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Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of getting your website to show up as a top result on Google and other search engines.

Shopify includes powerful SEO features in all plans, including:

  • editable title tags, meta descriptions and URLs for your pages
  • editable ALT tags for all images, customizable image file names
  • automatically generated sitemap.xml and robots.txt files
  • automatically generated canonical URL tags (to stop duplicate content).

This article will cover some advice and suggestions for beginners that will help you improve your Shopify store's SEO and show up on Google, Bing, and other search engines. If you are new to SEO, then you might want to read the Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz.

For more advanced information, have a look at the SEO for Theme Designers guide.

SEO basics

In the world of SEO, they often say "content is king". That means if you want people to find your website on Google, you need to have lots of words on your website, and those words should be the keywords you think people would be looking for on Google.


Keywords are the terms that people use to search for things on the web. As a shop owner, you want to know exactly what keywords your customers are using so that you can target them. Say that you are selling leather shoes; you need to know if people who might be searching for your product are looking for "leather shoes", "dress shoes", "leather boots", or maybe even all of those.

A useful tool to help you brainstorm and discover the most popular keywords is the Google Keyword Planner. This tool helps you determine the most popular keywords by comparing search volumes.

Keep in mind that the more traffic your keywords get, the more difficult it will be for your store to show up at the top of searches because you'll have more competition.

Now that you know which keywords you are looking to target, you need all of your online store's content to include those words. The content you should setup for SEO includes your homepage, and any and all product pages, collection pages, blog posts, and regular web pages.

There are five primary places on any given web page where you will want to think about placing keywords:

Page title

The title tag is one of the most important elements of on-page optimization. The title tag can be set for pages, products, collections, and blog posts using the Shopify admin. The title appears as the clickable link on the search engine result, likeSell Products Online - Start & Create an Online Store - Shopify in this example:

Search engine optimization 1

The content of the title tag is used by the search engines to determine what your page is about. Here are the basics:

  • Keywords: Include your most important target keywords in your page title.
  • Length: 70 characters is the maximum number of characters that most search engines will display.
  • Branding: If you want to include your store's name, it's a good idea to do it at the end of the title.
  • Readability: Make sure your title tag is readable. Potential customers won’t click on an unclear title or a jumble of keywords.

You can edit the title tag of your online store in addition to setting the title tag for each product, collection, or page in Shopify. Scroll to the Search engines section to see the following options:

Search engine optimization 2

Meta description

A "meta description" is the brief bit of text that shows up on a search engine like Google after your title tag. The meta description can be set for your homepage as well as other pages, collections, and blog posts using the Shopify admin. Here's how it looks on the Settings > Online Store page:

Search engine optimization 3

Try to write an accurate description of your store. A good description will cause more people to click links to your store.

Page heading

It is important that you include your main keywords in the names of your store's products, collections, pages, or blog posts. These names are often used as a web page's h1 heading tag. For example, if you are selling a red t-shirt with your store brand on it, you'll want to set the product's name to something like "McFadden's T-Shirt - Red". This will make your web page more likely show up when people search for words like "McFadden's", "t-shirt", and "red t-shirt".

Image alt text

Google and other search engines can read words and content on your site, but computers have a hard time knowing what the content of an image is. The image's file name and alt text are used to describe a picture's contents. Having descriptive alt text can help your product images show up when customers search for images. As well, alt text is an important accessibility feature: it describes your product images to people who have visual impairments.

To set the alt text for a product image, hover over the image and click the ALT link:

Search engine optimization 4

Page content

The more content you write in your product description, collection text, or blog post, the better chance your page will be found on Google and other search engines. Try to write a few paragraphs of text with some of your main keywords included. Make sure you don't just copy and paste text provided to you by a manufacturer - chances are that same description is already on hundreds of other web sites.

  • Links

Links to your online store from other websites help Google know that your site is popular and can be trusted. Ask your friends and affiliates to link to your store, and look for places where your store can be listed online.

  • Anchor text

The text that acts as the link to your store is very important. If a website links to your online store using the words click here, then Google might think that the website should show up when people search for "click here." Instead, it's a good idea to ask people to link to your website using your store name or your main keywords. For example, Shopify might usecommerce platform or online store as anchor text.


All Shopify stores automatically generate a sitemap.xml file that contains all your products, pages, collections, and blog posts. It also supports Google's Image Sitemaps extension. Your sitemap file is located at sitemap.xml at your store's URL (for example, www.johns-apparel.com/sitemap.xml).

You can use tools like Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools to verify your website so that Google indexes your content much more quickly.

Migrate to Shopify

If you have an existing web site using a different platform and are thinking of moving to Shopify, it's possible to do so without losing any of your existing website traffic. Shopify includes the ability to set up URL redirects inform your customers, Google, and other search engines that your website's URLs have changed.

Hide pages from search engines

Search engines like Google constantly crawl the internet in search of new data. When your site is being crawled, your store's robots.txt file blocks page content that might otherwise reduce the effectiveness of your SEO strategy by stealing PageRank.

Your online store automatically generates a robots.txt file, which you can view by appending "/robots.txt" to your store's primary domain name.


When viewing your store's robots.txt file, remove "http" from the beginning of the domain, for example johns-apparel.com/robots.txt.

Although you can't edit the content of your store's robots.txt file, you should be aware of the content that it blocks from search engines. For example, the shopping cart page is included because Google indexing your cart page doesn't help potential visitors discover your home page or your products. Because the /cart page is where visitors begin checkout, logistically you want visitors to land on your product pages before the cart page, not the other way around.

The robots.txt file also disallows the checkout, orders, and admin page.

You can hide pages that are not included in your robots.txt file by updating the <head> section of your store'stheme.liquid layout file. You will need to include a small bit of code to disallow certain pages from being indexed.

To hide pages from search engines:

  1. Click the ... menu, then click Edit HTML/CSS.

    Click edit html css


  2. Click the theme.liquid layout file.

  3. To exclude the search template, paste the following code in the <head> section:

    {% if template contains 'search' %}
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex">
    {% endif %}
  4. To exclude a specific page, paste the following code in the <head> section:

    {% if handle contains 'page-handle-you-want-to-exclude' %}
    <meta name="robots" content="noindex">
    {% endif %}

    Make sure that you replace page-handle-you-want-to-exclude with the correct page handle.

  5. Click Save.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about SEO, check out Shopify's free Ecommerce SEO 101 video series. Watch industry expert Helen Overland from Search Engine People teach online store owners about Search Engine Optimization and give ecommerce SEO tips and advice.

Shopify's ecommerce forums include an Ecommerce Marketing category where you can ask SEO questions, swap links, and discuss other marketing topics.


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