The Ultimate Shopify Users SEO Guidebook

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Shopify is hosted e-commerce platform that is used widely by thousands of retailers online. We are told that there are over 25,000 websites built on the Shopify platform, at the rate of 100 new shops a day!  Shopify is an ecommerce solutions made by designers, for designers. Because of this Shopify got the bad rap that it wasn’t an e-commerce SEO friendly platform when it first came out and for a number of years after. While that used to be the case, they have taken great strides to find a balance between being highly customizable yet not overly complicated from an SEO standpoint. The result has been  a blend of robust features yet ease of use. But as simple as Shopify has tried to make it, it still takes work to get your SEO efforts on Shopify just right, and above that to go beyond just the basics, to actually making your Shopify website a leader that brings in the bacon for years to come.

So like most people, you have setup a Shopify e-commerce website and are  waiting on the customers to come flying in. While that would be truly awesome, reality dictates that more is needed to help customers find your amazing products online. As you probably know, Google can play a large role in getting potential customers to your e-commerce website by sending search traffic related to your products to your site. Google does a pretty good job without any extra help in finding your content and making it findable, but it takes a bit more work to outpace your competition in the search results. We work with Shopify clients every day and decided that it would be useful to those who aren’t our clients to have an in depth guidebook on all things Shopify + SEO. This guidebook is a work in progress and will be regularly updated with more tips to succeeding using Shopify.

For realtime help with your Shopify SEO please join our Google Plus community and ask your questions.

Table of Contents:

 

Shopify SEO Basics

If you are new to SEO and need a crash course to get you up to speed with some of the techniques and suggestions in this guide then head over to SEOmoz and have a look at the Beginners Guide to SEO that they have created. That will get you ready to have an SEO throwdown on your website to teach it who is boss.

SEO is a learned practice. It takes a while to understand the big picture of how what you do on and off your site can dramatically improve how well your business fairs online. One of the most important things to remember when embarking on this journey is to never give up! Nothing good happens fast and the same is true of SEO on an e-commerce website. Just like the tortoise and the hare, Slow and steady wins the race. It helps to immerse yourself in the goings on of the SEO and internet marketing world by following some popular bloggers and resources. Below is a short list that can really provide you with valuable advice and motivation:

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Shopify SEO Features

Doing SEO on the Shopify platform is not much different than on any other platform. For what we call the on-page SEO you just need to know what to put in the proper places in the code of your page. Thankfully, Shopify has made this easy by providing a place in the backend to enter this information. Here is a list of features that Shopify has built in to help your on-page SEO.

  • Editable title tags on all pages/products
  • Editable URL’s on all pages/products
Editable Title Tag in Shopify
  • Editable ALT attribute on most images
Shopify Alt Attribute editor
  • Editable home page meta description
Shopify-Meta-Description-Editor
  • Built in .xml sitemap

If you have already upgraded to Shopify 2 you may notice that things look a little different on the product, collection, and blog pages in the SEO section. Below is an example of what you will see if you have chosen to upgrade. The fields for SEO are now at the bottom of the product page but perform the same functions. The one noteworthy addition is the option now to customize your own meta descriptions that show beneath your SEO title in Google search results. This is a much requested feature and it is nice to see that Shopify has listened to its users and added this. Although you may see a automatically populated description field, we highly recommend you craft your own custom meta description field that is appealing and motivates customers to click on your listing. You have to do this in around 160 characters so keep it fairly short.

Planning for SEO in Advance

One of the most common mistakes website owners make is spending a lot of time working with a designer while building out the look and feel of their new e-commerce website, but not giving any thought to SEO during this process. The result, a great looking site that will get little traffic. Yes, you could spend thousands of dollars on Google Adwords or other paid search options to drive traffic to your site. But unless you have deep pockets that will put you out of business before you get started. The other option is this; think longterm and really provide something useful to your potential customers by means of a great set of products, awesome customer service, meaningful content on your site, and an attention to common SEO techniques and your site will prosper.

“If you build it, they won’t come”, “If you build it, own it, love it, and always make it better – THEN they will come”!

So what are some important things to keep in mind when building a website on the Shopify platform?

