Content optimization helps your pages rank higher in search results for their target keyword. Examples include tweaking or optimizing a page’s content, meta description, and title tags. Content optimization becomes much easier when you have a clear keyword you’re trying to rank for.
The easiest way to understand content optimization is by asking yourself, “How can I make it clear to visitors what this page is about?” From there you can run a health check on your pages:
- Does the heading clearly explain what is on the page?
- Am I using the keyword or some variation of it in subheadings or in the body of content on the page?
- Does the URL slug contain the keyword? Is it overly long or short?
- Is the title of the page enticing? Does the meta description make this page seem click worthy?
- What are the image file names? Do they have alt text filled in that clearly explains what’s displayed in the image?
Let’s dive into how we can do specific on-page content optimization.See more about SEO.
1. Build your keyword into your heading
With transactional pages, such as product pages, using your focus keyword in page titles can make sense if it’s an identifier, but usually this is best reserved for collections pages. Ideally, your products are named something enticing. Let’s take The Lip Bar as an example. It has a collection with “concealer” as the target keyword, but its product pages within the collection are specific to which shade range the product is within and the product’s function (e.g., for the product 6:00 Ebony Caffeine Concealer, “6:00 Ebony” is the range, “Caffeine” is the function it serves (to help wake the skin), and “Concealer” is the wildy known name for this product, which can tie in some SEO benefits ranking for “caffeine concealer”).
⚠️ Important note: When creating your pages it’s vital that your formatting includes only one H1 (or Heading 1 as this is called in the Shopify page editor). This should be reserved for the Title entry.
With navigational pages such as your About or Contact pages, it is best to use the purpose, or what function the page serves (e.g., “Contact us,” “Get in touch with us at [brand name],” or “How can we help?”) The goal is to keep it clear and simple.
2. Understand the topic behind the keyword and build it into your page
Building keywords into your pages doesn’t mean keyword stuffing or finding ways to use awkward long tail keywords that are grammatically incorrect. This was a trick to get pages to rank for target keywords over 10 years ago, and search engines have since evolved to be able to understand without them what a page is about and how to rank it accordingly.
Instead, when optimizing pages to rank for keywords, the first step is to try and understand the topic behind it (as we looked at above), and then do your best to cover the topic.
If you’re using a paid SEO tool to get keyword insight then it becomes much easier to gather keywords around a topic. However, this is still possible to do with free tools. Let me show you how I might optimize my new collections page on habanero hot sauce for Kinda Hot Sauce.
- Start with Google. We’d want to look at the bottom of the search results, where Google lists related searches, as this gives ideas on related searches for “habanero hot sauce,” as well as shows what the autocomplete suggests.
- List what’s in the related searches and autocomplete. Next, I’d fire up a new Google Doc and put all of the above entries into it. From this list, I already see which phrases I can use and which phrases to strike out or delete. Next, I’ll have a go at writing a description for my collections page.
- Draft out a title and description. To enable me to write a good description for both users and SEO, it helps if I ask myself honest questions about some of these phrases:
- Do I have mango, pineapple, or garlic flavors? If yes, how can I share that on the page?
- Is “spicy” or “ghost pepper” a good fit for me to include if my brand is focused on tasty, not overly spicy hot sauces?
- During manufacturing, are my hot sauces fermented?
- How important are Scoville levels to my customers?
I’m easily able to use the answers to these questions to help me write. As mentioned above, I’m not looking to cram all of these phrases in. I’m looking to use individual words and simply tick them off as I use them.See more about SEO.
- Upload to your store. Now I’ve written a collections page I’m happy with, and I can upload it to my store.
While this example specifically pays attention to collections pages, you can repeat the process for any page of your choosing, such as product pages or blog posts.
3. Build your keyword into the URL or slug
The URL is anything that you type into the address bar that ends with .com, .ca, etc.. The “slug” is what comes after the first forward slash. Slugs and URL paths are used interchangeably but mean the same thing.
Once you’ve chosen a domain name, your URL is set and you can’t change it. However, slugs can be changed or customized. Note: If you are changing slugs, be sure to add redirects to your new pages.
The reason to build your keyword into the slug of each page is primarily to make it clear to both the user and the search engines what the page is about. Also, you want to be careful of keyword stuffing in your URL and slugs.
Take a URL like this:
And consider, instead, structuring it this way:
Why? Keyword stuffing like this doesn’t help your search rankings. Search engines have moved far beyond algorithms that positively reward a keyword appearing multiple times in the URL string. Don’t hurt your chances of earning a click by overdoing keyword matching or stuffing in your URLs.
