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Shopify SEO: The Definitive Expert Guide

This article about Shopify SEO will provide you with some guidance, support and training on how to improve your organic Rankings, Traffic & Sales with Shopify SEO. Since 2010, along with my dedicated team, we’ve helped deliver organic growth for over 750 clients, so we know a thing or two about SEO.  We’re also a certified Google and Shopify Partner and we’ve also developed the world’s most technically advanced Shopify theme for SEO called AAP® Theme, so you can be sure that what we’re about to teach you about Shopify SEO, isn’t available anywhere else in the world!


Contents

Shopify SEO [Search Engine Optimization]

Reasons Your Shopify Store Isn’t Ranking

How To Audit & Review Your Shopify Theme & Technical SEO

Shopify SEO Checklist

Shopify SEO Summary

Shopify SEO [Search Engine Optimization]

shopify seo

Let me give you a bit of information and background as to why Shopify SEO is a little more complex than your standard e-commerce SEO methodology. SEO is a methodology used and practised to get your sites web pages CRAWLED, INDEXED & RANKED as high as possible in the natural, organic or ‘unpaid’ for search results.

Far too many people ‘over complicate’ SEO which is why we typically like to simply the SEO process and divide our SEO methodology into 4-key disciplines:

1 – TECHNICAL the things you can tweak on your website to improve organic performance.

2 – DESIGN & UX how well your theme has been technically designed and aligned with Google’s algorithms, quality guidelines and 200+ know ranking factors.

3 – CONTENTthe content on your website and does it provide answers to user searches, queries and intent?

4 -LINKS the number and quality of links pointing to your website will contribute to how high you store will rank in the search engines.

These are the 4 foundations of improving your organic performance in the search engines and will form the basis of my training with each and every one of you. 

As Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform,  you’ll never get access to the full code base to technically optimize your theme as well as it could be, so you have to make changes to the way that your do your SEO for Shopify, as access to be able to optimize everything you need to be able to is restricted.

The most harmful technical SEO issues with the Shopify platform are:

Robots.txt File

You can’t access it and it’s as simple as that, no matter what subscription plan you’re on. You’re stuck with the Shopify robots.txt configuration which makes it difficult for retailers with large complex inventories including brands, product types, variations and multi-faceted navigation to control what the search engines and bots crawl, index or nofollow. You have no control whatsoever and you have to work with the following configuration.

Dictated Hierarchical Structure

Unlike many other platforms, Shopify dictates your hierarchical structure and you can’t change or control it which isn’t ideal for ‘link equity’ or ‘page authority’ distribution. Following a logical hierarchical structure for SEO is essential. An ecommerce stores’ hierarchy should be like a champagne fountain at a wedding:

  • domain.com
  • domain.com/category/
  • domain.com/category/sub-category
  • domain.com/category/sub-category/product-name

With Shopify you’re stuck with their hierarchical structure and it can’t be changed. For category or ‘collection’ pages these are set to: /collections/category-name – without the ability to create a sub-category off the root collection. Product pages typically have duplicate urls although the longer url [B] does canonical back to the parent product, alleviating the duplicate content issue and gives you the the ability to have products in multiple ‘collections’ such as new in, sale and standard collections without duplication.

  • A – /products/product-name/
  • B – /collections/collection-name/products/product-name

Content pages on the site also have a /pages/page-name url and blog post pages inherit a similar structure with /blogs/blog-tag/blog-post-title again, not ideal, but certainly not unmanageable. You have to structure your ecommerce store’s hierarchy differently to how you typically would.

Image Optimisation

Image optimisation isn’t perfect with Shopify as images are delivered through their own content delivery network [CDN] so you can’t fully optimise image urls and filenames for the search engines to perfection, but you can control the alt=tags which gives you some ability to optimise images for the search results, not perfect but at least they can be optimised to some extent.

Metadata & Content Duplication [Filters] – the biggest culprit.

shopify seo collection page filters & Tags

The ability to ‘filter’ products on a collection page is standard functionality expected on any ecommerce store and is essential for user experience [UX] and conversion rate. You would never expect land on a large fashion store’s page for shoes and not be able to filter them down by size, colour, brand and type.

This is by far the biggest SEO factor that hinders a Shopify stores’ ability to perform in the search engines. A single collection page with no filters has the ability to be optimised to perfection via the Shopify content management system [CMS] no problem at all. But here’s the problem; major duplication issues arise when product filters are added to collection pages with product tags.

Standard ‘sort’ filters such as A-Z, Price High to Low are not the issue here as these ‘sort’ query string urls are dealt with by canonicalisation back to the root collection page to avoid duplication issues and penalties.

