This Shopify SEO checklist can be applied to any e-commerce store built with Shopify to increase your traffic from search engines as quickly as possible.
You certainly will not be able to go through this whole Shopify SEO checklist in a single day, and that’s OK. Download the PDF version below and so you can keep track of what is done over the next few days.
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Shopify SEO Basics
First, let’s go over the mandatory SEO tools and plugins you’ll need to optimize your Shopify online store to improve your search engine rankings.
Set Up Google Search Console
Search Console is the free webmaster tool provided by Google to website owners.
This free tool provides useful data about your website’s performance in Google’s search results. For example:
- Which search terms and keywords are generating the most clicks
- What’s the click-through rate (CTR) of your web page in the search engine results
- How your keyword rankings have changed over time
Plus, Search Console is useful to perform technical SEO tasks like:
- Request crawling and indexing of your website’s pages
- Submit your website’s sitemap to Google
- Check your robots.txt file for errors
Finally, Search Console is how you get communications from Google about:
- Website errors (mobile-friendliness, indexation, etc)
- Manual penalties
Search Console is a must-have SEO tool for your Shopify store.
Here’s a resource to help you set up Google Search Console:
Install Google Analytics
If you haven’t installed Google Analytics yet—stop everything else you’re doing and do this instead.
With Google Analytics you’ll be able to link your SEO efforts to the sales of your e-commerce store.
You can use Google Analytics to learn things like:
- How much revenue you’re getting from SEO
- What’s the conversion rate of your organic traffic
- Which pages or products are generating the most revenue through organic search
Plus, you can connect Google Search Console to Google Analytics and perform analysis that mixes both data sources.
Here are some resources to help you set up Google Analytics:
- How to Add the Google Analytics to Your Shopify Site
- Configuring Search Console data in Google Analytics
Keyword Research for Ecommerce
Keyword research is the most important element of SEO. You need to have a solid keyword strategy before you even start optimizing your Shopify site.
Learn the Basics of Keyword Research for Ecommerce
Keyword research is the process of understanding what people are searching for in Google and other search engines.
You can use this to discover massive opportunities, prioritize your content plan, and even make product decisions.
When you perform keyword research, you just need to understand 3 concepts: search volume, keyword difficulty, and searcher intent.
Search volume is an estimate of how many times a specific term (keyword) is searched for each month.
Search volumes allow you to compare long-tail keywords based on their popularity on SERPs.
In e-commerce, you can use this information to learn which new products to launch.
For example, if you’re running a Shopify store selling backpacks, keyword research would allow you to know that approximately 60% more people are searching for travel backpacks than laptop backpacks.
Another example is about choosing the main keywords to target.
If your store offers a backpack designed for traveling, performing keyword research would tell you that it’s more beneficial to optimize your product for “travel backpack” than “travel bag”.
Keyword difficulty is a calculation offered by some tools about how easy (or difficult) it is to rank for a certain term.
You can use keyword difficulty as a second filter for the keywords you select.
For example, let’s say own an ecommerce store for sports apparel. If you relied exclusively on search volume to prioritize your main keywords, you would choose to pursue “soccer cleats” over “football cleats”—after all, it has 65% more searches per month.
However, it’s almost 3 times more difficult to rank for “soccer cleats” than it is to rank for “football cleats”.
If you’re running a small e-commerce store, it will be easier and faster for you to get SEO traffic for “football cleats”.
Searcher intent refers to the understanding of what the user was looking for when they typed a specific keyword into Google.
This sounds obvious but it can save you from wasting a lot of time and effort.
If you own an ecommerce store that sells baseball equipment and looked at the data above, it would look like a great opportunity to create a page dedicated to baseball bats made of metal, right?
However, when you look at the search for the keyword “metal bat”, all the search results are about a character from an anime series.
This simple check tells you that you probably won’t be able to rank for that term, and even if you did, people looking for “metal bat” are not looking to buy baseball bats from you.
Use a Keyword Research Tool
For years, people relied on Google’s Keyword Planner to perform keyword research. However, it has become unfriendly and less reliable in the last few years.
Most SEOs today rely on third-party tools instead.
Our favorite tools at ClickMinded are KWFinder (affiliate link) and ahrefs—both of these include:
- Search volumes, seasonality, historical, keyword difficulty, keyword competitors
- Related keywords, autocomplete/search suggestions (what happens when you start typing something in Google), questions
- Find out which long-tail keywords your competitors are ranking for
Map Your Keywords Against Your Sales Funnel
Different keywords will serve different purposes for your business. This depends on which part of your sales funnel each keyword belongs to.