General rules of thumb:
- Avoid hashes/the pound sign in URLs. The hash key is a way to send a visitor to a specific location on a given page through hyperlinks that when clicked, allow you to jump to a subheading (like within the table of contents on this page).
- Be wary of case sensitivity. Avoid capitalization in URLs or slugs—even for nouns. While most CMSs these days aren’t case sensitive, it’s best not to use anything other than lowercase.
- Use hyphens to separate words. “/collections/mens-short-with-pockets” is much more readable than “/collections/mensshortswithpockets.” Try to avoid both underscores and spaces, as they render awkwardly in URLs as %20.
4. Build your keyword into the meta title and description
Your meta title and description are your ways of communicating to users and search engines what your page is about, and of encouraging people to click on it from a SERP. Shopify pre-fills the title and meta description with the product/collection name and the product/category description, so you don’t need to worry about there being glaring errors with empty meta fields. However, if you haven’t customized these for each page, it’s likely the meta data isn’t communicating what your page is about to users and search engines or isn’t making it enticing to get a click.
Here’s how to prepare the meta title and description on your pages:
- Write a page title with less than 55 characters. Find a way to include your target keyword to help search engines index your page, but also make sure it’s legible and not written in “caveman speak,” as search engines are smart enough to know what the page is about even if words are separated by stop words (the, if, and, a, etc.).
- Write a meta description with a max of 145 characters. This is the spot to make your product page or blog post alluring to the searcher. While using your keyword here can help it rank, it’s not essential. Instead, focus on the customer.
5. Build your keyword into your image naming system
Building your keyword into your image naming system means both saving files with the same name as the keyword target (e.g. habanero-hot-sauce.jpg) and using the keyword as its alt text when you upload the file to your store.
If you have more than one image being uploaded and you’re confused on what to name your files, use differentiators like habanero-hot-sauce-ingredients.jpg for a photo of the ingredient label and habanero-hot-sauce-example-dish.jpg for an action photo of a model applying sauce to food.
As we said above regarding optimizing images, you want to write your alt attributes carefully. Alt text is used when a browser can’t properly render the image, and also for web accessibility. It’s best to describe in plain language what’s in the image to help people with imparied vision have an idea what the image displays. If writing an accessible alt text attribute and you naturally use the target keyword, that’s great, but it’s recommended to prioritize this approach over keyword stuffing alt text.
6. Build rich snippets with product details and user generated content
Rich snippets are search listings that include information about a product’s price, availability, and unique information about a range of products within a category. User generated content comes from your customer reviews and their ratings. They’re useful for learning more about a particular product at a glance from the search results page without having to visit it.
Rich snippets can get up to a 30% increase in the number of people that click on your product from SERPs, according to Search Engine Land. Compare a 30% increase in organic clicks versus adding 30% more budget behind paid search ads—that’s a lot more clicks to your product page, for free. While creating rich snippets and schema certainly falls into the bucket of technical SEO, the end results can be worth the learning curve.
Before you prioritize rich snippets, know that Shopify includes structured data and rich snippet functionality for your product pages out of the box in all of its free themes. This means you don’t need to worry about adding structured data markup to get the product info in SERPs. Price and availability (in stock/out of stock) will be grabbed automatically and placed on a SERP, but only if Google decides to show it.
If you’re using a third party theme or you have one custom built, check in with your theme developer if it includes structured data and rich snippet functionality before you proceed. If it’s without product schema structured data capabilities you have a couple of options:
- Write the code into your theme. As I mentioned above, if you feel technically adept at making changes to code, you can learn how to write this into your theme yourself.
- Pay for an app or hire an expert. If the thought of editing your theme is intimidating, consider hiring an expert or trying some apps that can help build structured data into your pages:
Rich snippets can take some time to appear in search listings, so if you don’t see them instantly, that’s normal. To check for errors, use the Google Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure there are no display problems.
An important takeaway for on-page SEO
Creating an SEO-friendly page is about making the information digestible for the reader, not necessarily the search engines. It’s the formatting that can get readers where they need to go, through use of headings, bullet lists, or numbered lists. It’s about reducing friction for the reader experience by helping them get there and easily find what they want. You may hear that length is a deciding factor on whether a page ranks or not. My take has always been, if you have a monster-sized article or page, that’s because the topic deserves it and is in need of a 101 or beginners’ guide. It’s rarely a good idea to add more words to an article to hit a metric that promises a ranking page.