Some say that link building and content is the most important component of SEO, and while in the vast majority of cases most websites don’t focus enough on these areas, at Digital Choice we think that Technical SEO is your foundation to success. If your not sure what Technical SEO is, let’s break it down and what you can do to help improve your Shopify stores SEO traffic.
Technical SEO is one of the three components of SEO. Below is a brief summary of each, before we get into the checklist.
improving the content of your website so that users & search engines like Google can digest the information easier. This can be done through creating more detailed content, creating and/or updating the title tags of your webpages, Linking to internal and external pages etc. All of these components help to improve the information that users can get access to, while helping Google to understand that you know what your talking about.
majority of off-page SEO is around getting links to the website. Google looks at how many other websites are linking to your products, categories or content. The basis of this is that websites with more links are considered more trustworthy than websites with fewer links. This is one of the reasons why brand new websites don’t rank highly. Link building is a time consuming process which happens over months & years.
The components of Technical SEO really is the base for all marketing activity to build off. Through Technical SEO your website should become more functional, easier to use, load faster and give users an overall better experience. Imagine a situation where you write an amazing piece of content, or your a market leading in developing a new product. You have gone to all this effort to provide significant value to your potential customers, have spent thousands of dollars on advertising and your website takes 10 – 15 seconds to load and isn’t responsive to users on mobile. You’re probably not going to have the best bounce rate, annoy some people at the same time and not run a profitable ad campaign.
This is why Technical SEO is so important. It doesn’t just provide better organic results, but also can set your website up for success when users come from any source.
So what should you do to improve your Shopify stores technical SEO. Well you can use our 10 point checklist as a guide. This will help identify areas which can improve your website and is exactly what we look at as one of our component of our Website Audit.
Technical SEO Checklist:
1. Site Speed
Google is a very competitive market. In each industry there are thousands of websites that can compete with you from all over the world. One of the biggest improvements that you can make to your website is improving the website load time. Which is why we’ve written an article outlining how you can review and improve your Shopify Stores site speed. Google themselves mentioned that the longer a website takes to load, the higher the chance that the user will bounce off and go to a competitor. The ideal that you would like to reach is a load time of under 3 seconds. Most Australian websites aren’t even close to this, sitting closer to the 10 second mark. If your store is on the slower side of things, then working towards 5-6 seconds is a manageable goal.
2. Mobile Responsive
Looking at the trends over the last 5 years, one of the biggest changes that has changed is how readily we use Mobiles to search for information. From most websites 55% or more traffic comes from mobile and this is still increasing. The great thing about being on Shopify is that majority of Shopify Themes and websites are mobile friendly or responsive. Responsive web design, basically means that no matter what device is being used, your website still looks great and maintains its usability and functionality.
3. Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools
For people new to websites, this is often missed. Search Engines like Google & Bing actually help you by providing a tool which can be used to find errors, improve website performance and seeing which search queries you are already showing for. This is our first point of reference when reviewing a website, as you can often identify and find some quick wins just by looking through these tools.
4. Error Pages
Nothing is worse for users than a poor experience on your website. Not only will you likely miss out on a sale, but you could turn the potential customer off for life. Most error pages come over time, where you may have updated collections, migrated the website from another CMS platform or a whole range of other reasons. However it came about, we know that this needs to be fixed asap. Seeing a 404 Error page means that the page doesn’t exist and the link is broken, leaving the user feeling frustrated. Having searched in Google or clicked on a link from another page on the website, and it goes to the dreaded 404 Error page. The best way to fix this is by using a 301 permanent redirect & then updating the URL link to the correct one (if it was from another page on your site).
5. Consolidate Thin & Duplicate Content
The idea behind writing content isn’t so that you will rank higher in Google, it’s so that you can help solve a problem or provide information that others will find useful. Some of the metrics that Google looks at to determine your search results is how long users spend on your website, how far they scroll down and how many other pages they go to on your website. So if you have 3 or 4 related content pieces that are all 300 words, it’s better combining them into a 1,200 word piece. The other thing that Google doesn’t like is duplicate content. If you have content covers off exactly the same information as another website or another page on your website, then you’re not going to be seeing great results from Google. Content should be original or at the very least have your own opinions / ideas on how you see the situation. If you are in a competitive industry, then you always need to be brainstorming how you can improve your content.
6. XML Sitemap
The quickest way to get your pages indexed is an XML sitemap. A sitemap is basically a list of all of your pages, it should automatically update whenever you create a new page, product, collection or blog post. You can upload a sitemap into Google Search Console to let Google know that you pages exist and you want them to be indexed. On other CMS platforms, you would have to use a plugin or an app to create a sitemap. The great thing about shopify is that it is already created for you. To find yours, simply type in your website and then /sitemap.xml (i.e. http://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml). Copy & Paste this URL into your Google Search Console under the sitemaps section let Google know about your pages.
7. Structured Data Markup
This is basically some additional code on the website which helps Google to understand the content of the page. If Google knows this, then they can display this information in your organic results. For Shopify stores an example of this can be showing the pricing, whether products are available, reviews etc. Not only can it help to improve your click-through rate on your listing, but this intern can help get you moved higher in the search results page. Some Shopify stores come with this built into the theme, while the easiest way for others is by using an App from the Shopify App store.
8. Website Structure
All too often we see websites that have a poor structure. This is generally more apparent on Shopify stores than through other CMS’ because Shopify doesn’t work through a hierarchy system. Meaning you can have the same product in multiple categories on the website. Poor categorisation (which you can see through the menu), not only makes it harder to be ranked by Google, but also gives a bad experience for the user. If a user is searching for a specific product and it could be in 7 different places on your website, chances are they will just bounce off and go to a competitors site. The general rule for categories is be as specific as possible. Don’t just place all products under ‘Shop All’ or ‘Accessories’, spend some time and effort placing products under logical categories. It will help Google rank your website, and help the users find what they are searching for easier.
9. Canonicalization & Pagination
Canonicalization essentially tells Google which is your preferred URL when there are a couple of options available. For example, there are many different URLs that you can choose for your home page, https://www.yourwebsite.com, https://yourwebsite.com, yourwebsite.com etc. Canonicalization tells Google which of these options you want, so that it remains consistent. Canonicalization ties into the duplicate content we discussed earlier and also helps when you are building links, as other websites will use your preferred URL rather than the others.
Pagination is most often used for Shopify stores on the collections pages. If you have hundreds of products in one category, some Shopify themes will use a continuous load feature. This puts all the products on one page which is then loaded in sections depending on how far you scroll down. It can be acceptable from a user experience point of view, however it can actually cause some issues with Google’s crawlers. Generally we find it better to have a set number of products per page, users can click to the next page if they choose.
10. Secure Site
So there you have it, our 10 point checklist for Technical SEO. Comment below and let us know your thoughts on SEO for Shopify stores. We’ll be going into each of these in more detail in the articles to come, so stay tuned.
Bonus Checklist Item
Meta Title & Meta Description Tags
Meta Titles (AKA Page Titles) & Meta Descriptions are small pieces of code that are written in the source code of a webpage. They outline the content of a specific page to search engines. The vast majority of Shopify sites don’t edit or adjust there Meta Tags. This means that they aren’t getting the traffic that they should be through Google.
Meta Tags don’t directly improve your rankings or help you show for new search terms. They help to get you the maximum amount of traffic for the search terms that you are already showing for. Here at Digital Choice, we think of meta tags like free ads for your website. Without editing, websites aren’t making the most of their free advertising & free traffic. You can read up more about meta tags in our article.