The Expert Guide to Shopify SEO: Over 101 Shopify SEO Tips

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Your store leaks sales if it does not appear at the top of Google when someone searches your products, the brand names you sell, or problems that your products solve. Google in a retail study found 75% of people turn to search engines to learn about products. Search engines are used more in online purchases than any other source like social networks, apps, or deal sites.

The expert guide (you can jump to below) is a step-by-step method to setup, review, and run a rock-star SEO campaign that grows your sales in Google search. I have used it on the sites of billion dollar companies. I use it for my Shopify SEO clients. Shopify recommended it to all store owners.

Audit your Shopify’s SEO by following the guide every six months, when you notice a drop in organic visitors, or when you are unsure of what to do next to get more buyers from search at no cost. If a freelancer or agency works on your SEO, use the checklist to review their work. (Tip: 90% of web agencies who show off their design portfolio and say they do web marketing only know the basics of SEO. You will find problems.) The audit is a map to check your store is on the path to growth.

How Your Position in Google Impacts Sales

Let’s say your store ranks number two for “womens oversize shirts”. Advanced Web Ranking’s click-through rate analysis of search results estimates you receive 15.54% of traffic for that search query:

Google organic search ctr

Here is a tabular breakdown of the exact figures for your calculations:

123456-102nd page3rd page +
CTR %32.9415.5410.047.125.523.64.311.29

If you receive 400 visitors a month in second position, first position will see your store receive 848 visitors. That is double the results from one improvement in position.

Now translate this increase of visitors into sales. Review the performance of organic search in the acquisition section of your Google Analytics. In our example below of an SEO client, organic traffic converts at 1.31% and each session is worth $1.34 (=278243/207491):

Organic search revenue from SEO

SEO can be calculated. The extra 448 visitors should see an increase of $587 (1.31*448) in sales.

One ranking improvement for one search term is rare. Subsequent improvements for similar searches like “womens oversize dress shirt” often happen. All pages often follow in ranking higher for their optimized search terms. Rand Fiskin describes the outcome as a “rising tide that lifts all boats”.

A ten-degree adjustment can deviate a large store to unseen profit by next year. Each page, collection, product, and blog post opens a new chance to get traffic from Google.

What Growth Can You Expect?

If you weigh as much as a small car, your health has enormous room to improve. If your Shopify has poor SEO, you have more space for growth. Should the audit show poor SEO health, you are more likely to grow from SEO than another store who passes 90% of the audit.

A second factor of rapid SEO growth involves content, or the quality and quantity of pages. Each good piece of content is a ranking opportunity. A store with 1000 SKUs has more potential to benefit from SEO, generally speaking, than a store with 1 product.

Another piece of content that performs really well for stores – that anyone can use – is articles. I think of SEO-worthy articles as detailed guides. Standard blog posts rarely see the light of top search results. If you produce a guide better than anything else online about the topic (like this Shopify SEO tutorial), you have further potential to grow from SEO.

SEO is viewed by startup stores as a cheap, bootstrap way to grow a store. It can be, but not if you are a one-man show with a few drop-ship products. I’m not here to bullshit you with false hopes. You will not dominate Google with a few keyword-optimizations or links that come from 10 hours of work. Investing 100 of your hours in a campaign doing the important things is not cheap. Missing sales from poor SEO is not cheap.

Is Shopify SEO Friendly?

I am a Shopify Marketing Expert with 9 years SEO experience across many platforms like WordPress, Joomla, SilverStripe, and Magento. I get asked a lot if Shopify is good for SEO.

Yes, Shopify is great for SEO. Shopify will not limit your performance in Google; performance will be limited by your ability to follow the SEO tips and best practice optimizations in the guide.

Shopify automatically handles the following SEO best practices that can be ignored in the audit:

The sitemap file helps all key pages on your store get discovered by Google. If Google does not know a page exists, the search engine cannot suggest the page in its search results. You do not generate or customize the file because Shopify handles it for you. Review the file at:

yourstore.com/sitemap.xml

The file controls how Google crawls a website. You do not generate or customize the file because Shopify handles it for you. The robots.txt file blocks Google from unnecessary page crawls like /account/register and /cart, blocks Google from most duplicate content in collections where filters create new pages with the plus symbol, and follows the best practice of including the sitemap.xml. Review the file at yourstore.com/robots.txt to see all its rules.

A dynamic parameter follows the question mark character you sometimes see in a web address. A new dynamic variable follows the ampersand character. Here is a URL from Amazon with 6 dynamic variables:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K26FZ9I/ref=s9_nwrsa_gw_g318_i7/176-8431216-7215947?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=1F6Y6K15R64A28QCBHA5&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2079480262&pf_rd_i=desktop

URL parameters can wreck havoc on SEO because:

  1. The user is unsure of what the page is about.
  2. Dynamic parameters slightly, if ever, change the content of a page. Google wants to serve unique content and is not perfect at indexing a query string page when it differs little from its query-string-free version. They developed a tool especially to handle URL parameters.
  3. Search engineers confirm Google often ignore three or more dynamic parameters.

Most Shopify stores do not use dynamic parameters in the URL. I’ve yet to see any SEO issues with parameters on the platform.

Store speed affects SEO. Many factors play into the speed of a store. A fast server does not guarantee a fast site, but you cannot have a fast site without a fast server.

Shopify is a managed hosting solution with top-notch CDN servers and unlimited bandwidth. Most of my clients see server response speeds reported in analytics of 0.30 seconds. You don’t have to worry about the time, problems, and costs that come with hosting your site. Andrew Youderian loves the reduction in tech problems as revealed in his case study of migrating to Shopify.

Out-of-date software can lead to a hacked store. All it takes is one plugin to render a whole site vulnerable.

I saw many WordPress sites hacked before working only on the Shopify platform. The hacks injected links pointing to drug sites and cloaked them so Google, not the user, would see the links. Google detects the illicit behavior then punishes the hacked site with reduced or non-existent organic traffic. One site took three months to recover from a Google penalty. I’ve heard some sites never recover.

I am no security expert and know Shopify is not perfectly secure – you cannot say any web technology is 100% safe for life. Shopify take security seriously and reward coders thousands of dollars every month to identify security risks.

“You’ve got to have some issues with Shopify?”

And I do. What are my biggest annoyances with Shopify from an SEO perspective?

Two revolve around the blog platform. The unavoidable, multiple blog folder structure of /blogs/blog-name is undesirable. You should have the option to alter folder structure (of everything) to slightly boost authority of the content and improve its URL appearance. Then there’s the infamous blog id that gets prepended in the URL of every post. That is senseless development.

Shopify use their platform, or at least parts of the Shopify software, for all their blogs so an improved blogging platform can be done. Anything can be done. Message Shopify support and share that you want these two behaviors of blogging changed.

Update: the blog ids have been removed from blog post URLs!

How to Use the Expert Guide for a Shopify SEO Audit

Work from top-to-bottom making note of what needs improvement. Use your notes to create an SEO action plan of what needs further analysis, tweaks, or an immediate overhaul.

If you could only audit a few sections, I recommend the health check, content, and value analysis. These have the greatest affect on SEO.

The owners of two Shopify stores happily offered to let me use them as examples in the guide. The first one is thehangoverhero.com run by Phill. The second is brickellmensproducts.com run by Josh and Matt. I swap between them throughout the SEO analysis where one better illustrates a point. Thanks guys.

If you want to save yourself time by having an Shopify SEO expert layout a clear step-by-step plan for organic search growth, I can do a full analysis then provide a clear report for you. Get my Shopify SEO audit service.

Let’s begin the audit:

The Digital Darts Shopify SEO Audit

1. Health Check: Good SEO begins with a check of your store’s SEO performance to identify critical blood loss.

2. Site Architecture: Looks at how the store is structured to maximize the number of visitors from SEO.

3. Accessibility: Checks if the site is accessible to Google, social media platforms, and people with disabilities to the degree it influences SEO.

4. Usability: A usable website is one the visitor can comfortably interact with to accomplish their desired goal. Usability focuses on the common person’s experience on common equipment.

5. Content: Content is king. Learn what makes good content for an online store and how your store measures up.

6. Links: Links in the eyes of search engines are like votes. A store with more quality votes has a greater chance at improved ranking. Not all links are equal so a link audit is important.