Site Structure

Yes, this can be a complicated subject, but lets break it down and make it easy. Site structure/architecture can be likend to an architect planning to build a home. When you walk up a flight of stairs to get to the floor above, you are really glad that somebody planned for that staircase to actually attach to the floor above keeping you from falling flat on your face. Likewise, when you as a user visit a well planned and structured website, you are glad that you can get where you need to and find all the relevant information fast without getting frustrated and leaving the site, the equivalent of the website owners online business falling flat on its face due to poor planning.

Here in this picture is a pictorial representation of a good site structure for a Shopify e-commerce website:

optimal website structure

A pyramid structure for a website allows the most possible link juice to get to all the website’s pages with the fewest number of links.

Category & Product Pages

The top ball would be your homepage, the next three down your category pages, and the smaller ones below them would be the subcategory pages and finally the bottom row would be product pages. The important part of understanding this is that you can then can create URL’s (or have your web developer who is building out your Shopify site do it) that clearly indicate this simple yet powerful architecture to the user and search engines. For example:

Site Architecture URL’s
Category Sub-Category Product Pages
http://www.mystore.com/software/ http://www.mystore.com/software/adobe/ http://www.mystore.com/software/adobe/acrobat-pro/
http://www.mystore.com/electronics/ http://www.mystore.com/electronics/mp3-player/ http://www.mystore.com/electronics/mp3-player/ipod-nano/
http://www.mystore.com/computers/ http://www.mystore.com/computers/apple/ http://www.mystore.com/computers/apple/macbook-pro/

*Shopify requires that you use certain keywords in the URL to conform to their platforms requirements. For example – “Products” “Collections” etc will show in your URL. There is nothing you can do about that and doesn’t really cause any major SEO issues. You would simply continue with the naming convention for your URL’s shown above after the required shopify string. For example: http://www.mystore.com/products/software/adobe/acrobat-pro/.

Using a structure like this is powerful for a few reasons:

  1. It allows your site visitors find what they are looking for with a limited amount of clicking on the site.
  2. It allows the power of other sites linking to your homepage to pass smoothly throughout the rest of your sites categories and pages, thus improving their power to rank.
One example of a Shopify sites URL structure that is excellent can be found on the AngryBirds.com website. Do you see how they have setup their site structure from looking at their URL’s below? Not only can visitors quickly determine where they are on the website by looking at the URL bar, but each time the Angry Birds homepage gets a backlink from another website, that link juice can flow like electricity or water flows through wires and pipes to all the category pages, sub category pages, and product pages instead of flowing into a lop-sided website structure that keeps the linkjuice in a bottleneck and prevents the other awesome product pages from ranking in the search engines.

Angry Birds URL structure

Understanding site structure BEFORE building or designing your Shopify website is imperative, and it is always wise to get an SEO consultant that you trust involved before and during the buildout phase to make sure to get it right.

Plan to Write Unique Product Descriptions

If your website is going to be selling products from a manufacturer or other provide, chances are you are planning on just copying and pasting the product description from the manufacturers website onto yours. Bad idea… Here is why. All of your competitors selling the same products from the manufacturer are doing the same thing on their e-commerce websites. Therefore you are all competing for the same keywords with the same copy. Also, when was the last time that you were moved to buy a product from the boring and dry description on a manufacturers website. Your description is unique not only because it isn’t a copy of everyone else’s, it is unique in that it has your company’s flair for selling the product behind it. It has your Unique selling proposition in it. It has the power to motivate someone who sees your site in the search results decide to click your product page to see more. Then its power continues as it sells your product to the user using the power of persuasion.

It may take quite a bit of extra time to write unique product descriptions for all of your products, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of them, but it is worth it. Start slowly and like we talked about at the beginning, never give up!

The Benefits of Planning for SEO in Advance

The chart below shows the untold benefits of building in SEO from the start. It may be more expensive, time consuming, and technical but your competitors are doing it. Their efforts if they started sooner than you may already be paying off in the form of great rankings and even greater traffic to the site. How can you catch them without a strategy and hard core plan? Once you put that effort forth to build with SEO in mind and keep that momentum you too will break-even in that you will be making more money from your e-commerce website than you have put in. Then you begin the exciting road to a large return on investment for thinking longterm.

