You’ve probably heard it everywhere at this point: when it comes to marketing your Shopify store, SEO is the name of the game.
But how do you get started?
There’s a myriad of tools, SEO experts and blogs out there.
The abundance of information, tools and third-party apps can make it very confusing for first-time Shopify merchants to begin optimizing their SEO.
But I’ve got good news for you: the start is the hardest part. Once you have an actionable, ready-to-go plan at hand, all you have to do is execute it.
In this post, I’ll teach you how to conduct a complete SEO audit for your Shopify store.
By the end of this guide, you will be able to pin-point what your priority SEO issues are, and how you can get started with fixing them.
So let’s get started!
No time to read the whole post?
Download this SEO Audit Checklist (PDF) instead to get started instantly.
What is an SEO audit?
An SEO audit is a quick analysis of the overall health of your website SEO.
The whole process shouldn’t take more than an hour. SEO audits are not only great for getting started with search engine optimization, they are also good to do on a monthly basis—think of it as a regular check-up to make sure everything is running smoothly.
In the ever-changing environment that is SEO, you have to stay on top of your game.
Shopify stores are by nature extremely competitive in search rankings. All of your competitors are after the same product keywords that you are targeting, but only one website can claim the #1 spot.
If your content is low quality or outdated, if your on-page is not optimized or your website is horribly slow—your SEO is broken, and your competitors will simply outrank you for all of those keywords.
Thankfully, a well-conducted Shopify SEO audit will identify those issues straight away. So let’s get to it!
Check #1: Brand name rankings
Let’s start with something easy.
Is your website in the search results when searching for your brand name?
Let’s search for TapTimize:
This is good.
This means that Google is expecting that users who search for the term “taptimize” (my brand) want to reach the address “taptimize.com” (my website).
Unless your website is completely new, you shouldn’t have any issues ranking for your brand.
But you should also check for your alternative brand names. In other words, what your users might use to find your website.
For example, if your brand’s name is Colour Pop (one of the most successful Shopify stores out there), you want to make sure that your rank for both colourpop and colour pop… and maybe even colour-pop.
Although this is more of a localization issue than pure SEO, this store could also try and rank #1 for the terms colorpop, color pop and color-pop.
(Hint: they do… which is both impressive but not too surprising considering their popularity!)
If your store’s name is in the format xyz-shop.com, you should make sure that your website shows up in the first position in Google SERPs for the queries xyzshop, xyz shop, and xyz-shop.
One of my clients currently has to deal with the exact same issue, mostly because a Czech website is using the same brand but on a
Your brand name is extremely important for your SEO.
If you’re not consistently ranking at #1 for your own brand name, it’s time to get to work.
This post from Entrepreneur has a great slideshow on how to rank better for your brand name:
- build up citations;
- keep your Google My Business listing up to date;
- optimize your on-page branded keywords.
Now that you know how to appear at the top of search results for your brand name, here’s an extra tip: the rest of the search results matter too.
Ideally, the first page of Google Search Results for your brand name should be full of content you can control. LinkedIn, Facebook, Trustpilot—make sure your brand is available on all of those channels as well.
Check #2: Coverage
If you are not using the Google Search Console yet, set it up now.
The Coverage part of the Google Search Console report will let you know if your pages are indexed at all. If none of your pages can be found by Google, we have a problem, as this means no organic traffic at all.
If your website is relatively new, don’t worry: Google typically needs a few days to start discovering and indexing all the pages on your website. You can help the algorithm with this by submitting a sitemap on the Search Console.
You will then be able to regularly check and manage your website’s indexation status:
The Index Coverage report is incredibly useful for large websites.
For example, my client has a few near-duplicate product pages on his website (the product is different, but the description is the same).
To avoid duplicate content penalties, he marked those pages as
noindex—but he forgot to remove the URL from the automatically-generated sitemap.
(Hint: instead of marking pages as
noindex, in this case, you should be looking to tag the main pages as canonical).
Generally speaking, you should only
noindex pages that have low value and dampen your authority, like Contact Us, About or Legal. You want your users to be able to access those pages, but you don’t want Google to think this is what your website is about.