Shopify uses a built-in product ‘tagging’ system to arrange collections of products in filterable results in the sidebar such as size, product type, colour etc. These ‘filter link’ urls are dynamically generated by the platform and aren’t accessible or editable via the Shopify CMS so 1000’s and 1000’s duplication issues occur instantaneously as soon as you start adding filters to your theme, causing major keyword, metadata and content duplication issues.

Most if not all other alternative, more advanced product Shopify product filter apps in the App Store simply canonical the filter page url back to the collection page parent. Yes this solves the issue of duplication, but themes using this method are missing out on 1000’s and 1000’s of additional urls that could be indexed in the search engines driving more traffic and revenue.

Most if not all Shopify theme designers and theme developers build filter systems without understanding the implications they have on the store’s ability to perform in the search engines. We recently audited a furniture store using Shopify and they sold around 2,500 products. They were shocked to find out that they had over 300,000 urls indexed in the search engines, most of them ‘filter page’ duplicates, massively hindering their sites ability to rank in the search engines.

3rd Party Shopify App Installations

shopify SEO App Store

There’s 1000’s of apps in the Shopify App Store that allow you add almost any kind of functionality to your store that you require. This is great for store functionality but can be disastrous for your performance in the search engines if you start adding all kinds of functionality without fully understanding what implications these Apps have on your store’s SEO.

Testing and analysing before installing is essential. 3rd party app developers don’t care about your sites performance in the search engines, they’re interested in selling you their App. One of our clients recently added an EPOS integration App to their store and it erased 6 months work of on-site optimisation as it stripped meta titles and descriptions from the whole store.

Is Shopify Good For SEO?

With so many technical SEO issues, I guess you’re wondering; is Shopify good for SEO? Shopify is no different to any other platform. If you know and understand its limitations and you know its constraints, and you know how to SEO then Shopify can be extremely good for SEO. Technically yes, it has more issues to overcome and things are much harder to implement but aligning this platform with Google’s algorithms, quality guidelines and known ranking factors is no different to aligning any other.

Reasons Your Shopify Store isn’t Ranking


Most people don’t realize that technical SEO is one of the most important aspects of SEO. It’s the foundation for any successful SEO campaign. 

Shopify SEO Position Tracking

If you haven’t got the right tools for the job, how on earth can you do the job properly?

If your technical SEO isn’t in order, you have no chance of achieving the best possible results in the search engines. 

It can be the most harmful element to achieving better rankings in the search engines and is the MAIN cause of why your website is not ranking in the search engines.

Google has a set of ‘guiding principles’ on how a website should be designed and constructed from an SEO point of view in order to achieve the best possible results, from hierarchical structures to page layouts, to structured data.

Google also has over 200+ know ranking factors that can seriously influence how well your Shopify theme performs in the search engines. These don’t come ‘out of the box’ with Shopify.

Unfortunately, most if not all Shopify web designers are not SEO experts and 99.9% of them won’t take responsibility for how well you Shopify store performs in the search engines once it goes live.

We’ve tested all of the so called ‘premium’ Shopify themes in the world and ALL of them have major technical SEO issues that will harm your performance in the search engines. They build Shopify themes that look good, but it’s what’s on the INSIDE that counts.

Here are the most common technical SEO issues that will be harming your website’s rankings, traffic and sales:

THEME CODE

The code the developer has used to build your theme and its architecture can seriously influence how well your site performs in the search engines. Depending on what browser you are using, if you > right-click on your mouse on an area of your website [not on an image] and click > view source, you will see the code of your website.

This is what the search engines read to render your pages in the search results. You and I can only see what’s on the front of the page, the design. Unoptimized code makes it difficult for the search engines to ready the code and makes it slower to load your web pages.

KEYWORD STRATEGY

If you have not programmed every single page of your website with the most appropriate keywords and search phrases in the title tags, then how are you expecting to get traffic organically? You need to make sure that you are tapping into the search phrases with the most amount of traffic and that every single page of your website is targeting different search terms, which is essential so that you don’t cause any keyword conflicts or cannibalization as its known in the industry.

LACK OF ON-PAGE OPTIMIZATION

Similar to Title tags, meta descriptions [the text that you see under the blue title tags in the search engines] need to be unique and in synergy with the title tag on a web page. I’d always recommend having the same keywords in your meta description that you have in your title tag, along with a call to action to help with your click through rates [CTR’s].

DESIGN & USER EXPERIENCE

Duplicate H1 Tags

A H1 Tag is usually the title or header on a web page. Imagine your product page, the name of the product in bold basically. Google now suggests that this should be different to the title tag on a web page and if it’s not, Google will mark you down.

