile visits.
Off-page SEO Elements
Off-page SEO elements include all elements that are not hosted on your website but help improve your SEO. There are two elements to focus on for off-page SEO. These include backlinks and the keywords your link back to your page.
Backlinks are important for SEO because they help search engine crawlers understand which web pages are most relevant for a query. Backlinks work by transferring link equity (or authority) from one webpage to another. Search engines like Google give more weight to websites with high-quality backlinks since it shows that other people trust the content o
There are only two types of backlinks:
- Dofollow backlinks: Tell search engines to follow links and these are the ones you want. They allow search engines to draw contextual relationships between the content you have and the page linking to it. The more relevant both pages are to each other, the better.
- Nofollow backlinks: Tell search engines to ignore the connection between your page and the page linking to it.
These links can come in many different forms like blog posts or press mentions, guest blogging opportunities, and directory submissions. There are several tools you can use online to find these types of backlink-building opportunities.
Some well-known tools include BuzzSumo which is great for finding popular content within key industries; Ahrefs helps identify sites linking into the pages on your website, and Ubersuggest will show competitor content along with links they receive, and more.
Note: Quality backlinks from relevant websites with high domain authority are best. These are typically from well-established websites that have received many links due to their content quality.
Keywords you choose to link back to your pages must be terms that people use to find your products. This helps Google and other search engines establish relevance. But try to balance out the frequency and accuracy of your keyword use as search engines tend to penalize web pages with too many targeted keywords because they appear spammy.
The Complete 8-Point Shopify SEO Checklist
What should you prioritize to improve your Shopify SEO? Here’s our comprehensive 8-point checklist:
1. Set Up Tracking
You can't establish how successful your SEO efforts are without some form of tracking methodology and tool. First, start by setting up a Google Analytics account. Google Analytics will show how much traffic your content is getting, where it's coming from, and much more.
Be sure to Google Analytics with an SEO tool like Ubersuggest, SEM Rush, or Ahrefs. While Google Analytics offers information about how your content is performing, SEO analytics tools show how well your SEO tactics are working. They'll show where your content ranks, how many backlinks your content has, which competitors rank above you with links to their content, and a rating that acts as a guide for outdoing your competition.
Here’s a helpful video from Ubersuggest on how to spy on competitors:
2. Optimize your Site Structure
Site structure is all about ease of use for website visitors. A simple question to ask when establishing or optimizing your site structure is, "how can I make it easier to find products on my site?"
Start by identifying product categories and assigning each product to the right category. But make sure you're using categories that your potential customers search for. Using unfamiliar category names will make it hard to find your products and even harder for Google and other search engines to rank your product pages higher because categories seem unrelated to your products. And if you have subcategories, be sure to include them where necessary.
Here's a simple and easy-to-follow structure to use to improve your Shopify website's SEO. The last crucial element to include is a search bar. If your Shopify website doesn't have one, add one to your site. The best place to include a search feature is in the top menu. Most people look for one there and it's easily accessible.
Search bars make it a thousand times easier to find products on Shopify websites, especially those with tons of products! Don't miss out on the chance to make it easier for cuss to find and buy your product!
3. Understand Your Buyer
Buyer personas help you better understand your customers. A buyer persona is a document with a collection of characteristics about your customers. It includes the following information:
- Demographical data: age, location, gender, income
- Psychographic data: habits, interests, behaviors, and details about your customer’s lifestyle
- Challenges: what your customer struggles with on their path to find a product like yours for purchase
When you have a complete idea of who your ideal customer is, you’re able to identify their goals and challenges in buying a product. And this level of insight is gold. You’ll be able to use it in your website content to produce more enticing offers that speak directly to your customer.
For example, if you're offering t-shirts, knowing what your customers really want helps you source or produce products they will buy. It also helps you create product descriptions that appeal to your customers.
If you’ve never created a buyer persona, don’t fret. They aren’t difficult to put together. We recommend trying out DigitalMarketer’s Customer Avatar Worksheet (“customer avatar” is just another name for “buyer persona”). It has all you’ll need to create a clearer picture of who you’re selling products to and how to best serve each customer.
Once you've identified these buyer personas – create content around them. Answer questions they have or provide solutions to challenges they face. Another powerful way to develop a powerful SEO foundation is to introduce yourself as an authority figure within your industry. By using blog posts and other forms of content that are all optimized for search, you'll be able to rank higher and become a go-to resource in your marketplace.
You'll also be able to start cashing in on your hard work. Once potential buyers have been educated enough to make a purchase decision – ensure there are clear calls-to-action (CTAs) on product pages, directing them towards checkout pages.
