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The Shopify SEO Handbook | Part 1: Understanding SEO

A comprehensive guide to Shopify SEO, with easy to follow instructions written by experienced industry professionals

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The Shopify SEO Handbook

Part 1: The Basics - What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization—the process of optimizing websites to improve visibility in search engines. There are 3 primary components of an SEO campaign: On-Page SEO, Technical SEO, and Off-Page SEO. 

SEO VennDiagram

Image Courtesy of Shopify

On-Page SEO deals with the front end of your website

On-page SEO covers anything you can do on the front-end of a webpage to improve your search engine rankings. This includes editing product descriptions, titles and written content, headers, footers, blog posts, and image optimizations like alt text and scaling. On-page SEO can also include edits to navigation menu labels, menu structure and other menu features.


Technical SEO deals with the back end of your website

Technical SEO is the process of optimizing a website for search engines, but it can also include strategies meant to improve UX (user experience). Examples of technical SEO include theme and platform settings, JSON schema markup, menu and URL structure, page speed insights and core web vitals, image alt text, and any other technical setting. 


Off-Page SEO deals with external websites

Off-page SEO covers anything you can optimize outside of your site (or externally) in an attempt to boost your search engine rankings. Backlinks are an example of an off-page SEO factor. Other examples include social media and PR, guest posts, referral sites like Yelp and, directory listings, Google Business Profiles, customer reviews, podcasts, and video sites. 

The Shopify SEO Handbook

Why is SEO important?

Search engines help users discover new websites, new brands, new ideas, and new ways to spend their hard-earned money. The primary objective of most SEO campaigns is to improve keyword rankings in search engines. But why are rankings so important? The answer is visibility. 

The higher your pages rank in search engines, the more visible your business is, and higher visibility means more clicks, while low-ranking websites suffer the opposite effect. According to a recent study:

  • Sites in the #1 position receive 28% of all clicks
  • Sites in the top 3 positions receive over 70% of all clicks
  • Sites in positions 4-10 receive only about 1% of all clicks
  • Sites below position 10 receive less than 1% of all clicks

You read that right. Pages ranked below position #3 only reach 1% of their organic audience. But outranking the competition isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to manage a successful SEO campaign, but the payoff is HUGE. 

Helpful Facts About SEO

SEO is long-term commitment. It can take months or even years to achieve #1 rankings for high volume, high competition keywords

SEO works best when combined with other marketing strategies like email campaigns, SMS campaigns & pay-per-click advertising.

SEO is a competition. The team that delivers the best overall user experience, wins.

Rankings are relative, not absolute. You don’t need a perfect website to top search results, you just need a better website than your competitors.

Helpful content is king. Google's search algorithm is trained to favor sites that deliver the best possible user experience in the form of well-organized, useful, helpful content. 

woman browsing products from a mobile phone
The Shopify SEO Handbook

What can SEO do for your brand?

There are a lot of reasons to invest in SEO for your brand. An SEO campaign can achieve a variety of business-minded goals:

  • Build your brand's presence on new platforms, social networks, and even new mediums like the Metaverse 
  • Maintain a consistent message and control the conversation about your brand across all marketing channels
  • Keep your customers updated with important news and announcements
  • Break into new markets, locations, and demographics
  • Gain better exposure, increase brand awareness and improve brand recognition
  • Become a thought-leader that educates and informs consumers
  • Become the go-to authority in your vertical and be a hub for industry news and information
  • Develop new brand partnerships and B2B relationships that can help your business grow
  • Provide training, learning materials, manuals, and documentation for your customers and staff
  • Manage your reputation, get more positive reviews, control the conversation around your brand
  • Increase every KPI that matters: traffic, discovery, pageviews, session duration, CTR, revenue, and repeat business
The Shopify SEO Handbook

Understanding Google's Search Algorithm

The key to understanding SEO is to first understand Google's search engine algorithm, and the best way to understand the algorithm is to read the instruction manual.

That's right, Google has an instruction manual called Google Search Central that contains mountains of resources, lessons, FAQs, and even a full beginner's course called the SEO Starter Guide.

google search central screen shot

Google's  documentation gives us insights into how Search Engines work, and what site owners and SEOs should (and shouldn't) do to improve our search presence. 

How does Google's Search Engine work?

Google Search is, at its heart, a referral website. Google's customers (aka users) expect high-quality, relevant results for every query. Google's reputation is directly tied to delivering the best possible search results for over a trillion search queries, and the number just keeps climbing.

In another must-read Google property, entitled How Search Works, Google explains to us exactly how they rank websites for quality: 

To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors and signals, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query. For example, the freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.

Read the whole page here


The Shopify SEO Handbook

Ready for the Next Lesson?

The Shopify SEO Handbook - Part 2: On-Page Optimizations

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