SEO ROI in the long term on Shopify explained

Chart showing the value of SEO over the longterm

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Sitemaps & Shopify

Shopify comes with XML sitemap functionality built in. A sitemap is a webpage that lists all of the various pages on your website in one easy to format that the search engines can use as a starting point when their web crawlers visit your Shopify site. Basically it is a cookie jar for the hungry Googlebot crawler who wants to find as many pages of content on the web as possible.

According to the Shopify knowledgebase, “All Shopify stores automatically generate a sitemap.xml file that contains all your products, pages, collections, and blog posts. The sitemap file is located at http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml. Because this sitemap file is referenced from your store’s robots.txt file, you do not need to manually submit it to Google and other search engines.” You will need access to your XML sitemap when you begin to submit your website to Google’s Webmaster Tools.

There is another type of sitemap called an HTML sitemap that helps both your users and the search engines find what they want on your site. Often times you will see websites with a link to this type of sitemap in the footer of their website. It provides a list of all the pages on the site in an easy to read format for users to quickly find the page they are looking for. It also has some search engine value as well. In Shopify you will have to create this file manually as a page on your site. You can use a tool like XML-Sitemaps.com to assist you with this, but you will have to place the resulting HTML code on your site manually.

After the sitemap creation is complete, look for the link that says, “Download HTML Sitemap”. Not the .XML one since Shopify creates that for you automatically

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Google Webmaster Tools & Shopify

Google Webmaster tools and for that matter even Bing Webmaster tools are important dashboards that the search engines provide to monitor the health and various search data for your site. It is also used to communicate site changes, submit sitemaps, and remove or add URL’s from or to your site.  Think of it as an answer to this question, “How Does Google view my site”? As an e-commerce site that depends on the search engines to send traffic to your site and thus money, you should be interested in how your site is viewed and provide as much info as possible to the engines to make it easier for them to index, crawl, and serve your pages in their results. The first thing you need to do to be able to access Google Webmaster Tools for your Shopify website is to verify that you own the site.

Verify Your Shopify Site on Google Webmaster Tools:

  • Head over to Google’s Webmaster Tools and login with your google account or create a new one. You should use the same account as your Google Merchant account if you plan on advertising on Google Product Search.
  • Find the “Add a Site” button and click it. Webmaster tools add to site button example
  • You will then be prompted to verify that you own the site and given two options, “recommended method” and “alternate methods”. Due to some restrictions that Shopify has you will need to use the “alternate methods” option to verify the site.

Webmaster Central - Verify ownership

  • Choose the “add a meta tag to your site’s home page” option, then copy the code provided so that we can add it into Shopify.
  • Next, login to your Shopify backend and click on “Themes -> Template Editor” to access the code behind your Shopify theme.
Shopify-Theme-Template-Editor
  • Next, paste the code that Google Webmaster Tools provided you into the theme.liquid file in the editor. You want to place is in the <head> section before the closing </head> tag as shown in the image below.

Shopify-Theme-Liquid-Editor

  • Once the code has been entered into Shopify, go back to your Google Webmaster Tools account and click “Verify Site”  Google-Webmaster-Tools-Verify-Button
If all goes well you will get a confirmation message letting you  know that the site has been verified and you are good to go.
FYI – If your Shopify storefront is password protected you will be unable to verify the site in Google Webmaster Tools.
Add a Shopify Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools: 
  • To add your Shopify sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools look for “Optimization -> Sitemaps” in the sidebar.

Webmaster-Tools- Sitemaps

  • Next, find the “Add/Test Sitemap” button and click it Google-Webmaster-Tools-Add-Test-Sitemap
  • Now enter your Shopify sitemap.xml file  into the box. Remember the URL will be like this: http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml where “www.example.com” is your website or shopify url.
  • Lastly, verify that there are no errors with your sitemap and you are done.
Other Important Google Webmaster Tools Features: 
As a Shopify site owner who is interested in his bottom line, there are a few other valuable resources inside of your Google Webmaster Tools account.
  • Health -> Crawl Errors: This section will show you any errors that are found by missing pages or other server related issues. Since Shopify’s servers are loked after by professionals you shouldn’t see too many problems in the server related section, but you will find any 404 error page messages here. It is important to look here for 404 errors every couple weeks and correct the issues. More about that in the Advanced SEO section of the guidebook.
  • Optimization -> HTML Improvements: This area will provide you with some simple areas for improvement with your title tags and meta descriptions.
  • Messages: Here you will find any messages Google sends to you about your website. Since these are often very important and need to be acted upon immediately, it is a good idea to have these forward to your email. You can select that option by clicking this link after your logged in: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/preferences.

