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Before you start: Essentials to improve your Shopify SEO
Many firms charge an hourly rate, and prices can range from below $25 an hour to more than $300 an hour.
Typically, firms that charge as low as $25 an hour are based outside of the United States, such as the several on our list headquartered in India.
Most often, firms do not post their prices directly on their website and require potential clients to call or email them for a consultation.
Typically, however, this includes an introduction to their services such as a free website audit to show how they believe the company’s rankings could improve.
Many firms with high-quality, comprehensive strategies or exceptional levels of expertise in certain industries may charge anywhere from $100-$200 an hour.
Some may offer month-to-month or longer term contracts, and some may also price their services in packages that include a specific number of keywords or content creation services per month.
SEO should never be an afterthought even though the return is not immediate.
To rank first in a Google search result, your store's content needs to match a potential visitor's intent.
Optimizing your site for SEO can feel intimidating and tedious, but really it’s all about understanding how search engines work and how searchers use them and implementing that insight into your pages copy, then methodically running through some completely accessible backend tinkering.
We've put together a step-by-step guide to optimizing your Shopify store—no SEO experience required.
Why is SEO so important?
1. The majority of traffic comes from organic search
If you don’t have an SEO strategy for your store, you might be missing out on traffic and revenue.
Online stores can expect 35% of total traffic to come from search engine results pages and 33% of revenue from this organic traffic making it the marketing channel that can produce the highest traffic and revenue, according to Wolfgang Digital.
2. Paid advertising costs are increasing and SEO is “free traffic”
If you’re generating most of your sales through paid advertising channels like Facebook or Instagram, this can eat into your profit margins. Although generating organic traffic takes time, it should eventually become your best acquisition channel which makes its costs sustainable.
Putting work in to increase organic traffic through SEO may cost you time and effort, but its compounding effect makes organic traffic the best value for money channel to produce customers.
3. Ranking first in search engines can get you up to 30% more daily traffic
If you happen to have a page that is performing well for organic traffic even without having done any optimizations for search, the likelihood is you can improve the page to bring more traffic, sometimes with the smallest tweaks.
There are a few vital things you need to set up before jumping into improving your Shopify store’s SEO. These are:
Purchase a custom domain. Simply put, your store needs its own domain to succeed in SEO. Custom domains create more trust with potential shoppers clicking through from search engines and they’re also more memorable. If you still have brandname.myshopify it’s time to upgrade to a custom domain like brandname. You can pick up a custom domain for anywhere between $10–$20 a year. If you need help, we have a resource on how to choose a domain name for your store.
Ensure you have Google Analytics installed on your site. Google Analytics is free to install on your website and lets you see how much traffic and what it does on your site. Learn how to set up Google Analytics on your Shopify store.
Ensure you have Google Search Console installed on your site. Google Search Console gives you insight into what pages rank for which queries, where they rank, and how many clicks you get amongst other useful insight. Learn how to set up Google Search Console on your Shopify store.
Have a mobile ready theme. Shopify offers a handful of free themes and they are built with Responsive Web in mind out of the box. If you’ve made any customizations to your theme or had one built, it’s best to test its mobile readiness with this Google tool even if there haven't been tweaks made.
Remove password protection. If you’re still getting your product pages created and sorted, you might want to wait to unlock your store to the public and search engines. But if your store is password protected, search engines won’t be able to see beyond your homepage and crawl or rank your pages on their search engine results page.
Be on a paid plan. While stores on free trials can be crawled and indexed, if you’re not on a paid plan you’re going to put all this work and not see the fruition of your efforts once your trial is over as waiting for a new store to rank will take longer than 14 days.
Once you’ve confirmed all of these are in place, you’re good to go. Use this SEO guide to improve your store's organic traffic and visibility in search engines like Google and Bing.
Technical SEO is the under-the-hood type of SEO. Like the fresh engine oil that keeps a car running, it often can’t be seen but can dramatically improve search performance of your website.
Technical SEO ensures that your website is optimized for search engine crawlers, has good page speed, and is mobile device optimized.
It also optimizes your site for humans by making sure its structure, navigation, and internal links allow easy browsing, and that meta tags are filled in so both search engines and humans know what the page is about.
If your website has discrepancies in these areas, it can stifle your rankings until errors are identified. By resolving these errors you’ll see the benefits like:
Users engaging more with the site because it’s faster and all important content and pages are easy to access
Increased crawling activity from crawl bots because the site is easier to crawl, which increases organic traffic over time
Note: This is not a full guide on technical SEO for Shopify, it’s a list of the must-haves you need to get in place for your site to perform well in search.
