Shopify is a great out-of-the-box platform for new store owners. It also works pretty well for basic SEO. Site speed is rarely an issue, sites are https-enabled and have good backend organisation through Collections and Pages. There's always room for improvement, though.
After conducting almost 90 Shopify website SEO audits over the past three days, we've found patterns in what most shop owners could do to improve their website's rankings and overall SEO. Nothing beats having a dedicated SEO agency looking after you but if you want to do some DIY marketing, here's where we'd suggest starting.
1) Getting Backlinks
Over 70% of Shopify store owners from our audit had fewer than 50 links from other sites pointing to their own. The simplest way to think about SEO is onsite (what you can do on your own website) plus offsite (links and mentions of your site and brand back to your store.)
Without these links, Google doesn't think anyone cares about you. Exactly 50% of stores we looked at had under 5 links total. You should be adding your link to social profiles like Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. You can add links in Youtube video descriptions and your Youtube profile. Sign up for a few local (high quality) directories. If you do just a little bit of research on link building in 2018 you can go much further than 5 referring backlinks.
At the top of the audits, three sites had over 1000 links and most of them were pretty high quality. Those sites are, not surpringly, the best overall for SEO and have the most ranking keywords. Follow their lead and take control of a large percentage of your SEO ranking.
See: How to Build Natural Links in 2018
2) Fix Page Titles
The issues store owners had with their Shopify page titles varied. Some were too long, others too short, and many just duplicated on other pages of the website.
Let's establish some groundrules here: SEO friendly page titles should be 50-70 characters long and include the keywords you want to rank for. Your title should be readable. A pipe symbol like this: | means "or" in a title. So if you say "Baskets | Wicker | Australia" you won't rank for "Wicker baskets Australia" because Google reads it as this page is about baskets OR wicker OR Australia ... not all 3. Try "Handmade Wicker Baskets in Australia | Homemade Wicker Products"
With duplicates, the issue is confusing Google. Do you want me to rank your /baskets/ page on Page 1? Or your /wicker/ page? If they have the same title, Google may not know and will choose whichever it deems appropriate. In some cases, we've seen rankings bounce between 2 or 3 pages repeatedly, never solidifying on higher pages, just bouncing around lower ones.
So keep your page titles unique, keyword-friendly and 50-70 characters long.
3) Homepage Titles & Branding
Many business owners put their brand as their homepage title. "WickerRUs" That's a very poor quality SEO title.
Many Shopify store owners also have the brand in every title on the website. That's not a terrible idea but keep in mind if your brand includes keywords or is excessively long you may be competing with yourself on every page. You don't want your titles to be:
- Wicker Baskets | Wicker Basket Company Australia
- Brown Baskets | Wicker Basket Company Australia
- About the Wicker Basket Company Australia | Wicker Basket Company Australia
Which page would you like Google to rank for "wicker basket" in the above scenario? See how it gets super confusing sometimes?
This is an example from one of our audits. Which page should Google rank for "planter"?
One way to see what your current titles are is to download the free version of a program called Screaming Frog. You simply install, add your website in, and it will give you up to 500 results for your pages. In fact, we used Screaming Frog to complete a solid portion of this audit.
4) Too Little Homepage Content
We need to be clear on this: just because you have 12 products, 4 image boxes and a slider does not mean you have homepage content. Not in the way we're talking about it. Content, in this case, is the text Google can find on your page. Most people don't think about it this way but Google can't find what isn't on your page. Many people want to rank for words that simply don't exist on their website because of a concept or idea. Google is getting better at seeing those things but it's much, much better to include the words in the page copy.
Homepage content doesn't have to be at the top, doesn't have to be full of keywords and doesn't have to read like an SEO birthday card.
The content you write should attract users and be written for a person not a search engine, but it is appropriate to include the right words, phrases and topics that people will search for. For one audit, Home Simplicity, they have a bit of this type of good content under "What We Do" at the bottom of their page so check that out. (Also, they only had two backlinks. Now they have three. See, easy!)
Read More: Stay Safe from Google's Broad Core Algorithm Updates
5) Meta Description Problems
Similar to the title issues described above, your meta description shouldn't be too long, too short, full of keyword spam or non-existent yet we found all these problems across many of the sites.
A great meta description is a short sales pitch between 200 and 320 characters long that gets the potential buyer interested when they find you on Google. Which of these would you click on first?
"Choose from our delicious menu, delivered hot & fresh"
"pizza party hire, wedding catering"
That's a no-brainer for most customers. When you're Googling pizza, what do you generally want? Hot, fresh, tasty pizza delivered to your door.
6) Thin Website - Little Content
Yes, summer is approaching and yes, most of us want those fit, beach bodies ... but it's time to fatten up your websites. Thin content can mean a page that doesn't add a lot of value to your site or the Internet as a whole. A thin website is a site with very little information or indexed pages. We found many Shopify stores don't have more than 100 indexed pages and quite a lot had under 50. Five sites had under 10 pages in Google's index.
So first, how do you find the information? Go to Google and replace this domain with yours:
Gameology was the hardest site to do the SEO audit on. John's site has over 29,000 indexed pages, 1500 referring links back, a well-written homepage title, and clickable meta description. If you do a little research, you will also see that it ranks for tens of thousands of keywords and we would guess is doing very well overall. Where can Gameology improve? Everyone could use more content marketing. The blog is very thin and with easy-to-write content in his niche should be a high priority. Product content should also be made much more unique as to not compete with all other sellers.
Google may even penalise your website with a manual action if the content on a particular page is low quality, cookie-cutter or doesn't add much value as a whole.
No matter how many pages you have indexed, go write more. You can never have enough content for the hungry Google monster. Feed it and keep feeding it. A content audit would help you figure out where you should be focusing your efforts for the most return. What keyword volume are you completely missing out on and where are the "easy wins" for your content?
7) Duplicate Product Content
This is the bane of shop owners everywhere and Shopify sites are no different.
When you add products to your site, where do you get the information, description and product features? From another website, usually. Then you copy it onto yours and someone copies yours onto theirs ... and so on.
The best way to stand out in Google is to stand out, period. Do something just like everyone else and you'll never get noticed. If you write your own unique content Google won't be confused which of you should rank.
We mentioned Gameology has this problem, above. Let's take a look: https://www.google.com.au/search?q="The+battle+for+Sacaellum+reaches+its+climax+with+The+Final+Gambit"&oq="The+battle+for+Sacaellum+reaches+its+climax+with+The+Final+Gambit"&aqs=chrome..69i57.885j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
This is a line taken directly from a product on Gameology's homepage. It shows up on over 200 other websites like Walmart, Amazon and eBay. Gameology doesn't rank (from our office) on page 1 for "WARHAMMER 40000 CONQUEST" but should. Unique content would almost definitely push this page over the line.
We found a lot of the same issues on many sites. Our recommendations were tailored around everyone individually but in a lot of cases filling out what they needed was simply a case of cut, paste, edit because common issues arose frequently. If you can work on your on page and off page SEO you will drastically improve your overall results.
Not happy with your rankings? Marketing can be a lot of work and you can, of course, contact us to see what we can do to help.
If this post helped you, consider linking back to it or sharing it on social media so other people can benefit. We do these group audits to help but they do take quite a bit of time and effort. We'll do our best to keep them coming!