Google Analytics & Shopify

It is vital as a website owner that you are able to track everything that visitors do on your website. What products are the most important to the majority of your users? Where is the traffic on your website coming from (Google, social media, comparison shopping engines, or directly from people typing your domain in their browser)? How much revenue are you making from each traffic source? What mobile device are people using when they visit your site? These are questions you should be asking yourself and the answers lie in Google Analytics. Yes, you could use any analytics tracking platform, but Google Analytics can provide Shopify users with a free and robust way to get rich details about their sites demographic.

There are two primary methods of setting up Google Analytics on a website. One is regular tracking. The other is e-commerce tracking. Since Shopify is an e-commerce hosting platform, we want the second one. By enabling e-commerce tracking on your site you will be able to associate revenue amounts with each visit in Google Analytics. This is very important and will benefit you greatly over the lifetime of your shop. Lets get started setting this up. Don’t worry, Shopify makes it easy.

  •  Head over to Google Analytics and create a new Google account or login with an existing one (it is two separate accounts we are setting up, one for Google itself like Gmail and the next is for Google Analytics).
  • In Analytics “create a new account” and fill in the appropriate information, agree to the terms and conditions and allow it to complete and send you to the “tracking code page”.
  • Copy the User Account code at the top of the page to your clipboard. The number shown in the image below:
Screenshot from Google Analytics showing you where to get the code for Shopify
  • Then login to your Shopify backend and look for “Preferences -> General Settings” in the admin dashboard on the top right as shown below.
General Settings under preferences in shopify backend
  • Next scroll down on this page until you get to the Google Analytics box near the bottom and paste your User Account (UA) number into the box and hit save.
Box to enter Google Analytics tracking code for Shopify
  • The last step now that you have added the proper code to shopify is to make sure Google Analytics has e-commerce tracking turned on. This is simple to do and can be found by going to your Google Analytics account you created, clicking on the top right “Admin” button, click on the “profile settings” tab, then look for the dropdown under “E-Commerce Settings” and say yes.
Turn on ecommerce tracking inside of Google Analytics new version for Shopify
Making this important addition to your website will allow you to get an amazing amount of data back on who purchased what and for how much. If you end up running any sort of Google Adwords campaign you can integrate the Google Analytics and Google Adwords accounts together and that revenue data becomes even more valuable since you can see how much you made in sales vs how much you spent in ad spend. Below is a great example of the kinds of data you get from Google Analytics when you turn on e-commerce tracking.
Google-Analytics-Ecomerce-View

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Migrating a Website to Shopify

Migrating a website from one platform/host to another can be one of the most nerve wracking events in the life of your online business. There are myriad’s of hidden dangers that are never fully anticipated until it is too late and something goes wrong. Since this guide focuses mainly on SEO we will try to look at a site migration from that standpoint and only focus on the dangers from a search engine perspective. Here are some very important things to do before moving your website to Shopify:

  • Make sure to have a list of all the current live pages of your website and their exact URL (this is case sensitive since a URL with capitalization and one without are treated as two separate URL’s by search engines).
    • You can use a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to crawl your old site before you migrate and get a URL list to work from. The free version will crawl up to 500 pages of a site.
    • The preferred method to get this list would be to already have access to Google Webmaster Tools on your old site and go into the “Traffic -> Links to Your Site -> Your Most Linked Content -> More” page and export the .csv that Google provides of the majority of your content sorted by which pages have the most links. That will come in handy when we have to handle the 301 redirects so we don’t lose search rankings during the migration.
  • Gather a list of all of the logins for your payment gateway, shipping carrier, 3rd party plugins you may use like live chat, review providers, etc.
  • Make sure you have working access to your domain registrar like Godaddy, Namecheap, Network Solutions, or whomever you use so you will be able to point your domain to Shopify when the site is ready to go live. For more on this you can check out Shopify’s DNS wiki.
Senario
Once you have your list of URL’s ready here comes the tedious work. Before we get into the how to, lets learn why what I am about to tell you is so important, and often neglected. Lets say your old site had 200 pages. Maybe 20 of these were really authoritative, useful pages to users, and had links from other sites pointed at them. Lets say that next to your homepage, the page found at URL: http://www.mystore.com/products/2879387/id2567 was your second most powerful page on the old website. On the new website you really want that URL to look better and make more sense to search engines and users so you have planned in advance to change that to: http://www.mystore.com/software/. If you don’t let the search engines know that you have renamed/moved that old page to the new one then they will simply get a 404 error each time they crawl the links on the web that point to that page and you will get no link juice passed to that new page. Years of good, natural backlinks could all be rendered useless in a site migration and your rankings can plummet! We don’t want that to happen, so here is how you fix that issue:
  • From your list of URL’s from Webmaster tools or Screaming Frog, start with the most valuable pages/URL’s from the old site  and determine what the new URL is that most closely represents the content the old URL had.
  • Next, open your Shopify backend and go to the “Navigation” tab.
Shopify's Navigation tab in the backend
  • Look at the very bottom of the page for the section called “URL Redirects“. This is where you will enter the old URL on top and the New URL on the bottom. Once you save this your old page from the past site will now redirect to the new page you entered. This is called a 301 redirect and for the search engines, it tells them to pass most of the link juice from the old page to the new page.
How to do a 301 redirect inside of the Shopify platform
  • You will need to do this manually for each and every URL you wish to redirect. This is a tedious and painstaking process but it is vital to the health and future progress of your new Shopify website. If there are any URL’s that don’t really have a good corresponding page on the new site you can simple 301 redirect them to the homepage by entering a “/” (without quotes) into the new path box in Shopify.
  • If your new site on Shopify is already live you should be able to test the 301 redirects to make sure they are working properly. Simply enter the old URL in your browser and hit enter and you should automatically be redirected like magic to the new URL you put in. If you are still setting up your Shopify store but haven’t pointed the domain to Shopify yet (you are still using the https://shopname.myshopify.com/ URL), the 301 redirects won’t work until you actually make the site live by pointing your domain to Shopify.
Anytime you change the URL structure of a site, you can expect to lose rankings in Google for a period of time. Usually this is 2 weeks or less, but can be up to 2 months! There are some methods to help get your site crawled faster that have to do with submitting old sitemaps to Google to get them to crawl the old pages and see the 301 redirects faster or using the Fetch as Googlebot feature in Google Webmaster Tools, but you may want to leave those to a professional to be safe.
If you want to be 100% sure that your pages are being 301 redirected properly you can use a tool like GSite Crawler to show you the http response code that is being returned.

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Did you find this guide helpful? Was there something missing that you would like us to add? Let us know in the comments! If you are still trying to decide whether to go with Shopify for your e-commerce store, we hope this guide helped you.

36 Responses to “The Ultimate Shopify Users SEO Guidebook”

  1. Alex Bakus May 16, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Hey Joshua!

    Love the absolute thorough review of Shopify’s SEO capability. Definitely looking forward to the Advanced SEO Posts.

    Kudos also for tying in Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics with your guide.

    Just some info to correct at first glance, as you can see by visiting the front page of Shopify’s website, we currently have 25,000+ customers at an approximate rate of 100 new real shops a day!

    Just thought I’d update you :-)

    Alex Bakus

    • Joshua Gill May 16, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Alex,

      Thanks very much for those updated stats. I think on the Experts landing page the figures are different and thats where I was pulling from. We hope to get the advanced section up very soon. Thanks again for your feedback on the post. We really enjoy working with our Shopify clients!

  2. Sam Naim May 16, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Very nice SEO guide for Shopify. I find it clear and capture several information that are scattered all over the web and puts them in one place while customizing them to fit Shopify sites.

    Great Job

  3. Michael Salvo May 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Wow–what a great all-encompassing guide to SEO on Shopify! This is gold Josh. Thanks for sharing.

    • Joshua Gill May 17, 2012 at 10:24 am #

      Thanks for your kind words Michael! If you can think of anything to add in the advanced sections let me know.

