Imagine trying to find a website you’d never visited before and didn’t know the name of—without using a search engine. You’d never be able to do it.
Many studies suggest that search engines are responsible for 50% of website traffic. In other words, if 24 people visited your Shopify store, roughly 12 of them would come from Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
How many tabs do you have open right now? Just this one? Three to five? Ten-plus?
It would be difficult to keep all of those tabs straight if they didn’t each have titles, like “Inbox” or “Boots, Women’s Shoes: Target.”
These titles also show up in search engine results: search engine results:
Because potential customers will use the page title to decide whether or not your store is relevant to their search, choosing an accurate, concise, and relevant one is crucial.
The title tag is doubly important because search engines use it to understand what your page is about.
Using Shopify, you can set title tags for each one of your pages, products, collections, and blog posts.
With that in mind, here’s how to create a good one.
Keep it short: 50-70 characters is the optimal length, since most search engines won’t display anything longer.
Add your store name: Having the store name in your title tag gives you credibility with search engine users and helps tie your product to your brand. Include it at the end of your page title after a separation symbol, such as a dash ( – ) or vertical line ( | ).
Incorporate your keywords: Make sure your target keywords are somewhere in your title tag, preferably close to the beginning.
(Note: Your keywords will vary depending on each piece of content. For example, your keyword might be “small batch denim” for your homepage and “women’s worn high rise jeans” for a specific product.)
Test your knowledge
Which title tag is better for the keyword “best ramen in new york”?
- A. The 10 Absolute Best Ramen Spots In NYC – Thrillist
- B. TimeOut NY: Where to Find the Best Ramen in NYC — Ivan Ramen
The answer is A. Not only does “best ramen” appear earlier in the title tag (which tells search engines it’s important), but the brand name appears last, rather than first.
It’s not surprising that A was the first result in Google and B was buried on page five.
Improving your meta descriptions
Of course, the title tag isn’t the only content that shows up on search engine results pages (SERPs). You’ve probably noticed the caption underneath each title tag.
Search engines don’t factor this section—also known as the meta description—into their rankings. In other words, you could write “blah blah blah blah,” and Google wouldn’t penalize you.
But guess who would? That’s right, your potential customers. They read the meta description when choosing which link to click on. If yours is compelling, they’re likelier to visit your store.
And because search engines do use site popularity in their rankings, the meta description has an indirect impact on your SEO.
Pull people in with concrete, actionable language—and because search engines will bold your keywords if they show up in your meta description, make sure to include them. However, it shouldn’t simply restate your title tag. Finally, keep it accurate and under 155 characters.
The meta description can be edited in the Settings section of the Shopify admin portal.
Which meta description is better?
- A. “We’ve ranked the top 10 restaurants to eat the best ramen in NYC from steaming bowls of traditional tonkotsu to modern mazemen.”
- B. “Mar 4, 2014 – The ramen belt, once tightly buckled around the East Village, now loops from Fort Lee, N.J., to Queens and Brooklyn. Following are my picks for …”
Once again, A wins. Not only is it more specific and concise, but it includes the entire keyword.
Including page headings
In HTML, the page heading is the H1 heading. This tells search engines what the page is about.
Wait a second, you’re thinking, I thought that’s what the title tag was for.
Yes, the title tag also labels the page—but the H1 header only shows up on the actual webpage. It’s usually the largest element on the page.
Shopify recommends including your main keywords in the names of your store’s products, collections, pages, and blog posts.
What’s a better h1 header?
- A. “Ramen”
- B. “List of NYC Ramen Shops”
B is the right answer, as it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to rank for such a broad topic as “ramen”—or that the majority of people searching “ramen” will be interested in ramen shops in Manhattan.
Writing specific alt text and file names
An image’s alt text (or, the short description that describes the visual) always matters when it comes to SEO. Search engines can’t read pictures the same way they can read text, so you need to use this attribute to tell Google, Yahoo, etc. about their subject matter.
Because shopping online is highly visual, image alt text is even more important. Your Shopify site will probably have a lot of graphics—and when people search relevant keywords online, you want those graphics to show up.
Like your title tags and meta descriptions, alt text should be as descriptive and accurate as possible.
Bad: no alt text
Better: “boy on beach”
Best: “boy playing frisbee on beach”
To edit an image’s alt text, hover over it and click the “Alt” option.
Along similar lines, make sure you’re titling your images appropriately. When you upload them, their file name might be something incomprehensible like “38670209347.jpg.” Google uses the filename to learn more about the image, so something like “boy-playing-frisbee-beach.jpg” is far more useful. (Make sure you use dashes to separate words, or Google will interpret the entire file name as a single string.)
Setting up canonical URLs
Google penalizes “duplicate content,” i.e. large chunks of content on a single site that match each other completely or even look pretty similar.
That’s bad news for many eCommerce retailers, because many have alternate paths to get to a single product—and thus, multiple URLs for one content block. That sets off Google’s duplicate content alarms.
For instance, maybe one user finds a lamp on your site by clicking “New Products” and then “Lighting,” while another first clicks “Home” and then “Lighting.” Each URL will have a different string.
To protect yourself from penalization, use a canonical URL. Essentially, you pick one URL as your original one, then redirect all other traffic to that URL. Take a look at Shopify’s step-by-step canonical URL instructions.
Maintaining a fresh store
Keeping fresh store is excellent for SEO. First, search engines consider how fresh and up-to-date websites are. Every time you announce a new product, you tell the search engines your site is current.
In addition, every product gives you a chance to rank for a different keyword. For instance, say you sell musical instruments. One of your products gives you the chance to rank for a specific keyword, say “left-handed electric guitar.” Someone who’s in the process of selecting a product might Google that term, find your product, pick up some handy info, and ultimately buy it.
Keeping product descriptions fresh and informative is important. Don’t try to out game the system by writing down every keyword you’d like to rank for and go to town. Search engines will punish you for “keyword stuffing,” i.e. shoving as many words as you can into a piece without paying any attention to quality or context.
Another great opportunity to get quality traffic is to build and keep an active blog with fresh content. It can be a very time-consuming investment, but it’s a worthy one as it allows you to show your expertise, gain trust and make more sales.
Installing Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmasters offers a free suite of tools to help you improve your site for both visitors and search engines.
To set it up, go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/ and make an account. Then, type your Shopify URL and click “Add a Site.”
Select the “Alternate Methods” tab, then click “HTML tag.” Google will create a unique meta tag that you can insert into your template. Here are detailed instructions for inserting your meta tag into your Shopify template.
Once you’ve done so, go back to Google Webmaster and select “Verify.”
Now, you can see if there are any missing pages or broken links on your site by choosing “Crawl” and “Crawl errors.” You can fix these with 301 redirects (in other words, telling Google to show visitors a working page instead of the broken one.) Check out Shopify’s guide for creating 301 redirects if you’re unsure how the process works.
Optimizing your Shopify store for SEO takes a lot of effort. But making it much easier for consumers to find your products will improve your traffic—and ultimately, your revenue!