Starting an eCommerce business is always an exciting endeavor. Whether it's your first or tenth attempt, there’s always something thrilling about getting your Shopify store out there.
However, to succeed as a newbie in the eCommerce industry, you need to implement the right eCommerce strategies. At the heart of these strategies should be a clear path of making your site easily discoverable to searchers who are looking for your product on the internet. To help searchers to find your site easily, your site needs to be optimized through a process called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
As a new entrant, you may wonder why SEO for Shopify stores is so important. Well, according to a research, nearly 97 per cent of shoppers conduct research about products and services online before making a purchase. Therefore, you need to implement a good SEO for your Shopify store to enable your site attract more traffic leading to more sales. This beginner’s guide will take you from a newbie and shape you up into an SEO savvy merchant.
How SEO works
As a beginner, think of SEO like this; the last time you wanted to buy dog food and had no idea where to get it, you probably typed a word or phrase on Google and had many search results popping up which helped you make a pick.
There are thousands, if not millions, of outlets that deal in dog food. How did the search engine decide to show some sites before others? Well, search engines arrive at that through a complex process of ranking to determine what's relevant to display to a search query.
That's what SEO is about. In simple terms, SEO is the process of helping search engines to regard your site as relevant so that your site is displayed above other sites in the event of a search query.
If you're wondering why it's such a big deal to have your site positioned at the top of a search result, a study by Moz showed that at minimum, 71.33 percent of clicks go to the first page of search results while pages two and three get only 5.59 percent of the clicks.
This is the reason why SEO beginners must master the trick to get their sites positioned at the top of search results to help generate traffic to their sites.
SEO for Shopify Checklist
Now that you know what search engine optimization is all about, let’s delve deep into what you need to do for search engines to find your site relevant. Even though the emphasis is on SEO for Shopify users, other people on different platforms may find these tips equally useful.
1- Crawlable and indexable website
Search engines have crawlers or internet bots that crawl and index new web content fed to the internet. This information is stored in databases for later retrieval when there’s an online search.
As Google points out;
“The Google Search index contains hundreds of billions of webpages and is well over 100,000,000 gigabytes in size. It’s like the index in the back of a book — with an entry for every word seen on every webpage we index. When we index a webpage, we add it to the entries for all of the words it contains.”
As a beginner, your website, therefore, needs to be crawlable and indexable so that search engines can reach and index your webpages for storage for future usage as search answers to queries.
However, sometimes internet bots are not able to crawl and index a site because of a number of reasons including the following;
Blocking search engines from crawling and indexing your site: When internet spiders or search bots enter a site, they first read the information on the site using instructions outlined in the site’s robots.txt file to detect whether it has permission to crawl and index the site or not. Blocking internet spiders from crawling on a site can either be deliberate or indeliberate;
You can deliberately block bots from indexing your some webpages on your site. For example, you can intentionally block Google from crawling information you don’t want to share with the public.
Unfortunately, as a beginner, you can also block Google from accessing your site unknowingly. Thankfully, you can check to determine whether you have blocked search engines from accessing your site or not.
To do this, simply go to robots.txt file. If you see this: “ User-agent:* Disallow:/ ” it means you have blocked search engines from crawling your site. You can stop this by removing User-agent:* Disallow:/ from the file.
Example, assuming a robot wants to visit a site’s URL, say http://www.kudobuzz.com/welcome.html. Before it does so, it will first check http://www.kudobuzz.com/robots.txt, to find out if it has the permission to index the site.
If the robot sees the above, it means it doesn’t have the permission to crawl the site. "User-agent: *" means this section applies to all robots. The "Disallow: /" tells the robot that it should not visit any pages on the site.
Broken links or 404 Not Found error: Sometimes a link to specific content on your site may be broken and showing “404 Page Not Found Error” when searchers want to access the content. This might result in crawlability issues – preventing Google from accessing specific content on a site.
Your site doesn’t have a sitemap.xml: Every website should have a sitemap.xml, which is a simple list of directions that Google follows to index your site. So if your site doesn’t have a sitemap, Google cannot index it.
This blog post on how to submit your Shopify Website and Sitemap to Google. provides an in-depth information on how to get this done.
2- Quality and compelling Content that answers the needs of searchers
Content marketing has become a strategic part of SEO. This is because people enter search queries for compelling content that satisfies their needs. This content-driven marketing strategy has lead to the mass production of content on a daily basis. A lot of content means higher competition.
So what sets content apart? What makes some content rank high while others, equally good content, never get found?
To get recognized and stand out as an industry thought leader, beginners should be able to produce content that’s unique, encompassing and comprehensive that answers readers’ needs. The content should also be share-worthy so that it can earn links and citations.
In crafting your content for SEO, there are several factors you need to consider including the following:
Identifying a niche: Before you can write such content, you need to, first of all, identify a niche or the readership you’re looking to appeal to. This will inform you to write compelling and engaging content that will appeal to both humans and search engines.
Drawing a content calendar: You must also have a solid content calendar. The calendar should outline your blog topics for the quarter planned in advance for review and published on a regular basis.
3- Long- form content
Even though a study points out that people’s attention spans are getting shorter, writing shorter content may not be ideal in helping your content rank above other similar content. According to a study, the average content length for the top position results is around 1,900 words. According to a study, long-form content gets an average of 77.2 per cent links than short blog content.