  4. corey May 26, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    What I dont understand is page structure.. and the contradiction to your guide:

    …From Shopify:

    Can I remove the /collections/ part from my collection URL?

    No, that part cannot be removed, nor renamed.

    • Joshua Gill June 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      Corey,

      Nice catch, I forgot to include that in the guide and just added a note about it. Your right, Shopify has some requirements for what they want in the URL. You can simply continue with the URL you would have built if they didn’t have this requirement right after what is created by Shopify by default. If you do it correctly it will still be a sufficiently short URL and be user and search engine friendly. Thanks for the tip!

  5. David June 1, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Great resume, you could also include how to Hide Yourself from Google Analytics….

    I’m having a trouble; I just set up my shopify theme for SEO like it says on ‘SEO for Theme Designers’ wiki. I verifyed url with google webmaster tools, I fixed sitemap on google, I put down the storefornt password 3 days ago and on Google searching; title tag and meta description still appears like it was with the storefront activated.
    I don’t know what to do.
    Please some help.
    thanks in advance.
    David

    • Joshua Gill June 4, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      David,

      Sometimes it takes Google a good week or two to index your site after you make changes and then update the meta information in the search results. I just checked and it appears that they have since done that and your meta description is showing now. Your title is still not the one you selected, but in some case Google will show a title of their choice. I think this will resolve itself after another week or so. It wouldn’t hurt to go in your webmaster tools account and use the “fetch as googlebot” feature to submit your homepage URL to Google’s index directly. It could speed things up a bit. Thanks.

      P.S. To block yourself from Google completely you just need to leave the password on the storefront and they can’t get passed that to crawl the site.

  6. Sean Smith June 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Hey Joshua,

    I really enjoyed this guide and it had some great points. There was one thing that I had hoped to garner some knowledge from in this overview that was missing however. How do you change a site’s homepage title tag? As well as this how do you implement META descriptions for all pages (including *and mainly* product pages), I know how to implement product descriptions however these show up on page and I want to have separate information with tagline’s discussed in the meta.

    Thanks!

  7. Kris Cannon July 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Exellent Seo guide for shopify, a good one stop article that really helped me fine tune my site, really appreciate the info.

  8. elyssa r. September 13, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi Josh,

    Thanks for such an in depth look at SEO for Shopify. I also appreciated the last segment about migrating your site to Shopify. What if you start on Shopify and then migrate your website to another hosting solution, would there be significant damage to your SEO?

    • Josh Gill September 13, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Elyssa,

      Thanks for visiting and I am glad the guidebook was helpful. To answer your question, there wouldn’t be significant damage to your site moving to or from any platform as long as it is migrated correctly. It is very important to document all the products and their URL’s from the old site and make sure to do proper 301 redirects to the new pages on the new site. This will preserve both the links that were going to the old sites/hosting platform and also provide a seamless user experience for visitors looking for the old pages. It typically isn’t possible to move from Shopify to another platform and keep the same URL structure since Shopify adds certain folders to their website structure (/product, /collection, /page). Good planning and using a program like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to have a detailed list of all the ULR’s on your old site will make the migration that much easier. Hope this helps. If you need more help just let me know at my email josh@inboundauthority.com

  9. Alex December 2, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Thanks Josh. I am a developer for an app in Shopify’s App Store called Traffic Control. It helps users create bulk redirects for their shop. It’s especially useful for people who moved from another shopping cart. I really don’t mean to shamelessly plug my app, it just seemed to really relate to the post. Hope it’s OK!

    • Josh Gill December 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      Alex,

      It is funny cause I am sitting here doing 301 redirects on a site right now. Will check your app out. Wish you all the best.

      • Alex January 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

        Josh,

        I know how you feel, haha…that’s why I came up with the app. Thank you – I appreciate that!

  10. Xochitl January 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    I am delighted to find this article.I am just in the process of launching my very first online store with Shopify and your information is invaluable.Many Thanks for great advice.

  11. Guy Hoogewerf (@NCompass) March 8, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Hi wondering if I can control Meta Description Tags? Frankly Shopify does not seem to be very SEO friendly, and if planning with SEO in mind from the start then Shopify would not do well in my shortlist of potential solutions.

    it’s really the lack of flexibility and control that worries me. This article just explains what it ‘can do’ – what about all the stuff it should be doing?