It’s easy to overlook internal linking, especially in the early days of building your online store. I understand—it simply doesn’t seem that important compared to publishing new pages and promoting your business.
Creating internal links isn’t just about pasting links to appropriate anchor text across your website.
It’s about creating the necessary pillar pages that will pass authority to dozens of other relevant website pages and blog posts, and/or vice versa. This can be done with a clear navigation system from your homepage that’s designed for both user experience and search engine crawlers.
Take Gymshark, a fitness apparel brand. Its homepage lists only two top-level menu options—simple.
Once you hover over either Womens or Mens, you get a dropdown list of products and collections offered. The dropdown is split into what’s trending, Gymshark’s staple products, styles that are specific across its product range, and accessories that don’t quite fit into other categories.
What is worth calling out here is that this menu structure is built for humans first and search engines second.
This is vital for building buyer trust. Our research on what solidifies trust with new shoppers found that category navigation that is easy to understand and use across all devices is a must-have if you want to win sales.
Yes, while Gymshark does create an easy to understand menu and category navigation system, it also lists its most important pages that will get organic traffic in this menu and optimized the anchor text for it.
You can see this under Womens > Products. When you click through to Shorts, you’ll find that this page ranks for ideal search terms like “workout shorts” and “women’s workout shorts,” which draw ideal customers in from search engines.
Now the question is, "how do I apply this to my business?"
Here’s what we do next:
Conduct keyword research. We use a free SEO tool like Ubersuggest and type “habanero hot sauce” into the keyword analyzer to get an idea of monthly search for that term (4,400). Great! We’ve found a new category for our new line of products to be nested under.
Create product pages. In our Shopify store, we go to Products > Add product to create the product listing, and we ensure that everything is filled in from the title and descriptions to the SKUs and shipping information.
Create a collection page.
Navigate to Products > Collections to create a new page and add the three new product pages.
While creating the collections page, we make sure to follow on-page SEO best practices when filling in the Search engine listing preview by aiming to use “habanero hot sauce” in the page title, description, and URL and handle.
Add our new page to the menu. In our Shopify store, we go to Online store > Navigation > Main menu. From there we easily add our new habanero hot sauce collection to our navigation system under Shop.
Add a breadcrumbs app to your store.
An app like Category Breadcrumbs ($4/month) makes it easy to show your customers the path they’ve navigated down through your category tree.
Their “breadcrumb trail” gives them an easy route back by clicking on the appropriate link. For example, you’re reading this blog post on the Shopify blog, and you can click “Shopify blog” to take you back to the blog homepage.
In the beginning of this article, we noted that you should create a Google Search Console account.
Once you’ve done that, the next step is to submit your sitemap. Submitting your sitemap on Google Search Console allows your store to be crawled and indexed by search engines.
This simply means that a crawl bot visits your ecommerce site, explores the homepage, and makes its way down all your product categories, collections, and product pages and back up again until it’s complete.
It does this so it can list them on search engine results pages.
The good news is that Shopify creates a sitemap for all stores right out of the box. You won’t need to build your own—this is only recommended for truly advanced SEO managers.
If you’re on the Basic plan, you’ll get one auto-generated sitemap; if you’re on the Shopify plan or higher and use international domains, then you need to submit the sitemap file for each domain.
This six minute video will teach you how to submit your Shopify store sitemap to Google Search Console.
Next up is to fix any potential errors on your site. If you’ve just submitted your sitemap, you’ll have to wait until a crawl has taken place to get this insight, so perhaps bookmark this section and come back to it in a week or so. Here’s what to do:
Log in to Search Console and view the Coverage report. On the left hand side, click Index > Coverage. You’ll see a graph appear with the tick box options Error, Valid with warnings, Valid, and Excluded. For now, you want to pay attention only to Error.
Identify any 404 errors or redirect errors (if they’re reported). Search console will report these in the list as:
“Submitted URL not found (404),” which is when the page does not exist on your site. To the user it displays a page-not-found message. This error occurs because somewhere on your site you are linking to this broken page, or another site is, and the search engine crawler is trying to index it.
This is bad for SEO and users because you’re sending them to a dead end. It’s essential we fix this issue. Click on “Submitted URL not found (404)” and you’ll get a list of all the URLs that are returning errors. Click “Export” on the top right of the screen and export to your spreadsheet program of choice.
“Redirect error” is when a Googlebot crawled the URL but the page didn’t automatically update to the new location for the user. This is because the chain is too long, there is a redirect loop, the URL exceeds the maximum URL length, or there is a bad or empty URL in the redirect chain. As above, click on “Redirect error” to get a full list of these URLs and export the list.
