Shopify is a well-known ecommerce platform that allows companies of all sizes to set up online stores. It provides customers with a variety of customizable themes and templates, as well as a number of features and tools to assist them in running their businesses.

Not all Shopify themes are made equal when it comes to SEO. To put it another way, not all of them were created with SEO in mind. 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.

What is a Shopify theme?

A Shopify theme is a template that determines how your online store will appear to the customers. Themes have different styles and layout options to design and structure your web pages and product categories.

There are premium and free Shopify themes available on the Shopify store. You might wonder what’s there to consider while choosing a theme for an online store. You simply have to pick a theme that looks modern, sleek, and attractive, right? No, you are Wrong here. The best Shopify theme isn’t the one that only appears beautiful, rather it’s the one that provides the best experience to the users.

Therefore, it is mandatory to understand the technical factors of the theme as it not only affects the UX (user experience) but also the functionality of the ecommerce store and its conversions.

What makes a Shopify theme SEO-friendly?

To choose the best Shopify themes for SEO, we must first consider what makes a theme SEO-friendly. There are six primary criteria that account for a theme’s SEO-friendliness, according to what Google and other popular search engines tell about how their algorithms work.

1. Valid and clean code markup

Coding standards are revised on a regular basis to keep pace with the evolution of coding languages. As a result, ensure that the theme code is current and compatible with common browsers. It should have correct HTML and CSS and work effectively on both mobile and desktop devices. W3C Validator and HTML5 Validator are two code validators you can use to check for correct and clean code markup. Although valid HTML has no direct impact on SEO, it does improve crawlability and user experience. Ads on a site with clean code have also been shown to produce better results.

2. Support for SEO on-page

On-page SEO elements are a crucial part of SEO friendliness. Search snippets, meta tags, and sitemaps should all be supported by a good SEO theme. Structured content on your website that is automatically displayed in the SERPs is known as search snippets or features/rich snippets.

We have no way of knowing how a highlighted snippet from your site is displayed by Google. Even so, a theme with schema markup ensures that it can. When these snippets are presented, they boost the number of ‘zero-click searches’ and your chances of ranking better.

You should be able to edit metadata or meta tags with an SEO-friendly theme. Meta title, meta description, social cards, alt text, canonical tags, and the Robots.txt file are just a few examples. You can have more control over the keywords you wish to rank for by using meta tags.

When it comes to Shopify themes for SEO, the sitemap is less of an issue because Shopify creates sitemaps for all store plans. Megastores with a large number of URLs, on the other hand, will need to account for this. When a site has more than 5,000 URLs, Shopify will use child sitemaps instead of the auto-updated parent sitemap, which do not repopulate new pages. As a result, you should keep an eye on this theme feature to ensure that your store’s sitemap is always up to date.

3. UGC and social media integration

User-generated content (UGC) and social media outlets are unrelated to SEO. However, all search engines prioritize user experience, and this feature significantly increases visitor pleasure. According to a Business Wire survey, 79 percent of individuals feel UGC has a significant impact on their shopping decisions. Social commerce is also becoming more popular. As a result, having a built-in social sharing plugin is a terrific method to obtain a lot of traffic, make your site users happy, and increase your sales. The more people who visit your ecommerce site, the more Google credits you get, and the better you rank in the SERPs.

4. Page speed and mobile-friendliness

We live in a fast-paced world that will only get faster as 4G and 5G become more prevalent. As a result, Google’s Web Vitals considers page loading time to be an important factor. You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to see if a theme is optimized for performance.

With more individuals browsing on a mobile device than ever before, mobile commerce is a top-trending technique for both merchants and buyers. As a result, be sure to select a mobile-friendly theme.

The design of such themes should be responsive across all devices. This implies that when customers transition between mobile and desktop, they will have a consistent experience. Easy navigation is also beneficial to an SEO-friendly Shopify theme.

Characteristics of SEO-Friendly Shopify Theme Design

1. Responsive and Mobile Friendliness

In the past 6 months, more than 79% of mobile users have shopped online by their mobiles. This means that more than desktop users, it’s the mobile users that are changing the game of ecommerce sales.

If your website is not optimized for mobile devices, then be ready to bid farewells to a huge chunk of buyers. It won’t matter to mobile users how attractive or organized your website is on desktop devices, if it fails to function smoothly on their mobiles, then it is good for nothing. 

Therefore, make sure that the theme you select for your store is responsive to various digital devices. Preview how the theme would appear on a mobile device and check for the following features to ensure that it is mobile-friendly:

  • Are navigation menus easy to use on mobile?
  • How much space are the images taking?
  • Are CTAs easy to use? 
  • Are the elements properly spaced?

If the above features are present in a theme then give it a go. But, if not, then keep looking for a theme that is responsive to mobile devices. 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:

  • PageSpeed Insights
  • Web.dev
  • GTMetrix

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, 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. 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:

  • Canonical
  • 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.

7. Sitemaps

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.

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 the product schema is valid.

9. Navigation Options

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 hereby:

  • 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
  • Reviews

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.

13. Support

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.

Wrap up

Choosing a theme for your ecommerce store is an important step to determine the success or failure of your business. A theme has a big impact on how your store will look and what kind of experience it will provide to your customers. Make sure to consider the above-listed technical details while selecting a high-converting Shopify theme for your eCommerce store.