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The Ultimate Shopify SEO Checklist for Generating Traffic

  • 19 min read

Updated: 4/22/2021

Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms for online stores. Since its start in 2004, the company has grown from 5 people in a coffee shop to over 5,000 across the globe.  

And it’s done this with one goal in mind: “Making commerce better for everyone.”

It is this goal to reach and help everyone that serves as the foundation for one of the greatest advantages of using Shopify: a user-friendly interface that makes it simple to optimize your pages for SEO.

At IWD Agency, we have been working with Shopify sites for more than a decade. One of the many reasons we love recommending this platform to clients is as simple as the company’s mission statement: Shopify is great for SEO.

Over the years, we've also developed a Shopify SEO checklist that helps make the most of this user-friendly platform's proclivity for winning over Google.

Is Shopify Good for SEO?

Although I just answered this question, it comes up enough that I want to quickly delve into the details a bit before I outline my Shopify SEO checklist for improving your organic traffic.

In short, yes. Shopify is fantastic for SEO. The main reasons it’s great for generating organic traffic from search engines are that Shopify makes it easy to:

  • Manage and update your meta tags (those short bits of text that describe each page on your site)
  • Automatically generate a sitemap for your store, helping Google bots tell which URLs to categorize to improve rankings. 
  • Create 301 redirects, moving traffic from one defunct URL to another without diminishing search rankings.
  • Use canonical URLs to tell the Google bots which one is the master version of multiple identical pages
  • Simplify your navigation with Shopify’s smart architecture for a better User Interface (UI)
  • Take advantage of Shopify’s mobile-friendly design (Google prioritizes the mobile version of your site)
  • Enjoy the benefits of a vast array of SEO apps from the absolutely massive Shopify App Store - many of which are completely free (I list some great options at the end of this post)


The Shopify SEO Checklist: 9 Proven Tips for Improving Traffic

You now know why Shopify is so great for SEO. 

The next step is understanding how to take advantage of this potential to bring your eCommerce store as much organic traffic as possible.

Here’s your checklist with nine ideas from my agency's 10+ years of experience working with Shopify.

1. Connect Your Shopify Site to Google AnalyticsandBing Webmaster Tools

Regardless of the platform you’re using, if you’re serious about SEO, you should registeryour site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Doing so confirms for both of these major search engines that your website exists and helps ensure that it gets crawled. 

Just be sure to register all versions of your domain:

  • Both the www and non-www (i.e. www.IWDAgency.com and IWDAgency.com)
  • Both the secure and non-secure (i.e. http:// and https:// versions)

The registration process for both is pretty simple, but check out these resources if you need more information:

Adding a site to Google Search Console

Adding a site to Bing Webmaster Tools

Submit Your Sitemap to Google and Bing, Too

After you’ve registered your Shopify site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, you’ll need to submit an XML sitemap to both services — this helps both services index your site quickly and more accurately. 

Fortunately, Shopify will automatically generate a sitemap for you. Simply take the URL of your store (www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml) and enter it into Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. For both Google and Bing, you do this by going to your site’s dashboard and click “sitemaps.”

Here’s what that looks like in Google Search Console:

 

2. Optimize Your Shopify Site’s Structure

simpler site structure makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site and rank your pages.

Categories and subcategories are certainly important, but organizing your content for user experience is vital to SEO success. If shoppers can find what they are looking for quickly and easily, they will view more of your pages and spend more time on your site - helping your search engine rankings.

Shopify makes it easy to organize your content. They call their Category pages “Collection Pages”, so I recommend you use structures like these:

  • Homepage » Collection Pages » Product Pages
  • Homepage » Collection Pages » Sub-Collection Page » Product Pages

Ideally, your products should be one or two clicks away from your homepage to make it quick and easy for search engines to not only crawl the site but, most importantly, for shoppers to find what they’re looking for.

