E-commerce referencing

E-commerce referencing

The ultimate guide to e-commerce referral stores

Do you have a Shopify store and want to attract insane traffic?

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about optimizing your Shopify e-commerce website for search engines with a step-by-step SEO (Search Engine Optimization) guide.

This way, you can get your team working on the SEO factors that really matter!


According to a 2019 survey by DigitalCommerce360 (formerly Internet Retailer), there are between 12M and 24M
in the world. And everyone is competing for the same property in the
search results

Google’ s job is to match the relevance of each web page with user intent. This is how it works,
Google hovers over and selects search results
to place in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

The first step in helping Google do its job is to clarify what your store is all about.

What do you sell?

As digital marketing manager for Lounge Lizard, I’ve seen many entrepreneurs use the same store to sell different products from totally different categories.

You’ll have a hard time listing your store if you sell clothes, accessories and jewelry all together. Google cannot understand what your

A bad example of an e-commerce store is JCPenney, which sells everything under the same domain: from home furnishings to beauty products.

It’s clear to Google and to users that Dylan sells candy.

There are many different types of candy, which Dylan has placed in appropriate sub-categories. But even though Dylan sells different products, at the end of the day, they’re all candy!

Selling a single product line per e-commerce store is the best way to boost your search rankings.

Think about it.

Your website will be filled with keywords related to the same product category. This is an excellent tactic for increasing relevance and signalling to Google that your online store specializes in a certain sector.

Google likes highly targeted
that are highly targeted and specialized, because they correspond exactly to users’ search intent.

Selling just one product line per Shopify store also helps build brand equity. You’ll be recognized as an industry expert, and consumers will associate your brand with the specific product category. In other words, it will increase your market share.


Dylan’s Candy Bar has added a highly relevant keyword to its domain, “candy bar” (dylanscandybar.com), which helps Google understand and index its website.

According to Moz and SEO experts like Brian Dean, domain is one of the 200 factors that affect your ranking.

If you’ve already published a Shopify store on a domain that doesn’t contain relevant keywords, don’t worry at all, because you can simply buy another domain and connect it to your store :

Return to your domain provider. If you don’t have one, you can choose GoDaddy, HostGator or Domain.com. I always suggest Domain.com as it offers the best value for money. Shopify itself also sells custom domains, but this is more expensive. Finally, you can learn how to buy a domain from Shopify by following this tutorial;

Use tools such as Ubersuggest or Google Trends to identify the most profitable keywords to include in your domain;

Use the search bar on your domain provider’s website to check the availability of your new ;

Connect a third-party domain to your Shopify store.


There are two main ways to organize the URL structure of your Shopify store

Before you get started, you need to understand how search engines interpret URLs and assign relevance.

The image above shows the elements that can form a URL.

While the https protocol is now standard in Shopify, I’m going to focus on how to optimize the page path.

According to Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin, search engines can treat subdomains as separate entities and split your domain authority (Moz correlational data, 2015).

In other words, your
(on-page and off-page SEO activities) and signals (e.g. traffic, bounce rate, backlinks…) on your sub-domain won’t affect your main domain.

For this reason, I never recommend using subdomains.

You can create sub-domains to identify different departments or areas of your website. But as I explained above, you want a very specific Shopify store that targets a niche. So you don’t need sub-domains at all.

Everything following the domain represents a page path: the further away a page is, the less relevant it is.

In other words, you want the most important pages for your core business to be as close to the domain as possible.

Every time you use a folder or sub-folder, the page loses SEO juice and relevance. This means it’s harder to rank a page with a long path.

For example, the URL below represents a long path; in fact, the page is located in two folders:


Instead, the example below represents a shorter path:


From an SEO point of view, you say that this page is very important for your company. That’s why you need to be very careful about the keywords you use.

Search engines attribute more relevance to these keywords and use them as signals to define what your store is all about.

In all cases, use a short, descriptive product name as the URL slug. The shorter the URL, the better.

According to a 2008 interview, Matt Cutts (former software engineer at Google) revealed that after five words in your URL :

Algorithms [Google] will generally weigh these words less and simply not give you as much credit.

