Search Engine Optimization is a subject that has troubled Shopify store owners for years. We’re constantly being told that SEO is an essential process if we’re going to achieve higher search engine rankings and drive traffic to our stores. However, SEO for Shopify can often feel overwhelming. With so much information out there – not to mention the legions of SEO companies fighting for our business – it can be hard to decide what matters and what doesn’t.
This article will cover several aspects of SEO for Shopify.
We’ll begin by highlighting a number of outstanding general SEO resources.
Next, we’ll look at how good Shopify is for SEO. The reality is that most Ecommerce platforms are like-for-like in terms of SEO capabilities, but this is such a common question that it’s worth answering in detail.
Then, we’ll review the best SEO apps for Shopify and look at how these can help you to optimise your store more effectively.
Finally, we’ll pick out the biggest SEO issues facing Shopify store owners so that you can take steps towards improving your rankings.
SEO Resources for Shopify Store Owners:
There are several outstanding SEO resources for Shopify store owners. There’s little point in us covering the same ground, particularly when several industry leaders have produced such extensive guides.
General SEO Resources
- Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide is exactly what you’d expect it to be. Clear, thorough and very practical.
- Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is another excellent introductory guide from one of the leading companies in the SEO industry.
- Buffer’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a short, simple overview for those who want a very quick insight into how SEO works.
- Quicksprout’s Advanced Guide to SEO is a free E-Book which is written by Neil Patel and Sujan Patel, two of the leading lights in the SEO and digital marketing sphere.
Shopify SEO Resources
- Shopify’s SEO 101 Documentation is pretty thorough and shows you exactly what Shopify can do in terms of SEO capability.
- 10 Crucial Tips for Ecommerce Entrepreneurs is an excellent introduction to the most common SEO issues facing Shopify store owners.
- The Shopify Grader is a nice little tool that ‘grades’ your website according to various factors, including SEO, marketing and more.
How Good is Shopify for SEO?
Is Shopify good for SEO? This question is often raised by prospective Shopify store owners who are trying to work out if it’s the right Ecommerce platform for them. After all, if another platform will help you to drive more traffic to your site then you’re probably better off going elsewhere.
As we’ve suggested above, most Ecommerce platforms are pretty similar when it comes to SEO capability. SEO isn’t a design feature of an Ecommerce platform that you can simply switch on or off. It’s how well you use the platform that really matters.
The simple answer is that yes, Shopify is pretty good for SEO. It’s easy to use and the default editor lets you do pretty much everything that you need to get your store properly optimised.
Shopify gives you control over the following features:
- Page Titles
- Meta Description
- Image Titles
- Alt Tags for Images
Shopify will automatically generate a Sitemap, which is essentially a document giving search engines a list of the pages which are included in your site. It will also produce canonical URL tags, which help to stop duplicate content (more on that later).
Working through these steps for each of your pages, products and blog posts will help you to create well optimised content throughout your site. The reality is that entry level on-site SEO is incredibly simple. Shopify has all the tools you need to optimise your site and get it ready for marketing.
What are the Best SEO Apps for Shopify?
One of the best Shopify resources is the Shopify App Store. This gives you access to a wide range of plugins and apps to enhance your store. Unsurprisingly, there are several SEO and marketing apps in the store.
The first thing that’s worth saying is that there’s no such thing as a magic SEO formula. Downloading an SEO app won’t suddenly catapult your website onto page #1 of the search engine results pages. It’s important to understand the underlying function of a Shopify SEO app. If you read through some of the reviews you’ll see comments from store owners who are disgruntled because installing the app hasn’t changed their search engine rankings.
Plug in SEO is a simple, free app to help you identify any SEO problems with your Shopify store. It’s very easy to use. It also advises you on the merits of an improvement so that you can make informed decisions about your on-site SEO performance.
This is a handy app which will help you to correctly optimise your content when adding products and writing blog posts. It’s essentially a tick list which will tell you when you’ve missed something out.
Plug in SEO is one of the most downloaded SEO apps for Shopify.
SEO Scan Pro is a powerful SEO app that generates ongoing analysis of your Shopify store. The idea is that the app flags up issues as they arise so that you can continue improving your site’s SEO performance.
There are some great tools within SEO Scan Pro, including the backlink checker. Analysing backlinks can be a thankless task; with SEO Scan Pro it’s quick and easy. We also like the monthly report function and rank checker. This draws on many of the features of a highly powered SEO tool like Moz but integrates it within your Shopify store.