7. Value: SEO is a short-term game if the store does not help people. Value can be measured and built into a store to improve SEO and competitive position.

Download the SEO Checklist: I’ve turned the full guide into a free PDF download.

Get Shopify SEO Help: Attract more visitors and sales from SEO.

Health Check

A good doctor works on a health problem after an analysis. The doctor might look at the problematic area or order a blood report.

Good SEO begins with a check of your store’s SEO performance. It lets you set a benchmark for performance and identify major health problems. The best surgical operation is useless – even harmful – if the wrong location is operated.

1. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools Setup

Are each setup? Google Search Console (abbreviated to GSC and formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) and Bing Webmaster Tools is how each search engine shares critical information about a website. You’ll come back to these throughout the audit.

GSC is one of the best tools to monitor SEO-related factors like mobile usability, crawl errors, broken pages, schema markup, and inbound links to your site.

2. Google Analytics Setup

Check your analytics is healthy because the purpose of ecommerce SEO is to get sales. Good data can help good decisions. Run through my Google Analytics setup guide or get me to do it for you.

3. Total Pages Indexed

Google must first find a page on your store before it can be suggested to users in search results. This is called “indexing” much like a librarian indexes books to organize the library.

Search in Google “site:yourstore.com”. The number of search results is the number of indexed pages. Note the number of results. TheHangoverHero.com has 24 pages indexed:

site search results

Download Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. Run a crawl of your site then select “HTML” from the top filter. The crawl generates a near-accurate count of all pages on the site. Brickell Men’s Products has 356 pages while The Hangover Hero has 9 pages:

Screaming Frog crawl example

If your store has over 500 crawlable assets (includes images, javascript, CSS, PDFs), buy a license so the SEO tool can scan your whole site. One store I recently worked on had over 250,000 pages with only 5,000 SKUs.

How does the page number from your manual scan compare to indexed results? Investigate the difference. See what is indexed that should not be and what is missed. If your site is large, seek a sample to explain the major discrepancy. Unwanted indexed pages include:

  1. thehangoverhero.com/collections/frontpage (collection used to display products on the front page)
  2. thehangoverhero.com/pages/back-up (possible “back up” from an edit for existing content)
  3. thehangoverhero.com/pages/frontpage (page used to display content on the front page)
  4. thehangoverhero.com/blogs/news/17164428-first-post (Shopify’s default first blog post)

In this case the scan has fewer pages. That is rare to see. More often you will find the scan produces more pages because the robots.txt file deters Google from crawling then indexing a lot of URLs.

4. GSC Crawl Stats

Crawl stats give an overview of the total pages seen by Google on each scan. Look for large spikes, sharp drops, or a peak that exceed the total pages on the site. These require investigation.

Brickell’s crawl stats show normal spider activity. The weekly spikes correlate with the weekly <changefreq> variable in the sitemap:

Crawl stats Brickell

There are many possibilities an SEO expert can consider for crawl variability. An increase could come from new pages, products, or collections. Maybe a sitemap was submitted to Google that lead to better coverage. A one-week drop could be explained from a site update that accidentally blocked Google.

5. Lifetime Organic Traffic Drops

A penalty is best spotted with a sudden drop in organic traffic. Use the graph of organic traffic demonstrated below. Go to the acquisition section of Google Analytics and select “Organic Search”. Choose from the top-right the entire time period back to when your analytics was setup. Here is Brickell’s organic traffic over the store’s lifetime:

Brickell lifetime organic traffic

The store has steady growth with no major drops. If you have a drop, refer to Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History for the periods you see drops in organic traffic. You can then transpose the dates to see algorithm changes that affected your organic performance. Note the algorithm update and the time period. (I’ll soon help you quickly do this with a tool.)

SEO is an unethical industry. A lot of freelancers and agencies do low-quality SEO work known as “black hat SEO“. Black hat work frequently results in a Google penalty weeks-to-years later. Organic traffic diminishes or vanishes. You’re left confused as to why sales died from organic search. A Google penalty recovery can take months – even then it is hit-and-miss.

Growth in organic traffic is hard to spot day-in, day-out. Look across monthly performance. 10% growth each month is a good goal. It’s also wise to compare the current year against last year to eliminate seasonal trends. Analyze a period against the previous year in the date selection of analytics.

6. GSC Manual Actions

The manual actions section in GSC lets Google make clear serious violation of their website guidelines. Most sites see no manual actions. If you get a message, the issue has high priority to help your SEO.

The method of correction for a manual action varies with every issue. Google rarely tell you the issue in detail. You’ll have to dig deeper into your analysis or consult an SEO expert to get your store in full recovery.

7. Algorithm Cross-Check

Let’s say your store passes all the health checks so far. You have not spotted any major penalties. Minor penalties can go undetected. Advanced health checks provide more coverage, analysis, and reassurance.

I recommend Cognitive SEO at $99 a month if you want other tools to help in your SEO work. Cognitive SEO’s “Unnatural Links Detection” tool provides a good source to investigate toxic SEO. Backlinks are the primary risk of penalty for most Shopify stores (which you will analyze later in the audit) so it helps to have multiple tools give their stats and opinion. I have good success with Penguin Analysis.

Barracuda’s Panguin Tool is a fantastic free tool that transposes algorithm updates over your monthly traffic. One store came to me after they saw organic traffic plummet in 2013. The tool made it clear the site was penalized in 2013 from a Panda update. I ran through the SEO audit revealed in this guide then acted on the insights. The site regained organic traffic in May 2014:

Google penalty recovery Barracuda

Site Architecture

Site architecture looks at how the store is structured to maximize the number of visitors from SEO. A well-structured site, first and foremost is a user-friendly one.

1. Collections Structure
A collection in Shopify is a group of products. It acts like the various sections in a physical store that tells customers where to find a type of product. A well-designed group of collections tell people and Google what each is about to find a product.

Design your collections first for people. Google hates it when store owners attempt to please the search engine at the cost of user-experience. No one wants a drop-down with 100 brands.

Brickell have four primary collections: face, shave, body & hair, and collections. The collections group leads to a drop-down of “Bestsellers”, “Travel”, and “Kits”:

Shopify collections Brickell

The collection structure can be simple like The Hangover Hero (which has no collections) or complex to get right like Amazon. Here are my ideas to help you design good collections:

  1. Use brands (Nike), product type (shoes), or product application (basketball). A mix can work well too. Product attributes (color, size, model) rarely work and are best left to filters.
  2. Simplicity is your goal. Brickell confuse me with collections that overlap. “Travel” fits into “Kits”. Also, “Collections” is a vague descriptor.
  3. Try to have at least one word in the collection that is highly relevant and used in search queries. Use the Google Keyword Tool to generate ideas. Input a competitor’s product categories into the tool to come up with keywords.
  4. Refer to the search analytics report inside GSC to see how people arrive on your collection pages. Select the “Page” filter to view how a collection generates organic traffic. Are there frequently used terms that can be adapted into the collection? While you don’t want to have a navigation link like “Natural Face Products”, use these researched terms in its URL, title tags, and other on-page optimizations. From my analysis, “Body & Hair” generates 10% of the traffic compared to “Face” or “Shave”. The search queries show different intent (body lotion v shampoo) so they could be broken into two. The “Kit” collection gets zero traffic. A keyword analysis of the page using Google Keyword Tool gives keyword ideas that are not highly relevant. A lack of relevant intent can indicate a product-to-market miss-match.
  5. Conduct user-testing. Use Hotjar to view heatmap data. Run HITs on Mechanical Turk asking people to find a product to test alterations. Visual Website Optimizer has heatmaps and more to investigate how people interact with the navigation. If you are an established site, a split-test is wise. Google Analytics enhanced link attribution can also be insightful.

If you are a large store with diverse collections, your job is more complex. I suggest you do mass amounts of keyword research from multiple tools including Advanced Web Ranking (AWR) and couple the data with total search volume gathered from Google. You can manually cluster the search terms into groups, run a top-ranking report in AWR, then use the VLOOKUP function in Excel to see the performance of collections. Only bother with this advanced strategy if you have time, interest, or a big-ass 10 million-dollar store.

