Shopify SEO Review: Topping the Rankings in Ecommerce

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We use SEO techniques all the time here on Website Builder Expert – in fact, they’re probably the reason you came across this post! So we knew exactly what to look for when we researched Shopify’s SEO tools.

The short and sweet review is: Shopify offers an excellent set of SEO tools, covering all of the basics that an online store could need. For more advanced SEO features, you’ll have to look in Shopify’s app store, but chances are it’ll have what you need.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is an umbrella term that covers all of the small improvements you can make to your site to make it more understandable to search engines. The better a search engine (like Google) understands what your site is about, the higher your pages will rank in search results. And high rankings are pretty important for an ecommerce store – in fact, SEO can drive a conversion rate of over 14%.

Read on for our guide to all of the SEO tools Shopify does (and doesn’t) have, as well as how to use each one.

How to Use Shopify’s SEO Tools

When we tested Shopify’s SEO ourselves, we were impressed by how many tools came built into its websites. Shopify has all of the SEO necessities covered, and we’ll explain all of them in this section.

If you ever do need some more advanced SEO features, then you can probably find them in the app store, which we’ll cover a little bit later on!

Meta Titles

A meta title is the page title that users will see in search engine results pages (SERPs), like this:

adding meta titles

Making sure your pages have engaging meta titles is an important way to convince users to click onto your page, instead of a competitor’s search result.

Expert Tip: Paudy, SEO Specialist

Include Target Keywords in Your Meta Title

“One of the first things people searching for your product or service see in the search results is your page’s meta title, so it’s important to make sure your title stands out amongst the competition. Meta titles should: describe what the page is about using your target keywords where possible, include a message or call to action to encourage clicks, and/or include your online store’s brand name.

Perform a search for some of the most important keywords you want to rank for, and make note of the titles on the search results page so you can craft something that really entices clicks. Shopify allows you to create and edit titles and meta descriptions on every page of your site.”

Shopify makes it easy to edit the meta title for your pages, products, and collections. For example, when you’re adding a product, you’ll be prompted to edit its search engine listing info.

edit title

You can find this option at the bottom of the page, after you’ve input the pricing and shipping info.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are the page summaries that you see in the SERPs, just below the meta title. Pages with a meta description get 5.8% more clicks than those without one, so you’ll want to make sure you add a few eye-catching sentences to represent each of your products and pages.

Shopify lets you edit your meta descriptions in the same box where you’d edit the meta title:

writing meta descriptions

Top Tip: Keep an Eye on Your Character Count

As you can see in the picture above, Shopify lets you write a meta description of up to 320 characters. But keep in mind that Google usually cuts off descriptions after about 150-160 characters, and for mobile search results, that cutoff point comes even earlier – at about 120 characters. It’s best to stay within this limit so that you know your description won’t get truncated!

Learn more with our guide to writing meta descriptions.

Custom URLs

A custom URL is an address for a web page that you can customize so that it’s more relevant to the page’s content. For example, example.com/article/shopify-seo-review is much more informative than example.com/hds73tgha. Custom URLs are a lot simpler, so it’s easier for them to follow Google’s guidelines on readability.

Shopify lets you customize product page URLs alongside the meta title and description, when you add each new product. For non-product pages, just use the left hand navigation menu to go to Sales Channels > Online Store > Pages. From there, you can add a new page and customize its SEO the same way you would with a new product.

custom urls
“contact-us” is a much more readable page URL than a random string of numbers and letters.

Headings

Headings are another tool for increasing readability, and they’re really easy to implement on your Shopify website.

writing headings
Adding headings to your Shopify page content is simple – just click the down arrow next to the “A” in the toolbar.

You can add headings as you edit the text on any page, and they’ll give structure to what would otherwise become a wall of text. Adding headings takes minimal effort, and it’ll give visitors (and search engines) a much better experience when reading your pages.