Top of the funnel keywords will typically higher search volumes but have less commercial intent behind them. People searching for these terms are just looking for information and are not necessarily ready to buy.
Middle of the funnel keywords have less volume than the top of the funnel keywords, but people searching for these terms are already considering their options for products, sellers, or brands.
Bottom of the funnel keywords have the lowest search volumes but high commercial intent. People searching for these terms are usually potential customers and are ready to buy.
Your keyword strategy should look to balance keywords for each stage of the funnel. Top of the funnel keywords will attract most of your traffic, while bottom of the funnel keywords will generate the most revenue for your business.
Here’s how you might map some keywords against the sales funnel of an ecommerce site selling tea.
If you didn’t do this, you might be tempted to dismiss some keywords with lower search volumes until you realize that they are more likely to convert visitors into customers.
Here are some resources to help you understand keywords and the sales funnel:
- The ClickMinded SEO Strategy Guide
- The ClickMinded Sales Funnel Strategy Guide
- The ClickMinded Keyword Strategy Masterclass
Avoid Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization happens when several URLs or pages on your site are competing for the same target keyword.
You should target each keyword (and related keywords) with a single URL or page.
For example, if you have a blog post that’s ranking for the keyword “best organic coffee” and attracting good traffic, you should avoid optimizing a product page for the same keyword.
Optimizing Content For Shopify
Google algorithms can’t understand content as easily as humans. On-page optimization is the process of helping search engines understand what your content is about to get higher rankings.
Optimize Your Titles and Meta Descriptions
Title tags are still one of the most powerful important elements of on-page SEO. The title tag is what people will see in Google’s search results page.
To optimize your title and meta descriptions, you should:
- Include the main keyword in the copy
- Use an active voice
- Write in the second person
- Use power words
- Use numbers, brackets, or parentheses
- Include the date (month or year)
In your Shopify website, you can scroll down to the “Edit Website SEO” to edit your title and meta descriptions.
You should optimize the title and meta description of the following pages of your Shopify site:
- Blog posts
Optimize Your URLs
Page URLs give search engines and users an indication of what a certain page is about.
In fact, Google has started to give more relevance to URLs by moving them to the top of each search result.
To optimize your URLs, you should:
- Include the target keyword in the URL
- Avoid using stop words like “the” or “and”
- Keep the URLs short
Here’s an example of bad, good, and better URLs for a product page optimized for “boxing gloves”:
- Bad URL: https://www.boxingfire.com/products/product-109398 —this is hard to remember and not descriptive at all
- Good URL: https://www.boxingfire.com/products/the-worlds-lightest-boxing-gloves —this includes the target keyword but it’s very long
- Better URL: https://www.boxingfire.com/products/boxing-gloves —this is short, descriptive, and includes the target keyword
You can edit your URLs in the bottom section of the “Edit Website SEO” section of your Shopify site:
Similarly to what you did with title, meta tags, and meta descriptions, you should optimize the URLs of the following pages of your Shopify site:
- Blog posts
Important: in general, you should NOT modify the page URL of an existing page that’s already getting SEO traffic or has links pointing to it. This could negatively impact your rankings and traffic for that page. In those cases, it’s better to leave the URL intact and move on to other items on this Shopify SEO checklist.
Include Your Keywords in the Copy of Your Pages
This one’s pretty straightforward. Include your main keywords in the web page you’re optimizing.
We recommend including the keyword in the h1 tag of the page and again in the body near the top of the page.
Check out this example by Beardbrand.
Don’t overdo it, though. Getting your exact keyword in there 2 or 3 times is probably good enough.
Try reading your text out loud—if it sounds weird, then you should probably dial it down a bit.
Include Synonyms and LSI Keywords
Aside from including your exact keyword, it’s helpful to throw in some synonyms and LSI keywords.
Both of these help provide more context to Google about what’s the topic of a page.
LSI keywords are terms that are thematically related to a keyword.
For example, a synonym of “NYC” could be “New York City” and an LSI keyword could be “Empire State Building” or “Statue of Liberty”.
Check out how Cup&Leaf includes terms that are typically related to “black tea” to their product page selling “ginger black tea”.
To find synonyms or LSI keywords, you can use Thesaurus and LSIGraph.
Optimize Your Pages for Higher Engagement
Google’s entire business model relies on being able to provide relevant results to people’s searches.
That’s why a lot of SEOs believe that Google has started to use engagement metrics to help determine whether a piece of content is relevant to a searcher or not.
It’s simple: if a searcher spends time on your page and interacts with it, Google can assume that the information shown to that user was relevant.
In ecommerce, a few things you can do to increase engagement include:
- Writing detailed descriptions on your product pages
- Adding high-quality images and videos of your products
- Highlighting rating and reviews
- Linking to related products
Check out this great example from Ratio Coffee.
