Shopify SEO Checklist: How to Drive Crazy Traffic Without Ads
In the world of digital marketing, "online real estate" is everything.
The more times you're able to put your brand in front of potential customers, the higher their chances of converting into loyal customers.
And what better place to earn real estate for your Shopify store than on Google itself?
Google sees an average of 5.6 billion searches per day; if you could get even a fraction of that traffic to your store, you'd be rolling in profit.
And that's where SEO comes in.
SEO is one of the most powerful marketing tools any ecommerce business has at its disposal, so let's talk about why that is. Then, we'll cover the ultimate Shopify SEO checklist to see if your store has what it takes to rank.
What is Shopify SEO? Why is it so Critical for eCommerce Stores?
SEO stands for search engine optimization - And put simply, it's the process that marketers use to consistently rank web pages on the first page of Google. (and similar search engines)
See, the first page of Google is far from random.
For practically every search out there, each page that ranks on the first page has been crafted to get there.
Take this page, for example.
It's not by random chance you're reading it; we've put hours of work into crafting this guide to provide the most value to readers that we can.
And as such, Google's placed this guide high on the search results for you to see.
It doesn't just apply to blog posts, either- Further down, we'll teach you how you can do the same thing for your store's website. But that leads us to the next point:
Why is it so important to get onto the first page, anyway?
The first result on each Google page generates an average clickthrough rate of 28.5% for any given search term.
The tenth (the last one on the first page) result generates a CTR of 2.5%.
Any result beyond that has an average CTR of less than 1%.
Which means that any website past the first search page gets less than 1% of all organic traffic on the web.
If you'd rather get your Shopify store ranked in those first ten slots instead, read on.
How to Use Shopify SEO to Consistently Rank in the Top 10
Contrary to popular belief, Google and SEO don't work off of magic.
The algorithm that sorts out Google's search results is a set (albeit constantly evolving) formula, so if you learn the right ranking factors, you can start to rank your store on multiple SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) with consistency.
To do that, though, you'll need a consistent process and strategy to get you there.
So let's cover the multiple parts of an excellent SEO strategy and then how you can combine those parts to create a website that rakes in consistent organic traffic.
Then, we'll wrap it all up by going through the Shopify SEO checklist..
Understanding the Google Ranking Factors
Google's search algorithm works off of "ranking factors."
The more of these factors a given site or page has, the higher its chance is of earning a top spot on the SERP.
The "catch" is that Google uses thousands of factors to determine whether a page is worthy of that top spot.
And Google doesn't share what many of those factors are.
Luckily, we don't need access to every one of the factors to create well-ranking pages because we know many of the most important ones.
Here's a quick list of some critical ranking factors.
- Website History
- Website Age
- Web Page Age
- Amount of Content On-Site
- Update Frequency
- Web Page Loading Speed
- Content Length
- Social Signals
- Title Tags
- Backlink Count
- Bounce Rate
- Domain Authority
- And More...
Now, that's just a short list- And many of the terms on it might not make sense quite yet, but we'll explain what it all means in due time.
Remember that Google's goal is to provide value to its users above all else.
Which means that if you want to rank on Google, your priority should be creating that value for Google to see.
If Google notices that you're providing value to users, it's in everyone's best interest to show your website to more users.
So the number one priority of the Shopify SEO checklist is that value is king.
With that out of the way, let's get to the specifics of our SEO strategy.
Create Web Content To Fill Your Site With Value
One of the biggest ranking factors for any site is the amount of high-value content on it.
A website with nothing but one or two product pages is doubtful to rank for much; there just isn't enough content for Google to judge.
To increase your rank on the results pages, you'll need to fill out your site to compete with the rest.
To do that, the best route is to go with a blog.
Why Shopify Stores Need Blogs, Too
Blogs serve a few excellent purposes for any Shopify store.
The first is that it allows you to consistently grow and update your site regularly with new content.
Think of how many high-value pages you could create on a site without a blog.
You could create an FAQ section, multiple product pages, an "about us" section, etc. But once you've done all of that, where do you go?
At a certain point, you'll run out of room to expand without a well-built Shopify blog.
Blogs allow you to consistently create high-value content about new topics, bring in new customers, and educate your customers already in the fold.
But how do you know what to write about?
To plot out great content ideas that rank, you'll need to use the right keywords.
What are SEO Keywords & How to Use Them
If the internet is a giant library, then keywords are what tells Google which section each article, or "book" gets placed into.
We'll use this post as an example again.
