12 Ways to Optimize Your Shopify Product Descriptions for SEO
Some companies believe that SEO is for blogs, that it’s part of content marketing. Sure, SEO plays an important role in content marketing, but it’s also important for the rest of your site. Your site design, your About page, and your product pages all deserve their fair share of search engine optimization.
Shopify is one of the most popular platforms for eCommerce, and with good reason. Among other things, it offers easy administration and powerful optimization options, with the additional ability to use apps to tweak your site as much as you desire.
Basic and intermediate SEO best practices are pretty straight-forward to implement on Shopify – you just need to know what you’re doing. That’s what this list is for; 12 tips, tweaks, and habits you can make to boost your search engine visibility.
Understanding Relevant Search Engines
Before we get into specific SEO tips, first let’s talk about the different search engines that will be relevant to your Shopify store.
Google is the big one, of course. The big G accounts for 92% of the search market share, so it’s no wonder that the majority of SEO tips revolve around what Google likes and wants to see. For an eCommerce store, though, you might want to consider more than just Google’s web search.
Google Shopping is next. People use Google for its web search functions, but when they’re searching for a product, some of those web search results are product listings. Users can also click through to the dedicated Google Shopping interface, and get more search results specifically for products there. Google Shopping works a little differently than normal web results, and it’s worth learning how so you can take advantage of those quirks.
Google Images is another potential avenue that many website owners, even experienced marketers, tend to ignore. Image search can be a powerful source of traffic, and while some percentage of that traffic is just looking to copy the product picture for their purposes, plenty of it is going to be interested in the content of the page.
Bing is, of course, another option. Bing works a little differently than Google but tends to follow suit with major functions. In general, anything that works for Google SEO is going to be at least beneficial, if not always the best, for Bing as well.
You may also consider something like Amazon if you’re cross-listing your products on their site as well. However, since the focus of this post is on optimizing your Shopify product pages, we’re not going to worry about Amazon product pages for now.
Keep in mind that, in general, the tips we’re providing below will work for all of these search engines. You may consider reading deeper into a specific search engine that refers to you most of your traffic and try to find specific ways to further optimize for that engine. For now, though, on with the tips!
1. Verify Unique Content
The first thing you need to do is make sure that every one of your product descriptions is made up of unique content.
Yes, some content will be duplicated from other product listings. You can’t exactly put your unique spin on a serial number or the dimensions of a product. You can, however, make sure that everything else is unique. Your description, your presentation, your format; it all needs to be unique.
One of the easiest mistakes many Shopify store owners make is simply copying product descriptions from manufacturer websites. When you do this, you end up with duplicate content not only with the manufacturer but with everyone else who sells the product and copied the description as well. Everyone, except possibly the manufacturer, will be penalized for doing so.
2. Cover the Basics
The basic elements of SEO, in terms of product pages and product descriptions, are your headline/product name and your meta description.
Your product name can be either a simple name for the product or a keyword-rich name like you see on Amazon. Test to see which one is more appealing to your shoppers. Given that you’re not fighting the Amazon search engine, chances are the plain product name will be better.
Titles should be formatted to take advantage of the space you have. One typical format is this:
“Keyword 1 – Shop for Keyword 2 – Store Name”
For a store that sells running shoes, you might end up with:
“Men’s Running Shoes – Shop for Running Shoes for Men – RunnerShoesEmporium”
If your product is harder or more generic to describe, including the SKU for the product might be more valuable, as that’s what more people will search for.
Meta descriptions can, but do not need to, duplicate the first paragraph of your on-page product description. They can also simply be a basic description of the product. Google often ignores the meta description, especially if it’s template-based or generic, so focus on unique and valuable content instead.
3. Add More Content
The best product pages are full of content. The product description itself might be three or four paragraphs long, with additional sections for each feature and bullet point.
Compare two product pages for the same product, one on Walmart and one on Best Buy (under From the Manufacturer). You can see that the Walmart page has very little content on it, whereas the Best Buy page has a lot of text, images, and additional specifications information. The Best Buy page out-ranks Amazon for this product because of this additional content, which even the Amazon listing lacks.
More content allows you to include more keywords, more detail, and more of everything your shoppers want to see. Any time a user asks a question about a product, that’s an opportunity to add more detail to the product description.
4. Provide All Relevant Specifications
Including relevant information serves two purposes. First, it shows up in the search index, so someone looking for a product with that specification will be more likely to find your listing. Second, it’s text on the page that allows a shopper to see that specific information.