This means that a short URL like example.com/mens-chair is easier for Google to understand than example.com/studio-furniture/contemporary/mens-chair-5-lightweight-winter-boots/1001468,default,pd.html

Now that you know how to structure your URLs for better SEO results, let’s discover some strategies you can apply to your eshop.

URL structure for Shopify stores selling 5 products or less

If you sell just a few products, you don’t need subfolders at all. This is only true when your products belong to the same product range and are very similar to each other.

You want the path to your product pages to be as clear and short as possible.

The URL below is an example of what you need to do:


URL structure for Shopify stores selling more than 5 products

If your Shopify store sells several products, you’ll need categories to better organize them.

When you’re dealing with dozens or hundreds of products, categories aren’t just useful for SEO, but also for improving your e-commerce UX (user experience ). In fact, they help search engines and users alike.

Shopify already offers you the possibility of creating an optimized URL structure:

Home ” Category pages ” Product pages;

Home ” Category pages ” Subcategory pages ” Product pages.

Don’t forget to build your structure to help users first. If search engines understand and index your website, but users can’t find what they need, you’re not generating any revenue.

For this reason, you should also add a search bar.

The last two pages you need to add to your e-commerce structure are the “About” and “Contact” pages.

These are signals that you are a legitimate brand.

But is it really true that you need real pages (with their own URL) for these two sections?

My answer is no!

Sometimes you don’t want to create an “About” or “Contact” page. For example, you want a specific design that doesn’t allow it, or you don’t have enough content to create a substantial page (thin pages will penalize your website’s ranking).

What’s more, if your users need to visit the about page to understand what you do, it means your Shopify store isn’t effective at all.

Visitors need to understand what you do, what you sell and who you are at a glance from the home page.

If your Shopify store has this problem, our designers can help you optimize your homepage. Ask for a free proposal!

Google Quality Document states that they prefer websites with “an appropriate amount of contact information” and that you don’t need actual pages to do this.

What you really need is to insert your contacts somewhere and make it easy for users to find them (in the footer, for example).


In Shopify, the categories mentioned above are called “Collections”.

Shopify collections are navigation elements that help users find what they need by grouping products into categories or sub-categories (sub-collections).

A collection acts as a table of contents for your store. This is a hub page on a specific subject that links internally to several pages related to the original subject.

Depending on your offer, your collections should start with simple categorizations and go deeper once these have been selected.

The simpler the structure, the better.

There are two types of Collections:

Manual collections are the best choice for small or customized categories. For example, you can group together items that are part of a special promotion to ensure that the discount only applies to products in that collection.

Automated collections associate conditions with products that are automatically placed in them. This method is faster and streamlines the process for eshops with larger inventories.

Content structure and SEO silo theory

Why does the organization of your content affect your eshop’s ranking? What is the correlation between SEO and content structure?

The link between your Shopify architecture (or structure) and SEO is the silo theory.

As I mentioned earlier, the first step to achieving high rankings starts with helping Google gain a clear understanding of your website’s themes.

What is the SEO silo theory?

According to Bruce Clay, SEO expert and founder of Bruce Clay Inc:

Group related pages together, either structurally or through links, to establish site themes based on keywords. Just as farmers use separate silos to store different types of grain, webmasters can partition a website to distinguish its different content themes and make it clear to the
search engines
what the site is about.

His SEO experience has verified that building a website around keyword-based themes (and not just the keyphrases themselves) helps rankings.

Above all, after the Panda update, Google rewarded websites with in-depth, well-organized quality content.

In other words, search engines can only understand pages or websites where the subjects are clear and distinct.

Let’s say your content (or themes) are the marbles in this pot.

Green, red and yellow marbles are mixed without order or accent. In this case, search engines would index the subject as a “jar of marbles”. This is an example of a non-partitioned website.

Now let’s divide each group of marbles into separate pots. Search engines would classify them as a jar of green marbles, a jar of red marbles and a jar of yellow marbles.

They represent an example of three separate websites. But what if we put the marbles back in a jar and arrange them by color?

The image above represents a website with topics separated into thematic categories or silos.

The SEO silo theory is why you should use categories and sub-categories to structure the content of your Shopify store.