It’s $25/month which is pretty good value if you’re looking to do the bulk of your SEO work in-house. It’s produced by New Leaf Labs, whose founder, Josh Highland, has written a book on SEO for Shopify called “Shopify Empire“.
One of the SEO limitations of Shopify is that it doesn’t give you access to meta tags. These provide information about a web page which is used by search engines to categorise and rank a site.
Traditionally meta tags played a significant role in helping Google and other search engines to crawl and rank a website. However, as search engine algorithms have grown in complexity meta tags have become less important. Still, they’re an important part of a holistic SEO strategy and are certainly worth considering if you’re an advanced or more experienced store owner. If you’ve got the time and skill to add this ingredient to your site then it’s something to think about.
There are various Shopify apps which give you the ability to access and edit your meta tags. This means that you can add your relevant keywords for each page of your Shopify store. SEO Meta Manager ($50) and Ultra SEO ($10/month) are two of the better looking tools that enable you to do this.
However, whilst these are neat tools, it’s important to realise that meta tags only play a very small part in determining SEO rankings. If you’re a new Shopify store owner then we’d be more inclined to suggest that you spend time working on other areas of your SEO strategy first. Besides, if Shopify felt that meta tags were that pivotal in terms of SEO performance then they would surely have included this functionality by now.
This is another inexpensive app ($1/month) that allows you to control which parts of your website Google crawl.
The NoIndex functionality is particularly useful. If your site has duplicate content then one way to prevent this from hurting your SEO rankings is to NoIndex it. Admittedly this will mean that Google don’t index those particular pages – losing out on the opportunity to submit optimised content – but it will ensure that you don’t get hit with penalties.
It’s not exactly an SEO app, but Copywriter enables you to commission professional writers to produce content for your Shopify store. It’s a quick and easy way to get blogs and product pages written.
Blogging is certainly a great way to drive traffic. However, it’s difficult to know how effective this will be from an SEO perspective. It will ultimately rise and fall on the quality of the copywriter. If they’ve used a relevant keyword and effectively optimised the site then there will clearly be SEO benefits.
Conclusion: What are the Best Shopify Apps?
In our opinion the diagnosis apps – Plug in SEO and SEO Scan Pro – are the most valuable because they offer the greatest functionality. Anything that allows you to seamlessly integrate SEO best practice into your content writing has got to be a good thing.
We’re probably least persuaded by the meta tags apps. The SEO landscape has changed significantly in the last few years and meta tags are less valuable now than they once were.
Additional SEO Issues for Shopify Users
Ultimately the success of your SEO for Shopify will depend on how well you use it. Whilst there are various apps which will help you to optimise your site, there are various additional issues that you will need to consider.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that the vast majority of Shopify stores are startups or SMEs. These tend to be run by exceptionally busy, multi-skilled entrepreneurs who don’t tend to have a lot of time on their hands.
In other words, it’s absolutely imperative that your SEO work is time-effective and cost-effective. The last thing that you want is a wild goose chase. You’ve therefore got an important decision to make. You could outsource your SEO to a marketing company. Alternatively, you could train up somebody within your company who will be responsible for driving your SEO forwards.
Either way, you’re going to need to get to grips with the basic SEO challenges facing Shopify store owners.
Here are some additional SEO issues for Shopify store owners to consider. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but working through the following steps will help you to optimise your Shopify store and make an informed decision about how you’re going to develop and implement an effective SEO strategy. It will also help you decide upon the best person/agency to manage your Shopify SEO strategy.
1. Keyword Research
The majority of Shopify store owners – particularly those starting out – will be competing with more established brands. This makes it very difficult to achieve page #1 results for popular search terms.
This might come as something as a surprise. The stark reality is that you can have perfect on-site optimisation but still fail to generate any search traffic. On-site optimisation is only one of the factors that affect search engine rankings, and more established sites tend to be pretty difficult to displace.
Given that it’s very difficult to challenge leading brands early on, keyword research becomes even more critical. There is a keyword sweet spot to be found; those phrases that attract significant traffic but remain low competition keywords. Long-tail keywords are one of the best ways to do this.
There are several free tools which you can use to find keywords, including Google’s Keyword Planner and Keyword Tool. Developing an effective keyword strategy at the outset will have a huge impact on whether or not your SEO for Shopify efforts result in success.
Links are less important than they used to be, but they remain one of the key ranking factors. The link profile of your Shopify store will help to determine where your site appears in search engine results pages.
Google’s Penguin algorithm has knocked the stuffing out of spammers and paid-for links. However, authentic links are a clear signal of an authoritative website. After all, if hundreds or thousands of relevant websites are linking back to your site then it’s clear that you’re offering something valuable.
