The Ultimate Guide to Improving Search with Shopify Plus

October 13, 2021
Emmanuel Umukoro

Like other e-commerce platforms, Shopify Plus offers a limited native search feature that relies on the product name and long description to match them to queries. Besides manually updating product data, which isn't good or scalable, Shopify also doesn't have any native capabilities that enable search optimization. Shopify also doesn't allow you to add synonyms or some type of influence on your product in any way. 

While the majority of enterprise level e-commerce stores use third-party solutions to improve search, there are a few things you can do to improve search with Shopify Plus, and we will discuss them in this article. We will go over a mix of internal Shopify Plus optimizations like optimizing how product data is setup within tags and metafields, app-based optimizations, and third-party solutions that are likely to offer a better end result.


Tagalys is a high performing online merchandising engine for e-commerce stores. It provides products like intelligent site search, product listing page merchandising and product recommendations to increase the conversion of your online store. Tagalys maximizes e-commerce revenues by personalizing visitor-product engagement across features like site search, browsing, and recommendations, allowing online retailers to match the individual tastes of their users.


Klevu is another excellent solution. Klevu Smart Search is a powerful and extensible eCommerce search solution that delivers search results based on shopper intentions and behavior, in real-time. It combines the power of machine learning and natural language processing to deliver the most relevant results to the shopper. They dynamically ranks ordering of products on category pages and also provides well designed visual merchandising capabilities to tune category pages, with AI still remaining a backbone. Klevu easily integrates with Shopify and when it comes to pricing, Klevu offers a fair price.


Even though the above solutions are commonly used, there are many other great solutions, and I recommend checking them out to see which one best suits your needs. In my opinion, the most important qualities to look for in these third-party solutions are:

Integration with Shopify Flow

Since you're building on a Shopify Plus store, it will be a basic instinct to ensure the app has some form of integration or plan to interface with Shopify Flow. The provider should have a robust integration that could pull various types of data from Shopify Plus while also maintaining an index up to date. The solution should also allow for the use of tags and metafields for filtering and boosting logic, as well as features such as image selection, rollovers, special pricing, and so on.

Customizable and flexible templates

The overhead to style the various components of the search results landing page and the JavaScript overlay (if you use one) should be simple — most providers just provide access to the CSS or JavaScript files, allowing for fast and convenient updating.

However, it's also worth considering how difficult it would be to include other things such as roll-over photos, review ratings, badges or overlays, and any other components you want on your product cards — although this can be more challenging with some providers.

I'd also have a look at the documentation for these parts to get a sense of how difficult it will be to make adjustments and how well documented the solution is.

Shopify data storage - metafields or tags

A tag is Shopify's native manner of storing data that is supported by most third-party apps and is also well-supported by Shopify's APIs. Metafields are a custom means of storing data with a number of drawbacks as they are slower and tougher to index for third parties, and users need a browser extension to use them in the backend, alongside an app. Unless the data being kept is more complicated, most people use tags while some Shopify Plus stores prefer to use metafields for aspects of the theme that can then be managed on the back-end.

One drawback of using tags is that your data will only be as good as the merchandisers/e-commerce team members who created and are maintained it.

This can be easier if you utilize a third-party system, most likely a product information management solution used to store and manage more complicated product data across different channels, although this is a luxury for non-complex B2C merchants. You might provide a more user-friendly and manageable format in the back end if you use metafields, such as drop-down options and radio buttons.

Search insights and reports

Your search solution should provide as much information as possible to aid in the optimization of results, such as:

  • Error queries

  • Queries that return a large number of results

  • Filtering and refining are employed with the ability to drill down at query level

  • Merchandising's efficiency/logic (for instance, in-line reporting for boosted store keeping units or rules, etc)

  • The performance and use of key suggestions

  • The worth of queries and their popularity with trend data

  • The product's popularity with trend data

  • Click-through rate data and product-level click

Those obvious factors to examine, but to support users in optimizing results, you should consider other reports such as:

  • Data relating to transactions, such as products, collection, and queries, collection, and others

  • The ability to run a product finder

  • Reporting by device category

  • Features that support category merchandising

  • The ability to display search and category results directly on the page

  • Geographic reporting

  • Conversion rate and sales data at a query level

Capacity to merchandize at various levels

The ability to market specific queries, enhance certain items, weigh different tags and metafields, and so on would be a necessity for most big merchants. The ability to incorporate business logic into any machine learning or self-learning system is a critical prerequisite that is frequently underestimated.

So, a good solution needs to support custom error handlings, such as serving a set of product results or custom error messaging, or anything similar. Another feature you might desire is the ability to offer alternative queries for error queries, which is a popular feature used by merchants.

Tags/Product attribution and metafields for filtering and merchandising/boosting rules optimization

When it comes to search and merchandising, the data points that are required for a decent filtering experience (filtering values and attribute values) as well as merchandising rules (ensuring that you have the right data against the products for these rules, e.g. seasonality or profit margin) is also an important consideration.

Tags or metafields could be used to add these data points. However, not all third parties support meafields, so tag is more likely to be used. If you're starting from scratch, you should think about developing a scalable format and naming convention for the tags. Here are some tag and value samples to get you started:

Gender: Womens

Brand: D&G

Collection: XL12

Colour: White

Waste_Size: 32

Fit: Large

Year: 2021

The structure you choose must be compatible with what's required by the third-party solution you're utilizing, as some of them can be strict about how data is set up to avoid mixup, but most solutions would allow you to manually specify the product filters. However, you must consistently use the same values, format, and data structure, else the product filtering will not function effectively or will appear funny if they are not formatted appropriately.

If you get data filtration right across your entire product catalog, you'll end up with a very clean and usable set of filtering tags, which will be indexed by the third-party solution you're using, and the same would be true for filtering on your product listing page if you're using a non-native solution or your search solution.

The better your product attribution, the more alternatives you'll have in terms of merchandising, filtering, and the more data you'll be able to make available via data feeds. These tags can also be used to create collections and categories, which is useful for expanding the number of keywords you can target from an SEO standpoint.

Additional data points that you might wish to provide to help with merchandising include:

  • Importance tier: 3

  • Personal brand: No

  • Profit-margin: 20

These data points would not be visible to the public and would only be utilized internally, but they could be weighted and combined with other rules to establish a sorting logic.

Final Thoughts

Aside from the search solutions I referenced earlier, there are many other ones you can adopt and I recommend doing your homework so you can choose the one that best suits your business need. And that is the purpose of this guide, to show you the key features to look out for when choosing a search partner and ultimately improve your search capabilities in Shopify Plus.

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