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Shopify SEO (2021) — The Essential Checklist

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Shopify SEO (logo plus magnifying glass)

In this Shopify SEO guide, I’ll give you a checklist of the key tasks you need to complete to ensure that your store ranks highly in search results.

By following the simple steps below, you can give your Shopify store the best chance possible of generating more organic traffic — and more sales.

Let’s dive in!


1. Register your Shopify store on Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Registering a site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is something that all website owners who are serious about SEO should do, regardless of the platform they’ve used to construct it. 

By registering your site with these services, you are telling Google and Bing that your website exists, and are ensuring it gets crawled.

Google Search Console
Google Search Console

Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools will also give you notifications of any technical issues that that might be preventing your site from ranking as highly as it might.

Registering a Shopify site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is pretty easy — but for more information on the process, you can check out the below resources.

Once you’ve registered your Shopify site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, you’ll then need to submit an XML sitemap to both services — this helps both services index your site accurately and quickly. 

Helpfully, Shopify generates a sitemap automatically for you — the URL for this on your store is simply www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml – and you just need to enter this link into Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. 

In both Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools you do this by going to your site’s dashboard, and then clicking ‘sitemaps.’

Adding a sitemap in Google Search Console.
Adding a sitemap in Google Search Console.

2. Ensure your Shopify store is loading quickly

Page speed is a signal used by search engines to rank websites in search results, with fast-loading sites given preference over slower ones

Your options with regard to reducing page speed are a bit limited with Shopify — because rather than being able to buy your own hosting and code your own template, you have to use Shopify’s servers and their templates (which, whilst perfectly good, don’t give you fine-grain control over the speed with which your site loads).

That said, there are some things you can do to make a Shopify site load as quickly as possible:

  • Remove any Shopify apps you are not using or don’t really need.
  • Avoid using a large number of web fonts on your site, or even consider ditching them entirely in favour of web safe fonts (these load faster).
  • Use compression tools like Tiny Png to reduce the size of any images you’re uploading to Shopify.

  • Keep use of any external scripts or custom code on your site to a minimum.

  • Avoid using image sliders (in favour of one, optimized image).

Recently, Shopify introduced an ‘online store speed’ report to merchants’ Shopify dashboards which can be used to check how your store compares to others from a speed perspective, and access resources which can help you improve its load time.

To access this, go to Online Store > Theme and then click the ‘View report’ beside the Online Store Speed section that appears.

Shopify’s online store speed report.
Shopify’s online store speed report.

The below video from Shopify’s Director of Performance Engineering, Colin Bendell, gives you a little more background on this new report (which by his own admission needs a bit more development).


3. Do your keyword research!

One of the best ways to improve the performance of your Shopify site in search is to ensure that your site content and products contain the keywords that people are actually searching for. To do this, you’ll need to perform keyword research.

Keyword research typically involves finding out three key pieces of information:

  • the keywords that people are using to search for products or content like yours — i.e., the phrases they’re entering into search engines

  • the volume of searches for each of those keywords

  • how difficult it will be to rank for each keyword (based on how many existing authoritative sites or pages already perform well in search results for those keywords).

When you have these three pieces of information, you can usually identify the keywords to optimize your content for (or indeed the kind of content you’ll need to create in the first place!).

Carrying out keyword research in Semrush.
Carrying out keyword research in Semrush.

This is because you have enough data to find a ‘sweet spot’ – keywords that are popular enough to generate a reasonable amount of traffic, without being so popular that there are already lots of other sites dominating search results for them.

Getting your hands on this information involves using a dedicated keyword research tool like Semrush; this lets you enter in keywords and provides you with all the above stats for each one, along with lots of other useful information (lists of competing sites that currently rank well for your chosen keywords; suggested alternative keywords; and country-specific search results). You can try Semrush out for free here.

Getting an extended free trial of Semrush

The standard free trial of Semrush lasts seven days — however, for a limited time, you can avail of an extended 14 day trial.

This gives you a 14-day window to try out all the product’s key features and access all the data provided by it.

Get the extended free trial here.

Once you’ve your keyword research sorted, it’s time to look at the things you can do to your site to make sure that it performs well for your chosen keywords.


4. Get your page and product titles right

One of the most significant elements of a web page is its title: search engines treat it as a key piece of information when working out how to categorize and rank it, and your title itself shows up as the largest component of a search result (as well as at the top of browser windows).