For other types of pages on your Shopify site, like blog posts or collections, some best practices include:
- Writing short sentences instead of long paragraphs
- Use simple language
- Organizing your content with headings and subheadings
- Including rich media like images, gifs, audio, and video
- Avoiding duplicate content
Optimize Your Images
Search engines “see” images by reading the ALT tag and looking at file names, among other factors.
Optimizing the product images in your Shopify store is a 2-step process.
First, use a descriptive name for the image file before you upload it to your site.
- Bad filename: img-190303.png
- Good filename: womens-white-shirt.png
Second, edit the alt text of your product image inside the Shopify admin—the best practice is to write a short product description for the image.
Add Internal Links
When you add a link from “page A” to another on your site, “page B”, that’s called an internal link.
Internal linking is helpful for SEO for 3 reasons:
- They can pass some of the SEO value from one page to the other
- They can help Google understand the content of a page
- They can help users find other relevant content on your site (increasing engagement)
In your e-commerce store, you can manually add internal links when they are relevant. However, a quick and easy way to add internal links is to add a “related products” section to your product pages.
Here are some additional resources to help you optimize SEO elements for your e-commerce store.
Link Building for Ecommerce
Link building is one of the most powerful things you can do to increase your rankings. This is one of the hardest parts of SEO, but there are a few tactics that work great for ecommerce website owners.
To determine which pages to rank above all others, search engines rely heavily on the authority of pages and websites.
In SEO, authority is mainly determined by links—more specifically, links from other sites to yours.
Here are a few general rules for how the authority is calculated:
- More links > fewer links
- Links from sites relevant to the topic of your site > links from completely irrelevant sites
- Links from sites with high authority > links from sites with low authority
- Links from several sites > several links from a single site
- Links in the body > site-wide links (e.g. header, footer, or sidebar)
These are some tactics you can use to build links to your ecommerce site.
Find Unlinked Mentions
Once your business starts being noticed, you’ll often find people including mentions to your business without links.
Just reach out to these people and ask them to include a link along with the mention.
To find unlinked brand mentions:
Start with doing a search for all your current existing unlinked mentions using a tool like ahrefs and reach out to all of those.
Then, implement alerts on Google Alerts or ahrefs for on-going mentions of your brand (and related terms like your own name or names of products) and reach out to new mentions as they happen.
Get Your Products Reviewed
Another easy way to get links for your ecommerce store is to contact writers, influencers, and website owners that usually write about the industry you’re in.
You can usually send them samples of your product to test out and they might be inclined to write a review if they like it.
For example, check out the link to the Minaal website in this review of the best travel backpacks.
Sidenote: don’t expect that everyone you send your products to will write a review. People are in no way obligated to write about you—even if you send them free stuff. If your product is good or interesting enough, you’ll get reviewed.
An easy way to find opportunities to get reviewed is to just use Google.
Try using the following search “best [keyword or category]”
Then, try reaching out to each of those sites about sending them a sample of your product.
Guest Post on Relevant Sites
If you write valuable guest posts on relevant websites and add links to your site in a natural (not spammy) way, guest blogging can be a great way to build links.
For example, here’s a guest post by the founder of Cup&Leaf that includes a link to his own site:
An easy way to find guest posting opportunities is to search Google using advanced search operators.
Try these searches for your target keyword:
- “[keyword]” “write for us”
- “[keyword]” “become a contributor”
- “[keyword]” “submit guest post”
- “[keyword]” “guest post by”
- “[keyword]” “guest post”
- “[keyword]” inurl:blog “contributor guidelines”
- “[keyword]” inurl:blog “write for”
Reach out to the blogs or websites that make sense, it may be a good idea to have a few post pitches prepared beforehand.
ProTip: if you have already guest posted on other sites, send over examples along with your pitch to build some credibility.
Get Media Mentions With HARO
If you have something newsworthy story, you could leverage media coverage to get links.
For example, check out how the founders of Minaal were able to get a link back to their Shopify site from a local media website.
If you can’t afford or don’t have time to do PR for your ecommerce store, HARO is an easy way to get media mentions.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a daily newsletter that will send you requests from reporters, authors, and publishers who want to write stories.
This is how a request might look like:
Here’s a great resource to help you get started:
Get Interviewed on Podcasts
Podcasts are growing in popularity and many people are jumping into the channel.
What most people don’t realize is that this is a massive link building opportunity. Aside from Spotify, iTunes, and Stitcher, people usually publish their podcast episodes as posts on websites, along with the show notes.
So whenever you appear on a podcast, you’ll likely get a link back to your site.