Additionally, Shopify will give you an About Us page and Contact Us page right out of the box, but make sure you take the time to optimize them with relevant keywords, too. Doing so helps you gain major credibility, both with shoppers and search engines.

The same goes for that all-important search box on your page. While this feature may not directly win over Google, helping visitors find what they’re looking for will increase dwell time, which is probably great for SEO. So, make sure it’s not just featured prominently, but that you prompt visitors to use it whenever they need help finding that perfect product.

 

3. Aim for the Most User-Friendly Experience Possible

With your customer in mind, focus on improving your site’s user experience. Doing so not only keeps customers happy but also helps you to rank higher in Google.

One of the most obvious steps you should take it to focus on a responsive design. This will ensure that your Shopify store looks great on every device, whether a shopper is using their desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. 

Now, if you’re using one of the approved Shopify themes, you’re in luck. It’s already responsive and already great for SEO. 

 

On the other hand, if you purchased your theme from a source other than Shopify’s market or custom-built your own, then you absolutely must check to make sure it’s responsive or Google’s going to give you a cold shoulder. 

Also, as I mentioned in the last section, Google probably considers time-on-page as an indicator that a site is valuable, so you want to select a design that makes it easy for customers to navigate your site and read what’s on every page. Doing so means improved rankings, more repeat visitors, and increased conversions.

4. Make Your Shopify Site as Fast as Possible

You know from your own user experience that sites that load slowly or lag when you attempt to navigate are frustrating. In some cases, slow site speed is even a deal breaker. 

Aside from customer satisfaction, one of the main advantages of a faster Shopify site is higher ranking in search engine results since Google prefers fast sites.

So, how can Shopify help your SEO with site speed? 

Even though you are obligated to use Shopify’s servers and template, you still have access to some great tools and apps that will help your Shopify site load as quickly as possible:

  1. Shopify does a great job at optimizing your images as you upload them, but to optimize them further, you can use a tool like Tiny Png
  2. Minimize your use of any external scripts or custom code on your site.
  3. Remove any Shopify apps you are not using.
  4. Avoid using image sliders and try to keep the rest of your images to a minimum (and optimized)
  5. Keep the number of web fonts you use on your Shopify site to a minimum. For fonts that load faster, check out this list of web safe fonts.
  6. Make use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format on your Shopify pages and posts. Even though you’ll need to install and pay for a third-party app, I highly recommend doing so because AMP offers a few advantages:
    1. Fast-loading versions of your content will appear in mobile search results.
    2. Priority in Google search results 
    3. Increased dwell time on your site since people will be more likely to read your post on their mobile device

In my opinion, your Shopify site can never be too fast. Still, as far as guidelines go, I know that’s not very helpful. 

Instead, use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to see how your site’s speed stacks up. GTMetrix is another great site for this. It will give you a lot of feedback about where your Shopify store could use some help.

 

5. DoThoroughKeyword Research

Before you start writing any content for your website or store, you must identify suitable high-volume search terms.

Use Seed Words

To begin the brainstorming process, make a list of all the important topics that are related both to your brand and buyer personas and that you wish to rank for on Google. Then, break down those keywords into different subtopics so that you can then create a list of seed keywords

These are keywords that are related to your various topics and are terms that your target audience searches for in Google. To find these important keywords, start by thinking about how others might search for those concepts in Google. And then dig in with some research.

Keep in mind that the more research you do, the better. Google’s machine learning search algorithms compare search terms with other queries to learn about search intent. This means that you must study the search intent to know your customers’ trends. Put yourself in their shoes and ask the important questions:

  • Why are they searching?
  • Are they searching because they have a question and want an answer to that question?
  • Are they searching for a specific website?
  • Are they searching because they want to buy something?

By taking advantage of keyword research tools, you will not only refine your search terms but also gain a wider perspective for your content and SEO strategy. 

I’ll cover a great way to do this at the end of this section. 

Use Long Tail Keywords, Too

While your seed keywords are important, so are long tail keywords,which are more descriptive and make it easier to match your target audience’s search intent. 