2. Sitemap Status

In GSC, go to “Crawl” > “Sitemaps”. Is there a sitemap? If not, submit yours. You only need to submit the primary sitemap.xml file:

http://yourstore.com/sitemap.xml

Sitemap submission in Shopify is not about telling Google you have a sitemap. Google will find the store’s sitemap from its mention in the robots.txt file. The submission is about helping you identify errors and warnings:

Sitemap warnings

3. Domain Canonicalization

Canonicalization refers to unifying pages when there are multiple. One suggested version of a page fights duplicate content and builds link value. Any Shopify store can have three to five versions:

  1. http://brickellmensproducts.com
  2. http://www.brickellmensproducts.com
  3. https://brickellmensproducts.com
  4. https://www.brickellmensproducts.com
  5. http://brickell-mens-products.myshopify.com

Test each of the non-www, www, HTTPS, and myshopify versions of your domain. You can ignore the HTTPS version if you do not use SSL. All versions need to redirect to one.

What canonicalized version should you use? Every store should use use HTTPS. As for non-www or www, neither is better for SEO. The non-www version looks cleaner. You can setup page canonicalization in Shopify under “Online Store” > “Domains” then select “Redirect all traffic to this domain”:

Redirect all to this domain Shopify

4. rel canonical

The rel canonical tag on a page tells search engines the preferred version of a page you want indexed. The tag is critical for stores with variants and collections because these circumstances alter the URLs. When a variant is selected, a query string like ?variant=8354282245 is appended to the end of a URL. Whenever a product is in one collection, Shopify creates a new URL for the product.

If the shaving cream product is in two collections, it has two collection URLs and a main product address like:

http://brickellmensproducts.com/collections/best-sellers/products/shave-cream
http://brickellmensproducts.com/collections/mens-shave-products/products/shave-cream
http://brickellmensproducts.com/products/shave-cream

A Screaming Frog scan is the fastest way to review canonicalizations. The screenshot below shows three products that have a canonicalized version different to the primary URL:

Shopify canonicalization

When the canonical version of a product page is domain.com/products/product-name, canonicalization is most likely setup right in Shopify. (There’s a small possibility some developer has conditional statements around the canonical tag.) Check the liquid template of the store for the below code. Secondly, go through the “Directives” report of the scan to confirm.

If your scan shows no use of rel canonical or incorrect use, add the following line of code between the <head> and </head> tags in your theme.liquid file:

<link rel="canonical" href="{{ canonical_url }}" />

When I implemented only this one change for a client, they saw a 220% growth in organic traffic and sales within one month. Crazy.

5. Pagination Markup

Pagination divides content into multiple pages to help usability and speed. A paginated link may take you to “Page 2” of a collection. Skip this section of the audit if your store does not use pagination.

Neither store I’m auditing use pagination so I will explain it with food company tessemaes.com:

Pagination Tessemaes

The rel="prev" and rel="next" code tells Google to consolidate the pages into one and to send the visitor to the appropriate page (often the first one). You can either use paginated markup in the <head> or on the HTML link elements.

Go to a collection with pagination then review the source code. When on tessemaes.com/collections/all, I see they use <head> markup:

<link rel="next" href="/collections/all?page=2"/>

When on tessemaes.com/collections/all?page=2, I see:

<link rel="prev" href="/collections/all?page=1"/>

The liquid markup to achieve this is:

{% if collection.previous_product %}<link rel="prev" href="{{ collection.previous_product }}">{% endif %}
{% if collection.next_product %}<link rel="next" href="{{ collection.next_product }}">{% endif %}

Shopify automatically handles this rendered markup when you have the following required liquid variable:

{{ content_for_header }}

There are out-of-date guides online with convoluted code to this simple solution.

The URLs can be relative (contain no domain directory) according to Google:

Google treats rel="previous" as a syntactic variant of rel="prev". Values can be either relative or absolute URLs (as allowed by the <link> tag).Google on paginated content

6. HTTPS

Does the store use HTTPS in the URL or HTTP? Google began to favor HTTPS sites in 2014. Neither store I’m auditing in this guide use the secure protocol.

I recommend new Shopify stores use HTTPS from the beginning. Other stores should migrate to optimize their store for the future. Web technology is moving towards simple measures of security. An SSL certificate is easy to setup in Shopify now that all stores have the option in their admin.

Beware of browser messages and other SEO risks that come with implementing SSL. You will damage your SEO with incorrect redirects, protocol-usage in your theme, and GSC configuration. One image on your HTTPS cart page that uses the HTTP protocol can produce an insecure warning in the visitor’s browser that scares them from completing checkout.

Shopify warns you of insecure content when you initiate the migration. It is the best software I’ve seen help you move to SSL. Unless you’re comfortable in HTML, SEO, and Shopify liquid files, work with a Shopify SEO expert that understands these technicalities.

Accessibility

Web accessibility in the audit refers to making the site accessible to Google, social media platforms, and people with disabilities to the degree it influences SEO.

1. Country Targeting

Does the store have multiple websites, sub-domains, or folders a user should see depending on their country? The check is important for stores with multiple geographical shopfronts.

The appropriate country should be associated with the correct website in GSC. Google can automatically do this with country-coded top-level domains (e.g. .com.au is meant for Australia) otherwise you may have to configure it.

Brickell ship Worldwide and have no country targeting:

No country targeting

2. Language Targeting

Review the HTML language settings of your store. A multilingual store should serve the right language version of the web page to the user.

View the source code of your store then search for “hreflang”. You can also check the language targeting option in GSC:

No hreflang tags

Use the hreflang tag when your store has multiple languages. Most Shopify stores will not have this setup by default. If Brickell also targeted French speakers in a multilingual folder structure, the following should exist on the English-version of the homepage:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="fr-us" href="http://brickellmensproducts.com/fr/" />

Custom liquid code can be written in your theme so the hreflang is functional for multilingual sites. The exact solution depends on your URL structure. If you have an Australian domain with the exact same pages, on it you can use:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="{{ canonical_url | replace: '.com.au', '.com' }}" />

Then on the other domain, which in this case is a .com domain, you’d insert:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en-au" href="{{ canonical_url | replace: '.com', '.com.au' }}" />

I recommend the Langify app developed by Johannes. I confirm it works well with the hreflang tag. It uses liquid like:

{{ '<link rel="alternate" hreflang="' | append: language_code | append: '" href="https://' | append: language_domain | append: currentUrl | append: '" />' }}

3. Javascript and CSS Disabled

A search engine sees a website mostly in HTML so it makes sense to check your store’s appearance when javascript and CSS is disabled. Check by changing the settings in your browser or use http://www.browseo.net. Key things to check:

  • Can you see all menus?
  • Are links clickable?
  • Is irrelevant content appearing at the top when it could appear lower on the page?

Brickell Men’s Products looks fine.

I believe Google’s growing knowledge of javascript makes this classic SEO technique less valuable. A functional site when javascript and CSS is disabled is good to have in the rare instance users have such features disabled in their browser.

4. Blocked Resources

For a decade search engines could not understand javascript. In 2015 Google wants to access your javascript, CSS, images, and anything else that plays a role in delivering content to a typical user.

Review the “Blocked Resources” report in GSC. Brickell have several blocked resources on a third-party site:

Blocked resources Google Search Console

Google’s biggest concern is to crawl the resources on your domain. The search engine encourages webmasters to contact any blocked third-party site to unblock the appropriate resources. You can also update your theme in some cases to remove dependency on a third-party resource.

5. Cloaking

Cloaking is where a search engine sees different content to a visitor. 99% of Shopify stores will not use the technique – those who do run the SEO race pulling a truck.

Google condemn the ill technique repeatedly saying a website should deliver the same content and experience to their spiders as the user. Think about it from the search engine’s perspective: they want to know what the user will experience.

I recommend the User Agent Switcher extension for Google Chrome. Select “Googlebot” then visit a few pages of your store to see if it looks different in any way. A second check is Bruce Clay’s cloaking checker. The tool says The Hangover Hero is not cloaking:

SEO cloaking check

6. Structured Data Errors

Search engines can display fancy markup about a store when it appears in search results. Sometimes it is called “structured data”, “markup”, “schema”, or “rich snippets”. The screenshot below shows standard search results for brickellmensproducts.com with Amazon getting the markup for their stars and reviews:

Google schema markup for Brickell

Schema markup affects the clicks through to your store and how users think about your product. Even if your store has 5-star reviews on your product page, an aggregate 3-star Amazon rating displayed in Google results can leave a sour impression on potential customers.

