SEO for Shopify Store – 23 SEO Changes You Can Make In Shopify Right Now

September 11, 2017

7,352 total views, 4 views today

Shopify’s popularity as an e-commerce platform is undoubtedly earned. By combining ease of use with powerful e-commerce features, the platform has helped revolutionize who can do business online, and how.

Shopify is also a very SEO-friendly platform, with fundamentals such as title tags, H1 tags, and sitemaps taken care of automatically.

But in a WordPress-centric world, Shopify can be unfamiliar for some, and knowledge of how parts of it work is needed in order to make certain optimizations for search engines work.

Let’s talk about 23 SEO changes you can make in Shopify today.

1. Set Up Shopify On Your Own Domain

All of your SEO efforts will result in more payoff if your site is hosted on its own domain, rather than as a subdomain of Shopify.com.

The most convenient way to accomplish this is to simply buy a domain through Shopify by logging in, going to “Online Store,” and then going to “Domains.”

It’s possible, of course, that you find a cheaper domain elsewhere, or that a different provider offers domain features that Shopify doesn’t. It’s also possible that you already set up a domain elsewhere, so it’s not possible for you to buy the domain you want through Shopify.

If you own a domain through a different company, you will need to update the domain so that it points to Shopify’s servers.

To do this, go to “Online Store,” and “Domains,” then click “Connect existing domain” instead of “Buy new domain.” Enter your domain name and hit “Next.”

Go to your domain provider’s website and log in. Find your DNS configuration settings, change your “A record” to “23.227.38.32” and make sure that this change is saved.

Also with your domain provider, you’ll need to update the CNAME so that it points to shops.myshopify.com, and make sure that this change is saved.

From your Shopify account, click “Verify Connection” in your Shopify Admin to make sure that the domain is linked.

Whether you are buying the domain from Shopify or from another provider, it’s a good idea to buy the domain for years in advance. A Google Patent suggests that domains with a distant expiration date are viewed more favorably by the search engine.

The same patent also suggests that “private Whois” data is a negative ranking factor, so I generally advise against buying “private Whois” domains.

2. Link Your Google Analytics Account

This is just about the first thing you want to get set up so that you can track how many visitors your site is getting, in addition to many other things, of course.

Go to “Channels,” then “Online Store” and finally “Preferences.” You can set your home page title and meta description here, and below those fields, you can link your Google Analytics account.

3. Collect User Reviews

I highly recommend using the Shopify Reviews App or Yotpo so that users can leave reviews. These apps add the review schema right onto the page. If Google accepts the schema, the star ratings will show up directly in the search results, calling extra attention to your listing.

If you’re afraid of users leaving bad reviews, there’s an overwhelming evidence suggesting that reviews improve conversions. Yotpo analyzed 30,000 businesses and found that search engine traffic grew from 5.5k to nearly 8k in 9 months, suggesting that user reviews have a strong positive influence on search engine results.

Reviews also have an important positive psychological effect on consumers, even if some of the reviews are bad. More diverse product ratings actually increase conversions because they appear more trustworthy than solid fives all the way around.

4. Include Keywords In Your URLs

When you create a product in Shopify, the default URL borrows the product information that you entered for the product’s title. This creates a URL of the form /products/the-title-you-entered.

If for some reason you want the URL to be different from the title, you can click the “Edit website SEO” link in the “Search engine listing preview” section. From there you can go to the “URL and handle” field and change it.

If you change the title after the page is created, you will notice that it doesn’t change the handle, and as a result, the URL stays the same. You can change the handle as discussed above if this creates a problem for you, but be careful.

Many Shopify themes are built on the assumption that handles don’t change, so if you update a handle you need to make sure that your theme is not designed with this assumption in mind, or make the necessary changes to accommodate the new handle.

Any time you change a URL after it has already been published, it is vital that you set up a 301 redirect from the old page to the new page, and preferable for you to update all of the existing links on the site to point to the new one. (The damping factor saps a bit of PageRank every time a link passes through a redirect.)