When someone types "How to do Shopify SEO" into the search bar, Google has to figure out which content is relevant to that topic, sort it out, and then provide the most helpful content to each searcher.
A guide on SEO would likely include terms like "content marketing strategy," "keywords," and "backlinks."
Each of these terms are keywords that Google uses to sort out all of the information available.
And these keywords are what help differentiate a guide like this one from a peanut butter cookie recipe post in the eyes of the Google search algorithm.
Good content uses multiple relevant keywords in key parts of each post to signal to Google- and the best way to find those keywords is with a research tool.
How to Use Keyword Research Tools
Today we'll do a quick guide on both a free keyword research tool and a paid one.
We'll start with the free one: Google.
The Free SEO Research Method
Technically, all you need to do keyword research is the Google search page itself, though you won't get as much detail as you might while using a paid tool- this is a great way to get your feet wet.
First, you'll want to type in a "root term." It should be something simple and related to your store.
Let's imagine we run an online fishing store, we might type something that looks like this:
You might be surprised to know that this is already a great list of places to start for keywords, Google's done much of the work for us.
See, Google gets billions of searches per day, which means that the search engine has a pretty good idea of what people are looking for.
These auto-suggests are some of the most common searches on the web.
Right here, we might want to write guides on:
- Best types of bait for saltwater fishing
- Best types of bait for freshwater fishing
- Differences between various bait worms
But to do thorough keyword research, we can't stop here. We'll dig a bit deeper. Let's investigate the saltwater fishing result
When we click further, the SERP looks like this:
There are two important parts of every SERP when it comes to keyword research.
The first part: the search results themselves. We'll dive into these in a sec.
The second part is at the bottom of the page:
We can use this list as another source of keywords to target, each one can be a new topic.
And if we want to take our free research method a step further, let's click onto a few of theses results and figure out what's working for them.
Performing Competitor Analysis
The first result on the saltwater bait page looks like this:
When doing competitor research, you'll want to find search results that can be improved upon, so you can try and compete for their spot on the first page.
This one is a very short article that highlights 4 of the best bait types for saltwater fishing. It doesn't include much formatting, there aren't many images, and the info is pretty limited.
If we wanted to compete for this spot, we could write an article that goes on longer and more in-depth on fishing bait, it could delve into the differences between saltwater and freshwater, and perhaps include a few more images too.
Another result on that same SERP is a very similar case:
While this one goes on longer, it still isn't formatted very well, nor does it include many images or go in-depth on any particular topic.
All-in-all, that makes "types of bait for saltwater fishing" an excellent keyword opportunity.
To create a list of content ideas, repeat this process for each potential keyword and look for places where you can outshine the competition in your own niche.
Use each of those keywords as the primary topic for a blog post and you'll already be leagues ahead of much of the competition when it comes to content marketing.
But if you're in a more competitive SEO niche than fishing or want to get a bit more in-depth, you'll probably want to invest in a keyword research tool.
Using Ahrefs to Find Keywords
(if you plan on using another method, feel free to click here to skip onto the next section)
SEO research tools come in many shapes in sizes, but at ReConvert- we're big advocates of Ahrefs.
While the price can be a bit hefty, it provides all the tools you'll need to create top-notch content. If you're looking for a lower-priced alternative, there are options like Moz, which offer free plans with limited functionality.
With that out of the way, here's how you can use Ahrefs to find keywords.
We'll start by navigating to the Keywords Explorer on Ahrefs.
From there, we'll use a very similar process to the Google method. Type in a few "root" ideas for topics related to your niche. We'll use the ones we discovered earlier.
When we plug these into the tool, we'll want to navigate to the "related terms" section on the left side of the screen.
This will give us a list of the best keywords related to our root topics.
Our list looks like this:
The "volume" metric stands for how many searches are entered for each keyword during the average month.
There's still just one big problem. The "KD" metric stands for keyword difficulty.
As a newer blog, it'll be much harder to rank for high-difficulty words, so we'll want to filter them out. We'll set a cap of 20 with the filter, and sort by the search volume of each word.
This list looks a lot better.
The ideal keywords will be relevant, low-difficulty, and high volume.
Right off the bat, "types of fishing lures" and "freshwater bait" look like great opportunities. Just to make sure, we'll click through on the keywords and scroll to the bottom of the page to see what the search results pages look like.
If the SERPs look good, we'll go ahead and add these to the topic list. here's what that'd look like with "types of fishing lures."
The two big stats here are DR and UR, which stand for "domain rating" and "URL rating" respectively. You can think of these as a rating of "SEO value" for the websites and web pages that currently rank on the SERP.