Every store should use at minimum three types of markup. For now, we review the current markup to spot errors.

View the “Structured Data” report in GSC to get a site-wide understanding of the schema implemented:

Structured data errors

An error repeats itself because Shopify uses a template system. The example site has errors from not marking the price. I like the Structured Data Testing Tool to review and optimize markup real-time.

The use of schema does not guarantee you will see marked data in search results, but clean markup is the only way it can happen.

The next three steps audit specific types of schema I recommend for any Shopify store. Incorrect use of schema can get you penalized.

7. Semantic Markup for Products

Every store should use product markup. See schema.org/Product for full documentation. Product markup includes the brand, gtin, color, and more.

The “Structured Data” report shows a data type of “Product” if your store uses the markup like Brickell.

Here is a rough example of schema markup for a product with the liquid code used in Shopify:

<div itemprop="offers" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Offer">
<meta itemprop="priceCurrency" content="{{ shop.currency }}" />
<meta itemprop="seller" content="{{ shop.name | escape }}" />
<meta itemprop="availability" content="{% if sca_product_available %}in_stock{% else %}out_of_stock{% endif %}" />
<meta itemprop="itemCondition" itemtype="http://schema.org/OfferItemCondition" content="http://schema.org/NewCondition" />
<span itemprop="price" content="{{ variant.price | money_without_currency }}" class="{% if variant.compare_at_price > variant.price %}sale{% endif %}">
<span itemprop="brand">{{ product.vendor | link_to_vendor }}</span>
<h1 itemprop="name">{{ product.title }}</h1>
</div>

8. Semantic Markup for Reviews

Show off your reviews in Google. Check for review markup via the structured data report if your store has reviews:

AggregateRating example

See schema.org/AggregateRating for full documentation. Shopify’s official review app automatically uses the correct schema. The Judge.me review app also has Google rich snippets.

The AggregateRating markup is on the Brickell site and shows in the structured data report. The implementation is correct according to the testing tool.

9. Semantic Markup for the Product Offer

Offer schema can display an “In Stock” message, price, and currency in search results:

Offer schema example

Use the same tools mentioned earlier to audit the markup. See schema.org/Offer for full documentation. Here is the source code on the page displayed in the above search results:

Offer schema source code

I’ve provided the liquid code for a product offer in the semantic markup for products above.

10. Twitter Cards

Twitter Cards give rich media experiences when your pages are tweeted:

Twitter Card example from Shopify

Tweets seem to impact SEO when the user has a large following. The influence social signals have on SEO is unclear. Beyond SEO, a richer experience should help sales.

Follow Shopify’s documentation to create Twitter Cards. Brickell have a basic summary but not product specific data. Use Twitter’s Card Validator tool and see their documentation if you want more insight.

11. Facebook Open Graph Tags

The Facebook tags control how a snippet is displayed when it is shared on the platform. I went to share a link from the Brickell store on my profile and a clean image and description appear that indicate use of the tags:

Facebook Open Graph example

Facebook tags like Twitter Cards hardly affect SEO in Google. They seem to have an impact on Facebook’s search results. An attractive summary gets more clicks. Some people believe shared content is a precursor to backlinks (which greatly help SEO). One study found there is no correlation between shares and backlinks.

I recommend Open Graph tags to satisfy the billions of Facebook users. Take every opportunity to snag a sale. User chrisjhoughton has a GitHub project to implement Facebook OpenGraph on your store. You will also find helpful Facebook’s debugger tool to get your tags right.

12. Heading Tags

The H1 and H2 tags are intended as markup for titles and sub-titles of a web page. There are many ways to review the tags: manually check the source code, use browseo.net, and review our trusted Screaming Frog tool. I like the crazy amphibian because it provides a site-wide measure of what is missing, long (over 70 characters), or duplicate tags:

H1 and H2 tags for SEO

Check the text to ensure they describe the page and contain a word or two you want to rank for. A lot of stores mistake using the H1 tag for a logo. The quality of your heading tags may vary between the homepage, collections, products, pages, and blogs because each use different liquid templates in Shopify.

13. Image ALT Text

The ALT text of an image is the text seen by Google to better understand the image. It is also seen by the visitor when an image does not load. ALT text is the biggest SEO factor to appear in Google Image search.

View your Screaming Frog crawl. In the “Overview” panel on the right-side, see the images section:

Screaming Frog crawl alt text

Fix images that miss ALT text, have ALT text over 100 characters, or use non-descriptive ALT text. View a sample of the actual text to ensure the text is readable, contains keywords, and describes the image.

Another section you need to review is external images because Shopify images are hosted on a CDN. Click the “External” tab at the top, select “Image” from the filter, then “Image Info” at the bottom:

Alt text example in Shopify

To see the data in bulk, all images are hosted on a CDN so click “Bulk Export” then “All Inlinks” and filter by the “IMG” type in a spreadsheet.

Stores with a small SKU range should manually update their ALT codes to maximize optimization. Larger stores or lazier folk can use the ALT Text app to bulk optimize product images .

14. Readability

Readability refers to the ease a piece of content can be read. It is unknown if Google looks at the readability of text as an SEO factor – it makes sense from a measure of engagement. If the text is too technical, people cannot understand it. If the text is beneath the reader’s level, they may scan it then quickly leave.

Go to read-able.com. Enter your homepage, a product page, then another important page of your site. Average out your Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease score. Aim between 60-80. If you sell electronic kits (a technical audience), it might be beneficial to have a score of 50.

Readability Brickell

15. W3C Validation

W3C Validation is the process of reviewing a web page to meet quality guidelines set by the World Wide Web Consortium. The guidelines assist accessibility and the user experience.

Browsers and devices handle an invalid page differently to each other. A missing </div> tag can destroy the experience for one device and not affect another. A validated page helps with a good content-to-text ratio.

Check a few of your pages in the W3C markup validator and W3C CSS validator tools. Get a sample that tests your various Shopify template pages. Fix errors to maximize every chance of having your store rank well in Google.

Validation errors

Usability

Search engines want a website to help users do what they want to do. A usable website is one the visitor can comfortably interact with to accomplish their desired goal. Usability is very similar to accessibility, but with a focus on the common person’s experience on common equipment.

1. Mobile Usability

Mobile makes up half of total traffic to most Shopify stores. Basic mobile usability is an SEO factor because a hard-to-use store on mobile is a bad user experience.

Review the “Mobile Usability” report in GSC. I recommend you begin here because usability issues most times arise from a template. Your homepage could be fine, while your product pages produce warnings from photographic thumbnails being too close. Brickell no longer have mobile usability issues:

GSC mobile usability

If you find a problem with the usability, fix it, and want to check if the fix is sufficient, run the page through the mobile-friendly test. You get a live analysis using this tool without the wait for a full crawl reported in GSC. I also encourage you to use the PageSpeed Insights tool as it can reveal new mobile usability suggestions.

2. Page Speed

The time a page takes to load has been a ranking factor for over 6 years. A fast store has a chance of being a usable store. The load time of your store is correlated with revenue per visitor.

There are a lot of ways to diagnose then optimize for page speed. I suggest you get a good sampling of your most important pages based on revenue and page views, a collections page, and a product page. Here are my favorites diagnostic methods:

  1. Enter the variety of URLs in PageSpeed Insights to notice what needs optimization. One of the most common problems is “render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”.
  2. Google Analytics has site speed insights in the “Behavior” section. I highly recommend this method to identify your five or more slowest pages. Google samples page speed data through analytics for a certain percentage of people who come to your store. Look for highly-viewed pages that have a load-time slower than the average of your site. Even better, here’s my custom report to identify high-value pages that are slow. Set a minimum page view filter to cut through the unimportant pages.
  3. Use your browser’s network and performance diagnostics to view what is loaded. Below is a performance screenshot from Firefox of Brickell’s home page. You can see what contributes to the load of a page. Pingdom’s FTP tool is an online version that provides a useful waterfall chart.

