Shopify

Shopify SEO: A 12-Step Organic Growth Blueprint To Rank Higher

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We all know that scaling organically with Shopify SEO is hard. All you have to do is Google ‘SEO issues Shopify’ and see my article #1 all over the world on English-speaking search engines explaining what they are. I read too many articles on the subject and in my opinion, they all over-complicate the Shopify SEO process. I like to simplify the Shopify SEO process, without talking too technical so that retailers can really understand the process and methodology. It’s not that complicated when you know.

This 12-step process and methodology is the exact same blueprint that I use in my agency today and typically helps established retailers achieve a 6 or 7-figure growth within 12 months using our ULTIMATE Retail Growth 2.0 service. This really is a proven process that will help you achieve substantial organic growth if executed correctly.


Is Shopify Good For SEO?

In a word, no. It’s not ideal at all. It’s why, as an e-commerce SEO expert, I never touched the Shopify platform for many years. As well as the fact that Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform which means you can never access the core code to fully optimize it, these are the main reasons why Shopify is not ideal for SEO:

1 – Dictated to hierarchical structure – not ideal for link equity distribution

2 – Couldn’t access the Robots.txt file (until recently)

3 – Dynamically produced product filters that cause mass duplication issues

4 – Images are delivered through a content distribution network (CDN) which means you can’t fully optimize images

5 – Apps – every time you add basic functionality to your store they slow your down and mess with your technical SEO.

It’s why so many retailers are failing to scale organically with Shopify, but it is possible with the right approach, technology, tools, apps, and methodology.

The first thing you need to do is to understand how well your store is currently optimized so you know what needs to be done.  You need to understand the following in order to do so…

STEP #1 – SEO & STORE AUDIT

The first thing you need to do is to understand how well your store is currently optimized so you know what needs to be done.  I like to simplify the Shopify SEO process. SEO can be broken down into 4 key elements:

  • Technical
  • Design/UX
  • Content 
  • Links 

Technical SEO accounts for 50% of the SEO process and the problem here is that Shopify themes are not designed by SEO Experts (apart from ours of course). Even the best theme developers in the world all have clauses in their support terms that negate them for having any responsibility at all for key SEO elements like structured data. 

They design themes to look good, but they won’t perform organically in the search engines because they won’t be aligned with Google’s algorithms, quality guidelines, and 200+ known ranking factors. 

The beauty of using our RankHigherTheme® is that 50% of the SEO process is complete. It’s already technically aligned with Google’s algorithms, quality guidelines, and 200+ ranking factors, and it’s already designed for outstanding performance, UX, and core web vitals. Our web pages are based on over 11 years of conversion optimization and split testing so you don’t need to worry about that. All you have to do is work on content and links. No other theme developer offers you that, let alone a page load speed of 580ms.

So, in order to assess how well your current theme is algorithm-aligned, I would use a tool like SEMrush and run a site audit.

Shopify SEO - Site Audit
SEMrush Audit

Your audit will look something like the image above. It will identify all of the technical SEO errors, issues, and warnings – all the things that are hindering your store’s ability to rank higher and convert more.

More importantly, it will tell you how to fix them. Unfortunately, some things will be beyond your control like Shopify itself and your theme, but at least you’ll know what’s wrong.


STEP #2 – KEYWORD RESEARCH

I have a saying – it’s pointless being #1 on Google if no one is searching for those terms.  You’ll need to perform keyword research to determine what keywords you should be targeting on every page of your store for the homepage, pages, collection pages, and product pages that you have, and what you could be targeting to drive more traffic to your store.  

These should include the most achievable traffic-generating keywords search phrases as well as the long-term ultimate phrases you wish to rank for. Google suggests over 53% of all searches online contain more than 4 keywords. Go after the low-hanging fruit.

Targeting single or double-worded phrases are extremely competitive and difficult to rank for so your keyword strategy must contain ‘long-tail’ search phrases otherwise you will not drive traffic for some time.