Check out how the founder of Cup&Leaf was able to get a link through an interview on the “Sales for Founders” podcast.
Come up with a compelling story that’s relevant to podcasts in your niche and pitch it to them. You can use Chartable’s charts to find podcasts in your industry.
Here’s a great guide on how to appear on podcasts:
Technical SEO for Shopify
Technical SEO is everything you do to make it easier for search engines to find and crawl your website. Technical issues can prevent your site from ranking and getting organic traffic.
Fix Crawl Errors
Crawl errors are those preventing Google from viewing your content correctly.
You can find them using the Coverage report in Google Search Console.
Here are great resources on fixing crawl errors:
Use to HTTPS
In an effort to make the web “safer” for users, Google has made a push for more websites to use HTTPS.
So you might see a small ranking boost by switching from HTTP to HTTPS.
Fortunately, Shopify automatically provides SSL certificates for your new stores.
No need for you to take any action here, but we mention it just because people have asked about it.
Make Sure You’re Using a Responsive Theme
As an increasing amount of web traffic comes from mobile devices, having a site that is not responsive to different screen sizes and shapes will negatively impact usability, especially for local searches.
Plus, Google recently deployed the mobile-first index, which means they’ll use the mobile (not the desktop) version of your site to crawl and index it.
They are basically saying: “if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it won’t rank highly on Google”.
A responsive theme is one that adapts to any screen size. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check your Shopify site:
Fix Broken Links
Broken links on your site send a bad signal to Google.
A site with a lot of broken backlinks is probably not up-to-date and unlikely to provide a valuable answer to searchers.
You should try to avoid having broken links on your site. To find broken links, you can use Screaming Frog or ahrefs.
Once you’ve identified your broken links, you can fix the issue by redirecting, updating, or removing the link.
Speed Up Your Shopify Site
Search engines value sites that provide a good user experience and the speed of your site is a huge factor.
A slow loading site will increase your bounce rate, as visitors lose patience and leave.
Many tools offer speed tests along with suggestions on how to make your site faster—some of the ones we like are Google’s PageSpeed Insights, GTMetrix, Pingdom.
Choose your Shopify theme considering site speed as an important factor.
ProTip: It’s super easy to get caught up in trying to fix all of these speed issues and getting a perfect score. DON’T do this—in general, these are things you can do to improve the speed of your Shopify site:
- Compress and reduce the size of your images—high-quality images are great, but most of the time you don’t need a 40MB image that’s 4000×6000 pixels.
- Uninstall apps you’re no longer using.
Submit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
An XML sitemap helps search engines understand the structure of your site and find all the pages that you want to be indexed.
Shopify automatically creates and updates your website’s sitemap for you—you can find it at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml
Then, you can use Google Search Console to submit your sitemap to Google:
Monitoring & Tracking
These are some extra stuff you might want to check out now that you’ve gone through the rest of the items on this Shopify SEO checklist.
Set Up Rank Tracking
Whenever I start working on an SEO project, one of the first things I do is set up rank tracking.
Doing this will allow you to easily monitor your website’s rankings among dozens or hundreds of keywords.
Tracking your rankings lets you know whether your efforts are paying off.
These are the tools I like for rank tracking:
- ahrefs (although you might have to pay extra if you want your rankings to be updated daily)
Claim Your Brand Name on as Many Social Networks as Possible
For reputation management reasons, not only do you want to make sure no one else gets your account name, but you can often own all the results on the first page of a search for your brand if you’re a new website or company.
You can use NameChk to help with that.
Set Up Alerts
This was already covered in the link building section, but we recommend setting up Google Alerts or ahrefs alerts for mentions of your brand and products.
This way, you can be the first to know when someone’s talking about your products and respond accordingly.
That's a high-level overview of how Shopify SEO works. Use these other digital marketing resources
Earn Your SEO Certification
ClickMinded is an SEO training course that teaches you exactly how to increase traffic to any website, as quickly as possible.
The course includes a final exam. Take the course, pass the final exam, and you’ll earn your SEO certification. It integrates seamlessly with LinkedIn.
ClickMinded certifications are designed to show future employers and clients that you understand how search engine optimization fundamentally works. We also have a digital marketing certification and a social media marketing certification.
Sidenote: we are very open about the fact that certifications don’t mean that someone is good at SEO (or digital marketing)—but some people still want them for various reasons, so we offer them.
Boost the Impact of Your SEO Efforts With Other Marketing Channels
SEO works best when combined with other channels.
You can check out the Clickminded SEO SOP toolkit to get step-by-step instructions for your SEO campaigns.
Some other SEO Checklists that you can check out are:
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