Firefox page performance

3. Navigation

Navigation is the consistent structure at the top of a page. It is a sub-category of site architecture. Refer to the collections structure to learn how to scientifically build your navigation.

The navigation is best refined from user research once good practices are ticked off. Do your keyword research taught in the site architecture section. Use visual styles to distinguish categories. Links should be built in HTML to help crawlability.

4. Breadcrumb

A breadcrumb helps the user find a way to “retreat” and refine their search. See an example on skin care store Ginvera:

Breadcrumb Ginvera

Here is a poor breadcrumb on athletic clothing store 21.15.Nine:

Breadcrumbs 21.15.nine

If you had a hard time spotting the breadcrumb, it is the “Back to Mens” text.

Breadcrumbs boost SEO because they clarify site architecture, build internal link relevancy, provide related anchor text, and improve the user experience. If someone lands on a product page for booty shorts but the shorts are not what they want, they can go back “one level” to view all shorts.

Review a collection, product, tag, blog, and article (the URL should contain “/pages/…”) page. Check breadcrumbs exist on each style of Shopify page.

Brickell do not use breadcrumbs. See Shopify’s documentation to build a good breadcrumb in liquid for all pages like tags, blogs, and products.

5. Internal Links

An internal link points to the same domain. The general rule in SEO forever has been to stay under 100 internal links per page.

Select the homepage (and later a collections page) from your scan in Screaming Frog. On the left-side, view the figure under “SEO Elements” > “Internal” > “HTML”. Brickell have 68 on the homepage:

Number of internal links

A store should link between its pages when appropriate. If you mention your blue glow shorts on your long shorts page, “blue glow shorts” should be linked. I like to manually browse the store for this step. Look at a few blog posts, product descriptions, and collections to see if the user would benefit if something written about were linked. Provide a few examples in your audit to demonstrate your findings.

You can also sort your scan by “Word Count” to see the pages with lots of text that provide link opportunities.

6. Anchor Text

The anchor text of a link is the clickable text of a link. Go to “Bulk Export” then “All Inlinks” from the top of Screaming Frog to export anchor text data.

Filter the “Anchor” column to remove rows with no anchor text. You may want to remove all rows that have a destination URL containing “/pages/” to cut through the mass header and footer links. Scroll through the anchor text to see what comes up. The biggest problem you are looking for is generic text like “click here”.

If you want something more quantifiable and comprehensive, create a pivot table to cluster the frequency of anchor text then plot the data. Follow Joshua Titsworth’s tutorial to visualize internal link text.

Like the previous section on internal links, the anchor text portion of the audit most often for Shopify stores is about educating the store owner, marketing manager, or content producer with guidelines to publish SEO optimal content.

7. Image File Names

The file name of an image is the last portion of the URL (preceding a question mark) when viewing an image. For the URL https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0513/2409/products/mens_facial_lotion_and_mens_face_cleanser_large.png?v=1447471147, the image file name is mens_facial_lotion_and_mens_face_cleanser_large.png.

See the section on image ALT text to learn how to audit image names. Review internal and external images because of the Shopify CDN. An image file name should be descriptive of the image. I guarantee you will find un-optimized image names.

Shopify names an image from the image’s file name at the time of upload. If you were to upload the image shown below, the name should reflect what people would search to find it like “Brickell Men’s Aftershave Coconut Oil 4oz”:

Brickell image file name

8. Size of Images

In this context a big image is not visually large, but takes longer than it should to download. A slow loading image creates a bad user experience. It helps to know if any image on your store is unnecessarily big.

See the size of all your images with Screaming Frog. It takes a little extra work because the images are hosted on a CDN. After your full scan, click “Bulk Export” then “All Inlinks” and filter by the “IMG” type in a spreadsheet. Copy the image file names into a .txt file. At the top select “List” from the “Mode” menu then “Start” the scan. You will get a summary of all size information. Filter the column and you may get images that standout in size like below, which is your low-hanging fruit to optimize:

Image file size in Shopify

9. Broken Links and Images

Confirm your links and images are functional. No need to click every link or view every image to verify they work.

In your Screaming Frog scan, click on the “Response Codes” tab then sort by “Status Code” to identify 404 errors. Neither store has a 404 so here is another store (bigmensclothing.com.au) that did:

Big Men's Clothing 404

Click the “Inlinks” tab at the bottom to identify where you need to update the broken links or images:

Big Men's Clothing Inlinks

10. 404 Page

The 404 page is the page someone sees if they visit a URL on your store that does not exist. Shopify takes care of the technical aspect of using the appropriate 404 response code and not redirecting the user that I’ve seen a lot of other content management systems screw up.

Type your store’s address into a web browser with a non-existent address like mystore.com/errortest. What shows up?

Does the page:

  1. clearly tell you what you’re looking for cannot be found?
  2. direct you with how to improve your search?

Brickell’s 404 page can improve with search functionality, a suggestion to check the URL, and a request to contact the store if the person thinks the page should exist:

404 Shopify example

A well-designed 404 page can improve the user-experience and even make someone link to the site – both of which help SEO. See the Digital Darts’ 404 page for an effective example. I like my chubby panda.

11. 3xx Redirect Minimization

In a perfect SEO world, every URL on your store produces a 200 response code. 301 and 302 response codes are not bad for SEO, but become questionable when a site is filled with them.

Avoid 3xx response codes when possible by linking directly to the correct resource. See your Screaming Frog scan for internal and external URLs to update. Direct linking helps ever so slightly with speed and the user experience.

Content

Content is king. This sadly causes Shopify store owners to publish blogs with little methodology or purpose other than to “create content” that results in no growth.

What makes good content for an online store? How does your content compare? This section of the SEO audit takes an analytical and conceptual approach to the content factors that drive organic search in ecommerce so you know exactly if you have a peasant or dynasty king.

1. Keyword Usage

Pages, product pages, articles, and videos are examples of content. Use particular words in content if you want them to be found in Google when someone searches such words.

Good keyword optimization does not begin with tools or a density of 2.5%. That is so 2010. Look at the page you are optimizing then ask yourself:

“If someone was to discover only this page on the Internet then walk away happy, what would they look for?”

Visit a few pages to see if and how, such pages contain these words. In your Screaming Frog scan, review the titles and meta descriptions of a few sample pages.

Brickell do a moderate job of using keywords in the title tags and meta description:

Keywords in Shopify

Keywords can be overused. Any usage of keywords should be relevant to the subject and readable to the average visitor.

For more help to decide what words to optimize for, competitor research, and volume analysis, refer to my tutorial on search query analysis.

2. Title Tags

A title tag is the large blue text you see in Google:

Offer schema example

The perfect title tag will:

  1. Contain your keywords. Present the answer to the person’s search query.
  2. Be between 50-55 characters. Sometimes you can get away with 35-60 characters in Google. Too few characters and you miss opportunities. Too many and the title gets cut.
  3. Be understandable.
  4. Be attractive or interesting in some way to make people want to click. Interesting is often ticked off when other steps are done.
  5. Match the content on the page. This should happen when the title contains your keywords.
  6. Be unique to other pages on your site.

How do most titles compare to these six guidelines? Make note from your manual look at what needs improvement. Also refer to the “Overview” > “Page Titles” of your scan for a summary of length and duplicate issues:

Brickell SEO title tag issues

Duplicate titles (and meta descriptions) happen in Shopify with multiple collections, but they are not an issue due to robots.txt rules and canonicalization.

3. Meta Descriptions

A meta description is often the black text you see in Google:

Title tag change

The actual meta description is in the source code of your page and can be different to the search snippet if Google thinks it can deliver something better to the user.

A meta description is said to have no direct affect on SEO, though it does influence if someone wants to click-through to the page. The frequency someone clicks through to a page relative to its position in search results is an SEO factor. It’s also important because you want to sell people on the idea to visit your store.

Most stores can improve their meta descriptions because there are many pages to optimize. The same principles of a good title tag apply to meta descriptions except the length can be between 145-160 characters.

Identify the lowest hanging fruit by visiting GSC to see what pages rank high and have a low click-through rate. A Screaming Frog overview also summarizes length and duplicate issues:

Meta description Screaming Frog

Refer to my guide to write hot meta descriptions.