For instance, let’s say your Shopify store sells mountain bikes. You could continuously target the keyword “mountain bikes” over and over. Aside from the fact that you’re probably going to face a lot of competition for such a popular keyword, people could be searching for it for all kinds of reasons - not just because they’re looking to spend money on a site like yours.

By using more descriptive long tail keywords, you can often avoid a lot of competition while also attracting the kinds of shoppers who are ready to buy.

Often times, these take the form of questions, like:

  • What’s the Best Mountain Bike?
  • What’s the Best Mountain Bike for Kids?
  • What Size Mountain Bike Do I Need?

Those would all make great blog posts, a topic I will cover in a moment.

Let Your Competitors Show You the Way

Finally, research what your competitors are doing. The better you understand the content landscape of your industry, the easier it will be to post blogs Google wants to show its users. 

So, by all means, spy on your competition. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble to find the keywords that will gain them the most traffic. No point in you reinventing the SEO wheel.

That said, this is tricky to do without premium SEO tools. I prefer SEMrush for this kind of work. It takes me all of two seconds to input a competitor’s website and see not just the keywords they’re getting traffic from but how they’re using them to get it.

Check out their recent post about how to use SEMrush to do competitor analysis for a better idea of how easy the tool makes it to benefit from the hard work of your competition. 

 

6. Put Those Keywords in Title Tags, Headers, and URLs

Knowing your keywords isn’t enough, though. 

You need to know where to use them, too. With the proper control of your titles, headers, and URL, you can ensure that search engines index your content properly — and that your SEO soars. 

Get Your Page Titles Right

The titles of your Shopify site’s pages should never be vague. Always do your best to include the main keyword you’re targeting, but focus on making the title perfectly clear. Just like the title of a book, if a shopper (and, in our case, Google) can’t tell what the title means, they’re probably going to keep looking. 

In Shopify, there are two different processes for editing page titles: one for your homepage and one for every other type of page:

  1. To edit your home page title, you need to click Sales Channels > Online Store > Preferences. Then, use the box provided to enter your home page title.
  2. For other pages, you need to locate your page, product, or post in the Shopify dashboard . Then, enter the Title at the very top where prompted. 

Add your Title here and it automatically updates as your Title Tag.

 

Going forward, whenever you create a new page, use the above advice to create these kinds of keyword-optimized title tags.

Use Headings Properly

Headers are another helpful way to organize your content in a manner that people and Google will find helpful. Think of them like the chapters and subsections within your book.

The H1 tag is the most important. It tells Google what the rest of the page is about. For this reason, it’s often the same as your Title tag, but this is a somewhat controversial opinion among SEOs.

As long as both describe the information on the page, you can’t go too far wrong.

Then, there are your H2 tags, which serve as subheaders. Whether it’s in a blog post or one another type of page, they’re an effective way of cutting up the information into more manageable pieces.

After that, you can continue using H3s, H4s, H5s, and H6s to subdivide the information even further. Just be sure to use them in order. For example, you wouldn’t create a blog post with an H1, then an H2, then another H1. You wouldn’t have an H2, then an H6, then and H3. 

Yoast has a very effective guide on properly using header tags for SEO if you want more information on the topic.

 

Fortunately, Shopify makes it incredibly easy to turn text into these types of headers. Here’s what it looks like to select the right header in Shopify:

Use “Clean” URLs

It should be no surprise that the “cleaner” and more succinct your URL, the better chance you will rank highly in search results. 

By default, Shopify will add prefixes to your pages and products. 

For example, Shopify uses:

  • /pages/ before pages
  • /posts/ before posts
  • /products/ before products

Even though this format is not ideal from an SEO perspective, you can still rank highly if youoffer the correct ranking signals. 

