The Shopify SEO Guide & Checklist You’ve Been Looking For
Despite searching far and wide, there’s not a ton of info out there regarding Shopify SEO best practices, although it’s one of the fastest-growing ecommerce platforms on the planet.
I think the main reason is that there are tons of fashion and brand-heavy companies coming onto Shopify that focus intently on display ads and paid search, and think of SEO as a secondary practice.
Nevertheless, here are the top tips for Shopify SEO:
- Utilize the built-in SEO fields on product and category pages to optimize page title tags and meta descriptions
- When you’re just starting out, choose just 10 key product pages to focus on. Choose your 10 top-sellers and put all of your energy behind these.
- Build out high-quality and lengthy product descriptions to both entice and convert the reader as well as target keywords
- Utilize review plugins that allow featured snippets (star ratings) in the search results
- Built out a site-wide keyword strategy map and apply the keywords to individual specific pages on your site
- Edit category page templates to also include custom content to help your category pages rank
- Use an internal links plugin to interlink all the pages on your site
- Build a solid blog SEO strategy and content calendar to consistently produce content that will rank your site
- Ensure your site is set up for HTTPS
- Ensure any old URLs from before Shopify are redirecting to the correct new pages
- The built in URL redirect tool is your friend, use it consistently to redirect dead pages
- If you have out-of-stock items that will be coming back online, don’t delete the page!
- Build out beautiful custom landing pages by using page templates, Google loves long, engaging content
- Blog for real – don’t just blog to check the box, build blog posts around keywords, make them 1,000-2,000 words long with great graphics
- To gain publicity and links, create a funny product and get press around it.
Shopify has produced their own awesome Ecommerce SEO checklist that I highly recommend you check out and memorize!
Using Shopify is Like Magic
I’ve used all of these platforms so far in my life:
- Shopify (why we’re here today)
- Magento (often like driving an aircraft carrier across a pond)
- WordPress/WooCommerce (reliable but not always best)
- BigCommcerce (a contender but not the winner)
- Drupal (sorry just not popular)
- ExpressionEngine (those kiwis)
- Old-Skool Shopping Cart with PayPal (lollzzz)
Let me tell you, when it comes to ecommerce, Shopify takes the cake.
It’s a beautiful system, and it’s where the future is headed. That’s for sure.
Shopify as an organization is cutting edge, innovative, and positive. I’m a big fan.
What’s not absolutely clear is what to do when your SEO isn’t up to snuff.
What “things” should you be doing for SEO.
What’s built in already in Shopify?
Do you need to do something custom?
Ok let’s find out.
Shopify SEO Out of the Box
I’m lazy, you’re lazy, why do any extra work?
What the f are we paying Shopify for monthly if they’re not giving us some killer features out of the box.
Shopify is pretty awesome out of the box for SEO, especially compared to other platforms like Magento or WordPress.
- The interface is clean and intuitive, so you don’t get lost looking for the SEO configurations
- The ability to edit the page title and meta description for SEO are built-in. Not the case for WordPress and messy for Magento, for example.
- The built-in redirect tool is awesome, and is far better than the confusion that comes with other platforms.
- Although not the highlight of the platform, the built in blog functionality is far better than other enterprise ecommerce platforms.
Shopify isn’t perfect for everyone, but growing, high-quality brands that just want something that works should definitely consider Shopify by default.
What Shopify is Missing for SEO Best Practices
Ok, so Shopify is awesome, we already know that. And it comes baked-in with some great things, but here’s some other things you’ll need to account for that Shopify doesn’t have.
- Collections pages could use some extra attention. I want the ability to see static content on these pages by default with a text box or other method. Category pages are the John Snow of ecommerce SEO (non-GOT fans: forgotten and unloved as a bastard…for now). Go look at Wayfair and a bunch of other annoyingly successful global ecommerce sites – they all get this.
- Better filtering and attributes on products for category pages. This applies to stores with a good amount of products, but it’s important for those stores. We should be able to see a lot of combinations of products to get the long-tail keywords ranking. I want to see all the “red sandals” on a page and I want the ability to add a bit of text content so I can outrank whatever punk website is there now.
- Built-in multiple content tabs on product pages. We want to provide a ton of information and cut the content multiple ways on our product pages. That’s how mid-sized ecomm retailers on Shopify are going to have a fighting chance against the big boys. It’s currently not a default, and it should be.
A Quick Hit List of What’s Actually Needed
If you put a gun to my head and asked me to define just the top, crucial things you must have for your site to be really successful it would be the following (details later):
- You have to realize that you neeeeeeeed really descriptive and relevant content on each of your important pages. Amazon does this, Wayfair does this, even Apple does this. You’re not special. Text is not your enemy. Make it work. You can read this right? You like information right? Your buyer does too right? Ok yea text content is important. Make it beautiful. Yes ecommerce is all about beautiful images and video and such, but descriptions and keywords are crucial.