4. Meta Keywords

Avoid meta keywords. They have no positive effect on SEO. Review the meta keywords overview in your scan or filter your scan by “Meta Keyword 1” to check the tactic is not used:

Meta keyword Screaming Frog

5. Descriptive URLs

A descriptive URL contains the primary keywords you want the page to rank for. The majority of Shopify stores have satisfactory URLs. The improvement in URLs for Shopify stores usually come from either:

  1. Better product names based on search query analysis – which alone helps SEO and can be carried over to more descriptive URLs.
  2. Adjusting targeted keywords from a comparison of what is done to what could be. You discover this by doing keyword research, reviewing competitors (search Google then compare the top 3 for major factors revealed in this guide), and using Google Trends.

Brickell have done a pretty good job with URLs. Like every store, there’s always room for improvement. Looking at the page, /collections/barrons-collection/products/shave-cream, I did some keyword research and see “men’s shaving cream” is a better target. I wonder if it’s better to go for shave or shaving. Google Trends has the answer:

Descriptive URLs men's shaving cream Google Trends

The product name from an SEO perspective is best changed to “Shaving” as opposed to “Shave”. The URL could be /collections/barrons-collection/products/mens-shaving-cream. It is a natural, aloe vera product so the last part of the URL could be /mens-natural-aloe-vera-shaving-cream. Notice how it is still readable and not spammy like /mens-natural-shave-cream-aloe-vera-shaving-cream-for-men.

6. Product Content

Is there enough unique, valuable content for a visitor to make a purchase decision? You want to provide all the important details of a product to firstly get the sale, but preceding that, to help SEO by keeping someone on the site (SEO factor of engagement) and get people sharing the page (via social media and links).

Here is my SEO checklist for product content:

  1. Uniqueness of product descriptions. Duplicate product descriptions happen often in stores who’s products are sold by other businesses. Copy-and-paste a snippet of the product description into Google to see what else comes up. Copyscape is another way to identify sites with the same content (the tool also lets you see if a competitor plagiarized parts of a product description you wrote for your store). In a perfect SEO world you want a description used by no one else.
  2. Quality of product descriptions. Trash can be unique so you have to check for quality. See my short guide to write excellent product descriptions that sell. In terms of length, I recommend 150 words minimum for all products. I rarely see product descriptions too long. The only mistake with long forms of content is poorly written, gibberish that bores people.
  3. Product images. The photos should be clear, provide multiple angles, and ideally be unique which you can check with a reverse image search. To do photography right, see my guide on product photos.
  4. Supplementary content. A product description and photo is often enough to get a sale. You will increase organic traffic and conversions with content that provides more information. This can be done in ecommerce by providing specifications, video, product use and care guidelines, delivery and shipping information, and reviews. All these types of information accumulate to increase visitors.

Google’s manual review team look at these factors (if your store ever gets reviewed) to see for themselves how useful your store is to people.

7. Collections Content

Do the collections have unique content or do they only display products? See if the collections have some relevant text at the top. It’s a simple way to optimize collections:

Collections SEO Shopify example

8. About Page

An about page is one signal of trust Google analyzes to judge the quality of your store. The page should never be a couple of sentences or dribble. You help SEO and conversions with a good about page.

What makes a good ecommerce about page? Tell your story, give a personal anecdote related to the reason the visitor is interested in your products, share your passion as though you were talking face-to-face to the person reading, use video, reveal your team members, and provide contact information.Shopify Conversion Rate Optimization

Brickell have a well-written about page. While there are a few conversion elements missing like photos of the founders, contact information, and a video, the only SEO improvement I suggest is to use the company name in the main header to attract branded searches:

About Brickell

9. Contact Page

Google’s official “Search Quality Rating Program” guides reviewers with what to look for in judging a high-quality site. (This audit addresses all the SEO factors you need to worry about.)

The contact page is one trust factor Google considers to see if the store is a real company. It is a simple SEO element to review. The guidelines describe, not show, an example of a low trustworthy a store selling Nike Air Jordan shoes:

When you look at the ‘Contact Us’ page, it does not give the name of a company or a physical address, which also cannot be found anywhere else on the website. This amount of contact information is not sufficient enough for a shopping website.

What contact details could you include that are not listed? Good details on the contact page include the company address, Google Map of the company address, registered company name, photo of the building, email address to contact support, support phone number, support help desk, live chat hours, link to FAQs, and the good old contact form.

10. Shipping and Returns Page

The shipping and returns pages are another trust signal Google looks for in an ecommerce store. Your store is considered more trustworthy in Google’s eyes when it has clear shipping and return policies and directions. The reason is very simple: your visitors want a good, transparent shopping experience.

A store can have one dedicated shipping page and one returns page. I suggest splitting the two up from a marketing perspective because they serve different audiences. It also allows you to have clear FAQs that cover each topic in-depth.

Brickell have no clear shipping or returns page. It’s not as bad as it sounds because they have a free shipping proposition in the header for US orders over $50, and after digging around I see the topic is addressed in the FAQ page. Is this satisfactory for SEO? It could be, but it could fall short. I had to dig around to see their returns policy. Besides, if you have a good shipping and returns policy, make it clear. You will encourage more people to buy.

11. Blogs

Ah, content and SEO. It could only be complete with a discussion on blogging.

A blog can be used for anything – and it unfortunately is. Blogs are a great platform to share stories, photos, personal experiences on your products, announce news, and share bad writing.

Blogging SEO meme

You need a clear purpose in every blog post so you can have objectives to meet those goals even if that means acknowledging, “This one doesn’t have a goal. I just want to write.” A good ecommerce SEO blog is vastly different to one that announces new products.

A big blogging mistake is publishing a boring 500 words of text you wrote to try satisfy the search engines. Soon enough you become discouraged then stop writing because you see no results from your efforts.

The best type of ecommerce blogging for SEO has a blog built into an evergreen content hub with useful news and guides. Websites will link to the articles when you provide information that is better than anything else out there. Your goal when covering a topic should be to answer the topic’s questions and problems twice as good as any other website. When you publish a guide, you are comforted in having built an asset that (with a little maintenance) will last a lifetime. This mindset gets you off the hamster wheel of publishing junk to meet weekly goals.

Your content should address a particular topic in detail to be organized and linked from a “hub”. Portent describe this objective.

Brickell is one of few stores that have followed this blogging advice. They have a grooming manual and a list of links in the sidebar to direct people with what they should read. Headings, lists, videos, useful pictures, quotes, research, links to articles, and other supplementary content make an article more valuable.

Links in the eyes of search engines are like votes. A store with more votes has greater chance at improved ranking. Not all links (like votes in Australian rural versus urban communities) are equal. Some links even hurt SEO.

1. Authority

The US President has more authority in the US political system than you or I. This gives The President greater influence on the country. The same is true with links. A link from an authoritative website like Wikipedia or CNN is more powerful at affecting SEO than one on a small blog.

While we don’t exactly know what a search engine considers to be an authoritative website, Google asks questions that spell-out what is in a high-quality site. Here are some of the questions:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

We need a quantitative method of measuring authority to benchmark and audit a store’s SEO. The simplest measurement for SEO purposes is Moz’s Domain Authority and Page Authority metrics. They are a prediction of the “page’s ranking potential in search engines based on an algorithmic combination of all link metrics.”

Search a query that you want the homepage to rank for in Google. Enter the three top ranking websites and your homepage in the Moz’s link comparison tool. Compare the page authority data in the “Page Specific Metrics” section. The domain authority data can be gathered from the “Root Domain Metrics” section.

Open Site Explorer comparison metrics

I searched “men’s skin care products” and have the link authority data below:

brickellmensproducts.comesquire.com/skincaresephora.com/menkiehls.com/mens
Page Authority33446452
Domain Authority24858068

Unless the store ranks well in Google, expect the PA and DA to be less than top competitors. A lower authority is one signal the store needs more high-quality external links to compete in rankings. Any DA metric over 60 shows a big player. A DA over 80 is very hard to beat without a large, long-term investment in SEO. Keep the Moz data open to do further analysis.