Consider an e-commerce website selling power tools. It should have an organized content structure like the image below.

If you link pages strictly related to a topic or theme, you can consolidate this thematic relevance in a section of your site.

As Bruce Clay puts it:

A hierarchy of sites, with top-level landing pages and supporting pages for each SEO silo, emerges based on link patterns alone.

In other words, don’t build your internal link structure haphazardly.

Support pages should be linked to their silo landing page, and cross-links between silos should be avoided.

You may want to link support pages to the top landing pages of the silo, but remember: random links between support pages in different silos can weaken the theme. The image below shows an example of “acceptable” and “unacceptable” links.


Once your Shopify store architecture is ready, you’ll need to install a tool to monitor your site’s performance.

Google Analytics is a free and precise tool for tracking the performance of your e-commerce site. You need such a tool to improve and optimize your website over time.

If you haven’t already done so, follow these instructions to install Google Analytics Tracking ID in your Shopify store header.

Once the tracking code is operational, you can access the Google Analytics dashboard and define your e-commerce objectives.

In this way, you can assign a monetary value to certain actions taken by your visitors. For example, you can correlate traffic quality with sales, set a value for downloads, form submissions and much more.

You should review your Google Analytics data once a week to improve your site’s SEO.


One of the most important SEO activities is submitting your sitemap to the relevant search engines.

Google is the most popular, but there are many other search engines (e.g. Yahoo!, Bing, Baidu, Yandex…) that you can use to target a specific niche of consumers. If your eshop targets these niches, you’ll need to submit your sitemap to several search engines.

Submitting your sitemap means you’re sharing your website’s URL structure with a search engine. This way, search engines can crawl your Shopify store and easily index your content.

Every Shopify store automatically creates a sitemap, which you can find by adding /sitemap.xml after your domain:


If you don’t know how, read this guide on how to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console.

If you wish to submit your sitemap to different search engines, reproduce the same procedure in their webmaster tools accordingly:

Google Search Console;

Bing webmaster tools (for Bing and Yahoo!) ;

Yandex tools for webmasters ;


According to a 2020 statistic from GlobalStats – StatCounter, Google reigns unchallenged with 91.91% market share. It is followed by Bing (2.78%), Yahoo! (1.7%), Baidu (1.13%) and Yandex (0.55%).

You should monitor your Search Console account on a weekly basis and correct any reported errors.

Sometimes, robots try to reach a specific page on your website, but fail. Each webmaster tool tells you the cause of the error, so you can come back to your Shopify store and fix it.


You can mark the relevance of each text using header tags: H1, H2, H3, H4, etc.

Just like in a book, you can create headings, subheadings and paragraphs to help users and search engines understand the importance of each piece of text.

According to HubSpot Consumer Behaviour Survey 2016, 41% of people consult content by reading online. And this percentage is rising every year.

If you don’t structure your Shopify pages with headers, users won’t be able to identify the most important sections. If they can’t browse your content, they’ll leave your site and your bounce rate will rise.

Bounce rate is a key metric used by search engines to determine your ranking.

How to use title tags

The most important title tag is the H1. You should only have one H1 tag for each page.

The H1 represents the title of a page and should be placed as high as possible.

The second most important title tag is the H2. You can insert as many H2s as you like.

Organize your content according to importance:

Give the page a title using an H1 ;

Divide your text into sections using H2 ;

If a section can be divided into additional paragraphs, use H3 to name them;

If your content is very complex and requires more sub-paragraphs, you can follow the title tag hierarchy to tag each title and sub-title accordingly (H4, H5, H6).

An appropriate title tag structure acts as a table of contents for search engines, enabling them to understand what the page is about.

What’s more, your Shopify store will be aligned with semantic SEO best practices.


Not so long ago, keyword stuffing, keyword density and other dubious techniques could generate profitable results. In 2013, Google developed powerful countermeasures.

Search engines are now intelligent enough to interpret users’ intentions (and possibly the context of their search) to provide an answer to their question. Their algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) have evolved beyond keywords.

To optimize your Shopify store, you need to use semantic SEO strategies rather than focusing solely on keywords.

