Shopify SEO Review: Topping the Rankings in Ecommerce

Last updated on July 6, 2018

Shopify’s primary function is as an ecommerce website builder. Shopify is the gold standard for setting up shop online, and its SEO is built around that functionality. It has all the features you need for your online stores to perform well in search.

Widely used and widely revered, Shopify has been used to build over 600,000 stores and counting. Ecommerce is a big deal, with annual sales already in the trillions. It pays to get your products online and in the mix. As Shopify themselves say, ‘global ecommerce isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity.’

You need to think about SEO differently where ecommerce is concerned. Although the fundamentals are the same, getting a page to rank well is different to getting a product to rank well. Shopify structures its SEO around this fact, which makes it terrific for that purpose.

As ever, we don’t expect you to take our word for it. We’ve tested its features for ourselves, measuring them against competitors like BigCommerce. Pros and cons are listed immediately below. Looking for a more thorough breakdown? We have that too.

Or for those of you already using Shopify and looking to get the most out of it, we’ve also put together our top tips for improving your search performance.

Further Information:

Shopify Review – our comprehensive view on Shopify

Shopify Pricing – we break down the value of their plans

Shopify vs. BigCommerce – we discuss which is better

At a Glance: Pros and Cons of Shopify SEO

Shopify has strong SEO functionality and an extensive app store. The interface is user-friendly and provides everything your site needs to compete in search. If ecommerce is your primary focus, Shopify is for you. If your site is content-focused with elements of ecommerce sprinkled in, you may be better off using the likes of Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace.

Pros

  • The SEO is built around ecommerce. Shopify’s bread and butter is the quality of its online stores, and the SEO is built around that functionality. So, the SEO is excellent for online stores. The interface is clear and easy to use, with all the tools you need to rank highly in regular, image, and shopping-specific searches.
  • Excellent for site structure. A big part of how Shopify lets you arrange sites is categories. Search engines love this, and so do users. A well-structured, easy to navigate store matches user searches with your products and services.
  • Value for money. When you look at the cost of Shopify it’s hard to argue you’re not getting your money’s worth. A great ecommerce builder needs to cover all bases, and Shopify’s SEO is very well covered indeed.

Cons

  • App reliant. We tend to be suspicious of app stores. It can often be a double-edged sword. A vibrant, plentiful app supply is a fantastic resource to have, but the more features provided in-house the better. Shopify is a tad reliant on apps to meet advanced SEO needs.
Further Information:

Ecommerce Comparison Chart – to compare the best ecommerce website builders out there

Wix eCommerce Review – check out if Wix is for you

Weebly Ecommerce Review – see the pros and cons of Weebly ecommerce

Squarespace Ecommerce Review – find out if Squarespace suits your needs

Shopify SEO Features Checklist

Feature What is it? Is it included?
Meta title Tells search engines and users what the page is about. Yes… You can edit the title tag for pages, products, and collections.
Meta description A chance to expand on the content in the title, summarizing what users can expect and why they should click on your page. Yes… Meta descriptions are generated automatically. If you want to change them you can  through the Shopify admin.
Custom URLs Allows you to make urls that reflect your content, rather than a random jumble of numbers and letters. example.com/article/squarespace-seo-guide is much more informative than example.com/hds73tgha Yes
Headings Headings and subheadings which show search engines (and readers) how you’ve structured your content. H1s are the most important, h2 the next, and so on. Yes
Image alt text Google is smart, but it’s not (yet) smart enough to know for sure what an image is showing or why it’s relevant. Alt text is text you manually put in to describe each image on your site. Yes… Simply hover over an image and select ‘ALT’.
Good speed & uptime Sites are quick to load and are reliably ‘live’ more than 99% of the time. Yes… Shopify is a very reliable service. It has to be. They even have a status page where you can track their performance yourself.
Mobile friendly Sites are easy to use on mobile and easily crawled (understood) by search engines. Yes… Every Shopify theme is designed to work seamlessly on mobile, right down to the checkout page.
301 redirects If you change a page’s URL from X to Y, 301 redirects mean people will be directed to the new page even if they use the old address. Yes… It’s built into the admin. You just go to the ‘URL Redirects’ section of the dashboard and enter the URLs.
SSL encryption (HTTPS) SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) establishes a secure, encrypted link between a web server and a browser. Search engines are beginning to punish sites without SSL, so this is essential. Plus it’s just good practice. Yes… All Shopify stores use SSL encryption.
Sitemap A complete list of pages on your site which tells search engines how it’s structured. Try adding ‘/sitemap.xml’ to the end of a site’s URL to see for yourself! Kinda… Shopify generates a sitemap automatically, but options to edit it are limited.
Google Analytics A freemium Google tool which allows you to view data about your site, from page-specific traffic to user demographics. Yes… Enter your Google Analytics code in the ‘Preferences’ section of your dashboard.
Google Search Console A free Google tool which shows how your site is performing in search results. Kinda… It requires going into your site’s code, which isn’t ideal for everyone.
Social media integration Built-in functionality for users to share your content on social media. Kinda… Some themes have social media buttons built in, for others you’ll need to download an app.
Search engine instructions Sometimes a site needs to ‘speak’ to search engines, asking them not to index certain pages. Kinda… It’ll require some coding, or downloading a dedicated app.
Canonical tags If you have multiple versions of the same page, canonical tags allow you to choose which one search engines should focus on. This stops them from competing with each other. Yes… Shopify generates canonical tags automatically.
Structured data A way of giving search engines more information about your pages. You know the star ratings you see on search results? That’s structured data. And that’s just one type of thousands. Search engines love structured data because it helps match users with relevant information. Kinda… Schema is not in Shopify’s core functionality, but there are plenty of free options in the app store.
Want to check out other website builder’s SEO capabilities? Check out our reviews:

Wix SEO Review – to see the ins and outs of Wix SEO

Squarespace SEO Review – for all you need to know about Squarespace SEO

7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Shopify

As an ecommerce platform, Shopify has its own needs when it comes to ranking in search. Certain factors are much more important in ecommerce than in ‘traditional’ SEO. Keeping your priorities straight can do wonders for sites built in Shopify.

  1. Structure your site. A big part of how Shopify organises its sites is categories. Selling clothes? Make separate categories for jeans, shoes, and so on. You’ll know where everything is, users will be able to navigate your content, and search engines will understand your site. Everyone wins.
  2. Alt text all the way. Images are crucial for ecommerce. Users need to see what they’re buying. As a result, sites on Shopify tend to have lots of images. Give every single one of them clear, descriptive alt text.
  3. Use schema. Structured data (or schema) is a sophisticated language that tells search engines what you’re about. This is extra useful for ecommerce. Prices, product ratings and more can be displayed right in the search results, giving you the best chance possible of standing out and getting clicks.
  4. Use the blog. Search engines like websites with fresh content. It tells them the site is active and relevant. This isn’t always easy to do with products, so take advantage of the blog. It’s a good way of producing unique, regular content.
  5. Google Analytics. No, don’t literally google ‘Analytics’. Install Google Analytics. We say this for every website builder because it’s so important. In-house analytics are handy, but no-one does it better than Google.
  6. Embrace apps. Shopify has an extensive app store, many of which offer advanced SEO features. We think it reflects better on website builders when they provide those features themselves, but a good app store is almost as good. Dive in and experiment. Recover Cart Pusher and Auto Currency Switcher border on essential, and they’re just scratching the surface.
  7. Brand exposure. Links remain a key part of SEO. Optimise as much as you want, but without some relevant sites linking to you success will be nearly impossible. Get your brand out there, write guest posts about your business’s area of expertise, talk to the local press.
Want more SEO tips? Look no further…

Anchor Text Guide – a great way to improve your SEO

Backlink Guide – what backlinks are and how to use them

Website Architecture Guide – another great way of boosting the SEO on your site

Shopify Success Stories

Can you succeed at SEO on Shopify? That’s the real question in all this. Yes, in short. Shopify wouldn’t be as popular as it is if its SEO was garbage. To allay any fears you might have, here are some example of Shopify stores walking the walk.

Penguin Books. Some of us still buy real books, and some of us buy them from Penguin. The British publishing giant’s in-house store runs on Shopify and tops the rankings for all the terms you’d expect, plus a few more besides. Have a browse and you’ll see the benefits of a well-structured site for yourself.

shopify seo example
Search engines love a well-structured online store

Death Wish Coffee. This humble, slightly sinister brand is bossing search. It tops the rankings for ‘worlds strongest coffee’ and ‘strongest coffee’, among others. That’s a whole lot of exposure. Strong brand identity wedded with sophisticated SEO techniques like schema is a (less deadly) recipe for success.

shopify seo website example
Shopify sites are more than capable of topping the rankings
Need help getting your site up and running? Check out our handy guides below:

How to Build a Website – for all you need to know about getting online

How to Build an Online Store – to find out how to start selling online

How to Start an Online Clothing Store – a closer look at the requirements of selling clothes online

Final Verdict: Is Shopify for You?

Shopify’s SEO is well-equipped enough for sites to thrive. It has all the core features you need for ecommerce SEO, and they’re easy to use. Anything Shopify doesn’t provide themselves can be found in the app store.

If ecommerce isn’t particularly important to your site, Wix, Weebly, or even Squarespace is a better fit for beginners. Where content is the priority it’s sometimes more appropriate to make a site in a all-purpose builder and use Shopify as a plugin instead.

Where ecommerce is key, it’s hard to argue with Shopify’s SEO capabilities. They offer a 14-day free trial, so there’s ample time to play around with it and decide for yourself.

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About Fred O'Brien

I know from experience that building a website is only as hard as you make it. The internet is more accessible than it’s ever been, with all the resources you need to join in and stand out. Anyone can get online. I’m here to help you do that. Twitter: @thewhalelines

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About Fred O'Brien

I know from experience that building a website is only as hard as you make it. The internet is more accessible than it’s ever been, with all the resources you need to join in and stand out. Anyone can get online. I’m here to help you do that. Twitter: @thewhalelines

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2 Responses to Shopify SEO Review: Topping the Rankings in Ecommerce

  1. #

    Hey Fred

    Good in depth post with an interesting layout.

    Keep up the good work

    • Fred Isaac
      #

      Thanks Matthew!