Shopify SEO: Best Practices for Your Store
- Introduction to SEO
- A glossary of SEO terms
- How is SEO applicable in the eCommerce industry?
- Basic SEO concepts explained
- Getting started
- On-page SEO for your Shopify store
- Off-page SEO for your Shopify store
- Local SEO
- Bonus: Shopify SEO tools for your store
There is an old saying – “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same applies to your Shopify store. When starting an eCommerce business on Shopify, there is one key component that can increase your chances of success. It is making your online store visible to your customers. If your potential customers don’t stumble upon your store while researching on the internet, you don’t even stand a chance to thrive among the other dropshippers.
This is where the SEO industry comes into the picture. It’s the thing that, if you do it right, will help you to stand out from the crowd. SEO is very important for eCommerce, as much as for any other industry. The Business Research Company has reported that the value of the SEO industry will reach up to $77.6 billion by 2023 which further proves the industry’s popularity. It means that more and more businesses are starting to realize the importance of SEO and are putting more effort into optimizing their websites.
But what exactly is SEO? Let us introduce you to SEO and what are the best practices for your store.
Introduction to SEO
Let’s start with the basic definition of SEO. In all the results you see in SERPs, search engines are basically “serving” you based on several different factors. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the umbrella term that brings all of these factors together. If we present them in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model, starting from the bottom and above, we would have indexability and crawlability, relevant and compelling content, keyword optimization, and link building. All in all, these factors can contribute to increasing the quality and quantity of your store’s traffic. Finally, it will result in ranking higher in search results.
Nevertheless, the process of optimization is a two-way mirror. On one side, you have the search engines and, on the other side, your audience. You need to find the right balance and don’t try to over-optimize your store in favor of the search engines. By doing so, you could risk providing content for machines and not for human beings. In contrast, you need to understand your customers’ needs and deliver them a good quantity of quality content.
A glossary of SEO terms
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization
- SERPs – Search Engine Result Pages
- Sitemap – A list of all pages of a website that you need to submit to search engines to crawl and index
- Meta Description – A HTML element used to describe the content on a certain page
- Title Tag – A HTML element used to identify a web page title
- Alt Text–A HTML element used to describe what is presented on an image
- Keyword Stuffing – A spammy practice that involves excessive use of keywords
- DA – Domain Authority – A metric developed by MOZ to determine how well a certain website will rank in SERPs
How is SEO applicable in the eCommerce industry?
Think of SEO as a set of practices that can make your Shopify store more noticeable and easily accessible. SEO can bring the right audience to your website and can help you convert it to returning customers. The more optimized and user-friendly store you create, the better your chances of ranking higher on Google. In contrast with paid advertising, practicing SEO is free of charge. It’s why is considered an indispensable element you mustn’t overlook when getting into the eCommerce industry. With SEO, you can get organic traffic to your store and, by converting them to customers, you get to increase your sales. All you have to do is follow every step of the SEO process and build a winning store. So, let’s define the basics of SEO.
Basic SEO concepts explained
The SEO process is comprised of two basic concepts that go hand in hand. It all starts with On-page and continues with Off-page SEO. After reading the definitions, you’ll understand why you should always start with On-page SEO.
Definition of on-page SEO
On-page SEO covers the internal elements of a website. It is the reason why it’s called ‘on-page’. All the factors that fall under On-page SEO directly influence your website as a whole, each component included.
To be more precise, on-page SEO covers the content and structure of your website. For Shopify stores, this means that every element you have in your store needs to have an optimized presentation. This applies to products’ titles and descriptions to blog articles, and more. Before even thinking of moving onto Off-page SEO, first, you must put your house in order.
Definition of off-page SEO
As compared to On-page SEO, under the term Off-page SEO fall all the external elements that influence your website’s rankings. These elements are controlled outside your website but have a direct impact on its ranking.
You should proceed with Off-page SEO for your online store, once you have completed the On-page process. It involves the following activities: link building, guest blogging, local SEO, etc. We cover these aspects below.
Suppose you have found your winning product to sell and have created your online store on Shopify. Regardless of the niche of your products, you must find a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. This is the moment when On-page SEO comes into play.
On-page SEO for your Shopify store
A few years ago, an example of a website with good SEO was a website stuffed with keywords. Later, the game changed. At the moment, adding keywords is important, but immoderate use becomes counterproductive. Today, a keyword-stuffed website is a sign of overdoing it.
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Imagine a Shopify store with spammy products’ descriptions. It’s a risky business. When opening your store, you need to identify the most suitable short-tail and long-tail keyword opportunities and play safe. Adding the right keywords can contribute to getting your store higher in SERPs so that people buy from you.