(Image source: Backlinko.com)
While emphasis should be placed on the average word length, the focus of your content should be about the quality that offers the best reading experience to your audience.
4- Use links in your content
One crucial SEO ranking factor in relation to content is link building. In terms of SEO, links determine the popularity or importance of a website. Search engines regard websites that have a large number of quality links as more relevant than others when it comes to Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
There are different kinds of links you can build to help your content to rank;
Inbound links: An inbound link is a hyperlink back to your site from an external site. Getting a variety of high-quality backlinks from other sites will help your content to rank higher in SERPs. It will also bring potential customers to your site when they click on the link which will ultimately increase your site visitors.
Outbound links: Outbound links are also known as external links. Outbound links start from your site and lead to an external site. According to a study, outbound linking has a positive impact on SEO
Internal links: Internal links refer to hyperlinks that point from one page of the domain to another on the same website. Internal links enable users to navigate a website which increases web traffic to a site.
5- Choose the right keywords that appeal to both humans and search engines
For your Shopify store’s SEO to stand-out, keywords play a very critical role. Search engines crawl the title, meta descriptions, URLs, etc to make meaning out of your content before it can index it. Keywords help search engines to make meaning out of these texts. So if your site title and meta description are not well written with the appropriate keywords, search engines will not be able to understand and index it.
So, your keyword research would help you fully understand your users, their needs and key insights about the problems their users are trying to solve.
You remember the dog food example we used at the beginning of this write-up? Good! Going by that example, you will begin your search by choosing certain words or phrases you believe when you type into the search engine, you will get the results you want. That’s the way keywords work. It’s basically about determining the key terms (words and phrases) people enter into the search engines when they’re searching for your product or information. Knowing this will help you to better understand your target market and how they are searching for your content or products online
This process of finding the keywords your target niche are using to find your product on SERPs is what is termed as keyword research. Conducting keyword research will enable you to determine the number of people using a particular search term in a month and the level of competition for particular keywords. There are a plethora of free tools out there that can enable you to conduct keyword research such as Ubersuggest, and Google Keyword Planner.
The following are some of the areas to add your keywords;
Page titles: The page title is also known as a title tag. It’s is a short description of a webpage and appears at the top of a browser window and in SERPs. The page titles are the first place search engines look to determine which content is relevant to which search and therefore, need to have the required keywords. The best practice to stay under 70 characters.
Meta description: The meta description is the text below the title tag which gives more information about the page title or title tag. Your meta description should be creatively written to appeal to humans as well as search engines. It should be about 160 characters.
Alt tags: Search engines cannot understand images. Therefore, using keyword phrases in image alt tags will help search engines to understand what the image is about in relation to the main content. Google also has an image search, which is another way for people to find your content.
Copy or body of the blog: the body of your blog should also have the relevant keywords to help it rank for a particular word or phrase. While doing that, you should try and avoid keyword stuffing which is an unethical practice of inserting a large number of keywords into a page's meta tags, visible content, or backlink anchor text in an attempt to gain an unfair rank advantage in search engines. It could be penalized by being blacklisted for engaging in such unethical practice.
6- Make your site mobile friendly
The number of people accessing the web using mobile devices are more than those who use desktops. According to Statista, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide in 2018 was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3 percent in the previous year. This means you will be losing money if you do not optimize your site for mobile devices.
(Image source: Statista 2019)
Giving the upsurge of mobile device usage, Search engines now consider your site’s mobile friendliness to be a major SEO ranking factor. In response to that, Google launched its mobile-first index, which simply means that Google will primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site.
As a beginner, you need to make sure your site is very responsive on mobile devices to improve your site SEO.
7- Include your business information
SEO is all about building credibility that attracts and appeals to both humans and search engines. Having your business information on your site will add credence that you’re a credible business which will enhance your SEO ranking.
Your business information should contain primary information about your business such as your business’s name, address, phone number, your Business listings on Google, reviews as well as relevant directories which tell people where your business is located.
8- Improve your site’s speed
Your site’s fast load speed, ease of use, and a compelling user interface on any device are some of the main SEO ranking factors.
Apart from enhancing your SEO ranking, fast-loading web creates a great user experience which increases the average time visitors spend on your site, increases conversions as well as improves the click-through rate. Click-through rate is the percentage of people who click to visit your site after an entry comes up in the search results.
A high click-through rate would likely reduce your site’s bounce rate which is the number of people who don’t stay long on your site as soon as they land on it; as a result of several reasons including a site’s poor speed.
There are tools such as Kudobuzz SEO which can improve your site’s speed. It does this by compressing images on your site without distorting its quality.
9- Updating your content
One key SEO ranking factor you cannot ignore is how regularly you update content on your site. You need to have a publishing schedule that ensures you consistently publish high-quality content on a regular basis to keep your readers coming back to your site.
Additionally, you need to make sure old content on your site is regularly updated to meet all the changing trends. For example, if you published a blog post with some statistics which have changed over time, you need to update your readers on this change. Search engines prefer fresh content which gives the best reading experience to visitors.
In conclusion, SEO for Shopify stores is very critical to the success of any online business. Effective SEO would largely drive quality traffic to your site. As a newbie, you need to develop the right SEO strategy to help you stay ahead of your competitors.
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