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Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a vital marketing channel for any online business. If you have a Shopify store you can benefit enormously from ranking higher on search engines. Thankfully Shopify provides tips and advice on how to improve your Google rankings – however, these only really cover the basics and there are many more things to learn about what you can do to improve your SEO.
For those that are looking to take their Shopify to the next level, it is important to put proper investment into marketing, and SEO provides extremely lucrative opportunities if you can get it right. Of course, the most important factor here is getting the right people involved in order to carry out your SEO campaign – whether this means bringing people in-house, or outsourcing to an agency.
However, there are some things that any Shopify store can do to make a start. Here we offer some ideas that any Shopify store can take to help it rank higher and receive more traffic.
Research your keywords (never assume)
It can be easy to assume that you already know which keywords you need to target. For example, if your shop sells children’s footwear, you might have created pages based on your own common sense. For example, you might believe that customers search by colour and would create pages around terms like ‘boys white trainers’ or ‘brown boots for girls’ – however, it is vital to note here that you should never rely on common sense or your own interpretation of popular search terms.
Customers often search in ways that you might not be expecting – for example, there might be a great deal more traffic around brand names or specific sizes rather than colours, making these far more useful to target. For Shopify stores and any kind of ecommerce business, keyword research is invaluable, as you need to prioritise getting users onto your site and in a position to buy.
Some useful free tools for keyword research include:
- Google AdWords Keyword Planner – Google’s tool is always a great place to start. It will provide you with average monthly searches, and a suggestion of the competitiveness of the term.
- Soovle – taking the suggestions from multiple sources, this tool helps you see what customers are actually searching for
- Ubersuggest – the revamped Ubersuggest provides not only a list of potential terms based on their search volume, but also estimates a paid difficulty and SEO difficulty
Build powerful links
Links for high-quality sites as one of the most important methods for Google to rank your site. In fact, HubSpot, one of the most respected names in online marketing considers inbound links as ‘crucial’, putting them in the most important category for consideration in SEO.
Inbound links (or backlinks) to your site are an indicator to Google that another website sees your page as an authority on your subject. Link building is a process that requires very deliberate and careful planning and execution. Google is very good at spotting unnatural links, so if you are simply paying for links to point to your site this can actually end up hurting your rankings.
Importantly, it is better to have links pointing to your homepage or major landing pages, rather than product pages. This might seem counterintuitive as the goal of your Shopify store is to get visitors to products so that they can buy. However, remember that products change over time – rising and falling in popularity. If you can no longer stock a product, for example, you may need to delete the page. You would then lose the SEO power of any links pointing to that product.
A great tip here is that if you are going to need to delete a product page with multiple links pointing to it, get in contact with the sites that are linking to your product page and request if they will change the link to a landing page.
Secure your site
As with any website platform, Shopify users need to ensure that they have appropriate cybersecurity measures in place. This is not just because of the damage that a cyber-attack can do to your business, but also because a breach can have dire consequences for your SEO efforts.
There are multiple reasons for this. Hacked sites will often get a warning from Google which will be visible on the search results – this can seriously damage your online reputation. Additionally, any site downtime that comes as a result of you having to fix the attack will be seen as a negative by Google. While your site is hosted on the Shopify platform, it is still up to you to take appropriate security measures in order to ensure your website cannot be compromised.
A good example of this comes in the use of strong passwords; this is an important line of defence to keep your website and internal systems secure. In 2019, a strong password should be:
- At least 12 characters
- A mixture of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols
- Free from words that appear in the dictionary
- Unique and not used anywhere else
- A phrase, not a word
Create unique content for your products
Many Shopify stores sell products that are available on other sites. If you do this, you may be tempted to save time in the website uploading process by simply using copied text from competitors or suppliers. However, this is a mistake that can cause enormous problems to your site both in the short- and long-term.
Whenever Google comes across page text that has been copied directly from any other site in its listing, it will simply ignore this page. This means that any product pages with identical text will not appear in Google’s listings – and consequently, it means that any efforts you put in to improve its rankings will be wasted.
Follow these steps to write great product content:
- Know your audience – you can only write great product content if you know who your target market is. Take a look at the difference between Spotify (short, punchy content) which is aimed at a very different market from vinyl LP marketplace Record Store (elongated prose)
- Focus on the benefits – don’t talk about what makes your product great, this is not what interests customers. They want to know how your product will benefit them
- Use natural language – think about how you would sell this product if you were talking aloud – this is how your copy should read
- Easy to read quickly – customers must be able to scan your product page for details. So, use a bullet point list to highlight key points
Focus on user experience
How a user experiences your site will have a huge effect on their likelihood of buying one of your products – but the problem of poor user experience might be even more serious than you think. Frustrating issues such as a slow site loading speed or a design that cannot be read easily on a mobile device is not just frustrating for customers, it can see you plummet in the rankings too.
Thankfully, however, there are plenty of things that Shopify sites can do to improve their user experience (UX). Firstly, it is essential that you take a look at your overall site speed, and find ways to improve it. One of the key ways to do this is to reduce the file size of your images. This can be easily accomplished simply by using image compression.
Additionally, you need to ensure that you have a responsive site that is optimised for many different screen sizes, including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. UX is extremely valuable from an SEO perspective, as Google monitors user behaviour.
Ensure your site structure makes sense
Site structure is important for SEO success. Google likes to see websites that are laid out in a user-friendly and sensible way. For example, there should always be a clear delineated URL structure, where a product page sits within a sub-category, which sits within a category, which is accessed through the home page and the main menu.
Take a look at the URL structure of musical instrument retailer Gear4Music. In the example below, the main category of Acoustic Guitars then leads into the subcategory of Fender, one of the brands that they sell. Next is the range of products, known as the ‘Acoustasonic’. Notice that this site structure is also referenced on the page to improve ease of navigation around the site.
Having a good URL and site structure not only makes it easier for Google to crawl your site and find the right pages (which has SEO benefits in itself) but it also makes the UX better for customers, and this is vital, as we have discussed above. When customers can use your site more easily in makes them more likely to spend time on the pages and less likely to bounce.
As we have seen, there are many options that any Shopify store owner can take in order to boost themselves in Google’s rankings. The key is putting in the investment and time so get them done properly.
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