So you’ve built your Shopify Site – now what? For a lot of retailers, it may come as quite a surprise when online sales don’t immediately pour in after they launch. The reason for this? While many Shopify Themes claim that they have ‘built-in Search Engine Optimization’, rarely is the out-of-the-box option enough to outrank your SEO-Savvy competitors.

As of July 1, 2020, there were over 500,000 active Shopify Stores. Collectively, these stores drive more than 40 billion dollars worth of sales. While these numbers are impressive, and continuing to climb, what if we were to tell you that they could be better?

Of course 40 billion is a big number, but many Shopify retailers are failing to invest in their organic search. Nearly 40% of online retailer traffic comes from organic search. For online retailers, ignoring their website’s organic performance would be like ignoring 40% of the customers that walk through the door of a physical store. Simply put: You cannot afford to miss out on opportunities to boost organic search traffic. 

Here are three reasons why SEO should not be overlooked in your e-Commerce marketing strategy.

SEO Tactics Help Boost Paid Search Tactics 

If you are investing dollars into any form of paid search advertising, you want to get the most out of your spend. By combining paid search and SEO strategies (instead of just relying on one or the other), you can increase your brand awareness for important keywords. 

Often, many visitors will skip over pay-per-click (PPC) ads on the top of Google and look for organic websites listed below. If your website is complemented with an ad, followed by your website ranking organically, the chances of users heading to your website is much higher. 

On top of this, your website’s organic performance means that you may end up spending less on your Cost Per Click for your Paid Search campaigns. 

When you run a Google Ads campaign, you’re actually bidding against your competitors to appear at the top of a searcher’s results page – Google essentially auctions off the spot. To choose a ‘winner’ of a Google Ad auction, Google’s algorithm considers three factors: 

  • your bid (the amount of money you’re willing to pay)
  • your ad extensions and formats (the features you use to enrich your ad), and 
  • finally: the Quality Score of both your ad and landing pages.

When Google assesses the quality of your landing pages it looks at how well your page performs organically for your PPC Targeted Keyword. If you are running an ad set that targets a specific search term, but that term is never actually mentioned in your page title or meta description, then it’s less likely your ad will be shown.

Consider this: you and a competitor are bidding on a Google Ad Auction. Both of you have a Quality Score of 6: your competitor bids $1.00 per click while you bid $1.50 – you would likely win that auction. 

Now, suppose that your competitor adopts an SEO Strategy that increases the speed and ranking of their site and, as a result, improves their Quality Score to a 8. All things the same: your competitor would likely win that auction despite your higher bid. 

Organic Search is the #1 Converting Channel 

As a business, there are many available marketing platforms available to you. Whether it’s Google Ads, Facebook Ads, organic social media, or traditional ‘offline’ marketing, businesses can be overwhelmed by the opportunities. But the research consistently shows that organic traffic is often one the best performing channels for conversions and sales. Investing your marketing spend in the channel with the best Return On Investment (ROI) is important, especially when you are working with a limited marketing budget. 

SEO Optimization Improves The Overall E-Commerce Experience

While you might think User Experience and SEO are two entirely separate topics, SEO has always been influenced by User Experience. And, come May 2021, Google is set to launch the Core Vitals Update, which will (you guessed it) make User Experience a Ranking Factor.

And by User Experience, Google means that the algorithm will start to consider a new set of ‘page experience signals’. 

According to Google, ‘These signals will measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page…” (Google, Timing for Page Experience)

Along with the existing signals (mobile friendliness, safe browsers https, and no intrusive interstitials), the Core Web Vitals signals will look at:

  • Largest Contentful Paint, which looks at the loading time of the largest single object on a page.
  • First Input Delay, the reaction time of the page to the first user input (how long does it take for the page to respond to a click, tap and key press). 
  • Cumulative Layout Shift, how much of the content of the page jumps while loading content (after opening).

Creating a positive user experience on your website goes beyond SEO: having a strong UX strategy will lead to more conversions and sales. Take the time to focus on your customer and their overall experience by starting with mapping the customer journey. 

Consider if you are doing enough to encourage conversion/sales: how easy is it for a customer to navigate from a blog post or social media feed to a product page? Are your product descriptions accurate and do they encourage further conversions (‘You May Also Like’ CTAs or highlighting positive reviews)? Are you leveraging structured data markup to help customers go to the most relevant pages directly from your search results?

How Do I Setup SEO for Shopify?

SEO is a huge topic that encompasses a vast scope of tactics however, there are some best practice areas that you can focus on to get started: 

1.) Make Sure That Google Can Actually See Your Site

This might sound obvious but many website owners would be surprised by the amount of pages on their website that Google can’t find because of technical issues. From websites being launched with noindex tags (code snippets that developers use to discourage Google from crawling a staging site before it’s ready) to missing sitemaps, there are plenty of technical snags that can cause major blindspots for Google. Not sure where to start? Start with our Technical SEO Audit > 

2.) Mitigate Shopify’s Duplicate Content Issue

While Shopify is an extremely useful platform that can help launch eCommerce stores in a matter of hours, it does have it’s limitations. One well-known SEO issue is duplicate content, particularly when it comes to product pages. 