Make sure to follow good SEO practice and include specific keywords in your product URLs that will help people find the product whether they are looking for the specific brand and model or just looking for that type of product. The most important keywords should be included closer to the beginning of the URL.

Shopify generates URLs for your collections, pages, and blog posts in a similar manner.

5. Include Keywords In Your Titles

Titles are obviously one of the most important factors that the search engines consider when they evaluate a page.

Creating and changing titles in Shopify is straightforward; simply enter the title in the “Title” field. As with the URL, make sure that the title includes keywords for both branded and unbranded searches, that it is not misleading, and that it helps the user understand what is on the page in a way that won’t put them off.

Remember that if you change the title, it won’t change the URL.

Note that while Shopify says the character limit for the title is 70, you should aim for 60 or fewer characters, since Google redesigns have made the character cutoff occur sooner (at 600 pixels to be precise).

6. Change Your Keyword Density And Increase Your Novelty Score

While keyword density is scarcely considered a positive ranking factor anymore, there will be times when you will need to update a page to either include a keyword that wasn’t included, or to remove keywords that had been used excessively in the past.

Unlike your typical CMS, Shopify is built with e-commerce in mind, which means that your keywords can be scattered in a number of different locations.

For product pages, most of this is available in the “Product Details” section, which is the page that you land on when you select your product from the “Products” section.

The two primary places your keywords will be placed is in the “Title” and in the “Description.” Don’t get confused, the “Description” is not necessarily the “meta description.” It is a product description that is visible on the page for users to see.

The bulk of your content describing the product will be in the “Description” section, so this is likely where your keywords will be located.

However, keywords may also be included in other section such as the “collections” and “tags” fields. Collections are pages that include a collection of products, and tags are keywords associated with the product. Users can click on the tags to see similar products.

Updating your keyword density is considerably different for blogs, pages, and collections. You can update pages and blogs using the “content” field, similar to most other CMSs.

In most cases, any words listed on your collections pages will come from product titles that you chose to include in the collection.

In addition to negatively valuing a high keyword density, it’s also important to realize that, according to a Google patent, it’s very likely that your content is assigned a “novelty score.”

In other words, the more original your content is, the more likely it is to rank well. The more your content copies other sources on the web, and the less it contributes original information, the less likely it is to show up high in the search results.

Here again is an important point to consider while you are customizing your product descriptions.

The most obvious takeaway here is that you should avoid using a manufacturer-supplied product description since this is likely reproduced all over the web and provides nothing original.

But the novelty score isn’t just about duplicate content, it is about providing legitimately new information.

That means merely paraphrasing the information supplied by the manufacturer isn’t likely to be useful either.

A product description that synthesizes information from various sources across the web and, ideally, includes original insights based on your own work, is more likely to lead to positive results in the search engines.

7. Editing Themes

In some cases, you may need to make a change to a page that is not accessible from the “content” section, or changes to your product pages that aren’t within the “Product Details” section for that product.

To do so, you will need to edit the theme.

I don’t recommend editing the theme if you’re not familiar with the code, and even then, you will need to familiarize yourself with Liquid, the template language developed for Shopify (now open source and used in other projects as well).

To edit your theme, you will need to start by clicking “Online Store” and then “Themes.” From the left sidebar, you’ll need to click the “More actions” drop-down and select “Edit code.”

From here you can edit the files to add or remove backend code or visible text created by the themes. The files are categorized into:

  • Layouts, for the overall layout of the theme
  • Templates, for the layout of types of pages such as blogs or product pages
  • Snippets, which are bits of text or code that get reused by your theme in various places
  • Assets, such as images, scripts, styles, etc.
  • Config, which you probably shouldn’t touch unless you know you have support
  • Locales, for language and geographic considerations
  • Sections, for the layout of your theme sections

If you are editing a free Shopify theme, you can talk to Shopify support. Themes you bought elsewhere aren’t supported by Shopify, so don’t edit them unless you know what you are doing or know you have support from the theme creator.

8. Including Heading Tags In Your Content

Most Shopify themes include the product, page, blog, or collection title as not just the page title but as a heading wrapped in H1 tags.