Duplicate Collection/Filter/Tag Pages

One of the biggest culprits of a Shopify store’s inability to rank on page 1 in the search engines is duplicate collection pages. Do you have have product filters in your sidebar? If you do then one of two things will be happening.

1 – Your site will have hundreds of duplicate collection pages which will seriously harm your Google rankings and you will be penalized by Google.

2 – If you’re using one of the best selling apps from the app store then ALL of your filter page URL’s will be blocked from the search engines altogether, missing out on 1000’s of high converting search terms every day.

There’s Only 1 Theme in the World that has fully OPTIMIZED Product Filter/Tag Pages, loads in under 1 second and has over 50 Advanced SEO & Conversion boosting features. It’s called AAP® Theme

PAGE LOAD SPEED IS SLOW

Google suggests that 53% of conversions are lost if your page load speed is over 3 seconds. The 3 – most common reasons for poor page load speed are:

A – Unoptimized Theme Code – as mentioned above, un-optimized theme code for mobile and desktop devices can make your website load much slower.

B – Images on your site have not been optimized.

C – 3rd party Shopify app installations are slowing your sites code down.

LINKS

The number and quality of links pointing to your website can have a hugely positive impact on your rankings in the search engines. Conversely, one TOXIC link pointing to your website can HARM your rankings.

Why do Links Matter?

If you imagine, every website in the world has an ‘authority’ with Google. Think of this as a number between 1 and 100, 100 being the highest. The higher your authority, the higher you will rank in the search engines. The only way of increasing your authority is by attracting other high authority websites to link to your website.

If your website has a link pointing to it from a site that has been penalized, marked as Spam or is following bad SEO practices [Black Hat SEO] then your site will be penalized so keeping a regular eye on your link profile is essential.

Google suggests the only ‘legitimate’ way of attracting high quality links to your website [in their own words] is ‘to produce brilliant content that other sites want to link to’.

CONTENT

One page of low quality, thin, poor or duplicate content can harm your websites rankings, it’s a simple as that. If you don’t have a blog or don’t use it, how can you expect to attract links? And why would Google deliver your web pages as answers to queries in the search engines? 

Google is the world’s largest content aggregator and curator and it wants to deliver the BEST possible content to questions and queries, in the quickest possible time, so you have to ask yourself, why should Google deliver your content over someone else’s? What makes your content better than what’s already there? It must be if you want to rank.

HOW TO AUDIT & REVIEW YOUR SHOPIFY THEME & TECHNICAL SEO


In this section, we’re going to be looking at YOUR OWN STORE to see what YOUR own specific issues are.  It’s all about analyzing and testing your Shopify store to see well you are aligned with Google’s algorithms, quality guidelines and 200+ known ranking factors. I’ll also show you how to assess your store against the CRITICAL ranking factors that could be harming your SEO and I’ll show you some free tools to analyse your Design and UX.

Theme – first let’s look at your theme and what issues are preventing it from ranking in the search engines.

Collection Page Filters – are typically the biggest issue with any theme. If you have product filters in your sidebars on your collection page:

1 – Go to a collection page

2 – Make a note of the URL and make a note of the title tag on this page [you can do this hovering your mouse over the browser tab in which the collection page is open, or from the collection page – you can right click on your mouse anywhere on the screen that is not an image:

> click view source

> hold down CTRL on your keyboard & Press F

> type ‘meta title’ in the box that appears

> your meta title is the keywords between these 2 tags <title> </title>

3 – Go Back to your collection page

4 – Click on a filter link in the sidebar

5 – Repeat STEP 2 – make a note of the filter page url and make a note of the title tag

It is more than likely that the META TITLE on your filter page is the same as on your root collection page but the URL is the same. If this is the case, then multiply the number of filters you have in your sidebar by the number of collections you have on your theme and that’s how many duplication penalties you will have from Google and your rankings will be seriously harmed as a result.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are using one of the best selling Product Filter Apps from the APP store then your product filter page URL’s are being blocked from the search engines altogether. 

This means your theme is missing out on the highest converting search terms that include words such as size, colour, product type, and material etc. BLOCKING these pages also means that you far fewer URL’s in the search engines that can be indexed, crawled and ranked, meaning less traffic, less sales.

SITE AUDIT

The fastest and quickest way to analyse your whole website in one go is to use an audit tool. We have used many audit tools over the years but the one I recommend. and the best, is an audit tool called SEMrush.

They offer a free 7-day trial so my advice is to sign up and use this tool as it is an enormous task to analyse every URL on your site and this software will do it in a matter of hours.

The tool will perform millions of checks to identify all technical SEO issues with your theme.