Keeping your URL simple and intelligible goes a long way. After all, a clean URL like 

www.yourdoman.com/red-wagons 

Is WAY better than 

www.yourdomain.com/prds/ct/p223.php?red=14556redwgn

If you’d like to edit a URL in Shopify, go to your page, product or post you wish to edit, scroll down to the bottom of it, click “Edit Website SEO”, and then make your changes under “URL and handle.”

Just remember that if you change a URL on an existing post or page, you need to create a redirect from the old one. Fortunately, this is one more SEO task that Shopify makes very easy. 

Check the box for “create URL redirect” and you’re good-to-go. Google will be notified of the change when it does its next crawl.  

Use Engaging Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions won’t actually help you rank better, not directly anyway. It’s just the text that goes under the title tag of your website’s page:

Still, if your meta descriptions convince people to click, that  will  help boost your rankings, so take this text seriously. 

Your meta description should:

    • Keep them to under 160 characters
    • Contain the keyword you are targeting
  • Reallysell the value of your page

  • Learn to craft winning meta descriptions and you’ll have an easier time climbing the rankings.

     

    7. Perfect Your Product Pages

    Using the keywords you’ve already identified, get started on optimizing your pages that will give you your biggest bang for your buck. Obviously, you’ll want to begin with your Shopify site’s top pages: 

    • Homepage
    • Top Collection Pages
    • Top-Selling Product Pages. 

    After that, make a schedule to go back and optimize the rest of your Shopify site’s product pages, so that each one is playing a role in boosting your SEO.

    How to Use Title Tags for Your Collection Pages

    Once you know which pages to optimize first, you must decide how you want to name your pages across the entire site. Use your keywords in a consistent way. 

    For example:

    Keyword 1 – Shop for Keyword 2 – Store Name

    Red Wagons – Shop for Red Wagons Online – The Store

    How to Use Title and Meta Descriptions for Your Product Pages

    Next, come up with titles and descriptions for your product pages and categories. Don’t force anything here. Your keywords should fit into your copy naturally. If done correctly, tags and descriptions improve SEO. This is even true for the alt text for images you create.

    Speaking of which...

    Use High-Quality Images with Alt Text

    High-quality photos of your products are vital for making your product pages SEO-friendly.. 

    As you know, when you navigate to a website on your desktop or your mobile device, high-quality images catch your eye and make you want to stay on the page.

    Shopify understands the importance of powerful product images, too, putting it this way:

    “The perceived value of your products is directly impacted by the quality of your product photography.”

    That said, Google can’t “see” your product photos. It needs help understanding what they are, which is where alt text comes in. This is a form of metadata you can assign to your images. While your users can’t see it. Google can.

    Adding alt text to your images gives you three main advantages:

    1. Screen readers use this text to provide a description of an image to any visually impaired users who visit your website.
    2. Search engines use it to categorize and better understand your content.
    3. If your image fails to load, a description of will be displayed to help avoid confusion.

    Shopify makes it unbelievably simple to add alt text to your images. While it may depend on your theme, for the most part, all you need to do is click on the image and find where it prompts you to add alt text.

    For example, here’s what it looks like in a Shopify blog:

    On product pages, you may just get the image with the text “Edit alt text” next to it and the prompt “Save alt text” after you’ve included it. Here’s an example from a Runners Athletics product page:

    Additionally, creating effective file names for your images from the very beginning is important, too, as changing them in Shopify is not entirely simple. 

    If you ultimately  do  have to change an image file name after you’ve uploaded it to Shopify, you’ll have to delete your existing image and reupload it with the file name you wanted.

    Remember: your keyword should appear in the file name, and that the file name should be short.

    For example, if you are selling red plastic wagons in your Shopify store, ensure that the image you upload is called ‘red-plastic-wagons.jpg’ instead of something indecipherable like IMG9481JXA-583.jpg.

    As I touched on earlier, Shopify acknowledges the importance of high-quality images.

    However, it still cautions against making any changes that will negatively impact site visits. Since Google considers the load speed of your website, you should avoid using large product images, as these take longer to load. 