The lower these stats, the easier it'll be for us to compete for that spot.
As the last step, if everything else checks out, we should take a look at the content itself to see where it can be improved in our own content when we write it.
We already touched on that process in the last section so we won't rehash, but if you find that the content on the SERPs has some room for improvement and all the last boxes have been checked, you've found yourself an excellent keyword opportunity.
And once you've found your ideal keywords, it's time to create the content.
So let's talk about how to put together high-quality content that brings in consistent organic traffic.
Shopify SEO Checklist: What Good SEO Content Looks Like
The secret to good SEO content is to stop focusing on search engine "rules".
That might sound a bit counterintuitive, but sit tight and we'll explain.
Good SEO content doesn't focus on what Google wants, it focuses on what searchers want.
After all, the point of Google's algorithm is to put the most value it can in front of each user. So if your content fits that mold, it'll get more traffic through Google. (provided you're staying within Google's webmaster guidelines, of course)
To do that, you'll want to make sure you follow the Three Golden Rules of SEO:
Rule #1: The Content Should be Hyper Relevant
Hyper relevant doesn't just mean that content revolves closely around a certain topic, it also has to match search intent.
See, you'll notice that for any given keyword, the topic purpose tends to stay the same, let's use "Top Upsell App" as an example:
Notice how each of the results is a list of the top X upsell apps for Shopify?
A hyper-relevant piece of content would fit with that intent rather than just the keyword.
"The Top WordPress Upsell App on the Market" would be relevant to the keyword, for instance- but it's not hyper-relevant because it doesn't match the search intent.
Rule #2: The Content Needs to Stand Apart From the Crowd
Good content doesn't just match the competition, it finds a way to surpass it.
Take our keyword research examples from before, a large part of it is seeing where you can improve upon competitor content in your own.
SEO-optimized content is the same.
It should surpass the competitor content in some (or many) ways.
Whether that's by going more into depth, making the content more user-accessible, or even more relevant than the rest- that's down to circumstance.
But the bottom line is, if you want Google to put your page higher than the rest, you'll need to give it a reason to do so.
Rule #3: The Content Should be Actionable
Good content isn't just informative, it helps users take action immediately.
We could write a guide on the technical aspects of SEO, but if there's no practical advice, how is it supposed to help our readers put that advice into play?
Good content should be informative, and then guide readers on how to put that new information into use.
Shopify SEO Checklist: How to Optimize Your Product Pages for SEO
For eCommerce stores, a blog isn't going to be enough to earn profit-generating traffic.
You'll also need to optimize your product pages to show up on Google's first page. here are six tips on how to help you grow your monthly organic traffic for product pages.
1: Write a High-Quality & Unique Product Description
One of the most important factors for any product page, virtual or physical, is the product description.
Manufacturer descriptions are often far too technical, and since most stores use them, Google will often flag them as duplicate content. (which nets your site an SEO penalty)
Instead of using the manufacturer description, take time to carefully craft a description that stands out.
An excellent description should inform consumers, highlight the strengths of your product, and give potential buyers a reason to purchase the product from you instead of someone else.
(It can even include a keyword or two where applicable! But don't go too overboard...)
2: Don't Neglect Images & Metadata
Metadata is often the unsung hero of the SEO world. It's critical for success, but it gets practically none of the limelight.
But what is metadata?
Metadata, or meta tags, are the technical data that sits behind the scenes and supports a page.
The meta description, for instance, is the piece of content that shows up here:
And the alt tags on images are what show up when the image can't load. (or for vision-impaired users)
There are also title tags, slugs, product handles, and more. And the bottom line is that every product page should have optimized metadata to help it rise through the ranks. Using an app like Yoast does a great job of simplifying the meta tags SEO process.
High-quality images are nothing to skimp out on either. Each of your product pages should have a high-quality, nice-looking image to showcase the product- with an alt tag implemented too.
3: Optimize Your Loading Speed
Page load times are paramount for a well-received page.
In fact, as the load time for a page goes from one to ten seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 123%.
Luckily, Google provides the free tool PageSpeed Insights to help you check if your site is fast enough.
Just plug in the link and see if it passes. If it fails the speed test, Google will even give some tips on how you might be able to improve it.
Compressing images or reducing plugins are great ways to increase your speed.
4: Mobile-Optimization is a Must
A while back Google implemented a mobile-first indexing approach, which just means that it factors in the mobile version of your site before the desktop for SEO purposes.
