As eCommerce websites have become easier and easier to set up, the level of competition has skyrocketed. You can no longer rely on just having a great product and a website. This is why Search Engine Optimisation is so crucial for your Shopify or Shopify Plus store in 2019 to succeed in today’s super competitive market.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the core concepts of SEO and what exactly needs to get done to get the most out of SEO for your Shopify Ecommerce store.
What do you need to do for your Shopify store?
We all know SEO can be a really broad and vague term that seems to get more complex and confusing the deeper you can look into it.
The easiest way to define SEO is the process of increasing the amount of visitors as well as the quality of these visitors through organic search engine results.
Instead of going through 200 different ranking factors that Google looks at when evaluating your site, we’ve condensed your SEO strategy into four key areas that are absolutely essential if you are serious about competing in today’s market.
These four areas are:
- Keyword research
- Site structure
I’ll explain exactly what these areas are and how to execute each of them to make sure your Shopify store is on the right track for success.
Does Shopify do any of this for you?
Shopify is a great platform and is the home to over 500,000 merchants in over 175 different countries.
In saying this, Shopify isn’t perfect and you can’t really expect it do everything especially when it comes to something as complex as SEO.
Shopify gives you the infrastructure to optimise your site for search engines by making it super easy to edit pages, product descriptions, meta descriptions, URL structure etc.
But it doesn’t clearly explain how to get the best results from doing this or even indicate if you’re on the right track.
This is where third-party tools (that aren’t in the Shopify app store) come into play e.g. Google Search Console, Google Analytics, Keywords Everywhere, Ahrefs etc.
Step 1: Keyword Research
So, what are your customers actually typing in when they are searching for a solution that your product solves? This is where keyword research comes in.
It is crucial you know the difference between the intent behind different keywords. This will help give you a better understanding of what is going on in the mind of your customers as well as the stage of the conversion funnel they are in.
This information will form the foundation of essential content on your site such as product descriptions, blog posts, FAQs page etc.
Keywords can be broken up into four different types of intent that can be mapped to each stage of the conversion funnel:
Informational = Customers who are looking to learn more about your product and/or the problem your product solves.
Will make searches including these words:
- Single word keywords e.g. t-shirt, sunglasses, jacket etc.
Navigational = Customers searching for your brand or products by name.
Will make searches including these words:
- Nike (example)
- Nike Airmax 95 (example)
Commercial Investigation = Customers looking for specific attributes, features or characteristics of your product.
Will make searches using similar keywords as below:
- Sizes: Small, Medium, Large.
- Colours: Red, Blue, White, Black
- Gender or age: Mens, Womens, Toddlers
- “Your Product” vs. “Competitor”
Transactional = Customers who are ready to buy and/or need to get their problem solved as soon as possible.
Will make searches including these words:
Understanding the intent behind your customers’ searches means you’ll be able to map each keyword into one of the four groups of intent. This will help you to create content that specifically answers the question they’re asking at that point in time.
In turn, this will help move them further down the conversion funnel in order to make a purchase.
I would usually recommend Google’s Keyword Planner tool to use for the keyword research process but Google has recently prevented you from using all of its features unless you launch an Adwords campaign.
Instead, we’re going to use the Keywords Everywhere (free) tool.
In this example, our store is selling “Bluetooth speakers”.
By searching “Bluetooth speaker” on Google the Keywords Everywhere tool gives us a large list of relevant keywords such as “best Bluetooth speaker” and “Bluetooth speaker review” as well as their search volume and CPC costs.
Despite being a basic search, this is already giving us an idea of the type of questions customers are asking when looking to buy a Bluetooth speaker.
We can take this search one step further by clicking on the related searches to give us even more ideas.
Hopefully, by now you should have a solid list of keywords that show what questions, problems, and product features your target audience cares about. Our end goal here is to get your Shopify store to rank on these SERPs to increase (relevant) traffic to your store and ultimately drive more sales.
Which Keywords Should You Care About?