Every single page on your store needs to target the most appropriate and unique search terms. 

Avoid cannibalization. Cannibalization is when two pages are optimized for the same search term and then Google gets confused and doesn’t know which one to render in the search engines, so it ignores both – they simply cancel each other out.


STEP #3 – TRAFFIC PAGES CREATION

Create as many traffic-generating landing pages as you can once you have determined what keywords your store should be targeting on your collection pages, I call them traffic-generating pages because that’s what they are. These should include the most achievable traffic-generating keywords search phrases as well as the top-level ultimate phrases you wish to rank for in the future. The shorter the phrase the harder it is to rank for.

Shopify collection pages are perfect for this. The more collection pages you have on your store for driving traffic to, the better.

Make sure your collections are broken down to the granular level. If you’re a women’s fashion store, for example, don’t just have a collection for ‘dresses’, have collections for different types of dresses:

  • Party dresses
  • Maxi dresses
  • Midi dresses
  • Summer dresses

Create collections for what your users search for to help drive targeted traffic to your store.


STEP #4  – CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION

Once you have performed your keyword research and you have created as many relevant collections pages as you can for your products [don’t overdo it with a small number of products on each collection page], then you then need to insert your new keyword strategy into these pages on your store including homepage, pages, and collection pages so that they are all optimized for traffic and conversion generating search terms.

You’ll be amazed at the difference in your conversions when you drive the type of traffic.  The traffic that users are currently searching for on Google to find products like yours.


STEP #5  SITE STRUCTURE OPTIMIZATION

Make it as simple as possible for the user to find your collections of products from both a mobile, desktop, or tablet. Don’t tuck all of your collections under one link in the nav bar like under the heading ‘Shop’. 

You need to help users find what they are looking for with the minimum amount of effort. 

Google will place more authority on pages in the navigation bar than it will for ones tucked away from the main headings.

Top-level/priority collections or custom links should always be in the main navigation bar. 


STEP #6 – PRODUCT FEED OPTIMIZATION

Shopify’s product feed has 46 fields of data that can be optimized for each product and variant. Once you’ve optimized your store’s main pages including your homepage, collection pages, and information pages, you then need to optimize all of your store’s product pages so that each product page is targeting a separate search term and your products titles are optimized for high converting, intent-based keywords that unique from every other store, selling the same, or similar product. Download it, optimize it, and upload it.

Shopify’s ‘product export’ feature gives you the ability to optimize every element of your product feed necessary for the search engines, as well as the  Google Shopping Comparison Service which is by far, the most profitable Google ads channel. The more data you can provide Google about your products the better.

Although time-consuming if you have lots of products, we always recommend optimizing a product feed manually. No one said it was easy :). You’ll need to optimize and synergize the 6 key elements of a web page that Google uses to identify what a web page is optimized for:

1 – URL

2 – Meta title

3 – Meta description

4 – H1-H6 tags

5 – Indexable content

6 – Image Alt=tag

You can also optimize images one by one through individual product pages if you like but it’s harder to optimize your product feed for all elements on a search engine such as Google Shopping.


STEP #7 – SPEED OPTIMIZATION

Once you’ve optimized your store’s main pages including your homepage, collection pages and products pages – you’ll need to optimize the speed of your store. 

Google suggests that over 53% of conversions are lost if your page load time is over 3 seconds.  The faster they load the better. Every image on your store should be optimized for faster page load times which significantly improves user experience [UX] and improves conversion rates. 

If you check the page load speed of your demo theme using the tools in the SEO toolkit we provide, you’ll see the page load speed is already under 1 second – we’ve already optimized the code and CSS – all you need to do is ensure your images and apps that you add don’t slow it down further.

Our themes are the fastest themes on the market – you need to keep them that way.


STEP #8 – TRAFFIC & LINKS MULTIPLIER

If your store is as optimized as the next store, the next main factor Google will use to determine which page will rank higher in the search engine is domain authority [DA].

