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What is Shopify and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Shopify is a complete online sales platform that is accessible to most people. For a very reasonable monthly fee, you can create and develop an online store, with a real inventory management, merchandising and shipping system. Shopify is particularly appreciated for the ease of use of its interface which allows you to start your business very quickly. Shopify is an excellent solution for many e-merchants, but it is not perfect. Like many CMS (content management systems), it has advantages but also disadvantages that you should know before launching your store.

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The benefits of Shopify

Shopify is by far the easiest solution to use. It was specifically designed for novices. Adding products, setting up promotions or processing orders is a breeze. Newer versions even allow you to use drag and drop, an added ergonomic that saves considerable time. Shopify is also attractive because of its low installation cost (on average about 30 euros per month for the basic package). Of course, this cost can increase if you decide to install themes. Themes are one of the many advantages of Shopify. Responsive and adapted to mobile browsing, they offer a very efficient user experience. Shopify is also an ideal platform to start dropshipping, a method of selling that consists in not holding stocks and entrusting the shipping of the order directly to the supplier. This method is on the rise and Shopify has understood this well with for example Ordoro and Oberlo which greatly simplify the life of dropshippers. Finally, Shopify offers customer and technical support at any time of the day by phone, chat or email, which is not the case with all CMS.

The disadvantages of Shopify

Shopify has some limitations in terms of functionality. The platform is indeed set up with almost all the features that small merchants need to create an online store. But e-merchants who need advanced features to meet specific needs, quickly find themselves at a loss. They are then forced to buy add-ons (also called extensions, plugins or modules). These add-ons can be expensive and considerably increase the cost of running your online store. Finally, like most CMS, if some SEO basics are incorporated in Shopify online store templates, some are still missing despite updates. It is therefore necessary to optimize your store to make it fully Google Friendly.

How to optimize a Shopify store for search engine optimization?

Optimize the structure of the Shopify website

The way your content is organized on your page is key to your SEO success. Your potential customers need to be able to find what they are looking for quickly, and so do search engine spiders. For this, there is only one word of order: simplicity! Don't go too deep within categories and subcategories. A shallow structure makes navigation easier and has a much better chance of ranking. Remember, your site should be built for customers first.

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For example, your tree structure might look like this:

Homepage > Category pages > Product pages

Home > Category pages > Subcategory pages > Product pages

To further improve navigation, you should add a search bar. This will not directly help your site’s SEO, but it will allow you to keep the traffic you have acquired.

Improve the user experience

User experience (UX) has become a major issue in SEO. For this, you can act on several levers.

Increase the loading speed

The page loading time is a simple question of accessibility. A site that is fast and offers smooth navigation will satisfy users and robots.

To make your Shopify store faster, you can for example use a theme optimized for this purpose, compress your images, remove all the extensions you do not use, etc.

Use a responsive design theme

Responsive design means that your Shopify store will look great on any device, including desktops, tablets and smartphones. It contributes significantly to the improvement of the UX and sends a positive signal to Google that it can boost its ranking in the SERPs (= search results). A fast site with an optimal display will also play on your conversion and bounce rates. Navigation and loading speed on cell phones have become an essential criterion because consumers are buying more and more with their smartphones.

Search for the right target keywords

Shopify does not allow you to directly access the most relevant keywords for your site. However, they determine your rankings and your performance. To find good keywords, the first step is to use your business expertise and put it to use on a keyword research tool, such as Google Ads' Keywords Planner or Ahrefs.

You can also find other sources of inspiration like:

Forums related to your products.
Social media hashtags related to your products.
Examining the titles, meta descriptions and alt-text images used on competitors' sites.

Optimize strategic pages

Once your product listings are well established, the next step is to optimize your store pages using your keywords. The pages that generally have the most potential in terms of natural traffic are those located closest to the homepage (and obviously the homepage itself).

How to optimize the title tags of your category pages?

Once you have prioritized the pages to be optimized, you should focus on the most important element: the title tag. You must use your keywords consistently and in order of importance. For example:

- Specialized store for the XXX - Store name

If the title has a limited number of characters in the display, you can actually exceed it, the robots will still read it. Just make sure the title is not truncated in the wrong place with a SERP simulator.

How to optimize the title and meta description of products

Now you need to focus on category and product optimization. Many sites tend to automate this task or copy from the competition. This is a big mistake! In terms of SEO, standing out from competitors in a smart way is a strategy that pays off. The alt attribute for images should also be optimized for SEO, but it should remain natural and not over-optimized.

Use the best Shopify SEO applications and techniques

Optimizing a Shopify store depends on many criteria: content quality, accessibility, speed, internal linking, popularity ... These are often time-consuming optimizations. Fortunately, there are plugins and techniques to significantly improve the SEO of your site and make it visible on search engines.

Plug in SEO

This multilingual application, constantly updated, is a mini SEO consultant! It automatically checks your store and notifies you of any problems by email. It also helps you highlight SEO problems on your site that are worth solving. This saves you a lot of time and allows you to get to the point. Plug in SEO provides automatic and regular checking of page titles and headers, meta descriptions, speed, content, article structure.

Smart SEO

Smart SEO makes it easy to set up the most relevant meta tags: title tag, alt (for images) etc. In addition, the application transmits information from your store to search engines using structured data in JSON-LD format. This structured data gives the robots other information about the content of your page, which can be included directly in the search results (stock status, ratings ...).

SEO Image Optimizer

Images are essential to any business, but they are also very regularly the biggest source of problems in terms of SEO. Often heavy and poorly optimized, they can even be penalized. This module allows you to optimize them quickly and easily even if you have no notion in coding.

Yoast

Yoast SEO is available on several CMS including Shopify. This plugin is a valuable optimization aid for keywords, key phrases, synonyms, related keywords and all their derivatives. It allows you to be understood by search engines by also adding Schema.org data (structured data). Yoast SEO also intervenes on the freshness of your content by alerting you when pages have not been updated for six months. This is a non-exhaustive list of features that makes Yoast SEO an indispensable tool for optimizing your Shopify store.

SEMRush

SEMRush helps you find underutilized keywords that you can use to increase traffic and conversions. It is an SEO tool that also helps you track your competitors' keyword strategy. It can also perform an SEO audit of your site or blog and search for backlink opportunities and much more.

Netlinking

Netlinking is not a tool or a platform. It is an SEO lever that it is important to activate to propel your store to the first page of Google. To do this, several solutions are available to you. You can undertake the netlinking yourself, but be aware that without knowledge, you can put your site at great risk. In this case, you should rather entrust your linking strategy to a specialized agency, such as SEMJuice, or set up your campaign on a platform such as netlinking.fr, which has "safeguards" to prevent you from making mistakes.

Also, social media can help improve your link profile. Collaborating with influencers is one of the best ways to promote your store and get natural links. For this, prefer people with an active community and whose page is close to your theme.

Conclusion

Shopify is therefore a CMS particularly suited to small stores and/or sites that do not have very specific needs. It allows you to discover step by step the world of e-commerce and has many add-ons to take your site further. However, it is important to keep in mind that optimizing your online store is a daily task. You will have to use the data from your customers' visits and your knowledge of the market in order to continue to improve your store. While the choice of CMS is very important, don't forget to take ownership of your own site's success! Learn everything you can about Shopify, web marketing, and e-commerce in general so you can make informed decisions.

   Article written by Louis Chevant