To get the most out of your keyword research you need to make sure you target the keywords that will have the most impact on your business and are not already saturated by massive competitors e.g. Amazon.
I recommend using these four metrics to determine whether a keyword is worth targeting:
- Search Volume: The first thing we need to know before we can take a keyword seriously is – how many people are searching for the keyword? There’s no point going after a keyword that gets 10 searches a month. A good rule of thumb is going after keywords that get at least 150-250 searches a month. The Keywords Everywhere tool we looked at earlier will tell you the search volume data for each keyword you look at.
- Competition: What type of sites are already ranking for the keyword? The lower quality the competition, the easier it’ll be for your Shopify store to rank for this keyword. The Keywords Everywhere tool also gives us a Competition Score but I recommend installing the MozBar (a free browser extension) that will tell you the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) of the sites ranking for the keyword.
Using our “Bluetooth speaker” example we can learn more about the sites currently ranking for that keyword:
The higher the PA and DA scores are for these competitors the more difficult it will be for your site to outrank them.
- Relevancy: How relevant is your product page, category page or blog post to the keyword? Remember Google only cares about results that genuinely satisfy the user’s question, so make sure you take this into account before targeting the keyword.
- Intent: Since we’re predominantly looking for customers that are ready to buy, it is a good idea to prioritise keywords that fall under “Commercial Investigation” and “Transactional” types of intent that we looked at earlier.
Once you’ve run through your list of keywords and narrowed them down to the ones you want to target you need to integrate them into their relevant pages. Shopify has a handy manual that walks you through exactly how to do this for your own store which you can find here.
Step 2: Site structure
Site structure simply refers to how each individual page on your website is linked together e.g. homepage, product pages, About Us page etc.
A simple and consistent site structure isn’t just important from a user experience perspective, it’s also necessary for search engines to be able to crawl and index your site (a fancy way of saying a search engine being able to find, understand and add your site to their database).
Essentially, you want whatever information a visitor on your site is looking for to be as simple and easy to find as possible. Your site shouldn’t be a maze where people need to smash the back button to get back to the homepage.
You also want your site to be organised in a way that’s easy for you to add and remove products and categories as your store continues to grow.
The diagram below gives us a good example of the best practice site structure that most eCommerce stores follow:
Luckily, Shopify automatically generates your store’s sitemap which you can find by typing in this URL: “www.yourstorename.com/sitemap.xml”. You don’t have to worry about updating this yourself either since Shopify automatically adds/removes pages to the sitemap as you make changes to your site e.g. removing an old product page, adding a new blog post etc.
Step 3: On-page optimisation
Also known as “on-page SEO”, on-page optimisation is focused on all the measures you can take within your website that directly affect your search engine rankings.
We’ll now go through (in no particular order) what these measures are and how to do them correctly for your own Shopify store.
- Optimised titles and meta descriptions: These need to be written in a way that is enticing enough for someone scrolling through search results to click on your site over other results. You also need to make sure you include your target keyword so search engines know what the page is about. To get an idea of what your page looks like in the SERPs I recommend using this free tool.
- Proper URL Structures: A good rule of thumb is to make sure your URLs can be easily read by normal people. E.g. www.mystore.com/where-to-find-us is better than www.mystore.com/8rfvbbt=#shippinginfo
- User-friendly navigation: Don’t overwhelm visitors with a million different links to your other pages, keep it short and sweet. Make sure links are clearly labelled, visitors are able to tell where they are on the site at all times and have a search bar available to look for specific content.
- Optimised internal links: Minimise duplicate links within pages, look for relevant internal link opportunities you can include on your higher authority pages and ensure anchor text clearly describes the purpose of the page it is linking to.
- Text Formatting: Headings should be clear and eye-catching, giving the reader a good idea of what the page is about. As Google tends to pay attention to the first a.k.a “core” sentence of each paragraph, this a good place to (naturally) include your target keyword.