DA is basically a score out of 100, 100 being the highest. It relates to the ‘number’ and the ‘quality’ of links pointing to your website from other related and authoritative websites. Every website in the world has a domain authority score. 

The ONLY way to build domain authority is to attract links and the only way to attract links ethically and naturally to your store [as quoted by Matt Cutts of Google], is to ‘produce brilliant content that other people want to link to.

Not only does great content drive targeted traffic to your store along the purchasing cycle search terms, but it also attracts links from other well-known authoritative websites in particular if they find it useful for their own users and audience.

Publishing 1 x high-quality piece of content per week that will attract links and drive traffic is the minimum we recommend for online stores.


STEP #9 – CONTENT SYNDICATION

Once you’ve published your content on your blog [Google loves fresh, unique, content] you need to let people know it exists and the best way to do this is to syndicate this content across your social channels.

If your content is useful, informative, unique, engaging, creative, and better than what is already in the search engines, your content will gain exposure and links naturally over time.

It’s the hardest most time-consuming part of the SEO process but it’s the part that can significantly boost your rankings, traffic, and conversions. 1 link from a high domain authority website or blog [40+] is worth more than 100 low-quality links from low-quality websites.


STEP #10 – CONTENT PROMOTION & OUTREACH

You can speed up the process of other websites and blogs discovering your content so that you increase the possibility of other people wanting to link to it, liking it, or sharing it. The more people that see it, the more likely you are to attract links, etc.

You can do this through content promotion and outreach. It’s basically contacting other websites, blogs, and authors and showing them that your content exists and then gently persuading them to link to your content as there would be some kind of benefit to their audience or to them personally.

Google does not permit ‘paid links’ although so many still do this – I’ve never paid for a link for SEO purposes since 2010 as you’re vulnerable to being penalized by Google in doing so. That said, you are still able to offer ‘incentives’ to other stores, websites or blogs to link to your content, as well as offering your content services for free if they let you publish your content on their site and link back to yours.


STEP #11 – TOXIC LINK REMOVAL

One ‘toxic’ or ‘unnatural’ link pointing to your store from a website that has been penalized or is deemed spammy by Google can seriously harm your rankings.

You must analyze all of the links pointing to your store and ‘disavow’ any links pointing to your website that are harming your rankings.

All sites attract links naturally over time and keeping your link profile clean is essential for maintaining and improving your rankings in the search engines.


STEP #12 – ORGANIC DATA SCIENCE

Assessing your organic performance is again essential to determine what impact your SEO efforts are having on the performance of your store, as well as identifying what additional work needs to be done to continuously improve your rankings, traffic, and conversions.

Search engine optimization is an ongoing process, you must never think you have finished and it needs constant monitoring.

The key metrics you should be tracking on a monthly basis are:

  • Rankings of your store’s main pages and products that you have optimized
  • Organic sessions that your store has received
  • Conversions/Dashboards
  • How much content has been produced?
  • How many links have your store and content gained?
  • How many links have you lost?
  • Have any links appeared that need disavowing?
  • Have any technical SEO issues appeared as a result of any work on your store?

It’s always good to analyze performance ‘year on year as traffic is cyclical like a profit and loss account.


Conclusion

Shopify SEO is far from perfect with its technical SEO flaws. It is however the world’s #1 e-commerce platform and more and more retailers are making the switch. That’s why I’ve spent the last four years developing the world’s best Shopify theme for SEO, the only Shopify Product Filter app in the world which fully optimizes product filter pages, and have developed an e-commerce SEO methodology specific for Shopify.

If you use the right tools and the right methodology – you can scale organically with Shopify. If your agency is not performing or dealing with Shopify’s technical SEO issues, then we need to talk!

I help established e-commerce brands scale organically by 6 or 7 figures within 12 months using our world-exclusive Shopify technologies and brilliant content marketing strategies.

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