Duplicate content causes issues for Google because having two identical pages makes it difficult for the algorithm to determine what the most relevant page would be for users. Essentially, your two identical pages are competing for the search result (and therefore pushing each other down in the rankings). 

By default, Shopify allows all products to be accessible under both the /collections/ folder as well as the /product/ folder. Because the same content is accessible through two different URLs, Google considers them to be two identical pages. 

Shopify has tried to mitigate this by making all product pages that fall under /collections/ non-canonical, and all product pages that fall under /products/ canonical.

Reminder: canonical tags tell Google whether or not a page is the primary/original source of that content. By adding a non-canonical to a page, you’re telling Google that the page is not the original and points to the original page that you want to be indexed. 

The Problem With Shopify’s Duplicate Content ‘Fix’

Another issue arises from that ‘mitigation’. One way Google determines how valuable a page is to a website is by looking at how many times that page is linked to internally (the thought being, if the page is important enough for you to link to it, then it’s likely important to your users as well). 

By default, Shopify links to your non-canonical products for internal links like ‘swatches’.This means that we’re sending a lot of mixed messages to Google. By linking to these pages, we’re showing Google that these pages are important however, by adding a non-canonical tag, we’re telling them that we don’t want them to be indexed (regardless of importance). At the same time, the canonical/primary product pages are rarely linked to and therefore, not seen by Google to be as important. 

There is a way around this by editing your Shopify themes .liquid files. For more information, you can check out Shopify’s Community Article on the topic or reach out to our team to get started.  

3.) Do Your Keyword Research

Simply ‘optimizing’ your website is not enough. You need to be sure that you are using the right keywords to target the right audience. 

First you need to check that people are searching for the keywords you’re optimized for. For example: if you rank #1 for ‘the best yellow shoes with ducks on them’, but no one is searching for that term, then it’s not going to benefit your company.  

Furthermore, even if people are searching for a term, you want to make sure that it’s the right term for your Shopify Store. If your site is selling high-end purses but you’re ranking for ‘cheap knock-off purses’, your organic search audience is the wrong one. 

4.)  Review Your Top Level SEO-Elements

You’ve got your keywords, you know what you want to optimize for, now you just have to do it! Start with your top level SEO elements, ie what actually appears on SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). These are your page titles (the headings), your meta descriptions (the description under the heading), and your URLs (the actual address of your page). Some quick tips for top level elements:

  • Write a page title that falls under the 60 character page limit (sometimes Google allows for more but 60 characters have shown to appear 90% of the  time). 
  • Write a meta description under 155 characters. 
  • Use your keywords naturally in both your page title and in your meta description. Google is on high-alert for unnatural language or what they call ‘keyword stuffing’ so only use these terms where it makes sense. 
  • Try to make your URLs as meaningful as possible. While Shopify has some serious limitations when it comes to changing your URL Structure, you can still ensure they are meaningful by ensuring your pages/URLs are descriptive and leverage your keywords.
  • Pay close attention to your product descriptions. This is the area of your site that has the most ‘non-brand’ keyword opportunity and potentially the strongest conversion rates. Having well optimized product pages that rank well on Google Search could mean big wins for both your traffic numbers as well as your conversion rate. 

5.) Know your User Experience Metrics (and How You Can Improve Them)

Now that users have actually found your site, are they finding what they need on it? Start off by look through these key metrics:

  • The Core Web Vitals Reports in Google Search Console
  • Bounce Rates
  • Click-Through Rates
  • Top performing pages
  • Goal completions 
  • Broken links
  • Enhanced eCommerce metrics (when possible) such as ‘Add to Carts’, ‘Remove From Cart’ and ‘Refunds’
  • If you have an internal search function, then set up internal search tracking in your Google Analytics Account. 

By adopting a strong SEO Strategy, you are increasing your chances of turning your “potential customers” into paying ones. 

How Do I Setup SEO For Shopify (Quick Guide)?

  1. Make Sure That Google Can Actually See Your Site

    Check for noindex tags, missing sitemaps, or redirect chains.

  2. Mitigate Shopify’s Duplicate Content Issue

    Edit your Shopify themes .liquid files

  3. Do Your Keyword Research

    Simply ‘optimizing’ your website is not enough. You need to be sure that you are using the right keywords to target the right audience. 

  4. Review Your Top Level SEO-Elements

    Title tag, meta descriptions, H1s, and product descriptions.

  5. Know your User Experience Metrics (and How You Can Improve Them)

    From bounce and conversion rates to your Core Web Vitals Report.

Need help checking off the SEO items on your to-do list? Bluetrain is here to help. We’re happy to help you improve your eCommerce SEO in any way we can. 

Find out how your eCommerce site ranks for organic search traffic. Fill out the form below to request a free eCommerce SEO Audit Consultation. 

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