Fix 404 and redirect errors in your store. This is where being handy with spreadsheets can help you out. These problems can be complicated to fix, but here’s what to do:
Reference your spreadsheet of 404 errors (this is the sheet marked “Table”). Now you need to find the most relevant page to redirect to. For example, on our Kinda Hot Sauce demo store, if we discontinued a product it would make sense to redirect its page to either the closet match or the collections page. Make a note of these next to the URL (you can remove or hide the “Last crawled” column).
If you can’t find a match, redirecting to the home page is a good default.
From your Shopify admin, go to Online Store > Navigation. Click “URL Redirects” and then “Add URL redirect.” Here, reference your spreadsheet of 404 errors and enter those into the relevant fields and click “Save redirect.” If you need more detailed steps for this, try our help article on creating redirects.
If you have more than a few redirects to create, you may want to consider using the bulk import function for URLs.
Next, I’ll briefly recommend how to fix redirect errors. Redirect loops make visitors and search engines literally get stuck in a loop by trying to load a sequence of two more pages on your website that all point to one another. The redirect is configured so that page C should load page A, page A is configured to load page B, and page B is configured to load page C.
Search engines not only crawl the text on your webpage, they also crawl your images. Optimizing your images doesn’t stop you from displaying beautiful photography. In fact, it better helps show off and display your images to shoppers.
Reducing image sizes should be a priority for your store. HTTP Archive reports that images make up 46% of the average webpage’s overall size—meaning images are large and can make a page load slowly if not optimized.
The good news is that since Shopify is hosted ecommerce software, you don’t need to worry about technical aspects of finding a CDN that is secure and readily loads your images, as that’s included in your plan.
However, here are some simple tricks for reducing the file size of your images to help them get found and indexed easier by search engines:
Use images in JPG or PNG formats. Shopify automatically serves images in WebP, a format that provides superior compression for images on the web, with an average saving of over 30% in file size over traditional file formats like JPEG and PNG.
Alongside this, when possible, use only JPEGs and PNGs for images when uploading them to your site, as they’re already the smallest image file formats. This can be done in most native image programs that come with your system. For example, on a Mac, you can use the Preview app to save images in different formats by clicking File > Export, then choosing either JPG or PNG from the dropdown menu.
Note: A good rule of thumb is to use JPEGs for photography and PNGs for custom graphics or illustrations, etc., and never GIFs, unless it’s for a moving image.
Build an SEO plan to scale your store’s growth
Reduce the file size of your images. In short, the larger the image file size, the longer it can take a load a page.
Reducing your image dimensions speeds up the loading of your images and the page. Resizing images can affect their quality. Be sure to use standard resolution, which is 72 pixels per square inch (PPI). If you’re new to this, we recommend you use Shopify’s free image resizer to get started.
Add images to your sitemap. It’s vital to have your images appear on search results, as many people are visual searchers, especially when it comes to products like apparel.
Adding images to your sitemap makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index them. Shopify includes your primary product page image in the sitemap, but if you want to include all images on your products pages, I recommend installing Image Sitemap ($4/month), an app that automatically builds and submits to Google Search Console an .xml Sitemap for all images associated with each product, blog article, and page in your Shopify store.
Alt attributes are the text alternative to images used when a browser can’t properly render them. They’re also used for web accessibility, meaning if a person with impaired vision is looking at your blog they will be read the alt text.
Indexed pages will show up in search results and can drive organic traffic to your site.
Sitemap – Your XML sitemap is a list of all the pages on a website that you want a search engine to index (not to be confused with the robots.txt which tells a search engine which pages not to index).
Page speed – User experience is important for search engines – they know that users are impatient. This is why site speed if a factor in how well your website ranks.
Meta elements – Duplicate title tags, meta descriptions, and site content can all negatively impact your site’s search engine rankings and click-through rate. Ensuring your meta elements are optimized will better your chances of being found on the SERPs.
Conversion rates – we look for bottlenecks in the user experience and content that might be throttling leads. For example, we will A:B test different contact forms or links to find out which ones work the best for your company.
Ultimately, your website content is the most important thing you can have—it’s what will attract visitors and convert them to leads. So once we get an idea of the content you already have, it will help us decide how to structure our plans for your website moving forward.
How Do I Find the Best SEO Company for My Needs?
We also perform a keyword analysis to find the best opportunities to rank higher and connect with more customers.
Much of your SEO success takes place off your website, on review sites, industry blogs, online directories, and more.
