Shopify powers over 1.7 million businesses worldwide, generating more than $200 billion in sales for those using the platform. This all-in-one ecommerce platform makes it easy to start, grow and run your online business.
Building a store with SEO in mind helps ensure people can organically discover your business on Google, Bing, and other search engines.
You can customize your store with Shopify themes that allow you to make your store truly unique. But which one is best for SEO?
When choosing your theme, there’s more to consider than aesthetics. In this column, you’ll learn how to choose an SEO-friendly theme to improve your chances of ranking higher and getting found in search results.
13 Characteristics of SEO-Friendly Shopify Theme Design
Many will promote their themes as SEO-friendly, but what does that actually mean?
Here are a few of the features you should look for in your Shopify theme to make sure it is optimized properly.
1. Responsive and Mobile Friendliness
Is the theme responsive? A responsive design offers compatibility with any device.
Whether your audience is on their smartphone, desktop, tablet, or another device, your shop will still render appropriately with a responsive design.
Search engines focus heavily on mobile-friendliness, and a responsive design is key.
2. Theme Speed
An optimized theme renders quickly, improves your time on page/reduces bounces, and also helps with crawlability. View the theme’s demo and see if the theme mentions how fast it loads.
You can also run the demo page through a speed test on:
A site’s speed is largely dependent on its code. If your theme loads quickly, you can ensure that your posts, product pages, and other content are optimized to keep your site speedy.
3. Valid HTML Markup
As long as the site renders properly, Google’s John Muller states that valid HTML won’t have a significant impact on SEO. But valid HTML can also help improve some of the most important aspects of SEO, including:
- Browser compatibility.
- Crawl rate.
- User experience.
Even Google Shopping Ads run better when your site has valid HTML.
And if you’re using hreflang, you may even break your site if you aren’t using valid HTML.
In short, it’s always better for your theme to have valid HTML. Use the Markup Validation Service to check yours over.
4. Support for Featured/Rich Snippets
Featured snippets draw structured information from a website and display it prominently in Google’s search results in their own special boxes.
These snippets offer:
- A chance of ranking higher in the search results.
- An increase in “no-click searches.”
While there’s no guarantee Google will display a featured snippet from your site, using schema markup makes it possible and can increase your chances.
Look for a Shopify theme or app that automates adding markup to your site for product schema, FAQ snippets, video object snippets, breadcrumbs, and more.
Note: Shopify also uses the term snippets to describe reusable code that appears on more than one page, but not sitewide. Be sure you understand the distinction between search snippets and those used in coding a theme as you’re researching your options.
5. Customized Metadata
Metadata can improve your site’s SEO, and being able to customize metadata is a powerful addition to any theme.
A few important tags that should be customizable include:
- Title tag.
- Meta description.
- Open Graph.
- Twitter cards.
- Robots meta.
- Alternative text.
Leveraging custom metadata is a powerful tool that you can use today and in the future.
6. Built-in Social Sharing
Billions of people worldwide use social networks, so social sharing is something that should be built into the theme.
When visitors can share your content or products, they can generate substantial traffic, links, and even sales.
Auto-generated sitemaps allow search engines to find all of your site’s pages, whether they’ve just been added or aren’t linked from any of your site’s pages.
The good news is that Shopify automatically generates a sitemap for each store. Shopify says:
“If you’re on the Basic Shopify plan, then only your store’s primary domain has a generated sitemap file and is discoverable by search engines.
If you’re on the Shopify, Advanced Shopify, or Shopify Plus plan, then you can use the international domains feature to create region-specific or country-specific domains.
When you use international domains, sitemap files are generated for all of your domains. All of your domains are discoverable by search engines, unless they redirect to your primary domain.”
So if you don’t see sitemaps specifically listed as part of a theme you’re considering, fear not — you’ll have this ability with any theme.
What you may need to consider for larger sites is that once you get over 5,000 URLs, Shopify will begin to create child sitemaps in order to avoid going over its limit of 50,000 URLs.
You may want to find an app to help keep these up to date, as they don’t repopulate with each new page added to your store.
8. Easy Product Customization
Your product pages need to stand out and cater to your target audience. Customization is one way that you can make your product pages unique.
Look for the ability to:
- Position call-to-actions appropriately.
- Test different product positions and layouts.
- Make sure product schema is valid.
9. Navigation Options
Do you have options for the placement of your navigation?
Navigation elements placed above the fold allow for the easiest navigation possible. Search engines will also be able to find your main pages to crawl as quickly as possible.
Navigation may not seem like an integral part of SEO but it is a primary element of good architecture, which can improve crawlability and user experience.
10. Language and Translation Support
Where is your target audience located? Which language(s) does your target audience speak?
A theme with language and translation support, as well as hreflang, can have a significant impact on your user’s experience.
The use of hreflang will help search engines show the correct version of a page to users based on:
- Language preference.
- User location.
Language and translation support will become important as your business grows. When your Shopify site starts making international sales, it will be even more important to cater to visitors who speak a wide range of languages.
11. Optimized Images
If your store’s images are too large, they’ll increase your site speed, impacting usability and search rankings in the process.
Your theme should use optimized images. Shopify’s CDN does a lot of the work here by:
- Caching images to improve load time.
- Resizing images in order to make them responsive.
- Lightly compressing and converting all images to the web-standard 72dpi.
- Serving images in the WebP format.
However, you’ll want to make sure you understand how to add and edit alt text in your Shopify theme.
This is particularly important for product photos, as you don’t want to underserve customers with accessibility needs and alt text helps search engines understand the image content, as well.
As accessibility impacts your website’s reputation and user experience, WCAG, 508, and ADA compliance should be on your list.
12. User-Generated Content Options
User-generated content (UGC) is essential for increasing brand awareness and generating buzz around your site.
There are a lot of options for UGC, including:
- Questions and answers that customers can contribute to on your site.
- Comments from users.
When users can help you generate content organically, the content they add will often lend to your SEO efforts. For example, your customers have questions that require an answer.
The theme’s support may not be a direct link to your site’s search engine optimization, but support can:
- Offer help with customization.
- Fix errors and issues with the theme.
- Listen to recommendations on future feature additions.
If support is slow and not responsive, will they be available if there’s a bug in their theme? A good theme developer will offer high-end support that can help answer all of your questions and concerns.
Optimize Your Shopify Store with These Additional Tips
If you’re new to Shopify and want to optimize your store for SEO quickly, there are a lot of things that you can do to improve your Shopify’s SEO.
Try out SEO apps that can put some optimizations on autopilot by doing the following:
- Optimizing your title and meta description.
- Running weekly health reports on your site.
- Monitoring your site for broken links.
- Reducing file sizes.
- Managing your schema markup.
Optimizing your product titles and descriptions by using your target keywords.
Using lightboxes or pop-ups to help improve your sales through the use of timed pop-ups and restrict pop-ups (check out these tips so you don’t jeopardize your SEO).
Shopify makes selling products online as easy as possible. While a lot of the hard work is done for you, choosing a theme for your store is one of the things you’ll need to do on your own.