Image Alt Text

Alt text is a short snippet of text that you can use to tell Google what an image is depicting, just in case it isn’t loading. It’s also an important way to make your site more accessible to visually impaired users, who may be using screen reading tools to navigate the web.

adding alt text
Shopify makes it easy to add relevant alt text to an image as soon as you upload it.

Site Speed and Uptime

Good site speed and uptime means that your website loads quickly and is readily available to visitors with no issues, or “downtime.” This is super important, because even just a one-second delay in load time reduces customer satisfaction by 16% – and Google considers the user experience as an important ranking factor.

If you’re using Shopify for your online store, then you won’t have to stress about speed and uptime. Part of the job of a website builder is to take care of these things for you,and Shopify even has a status page where you can track its performance for yourself.

Mobile Compatibility

Mobile traffic now accounts for over half of total global online traffic – so making sure your site looks good on mobile screens is a big part of that good user experience we just talked about.

Luckily, every Shopify theme is “mobile-optimized,” or designed to work equally well on mobile and desktop devices – even the checkout pages will function perfectly.

301 Redirects

Sometimes, you’ll want to change the URL of a page that’s already published (to make it more readable and relevant, for example!). But if you ever need to do this, it’s important that users who type in a page’s old URL are sent to the new URL, and don’t get sent to an error page instead.

That’s what 301 redirects do – they redirect people to the new URL, with no work involved on the visitor’s part. 301 redirects are a built-in capability of Shopify stores. To set this up for a certain page, just use the left hand menu in your dashboard to go to Sales Channels > Online Store > Navigation.

setting up redirect links

From there, click on “View URL redirects” in the upper right corner, and you’ll be able to create and manage redirects for whichever pages you want to.

SSL Security

SSL (secure sockets layer) security establishes an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This is especially important for online stores, because you want your customers to feel that their payment information is safe in your hands.

SSL security has been a confirmed Google ranking factor since 2014, so you’ll be happy to know that every Shopify store comes with this feature included.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free Google tool that lets you view data about your site’s performance, from the amount of traffic coming to each page to demographics about site visitors.

It’s easy to sync Google Analytics with your Shopify store – all you have to do is navigate to Sales Channels > Online Store > Preferences, and then paste your Google Analytics code in the box.

google analytics
You can also click the “learn more” link to get more info on Google Analytics in the Shopify Help Center.

Canonical Tags

Canonical tags will be useful to you if you have multiple versions of the same page on your website. For example, if you have a product page for a red sweater that you’re selling, but it can be reached from a few different categories – such as “Women’s Clothing,” “Sweaters,” or “On Sale,” then you’ll end up with multiple versions of this same page.

To prevent these duplicate pages from competing in the SERPs, you can use canonical tags to tell search engines which URL is actually the “main” version of the page (in this case, the general product listing for “Red Sweater”).

Shopify generates canonical tags automatically, using each product’s default product page, with no collection or variant selected.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool that provides information about how your site’s URLs perform in Google search results.

google search console
Google Search Console offers powerful insights about your website’s SEO performance.

Search Console is a great way to find out how Google indexes (understands) your website and all of its pages. You can get the most out of Google Search Console by submitting a sitemap for review. A sitemap is basically a list of all the URLs on your website, and Shopify automatically generates one that you can use to gain insights via Google Search Console.

User Review: Bryan Phillips, In Motion Marketing

“A lot of people are looking for the best and most affordable way to set up their own website, blog or store. Shopify is a great platform that allows you to do all three with ease.

The main features of Shopify SEO tools that I like are mobile-friendly templates and automatic sitemap generation. With much of Google’s focus right now being on user experience, the fact that Shopify has these already included in their tools is a big win for any Shopify user.”

It’s true that automatically generated sitemaps are a major convenience – but Shopify’s sitemaps do have some limitations. Read on to see where Shopify’s SEO tools could use some improvement!

Where Shopify SEO Could Be Better

On the whole, we were impressed when we tested out Shopify’s SEO tools for ourselves – a lot of features come built-in to this builder, and it offers helpful SEO guides for beginners. That said, Shopify’s SEO isn’t perfect, and there are a few weaknesses you’ll want to be aware of as you go.