    • Joshua Gill March 10, 2013 at 3:55 am #

      Guy,

      Thanks for the comment. If you need to update meta descriptions, Shopify usually takes this info from the introductory sentence or two of the product details or page content. If you want more control over this as many obviously would a good app to control this is: http://apps.shopify.com/meta-tagger. Hope that helps. Shopify doesn’t do everything SEO wise with its core product but there are apps to allow most of the other functionality. Other things like controlling the robots.txt file can’t be done so it does have ome limitations but many positives as well.

  12. Tom March 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    Thanks Joshua, great post! I’ve been wondering about the Analytics and Webmaster tools, glad someone else has written about this to save me time! Just out of interest, if I buy a URL for my site and then add the address and verify it in the CMS will it 301 redirect from my URL to Shopifys or from the Shopify URL to mine? If so is there any real need for me to buy a custom URL when I could just use Shopifys? How much would this effect me in terms of crawlability? Thanks, Tom

    • Joshua Gill March 19, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

      Tom,

      Great question. In the above mentioned senario if you follow Shopify’s instructions for setting up your own domain name then what will happen is when people type in or follow a link to your domain (not the shopify url) it will show your Shopify site the same as if you used the storename.myshopify.com url. It is much much better to buy a domain and set it up inside of Shopify than to just use the standard Shopify url that was provided when you setup your store with them. It has less to do with the crawlability of the site as it does the branding and linking of the site. For instance, if you setup the store funwidgets, Shopify would give you a url of funwidgets.myshopify.com. Your store would work just fine, but if in a couple years you decided to move away from Shopify, all the links and branding you had done to that funwidgets.myshopify.com url would be lost when you canceled your account. However, if you bought the funwidgets.com domain and set it up to work with Shopfiy then when you left or decided to do something else you could just redirect that domain to a new host/cms. That is just one thing to consider. That doesn’t include the branding issues as well. You probably don’t want funwidgets.myshopify.com on your business cards and other collateral. Your email is also an issue. an info@funwidgets.com email address would be impossible to create on the funwidgets.myshopify.com url. I hope this answers your question and thanks for asking!

      • Brad June 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

        Hey Joshua, I agree with comments … great article tx!!

        Re comment above I a have 2 question …

        1. If I buy a domain myTrademarkANDrelatedGenericKeyword.com , then point it to my myTrademark.myshopify.com – i.t.o. pure SEO is is better to have a matching myshopify name i.e. myTrademarkANDrelatedGenericKeyword.myshopify.com ?
        (I’d setup Shopify before buying that domain).
        From your above comment it seems that the name in ‘name.shopify.com’ is irrelevant if you are pointing to it from your own domain?

        2. Also do you think my new domain name is theoretically a good strategy … does it increase my likelihood of getting more hits from buyers who did not know of my brand?

        Many thanks, Brad.

        • Joshua Gill June 4, 2013 at 3:44 am #

          Brad,

          Thanks for stopping by and reading the guidebook. As far as your questions here are my answers:

          1.) There is no SEO value or any other value that I can think about to have a matching yoursite.myshopify and yoursite.com. It certainly makes sense that you would use your company name as the myshopify url and if you can get the same company name in a domain form then naturally these both would match. It is irrelevant for SEO purposes as your domain will ultimately be the location on the web that is getting all the traffic, links, and conversions. You could take that domain and point it to anther ecommerce platform hosted somewhere else and still retain most of the SEO value you have built up. So no need to worry there.

          2.) Domain name choosing is an often disputed topic. My recommendation is to get something that is easy to remember and type. If it has a short keyword that is related to your industry (i.e. buycheapsoftware.com or fraiserselectronics.com then that is great, but there is no need to get some long domain that no one will ever remember just to have a keyword in it. Google can figure out who you are and send the appropriate traffic if your doing your other SEO stuff correctly.

          Hope that helps!

