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Shopify SEO mini-course, DAY 1: Titles, URLs, and Meta Descriptions for products

Time to implement: Several minutes to several hours (if you have a large catalog).

This is one of the most important things you can do so we'll put it first. It's not very hard, but it will take you some time. It's worth the investment.

Strap on your swim goggles, we're diving in.

First some background on Google search results:

Google search results are broken up into three main elements.

  1. Titles
  2. URLs
  3. Meta Descriptions

Google search results elements

Fortunately for us, Shopify allows us to set each of those elements for our pages when they show up in search results.

But before we dive into how to do that, let's talk a moment about why we'd want to do that, because that will help us do it right.

Why bother?

  1. To Persuade Google to show your product. Google is constantly trying to figure out what your page is about, and determine how relevant it is for a given set of search terms. If we can help Google with this, our chances of appearing on the first few pages for a given search (where it is most likely to be seen and clicked) improve.
  2. To get people to click. Once our product page appears in a search result, we want them to click over to our site to view the product. The best way to do that is to very accurately tell them what our product is so they can tell that it's what they want.

Let's use an example: let's say you're searching for a car cover for your 1974 Corvette. Which of these search results is most likely to get you to click?

This one
Better Google search result

Or this one?
Worse Google search result

They both probably have what I'm looking for, but I know that first one has exactly what I'm looking for. The title says it, the URL says it, and the meta description says it. That's a perfect match for what I'm looking for. I'm going to click.

Note: If the terms searched for appear in your title, description or url, they will be bolded, which improves click-through-rate. Another reason to write good ones!

Ok fine, so how do we do it?

Let's head into the administration section of your store. I'll walk you through one example and you can follow along, and do the same thing for every product in your catalog.

In the left navigation in the admin section of your store click on "Products," then click on the first product that you want to optimize. For my example, I'm going to click on the Froggy Hat.

Product admin example

Now, I want you to scroll almost all the way down the page until you see the section entitled "Search Engines"

Looks like this:
![Search engine section of product page] (http://d.pr/i/nMlX+)

This is where we're going to do our work today. As you can see, we've got a place to edit our title, meta description, and url, as we've discussed.

As you can also see, Shopify pre-populates these fields when you first create your product. It pulls the product title in as the page title, as well as the first 160 characters of your product description for the meta description, and finally it sets the URL to match your product name, with dashes in place of spaces (you can't have spaces in URLs).

In some cases this might sufficient, but usually it needs some fine-tuning to maximize your SEO.

Page Title

Remember again that this is what shows up as the first, blue-linked part of a search result.

You want this title to match as closely as possible to what someone would search for when looking for your product.

Make your page title as descriptive as possible, but also something that makes sense. It should read like a coherent explanation, not a string of keywords. Google also suggest that every page title across your site be unique.

For my Froggy Hat, I'm going to make my page title:

Froggy Hat - a handmade warm winter frog hat for toddlers and children

I got lucky, this is exactly 70 characters long, which is the maximum length Google wants you to use. There's a handy character counter built in to keep you on track. counter


Pitfall:

Don't just stuff keywords into your page titles (or descriptions). Google is not dumb, and will not treat your page as favorably if you do.

Tip:

Make each page title on your site unique.


URL

There are several URL best practices recommended by Google, and fortunately Shopify already has them built in so you don't have to worry about them. All you need to worry about is creating a URL that has relevant, descriptive words about your product so that both search engines, and people can figure out what your page is about. It should also be simple, this isn't a place to stuff keywords. For my example, I'm going to say 'childrens-frog-hat' - it's descriptive, it has appropriate keywords, it's short and sweet.

Pitfall:

If you change the URL to your page after it has already been up for a while (and presumably indexed by Google) you will break any existing links to it. For example, if your URL was "blue-widget" and you changed it to "blue-widget-white-stripes" then any existing links to it (including from Google) will break. The solution is to create a redirect from the old URL to the new one. The method for doing this is outlined on Day 5 in this guide.

Tip:

Don't make your url overly long - a few words at most is sufficient.

Your URL should also be unique (and Shopify ensures that). So if you ever see a "-1" after a URL you've set, it means you've already used that one, better to pick a slightly different one.

Meta Description

Again, this is the text that shows up under your TITLE and URL in the search result, and can help compel a searcher that your site has what they want, and that they should click.

The goal of a meta description according to Google is that it should summarize what your page is about. It should be well, descriptive of your page. And that's an important place to start, but it should also give the searcher a reason to click your result as opposed to all of the other ones on the page. The first step is to make sure you're describing your item well so they know that you have what they are looking for, but you also want to give them a little extra encouragement to click.

Let's re-visit our car cover example from earlier. Read through this meta description.

Good Meta Description example

They have the largest selection for my exact car, and I can get mine at wholesale prices?

Some ideas on adding encouragement to click:

If you're not sure what to write, a safe route is to outline benefits that your shopper will gain from your product.

e.g. Your little one will love to be a froggy! This hat will not only look adorable on your child, but it will keep them very warm. The ear flaps add cuteness and

If your product is very technical in nature, perhaps some technical detail to show shoppers how well-matched you are to what they are looking for.

e.g. This professional Nikon full-frame telephoto zoom lens is the most current version of this lens, and a favorite of wedding photographers and

Another good idea is to include a unique selling point of your product.

e.g. This golf shirt was worn by Arnold Palmer when he won the Masters Tournament in 1964. The story behind this shirt is one"

Note: Google does not promise to use the meta description you provide. They view it as a suggestion and may use it at their discretion. If they think they can come up with a better one from content on the site, they may. The better you do at accurately summarizing the page, the more likely they are to use the one you write.

Tips:

  • Try to avoid duplicating content already in your title.
  • Make sure that your description can be easily read, so avoid excessive punctuation, or disjointed content. It should read like a short paragraph.
  • You may have noticed I left the final sentences in the example descriptions I wrote unfinished. This is intentional, the idea is to compel the searcher to click to get the rest of the story. Not necessary, not always appropriate, but something to try.

Clearing up a misconception

Product tags are not related to SEO
On each product page you'll notice a section for "tags." I'm often asked how these impact SEO. The short answer is that they don't. They are not used for SEO. They have nothing to do with "Meta Tags" (which is an HTML and SEO term). These serve a useful function inside Shopify, but are not directly related to SEO.

Final result

And here's how my page turned out:
final search engine optimized result


You made it! Depending on how large your catalog is, you're either ready for a late breakfast, or ready for bed. Either way, you can rest easier tonight knowing you've taken a huge positive step toward improving the SEO on your website. Tomorrow we'll dive into something familiar, but hopefully a bit easier to tackle.


TOC | Introduction | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7