2. Total Links

The total links measure the number of internal and external links pointing to a page. While internal links are less valuable because they are easy to fabricate, internal links affect SEO by showing the context and hierarchical importance of pages on a website. A product page internally linked once from the collection is less valuable than the homepage linked throughout the site.

Collect the total links from the root domain metric data:

brickellmensproducts.comesquire.com/skincaresephora.com/menkiehls.com/mens
Domain Total Links6,7505.7m20.7m21.9m

Esquire, Sephora, and Kiehls have a massive presence in the men’s skin care market. This immediately says Brickell are unlikely to ever rank for queries like “men’s skin care products”. Before hope is judged as futile, we need to see how many of these links come from other sites. Sometimes large stores have mass numbers of internal links or a network of sites that contribute to an inflated number of total links.

3. Links from Unique Domains

Two links from the same website is thought to be of less value than a link from two websites with all things like authority and trust being equal. Multiple links from the same site is still useful. Links from unique domains give insight into the diversity and health of a site’s link profile.

Look at the “Total Linking Root Domains” metric from Moz for the root domain data to get comprehensive insight:

brickellmensproducts.comesquire.com/skincaresephora.com/menkiehls.com/mens
Total Linking Root Domains4223,12420,2423,699

These are big players. From all this link data so far, I can conclude “men’s skin care products” is a highly competitive search query. Brickell need thousands more links from a variety of websites if they want to appear at the top for the search term.

This is not to say the total linking root domains needs to be over 4,000 before they start ranking first in Google. It is another proof factor of the competition for this particular query and hints that other queries in the market would be competitive.

A link to Brickell on a high-quality website can, within one month, boost the whole store in search results so all position data in Google Search Console improves a little. This is realistic unlike a sudden appearance in top position, which rarely happens. It shows how the organic growth goals I mentioned at the start of 10% month-after-month can be achieved.

4. Deep Link Ratio

Deep links are links on other websites that point to products, collections, blogs, and other pages beyond the homepage of the store. They are useful because visitors get taken directly to a page that suits the context of the link, the homepage cannot rank for all your keywords, and they help the crawlability of pages.

The deep link ratio is calculated with the formula of one minus the division of the total links gathered from the page specific metrics by the total links in the root domain metrics for the homepage (you need to analyze the homepage of each site so the ratio is not skewed):

Deep Link Ratio = 1 – (Total Links for the Page / Total Links for the Root Domain)
brickellmensproducts.comesquire.comsephora.comkiehls.com
Page Total Links208165k142k187k
Domain Total Links6,7505.7m20.7m21.9m
Deep Link Ratio96.92%97.11%99.31%99.15%

About 97% of Brickell’s links point to pages other than the homepage. There is no best ratio. Look for disparities in the metric between the stores. Most good-performing ecommerce stores I’ve noticed have a deep link ratio of 90-99%. A ratio below 80% can be a warning sign of unnatural links because a link-building campaign has overly promoted the homepage.

Old blogs can struggle to be found. A simple way those with a Shopify blog can improve deep linking, is to use an app I developed. I built the Related Blog Posts app to build deep links and increase reader engagement.

5. Ease of Link Replication

Manually review a few backlinks from Moz’s Inbound Links report to judge if another website could easily get a similar link. Links from a forum post, blog comment, social bookmarks, or directory submission are all sources that can be easily duplicated. Not only is this poor from a competitive standpoint, but there’s often a relation between how easy it is to get a link with what Google considers unnatural link building.

Brickell have some good mentions on sites that would take effort to duplicate:

http://www.realmenrealstyle.com/gift-guide-2015/
http://www.mensfitness.com/styleandgrooming/grooming/best-shaving-subscription-boxes/slide/3
http://www.menprovement.com/organic-mens-skin-care-products/

As links are built, always ask yourself: “Could anyone get this link?” If yes, the linking domain maybe low-quality. You will often find the harder a link is to get, such as a mention in a major magazine or media outlet, the more power it has for SEO.

6. Geo-location of Links

This step is most helpful for a store penalized by Google. A store that delivers its products to the USA and Canada should have most of its links from sites in those regions. It makes more sense for an American, compared to an Australian, blogger or media outlet to write about a product that only ships to the USA.

SEOs look at IP blocks of backlink data to check no chunks of backlinks come from particular servers. Ahrefs is a great tool for IP block analysis. Do it as a safety check for a penalized site. This type of analysis is less important now that fewer businesses use spam services like a private blog network (PBN).

My preference is with Majestic because they have a great map feature helpful for ecommerce stores who deliver their products (all or mostly) to a domestic market. The tool lets you visualize the geo-location of sites that link to the store. The US-focus for Brickell and its slight International spread is good:

Geolocation source of backlinks

7. Inbound Anchor Text Diversity

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text you see on a link. What is more natural-looking to you for anchor text: 50 links to a store saying “nike shoes” or 50 links with mixed text containing the store’s name, “nike shoes”, “size 15 shoes by nike”, and other variations?

Natural inbound links use diverse anchor text. Link building campaigns help SEO when targeted keywords are used in anchor text, but brands, website URLs, and variations of all need to be used otherwise a store can be penalized.

In Moz’s OSE, select “Anchor Text” from the navigation. Select “This root domain” as the target. Review the top 10 anchor text terms for the store. If your store has approximately 200 or more referring root domains, also review the top 20-50 anchor text terms.

Anchor Text TermLinking Root Domains Containing Anchor TextLinks Containing This Anchor Text
brickell men’s products927
brickell841
brickellmensproducts.com514
brickell peppermint lip balm25
shave cream22
[no anchor text]23
brickell men’s products men’s starter kit113
brickell men’s aftershave travel size14
brickell men’s grooming products11
brickell’s lip balm11

Anchor text can be categorized as branded (“brickell” and “brickellmensproducts.com”), generic (“click here” and nearly any word), and keyword-focused (“shave cream”).

A good rule of thumb is to use 70-80% branded text. Spammers frequently go for the reverse of 70-100% keyword-focused anchor text. Google wants you to build a real brand rather than an unknown entity.

Check no single type of anchor text or unbranded words dominate the store’s backlink profile. Google’s backlink information in GSC is not particularly helpful for this analysis because it does not give you insight into the quantity of anchor text.

Brickell have a majority of branded anchor text terms with some keywords sprinkled in. No particular anchor text dominates their link profile. “Brickell” is frequent, but that’s their strongest branded word so it is fine.

8. Paid Links

SEO problems with paid links are often first reported in the manual actions section of GSC. Prevention is still wise.

Ask whoever manages the marketing for web addresses of any sponsorships, partnerships, or paid links. If they have such mentions, review the links to ensure they have rel="nofollow" on them and are labeled as a sponsored link or an advertisement, much like some newspapers legally have to mention an ad is an “advertisement”.

I wrote an article on Monitor Backlinks with 15 Ethical Ways to Do Black Hat SEO Techniques. Paid links is discussed in section 12.

9. Spam Analysis

Spam analysis is one of the most important steps of the audit for a penalized store. Working with an SEO expert will be invaluable for your business.

There are many great tools like Monitor Backlinks, Cognitive SEO, Ahref’s Site Explorer and Moz’s Spam Analysis that analyze how likely a link is to hurt SEO. What you do is your choice. A store with few backlinks can be manually reviewed.

If the store has clearly suffered from a penalty (which you would discover from the health check portion of the audit) and no SEO is working, nothing can replace manual investigation. Manually go through every link (yes, by visiting the page) to identify risks. Sometimes a site that has been penalized, which links to yours, can result in a minor penalty. Request removal of the spam links and disavow links you know are bad.

Value

SEO is a short-term game if the store does not help people. Why should Google refer people to your clothing store if another 100 stores sell the same gear at a cheaper price and provide more information about the products? Value can be measured and built into a store to improve SEO and competitive position.

1. Engagement

What better way to tell if a website answered a person’s search query than to track if the person stopped searching or took a long-time to return to search results by clicking “Back” in the browser. Google are very hush-hush about engagement as an SEO factor. The importance of engagement is clear when you think about it from a standpoint of user experience, which Google has always promoted: the goal of search is to give people what they want.