Page title
Page title

You should ensure that your Shopify page and blog post titles are never vague in nature, and always start with your ‘focus keyword’ (the phrase you want to rank for in search).

For example, if you run a business called “Sarah’s Yummy Bakery”, which and specializes in white chocolate cakes, you are usually better off using a page title which includes the phrase ‘white chocolate cakes’ instead of a more conventional (but less SEO friendly) ‘Sarah’s Yummy Bakery’.

So, a good page title for the above example would be ‘White Chocolate Cakes — from Sarah’s Yummy Bakery.’

In Shopify, there are two different processes for editing page titles: one for your home page, and one for every other type of page.

Editing your Shopify home page title

To edit your home page title, you need to click Sales Channels > Online Store > Preferences. Then, use the box provided to enter your home page title.

Editing the home page title in Shopify.
Editing the home page title in Shopify.

Editing other page titles in Shopify

For other pages, the method you use to edit a page title in Shopify is more or less the same, regardless of whether you’re working with a static page, product or post.

You need to locate your page, product or post in the Shopify dashboard — once you’ve found it, it’s simply a case of scrolling down to the bottom of it and clicking the ‘Edit website SEO’ link.

You’ll then be able to edit the page title (along with your meta data and URL – see below).

Editing a page title for a product in Shopify.
Editing page titles in Shopify.

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5. Use headings properly

Ignoring headings is a common mistake made by people who build and update their own websites using platforms like Shopify.

Instead of applying headings correctly (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3 etc.) to their text — as a professional developer or webmaster might do — they add bold or capitalized text to break up their content. 

This causes quite a few problems: first, from a aesthetics point of view it can look pretty bad.

Second, it makes it harder for visually impaired visitors to your site using screen readers to understand your content.

And third — and of most relevance here — it makes it more difficult for search engines to index your content properly.

Adding headings and subheadings in Shopify is very easy: when editing a page or product description, you just highlight a piece of text and then choose your desired heading from the formatting drop down menu.

To do this, just click the formatting icon with the capital ‘A’, as per the screenshot below.

To add a heading in Shopify, highlight the relevant text and then choose the heading type using the formatting bar.
To add a heading in Shopify, highlight the relevant text and then choose the heading type using the formatting bar.

As you can see, headings are numbered 1 to 6 in Shopify.

As you might expect, your Heading 1 (H1) is the most important, because search engines use it (along with the page title) as a primary way of ranking the page. So it should always include (and ideally start with) your focus keyword.

It’s a good idea to include a few H2s containing related keywords on your pages and product descriptions too.


6. Use engaging meta descriptions

Meta descriptions provide short summaries of web pages, and usually appear underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page.

Although Google says that they aren’t a ranking factor, a well-written meta description can encourage more clickthroughs to your website — which raises the clickthrough rate (CTR) of a page.

The CTR of a page is generally believed by most SEO experts to be a ranking factor, so getting meta descriptions right is very important.

Your meta description for your Shopify products and pages should:

  • be concise (120-156 characters)

  • accurate

  • contain the keyword you are hoping to rank for.

As with page titles, different processes apply depending on whether you want to edit your home page meta description — or the description for any other page.

To edit your home page’s meta description, you’ll need to click Sales Channels > Online Store > Preferences and use the box provided on the right of the screen to add or change it.

To edit a meta description for other types of pages, you just need to locate your page, post or product and then click the ‘Edit website SEO’ link.

Editing meta descriptions in Shopify.
Editing meta descriptions in Shopify pages and posts

7. Make your product titles and descriptions unique

A common way of speeding up the process of adding products to a Shopify store involves the ‘Duplicate product’ option.

Unfortunately, this can lead to a lot of very similar — or even duplicate — product titles and descriptions. This is something that search engines can get confused by, and it’s not great for your users too!

Duplicate content generally leads to poorer search results, so always try to make your product titles and descriptions as unique as you possibly can.


8. Optimize your alt text and image names

Search engine algorithms don’t just look at the words on your website when indexing your site — they factor in your images too.

To do this, they look at two bits of data associated with your pictures: ‘alt text’ and file names. Accordingly, you need to ensure both are up to scratch from an image SEO perspective.

There are three main reasons why you should add alternative text (‘alt text’) to your images:

  • Screen readers use it to provide a description of an image to any visually impaired users who visit your website.

  • Search engines use it to categorize and better understand your content.

  • If your image fails to load, a description of will be displayed to help avoid confusion.

