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Shopify SEO Handbook Part 2: On-Page Optimizations

Learn how to create perfectly optimized products and collections in your Shopify Plus storefront.

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Part 1: What the heck is an "Optimization" anyway?

One of the most confusing things about doing SEO on your own website is learning all the terminology and jargon. But while there are many confusing terms to learn (don't even get me started on canonicalization), On-Page Optimization is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. 

Optimizing is the process of editing a webpage in order to increase that page's rankings in search engine results. Edits to page content are known as On-Page Optimizations (as opposed to Technical Optimizations, which are done in the backend settings). 

Looking for Part 1 of the Shopify SEO Handbook? Click Here.

google seo basics

How to Do On-Page Optimizations

On-Page Optimizations can encompass many different tasks and strategies, but generally speaking, "Optimizing" a webpage means adding or removing content elements in order to make the page more appealing to users and search engine algorithms. Common examples of On-Page Optimizations include:

  • Adding relevant keywords to the page title
  • Adding relevant keywords to the SEO title (aka meta title)
  • Adding relevant keywords to the SEO description (aka meta description)
  • Adding relevant keywords to the body copy
  • Making sure the page URL conveys the subject/purpose of the page
  • Making sure the page URL contains relevant keywords
  • Removing confusing or irrelevant content from the page
  • Adding H1 and H2 headings
  • Adding hyperlinks to other pages of your website
  • Adding outbound links to other websites
  • Adding images
  • Adding image alt text

Remember, user experience is everything

The most important factor to Optimize for is USER EXPERIENCE. Google ranks webpages that provide a superior User Experience by providing useful, helpful, accurate information that's easy to use, browse, and understand. As you're optimizing your pages, ask yourself,

"what is the user looking for when they search for my target keyword?" 

Optimize for People, Not Search Engines

We don't optimize webpages for the search engines, we optimize webpages so that search engines will suggest the page to more people. All of your optimizations should be built on a foundation of making your webpage more useful to the PEOPLE who view it.

If you're not sure what your audience is looking for, head over to Google and search your target keyword yourself, and spend some time browsing the highest ranking results. Checking out the competition is the best way to start an optimization campaign. And remember, your page doesn't have to be "perfect," it just has to be better than the top ranking result.

Part 2: On-Page Optimization Checklist

When optimizing or creating new pages for your website, there are a few universal guidelines that will help your pages achieve high-quality results in search engines.

✅ Optimize one page at a time, one element at a time; When optimizing web pages, it's easy to get overwhelmed with all the options. To keep your optimizations on track, use a systematic approach and focus on optimizing one page at a time, one element at a time. Start with the page title and work your way down the page, making small, incremental improvements as you go. 

✅ Before you start optimizing, choose a focus keyword. The focus keyword or keyphrase is the search term you want a page or post to rank for most. Your focus keyword will serve as the central theme around which all the content on that page revolves. Focus keywords help ensure that the information presented aligns with the user's search intent.

✅ Don't keyword stuff. Keyword stuffing is the practice of inserting a large number of keywords into Web content and meta tags in the attempt to artificially increase a page's ranking in search results and drive more traffic to the site. In other words, don't try to cram a bunch of extra keywords into your pages. 

✅ Write content for people, not search engines. Google's algorithm prefers webpages that deliver the best user experience. In most cases, the best user experience means presenting useful information that's well-organized and easy to understand.

✅ Be as descriptive as possible. To maintain a clear and concise message, it is crucial to steer clear of using broad, nonspecific terms such as "it" or "they." These vague descriptors can cause confusion and hinder the effectiveness of your content. Instead, try to use the specific name or title of the product whenever possible. 


Part 3: How to Write Perfect Page Titles

In the world of SEO, the page title reigns supreme as the most powerful and crucial page element. When search engine crawlers analyze a webpage, they turn to the page title to determine its subject or purpose. The relevance of other page features is judged by their correlation to the page title.

It is therefore imperative to give careful thought to crafting page titles that are not only easy to read and comprehend but also concise and authoritative in nature. The goal is to create titles that effortlessly convey the essence of the page to both users and search engine crawlers, leaving no room for ambiguity or confusion.

✅ Products, collections, and blog posts are pages too. Any website element with a distinct URL is considered a "page". Product titles, collection titles, and blog post titles are all examples of page titles. The advice provided in this section is applicable to all types of page titles, including products and collections.

✅ Titles should be easy to read and understand. When crafting your page titles, it is essential to use concise and authoritative language. The aim is for both users and search engine crawlers to grasp the subject or purpose of the page simply by reading its title.