  13. James May 25, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    You’re a real diamond geezer Joshua, thanks for this comprehensive overview of Shopify’s SEO feature. Truth be told, we were on the fence due to Shopify’s bad rep for SEO, this swayed me. I definitely know which company to call if we ever need any SEO work carried out in the near future. :-)

    • Joshua Gill May 26, 2013 at 2:17 am #

      James,

      I am glad my Shopify SEO Guide helped you out. Shopify really has come along way with SEO. Many of our clients sites have pages ranking #1 for good keywords so it is certainly possible to do very well on SEO with Shopify. All the best to you and your new Shopify store, and glad to help if you ever need it.

  14. Lee June 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Great guide. Can you let me know which Shopify sites or keywords are ranking #1?

    Thanks

    • Joshua Gill June 10, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

      Lee,

      One example I can give you is a website called Growers Trust. They rank very well for Keywords like:

      Spider Mite Killer
      Powdery Mildew Killer
      Spider Mites Treatment
      Spider Mite Control

      Thanks again for reading the post.

  15. Amel Ryan July 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    Thanks for a very interesting article Joshua and your generosity in sharing your knowledge. You confirmed for me that I’ve pretty much done all the on-page SEO that I can through Shopify. However, I suspect the next stage is going to be considerably more complex and time consuming. I’m very much looking forward to your next posts and hopefully you will continue to make your explanations ‘newbie proof’. This is crucial information for small operators just starting out. We cannot afford to hire experts such as yourself, so simple, easy to follow and implement info is a god send. Thanks again.

  16. Judy January 23, 2014 at 5:53 am #

    How does Shopify resolve the issue of a 301 redirect from http://www.example.com to http://example.com? Or does it not matter since we submit the sitemap? Thank you.

    • Joshua Gill January 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

      Judy,

      There are two ways. For regular urls that need to be redirected you can use the “redirects” section under the “navigation” option in your admin. That would work if you were just trying to 301 redirect a single webpage to another url on the site that it was changing to so you don’t get a 404 error. However in your example given you are talking about redirecting the root of a site. This is done using the “settings -> Domain” option in Shopify to setup either the www. version or the non www. version as your sites main URL and then you can use your domain registrar to forward the other version to the one you chose to set as the main one in shopify. Here is a link to how to do it for many of the popular domain registrars. http://docs.shopify.com/manual/settings/domains/instructions-popular-domains. Hope that helps Judy! Thanks for reading.

  17. Adam from PHNX Boards February 5, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    Thanks for the great info! I figured out a lot of it myself, but the tips on Google Webmaster Tools really help. I am bummed that we can’t change the URL structure to remove the /collections/ and /products/ – are you sure it has little to no impact on SEO? In my experience having a clean URL is pretty important, although recent SEO articles suggest user-friendliness is the most privileged aspect of a site so having a user-oriented URL structure may be okay. Thoughts?

    • Joshua Gill February 5, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

      Adam,

      I know it is a bit frustrating that we can’t have complete control over our sites URL’s on Shopify. It really shouldn’t make a big difference at all. It isn’t a bad URL just not 100% optimized and there are some pretty rough URL’s that rank very well. It is not something I would be concerned with. Thanks for commenting.

  18. jasper February 22, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    Great article

    Its good to see something thats specifically tailored to
    us Ecommerce store owners.

    Just a quick question. I am setting up a .ca and a .net
    version of my site due to different shipping and transaction
    issues. With respect to SEO, I will have a blog on my
    .net site (USA). Will there be issues in putting the same
    blog on my .ca site? Shoify says no but i’d love to hear
    what you have to say about this.

    Thanks Joshua

    • Joshua Gill February 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Jasper,

      Yes, this would be an issue not for Shopify, but with Google. Google will view the blog as duplicate content since you have it on the .net site and the .ca site. one way around this is to use the cross domain rel=cannonical which you can find out more about here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1716747?hl=en

      Best option would be to have different blog content on both sites so it isn’t duplicate, or consolidate everything into one site and optimize it to do well in both USA and Canada. Hope that helps and thanks for reading!

  19. Alex June 12, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    Hey, first off this article is a great read!

    Does it still work after all the google updates?

    • Joshua Gill June 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

      Yes, the spirit behind good technical SEO has not changed with Google’s recent algorithm changes. Your trying to make your pages as understandable to users as you are to Google. Thanks for reading.

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