For every search on Google, you get more than a thousand result on average. But, you know what? The first five search results capture more than 70% of the traffic on Google! The competition is killer and to stay ahead in this SEO race you need to get your hands on all the resources available at your disposal. And, when we talk about SEO tools, it starts with Google Search Console.
Google Search Console (previously Webmaster) is a tool designed by Google for website owners/marketers. Google realized the need for a tool where website owners can submit their website to Google and that’s how it all started.
Now, with the evolution of SEO, you can do a lot more with the tool. As of May 20, 2015, Google rebranded Google Webmaster Tools as Google Search Console.
Here’s how to use the Search Console to boost your Shopify store SEO.
1. Submit your store to Google for indexing and track indexing status
Add your store to Search Console:
To submit your store to Google, the first thing you need to do is to Sign in to the Search Console. When you Sign in, it will ask you to add a property. Here you need to select the property type as Website and copy the exact URL of your store from browser’s address bar and paste it in the input box.
Verify the ownership:
After adding your store, it will ask you to verify the ownership of the property.
There are multiple ways to do that but the easiest way is to do it through Google Analytics in the Alternate methods section. However, for this method, you should use the same email id for both Google Analytics and Search Console account (It’s always good to use a single email id for all Google products for your store).
Once you have added and verified your store as the property, you can go to the property in the Search Console to manage it.
Submit the Sitemap:
In your Search Console dashboard, you have an option to submit your store sitemap.
Your Shopify store has a default sitemap, so you don’t need to create one. Just go to the ADD/TEST SITEMAP option as shown below and type (or just copy it from here) “sitemap.xml” in the input box provided.
Then click Submit. This will add your sitemap to Google. However, Google takes few days to start indexing your pages.
Track the indexing status:
After submitting your sitemap, you need to wait few days and check the submit section. You will be able to check the indexing status. You can see how many of your web pages and images are submitted and how many of them are indexed.
N.B. To make sure Google index your images (especially product images), add relevant ALT text.
Monitor and fix the crawl errors
Once you submit your store, Google starts crawling your store regularly. It’s important that Google can properly crawl the pages of your store to index them. When Google gets any error while crawling your pages, it shows up in your Search Console.
To find the errors in the dashboard, go to Crawl > Crawl Errors. You will find all the crawl errors listed there as shown below.
Among the two types, Soft 404 and Not found, the most harmful for SEO is the Not found error.
If there is any Not found error, go to the Not found tab and you will see the list of the URL for which Google has found the error. You will also find the error codes for each of the URLs next to it in Response Code column. The 404 are the most common error code found here.
You should download the list of the URLs in Google sheet / CSV and filter out all the URL’s with 404 Response code to create redirects for them.
Here’s a complete guide to creating redirects for the URL’s with 404 error code and fix them.
3. Improve SEO meta tags.
SEO meta tags such as Title and Meta Description are two very important factors for SEO. These tags should maintain some basic rules. Tags should be unique for each pages and in certain character limits.
There is an option in Search Console where you will find out if there’s any optimization opportunity for these tags in your site.
In your dashboard, go to the Search Appearance > HTML Improvements you will get the report on your meta tags. If there’s any Missing/Duplicate/Short/Long Title or Meta Description on your store pages, you can identify those pages here.
4. Monitor SEO performance of your store and optimize.
Do you want to know the keyword for which your pages are ranking?
Which one of the pages are getting most clicks/impressions on search results?
Which of the pages are ranking well and which are not?
The Search Console is the place where you will get the answers to all your SEO related questions which will help you to further optimize your store pages.
To find all the search-related data, go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics on your dashboard side menu.
You will see a window like this:
Now, from the options (the checkboxes on the top and the radio buttons below that), you can select what data to display.
In the example below, I have selected all the checkboxes with the radio button Queries. This has listed all the Queries (keywords) for which our website pages are ranking on Google with all the related data (which I have selected in checkboxes).
Now, you can click on the arrow like this >> on the extreme right of the query rows to see the data for any specific query. Then you can select the Pages radio button to see all the pages ranking for the specific query.
Here’s a short video which will give you some ideas on how to use Search Analytics data.
5. Use Data Highlighter to markup your content.
Do you wonder why some product pages of the ecommerce stores appear on search result as in specific format as shown below?
Google has different search result formats for a different kind of content like Product pages, Movies, Recipes, , Reviews, Books, Articles etc. This kind of search results easily stands out in the crowded search result pages.
However, to make sure Google understand the structure of your product pages, you need to use the Data Highlighter tool to mark up your product pages. You just need to do it on one product page and Google will take care of other pages with the same structure.
Go to the Search Appearance > Data Highlighter and click on the button Start Highlighting then you will get a screen like this.
Here, in the input box put the URL of a typical product page of your store. Make sure you put the direct URL with for a product page which will be in this structure yourstoredomain/products/restoftheurl not with the collections or tags in the URL yourstoredomain/collections/name/products/restoftheurl.
Select Product from the drop-down. Keep the radio button checked for “Tag this product and others like it”. Then start highlighting as shown below.
You should Highlight all the available fields on your product pages such as Availability, Ratings, Reviews and then click Done. Then you ask you for which pages you wish to keep the same highlighting.
6. Remove URLs from Google :
There’s another useful feature in Search Console which is Remove URLs from Google. Suppose there were some pages which you do not want to show on Google temporarily for some reason then this feature comes handy.
Go to Google Index > Remove URLs and there you will get the option to put URLs which you wish to remove temporarily.
Note, this doesn’t remove your URLs immediately from Google. As it takes time for indexing, it takes time for removing as well.
Endnotes: While these are the major features of Search Console you need for your store, there are some other helpful features as well. Comment below to let us know about any feature which you have found helpful or if you have any doubt about the features we discussed above.