This is ideal in most circumstances, since the H1 holds similar weight to the title and, like the title, is one of the most important places to include your ideal keywords.

There are some cases where you might want the title and H1 to be different, however. For example, on some landing pages, it makes sense to think of the title as an invitation that people will see in the search results, while the H1 is a greeting that they will see when they land on the page.

If this is the format you wish to use, you will need to create a custom template in your theme. You could do this by copying the template for your product pages to create an alternate template, removing the code that displays the H1, and manually including an H1 in your product description instead.

As for the other headings, H2, H3 and so on, you can use these in the rich text editor as subheadings.

Remember that subheadings help the search engines semantically understand your pages by categorizing the content, so use them to keep your content organized for readers and search engines.

9. Setting Image Alts

The image alt is a short description that is intended to serve as a replacement for an image if it fails to load or if the user is visually impaired.

The search engines use your image alts to understand the image, which can help you get discovered in image search results, but don’t lose sight of what this tag was originally intended for. Make sure that the image alt serves as replacement text for the image.

Changing image alts in Shopify is easy. Hover your cursor over the image and you will see the word “alt” at the bottom of the image, in between an eye and a trash icon.

Click “alt” and you will be shown an “Image alt text” field which you can use to enter in your image replacement text.

10. Change And Add Menu Links

You can add a link to one of your menus by clicking “Online Store” followed by “Navigation.” From here, you will click the name of the menu that you want to edit.

Under “Menu Items” you will see an “Add menu item” button.

You will need to give your new menu item a “name.” This is the anchor text of the link, which will be visible to users. Make sure that it is keyword relevant as well as user-friendly. Long names or names that repeat a lot of phrases used elsewhere in the menu should usually be avoided. Let the title tags, headings, and content handle the more niche aspects of your keyword, and just make sure that the item name is semantically relevant.

Use the drop down next to the “name” field to select the type of link. If you choose “collection,” “product,” “page,” or “blog” you will be able to choose a specific page to link to. You may also select “web address” and enter a URL if you are referencing a page outside of Shopify (whether on the same domain or not). Links to other sites within your navigation are generally discouraged because they can be interpreted as paid links that can create penalties or algorithmic demotions.

Including menu links is incredibly important in order to highlight your most important pages. Doing this passes extra PageRank to these pages, increasing their likelihood of showing up in search results.

Avoid stuffing your navigation with links, however. The number of links should be manageable and make sense for users, and if you overstuff the menus with links you will dilute the authority passed by each link.

Make sure to click “Save Menu” when you are done, or the changes will not take effect.

You can also remove links by clicking the trash can button next to links you don’t want included in your menu any longer. You can change the name of a link, or what it links to, by editing it in the same way that you first created the link, simply by adjusting the fields. Each link also has a handle icon next to the “name” field that you can use to drag the link to a different location in the menu.

11. Migrate Shopify To HTTPS

Kidding! All Shopify stores are currently on HTTPS. This is good news because Google considered HTTPS a ranking factor, although a light one, and it is increasingly showing warnings on sites that do not use it.

12. Add Schema.org To Your Product Pages

Use schema.org to tell Google everything it needs to know about your products, and even include them in the Google Merchant Center.

To do this, you will create what is called a Product itemscope that tells Google your product URL, image, title, description, and so on.

You will need to access your theme files and go to product.liquid.

The top of this page will already have a line of code that looks similar to:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Product”>

Below this, you’ll need to include your product URL and image data, like this:

<meta itemprop=”url” content=”{{ shop.url }}{{ product.selected_or_first_available_variant.url }}” />

<meta itemprop=”image” content=”https:{{ product.selected_or_first_available_variant.image.src | product_img_url: ‘grande’ }}” />

Now you will need to scroll through the page to find where your product title and product description are displayed. You’ll need to edit these by adding itemprop attributes, similar to this:

<!– Product Title –>

<h1 itemprop=”name”>{{ product.title }}</h1>

<!– Product description –>

<div class=”product-description” itemprop=”description”>

{{ product.description }}

</div>

Now you’ll need to find where the theme displays the product price, wrap it in a div tag, and include the “offers” attribute, like this:

<div itemprop=”offers” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Offer”>

It’s not strictly necessary, but on the next line you can include other attributes, like this:

<meta itemprop=”priceCurrency” content=”{{ shop.currency }}” />

<meta itemprop=”price” content=”{{ product.selected_or_first_available_variant.price | money_without_currency | remove: ‘,’ }}” />

<meta itemprop=”itemCondition” itemtype=”http://schema.org/OfferItemCondition” content=”http://schema.org/NewCondition”/>

{% if product.selected_or_first_available_variant.available %}

<link itemprop=”availability” href=”http://schema.org/InStock” />

{% else %}

<link itemprop=”availability” href=”http://schema.org/OutOfStock” />

{% endif %}

You can also sync Shopify with the Google Merchant Center using an API method with Shopify’s Google Shopping app. However, schema.org markup helps the search engines understand your site semantically and extends beyond Google, so I believe it is worth doing if you have enough development experience to put it in effect.

13. Edit Your Meta Description

By default, your meta description is your product description. Since your product description is usually quite a bit longer than the 160 character limit needed for a search engine snippet, this is something you want to avoid.

You can update your meta descriptions from your product pages by going to the search engine preview and clicking “Edit website SEO.” You will be able to update the meta description.

As a reminder, meta descriptions don’t directly affect search engine results, but they are a rare chance the search engines give you to directly set what users will see, which can increase click throughs and potentially indirectly boost rankings.

Make sure that your meta description is unique and captivating, and that you don’t reuse them.

14. Set Up Redirects

To set up a redirect, go to “Sales Channels,” then “Online Store,” and “Navigation.” At the top right you will see a “URL Redirects” button. Click it. The interface for setting up 301 redirects from here is fairly intuitive.

Make sure to set up redirects any time you change a URL on your site, or you will have links pointing to 404 pages on your own site. This is infuriating for users, throws away PageRank, and can damage your site’s rankings.

15. Test A Theme’s Resource Demands Before Installing

Updating your theme can be a smart move if it improves the user experience, enhances your store’s aesthetics, or brings new features to the table, but if it places too many demands on your users’ internet connections, it’s not worth the trouble.

To test a theme’s resource demands before switching themes, just run a performance tool like GTMetrix or Web Page Test on the example theme. Obviously, your own resources will change the exact numbers, but testing the theme with tools like these gives you an idea of what kind of loads the theme itself puts on your site.

In addition, you should run the theme through any auditing tools you use.

Screaming Frog is pretty much indispensable for us as a way of checking for anything unusual, although it’s not a tool that diagnosis things for you, but rather shows you what is going on with the site.

Use the W3 code validator to make sure the theme’s HTML is valid. This is a big one that a lot of people don’t check. In all honesty, nearly any theme will have a few errors, but you want to keep these to a minimum.

You should also run the theme through a more checklist-based auditing tool such as SEOptimizer (which is a good free option). Hubspot’s Marketing Grader is another great tool with an in-depth analysis.

Use any tools you use on your own site to check the new theme before installing it.

Be sure to take stock of any changes you made to your theme before updating, since switching themes will cause those changes to disappear.

Finally, make sure that you run the theme through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to catch any issues that Google itself specifically calls out, and to verify that the theme is mobile-friendly. If the theme doesn’t pass Google’s own auditing tool, the search engine may take issue with it as well.

16. Block A Page From The Search Engines (No Robots.txt, Sorry)

Shopify doesn’t allow you to edit the robots.txt page, a feature included to protect most of their customers from making stupid mistakes, undoubtedly. For those of us in the know, this can be a bit frustrating, but it’s still possible to hide pages from the search engine without editing robots.txt.

To do this, go to your “Online Store,” select “Themes,” click “More Actions,” and select “Edit Code.” Go to your theme.liquid file and add something like the following in between the <head> and </head> tags:

{% if product.tags contains ‘noindex’ %}

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>

{% else %}

<meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow”>

{% endif %}

After adding this code, you can add a tag that says “noindex” to every product page that you want to be hidden from search engines.