According to Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko:

Semantic SEO involves writing search engine optimized content around topics, not just individual keywords.

Semantic SEO was first introduced by Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013. Google stopped simply looking at keywords and started reading and understanding the overall subject of a page.

What I recommend is :

Divide your Shopify store into themes or topics according to the SEO silo theory explained above. For example, organize your products into categories and sub-categories with relevant keywords related to the subject ;

Identify a keyword for which you want to rank on each page;

Build your content around the theme represented by that keyword: use synonyms, alternatives or other keywords generally associated with that specific theme. For example, if you want to optimize a product page around the keyword “running sneakers”, you can use alternative words like “sports shoes” or “running shoes” to help search engines contextualize your product. In this case, if you’re selling Nike or Adidas shoes, you can insert the keywords “Nike” and “Adidas” in your text, as these are two well-known brands for sports footwear. In other words, they are words related to the theme;

Write for users, not for search engines. Focus on user intent and experience rather than keywords.


You need to know how people search for your products online. The only way to find out is to do a keyword search.

Think about your products and use Ubersuggest to understand monthly keyword search volume and competitiveness. This tool will also propose variants and alternatives.

If you’re undecided between two or more keywords, use Google Trends to compare them.

If you don’t know what people are looking for, how do you know what to optimize your pages for?

You can also use Answer The Public to discover the most common queries associated with certain keywords.

Once you have identified a keyword for which you would like to rank for :

Place it in the URL ;

Insert it in the H1 and use its variants or theme-related keywords in the H2 ;

Repeat the main keyword at least 3 to 5 times throughout the page (source: Brian Dean, Backlinko). It’s not about keyword density or keyword stuffing, it’s simply about ensuring that your keyword appears on your page and that Google understands what your text is about.

Add keyword modifiers to your H1 product page

As I mentioned earlier, optimize your pages for a target keyword, but don’t stop there.

You also need to add keyword modifiers to your H1.

Let’s say your target keyword is “men’s running sneakers”. Instead of just using this keyword in your H1 product page, try adding a few words that people are likely to use when they search for this keyword.

Here’s a list of common modifiers people use when searching for products online:




The best;


Free delivery.

For example, our H1 could become :

“Best deals for men’s running sneakers”


The organic click-through rate is one of the metrics that search engines take into account when determining your ranking in the SERP.

What does organic click-through rate mean?

The organic CTR (click-through rate) represents the percentage of users who consult a search engine result (number of impressions) and then click on it (number of clicks). The CTR formula looks like this:

[Total de clics] / [Total d’impressions] = Click-through rate

If users view your pages in the SERP, but don’t click on them, search engines assume that these results are irrelevant and lower their SERP ranking.

According to a 2016 study by Larry Kim, Does Organic CTR Impact SEO Rankings? organic CTR has a direct impact on Google rankings.

The results show that a higher than average CTR leads to improved rankings.

What’s more, a higher CTR means more traffic, which means more sales for your e-commerce business.

So how can you optimize your titles for organic CTR?

Optimize your meta titles for CTR

Before digging deeper, I’d like to clarify that by “titles” I mean meta-titles that don’t always correspond to an H1 page.

While Shopify gives you the option of customizing the meta title and description of each page, I recommend keeping the meta title very similar to the H1. This way, you can be sure that users and search engines will find the same keywords in the SERP and on the landing page.

Don’t forget that you have character limits for meta titles and descriptions. Use SERPsim to optimize your search results for Google.

Include parentheses in your titles

According to a 2014 study by HubSpot and Outbrain entitled Data-driven strategies for writing effective headlines and titles, headlines with brackets receive 40% more clicks.

For example, the title “Best deals for men’s running sneakers [livraison gratuite] ” or “Best deals for men’s running sneakers [2020] ” will receive more clicks than simply “Best deals for men’s running sneakers”.

Include numbers in your titles

It’s no secret that numbered listings are one of the most clicked-on article categories (for example, the 10 best running sneakers for men), but product pages can also increase their CTR by including numbers in the title.