You should aim to add alt text that works for both screen readers and search engines — a description that that contains your focus keyword but is still perfectly understandable to anybody who is using a screen reader to access your content.

Editing alt text is very straightforward in Shopify. 

Adding alt text to Shopify pages or posts

For images on static pages or posts, you just navigate to your page, locate the relevant picture and double click on it. You’ll then see a box appear which allows you to edit various aspects of the image, including alt text.

Editing alt text on a Shopify page.
Editing alt text on a Shopify page.

Adding alt text to Shopify products

For product images, locate your product by clicking Products on your Shopify dashboard. Then click on the product image. Your image will then be displayed, and to the right of it you’ll see an ‘Alt Text’ option. Click this to add your alt text.

Adding alt text to product images in Shopify.
Adding alt text to product images in Shopify.

Using optimized image file names in Shopify

Changing file names is actually not particularly easy in Shopify — so it’s best to optimize your file names before you upload them to the platform.

This essentially means ensuring your focus keyword is in the file name, and that the file name is short.

For example, if you are selling blue toy airplanes in your Shopify store, ensure that the image you upload is called ‘blue-toy-airplane.jpg’ instead of something indecipherable like ‘IMG9481JXA-583.jpg’

If you do have to change an image file name after you’ve uploaded it to Shopify, then it’s unfortunately going to be a case of deleting your existing image and replacing it with a re-uploaded version that contains your focus keywords in its file name.


9. Use ‘clean’ URLs

Using ‘clean’, SEO-friendly URLs is something that is encouraged by Google. Clean URLs are short, simple and intelligible.

For example, if you were selling blue guitars, it would be advisable to use a URL of www.yourdomain.com/blue-guitars rather than www.yourdomain.com/prds/ct/p223.php?ref=14556bluegtr

Now with Shopify, the good news is that you’re not going to end up with messy URLs like the latter example, but unfortunately the platform nonetheless generates URLs in a way that is slightly less ‘clean’ than we might like.

This is because the platform adds prefixes to your pages and products, for example

  • /pages/ before pages

  • /posts/ before posts

  • /products/ before products

Strictly speaking this isn’t ideal from an SEO perspective, but it’s not really going to stop you ranking highly in search results, as there are many other ranking signals which will take priority over this. 

What I would say is that you should still aim to ensure that whatever comes after the above prefixes is as ‘clean’ as possible, and includes a focus keyword. This focus keyword will help both search engines and humans understand what your content is about.

To edit a page URL in Shopify, go to the page, product or post you wish to edit, scroll down to the bottom of it and then click ‘Edit Website SEO.’

Then, make your changes in the ‘URL and handle’ box (see screenshot below). If you DO change a Shopify URL, make sure that you tick the ‘create URL redirect’ option. This lets Google knows that you have changed the URL.

Changing URLs in Shopify for SEO purposes - if you do make a change, don't forget to tick the 'create URL redirect' box!
Changing URLs in Shopify for SEO purposes – if you do make a change, don’t forget to tick the ‘create URL redirect’ box!

Now, changing URLs of pages that aren’t currently performing in search results is usually a good idea — but if you are contemplating changing a page that IS already ranking highly, you should proceed carefully.

This is because a high-ranking page is likely to have a lot of backlinks to it, and these don’t always count for quite as much if you change its URL — and won’t count for anything at all if you don’t create a redirect from your old URL to the new one.

Changing a URL can also affect the ‘social proof‘ of a page because it will reset the stats displayed on your social shares counter for that page to zero.

So in an ideal world, it’s good to get the URL structure right at the point at which you create your Shopify page or product, or shortly afterwards.

And if you do end up changing a page URL on your Shopify store, always check that ‘Create a URL redirect’ box!


10. Add rich snippets to your products and pages

Rich snippets are pieces of data that can be added to your content to help both searchers and search engines understand what a page is about — and they are an important part of how your website behaves in search results.

Rich snippets feature visual clues about the content of a product, page or post — for example, star ratings, author, prices and so on.

These appear just below the page/post title and before the meta description, as per the example below:

Example of a rich snippet. Using them can help improve a search result's CTR, which can in turn ultimately improves its position in search.
Example of a rich snippet. Using them can help improve a search result’s CTR, which can in turn ultimately improves its position in search.

Search engines like rich snippets because they provide an additional source of data that can be used to categorize and index content better.

Humans like them because they add more relevance and context to search results (this can lead to more clickthroughs, which in turn can lead to algorithms surfacing a result more often).