Getting the Coverage report set up for your website will instantly alert you if you run into very serious Coverage issues—so make sure this is in place.
Check #3: Technical on-page SEO
This is a big one.
Most Shopify store owners focus their SEO efforts towards getting great backlinks—which, don’t get me wrong, is not a mistake, but I find that you should not underestimate the power of on-page optimization.
Especially if your on-page is completely broken… like this:
This is a chart of my client’s SEO issues for one of the most basic on-page optimizations you can do: the
<h1> tag is a way for Google to understand your site’s structure, and is one of the many things you have to get right when optimizing your SEO.
The tool I’m using to collect these insights is called Screaming Frog. It will crawl up to 500 URLs for free and audit the most common onsite SEO issues for free (for example: missing
Let’s take a deeper dive here into some of the options Screaming Frog offers to help you audit your Shopify Store SEO:
Page Titles & Meta Descriptions
The Page Titles & Meta Descriptions tabs allow you to gauge the title and meta description lengths for each of your pages.
What should I do with this?
The page title helps Google understand what your page is all about and is therefore extremely important. It defines the content of the page.
Generally speaking, a good title:
- contains your target keywords (with the most important ones first—always have the brand at the end);
- is relatively short / not spammy (titles over 60 characters may be truncated in Search Results).
Moz recommends the following template for product pages:
[Product Name] – [Product Category] | [Brand Name]
How do I do this in Shopify?
I haven’t been able to find a good app to do this more easily (especially if you sell hundreds of thousands of products—if you know one, let me know!).
Since my client’s site is relatively small (~500 products), we can simply edit products (and collections) page titles from Shopify’s built-in Bulk Editor.
If you want to edit the Page title for your homepage, you will find this option under the Preferences menu:
The meta description is not as important, but since you are already editing titles, you might as well take some time to make sure it doesn’t go over 160 characters (so it doesn’t get truncated) and is enticing enough to get a click-through.
H1 & H2 Tags
Much like your title, your
<h2> tags help Google understand what your page is all about.
On most websites,
<h> tags make the text appear a little larger (for example, this section uses a
<h3> tag). Their purpose is to grab the user’s attention when they land on a page—instantly telling them what the main topic is.
If you check the Overview section of Screaming Frog, you’ll find a list potential problems with your
You can click on the specific issues to display all URLs with that issue in the main window:
As you can see here, my client is missing a bunch of
<h1> tags on some of his most important collection pages. That’s pretty bad for the user (the
<h1> serves as a reminder of the page they are currently visiting) and for Google.
If you get Duplicate warnings, don’t worry: by nature, Shopify’s structure might cause a few duplicate
https://xyz-shop.com/products/abc will end up creating the exact same page twice. However, only the
/products/ page gets indexed (instead of
/collections/products/), so you are not at risk of keyword cannibalization nor competing against yourself in the rankings.
Images are the bane of Shopify stores.
Screaming Frog eases the pain of image SEO by giving you most of the information you need to optimize them. It will mark every image over 100 KB (large images slow down your page speed and are bad for your user experience), but most importantly will let you know which images are missing an alt text.
Originally, alt text was used to help the visually impaired understand images.
This is still the case, but Google now also uses alt text for Google Image Search. Google is still a machine—and visual data is not easy to parse.
Alt text is important to provide contextual relevance about the page where the image resides. The image above, for example, uses the alt text “screaming frog images recommendations”.
With what Google knows about Screaming Frog, they can more or less infer that this page has a small section about alt text optimization that is visually supported by an image. This is a small, but important boost in rankings for me.
I don’t usually recommend apps, but considering how painful and time-consuming it is to update alt text in bulk with Shopify, I would consider using Bulk Image Edit if many of your product images need optimization.
Screaming Frog Conclusion
Screaming Frog is a great start if you need to optimize your technical on-page SEO. However, it can be a little daunting to analyze your entire website and try to fix everything all at once (especially considering the average size of Shopify websites).
Remember that Screaming Frog allows you to audit specific pages too! My recommendation is to pick a few product pages that you feel are under-performing and analyze those first.
Check #4: Content audit
Is your website really informative?
Think of the kind of information your users want to find when they are looking to buy a new product from your website. This is what Google wants, too.