Sitemaps

A sitemap is a list of your website’s pages, which tells search engines how everything is structured. Sitemaps make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website’s content – which basically means organizing your pages and the links on each page, to better understand how it’s all connected.

Shopify does generate a sitemap for you, and you can find it by going to yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml. However, we’ve definitely seen some users complain about the limited editing options of their Shopify sitemaps.

In fact, you can’t change your sitemap much at all. This is fine for beginners, because you still have a perfectly good sitemap to submit for crawling and indexing. If you’re running a large website with lots of subsections and individual product pages, you may be frustrated by the lack of control over your sitemap, but this limitation isn’t unique to Shopify. Even BigCommerce, which our research found to be the best builder for fast-growing businesses, doesn’t allow you to edit your sitemap.

Structured Data

Structured data is a more standardized form of information that helps summarize a page’s content, for easier viewing in search results. For example, if a Google result for a certain product page includes a 1-5 star rating of the product, that information is structured data.

structured data
This 4.8 rating is an example of structured data in search results.

Structured data helps Google understand your content better. Some Shopify themes come with basic structured data markups on product pages, so Google will be able to find key information like a product’s name, price, and description.

However, if you want to go beyond the basics of structured data – for example, if you want to make product sizes, colors, and reviews as digestible as possible for Google – then you’ll need to consider hiring a developer who can edit your site’s code in order to make these changes.

Not sure if Shopify is your best bet?

Check out our BigCommerce SEO Review and Wix SEO Review to see how other top website builders compare to Shopify’s SEO capabilities.

Shopify SEO Tips

If you’ve read this far, then you know that Shopify comes with a great arsenal of SEO tools. But regardless of what website builder you’re using for your online store, there are some general best practices that you’ll want to be following no matter what. 

The following tips can’t be taken care of by built-in features – they’re more like actions you can take yourself to make sure your Shopify store is living up to its full SEO potential.

Keyword Research

In order to get a page ranking in the results for popular search terms, you first need to know what terms people are searching for. This is where keyword research comes in!  

By conducting keyword research for your Shopify store, you’ll find out:

  • What keywords (the phrases people type into Google) people use to search for products and pages like yours
  • How many people are searching for those keywords

This information is crucial, because it’ll tell you which keywords to target for different pages. By “target,” we mean focusing the content of a page around the keywords that you want the page to rank for.

You can conduct keyword research using popular tools like SEMRush or AnswerThePublic.

keyword research
Keyword research tools can even suggest certain questions to target, based on a smaller phrase.

The… key… to good keyword research is choosing terms with the right amount of search volume. You don’t want to waste time targeting a keyword that only gets a handful of searches per month – but at the same time, you don’t want to use all your energy trying to compete for the top spot with a keyword that gets tens of thousands of searches each month!

If you’re a new website, it’s best to start off with keywords that get a few dozen searches each month. After a few months, when you’ve really built a brand online, it’s worth targeting keywords with a search volume of 100+ per month.

Link Building

“Link building” means getting other websites to link back to your own pages (these are called “backlinks”). Getting links back from some quality websites is great for your Shopify store’s SEO, because search engines use links when they crawl the web. Links help search engines discover new web pages more quickly, and pages that receive a lot of links from other websites look more authoritative in Google’s eyes.

The best way to get other websites to link to your pages is to create excellent content on your pages. For an online store, this could be writing a blog post for entrepreneurs, with real tips from your own team. The more useful original content you can offer, the more likely other websites are to quote or cite you with a link!

User Tip: James Edge, Crush Your Exam

Consider Including a Blog

“Incorporate blogs related to the products and themes of your store. There are many benefits related to blog posting when it comes to organic traffic, and it will benefit you even more if you include your keywords and optimize them for SEO. It will generate trust and help you attract people to your site that are interested in the topics of your blog.”

