The Definitive Guide to Ecommerce SEO: Plan and Setup for Success (Part 1)

SEO is one of the best ways to generate traffic, so everyone wants to take advantage of it. However, many people don’t understand how SEO work.

You only want to drive search traffic from keywords that convert into sales.

You don’t want to waste precious time reading about juicy SEO strategies. Your goal is to use SEO to make money from your online business. Here are some steps you should follow.

I. Research competitors & keywords,  identify organic traffic opportunities, and set SEO goals for your Shopify Store

Your opportunities depend on the nature of your product.

There are three parts of your online store that you can drive organic traffic:

  1. Product pages
  2. Category pages
  3. Content pages (blog, support, forum, and FAQ)

Ranking for product pages: Before investing time, effort, and money on boosting your organic traffic, you need to answer the following questions.

How long will you be selling certain products?

Do people actually search for your product online?

It takes a lot of time and effort to improve your SEO rankings. So you want to invest in lasting pages to reap the benefits.

If you have products with limited inventory (such as a flash sale e-commerce sites like TouchOfModern) or a site that sells innovative products that people don’t even know exist (see Coin and Tile), then you shouldn’t waste time and energy trying to rank your product page.


Ranking for category pages: Category (and sub category) pages are great places to invest your SEO efforts. Most online entrepreneurs never change these pages.

For example, if I’m selling women’s shoes, the style and products will constantly change. However, the type of shoes (heels, sandals, boots, etc.) will be the same. Since I am always going to be selling heels, I will want to rank for the heels category page.

Ranking content: Content is surprisingly underutilized in e-commerce strategies. Optimizing your content for SEO is the best way to scale your organic traffic.

High quality content is especially valuable for stores with innovative, artisan, and B2B products. The customer needs to be educated, so content will help overcome their skepticism and encourage them to buy.

however, content might not be as effective with flash sell sites or sites that sell common novelty products.

For example, let’s assume I’m running a store that resells BB guns. There isn’t much information people would search for online except for BB gun types, BB gun reviews, and brand comparisons. BB guns are novelty products that most people aren’t likely to search for.

You need to find out if there is enough valuable information for prospective customers before trying to optimize your content for the search engines.

(Keep in mind that the above are only guidelines. There are always exceptions.)

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a very important part of any SEO strategy. You need to understand who your ideal customers are and their purchasing behavior to conduct it properly. You will need to understand how they research new products and how they go about making purchase decisions.


Next, categorize your keywords into two categories: keywords for commercial intent and for providing information. Informational intent keywords will be used in your content. Commercial intend keywords will be used on product and category pages (or any pages with product related information).

For example, if you are selling organic pet products, your ideal customers would be health conscious pet owners.

Here is an overview of the process a customer would follow

Step 1: Research information to solve their problems (this is where you can create great content to capture these keyword opportunities)
Example search queries:
“How do I keep my dog healthy?” – information intent
“Are antibiotics bad for cats?” – information intent
“What type of diet should I give overweight medium size dogs” – information intent
Step 2: Weigh options on the best solution.
Example search queries:
“Should I make the meals myself or buy organic dogs food?” – information intent
“How to make a balanced organic diet for medium size dogs?” – information intent
“Should I run my dog twice a day or just buy a doggy treadmill?” – information intent
from brands for considering buying decision.
Example search queries:
“Organix vs Nature’s Variety Instinct” – commercial intent
“ABO gear happy habitat cat tent review” – commercial intent
“Organic dog food” – commercial intent
“Organic hamster nesting material” – commercial intent
Step 4: Look at category pages to see what products are available
Example search queries:
“Nature’s Variety Instinct coupon” – commercial intent
“PetFlow coupon code” – commercial intent
“Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Dog Food” – commercial intent

Step 4: Look at individual products, deals and coupons

Example search queries:
“Nature’s Variety Instinct coupon” – commercial intent
“PetFlow coupon code” – commercial intent
“Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Dog Food” – commercial intent

Continue looking for new keyword ideas for your customer profile and buying cycle. Finally, prioritize your keywords worth optimizing for based on the following:

  • Keyword competition
  • Average monthly search
  • Customer relevance

Competitor Research

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s clarify what types of competitors we are looking for. You want to review sites that are competing with you on search engine, products, or both.