For example, if you have a Shopify store that sells products, say shoes, you could write a title like:

” Best offers for men’s running sneakers (25% off) “

Instead, if you have a Shopify store that sells services, you can write :

“Wholesale sportswear New York – Over 1000 customers served”

Include magnetic words in the titles of your product pages

You can increase CTR by attracting users’ attention with magnetic words. Like title modifiers, these are powerful words that can generate clicks on your product pages.

Here is a list of the most common magnets for e-commerce stores:

X% discount (for example, 25% discount) ;


Free delivery;

Night expedition ;


Optimize your meta descriptions for CTR

Meta descriptions are not as important as meta titles, but they still play a relevant role in SEO.

Here’s a list of the three key elements of a good meta description:

Be emotional: grab people’s attention with emotionally-charged words like “incredible” or “powerful”;

Respect the character limit: do not exceed the character limit, which is approximately 150. Google sets this limit not by the number of characters, but by the SERP real estate (measured in pixels) used by your description. As I mentioned earlier, use SERPsim ;

Sell your content: win the competition in the SERP with a compelling description and tell people why they should visit your page. So be sure to include a CTA (Call To Action).

Use structured data tags for rich code snippets and related links

Google may decide to include enriched extracts, also known as enriched results, in the SERP. These are search results with additional data displayed to attract users’ attention and provide more information.

Enriched extracts are extracted from structured data found in an HTML page and generally boost CTR.

Schema.org has listed all the available tags and explains how to implement them on your website. Common rich extracts are :




FAQ page ;

How it works;

Job offer ;

Local company;


No one;





Some of these are already generated automatically by Shopify based on your theme and plan.

If you don’t have a developer who can help you implement schema structured data markup in your Shopify HTML, you can use TechnicalSEO’s schema markup generator.

This tool is completely free of charge and includes a step-by-step guided procedure.

Use Schema Markup Generator to create your code and test it on Google Structured Data Testing Tool.

Once you’ve validated your markup, insert it into the header, body or footer of your Shopify store accordingly.

Once your page is finally published, you can test the rich snippets using Google Rich Results Tester.

It takes time to see the results of schema markup implementations, as Google has to re-index your pages.

In general, I always recommend that e-commerce stores have these basic tags:

Product marking. It gives information about a certain product and includes images, price and availability.

Enriched product tagging extract

Example of a nippet rich in product markup in the SERP. Source: BackLinko.

Comments. It displays a rating on a scale of 1 to 5, which can represent a single reviewer or an average of several users’ opinions.


Google’s job is to understand what your page is all about, and the more content it explores, the better.

Longer, more meaningful content gives Google all the information it needs to contextualize the page and deliver results that match user intent.

According to a 2019 study by Backlinko and BuzzSumo, the average word count of a Google top 10 result is 1,447 words.

The ranking factors for a product page are the same as for any other page, so you need to publish a text of at least 1,000 to 2,000 words.

What’s more, long content on your product pages helps users understand what they’re about to buy. So it should also increase conversions.

If you sell many different products, it’s expensive and time-consuming to produce long descriptions on hundreds of pages. In this case, I suggest optimizing the top 10 bestsellers.


According to Backlinko and Ahrefs, page load speed is not a ranking factor in 2020. Nevertheless, a slow website increases the bounce rate, which really affects ranking.

Akamai Technologies, Inc. analyzed data from 10 billion user visits from leading online retailers and found that a 100 millisecond delay in loading time can lead to a 7% drop in conversion rates (source: Online Retail Performance Report, first published in 2017 by Soasta , a company acquired by Akamai the same year).

Another 2017 study published by KissMetrics found that 79% of online shoppers who have problems with their website’s performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again.

Clearly, page load speed indirectly influences your ranking and directly affects your sales.

So how do you optimize the page load speed of your Shopify store?

Measure your page speed performance

The first step is to measure your eshop’s speed performance. If you don’t know what’s fast and what’s not, how do you know what improvements to implement?

There are many free and freemium tools you can use. The most popular is Google’s Page Speed Insights.

I’m not a fan, as it’s rather basic and imprecise. If you don’t have a good grasp of programming and SEO, Page Speed Insights will give you basic, usable suggestions that you can implement even if you have no specific technical knowledge.