Product and collection pages
Let’s assume you sell strong coffee. I’ll take Death Wish Coffee (emphasis on the strong niche: great SEO work) as an example here. You probably already have product descriptions like this:
You could just leave it at that. But let’s be honest—don’t you have more questions about this coffee? How much stronger is this coffee compared to my regular coffee? What quantity is best to use? Why do you advertise this as strongest ever?
Death Wish knows they have to be as informative as possible.
Not only does this increase your conversion rate (by removing any doubt your visitor might have about the product), this also makes the whole page a hub of information about strong coffee: extra points for the Google algorithm.
This is why they add this FAQ section to their main product:
Unsurprisingly, this product page ranks at #4 for the search query “world’s strongest coffee”.
If your Shopify store also runs a blog (highly recommended!), take some time to analyze some of your best-performing posts. What are they doing right?
In most cases, you will find that they:
- are informative;
- visually pleasing and easy to read (many images supporting the body of the article, clear cuts between paragraphs);
- fairly long (longer blog posts tend to perform better);
- load incredibly fast.
Blog posts that are under performing should be either relaunched (also known as evergreen content) or taken off your website.
Because you will lose authority.
If most of your pages are not informative and have a high “pogo stick” rate (your users return to search results after finding your blog post), your rankings will decrease.
Indeed, if your user has to come back to Google to find the answer to their questions, this must mean that your content is not relevant to the question.
Your blog should be an informative hub for anything related to your products.
If you sell coffee, your readers might be interested in productivity tips, pre-workout routines, or, who knows, informative blog posts about how to correctly use coffee filters.
(Yes, even the latter: I didn’t know until recently that I’m supposed to fold coffee filters first, nor that you can drench them with hot water to remove the papery taste).
Check #5: Page load speed
Shopify is by default slow.
Third-party apps, hundreds of images and a myriad of scripts that you have no control over make page speed a nightmare to optimize on Shopify.
The bad news is… page speed is one of the most important ranking factors.
Most buyers will leave your shop if it takes more than three seconds to load. And obviously, these are not the kind of results Google would want to return in their SERPs, which means you lose rankings again.
So how do you make sure your site is lightning fast?
I could write about this for hours (I actually wrote a Shopify page speed case study a little while ago!), but the main takeaways are:
- use Google Pagespeed Insights for a quick overview of your store’s pain points;
- optimize your images in size, format (use WebP!) and loading style;
- remove unnecessary scripts and apps.
If you want a quick look at your current speed on mobile, you can test your URL with Think With Google and already receive a few recommendations:
Another great website for analyzing your site’s speed and receiving custom recommendations is GTmetrix.
I find their Waterfall feature particularly useful for identifying which resources are slowing down the total load time:
As a last tip, I’d recommend staying away from “speed optimization” apps.
Most end up being another app that clutters your already-messy store. Focus on building pages that provide a great experience for your users.
Clean collections, minimal amount of images, and limited amount of scripts and videos will usually do the trick.
Check #6: Structured data & rich results
Would you like Google SERPs to show your product pages as a rich snippet, like this?
Now, this is what I call a good, clickable link. Enticing ratings, good amount of reviews… and if your product has a price tag and a well structured schema markup, it’ll show up there as well.
What is this, and how do I add it to my store?
This is where it gets tricky.
Schema markup code is a way for Google to return even more informative results.
For example, by putting the price straight into the results, Google helps their users decide whether they should click through or not.
No way you’d pay $19 for coffee? Fair enough—keep on scrolling!
You can add a lot of information in there, but Shopify stores usually stick to aggregate rating, amount of reviews, and price tag.
Now read very carefully, because this next part is super important and could very badly mess with your structured data.
There are a lot of apps out there that will “guarantee rich results and rich snippets”, “better CTR on every product URL”, etc.
The funny part is that it’s not up to them: ultimately, Google will decide whether your store is worthy of rich snippets or not. And more often than not, these cheap apps have completely messed my clients stores:
There is only one app I’ve come across that does a good job at handling structured data: JSON-LD for SEO.
It comes with a hefty price tag, but is well worth it. The developer, Eric Davis, has provided amazing support to help me recover my client’s lost rankings.