    8. Add a Blog to Your Shopify Site

    In a recent post I did about creating SEO-friendly blog posts, I offered a checklist for writing one that will help your Shopify site reliably generate organic traffic. Definitely check it out for a more extensive overview. 

    Fortunately, Shopify comes with a blog right out of the box. All you need to do is optimize it in order to attract lots of organic traffic.

    To do that, I’m going to cover three important ways to write SEO-optimized blog posts:

    1. Use topic clusters to highlight keywords
    2. Continually create and publish evergreen content
    3. Repurpose or update your current content and remove outdated content.

     

    Use Topic Clusters

    One of the most powerful ways you can use your blog to win over Google is by focusing on content clusters.

    First, choose the broad topics you want to rank for. 

    I recommend putting your target keyword into Google to see what kind of articles are currently ranking so you understand what kind of article Google thinks is best for such queries

    Once you know your topics, you can create content based on specific keywords related to that topic. This, of course, helps with SEO, as your keywords will all link to each other and not only establish broader search engine authority but also enhance your credibility.

    Continually Create and Publish Evergreen Content

    If your content isn’t about topics that are relevant, timeless, and valuable, your Shopify site will struggle to maintain SEO. This is why creating evergreen content is essential. The reason it’s called “evergreen” is because it will “always” remain useful. Creating content around trendy topics has its benefits, too, but evergreen content does the following:

    • Ranks over time - and not just in the near future.
    • Maintains steady page traffic, even well after your post date. 
    • Generates leads over a longer period of time and not just immediately after the initial post date. 

    So, create evergreen blog posts now and benefit from them for years to come.

    Repurpose or Update Your Current Content and Remove Outdated Content

    While effective bloggers must continuously generate new content, regularly improving what you already have on your Shopify site is a smart way of improving your SEO, too.

    Repurposing and updating content on previously-published blogs will help you reap many benefits, but here are the main two:

    • Save time and resources: Completely new pieces of content take time to settle on the search engine results page (SERP) and gain authority. Updating an already-existing piece of content takes far less time and fewer resources. 
    • Maintain credibility: Updating your posts will extend their lifespan, helping your rankings over a longer period of time. Keeping your content evergreen also helps you remove outdated information and add industry changes over time. 

    Part of making a blog SEO-friendly is making sure it remains accurate and helpful. The moment it loses those two traits, expect Google to start treating your blogs - and the rest of your Shopify Site - accordingly.

    9. Track Your Results and Play to Your Impressions

    Finally, check in with Google Analytics and Search Console regularly to see how well your Shopify site is doing. 

    Use Google Search Console’s Impressions tracker to see what Google thinks your page is about. This will give you an indication long before traffic ever shows up, so you can make changes to them before they have a chance to rank for the wrong terms..

    Then, over time, go back and link between your posts. By linking from successful posts to the ones that are struggling, the latter will receive more attention from Google. 

     

     

    9 Shopify Apps That Will Improve Your SEO

    As I talked about at the beginning of this post, one of the many advantages of using Shopify is that you have access to an awesome arsenal of apps 

    Here are nine apps that are great for Shopify SEO.

    1. Plug In SEO

    The Plug in SEO app is a crucial time- and money-saver, showcasing only the essential elements that boost your SEO: page titles, headings, meta descriptions, speed, article structure, content, and much more. 

    With the added bonus of providing a quick analysis of the main things you should be focusing on, this app will help you identify the key issues that are worth spending time and money on to improve your Shopify site’s rankings. 

    You’re guaranteed automatic, regular monitoring to optimize your SEO experience. 

    Best of all, you can download Plug In SEO for free.

    2. SEO Booster

    The SEO Booster app is designed to save you money and to ease the burden of getting started on some important SEO tasks. 

    This app will score the SEO of your website, give you an SEO checklist based on another website, and increase your daily pagerank. You’ll also enjoy the benefits of daily and automatic updates of ALT texts for new images and redirects of invalid links. 