This means a site that's only optimized for desktop is one that'll never rank in the top ten.
Fortunately, Google has this one covered too.
Make sure to plug each of your product pages into the Google-created Mobile-Friendly Test to see if they're optimized well enough for search engine standards.
Most Shopify themes include automatic mobile optimization though, so this step shouldn't be too much of a hassle for most stores.
5: Add Real User Reviews
The next mark on the Shopify SEO checklist is the add real user reviews to your site.
Google loves user-generated content, and reviews are some of the best user-generated content out there.
6: Structure Your Content for Rich Snippets
Another thing that Google (and other search engines) loves is structured data.
The more common structure there is between product pages, the more information Google can pull and show to searchers before they even click your page.
Take this chef's knife listing, for instance.
It's not just a search listing; the result shows the price, other product pages, a phone number, and the reviews page.
These pieces of information are called rich snippets, and they're great for getting more clicks to your page.
The previously-mentioned Yoast app for Shopify automatically does much of the work for you in coding the data onto your site, all you'll have to do is plug in some data to your plugin.
Now, with that part of the Shopify SEO checklist out of the way, let's talk about another vital part of any store's SEO efforts:
Optimize Your Shopify Store with Backlinks
Search engine rankings aren't just about the content on your online store.
The way other websites interact with your site matters just as much.
To explain how, let's distinguish between a few types of internet links.
There are internal links, which are links from one site to other pages on the same site.
Then there are outbound links.
Outbound links are ones that go from one webpage to a page on another site.
An outbound link from one site to yours is called a backlink.
Why Are Backlinks so Critical for Shopify SEO?
Backlinks just might be one of the most critical items on the whole Shopify SEO checklist.
If you thought of Google as a voting system, backlinks are how high-authority sites can "vote" for which sites belong on the top ten rankings.
If Google sees that plenty of high-quality sites are linking to yours, then it'll take them as votes of confidence that your site is high-quality too.
Though the reverse is also true; if Google notices a lot of low-quality, "spammy" links pointing to your site, it might penalize you.
Which is why it's vital to reach out to stores and sites within your niche (or neighboring niches) and negotiate for backlinks to your site.
This can be done through high-quality guest posts, or high-quality link exchanges.
(Automated or low-quality link exchanges should be avoided though; they're considered "black hat"- which we'll touch on in the next section.)
Shopify SEO Checklist: Avoid Using "Black Hat" SEO Tactics
Avoiding black hat tactics is paramount to long-term, consistent success in the SEO world.
But what is black hat SEO, and why is it so bad?
What is Black Hat SEO?
Black hat SEO is any tactic that tries to exploit a "hole" in the search engine algorithm to unfairly get your site to the top.
The reason that black hat SEO is so detrimental is twofold.
First, Google is always working to patch those holes, so if your strategy revolves around black hat, it's likely that the whole thing will be ineffective in a year or so.
Second, if Google notices that you're using black hat tactics, you'll catch a hefty penalty on your online store, which makes it practically impossible to rank for any search terms for some time.
Black hat search engine optimization comes in many forms, so we'll discuss some of the most common ones to avoid.
Black Hat SEO Checklist #1: Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the process of overusing a keyword in the hopes of ranking for it on Google.
After all, if you use a keyword more times than your competitors, you'll inevitably rank higher than them, right?
If Google thinks you're writing in an unnatural manner, or purposefully overusing a keyword, you'll catch one of the aforementioned penalties.
Instead, make it a goal to write naturally; it helps to imagine you're talking to a friend, student, or customer depending on the context.
Black Hat SEO Checklist #2: Never Participate in Backlink Buying & Schemes
High-quality backlinks are vital to SEO success.
Notice the "high-quality" part, though.
While services that allow you to buy backlinks exist, the vast majority of them will result in dozens or hundreds of spam backlinks pointing to your site.
Which is a massive red flag in Google's eyes.
The same goes for any sort of "backlink scheme" that aims to inflate your search engine rank.
Instead of buying or scheming for your backlinks, aim to get them through above-the-board methods.
Wrapping it Up: Does Your Store Pass the Shopify SEO Checklist?
And there you have it, the full Shopify SEO checklist for Shopify stores.
From keyword research to your content strategy, all the way to how you optimize product descriptions for organic traffic- it's all here.
So now it's time to get started on your journey to consistently growing organic traffic, every month!
Found this guide helpful? Make sure to check out the other content on our blog!
Think we missed anything or have any questions? Make sure to leave them down below and we'll be sure to answer!