4. Perform Keyword Research
Keyword research is an integral part of SEO for e-commerce businesses. Take your time to identify both short-tail and long-tail keyword phrases, and focus on intent. Knowing whether your buyers are ready to pull the trigger or just searching for information influences how they respond to content and which content will help them most.
Not sure where to start? Use a keyword research tool. While there are tons to choose from, and you can even use Google’s search bar, use one that indicates search volume. Search volume is helpful because it’s an average of the number of searches for a term each month. Your goal is to establish which keywords people use when searching for products and information related to problems your products solve. The higher the search volume, the more people searching for a term.
Remember buyer intent covered in “The Basics of SEO” section above? This is where you need to establish the type of intent to use. For product pages, focus on commercial and transactional buyer intent. These are terms used by people who are ready to buy.
5. Optimize Shopify Product Pages
Next, optimize your Shopify product pages using the foundational other elements covered above. SEO is best leveraged on pages that have experienced some success, so it’s a good idea to elevate content on pages that have performed well by converting more visitors into customers.
Why? Successful pages are closer to ranking higher in search. They have more and better backlinks and are already more optimized than pages that aren’t performing well.
Focus on product and content pages that:
- Get a healthy amount of traffic (greater than 10K searches each month)
- Have sold a lot of product and do so consistently
- Are shared through social media regularly
There may be overlap between each of the three criteria above, and that’s okay.
Remember: you want to focus on the pages already performing and enhancing their performance first. You will be able to apply the same optimization process covered below on pages that are not ranking well enough next.
Once you’ve identified pages to optimize, optimize each page. Here’s how:
Optimize Title Tags for Product Categories and Product Pages
Establish a logical structure for your product category and product page keyword usage. With a primary keyword identified, use it in category and product titles to show search engines and people that they have found what they are looking for.
Optimize Meta Descriptions
Optimize meta descriptions by strategically including each keyword on each page. Meta descriptions may sound like they are for the benefit of search engines, but they are valuable to people, too. Meta descriptions appear in search results and customers use them to validate search results.
What should your meta descriptions include? Work your primary keyword in and include a benefit associated with your product.
Optimize Product Descriptions
Create an optimized product description by highlighting the quality, value, features, and benefits of your product. As mentioned before, don’t stuff content with too many mentions of your keyword. On-page optimization works if it’s applied altogether and as organically as possible.
As a rule of thumb, include one mention of your primary keyword for every 250 words in your product description (this includes any tables filled with information).
Optimize Product images
Make your images search-friendly by adding alternative text and titles to each. Make sure both elements include your primary keyword to ensure that search engines pick it up when indexing your website’s content.
6. Optimize Your Content With Shopify SEO Apps
For Shopify websites, there are helpful and effective tools like Plugin SEO and Smart SEO. These apps help optimize your page titles, content, images, sitemaps, and can also remove Shopify Microdata -- old code in your Shopify theme that isn’t useful but slows your site down).
7. Build Links to Your Store
Not all backlinks are created equally. Some can be spam and hurt your rankings! As part of your strategy for Shopify SEO domination, build backlinks from reputable sources. These include:
Brand and Product Mentions
One of the most pleasing experiences about the internet is the sheer amount of content and niches available today. There’s a good chance that your brand may have been mentioned in several posts about a topic related to a product you sell. Make the most of these mentions by reaching out to each source and asking for a link to your product page. It’s quick, easy, and can help you get ahead of your competition.
To find mentions of your brand, head over to google and search for your brand name. It may take a while to locate any that exist, but it’s worth the effort.
Supplier & Manufacturer Links
Suppliers and manufacturers want to see you win. The more products you sell, the more prosperous their businesses are. And often, to help, they will offer links to their list of retailers. Not sure if your manufacturer offers links? Check their site for any retailer lists or email your contact and ask if there is a program dedicated to promoting authorized retailers.
Almost every industry available today has a growing list of influencers with social profiles and websites of their own. Generate a list of influencers by running a Google search or using an influencer marketing tool like Grin, Creator.co, Inlfuency, or Captiv8. Once you’ve identified influencers, reach out to them and ask if they are open to linking back to pages on your site. Some may want to strike a deal, and others may be gracious enough to provide a free link.
Broken or Inactive Links
Broken and inactive links are links that used to point to sources like your product pages but don’t work anymore because the source pages are no longer available. Broken links exist for several reasons, such as products that are no longer on offer, websites that are no longer online, or URLs that have changed due to a website update.
You can capitalize on broken and inactive links by searching for them and reaching out to website owners who link to these broken or inactive link websites. To find these types of links, use a tool like Ubersuggest to source all ranking content for your specific keyword.