If that’s too much of a hassle for one reason or another, you can use the “Nofollow & Noindex Manager” app to manage which pages you want noindexed. I want to stress here that you should never use the “nofollow” tag on your own URLs, since this just pointlessly throws away PageRank without directing it anywhere else.

Only use the noindex tag on your own content if you don’t want it to be visible to search engines, and make sure that those URLs are still “followed” so that the PageRank isn’t thrown away.

17. Submit Your Sitemap To Google

XML sitemaps tell the search engines what URLs are on your site so that they don’t have to find them via a hyperlink in order to index them. While you should still make sure that every page is accessible via a hyperlink in order to ensure indexing and crawling, you should also take advantage of the XML sitemap Shopify automatically generates for you.

While Google will probably find Shopify’s XML sitemap on its own, I wouldn’t recommend counting on this happening. You can submit your sitemap to Google in order to ensure that the search engine has access to it.

Your sitemap is located at a URL like this:

example.com/sitemap.xml

Visit this URL to ensure that the sitemap exists. There shouldn’t be any problems, but it’s a good idea to put the URL into an XML sitemap validator to verify that there aren’t any formatting errors.

Go to your Google Search Console (or set it up first if you don’t have one). Click your website name and click “Sitemaps.” Push the “Add/Test Sitemap” button and make sure that the sitemap URL matches. (Google should populate your root URL so the only thing you should need to enter is “sitemap.xml.”)

Then just click the “submit sitemap” button, and Google will start indexing your pages based on the sitemap, if it wasn’t already.

18. Minify Your CSS

If PageSpeed insights or another tool is recommending that you minify your CSS, it is saying that the comments and whitespace in your CSS files are taking up too much space and slowing down loading as a result.

There is a simple way to parse out all of the comments and whitespace so that the search engines only see the code. Edit your css and css.liquid files like so:

{% capture content %}

   … content of your CSS/CSS.Liquid file …

{% endcapture %}

 

/* before minify: {{ content.size }} */

{% assign content = content | strip_newlines | split: ” ” | join: ” ” | split: “*/” %}

{% assign new_content = “” %}

{% for word in content %}

                  {% assign new_word = word | split: “/*” | first | strip %}

                {% assign new_content = new_content | append: new_word %}

{% endfor %}

/* after minify: {{ new_content.size }} */

{{ new_content }}

The “capture content” command grabs the content from your CSS file, and the following code reproduces it without the comments and white space. This method should work for most themes, but make sure to verify that it doesn’t create any code conflicts. Always make a copy of your original CSS and css.liquid files so that you can restore them immediately if your changes cause any problems.

19. Concatenate Your Stylesheets

If your page templates are referencing multiple stylesheets, this makes multiple requests, and it can slow down page rendering. In many cases, you can simply combine all of your stylesheets into one and update your page templates so that they only reference that single stylesheet. This process should be fairly straightforward if you are familiar with stylesheets.

20. The Proper Way To Delete Products

To delete a product from your Shopify store, navigate to “Products” and “Product List” in the sidebar, click on the product, scroll down to the red “Delete this product” button, and click it. Click “Delete product” in the pop-up menu to confirm that you want the product removed.

However, this is only half the story if you want to make sure that your SEO is up to par. You’ll want to crawl your site with Screaming Frog or a similar tool and then check if there are any links to the deleted URL. These links should be removed, and possibly updated to point to a similar product, in order to ensure that you never direct users to a 404 page. As I’ve mentioned above, linking to 404 pages throws away PageRank and frustrates users.

It’s also a good idea to preserve any inbound link authority that the product page had by redirecting it to a similar product, if there is an acceptably similar product available. I discussed how to set up redirects earlier in this guide.

Do not simply redirect deleted pages to the homepage or to an unrelated page. Google considers these “soft 404s” and they are worse than hard 404s because they are misleading, and may even be considered as “sneaky redirects” which can occasionally result in penalties. Redirecting to the product category or something along those lines can be acceptable, but anything more remote is too much of a stretch.