    Additionally, the app optimizes page traffic by updating trending keywords from your selected geographical areas and by offering keyword interests on your site. Finally, by using full JSON-LD, the app helps you structure your data in an SEO-friendly way, making it simpler to follow and integrate Google Analytics and Search Console into your website. Download SEO Booster for a free 7-day trial. After that, it’s just $18.99/month.

     

    3. SEO Doctor

    The SEC Doctor app lives up to its surgical name by scanning your Shopify store for SEO issues and then providing a diagnostic report about how to fix them. This app will take the reins on a complete evaluation of your on-page SEO related issues, image alt text issues, 404 Errors, and Google data structure setup. 

    There’s even the option to speak with an SEO guru about how to fix your site’s specific problems.

    Download SEO Doctor for a 5-day free trial. After that, it starts at only$10.00/month.


    4. Ultra SEO

    If you need help optimizing your meta tags and are willing to pay an ongoing monthly fee, then Ultra SEO is the app for you. 

    By targeting keywords, the app aims to optimize higher rankings for your site’s pages. Its main focus is to help how your store appears in search engine results, providing quick analysis and recommendations to help you get more page traffic. Download Ultra SEO for a free 7-day trial. Then, it’s only $10.00/month after that.

     

    5. Smart SEO

    The creators of the Smart SEO app have said their app reduces time spent on SEO for your Shopify store by80%

    This app does so by automatically generating the meta tags required for onpage SEO. It also offers templates for quickly creating meta tags if you want to do it manually. 

    Furthermore, the app provides Google and other search engines with the information they want, which means a better chance of boosting your rankings. Download Smart SEO for a free 7-day trial. After that, it’s only $4.99/month.

     

    6. SEO Image Optimizer

    The SEO Image Optimizer app has been used on over 50,000 Shopify stores, making it the most popular and best-reviewed of all image optimizer apps for the platform. 

    If you’re a store owner who wants a quick and easy way to optimize images to increase traffic from Google image searches, this app is perfect. It’s ideal for helping owners harvest the power of images to generate the kind of qualified traffic that sells products. 

    Download SEO Image Optimizer for free.

     

    7. AMP by Ampify Me

    The AMP by Ampify Me app is ideal for helping shop owners convert their store into an AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Page. This is crucial for enhanced user experience, as the app not only enhances the aesthetics of mobile pages but also helps the mobile pages load more quickly than others. Additionally, the appimproves SEO by showing your store at the top of Search Results, helping your store have cheaper cost per click on ads, dominate Google search results, and make customers love your brand. 

    Download AMP by Ampify Me for free.


    8. Alt Text

    The Alt Text app is one of many apps that helps you automatically set alt text tags for your images(similar to SEO Booster).

    These image tags are crucial for your store’s SEO, helping improve your Google Image Search rankings. The ease of setting a default ALT Tags template and simply clicking a button to optimize images makes this app ideal for helping you run your online store more efficiently so you can spend time on more important things, like growing your business. 

    Download Alt Text for only $1.99/month.

     

    9. Sitemap Page Generator

    With the Sitemap Page Generator app, you can take control of your sitemaps by easing the process of creating, submitting, and updating your sitemap. Automatic generation of sitemaps and daily updates helps your store grow. Additionally, this app helps you with submitting sitemaps to Google to keep the search engines updated. 

    Download Sitemap Page Generator for a free 7-day trial. After that, it’s just $3/month.

     

    Start Putting This Shopify SEO Checklist to Use for Your Store

    Whether you just recently launched your first Shopify store or you’ve had yours for years, the best time to take advantage of this checklist is now

    I know some of this may seem daunting at first. The good news is that most of this SEO advice can be implemented for free.

    So, get started where you can, begin making the changes I recommend above, and if you’d like help from an agency that has been working with Shopify for 10+ years, you can always contact us.

    Check out more great eCommerce products, services, and resources from IWD

    Get Started with IWD Today!

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