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Ecommerce Search Engine Optimization: URLs and image alt tags

Ecommerce Search Engine Optimization: URLs and image alt tags

You’ve worked hard to create a great online store with your Shopify theme, but before you can think about making sales, you need to make sure customers can find you.

With billions upon billions of pages on the Internet, it can seem daunting to ensure your Shopify store is found by the right people.

Not to worry though, because we're here with some simple SEO techniques that can make a big difference in not only helping customers find your online home, but also making sales.

Here we'll cover some great Shopify SEO features: URL handles and image alt tags.

URL handles

URL handles are, as their name implies, part of the URL to a specific product, collection or information page on your Shopify site. Search engines look for relevant keywords in URLs to help determine both the subject of the page and structure of your site. They're a great place to include one or two relevant or alternate keywords.

When creating URL handles, be sure to separate each word with a hyphen and not an underscore or other character. Most major search engines recognize the hyphen as a space, which helps it understand where one word or phrase ends and another begins.

One thing that’s important to note is that if you change existing URL handles, Shopify will offer to automatically redirect traffic from the old URL to the new one. You should almost always allow it to do this so that any inbound links that point to the original URL will still work and direct the user to the correct page.

Good URL handle example


Contains relevant keywords in a natural sounding order that includes product details

Bad URL handle example


Uses underscores instead of hyphens and contains three almost random sounding words without any specific product details.

Image alt tags

Image alt tags are hidden tags that are used to help designate what an image depicts. Since search engines can’t read images as well as text, they often rely on alt tags to help determine what exactly an image features. This, combined with nearby text on the same page, makes up a good portion of how a search engine tags an image.

In Shopify you can control the alt tag of each image when you insert or edit an image by clicking the “Alt” link next to each image thumbnail on the product management page. If you insert an image into the body text of a page, you can dictate the text in the image window.

When creating image tags, you should accurately and completely describe what the image is illustrating. Avoid using too many keywords or using keywords on an image that isn’t relevant.

Good image alt tag example

For example, if a photo shows a red wool scarf for sale in your store, a good image alt tag might be “Red wool scarf.”

Bad image alt tag

For the same image, a poor image alt tag would be “Scarf, shawl, scarves, wool, green, black, yellow” because it doesn’t describe what the image is showing and also contains too many keywords.

Keeping it natural

With all of these areas, it’s vital to keep your writing natural sounding. While integrating keywords and relevant alternatives is important, it’s also very easy to over do it and create text that sounds awkward when read.

Not only can this result in text that reads as overly commercial, but most search engines have gotten pretty good at detecting this type of tactic and penalizing the pages in question.

Shopify will automatically populate title tags, meta description tags and URL handles based on what you type into the backend, but make sure you review and update these suggestions to your liking. 

Natural sounding example

Handmade black wool scarf available in two sizes

Contains alternate names and product details while sounding naturally-written.

Unnatural sounding example

Scarf, shawl, wool, neck scarf, large, small

Simply lists related keywords in a random order with no context.

Another important tactic to keeping all of your SEO text sounding natural is to spread out alternate terms across all locations it appears in. You don’t need to include every term in every text field—by scattering them out throughout your online store, you’ll be able to work in all terminology you need and keep things sounding more natural.

Your online store's SEO should be well on its way, just make sure your product descriptions are up to the task too. Learn more in The Ultimate Guide to Starting an Online Store.

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