A site is definitely a competitor if it’s both offering similar products and competing for similar keywords in the search engines.

If a site is competing on search engine only, but not products then it counts as a competitor. Sites receiving traffic from keywords you’re targeting are competing with you for visibility.

For example. I’m looking for competitors who are ranking for informational keywords about pet care and came across the blog PetMD. Even though PetMD is a blog that doesn’t sell any pet products, it has loads of content ranking for the keywords that attract my potential customers.

When a site is only competing on products, but not on search engine then it’s not really a competitor from a SEO perspective. They are a competitor in the traditional sense, but I don’t have to worry as much about competing with them for organic traffic.

The best way to come up with a strategy is taking a peek at your competitors. There are 3 things you need to look at.

Part 1 – What keywords are they going after and are currently ranking for?

Looking at the keywords your competitors are ranking for help you come up with profitable keyword opportunities. It can also inspire new ideas you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Most importantly you’ll get a good idea what works for your competitors and what doesn’t, which keeps you from wasting money ranking for worthless keywords.

You can use SEMRush to research your competitor’s rankings.

Part 2 – Which sites are link to them?

Your competitors backlink profile can give you insights to what type of sites are linking to them, which helps you come up with link building strategies for your  own site. Ahrefs is a great tool for analyzing backlinks.

Part 3 – Are they producing content? What type of content is getting ranked for the keywords you are looking for and attracting social engagement?

BuzzSumo is an awesome free tool that helps you analyze which content in your niche is getting the most social engagement.

II. Setup proper tracking

You need to track all the crucial metrics to know what works so you can invest solely in strategies that provide results.

Here is a list of essential metrics you’ll need to track for you SEO campaign and the tool(s) you can use to do so:

Target keyword rankings: You will want to track keywords that provide a high ROI. You will want to focus on the best keywords from your research, as well as opportunities you found through Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics.

One of my favorite keyword tracking tool is Ranktrackr. I would also recommend Moz if you are looking for a more comprehensive solution.

Backlinks: Backlinks can make or break your SEO efforts. It’s crucial to find out who links to you and try to have a clean backlink profile.

Here are the more specific metrics and elements you need to keep an eye on for backlinks:

  • Number of new backlinks gained
  • Number of backlinks lost
  • Number of referring domains
  • Top URLs with the most referring domains
  • Backlink quality

You can use Ahrefs for backlink analysis.

Anchor Text Distribution: Unnatural anchor text distribution is a huge red flag when it comes to Google penalties. So it’s important to keep an eye on this.

Organic traffic: This is one of the most important metrics. The whole point of getting ranked for keywords is so you can get Organic Traffic, which will convert into revenue. When analyzing organic traffic, separate it into Branded and Non-branded organic traffic. Here is why this is important:

Branded organic traffic: People typing the name of your store have already heard about your brand. This metric basically tells you how well your branding and word of mouth is doing, such as PR and social media.

Non-branded organic traffic: This is where SEO will really pay off. When people type in a keyword and stumbles on your site, you are getting a new visitor who can potentially become your customer.

Traffic per keyword: This is very important, because you need to know which keywords are getting you traffic, so you know which keywords to invest your efforts. You can get this data from Google Webmaster Tools. For more integrated usage, connect your Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools so you can access information.

Conversions from organic traffic: Tracking conversions is one of the most important metrics (if not the most important). It will tell you a lot about the quality of your organic traffic and whether your conversion optimization efforts are working. You need set up Goal Tracking to track conversions in Google Analytics.