Once your structured data is in place, a new “Products” sub-menu will appear in your Google Search Console.
If you find anything wrong with your structured data, this is where you should start digging.
A word of caution: the “review” warning should absolutely be ignored. You do not want to populate this field, as you might lose your Product Rich Result by doing so. Eric Davis wrote an excellent article about this issue.
Check #7: Internal links
Let’s head back to the Google Search Console, again.
If you haven’t noticed it yet, you will find a “Links” sub-menu on the left side of the screen:
Oh great! Is this where I can see all of the links from other websites?
Yes, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But more importantly, this is where you can see all of the links from your own website!
Why is this important?
Internal links are almost as important as external links (also known as backlinks). They are hyperlinks that point to pages on the same domain.
For example, if I want to reference one of my older blog posts in the one I’m currently writing, and I link to it, this will be called an internal link.
Once again, these links help Google structure and understand your website.
And they provide greater value to your user, too. More stuff to read, more products or alternatives to buy… your visitor can feel as if they were walking around a retail store—with workers to counsel them or different merchandise to try out.
Backlinko has an excellent guide on internal linking that I can only recommend reading if you’re going to apply this strategy to your Shopify store.
The best tip I can give is to use exact match anchor text when doing internal linking (as opposed to backlinks!). This helps Google understand exactly what your page is about.
You’re almost an SEO expert by now, so you must have noticed that I linked to my own blog post a little earlier in this article:
This is the exact type of best practice you could implement on your store right now—just remember not to make it look spammy.
You can check which of your pages have a link to another page on the same domain (internal) by going over to the Links section, Internal Links, and click on one of the URLs in the table.
Check #8: Backlinks
Backlinks. The Holy Grail of SEO.
Let me start by saying this: do not buy backlinks.
One good, natural, well-placed backlink is worth infinitely more than a thousand paid backlinks, and I’m not even exaggerating.
With that out of the way, let’s have a look at how you can audit your backlink profile, and what you can do to start receiving more organic hits to your Shopify store from today onwards.
Here’s the backlink profile (using Ahrefs) for one of my clients:
dofollow? Does that sound very natural to you?
It’s not. Out of 40,000 backlinks, I have a hard time believing that nearly all of them can vouch for the quality of my client’s website.
In case you aren’t familiar with the concept of
nofollow links have an extra attribute (“
rel=nofollow“) that lets search engines know not to follow the link.
In short, these links mean “Hey, I’m not sure whether this link can be trusted. Don’t associate my website with this website, please, Google.”
Most blog comments, forums, and social media all have some sort of policy that default their links to
That just makes sense: anyone can come and read this post, and leave a comment to their NSFW, spammy site that I really don’t want to be associated to.
Trust me, they do (but I have a great anti-spam plug-in!).
So a website that has absolutely 0
nofollow links is a big red flag for me (and for Google!).
If I scroll past the top backlinks (according to Ahrefs)… this is what I find:
What is this?
This is exactly the kind of backlinks you don’t want. Very likely bought, and they can have a massive, negative impact on your SEO as soon as Google finds them.
If this is happening to your website—remove the spammy links straight away.
No control over the host domains for those backlinks? Enter Google’s Disavow Links Tool.
If you’re not sure how to get started, or which links are actually considered spam, Ahrefs has recently updated a nice little guide on disavowing links.
Let’s wrap up this blog post with a quick checklist of the things you need to analyze when conducting an SEO audit for your Shopify store:
Branding and coverage
✅ Brand name rankings: are you ranking for all versions of your site’s name? Xyzshop, xyz-shop and xyz shop?
✅ Coverage: is Google able to entirely index your website?
✅ On-page technical SEO: are your pages properly structured: well-placed
<h2> tags, image alt texts, meta title and description?
✅ Content: are you helping your user as much as possible?
Speed and structured data
✅ Speed: is your website lightning fast? Have you optimized your visual assets as much as you could?
✅ Structured data: are you using an app that’s up to date with Google’s requirements and works well with your theme?
✅ Internal links: do you have a properly planned internal linking structure and content plan going forward?
✅ Backlinks: do you know where most of your backlinks come from? Is it time for a disavow clean-up?