✅ Be consistent with page title structure. This is especially important if your site has a high number of pages, such as an eCommerce site with hundreds of products, collections, and supporting content. Maintaining consistency in your page titles enhances the overall user experience, streamlining the process of browsing through your products.

✅ Put the most important information in the first 60 characters of your title. Google only displays the first 60 characters of page titles; In order for search engines to understand the purpose of your page, the most important information must be within those first 60 characters.

✅ Use your focus keyword in the title of your page.  Focus keywords keep SEO optimizations on track by creating a reference point for all the optimizations performed on a page. When possible, place your focus keyword towards the beginning of the title. This can be accomplished through the use of a colon, or separator such as a hyphen or pipe (see example below).

In the example below, notice how we use the focus keyword to change the phrasing of the page title. Putting the most important keywords at the beginning of the title helps Google's crawlers (and users) understand the purpose of the page. 

Focus keyword: eCommerce SEO
Original page title: Everything you need to know about eCommerce SEO
Optimized page title: eCommerce SEO: Everything You Need to Know

screen shot of google search results for the keyword 'ecommerce seo'

In the image above, note how the highest ranking results for the query "ecommerce seo" have placed the focus keyword at the beginning of the title.

Part 4: URLs and Slugs

✅ ALWAYS use best practices for URLs; The internet runs on URLs. Crawlers use URLs to identify and catalog web pages, which makes URLs a critical component of any SEO campaign. For this reason, it's important to follow these best practices for URLs:

  • Use the focus keyword at the beginning of the URL slug
  • Always use hyphens between words 
  • Avoid generic, nondescriptive URLs like "new-product-1" or "copy-of-product-1" because they can confuse crawlers and deliver a poor experience 
  • Avoid special characters like underscores and punctuation (hyphens are ok).
  • Make them easy to understand - A user should be able to understand the purpose of your page just by looking at the URL
  • Remove unnecessary articles like the, and, but, is, etc.
  • The URL should closely resemble the page title; don't sneak in extra keywords (keyword stuffing) or exclude critical unique identifiers like color or size
  • The URL should contain the page's focus keyword 
  • Avoid long, confusing URLs; try to keep your URLs around 60-70 characters
  • Read Google's guide to URL basics
  • Read Google's guide to eCommerce URLs



URL Redirects

Always use URL redirects (301 redirects). Changing the location of a page by changing the URL can confuse search engines and deliver a poor user experience by creating a 404 (not found) error. Sites with  multiple 404 errors are often penalized by search engines and appear lower in search results. 

If you're optimizing an existing page of a website, NEVER change the URL unless you also setup a URL redirect (aka 301 redirect) from the old URL to the new one.

Exceptions: If a page is brand new (less than 24 hours since being published) it's ok to change the URL without setting up a redirect. In Shopify, if you change the URL of a page, Shopify will automatically create a URL redirect for you, but you must make sure to tick the box before saving your changes (see below).



How to create & edit multiple URL redirects in Shopify

To add or edit multiple redirects in Shopify navigate to the admin window, then go to Online Store > Navigation > View URL Redirects. You'll see all the active redirects on your domain, and you'll be able to edit existing redirects, or add new redirects from there. 

shopify url redirects


Part 5: SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions

✅ Create a compelling SEO title. The Meta Title, also called the Title Tag, refers to the text that is displayed on search engine result pages and browser tabs to indicate the topic of a webpage. On Shopify, the Meta Title is referred to as the SEO Title. 

SEO titles are found near the BOTTOM of the Shopify edit screen, in the Search Engine Listing area.

✅ Remember, Page Titles reside at the TOP of the Shopify edit screen. SEO Titles are not the same as Page Titles. 

SEO titles and Page Titles should be similar, but the SEO title may include additional contextual information about the page, such as the site title, product category, or any number of other variables.

In the example below, note how we've inserted the site title at the end of the SEO title. 

PAGE TITLE: The Shopify SEO Handbook part 2
SEO TITLE: The Shopify SEO Handbook part 2 | BlueSwitch 

✅ SEO Titles should be less than 60 characters. Google only displays the first 60 characters of a meta title. Anything beyond 60 characters will be truncated and won't appear in search results. Putting the most important information towards the beginning of the title ensures that crucial information about the page will not be excluded from search results.