It takes time and effort to create great content and get it seen by other websites. So if you’re just starting out, there’s no harm in reaching out to your network to see if other websites within your industry would be willing to link to a blog post or article that you’ve posted.

If you get stuck looking for relevant websites to contact, it helps to check out web forums and the comments sections of relevant articles to find the kinds of sites that people in your niche are talking about.

Learn more about link building with our guide to backlinks, or spruce up your content creation with our tips on writing for the web.

User Experience

For search engines, users are the top priority: Are people getting the most accurate, high-quality answers in response to their search query?

Naturally, then, creating a great user experience is an important way to make sure your page fits that bill.

“User experience” is a broad term that basically means how easy it is for users to interact with your website. This covers everything from clear, responsive design to logical content structure.

Shopify is a website builder, so part of its job is to make your life easier in terms of website design. For example, even Shopify’s free themes are mobile responsive, so they’ll function properly on different devices. Plus, the simple process of adding and removing page elements – like text boxes and photos – means it’s pretty hard to make a terrible design decision.

Still, the “content” aspect of user experience is up to you: like we mentioned earlier, use headings to give your content a clear structure, and make sure your website’s navigation bar is easy to find and read.

good user experience
Our Shopify Review page has a clear navigation menu (left), and lots of headings for structure.

Optimized Images

Website speed has been a Google ranking factor since 2010, and we mentioned earlier how Shopify handles your site speed and uptime itself. This is true – it’s all part of the convenience of a website builder.

That said, there are small things you can do if you want to that will make your website even easier to load.

One really impactful (and simple!) change you can make is optimizing images before you upload them to a page. Image optimization is the process of reducing the size of an image without reducing its quality. In other words, optimized images will take up less storage space, load faster, and still look good.

That might sound like a lot of technical work, but there are actually tons of free tools available that will optimize your images for free (we use ImageResizer for ours). All you have to do is upload your images to a website like ImageResizer, click a few buttons, then download the optimized images back to your computer and upload those to your site.

Top Tip: Avoid Putting Text On Images

Remember when we talked about alt text as a way for search engines to tell what an image is actually about? That’s because search engines can’t understand images the way that they can understand text – so it’s best to avoid putting important content in an image.

For example, a nice graphic explaining the price ranges of your products can look nice, but search engines will have a hard time picking up that info if it’s not actual text on a page.

The Best Shopify SEO Apps

Shopify has all of the important SEO basics built into its platform. That said, if you want to go the extra mile and really ramp up your SEO, then you’ll want to browse around the Shopify App Store. This is where you’ll find tons of free and paid apps that can add additional SEO functionality to your site.

Basically, you don’t need to download any apps to get started, but they’re the easiest way to take your Shopify SEO from good to great. 

TinyIMG SEO & Image Optimizer

Cost: $0 – $4.99/month

tinyimg tool

If you’ve read this far, you know that image optimization is an important part of SEO. And while it’s easy enough to use tools like ImageResizer, there are some Shopify SEO apps that can make your life even easier than that.

TinyIMG SEO & Image Optimizer optimizes your images when you upload them to Shopify – so you can skip the step of uploading and then redownloading them from a third-party tool. Instead, the optimized version of an image will be uploaded to your Shopify store.

In short, TinyIMG saves you from spending time and effort worrying about site speed, so that you can focus on other aspects of running a business.

SEO Manager

Cost: $20/month

shopify apps

SEO Manager offers an easy way for beginners to manage their website’s SEO. You’ll get plenty of guidance to help you understand all of the app’s 20+ features, which include:

  • A Google results simulator
  • Keyword suggestions
  • Sitemap management
  • A Google mobile-friendly test

In other words, this app will give you tons of advanced SEO features in beginner-friendly packaging.

User Review: Asmat Khan, Voyagers Travel Specialists

“I’ve been running an ecommerce business for almost seven years. I’m new to Shopify and SEO Manager, but I’m not a stranger to SEO in general. This app covers all the bases. It’s simple, and I really like having the ability to drill into a product and work on its SEO right from the product page under ‘more actions.’