- Image optimisation: Firstly the image needs to be relevant (and original if possible). Ensure the filename describes the image, for example, if the image is of a white and blue striped t-shirt the file name shouldn’t be DC4245.jpeg, it should be white-blue-striped-tshirt.jpeg. Don’t forget to compress the file so it doesn’t slow down your site, you can use sites like this to do it quickly and for free.
- User-friendly 404 pages: Make the 404 user experience easier for non-technical visitors to understand. This can be done by simply adding a message that says “Sorry, we couldn’t find the page you were looking for” or if it is in line with your brand/industry make the error message funny.
- Fast loading pages: Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to find out how fast your pages are. The tool will tell you exactly what you need to fix or optimise and how to do it in order to improve the page load speed.
- Mobile-Friendly pages: After Google’s move to mobile-first indexing this factor is more important than ever. A few best practices for mobile-friendly design include avoiding the use of flash on your pages, steering clear of large popups (which can be annoying and difficult for mobile users to close) and designing for the “fat finger” by using large buttons and icons that make it easier for visitors to navigate your site. Obviously, there is a lot more we can go into regarding mobile-friendly design, I recommend learning more about it here.
- Top quality fresh content: This factor is crucial. Not only will this give your customers more reasons to keep coming back to your site it will also position your brand as an authority in the industry. Consistent high-quality content also provides the added bonus of improving your website’s visibility search engine results.
- External links: Here we are talking about links from your site to other sites a.k.a outbound links. Ensure all outbound links actually work (aren’t broken) and are linking to a high-quality authority source.
Although this list isn’t exhaustive, it provides more than enough to build a solid foundation for your on-page optimisation.
Step 4: Off-page optimisation
Off-page optimisation is, you guessed it, all the measures you can take outside of your website that directly affect your search engine rankings.
The main goal behind off-page optimisation is to build the credibility of your site to search engines so they can tell your site is popular, relevant, trustworthy and has authority.
This is primarily done through building backlinks to your site: links on other sites that are linking back to your own site. Ideally, backlinks are built through other relevant and trustworthy sources (websites, pages or people) that naturally link back to your site or content because they believe your content is useful, unique and will provide value for their audience.
Essentially, backlinks are a “vote of confidence” or other websites “vouching” for your own site to search engines. We’ll now go through some effective strategies you can use to build high quality and natural backlinks for your Shopify store.
- Link-worthy content: People tend to be more interested in content that is engaging, useful and provides actionable information that actually solves their problem. Therefore, it makes sense that sites will be more likely to link back to content that ticks these boxes. We go through the exact process you can use to develop link-worthy content for your eCommerce store here.
- Guest blogging: Look for high-quality relevant blogs that have a steady amount of organic traffic that you can contribute a blog post too. It goes without saying that whatever content you contribute needs to be something that will add value to the website’s audience while positioning your own site as an authority on the topic. This simple yet effective strategy will not only generate natural backlinks but will also drive referral traffic to your own site that could potentially lead to more sales.
- Infographics: Comprehensive infographics that summarise complex or large amounts of information in your niche e.g. “10 Features Your Bluetooth Speaker Needs To Have Before You Buy”. The more effort you put into the infographic the greater the chance blogs will include it on their own site.
- Provide free product samples to bloggers: This relatively low-cost strategy (depending on the cost of your products) is an easy to way to encourage influential bloggers that are relevant to your industry to become familiar with your products, link back to your website and hopefully share a positive review with their audience.
- “Skyscraper” technique: Brian Dean’s famous strategy involves looking at a popular topic within your industry and then building the most comprehensive and in-depth version of it. Not only will this encourage people to link back to the resource it will also do wonders for your brand’s authority.
These strategies are a simple snapshot of the countless tactics you can use to build your Shopify store’s backlink profile. I recommend reading the following articles you can find here and here to learn how you can take your link building efforts to the next level.
Despite Shopify arguably being one of the best eCommerce platforms available to build an online store, it doesn’t make the science (and art) of SEO any easier. Hopefully, this guide has taught you how to tackle SEO head-on so you can leverage organic traffic to build a profitable Shopify store for years to come.