Shopify SEO in Six Simple Steps
Zac Heinrichs Dec 22 2016
First order of business, this is a pretty long post on Shopify SEO best practices. Here’s what you’re gonna get.
- Shopify SEO Basics
- Shopify URLs
- Shopify Title Tags
- Meta Description
- Image Alt
- 301 Redirects
- Wrap up
Shopify SEO Basics
Warning: This is not a full-bore Shopify tutorial, this is a deep walkthrough of the SEO basics on Shopify to make sure that your store is properly optimized for search engines.
In my quest to become a self-proclaimed expert in something other than fried chicken joints and IPAs, I decided to set upon search engine optimization for e-commerce websites. A client of mine was using Shopify and I was having a hard time finding the exact resources that I wanted to make some basic SEO optimizations. Plus, I was interested in the back end .liquid stuff.
I decided to set up my own Shopify store to see what the experience was like and get in at the ground floor. Taking advantage of the free 14-day trial, and looking to keep myself entertained, I set up Left Shoes Only, an online retailer of left shoes. When going through the account set up, I was pleasantly surprised that there was already a drop down option for me:
Alright, so it’s not much to look at. But, it was incredibly useful for me to go through all the steps of setting up the store front to get an idea of what Shopify store owners go through when they are getting started.
After doing the initial store set-up, the next thing that I was prompted to do was to add products, collections, then pages, and even a blog if I was so inclined.
Product / Collection / Page / Blog URLs
Honestly, the Shopify URLs drive me a little crazy… I’ve been SEO-ing (yeah, it’s a verb) for the better part of a decade now and I have always recommended clean and simple URLs: follow a purposeful naming convention that utilizes targeted keywords, makes sense to people, denotes hierarchy, conveys relevance, etc. The Fact that you CAN NOT have a Shopify site without URLs like
makes me a little queasy but, it is not the end of the world. You need to make sure, that when you name your products, collections, and pages, that you are keeping it short and front-loading keywords that make sense.
If you decide later that you want to change any of your URLs, you CAN edit* the handle (or slug) to your hearts content. Scrolling down to the Search engine listing preview you can click on the handy-dandy Edit website SEO button and edit away.
*Disclaimer: Don’t go changing URLs all willy-nilly. Shopify dynamically generates all the pages by referencing object handles to access the attributes of Liquid objects. If that sentence sounds as confusing to you as it did to me before researching all this, take care when creating your URLs the first time around and then don’t change them.
Most Shopify store designs rely on the handles staying the same. If you start changing URLs after your store has been set up and without help from a developer who’s well versed in SEO, it may collapse on you like a house of cards.
When you create a product, Shopify automatically generates the URL based on the name of that product. The product will always live at its unique /products/ URL and when put into a collection, the product URL adopts that collection name but should automatically rel=”canonical” back to the original product URL. No duplicate content pages? No duplicate content pages!
*dusts hands in satisfaction*
URLs are the same deal for collections pages; the title of the collection automatically creates the URL and is available to edit in the Edit website SEO feature. With one exception, the /collections/all page. For this you will need a bit of theme.liquid wizardry to edit and that is not really why I’m here.
Blog URLs are also basically the same. You can control the name of the blog where you are posting, basically the blog category, and the title of the post is appended to the URL, another great reason not to have super long post titles. Things that you can’t control here: /blogs/ of course and the article number that gets inserted, which is likely a holdover from when Google required at least a three digit number in the URL to be featured in Google News.
Pages are probably the most straight forward URLs to manage; no caveats or exceptions, the page title generates the URL handle.
Shopify Title Tags
I’m sure you don’t really need me to tell you that other than the actual page’s content, Title Tags are super important. Always make sure that your Title Tag can pass the Blank Sheet of Paper Test!
Products Title Tag
The next step in getting a Shopify online store off the ground is actually getting your products into the system. When adding a new product, a product name (Title) is obviously required and will automatically be used as the Title Tag for that product. Once again, in the Search engine listing preview the Title Tag can be optimized using targeted keywords.
One thing that stuck out to me is that Shopify shows here that the character limit for a Title Tag is 70. While 70-character Title Tags have been once again seen in the wild, this may not be the best representation of the average character limit shown in Google SERPs. With the removal of ads from the right rail of results pages, there is once again more room for Title Tags to stretch out. Truncation of Titles in SERPs is dictated by the pixel length and, according to Dr. Pete, the current limit is 600 pixels or about 60 characters. Best practice: Title Tags should be under 60 characters.
Collections Title Tag
Same deal here, the Title of the collections page becomes the default Title Tag. If your collection name happens to make the Title Tag too long, it can be edited in the search engine listing preview tool. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Other Page Title Tags
All the Pages pages and the Home page can also be named and edited in the same way. Let us move along.
We all know that the Meta Description is not a direct ranking factor but, if you can write a good one, customers will have no choice but to click it. More clicks and higher Click-Through-Rates do send positive ranking signals and isn’t that why we’re all here?
For each page type, the page description is not only the body text found on the page but, it also becomes the default Meta Description. So, to prevent your beautiful search result listing from being truncated or *gasp* determined by robots and algorithms, get back down in the search engine listing preview and edit away. Be sure that you are using those targeted keywords, encouraging those clicks, and keeping it under 160 characters.
For some reason, I find that the SEO value of an Image Alt tag is debated. Maybe it’s the completionist in me but, if all other things are equal between yours and a competitor’s sites, wouldn’t you want to have all the boxes checked to reap any potential benefit. The Image Alt sends relevance signals to search engines, screen readers need them, and image searches will use it. You should too.
After you’ve uploaded an image, hover over it, and hit the ‘ALT’ to edit the alt text. Now use what you learned from the Blank Sheet of Paper Test and write a brief description of the image, using your targeted keywords of course.
Navigation links are important! A new Shopify store will come with a Main Menu and Footer Menu that you can add to, edit, and rearrange as you like. All main navigation items must be clickable links, this is default action of each navigation element. Boom.
Aside from vastly improving user experience, greater relevance is assigned to words on the page when they are also links. So, make sure to use your highest value and most important terms in the main navigation. And for the love of Alfred Peet, don’t use boring words like “Products” and “Services” in your nav! Every site on the internet has products and services, what do you have that sets you apart? If you want to rank well for “sweet left shoes” you better make sure that’s top and left in the navigation.
The way that Shopify handles 301 Redirecting retired URLs is simple and straightforward. You won’t have to hire a developer to add lines to the .htaccess file. Just hit the URL redirects button from in the navigation pane and add your 1-to-1 redirect.
As it is now, you cannot bulk import a list of 301s without getting an add on application from the Shopify App Store.
Well, there you have it. A quick walkthrough of the basics for SEO on Shopify. As an eCommerce CMS, Shopify makes it easy to integrate solid SEO fundamentals into each and every product and page of your site, so be sure to take advantage of their built-in tools and follow these best practices. Happy selling!
SEO Team Lead
Zac has been working in search engine marketing since 2008, building out holistic search strategies for a wide variety of clients and industries. His experience in SEO, PPC, and Social Media, along with his attention to detail and extensive experience in customer service, have proven to be significant assets for helping clients improve their search presence in a constantly evolving industry. As SEO Team Lead, he handles the overall workflow and coordination of the SEO team and strives to deliver superior work and value to his clients and the industry as a whole.Read More