Next, check the links to see if they are broken or inactive. For all links that are broken, source email addresses(usually on their websites) and send a friendly email. Explain that the link is no longer working and that you have a valuable resource they can replace it with. Be sure to share the link too.
8. Strengthen Your SEO With EAT Content
EAT stands for "Expert, Authoritative and Trustworthy" content - these are the most important factors for success in ranking on Google.
Expertise is easier to demonstrate by having a team of writers who can produce unique blog posts or videos that establish you as an authority figure within your industry. But that doesn’t mean you can create great content if you spend time doing solid research.
Authority indicates that you are a well-known and respected figure in a specific niche. Google attributes authority status by linking it back to results from searches that show your contribution to a topic. Authority takes time to build, and that’s okay. SEO success isn’t achieved overnight, and if you want to run a sustainable business, building authority is a must.
Trustworthiness requires building relationships with other websites and having an overall positive brand profile. If you are using Google My Business and any other review platforms, always reply to all product reviews-- negative included. This shows that your brand is conscious and can be trusted to deliver valuable information.
Shopify SEO Best Practices
Our checklist includes the most critical elements you need to see for better rankings, but as with all fields, there are best practices that help. Here are 9 that will help elevate your practice of SEO.
1. Dig Into Buyer Personas
The idea of creating buyer personas may feel like unnecessary work, but it’s vital. The most successful brands in the world never create products or launch marketing campaigns without knowing who they are targeting and the problems they want to help their market solve.
2. Monitor Competitor Content
Keep an eye on the content your competitors create and examine it as if you were a customer. This perspective will help you spot holes or opportunities to add more value as a brand through more helpful content. Spying on the competition also helps you keep tabs on new product releases that could become cash cows.
3. Produce Quality Content
From product to content pages, aim to become the best resource in your market by offering the most helpful content. We covered EAT content earlier because it’s what’s working well in search engine results today. Your product pages cannot be EAT content but can include valuable and well-written descriptions that make it easier for visitors to see that your product is the best option. When you create EAT content in the form of blog posts and webs pages, link from those pages to relevant product pages.
4. Always Track Your Efforts
Tracking is the only way to validate your effectiveness. Measure your result weekly by reviewing:
- Which pages are ranking well
- Which pages generate the most traffic
- Identify pages that generate the most revenue
- Establish which pages aren’t performing and why
- Follow the checklist above to improve your best pages first and lower-performing pages second
You’ll need to invest in tools to do the job. Become as proficient as possible with these tools to improve your optimization and speed at which you can improve your Shopify SEO rankings.
5. Focus on User Experience
User experience is important for all websites, but it's especially important for Shopify. If people can’t find what they want, they’ll find a competitor that will make it easier to complete a purchase.
Order your site pages according to how (think categories) people search. Also, use terms they search for in categories and on product pages.
6. Create a Brand
Creating a brand is important for Shopify stores. It helps you stand out from your competitors. You can create a brand by using certain colors, fonts, or images consistently across all pages of your website. Creating a recognizable logo is also important so people know what to expect when they visit your site again in the future (and add it to social media profiles for extra promotion).
7. Always Link Back to Product Pages
Internal links show search engines that your Shopify website is optimized for users. They show a clear website visitor flow from link to link and between pages. Google and other search engines don’t like to see isolated web pages, so ensure that your product pages always link to other content and that there are links from other content pages to your product pages.
As a rule, whenever you add a new product, find at least one relevant content page to link to your product page before hitting publish.
8. Compress Image Files
Images are a big deal for Shopify SEO. People want to see what they are buying and want clear, high-quality visuals. But don’t fall for the trap of uploading the biggest file of your image. Use compression tools to shrink file size but still maintain their image quality. A few favorites we use include Compressor.io and Compressjpeg.com, and Tinypng.com.
9. Rinse and Repeat
To win long-term with Shopify SEO, you’ll have to be consistent. Make SEO a cornerstone of your operation by dedicating time to performing analysis each week. Use your insights to improve content and keep looking for new ways to build more high-quality links to your product pages. It will seem like a slog, but it’s well worth the effort. SEO done well helps you reach more buyers without heavily spending paid ads, and over time, that allows you to scale your Shopify store sustainably.
Congrats! You’ve just covered the entire Shopify SEO guide and checklist! There’s a wealth of information to absorb. The great news is that this resource will be here and updated periodically to help you get the best results for your store. As you work through this checklist, be sure to follow each step as closely as possible. SEO works best when all elements are considered and optimized.