Start with adding keywords to your title tags, meta descriptions, products’ descriptions, and images’ alt texts. Later on, if you decide to feature a blog as part of your Shopify store, you can implement your targeted keywords in your articles as well.
Keyword optimization is not the only essential element for optimizing your separate pages and descriptions. Other components you shouldn’t ignore are meta descriptions, title tags, and alt texts. Including the right keywords would be insignificant if you don’t follow the recommended SEO practices for this step.
When it comes to your page titles, the optimal suggested length is from 50 to 60 characters. Page titles are significant as they appear, not only in SERPs but also in web browsers and social networks. If you have long, messy, and keyword-stuffed page titles, you certainly will give a bad impression to your potential customers. On the other hand, with short, concise, and clear titles, your store will appear more trustworthy and attractive to customers.
The same goes for the meta descriptions of your separate pages. The optimal length for a meta description is between 50-160 characters. For your meta descriptions to be effective, they need to be created as a sentence that will briefly describe what the page is about. It is recommended that each meta description is a unique sentence that will contain some of your target keywords. Still, just like with your page titles, don’t go overboard and load your sentences with keywords to gain a higher ranking. It is a worthless strategy that will negatively impact your store’s ranking and traffic.
Finally, alt texts are required for the images you upload on your pages. Firstly because search engines can’t read images and secondly for the people who have visual impairments. More precisely, alt descriptions are used to describe what is shown in the image. Therefore it is good practice to add descriptions to your images rather than leave them with symbols and numbers. Try to add alt texts with keywords that closely describe your images and, luckily, they will be featured in the image results on Google.
Store’s structure optimization
Even though Shopify has its own built-in SEO features, you can always put additional effort into further optimizing your store’s structure. To have a better site structure, you should start by optimizing your store menu. Likewise, when uploading images of your products in your store, ensure that you rename your files by adding specific descriptions. Because search crawlers don’t recognize images but text, it’s vital to have image files with clear names.
Once you have optimized your Shopify store’s structure and content, it’s time to officially launch it. Your store and products can’t start ranking in SERPs if they are not indexed and crawled by Google. To do this, first, you need to verify your store with Google. This is achievable by disabling your password protection to notify Google that you want your store to be visible to the public. After completing this step, you can proceed with submitting your automatically generated sitemap in Google Search Console. Your sitemap consists of all pages on your store and tells crawlers about their organization.
Off-page SEO for your Shopify store
Link building is at the core of Off-page SEO. Backlinks are used to build authority around a certain brand. This results in search engines rewarding their efforts and ranking their website and content higher. In the link-building practice, there are known three types of backlinks – natural, manually built, and self-created. Natural links are considered those that are used in a non-promotional way. For example, one is writing an article and links back to Wikipedia or other sources relevant to the topic. Manually built backlinks are those acquired through link-building activities. An example of a manually built backlink would be getting your customers to write a review about your products and link to them. In the end, self-created backlinks are those built by the company’s marketing team itself. In this category belong backlinks added in mentions in forums, online directories, guest blogs, or else.
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As a dropshipper with a Shopify store, you should seek to acquire all three types of backlinks for your online store. Your store’s domain authority (DA) will surely grow as the number of your backlinks grows. But remember, link building is powerful as long as you practice it properly. You need to identify the appropriate link-building opportunities for your store and products and develop a strategy. During this process, you should select relevant and trustworthy websites within your niche with a powerful domain authority to obtain links from.
(Unlinked) brand mentions
Aside from the link-building technique, there is the practice of building brand mentions that can also help you increase your ranking. Getting people to talk about your brand, i.e., your store and products, is what the process of brand mentions involves. Brand mentions mostly happen naturally, therefore, you should invest in your customer relations to get your customers to talk about your store and products. In addition, brand mentions are usually unlinked mentions. Still, it is a fair game that you should pursue. Later on, if you recognize opportunities to do outreach and turn these mentions into backlinks, you will be rolling in backlinks.
Social media marketing
Social media marketing should never be neglected. It is yet another way to increase brand awareness and acquire quality backlinks to your online store. Once your Shopify store is up and running, invest in creating your social media profiles and adding links to your website. All the major social media channels can bring benefits to your store and help you rank higher in SERPs. Even if you don’t get a vast number of backlinks through social media, you will surely build trust, reputation, and awareness for your brand.
The one thing that can ensure you get the most valuable traffic to your store. Targeting customers through content creation rather than pure paid advertising has many advantages. Lately, people are more likely to interact with valuable and relevant articles instead of ads. It is a good SEO strategy for your Shopify store regardless of the industry your products belong to. All you need to do is define your buyer personas, their strengths, and weaknesses and deliver content that will satisfy their needs.