✅ Use a separator in your SEO title to add additional context to the end of your page title. This is most commonly accomplished with the use of a separator like a pipe |  bullet point  •  or em dash  — 

Page Title: eCommerce SEO: Everything You Need to Know
SEO Title: eCommerce SEO: Everything You Need to Know | BlueSwitch SEO Handbook

In the example above, notice how we've added additional context to the meta title by adding a pipe | and additional language that will help search engine users understand the context of the page they're about to click on

✅ Write a compelling meta description.  A meta description generally informs and interests search engine users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. Meta descriptions are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they're looking for. The content in meta descriptions do not influence search rankings, so write meta descriptions that will appeal to users, not search engines.

✅ Limit meta descriptions to 150 characters or less. Meta descriptions over 150 characters will be cutoff by Google; to ensure your audience gets the right message, keep meta descriptions under 150 characters, and put the most important information (and keywords) up front. 

✅ Meta descriptions must be unique; pages with duplicate meta descriptions will not appear in search results. It's better to have no meta description at all than to have a duplicate meta description.

Part 6: Editing meta titles and meta descriptions in Shopify

If you want to edit the meta title, meta description, or slug on a Shopify product, follow these simple instructions. 

  • Step 1: From the inventory menu, locate the Shopify product you want to edit and click into the edit screen
  • Step 2: Scroll all the way to the bottom of the edit screen and locate the section labeled Search Engine Listing and click EDIT
  • Step 3: Now edit the fields marked Page Title (meta title), Meta Description, and URL handle (slug) and click SAVE


How long should URLs be?

By default, Shopify URLs will populate every word that's contained in the title, which can result in super long URLs that deliver a poor UX. Make sure to clean up the URL handle before publishing your page/product. 

How long should meta descriptions be?

Shopify meta descriptions can be as long as 320 characters, however Google only displays the first 150 characters. To encourage Google to use your meta descriptions, keep your meta descriptions under 150 characters. 



Part 7: How to Write Perfect Product Descriptions

Crafting the perfect product description isn't easy, but with a little practice and our product descriptions cheat sheet, you'll be publishing high-ranking product pages in no time. 

To optimize a product description, locate the product you want to edit, then click into the edit screen and look for the section labeled Description.

✅ Use an intro section (1-2 paragraphs) that describes key facts about the product. Think of the intro paragraph as the "elevator pitch" for your product, and include the most important points of difference that make your product desirable. 

✅ Use bullet points that list out the key features and benefits of a product. If you use more than one set of bullet points, make sure to label the different lists so that users and search engines can tell about the purpose of each list. 

✅ Avoid long blocks of uninterrupted text. Most users do not visit a webpage with the purpose of reading the entire thing from top to bottom. Most often, users are skimming a page to look for a specific bit of information, or for the portion of the page that's relevant to their search query.

Large blocks of text are intimidating and difficult to parse out into smaller "bite size" ideas. Break up your content into paragraphs of 2-5 sentences, with H2 headings placed every 2 or 3 paragraphs. 

✅ Use H2 headings to label different sections. Search engine crawlers use H2 tags the same way we use chapters in a book. Labeling the different sections of your content with H2 headings helps search engines understand the different sections of content, and H2 tags help users skim and  read the content faster and more efficiently. 

Want to learn more about H-tags? Click here to skip ahead to the Heading Tags mini-lesson.

✅ DON'T add unnecessary H1 tags. The H1 tag is a "top level" tag that should only appear once per page. Most Shopify themes are setup so that the page title automatically appears as an H1 at the top of the page. Remember, there should be only ONE H1 per page, so if you're adding subheadings to your product listings, use H2 tags only. 

✅ About heading font sizes: Most website themes will attach unique styling to the various heading tags. However the styling of a heading tag (the font, color, or font size) is not a ranking factor in search engines. Do not use heading tags as a stand-in for design elements or to add extra space between paragraphs.  



Part 8: How to use Heading Tags (H1, H2, etc)

Header tags, also known as heading tags or H-tags, are used to separate and organize the various sections of a webpage. H-tags rank in order of importance, from H1 to H6, with H1 being the title, or most "important" tag. Header tags are a very important part of SEO because they improve readability and give a better user experience.

The example below illustrates the hierarchal ordering of H-tags. 

This is an H1 tag 

this is an H2 tag, it is a subheading of the H1 tag ↑

this is an H3 tag, it is a subheading of the nearest preceding H2 ↑

this is an H4 tag, a subheading of the nearest preceding H3 ↑

this is an H5 tag, subheading of nearest preceding H4 ↑

this is an H2 tag, a subheading of the nearest preceding H1 tag (yes, the one at the beginning of this example ↑


How to create an H2 tag in Shopify: 

  1. highlight a line of text in the description field
  2. click the PARAGRAPH drop down
  3. select HEADING 2 from the list of options.