This series will discuss the SEO limitations marketers may face when using the e-commerce platform, Shopify, and share insights on how to combat these issues.
In the second part of this series, we discussed how Shopify’s framework causes duplicate content, which can negatively impact search engine optimization (SEO) and site ranking. By understanding Shopify’s framework with its default categories, we were able to work around the additional uniform resource locator (URL) that Shopify creates each time you associate a product with a collection and reclaim authority to the canonical URL.
Now that your products are properly linked throughout your site and Google is indexing the correct pages, I’m sure you are now wondering how to get customers to your page to improve your ranking. In this final blog post of this Shopify series, we will focus on optimizing your page with on-page SEO through URLs, page titles, meta descriptions and page speed.
What is on-page SEO?
According to Moz, “On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines.” This refers to both the content users see on a page, as well as the source code viewed by search engines (which contains the content users see on page).
The on-page content should target keywords relevant to what your users are searching for on search engines. It is up to you to guide the customer to the answer they are looking for on your site. To do so, you need to make sure you are optimizing your pages appropriately.
How do I optimize page content on Shopify?
First, we need to understand how Google ranks pages. Google crawls as much of the internet as it can and then catalogues the web pages it crawls by topic/keyword. When a user enters a query into the search engine, Google will consult its index (catalogue of web pages) and rank pages based on how closely they answer the user’s query.
Now that you understand how Google ranks pages, hopefully you also understand why optimizing your page for target keywords is so important. But keep in mind, content should not be created for the sole purpose of ranking highly in search engines. The idea is to create content that adds value to the user when they search for your business. Once you have identified your business’ target keywords, it is time to optimize your Shopify pages for those keywords. As prefaced above, there are limitations on Shopify for how we can do this, so read on to find out how we can work around them.
Forced URL structure
One way we can optimize our web pages to better rank for target keywords is through the URL. The structure of your URL should contain your target business keywords, so when customers search for those keywords, Google knows your product or service is relevant, making your page more likely to rank highly. As an example, we will be discussing one of Croud’s beauty clients that we’ve previously referred to in the second blog post of this series. One of our client’s products is an argan anti-wrinkle cream. The URL contains the keyword “argan anti wrinkle cream”, so when a customer searches for “anti-wrinkle cream made with argan”, their product is much more likely to show up in the search engine results.
Ideally for SEO purposes, you want to keep your URLs descriptive, but short and sweet. Unfortunately, Shopify limits the structure of your URLs and makes them longer than what’s typically recommended. As discussed in the first blog post of this series, Shopify sitemaps create primary categories, so your URL will automatically include unnecessary subfolders.
There is not much that can be done to change this. We recommend focusing on optimizing the keywords that you use for your URL path and avoiding filler words like ‘and’, ‘the’, and ‘for’.
Character limit: meta description and page title
Another way to optimize web pages is through the title tag and meta description. When your page ranks on the search results page, you can view both the title tag and meta description. The title tag is the clickable headline of a given result. You want this to be an accurate and concise description of the page’s content, similar to how you name the page’s URL. Beneath the title tag is the meta description, which provides a brief summary of the page’s content. These two elements contribute to your page’s rank.
It’s important to note that meta descriptions are indirect ranking signals to search engines that indicate the likelihood of a user clicking on your result. Its primary function is to entice users to click on your page. Similar to how a URL helps search engines understand what your page is about, title tags and meta description fulfill a similar purpose. So when a user searches for one of your business’ target keywords – and your title tag and meta description are optimized to include those keywords – Google has a much better understanding of how relevant your page is to the searcher’s query. The better the content fits the user’s needs, the more traffic you will drive to your site.
Strong meta descriptions often end with a call-to-action like ‘Buy now’ or ‘Call now’ to help move customers through your sales funnel. They should typically be 140-155 characters in length, while title tags should be around 30-60 characters in length to best appeal to your audience. However, both should begin with your most important key words.
With all this said, Shopify has a limit of 320 characters for meta descriptions and 70 characters for title tags. This is something to be mindful of, as Shopify’s description for collections, products, pages and blog articles are used by default. Google won’t display the full description, so it’s important to keep the title tags under 60 characters and meta descriptions under 155 characters to prevent your snippets from being truncated in the search results.
Page speed vs. apps
Last but not least, we will explore page speed, which will be an increasingly important part of on-page SEO with Google’s upcoming Core Web Vitals algorithm update set to roll out in May 2021. Page speed measures how fast the content of your page loads. Even though Shopify is a hosted service that has a massive infrastructure and content delivery network (CDN), there are multiple factors that can still affect your page speed. For example, the size of your images and loading those images can affect your page speed. Your theme can affect your page speed as well, as there is no quality control to loading the style and layout of the page. There is, however, one factor in particular that can be harmful for your page – apps.
We know Shopify has many limitations when it comes to customizing and improving your site. Many solutions for those limitations result in either failing to completely fix the issue, finding a workaround to fix it, or having to add an application to your site. Although it may rectify one problem, adding more apps slows down your site overall. The apps only add to the number of dependencies that your site must load.
If possible, it may be best to try adding code snippets onto the page source instead of adding more apps. It may be time consuming on your end, but this can help ensure that pages render quickly and reduce the number of people who leave your page out of frustration.
Hopefully now you know more about on-page SEO and how URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, and page speed all contribute to search ranking, as well as the workarounds in Shopify for these important SEO elements. These are just a handful of the many ways you can optimize your site. Understanding how SEO works and learning the limitations of Shopify can help you get ahead of the game. You will be able to work around its top issues when it comes to SEO and gain better control of the performance of your organic traffic.
This concludes this Shopify series. Check back on our blog to learn more about other content management systems and their limitations, or reach out to our SEO team for any inquiries!