The good part about that is that if you’re really popular online or have lots of stellar reviews from past customers, it’s easy to rank really well for your treasured keywords. The bad part of that is most small companies aren’t that popular and many may have more negative reviews than positive, no matter how good their services are.
OPTIMIZING CODE AND SITE STRUCTURE:
Sometimes your site code and structure is in a good place and only needs a few minor tweaks. (Let’s be real—there’s ALWAYS something else you can be doing to outperform your local competitors.)
When the SEO team at Vietnam SEO optimizes your site code and structure, you can rest assured knowing you have experts handling the job. But more importantly, we will:
Structure your site’s navigation so it’s easy for people to find exactly what they want
Clean up the code in your site so it runs faster
Eliminate errors Google picks up when it crawls
Add an XML sitemap so Google’s crawler can quickly visit the different pages
Add internal links to pages within your site so users can flow to the places you want them to go
OPTIMIZING ON-PAGE CONTENT
Content is king. When it comes to maintaining your website, it’s not a one and done job. You don’t just create landing pages, put them live, and that’s that.
In order to consistently drive organic traffic to your website, you need to constantly be creating new content AND optimizing existing pages on your website. The SEO team at Vietnam SEO will:
Remove or rewrite duplicate content
Place keywords in your page titles to help Google rank your pages
Add well written, keyword rich copy to underperforming landing pages
Create new landing pages to draw in other visitors
Add images, format text, and change colors to move more visitors to convert
OPTIMIZING OFF-PAGE FACTORS
Your off-site presence is just as important as your on-site factors—which is why we will work to:
Use local SEO tactics to improve your position in the search results for local terms
Find directory listings of your business online, verify them, and update them to make sure they contain accurate information
Seek out new, valuable directories to add your site to
Submit press releases about new services your company is offering and other newsworthy items we come across
Discover noncompetitive blogs in industries similar to yours for whom we can write guest posts in exchange for links
Search engine optimization is more than just making these changes to your website. What’s the point of making changes if you don’t analyze the data. At Vietnam SEO, we track, test, tweak, repeat! #TTTR That’s our motto, and we’re sticking to it. Throughout this process we will:
Monitor rankings, traffic, and conversions on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
Use the data we’ve gathered to determine which of the above items will help your site the most
Good question. An SEO partnership is long-term, so you need to be sure of who you’re picking. Remember those black-hat techniques I mentioned at the top of this article? You’re going to want to avoid those.
Not all SEO companies or content marketing firms live up to their promises of more traffic, better rankings (Note: rankings aren’t the real measure of success), and more leads. Avoid any SEO company that promises anything like the following:
Search engine submissions
X amount of backlinks
Any sort of ROI projections
If you want promises like that, you can find them—but you’ll regret it later when the results aren’t what you signed up for.
Signs of Black-Hat SEO
A red flag should go up anytime an SEO expert makes certain claims or promises about results in X amount of time. The SEOs that give our industry a bad name are famed for what we call “churn and burn” practices, which often involve gaming rankings by:
Buying a ton of links from random, crappy websites
Using a computer program to generate hundreds of pages of garbage
Using duplicate or scraped content
Submitting fake press releases in order to spam links
I won’t say these things don’t work, because in some cases they do. The problem is they’re locked in a never-ending cat and mouse game as Google slowly shuts them down, one by one.
If you haven’t used black-hat SEO tactics on your site, don’t start. But if you have, we recommend working with a trustworthy SEO company that can help clean up your website. Don’t risk the chance of getting a Google penalty.
A word of advice—do not do business with anyone that insists on retaining copyrights to any and all meta data they create, edit, or analyze for you.
If they retain or have this right assigned to them, they can legally bar you from using it, or totally strip your site should you choose to leave them for another company. With Vietnam SEO, everything we work on throughout our relationship is yours now, and yours forever.
What to Ask Any SEO Company Before Hiring Them
Before you hire anyone, make sure you look at SEO company reviews. If numerous people have had issues with a vendor, there’s something going on. Ask up-front for examples of reviews and case studies that prove success. You should also additionally ask the following questions:
What’s in my current contract? Re-read the contract. What does it include? When does it end?
What’s the process if I cancel? Sometimes you won’t gain access to your website or you’re tied into a contract you didn’t know had an end date.
How will we communicate and how often? Set expectations early, otherwise you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Do I have full access to my site and Analytics/Adwords accounts? It’s helpful to know who has FTP access, CMS access, Analytics access, and AdWords access.
Will I own my website? Many SEO companies have website ownership clauses built into their contracts.