Later, your articles will grow your window of opportunities for acquiring backlinks. If you manage to deliver high-quality content, you will be able to rank higher and improve your domain authority. With a strong domain authority, many other players in the eCommerce game will link back to you, and your store will become more noticeable.
Influencer marketing is an additional form of online marketing that is quite popular in the last few years. By finding the most powerful influencers in your niche, you can achieve great success. It is yet another thing that you should include in your SEO strategy. Social media marketing, content marketing, and influencer marketing are ‘trio fantastico’. You should use them concurrently to get the most out of them. Influencer marketing on its own can contribute to improving your brand reputation, reaching a new audience, and increasing your sales. One thing that you should know about influencer marketing is that it costs time and money.
Local SEO is a part of Off-page SEO and the number one optimization that business owners should implement once they launch their business. Although generally small businesses with a physical location use Local SEO, dropshippers are also using it for their online stores created with Shopify. If you want to optimize your Shopify store to gain local recognition you need to focus on several things:
Google My Business
To improve your Local SEO, for starters, is crucial to list your store on Google My Business. It is a simple procedure that can bring a large amount of traffic to your store and help you increase dropshipping sales. When listing your store in Google My Business, you will have to add the address of your registered company, phone number, and working hours. Additionally, you should collect reviews from your customers as these will be shown in your Google My Business section for your brand’s name. In practice, the more and higher rating you obtain, the better will be your brand image.
Listing your Shopify store in industry-related business directories is a win for Local SEO. When shopping online, customers tend to search for stores that have shipping in the area they live in. Therefore, according to your dropshipping options, you should list your store in business directories that are relevant to your shipping locations. After completing this step, your online store will be visible to a larger audience, and your chances to boost your profits will increase as well.
Content marketing for local SEO
Targeting your audience by location is a win in content marketing. While creating locally-targeted content, you should put your focus on implementing locally-relevant keywords. Identify your store’s target locations and have in mind that your intention is to attract potential customers from those locations. An example of content written for Local SEO would be a list of Canadian dropshipping suppliers.
Bonus: Shopify SEO tools for your store
The biggest eCommerce platform is aware of the importance of SEO practices for online stores. For this reason, Shopify has built-in SEO tools and apps for dropshippers as well as live chat support Shopify apps that can be used to improve their store’s ranking. Having a variety of tools to improve SEO for Shopify available at hand is never a mistake. They can ease your work and assist you in bringing out the best of your online business. These are the most popular tools for optimizing a Shopify store that beginners or even experienced dropshippers use every day.
From beginners to advanced dropshippers – everyone involved in dropshipping on Shopify uses this tool. This Shopify tool comes with a free plan that provides an SEO scan, detailed instructions for fixing issues, and a Google sitemap. With the growth plan, on the other hand, you can get image alt texts for unlimited products and competitors’ store diagnosis, among other things.
Plug in SEO
A tool that the majority of Shopify dropshippers use. It improves the SEO of the store by setting focus keywords, optimizing headings, and duplicating content. Plug in SEO has a free 7-day trial, after which it costs $20 a month.
SEO Optimizer – Auto SEO
On-page optimization of your Shopify store is possible with SEO Optimizer. This app promises that your store will be automatically optimized every day to ensure that you get quality traffic and grow your profits.
This free-to-use tool is designed for increasing sales and driving more traffic to your store. It is user-friendly and easy to use and doesn’t require expert coding skills. These characteristics make it a perfect SEO tool for dropshippers without much experience in the area.
If you want to easily generate meta tags and alt tags, you can do it with this tool. Smart SEO also automatically generates your store’s sitemap with the option to exclude pages according to your preferences. It comes with a 7-day trial, after which it costs $4.99 a month.
Bulk Image Edit – Image SEO
This one is a very popular choice for image optimization. With it, you can easily resize and crop your product’s images to fit in your store without losing their quality. Besides, it comes with protection by allowing you to add watermarks to your photos.
SEO Doctor – Sitemap & 404
A practical tool that focuses on technical SEO for Shopify stores. By adding this tool to your store, you can find and fix all the issues affecting your speed. Some of the most common issues this tool covers are 404 error fixing, Google mobile-friendly test, real-time error tracking, and more.
This tool comes with a 7-day trial, after which it charges $20 a month. It has over 20 features that can support the process of SEO optimization of your Shopify store. Titles and descriptions editing, SEO scan and fixing suggestions, broken link management – these are some of the features that this tool brings to the table.
About the Author
Kristina, Head of Content at BrandsGateway. Eternal inspiration: The Doors music and lyrics, Bernardo Bertolucci's timeless “Stealing Beauty”, and the dynamic and meditative Ashtanga Yoga.