21. Customize Your Product Collection Pages

You can create product collection pages that collect together several products and list these on a single page. This can be incredibly powerful for SEO, since you can target different types of keywords on these pages than would be possible for individual product pages.

However, since collection pages are made up of information gathered from your product pages, they may be considered duplicate content. While outright search engine penalties are a relatively unlikely result, the lack of original content on these pages is likely to result in them failing to show up in search results.

Thankfully, you can customize these pages to give them the unique touch that they need to pull in search traffic for those generic and long tail keyword phrases.

To create a collection, click “Products” and “Collections,” then “create collection.” Set the selection criteria for the page, then click “Save collection.”

The most important thing to customize is the “Description.” I would recommend making this quite long and engaging in order to boost that uniqueness score.

The main obstacle here, of course, is the possibility that doing so will create a frightening wall of text. You can resolve this by creating an alternate template for your collections page that moves the description or makes it more visually appealing. You will need to edit your theme as discussed above in order to accomplish this. Once you have created a new template, you can change the collections page template in the “Theme template” section for your collection page.

22. Embed Video

Product videos can alleviate concerns that consumers might have about products more easily than text and images, and Panda seems to favor sites that use videos, so if product videos are available on YouTube or through another embed service, you should definitely be taking advantage of them.

To embed a video, start by copying the video URL. To be clear, we’re talking about the URL for the video file itself, not the page that it is located on.

Copy the URL and go to Embed Responsively, a tool that makes it easy to embed videos in a mobile-friendly format.

Select your video website (YouTube, etc.) and then paste the URL into the Page URL box. Click “Embed” and copy the code.

Go to your Shopify page’s Rich Text Editor and click the “Insert Video” button (which looks like a video camera), then paste the embed code into the dialogue. Click “Insert Video” and then hit “Save.” This will add the video to your page.

23. How To Add JavaScript To Shopify

Since JavaScript is difficult for the search engines to read, it’s good SEO advice to avoid using it for anything you want the search engine to crawl, unless a non-JavaScript version is also available.

Even so, as SEO professionals we inevitably tinker with JavaScript for various other reasons, often related to the tracking and Analytics part of our job description.

How do you add JavaScript to Shopify?

First, you’ll need to upload your jquery file (e.g. “jquery-1.4.3.min.js”) into your theme>assets folder. Go to “Themes,” “Your Theme,” “Edit HTML/CSS,” and select the “Assets” folder, then upload your jquery file there.

Next you’ll need to add code like this to the HEAD section of your theme:

{{ ‘jquery-1.4.3.min.js’ | asset_url | script_tag }}

…substituting “javascript_file.js” with your actual file name, of course.

Now that jquery is uploaded and referenced, you can add JavaScript code. The ideal place to do this is at the end of the <body></body> content of your theme, like this:

<body>

//body content

<script type=”text/javascript”>

//javascript code

</script>

</body>

You can also place the javascript code in a separate file that you create, like scripts.js.liquid.

And there you have it.

Conclusion

Shopify is a large and nuanced platform capable of achieving things that would be very difficult otherwise. Here, I’ve tried to introduce you to some of the most common things you’ll need to be aware of when it comes to SEO for the platform.

Now that you’re informed, go ahead and take action on these today.

7,353 total views, 5 views today

About Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the founder of The 20 Media, an SEO and content marketing agency, and advisor at MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. Pratik has contributed on sites like Moz, Fast Company, Social Media Examiner, KISSmetrics, and Content Marketing Institute to name a few. He's a "must-follow" SEO expert according to Search Engine Watch and has been named one of the top content marketing influencers by Onalytica. He's passionate about fitness, entrepreneurship, start-ups, and all things digital marketing. Hit him up on Twitter @DholakiyaPratik for a quick chat on any of these topics.

  • gopollen

    Hey there you have covered major points for making the Shopify website very user friendly. But the most important thing is to put the content on product, category pages. Here : http://bit.ly/2Bl70iR

  • Thanks!