Even if the information is presented in the description, include it a second time in a specifications block. Check the Best Buy link above and click on the “Features” and “Specifications” sections. Most of the tips that are listed in that section are stated elsewhere, but a user looking for specific technical information will check there first. Providing that information is always better than not.
5. Research and Target Relevant Keywords
Keyword research helps you identify what specifics about a product are most important to your shoppers, and put that information front and center. For clothes, it might be the size, the style, the fabric, or the designer. For technology, it can be any of a thousand technical specifications. Every product has a specific array of features that are relevant enough to become keywords.
Performing keyword research can be a complicated task, which is why there are so many guides and tools available to help you with it. One thing to remember, though, is that keyword research for content marketing and keyword research for product pages are different. For product descriptions, you don’t need to focus as much on long-tail keywords, because you’ll be including many of them naturally in your specifications. Focus on the primary top-level keywords for your title and meta description, and include the most important long-tail keywords in the rest of the description.
6. Add Alt Text to Images
Adding alt text to images is important for two reasons. First, it’s an accessibility feature. It gives your shoppers who may need alternative means of browsing a site a better picture of what your page includes. Second, it’s an additional vector for keywords that can rank both for your normal organic search and your image search rankings. Some people search for products via image and use that to reach the product page, and that’s an important avenue of traffic you want to consider.
Alt text should be plain and descriptive of the content of the image. Do not confuse it with captions, which are visible on the page naturally and can include content that accentuates, rather than replaces, the image itself.
7. Optimize URL Structure
Customizing your URL structure involves two changes, both major as far as SEO is concerned. The first is making sure you’re using human-readable URLs rather than parameterized URLs. That is,
site.com/category/product-name-here instead of site.com/store?product=512. You can use URL parameters for things like UTM tracking, but shouldn’t use them for your store layout.
When you change your URL structure, you will need to scan your site for internal links that need to be updated, and backlinks you may want to redirect. Always redirect to the specific product whenever possible (or the next closest relevant page).
The second change is streamlining your hierarchy. It’s easy to create categories and sub-categories and collections until you end up with a product page URL that looks like site.com/store/category/collection/product/item. Consider your overall product hierarchy and determine how many categories and collections you need.
If you look at an Amazon product page, you’ll notice that a huge portion of the page is dedicated to other products. You have comparison tables, recommended products, “people also viewed” lists, upsells and accessories, and more. All of this is aimed at giving users options.
Your store might not have as many other products to advertise, but you can do something similar. Offering a box with alternative products allows users to shop around if the one they landed on doesn’t meet all of their criteria. Adding upsells and related products help increase cart value and sales volume by making an individual purchase more worthwhile. Plus, all of this is additional content on the page, which can help users make their purchase decision.
9. Optimize Design for Mobile Users
This one is not specific to product pages but is important for your whole site. You want your entire website to be optimized for mobile users, typically with a responsive design. A fast-loading mobile site is critically important these days since over half of all web traffic takes place on mobile devices.
Make sure to double-check that your product pages display nicely on mobile. Check that images fit on the screen and can be manipulated. Make sure text is visible and doesn’t overlap images, and that the user doesn’t have to scroll horizontally to read it. Make sure it loads quickly, and it’s easy for a user to find the button to buy when they decide they want to.
10. Use Multiple Large and Compelling Images
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a product page should have as many relevant pictures as it can. Different products should have different kinds of pictures. A t-shirt, for example, can have a static picture, a picture with a model wearing it, pictures of both male and female versions of the shirt, and so on. A picture of a computer monitor might have pictures of various angles (front and back) as well as an in-situ photo of the screen at a desk.
Try to keep your images standardized across your site. A product will stand out if 9 out of 10 products are photos taken in a lightbox and the remaining one is a photo of a person holding up the product. Uniformity goes a long way towards a professional and trustworthy appearance for your storefront in general.
11. Invite Reviews and Testimonials
Blog comments add additional valuable content to a blog post, and user reviews add additional valuable content to a product page. Reviews help other customers decide what issues a product may have, and whether or not those issues matter to them. They also form an avenue for users to leave questions you can answer.
12. Use Structured Data
Structured data using Schema.org allows you to flag specific pieces of data – such as review score, price, and even product category – as what they are. This allows Google and the other search engines to accurately harvest this data, rather than guessing. Implementing structured data can be complicated, but it’s well worth it for the rich snippets you get in Google’s search results.
Overall, Shopify SEO is largely about formatting a store in a way that is most beneficial and usable for your shoppers. A few apps, some keyword research, and a focus on the most relevant copy will get you 90% of the way there.
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