- Keywords work. Keywords work. Research keywords. Have a plan. Find a good combination of high volume keywords, high commercial keywords, and easy or matching difficulty keywords. That is all.
- Don’t assume that just because you optimize a page for a keyword that it has a chance, you must consider the searcher intent and analyze the search results in real-time.
- Get the juicy links. Ideal situation: get links from the New York Times, The Wirecutter, Buzzfeed, the top consumer site in your space, and dozens other. Realistic situation: get good links from decent sites. How many? There’s never enough. If you don’t have 50 websites linking to you that’s goal 1. Goal 2: 200 sites. Goal 3: 1,000 Goal 4: 5,000 Goal 5: 20,000
Best Practices but Not Going to Explode Your Site in Traffic Sauce
- Meta descriptions – they don’t directly impact SEO. But them peeps love reading that microcopy, so when you’ve fixed the good stuff, fix this. Put your best copywriter on it, or your intern. It goes back to my accountant analogy – up to you boss.
- Alt text – yes it’s important, and always a best practice – but it’s not going to do more than a few nudges in the right direction. You should do it to be a good citizen of the web and ADA compliant. But when focusing on the top goals, get to this when you’ve done all the rest.
- Internal links – these are super important if you’re a large site. As you go down in scale they’re less important, but still important. As I’m mentioning with the rest of these best practices, focus on the heavy hitters first.
Shopify SEO Questions and Answers
Since SEO is both simple and complex at the same time, there’s tons of confusion around the subject. Tons has been written, but the questions are greater than ever.
Question: How do I optimize my SEO keyword tags?
Answer: There’s no such thing! There’s no tags anymore where you can just type your keywords and magically your site has more traffic than Buzzfeed or even your neighbor Mo’s lawnmower website.
There used to be a thing called the “meta keywords tag” but that no longer exists. Kindly laugh at anyone who tells you otherwise.
Question: Isn’t SEO just about creating good content?
Answer: This is true in a way, but absolutely complex and not true in a way. All of Charles Dickens’ books are good content, wouldn’t you agree? So if you publish content very similar to his writings, will it help you sell your back hair combs? No!
SEO is primarily a business strategy. It’s centered around helping you get more mooolahhh for your company through organic traffic for “free” (not free because you’re paying to get there, but then it’s free).
Question: Isn’t SEO snake oil?
Answer: Some is, especially the cheap stuff. The good stuff is the opposite of snake oil. It might even be called unicorn blood because it’s so magical. SEO is on a more extreme scale of quality than a lot of related industries. I think it’s primarily because you can’t really see the inputs, at least the untrained eye can’t. You can only see the end result, and it may take awhile.
If I hire a designer to create a set of icons based on my childhood pets, I can tell in about 3 days if they did it or not. I can look at the icons and tell them that their dog illustration is absolutely not the right shade of brown for Chloe.
SEO, on the other hand, requires a lot of time and sweat equity to implement, as well as a lot of reporting and analytics. Similar to something else, you’ll know it when you see it.
Question: How does SEO affect UX and conversions?
Answer: You should always do what’s best for the user, and optimize your site with the user in mind. That being said there is often a push and pull between UX and SEO best practices, so you must find the balance.
One of the best things to do is do user testing on your site. This excellent guide to Shopify conversion tips details out some low-hanging fruit opportunities for conversions. If you test on just a few people, you’re way better off than testing on nobody.
When Do you Need a Shopify SEO Consultant or SEO employee?
At some point in the stage of a website, everyone needs a specialist in a certain position.
If you get a billion visitors from social media and paid ads but your email marketing sucks, then yes you need an email marketing consultant.
If you’re making more than a few shekels and your website is successful, then yes you need a real accountant and you need to move on from the sophomore intern that was cooking your books accidentally.
If you have 14 followers on social media, then please do something or get off.
The point is, people belabor the question of hiring and SEO person (I imagine) but it’s the same as anything. From the beginning when you have more time than money learn as much as you can on your own and do it to the edge of your skillset, then be a real business person that read The 4-Hour Workweek and The E-Myth Revisited and delegate like a boss.
Then when you’re ready to hire, go to the SEO person with your business objectives for the next 6-12 months, a list of what you’ve done so far and what your marketing plan is, and collaborate and make a real strategy like Peter Drucker.
It’s not a list of tricks and hacktics, it’s a part of your overall strategy that can mesh well with your other minions to get the job done.