> Sign up for the free tool here: Free 7-Day Trial

> Create new project for your domain

> Run a ‘Site Audit’ on your domain

> Change the crawler settings to crawl a URL every 2 secondsthis will increase the change the maximum number of URL’s crawled. The Shopify servers where your site is hosted are very secure and they don’t like crawlers very much and tend to kick them out.

When the audit is finished, click into your site audit and view results. Issues with your theme will be highlighted under 1 of 3 headings:

Errors – Major, high priority technical SEO issues that need addressing immediately. Fixing these issues will have an enormous impact on your rankings.

Warnings – medium severity issues. Fixing these issues will have a major impact on your rankings.

Notices – issues that need investigating further to see if they are affecting your rankings.

I’m certain most of you will have many technical SEO issues that are hindering your sites performance in the search engines. If you want a theme that will fix all of these issues, AAP® Theme is the most technically advanced Shopify theme in the world for SEO.

PAGE LOAD SPEED TEST

A slow website will seriously harm your rankings. As we’ve discovered, Google suggest that 53% of conversions are lost if your page load speed is 3 seconds. The faster your website loads, the better. USe this tool to see how fast or slow you website is: https://tools.pingdom.com/

DESIGN & UX

You can test how well your store has been designed using a number of free Google tools:

Free Mobile Friendly Test: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Free Mobile Speed Testing Tool: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/feature/testmysite/

Has your THEME code been created with Structured Data? Check if it has or not here: https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/

Shopify SEO Checklist


This is the same award winning Shopify SEO checklist, process and methodology that we have used on over 750 clients since 2010 and has been responsible for generating millions of dollars of organic growth all over the world.

shopify seo checklist

Step 1 – Set up Advanced Analytics E-commerce Tracking

In order to understand your organic channel performance, it is ESSENTIAL to have your Shopify store integrated with Google Analytics and E-commerce Tracking. 

The Ecommerce reports allow you to analyze purchase activity on your site. You can see product and transaction information, average order value, ecommerce conversion rate, time to purchase, and other essential data for managing your organic performance.

Step 2 – Set up – Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. 

Search Console helps you understand and improve how Google is currently seeing your site. This tool is ESSENTIAL for managing your SEO.

Step 3 – Audit Your Theme & Current SEO Position

Auditing your theme and current SEO position will identify technical issues that are preventing your store from ranking in the search engines. 

An audit will also assess how well your store is aligned with Google’s algorithms, quality guidelines and 200+ ranking factors, identifying opportunities along the way to improve your rankings in the search engines.

If you are using a theme that is causing major duplication issues or the product filter app you are using is blocking your high converting filter pages from the search engines altogether, then you need to switch to AAP® Theme

Step 4 – Perform Keyword Research

You MUST identify the most appropriate keywords and search phrases that will drive the most amount of ‘targeted traffic’ to your stores web pages.

Step 5 – Advanced Keyword Mapping

You must program EVERY SINGLE page of your website with the most appropriate keywords and search phrases whilst avoiding keyword conflicts and duplications as these will seriously harm your rankings.

Step 6 – Organic Performance Tracking

Once you have identified your new keyword strategy you need to monitor and track the performance of those keywords to identify other issues that may be preventing you from ranking on page #1.

Step 7 – On-Page Optimization

You must optimize every single page of your website for the top level keywords and search phrases that you have chosen on each page, starting with your homepage, collection pages, product pages, pages and blog posts.

Step 8 – Off-Page Optimization

Analyze and clean up your link profile and increase your store’s exposure in all of the places where your target market hangs out online including social media platforms and other blogs and websites related to your industry.

Step 9 – Link Acquisition

Attract high quality links to your website by producing BRILLIANT content that other stores and website will want to link to because its useful for their own audience and readership. 

Attracting links to your store will TURBOCHARGE your rankings in the search engines.

Step 10 – Monthly Organic Performance Check & Review

Analyze your performance in depth on a monthly basis to see how well your organic performance and SEO is progressing. Investigate and address issues where there is a negative result and repeat the process above.

PLEASE NOTE: Google has a major refresh of its cache every 60-90 days only so be patient. Make the necessary changes and leave things alone for a while.


Shopify SEO Summary

Hopefully this has given you some insights into why Shopify SEO is more complex than the standard e-commerce methodology. Remember

SIGN UP to Free 4-Part Shopify SEO Training Course and get more insights, more training and learn more about our Premium Shopify Training Course.


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Published by Kristin Atkinson

Hey! I'm Kristin Atkinson the owner and founder of Integrity Search - and award winning Shopify & E-commerce marketing agency that specializes in e-commerce business growth.

Join our Shopify SEO Masterclass to learn how to launch, grow and scale your e-commerce business.

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