The general consensus is that it’s the quality and relevance of links that matter most. It’s not easy for new Shopify stores to build a strong link profile, but the best advice is to target links from people within your industry. Sometimes the best way is to start by asking for links from businesses that you’ve worked or networked with. Keep pushing your content out through social media, leverage every connection that you have (especially family and friends!) and keep making enquiries about contributing to industry magazines, blogs etc.
It’s better to have one link from a relevant, authoritative site than multiple links from irrelevant sites. You should never pay for links, although advertising on industry-specific sites or directories is a good idea.
Link-building is a discipline that requires creativity, technical skill and perseverance. Jason Acidre’s article for Moz is a great way to think about some of the ways in which this can be done.
3. Image Optimisation
This is an easy win that so many Shopify store owners are missing out on. Image optimisation includes attaching your keywords to your images and making sure that your images are small enough to load quickly on mobile devices. Not only will they show up in image searches – a potentially lucrative environment for Shopify store owners – but your overall SEO results will be impacted too.
Before uploading an image to your Shopify store you need to save it with an appropriate name. Once you’ve uploaded it, add a description – again featuring your chosen keyword.
4. Email Marketing
One of the biggest SEO advantages for Ecommerce store owners is that it’s incredibly simple to collect customers’ email addresses and keep in touch through email marketing campaigns.
Email marketing has rather gone out of fashion but it remains one of the easiest ways to drive traffic to your website. Launching a new product? Let your audience of highly-engaged customers know. Written a new blog post? Let your audience of highly-engaged customers know. Concerned that you’re going to miss your monthly sales target? Let your audience of highly-engaged customers know!
This will increase revenues, increase website traffic and increase social media engagement. It’s a task that can be largely automated/outsourced.
If you haven’t got a newsletter signup tool integrated into your Shopify store then this is something to think about. Sometimes the most effective SEO and marketing strategies simply involve joining up the dots.
5. Social Media
Like email marketing, social media is free and allows you to build a highly engaged audience. It’s also becoming increasingly important as an SEO ranking factor.
The same principles apply to your social media accounts as for your SEO for Shopify. Ensuring that your keywords feature in your profile, for example, is a great way to strengthen your SEO profile.
One of the big advantages that Ecommerce stores have is that they already have a photo inventory of their products. Images tend to perform much better than written updates. Again, join the dots and ask your customers to connect with you on social media. Offering discounts, exclusive products and prize draws is a great way to increase engagement and drive traffic.
6. Conversion rate optimisation
We see too many Shopify stores that are generating irrelevant traffic. They’re working hard on their SEO for Shopify but it’s not translating into increased sales. This is often because poorly-selected keywords are attracting irrelevant traffic. However, it’s just as likely to be because your site is failing to convert visitors into customers.
Let’s compare two websites to see what difference a higher conversion rate makes:
Website #1 generates 50,000 pageviews a month with a conversion rate of 0.5%. Much of the traffic that the website receives is irrelevant as a result of poor keyword selection. You would expect this website to generate 250 sales a month.
Website #2 generates 10,000 pageviews a month with a conversion rate of 5%. This site is much more carefully optimised than Website #1 which means that the traffic is far more relevant. You would expect this website to generate 500 sales a month.
This is a very primitive illustration, but it shows why conversion rate optimisation is so important. This process typically involves redesigning key sections of your website to make it easier for visitors to buy your products. Conversion rate optimisation is important for every website, but when your livelihood depends upon visitors completing a multi-stage transaction it’s even more critical.
7. Contact an Expert
As a Shopify store owner you need to take responsibility for your SEO. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to do it yourself. This is an area of your business that you might choose to outsource.
Reputations of SEO agencies vary wildly, and it’s true that you need to be careful that you’re not ripped off. The last thing that you want is to find that a cowboy SEO with dubious methodologies has landed you a Google penalty.
However, we’re seeing more and more really excellent SEO and digital marketing companies. Besides, if you’re well informed and know exactly what you’re looking for then you should be able to make an informed decision about who to go with.
The good news is that the Shopify Expert programme includes Shopify marketers who have proven their experience with SEO for Shopify.
SEO for Shopify: A Land of Opportunity
SEO for Shopify. It’s both surprisingly simple and incredibly complex.
However, Shopify store owners have proven time and time again that with a creative, thorough SEO strategy and plenty of perseverance it’s possible to achieve remarkable results. Ecommerce has leveled the playing field and created a land of opportunity for small businesses. Don’t let your hard work go to waste.