If you have a team of developers or advanced technical skills, you should use Pingdom Website Speed Test or GTmetrix.

The main advantage of using these tools is that you can test the speed of your website from servers located in different countries.

What’s more, they provide a detailed report with every element that affects your speed.

Give priority to waterline content

Depending on the screen size of each device, users will first see a specific section of your website, before scrolling down.

The part of the landing page that corresponds to their view is called above the fold content.

You must allow your Shopify store to prioritize the loading of the above content. This way, users will see your content more quickly, and the content below the fold will later load silently in the background.

Avoid too many redirects

There are many types of redirection you can use, including permanent 301 redirection and temporary 307 redirection.

In any case, keep them as simple as possible, and make sure you have no more than 2 redirects per page.

Too many redirects can confuse the browser and increase page load times.

Using a content delivery network (CDN)

Even if Shopify’s servers are located in North America, you can use the API features to equip your store with a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

A content delivery network allows you to divide the content of a website between several servers in different parts of the world, and let the nearest server deliver data to local users.

Geographical proximity makes speed loading faster.

Use AMP (accelerated mobile pages)

Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) is an open source framework that lets you create lightweight mobile experiences by simplifying HTML and following streamlined CSS rules.

In 2015, Google claimed that AMP had reduced loading times by 15-85% in early tests.

The best way to get AMP in your Shopify store is to choose a theme that supports it natively.

If you’ve already launched your e-commerce and installed a theme that doesn’t support AMP, you can enable this feature using third-party integrations on the Shopify app store.


Typically, e-commerce stores have more images than normal websites, and if they’re not optimized for search engines, they could pose a threat.

Images mainly affect two key factors:

User experience;

Page loading speed.

According to MIT research, the human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds (source: Detecting sense in RSVP at 13 ms per picture published in 2013 by Attention Perception & Psychophysics).

This means that inserting images into your Shopify store is fundamental to the user experience. What’s more, they also increase the time spent on the page, which is a ranking factor.

Provide several high-quality images on your product pages. Let users explore and visualize your products from multiple perspectives and contexts.

3 reasons why you should include metadata in your images

Integrating metadata into an image is important for 3 main reasons:

referencing ;


Content management.

Let’s start with referencing.

Search engines still can’t understand images, so they need text to understand what they’re about. Metadata enables search engines to categorize and contextualize an image for indexing purposes.

And keeping copyright under control should be a priority, especially for an e-commerce store with hundreds of unique product images.

Metadata lets you keep track of stolen images anywhere on the Web. If you use premium services like CopyScape, you can find out who has copied or stolen your images online.

Metadata is also important for content management.

When you upload an image, most CMS (Content Management System) systems store the embedded metadata and use it for referencing purposes.

For example, you can use the file title as a URL slug:


Or you can use the file title without hyphens “-” as alternative titles and so on.

In short, you can reuse integrated metadata for on-page SEO and save a lot of time!

Optimizing image alt and title tags

Shopify lets you customize the alt tag and title tag of each image (also called alt and title attributes).

When you inspect an image code, the HTML code looks like this:

<img src=”image.jpg” alt=”image description” title=”image tooltip”>

These elements help search engines index the image and support screen readers by providing relevant information for blind and visually impaired users:

Img src means “image source” and points to the image folder/directory;

Alt represents the image description. It is only visible to search engines and screen readers;

The title is the image’s tooltip. In other words, it represents the text that appears when users place the cursor over the image.


On-page SEO is a continuous activity based on macro and micro implementations. Depending on your Shopify store’s objectives, spread your SEO budget over the year to cover the most important improvements.

Shopify includes an intuitive editor that guides you through basic SEO implementations, but if you really want to outperform your competitors in the SERP, you need a team of developers and SEO specialists to take your Shopify SEO to the next level.

At Koanthic, we offer Shopify SEO solutions tailored to your budget and digital marketing goals. That’s why I invite you to schedule a free evaluation with us to find out more about our services.

Thanks for reading, see you at the next blog!

If you have any questions or would like a quote, please contact us by e-mail at info@koanthic.com or at 418-455-2259.