III. Technical Optimization and Fixing Errors

Now that you’ve got your game plan ready and setup your tracking, it’s time to set up a great SEO foundation.

First thing we need to address is proper site structure.

Having a great site structure will:

  • Amplify your link building efforts to  pass link juice properly.
  • Properly theme your product and content categories for internal linking.
  • Improve your site’s usability to improve your sales conversions.

A great site structure needs to get the user from homepage to product page with as little effort, while also making sure all content and product pages are categorized properly.


Setting up a great architecture is even more important on Shopify platform than most other platforms. Once your structure is setup, you will not be able to change your URL structure.

Internal Linking

Note: When we are talking about internal linking, we are talking about linking to another page within the same website. Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 4.16.15 AM Having great internal linking structure allows you to target keywords, flow SEO value (aka “link juice”), and improve indexation.

There are two main elements to watch out for when you’re internal linking your pages:

Page theme relevance: When you are linking to another page, you have to make sure you are linking product, content, and categories pages with a similar theme (which is why you need a good link structure). The main reason is to avoid theme bleeding, which became even more important after the most recent Panda Update (Panda 4.0), which penalizes topical authority, which can be caused by inappropriately linking to other pages on your site.

Anchor text diversity: Anchor texts was heavily abused as many sites sites used exact keywords. The Google Penguin Update ruthlessly penalized sites that overused unnatural anchor texts.

One way to address this is to rotate your anchor text, so you can internal link while keeping a natural ratio of anchor texts.

Indexation Errors

You can use tools such as Moz or Screaming Frog to crawl your sites for indexing errors.

The most common errors you will want to correct quickly include:

  • Redirecting any 404 pages to actual content
  • Changing 302 redirects to 301 redirects
  • Dealing with duplicate content pages
    • You can fix duplicate content pages by deleting the pages and adding a 301 redirect from the url to the original page.
    • Deleting pages is not always an option. In those cases, use add “rel=canonical” tags to the duplicate pages and point them to the “original” page.

For example: On e-commerce sites, you can end up on the same product pages through different url paths. In this case you cannot delete the page with duplicate content and you’ll have to use rel=canonical tag to point one page to the other.

  • Update any duplicate title and meta description tags.

Follow this tutorial to identify and fix your index errors.

You may also have server side HTTP errors. This shouldn’t be an issue with Shopify, since it hosts your store on it’s server. However, if you do get an HTTP error then you’ll need to contact Shopify support.

Website loading speed optimization

Unfortunately, people are very impatient in the digital age, especially on the internet.

According to KissMetrics, 40% of users abandon webpages that  take more than 3 seconds to load. Google wants to rank pages that offer a quality user experience, so website loading speed is a major ranking factor.

If boosting organic traffic isn’t enough to convince you to improve your loading speed, your conversion will also take a huge toll. In other words, you are losing money! Here is proof:

  • Based on an A/B test Shopzilla did, faster pages converts 7% to 12% better than slower pages.
  • Firefox did a similar test, which improving loading page time resulted in a 15.4% increase in conversions.
  • When Google experienced a 1/2 second slowdown, its traffic dropped by 20%.
  • When Amazon’s site slowed down by 1/10 of a second, it lost 1% of its revenue…which is a lot for a company that does billions of dollars a year.
  • When Yahoo’s site slowed down by 2/5 of a second, its traffic dropped by 9%.

You can improve your loading speed by following the steps in this article.

Shopify has limited customization access, so there are only so much you can apply. The good news is the platform has many features such as CDN and image compression, so you don’t need to worry about dealing with page speed yourself.

Continue to Part 2 of the guide…

  • Ruby shaikh

    Hi , I found your article to be very informative and a great guide to those who are new to shopify seo

    but there is my view is that
    I don’t think there is any juice left in SEO in current scenario . Its going to harder and harder to get rank on google.

    but if you do focus more on on page seo and content you can easy to get rank on google