The autopilot mode is kind of a ‘set it and forget it’ approach SEO, but you can also dive in a bit deeper to really squeeze as much juice as possible from your store.”

Smart SEO

Cost: $0 – $4.99/month

shopify seo apps

Smart SEO automates some of the most basic SEO tasks. So in other words, it takes capabilities that Shopify already has, and makes them even easier to carry out. For example, Smart SEO will automatically generate meta titles and descriptions for you, so that you don’t have to come up with the right copy yourself.

User Tip: Miranda Yan, Vinpit.com

Only Use the Apps You Really Need

“Shopify apps add additional code onto your site, which means having a large number of apps can slow down the site. Shopify sites are highly susceptible to bloat, with so many apps focused on improving conversions.”

Is Shopify Good for SEO?

Shopify covers all of the basic SEO tools that an online store could need, and its SEO tools hold their own against competitors like BigCommerce and Wix eCommerce. If you’re trying to grow your store and need more advanced features, then Shopify’s app store will have you covered with more in-depth SEO tools (although you’ll often have to pay for these separately).

If ecommerce isn’t your top priority, and you just want to build a regular site with great content, then you might want to look at Wix SEO instead – its features are super beginner-friendly. But if you want to run a successful online store, then Shopify’s SEO features are incredibly hard to beat. 

shopify

Want Easy but Powerful SEO Tools?

Shopify comes with all of the necessities built into its platform before you start, and it’s a great ecommerce website builder for SEO.

FAQs

As far as ecommerce website builders go, Shopify’s SEO tools are top-notch. They’re pretty similar to BigCommerce’s tools, but with the added benefit that Shopify is easier to use than BigCommerce, so you get a good combination of beginner-friendliness and power.
No, Shopify has all of the most important aspects of SEO – like meta descriptions and mobile compatibility – built into all of its websites. Spending money (usually $5 – $20/month) on more advanced tools from the app store is something we’d only recommend after you’ve had your Shopify store for a few months, so you can decide if you really need that extra help.
SEO is super important for any website, but especially for online stores, because organic traffic (the kind you get from SEO) can be responsible for over 40% of your company’s revenue. The best part is that ecommerce website builders (like Shopify) make it as easy as possible to implement good SEO tactics on your site.

About Maura Monaghan

Maura Monaghan

I grew up scribbling in notebooks, and until recently the thought of relocating my writing to the digital world seemed like an impossible goal. But when I finally took the plunge and created an online portfolio, I immediately saw the benefits of having my work out on the web. Since then I’ve learned everything I can about creating different websites, so that I can help those in a similar situation get online without a similar headache.

5 comments

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  • Pavel
    Very good and helpful article as we started on Shopify and few weeks later still not coming up in the searches, but hopefully this will imporove as we go. So I was concerned about Shopify SEO and how good it may be. This article put me at ease to know that we are in the right hands and just need to keep doing what we are doing and we'll get there ;) Thanks for your help by writing this.
  • Christine
    My husband is looking to expand business, he has been in business for 15 years and already has a website with e-commerce capabilities. However, it is a small proportion of overall business that is generated from the website. We are wondering if it makes sense to move over to Shopify? What would the advantage/disadvantage be to do this?
    1 reply
    • Maura Monaghan
      Hi Christine, Good question! Since you're looking to expand the amount of business generated from your website, you're on the right track looking at an ecommerce-only website builder like Shopify (as opposed to ecommerce-optional builders like Wix or Squarespace). However, we recommend BigCommerce over Shopify for business owners who want to grow their online stores, because it offers more built-in sales tools and less payment processing fees. We've written a BigCommerce review that you can check out to see if it's a better fit! Maura
  • Matthew Woodward
    Hey Fred Good in depth post with an interesting layout. Keep up the good work
    1 reply
    • Fred Isaac
      Thanks Matthew!