Steps to Improve Shopify Product SEO August 19, 2015 03:00

Search optimization and SEO are terms that all website administrators think about. But these don’t have to be services that you have to pay a lot to get. In this post, we will focus on some free methods of improving your search ranking.

Shopify has a number of built-in tools that improve Shopify product SEO to help potential customers easily find your store. Take advantage of these tools that include filling out descriptive fields for your pages and products, integrating customer reviews, and maintaining a regular blog.

What is SEO?

Let’s start with the basics. SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to techniques used to improve a site’s ranking on search engines like Google, Bing, etc. (We will mainly focus on Google as in the U.S., it gets about 65% of all desktop search queries.)

When you search for something on Google or other search engines, a list of websites appears that are relevant to what you had searched. Google and other search engines use sophisticated (and proprietary) methods to determine the order or rank of each site. You can learn more about how search engines find (index) and rank sites through Google’s SEO guide.

The ranking of a website on search engines is largely determined by how optimized they are for search engines – whether they have relevant content for what people are searching, credibility of a site, the amount of time people spend on the site, and a number of other things. A large part of SEO is having keywords in the content of the site that people may search in order to find that site.

As an example, if I have a store that sells flowers, I don’t really care if my site ranks high when someone searches for “coffee makers”. But I do care if someone searches for “fresh roses” or something to that effect. Here, “coffee makers” and “fresh roses” are keywords that a website can be optimized for. If your store specializes in affordable roses with free delivery, then a keyword you optimize for can be “cheap roses delivery”.

So SEO is only meaningful when you have specific keywords in mind for which you want to optimize your Shopify store. As an exercise, take a look at how shopify.com ranks and which keywords drive people to the site using the Alexa search for “shopify.com”. Try searching for your store on Alexa to see what drives people to your store (if your store has been indexed by Alexa).

But you don’t have to wait for your store to show up on Alexa to start planning for keywords to improve your Shopify product SEO. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to see how much people search for certain words or phrases. It is important to do this so that you are not optimizing for keywords that are hardly used in searches. For example, it may be great that the roses you sell are from a small island near Indonesia, but if nobody is searching for “Indonesia island roses”, then it would be a waste to spend time, energy, and money on those keywords.

Here’s a quick video about the Google Keyword Planner tool:

Once you have figured out the keywords for which your store should be optimized, you can start with a number of free things to improve your search.

Shopify descriptive fields

Websites, including store built on Shopify, have a number of fields through which website is described other than the body of a page. Let’s look at the below screenshot and break it down.

Image of Google search for the word shopstorm

Google search for “shopstorm”

Page title
In the screenshot, “ShopStorm: Great Shopify Apps” is the title of the page. In Shopify, the title tag can be used for each page including the main pages of the site, product pages, blog page, etc.

Make sure that the page title includes keywords you are optimizing for, is between 50-60 characters in length, and includes the store name for each page.

URL
For each page on Shopify, including product pages, you can edit how the URL appears. In our example, the URL is simply https://shopstorm.com/ but you can edit URLs for pages within a site. For example, whether the “Our Apps” URL should be https://shopstorm.com/our-apps or https://shopstorm.com/apps or another variation.

In the Shopify admin area, go to a page or product screen where you can change details and scroll down to the “Search engines” section of the page. Here you can edit the URLs as needed.

Stay away from unreadable URLs like https://shopstorm.com/p-00123 or those containing product numbers like https://shopstorm.com/sku-420. These are not only harder to remember for users, but also don’t provide any description to search engines as to what is on these pages.

Meta description
The blurb below the URL explaining what the page is about is called the meta description. Take time to add a unique meta description to each page. Note that meta descriptions should be between 150 to 160 characters in length, otherwise search engines add an ellipses at the end of the blurb.

Sitemaps
Sitemap files (usually called sitemap.xml) are marked-up files that contain the structure of your store. For example, that a blog post is a child of the blog page, or that a specific product is a child of the product page, or however you have set up your store.

Shopify automatically generates the sitemap.xml file for your store so that search engines can add child pages when relevant.

Image alt text
Search engines cannot read text that is part of an image or understand what an image is about. The image alt tag allows you to add a description of the image. This helps search engines get context about an image on a page rather than simply glossing over it.

In addition, alt tags help screen-readers describe what an image is about for people who may be using such devices.

You can add the alt text to an image in Shopify by hovering over an image and clicking on the ALT button at the bottom.

Product reviews and blogs

In the land of search engines, if content is king, then unique and up-to-date content is the emperor (in case it’s confusing, emperor is better than the king for the purpose of this analogy). You can fill out product fields to get a good start for improving search. You can enhance that by adding customer reviews and a regularly updated blog to your store.

Customer Reviews
You don’t have to come up with all the content that improves your store search-ability and product SEO. Integrate customer reviews for your products to let customers give feedback in their own words. They are the ones using your products and can sometimes point out things not covered in your product descriptions.

Customers will write naturally flowing language and their own perspective about the products, while including keywords that can improve SEO. Good reviews on your products tell other potential customers as well as search engines that your products are of high quality.

Product Reviews image for Shopify SEO post

You can use Shopify’s Product Reviews app to integrate customer reviews on your store. You and other customers get feedback about your products, and improve your Shopify product SEO on Google at the same time as the product star ratings are shown on search results. Best of all, the app is free to use.

Blogs
Start an active and regularly updated blog on your store to add keywords, and relevant, high-quality content. You can use the blog to update customers about current products, sales and discounts, new marketing efforts, and information about future products.

Having a blog has a two-pronged effect. Each blog post allows you to add content focused on specific keywords to drive traffic based on what the post is about. In addition, all else being equal, active sites are ranked higher than inactive ones. Each time a Google crawler visits your site, a new blog post tells it that you keep the site active and up to date.

Blogs don’t have to be lengthy as long as you are able to include relevant keywords and get a useful message across. More important than length is to post regularly.

If you don’t like to blog on Shopify, you can blog on another platform (such as WordPress), and use our BlogFeeder app to import that content into your Shopify site.

Summary

SEO does not simply mean having a high ranking on search engines like Google. SEO means having content on your Shopify store that is easy to search for and descriptive of what you’re selling.

Shopify has a number of ways through which you can optimize your store for search results targeting specific keywords. You can do this by having high-quality, unique and descriptive content on your store. In addition, fill out all the fields related to your products and pages, integrate customer reviews, and start a blog. These may be time consuming, but are simple to implement and available at no cost.

Are you using other ways of improving SEO? Tell us in the comments below.


Cover Photo Credit: Jonathan Rolande ( CC BY 2.0 license)

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