Rich snippets are typically generated through the addition of ‘Schema Markup’ — HTML code featuring tags defined by Schema.org (a collaborative project involving Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex aimed at helping webmasters provide more accurate information to search engines).

There are a couple of ways to add rich snippets to a Shopify store. The first is to add some ‘data markup’ code to your Shopify templates (you’ll find some more information about this along with a code example here).

The second approach is to use a rich snippets app — there are tons of these available from the Shopify app store.


11. Focus on creating great content

A lot of Shopify users focus so much on their product catalogues (the images, the descriptions, the keywords used etc.) that they forget a hugely important aspect of SEO — creating great content, usually in the form of blog posts.

Sites that feature in-depth, informative blog posts on topics that people are genuinely interested in tend to perform better in search results.

Blogging in Shopify
A Shopify store featuring a blog

You’ll find some more information on how to create this sort of engaging content in our article about increasing blog traffic.

Reminder: before you invest time in writing great content, some keyword research is essential. This helps you get a strong understanding of the niche topics that people are actively searching for, as well as how hard it will be to rank for a particular niche. You can learn more about keyword research here.


A backlink is a link from another site to yours, and they constitute a really important part of SEO.

This is because search engines view backlinks as ‘votes’ for the quality of a piece of content. Generally speaking, the more of these ‘votes’ that the products and pages on your store have, the more likely they are to rank highly in search results.

Getting backlinks is arguably the hardest part of SEO, but it’s also the most worthwhile.

To get backlinks, you typically have to ‘reach out’ to other site owners in your niche and persuade them to link to your content. This can be hard, but is made easier if the content you’ve created is really strong.

(Strong content also tends to attract backlinks without outreach too, because people like linking to interesting products or authoritative posts).

One thing that you should never do is buy links — search engines are wise to this practice and can penalize your site in search results if they discover evidence of it. Swapping links isn’t a great practice either.

For more information on the importance of backlinks and tips on how to build them effectively, you can check out Brian Dean’s guide to backlinks.

Making a Shopify site searchable

So far, this guide has focused on making a Shopify store visible in search engine results. But it’s important to remember to make your products searchable on your own site too — this can help users surface them much more easily.

This can be done by enabling the built-in Shopify search bar, or for more sophisticated options on this front you could consider installing a third-party search bar app from Shopify’s app store.


13. Increase ‘dwell time’ on your Shopify store

‘Dwell time’ is a phrase used by SEO experts to refer to the length of time a user spends on a website before returning to search results.

There is generally consensus in the SEO community that the longer your dwell time, the more likely your content is to perform well in search results — because it indicates to search engines that it is satisfying user queries.

So, it makes sense to create your Shopify site in a way that retains attention for as long as possible.

Here’s how you can do this.

  • Create genuinely great content — whether that means writing engaging, in-depth blog posts or showcasing fantastic product images, give people a a reason to hang about and eyeball your content for ages!

  • Use a simple navigation structure that makes it easy for users to get from one part of your website to another.

  • Make use of internal linking — for example, add ‘related products’ or ‘suggested further reading’ call to actions (so that visitors can spend more time on your store digesting not just the first page they landed on, but other products and content too).

  • Encourage people to leave comments on your blog posts (and to read them).

  • Embed videos on your pages (watching them can take your visitors a while!)

    .

One thing that’s important to remember however is not to just put any old content or ‘fluff’ on a page to keep people there longer: whatever you place on it has to be of genuine value to a user.


Get all our SEO resources, for free

The above tips should definitely help make a difference to the performance of your Shopify store in search results, but there is a LOT more that you can do to boost your site’s position in search.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the whole topic of search engine optimisation, and want to make significant improvements to your Shopify store’s performance in Google, then make sure you download our free SEO toolkit below. We’ll send you all our key resources and guides, keep you up to date with the latest SEO advice and send you tips on how to start a successful business.

Download our free SEO toolkit

For a limited time we’re offering our readers some excellent free SEO tools and resources. Sign up now to immediately receive:

  • our downloadable cheatsheet containing the 20 key steps to ranking highly in search results
  • access to an extended free trial of a leading SEO tool
  • our downloadable cheatsheet on how to grow organic traffic to a blog
  • 2 in-depth guides to SEO
  • ongoing free tips and advice on growing your business

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Now: over to you. Got any questions about Shopify SEO? Just leave a query in the comments section below — I’ll do my best to help!


Other SEO resources from Style Factory


Other Shopify resources from Style Factory