Search engine optimization (SEO)

You can use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get your store to show as a top result on Google and other search engines. SEO is constantly evolving, and search engines change their algorithms to address issues and to keep everything fair. In short search engines are getting better at determining if the content they are indexing is trying to rig the results, or if it accurately conveys the purpose of the page or site.

Shopify includes powerful SEO features in all plans, including:

  • editable title tags, meta descriptions and URLs for your pages
  • editable ALT tags for all images, customizable image file names
  • automatically generated sitemap.xml and robots.txt files
  • automatically generated canonical URL tags (to stop duplicate content).

Tip

This article will cover some advice and suggestions for beginners that will help you improve your Shopify store's SEO and show up in searches on Google, Bing, and other search engines. If you are new to SEO, then you might want to read the Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz.

For more advanced information, have a look at the SEO for Theme Designers guide.

SEO basics

Content rules the world of SEO. If you want people to find your store on Google, then you need to have lots of words on your store pages, and those words should be the keywords you think people would use to find you using a Google search. You can't just dump a bunch of words on a page because search engine's are getting better at understanding your content, and they will penalize your store if it looks like you are trying to skirt their rules. The best way to make sure you are not penalized is to include content that correctly presents your store, products, and collections. Think about this anywhere you can use words on your store pages, for example: product and collection pages, your about page, your blog.

Keywords

Keywords are the terms that people use to search for things on the web. As a store owner, you want to know what keywords your customers are using so that you can target them. If you sell leather shoes, then you need to know if customers searching for your product are looking for leather shoes, dress shoes, leather boots, or something else entirely.

A useful tool to help you brainstorm and discover the most popular keywords is the Google Keyword Planner. You can use this tool to find the most popular keywords by comparing search volumes.

Keep in mind that the more traffic your keywords get, the more difficult it will be for your store to show up at the top of searches because you'll have more competition.

Now that you know which keywords you are looking to target, you need your online store's content to include those words. The content you should setup for SEO includes your homepage, and any and all product pages, collection pages, blog posts, and regular web pages.

There are five primary places on any given web page where you will want to think about placing keywords:

Page title and meta description

The title tag and meta description are two of the most important elements of on-page optimization.

Page Title

The title tag can be set for pages, products, collections, and blog posts using the Shopify admin. Each title should be unique. The title appears as the clickable link on the search engine result, like Sell Products Online - Start & Create an Online Store - Shopify in this example:

Search engine optimization 1

Search engines use the content of the title tag to understand and evaluate what your page is about:

  • keywords: include your most important target keywords in your page title near the beginning
  • length: 70 characters is the maximum number of characters that most search engines will display
  • branding: if you want to include your store's name, it's a good idea to do it at the end of the title
  • readability: potential customers won’t click an unclear title or a jumble of keywords, so make sure your title tag is readable.

Meta description

A meta description is the brief bit of text that shows up on a search engine like Google after your title tag. The meta description can be set for your homepage as well as other pages, collections, and blog posts using the Shopify admin. It is a good practice to make sure each page has a different meta description. Try to describe your store in plain, direct language. A good description will cause more people to click links to your store.

You can set the title tag and meta description of the homepage of your online store in Shopify:

  1. From your Shopify admin, click Online Store, and then click Preferences (or press G S W).

  2. Enter a title and meta description:

    Online store seo

  3. Click Save.

Page headings

It is important that you include your main keywords in the names of your store's products, collections, pages, or blog posts. These names are often used as a web page's h1 heading tag. For example, if you are selling a red t-shirt with your store brand on it, you'll want to set the product's name to something like McFadden's T-Shirt - Red. This will make your web page more likely to show up when people search for words like McFadden's, t-shirt, and red t-shirt.

Image alt text

Google and other search engines can read words and content on your site, but computers don't know the content of an image. The image's file name and alt text are used to describe a picture's contents. Having descriptive alt text can help your product images show up when customers search for images. As well, alt text is an important accessibility feature: it describes your product images to people who have visual impairments.

To set the alt text for a product image: 1. From your Shopify admin, click Products (or press G P P):

Products

  1. Click the product you want to edit.
  2. Hover over the image and click the ALT link:
    Search engine optimization 4
  3. Enter the alt text.
  4. Click Done.

Page content

The more content you write in your product description, collection text, or blog post, the better chance that search engines will find your page. Try to write a few paragraphs of text with some of your main keywords included. Make sure you don't just copy and paste text provided to you by a manufacturer - chances are that same description is already on hundreds of other web sites.

  • Links

Links to your online store from other websites help Google know that your site is popular and can be trusted. Ask your friends and affiliates to link to your store, and look for places where your store can be listed online.

  • Anchor text

The text that acts as the link to your store is very important. If a website links to your online store using the words click here, then Google might think that the website should show up when people search for "click here." Instead, it's a good idea to ask people to link to your website using your store name or your main keywords. For example, Shopify might use commerce platform or online store as anchor text.

Sitemaps

All Shopify stores automatically generate a sitemap.xml file that contains all your products, pages, collections, and blog posts. It also supports Google's Image Sitemaps extension. Your sitemap file is located at sitemap.xml at your store's URL (for example, www.johns-apparel.com/sitemap.xml).

You can use tools like Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools to verify your website so that Google indexes your content much more quickly.

Migrate to Shopify

If you have an existing web site using a different platform and are thinking of moving to Shopify, it's possible to do so without losing any of your existing website traffic. Shopify includes the ability to set up URL redirects to inform your customers, Google, and other search engines that your website's URLs have changed.

Hide pages from search engines

Search engines like Google constantly crawl the internet in search of new data. When your site is being crawled, your store's robots.txt file blocks page content that might otherwise reduce the effectiveness of your SEO strategy by stealing PageRank.

Your online store automatically generates a robots.txt file, which you can view by appending "/robots.txt" to your store's primary domain name.

Although you can't edit the content of your store's robots.txt file, you should be aware of the content that it blocks from search engines. For example, the shopping cart page is included because Google indexing your cart page doesn't help potential visitors discover your home page or your products. Because the /cart page is where visitors begin checkout, logistically you want visitors to land on your product pages before the cart page, not the other way around.

The robots.txt file also disallows the checkout, orders, and admin page.

You can hide pages that are not included in your robots.txt file by updating the <head> section of your store's theme.liquid layout file. You will need to include a small bit of code to disallow certain pages from being indexed.

To hide pages from search engines:

  1. Click the ... menu, then click Edit HTML/CSS.

    Click edit html css

  2. Click the theme.liquid layout file.

  3. To exclude the search template, paste the following code in the <head> section:

    
    {% if template contains 'search' %}
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex">
    {% endif %}
    
  4. To exclude a specific page, paste the following code in the <head> section:

    
    {% if handle contains 'page-handle-you-want-to-exclude' %}
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex">
    {% endif %}
    

    Make sure that you replace page-handle-you-want-to-exclude with the correct page handle.

  5. Click Save.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about SEO, check out Shopify's free Ecommerce SEO 101 video series. Watch industry expert Helen Overland from Search Engine People teach online store owners about Search Engine Optimization and give ecommerce SEO tips and advice.

Shopify's ecommerce forums include an Ecommerce Marketing category where you can ask SEO questions, swap links, and discuss other marketing topics.

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