Fellow Australian Dan Petrovic has the best article on what engagement factors influence SEO. The simplest measurement I know of is to look at your average session duration. It’s a crude metric when other things like the type of content (should the search query be answered in 10 seconds?) or click-through rate from search results, can affect it. There are too many factors to say your average session duration should be “5 minutes”.

I’ve created a custom Google Analytics report that looks at how engaging each page of the store is to people arriving from organic search. Pages with a high bounce-rate and low average time on page can probably be improved. Hint: run a survey on these pages (targeting people coming from organic search) to ask people what they are Googling or what information on the page is missing.

2. Social Shares

Search Engine Land in their guide to SEO say:

Similar to links, getting quality social shares is ideal, but being shared widely on social networks is still helpful. Good things happen when more people see your site or brand.Chapter 8: Social Media & Ranking In Search Results

Social shares are said to be the new links of today’s SEO marketing. It is a hot debate in the SEO world because how it directly affects SEO is unclear. One thing for certain about social engagement is it benefits your store as a public relations channel. This can drive SEO.

There are a number of tools to measure social shares:

  1. BuzzSumo is the sweetest tool to see the viral nature of any page on a site and to do content research on hot topics.
  2. SharedCount lets you quickly see the social data for one page or you can pay for more data if you’re desperate.
  3. RYP Marketing have a good free tool that captures the social data of more than one page. It is unreliable though often producing nothing.

For this analysis let’s see the social shares of Brickell compared to their top organic competitors using SharedCount:

brickellmensproducts.comesquire.comsephora.comkiehls.com
Facebook Likes2710413113778605
Facebook Shares1125981354971631
Facebook Comments1311628264631
Facebook Total140195101775392867
Google +1s012518756184850
Pinterest Pinned034379
LinkedIn Shares0113136666
StumbleUpon Stumbles0000

Get what insights you can from the data. Explore further if there’s anything weird because these metrics are fallible when isolated. Sephora have nearly 5 million followers on G+ yet average one comment per post. Suspicious.

Take social shares as another measure of engagement to see how the store you audit stacks up against high-performing competitors. If the store is on all platforms, you can use the metrics to focus social efforts on their best performing platform. You can also see where competitors get the most engagement to further understand the preferred platform of your audience.

3. Quality of Business

It is easier to rank great products in Google that people search for (need) and can’t find anywhere else (low competition), compared to a product like printed t-shirts sold by 1,000 sites. Initial traction can get a good product in the hands of people who socially share the product, produce citations, and get the attention of press who then create quality backlinks.

A good commerce business can only exist with good products.

Let’s finish the audit by answering three key questions:

  1. How much effort would it take for a competitor to mimic product offering? If you dropship products that can be sold by emailing one warehouse, your business model is weak. A low-barrier to entry equates to a high-quantity of competition in Google and the consumer’s mind. Backlinks from PR and competitive position in the marketplace, is more favorable if you manufacture products. Brickell produce their own brand.
  2. What do customers say about the products or business? Do customers write rave reviews, feel meh about their purchase, or leave a residue of hatred? Read customer reviews on the store and Google search the brand name.
  3. How do the products compare to competitors in value? This can be hard to answer. Chemicals are a serious issue in the skin care market along with animal testing. Brickell’s natural products are competitively priced to put them in a good position.

Where to Next?

Firstly download the checklist:

Get The Free Shopify SEO Checklist

I’ve turned the Expert Guide to Shopify SEO into a simple checklist for you to keep on hand. You can print it out. It is free and looks pretty so you should download it!

Download It Free Now

Once you complete the audit, create an action plan based on the believed SEO potential and ease of change, for all the points discovered in the audit. There are no hard rules for categorization. Do your best with what was taught in the guide. Immediately work on the biggest problems or opportunities for the quickest results. The plan will guide you through the year ahead.

Get a Shopify SEO Audit for Your Store

For the most detailed Shopify SEO audit that gives you a step-by-step plan to grow sales, allow me to do it all for you. I am a Shopify Marketing Expert. Stores rely on my SEO knowledge to grow their sales.

A boost in your store’s SEO is amazing because you don’t pay anything for clicks now and in the future. SEO covers a lot of your marketing from technical issues, improved usability, and some conversion optimization.

The SEO audit investment is AU$1497 and I will have it done within one week. You get a full report personally done by me along with accompanying documentation that runs your store through the above SEO checklist. I can also make the improvements for extra if you prefer. Contact me to discuss or have an invoice sent to you.

About Joshua Uebergang

Joshua Uebergang is founder and Head of Strategy at Digital Darts. He helps Shopify stores get more of the right visitors and convert them into sales. At 6'9", yes, he plays basketball. Get extra tips and tricks from him to build your ecommerce store by entering your email below.

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12 Comments. Leave new

Joshua,

This is a beast of guide with many valuable points. I appreciate the mention!

Reply

Thanks Nathan. I hope it helps people improve their Shopify traffic and sales in Google.

Reply

It is fun! My husband and I are 4-wheel fanatics (and it’s a great family activity), but Rovers are too rich for our blood. We drive Jeeps. Our latest is a Rubicon with 35s, etc. The thing crawls most everything. Our favorite trail is called Carnage Canyon. Isn’t that a great name for a book?

Reply

Hey Joshua, amazing article! Thanks for putting it together.

One quick question though, are collection + tag pages indexible? I found this article (https://help.shopify.com/themes/customization/collections/filtering-a-collection-with-multiple-tag-drop-down), which allows the application of multiple tags to a collection. The result is urls like this from the demo they provided: satterfield-pfeffer5655.myshopify.com/collections/mugs/shopify+less-than-50+white. Mugs is the collection and the tags are separated by plus signs. So I’m wondering if each of the urls with one or more tags are indexible? IE. these individual urls:
pfeffer5655.myshopify.com/collections/mugs/shopify
pfeffer5655.myshopify.com/collections/mugs/shopify+less-than-50
pfeffer5655.myshopify.com/collections/mugs/shopify+less-than-50+white

I’m helping a friend with a website with a large number of products. I’ve done the keyword research and we want to have a many indexible category pages,. I’m trying to figure out if we should accomplish this with just a huge number of collection pages, or a handful of high level collection pages and long tail collection + tag pages. And then to avoid duplicate content and super thin pages, every page that has 2 or more tags would have a rel canonical tag pointing back to the collection + product indexed page.

Reply

Your first example could be indexed Steve. The other two will likely not because of the plus symbol, which is excluded in the robots.txt file.

Reply

The point you made about creating quality social media content to get it shared and in the hands of the people who can boost the brand recognition is well noted!

Great Work Joshua

Reply

Hi,

The link to download the guide is not working.

Ravindra

Reply

Just tested Ravindra and it works. You may have to wait for the form to submit. If you’re still having problems, what browser? Where does the problem occur?

Reply

Hi Joshua,

I have an adult online shop and use Shopify. I have more than 2 thousand products but Google shows only 32 indexed pages, do you have an idea why?
I suspect that it is something to do with URL Parameters, google identified
parameter page = 213 – – with settings Let Googlebot decide
collections/all?page=1
collections/all?page=2
collections/all?page=3
collections/all?page=5
collections/all?page=7
collections/all?page=8
collections/all?page=9
collections/apparel?page=10
collections/cockrings?page=11
collections/magazines?page=21

I think the problem sits in collections/all as it should not be indexed as I have products sitting in various collections and don’t need to use collections/all as a duplication. Do you think I should exclude this url?

I would appreaciate any form of help.

Regards,
Nikolai

Reply

Did you follow the guide Nikolai? There’s multiple steps and analysis to solve exactly what you’re talking about.

Reply

Hi, you say that every store should use Semantic Markup for Products. When I search the shopify support documentation, there is nothing that explains how to do this in shopify. There was also a post in the forums that said Shopify does not have static pages, so you cannot go into a product page, and add code specific to that product to that page—> https://ecommerce.shopify.com/c/ecommerce-design/t/where-do-i-add-structured-data-markup-161349
Can you explain this?

Reply

Sorry for the late reply Michael. Only just saw your comment. Semantic markup for products is usually added inside the product.liquid template file. Static files are not used in any template system like WordPress because they are inferior and not required. I have added a sample of the schema markup in liquid code to this post.

Reply

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