The Right Shopify SEO Strategy for eCommerce Businesses in 2018

In a recent expert round-up for the WHSR blog, I’ve discussed the importance of finding the right platform for your business. Among others, several experts opened the discussion about Shopify as a great CMS for e-Commerce businesses, looking to incorporate social media into their sales funnels.Since we are here, let’s talk more about the right shopify seo strategy, and how to prepare your marketing efforts for 2018 (and why not, even further).

Shopify Stats for Non-Believers

According to a combination of official Shopify stats and news reports (source: ExpandedRamblings), as of August 1st, 2017, there were approximately 500,000 Shopify merchants in 175 countries. In 2016, the same source reported over 20,000 merchant clients, with 25% of merchants having enabled social selling for the same year. Since 2016, the platform reported that 62% of traffic and 51% of sales came from mobile. Fast forward to August 2017, there are 1,800 apps in the Shopify App Store, which have been downloaded 7 million times. 1.2 million people actively use the Shopify backend platform. The total amount of sales processed on Shopify to date exceeded $10 billion, according to stats from late 2015. Talk about potential.

How Do These Stats Reflect on Your Business?

To sum up these stats and findings:
  • 500,000 merchants in 175 countries means little competition, to be exact 2,857 merchants per country;
  • Only 25% of them use social selling, to be exact 100,000;
  • 62% mobile traffic and 51% mobile sales means you can jump into mobile optimization of your shopify shop from day one, so all funds and efforts are directed towards a solid ROI;
  • $10 billion sales, and 51% came from mobile – that is over $5 billion in mobile sales!
  • 1,800 Shopify App Store apps, downloaded 7 million times, means on average, each app was downloaded 3,889 times. A close look at Google’s or Apple’s App Store, and you’ll see most apps do not hit that number unless they surround a popular service or product.
This means the Shopify platform offers immense potential, little competition, great dynamic and user engagement, generates money, sales, and opportunities for merchants, developers, and customers.

The Right Shopify SEO Strategy

From the numbers above, it is crystal clear that mobile search optimization should be part of your long-term marketing plan. But don’t skip the basic Google optimization. Shopify businesses can now sync their store with Google Merchant Center, through direct, automated API feeds. If a Google AdWords campaign is set up along the way, products from your store become visible across all of Google’s channels. This is a great option to consider, as PPC has its role in customer acquisition, retention, and reactivation. The app that does this is called Google Shopping, with more info and feedback available here.The platform also has built-in analytics, which can be accessed as stand-alone or integrated into your GA, to monitor the evolution of your e-commerce business. A website optimizer function will help you in making the store search-engine friendly, however note that you cannot rely on the pre-built settings alone, and this will require additional tweaking.

Check for the Basics

No online store can go without these basic calls to action:
  • Title tags, meta descriptions, and page URLs for blog posts, webpages, product pages, or collections – all editable
  • Themes auto-generate title tags with the name of your shop, plus xml sitemap files and robots.txt
  • ALT tag for product images, customizable img file names
  • Sitemap.xml and robots.txt files which can be later submitted and tested in GA/Webmaster tools
  • Social sharing and social media profile linking – all themes are required to have these settings
  • Canonical URL to prevent duplicated content or pages – if this sounds like Chinese for you, here is a guide from Shopify.
  • Mobile-ready functions and mobile-responsive templates
  • SSL certificates (these will impact your rankings in the long run, as Google just announced)
  • Security certificates – your customers need to know their data is handled with care and not exposed to data breaches of any kind. Shopify offers Level 1 PCI DSS compliant security features.
  • Additional apps and plugins that can help enhance your search optimization efforts (you might want to consider schema.org and mark-ups that help structure your e-store’s pages, for better user experience)
  • Built-in blogging system and news corner which enables your store to benefit from content marketing and rich keyword content, easily indexable by search engines

What Experts Are Suggesting

When it comes to the best Shopify seo strategy for e-stores, Oberlo has a few tips to add:
  • Choose relevant page titles that best express what is relevant to the customers’ search.
  • Your title tags matter not only for customers, but also for search engines, in understanding what your pages and e-store is all about.
  • Set title tags for each page, product, collection, and blog post. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to generate traffic or leads.
  • Keep your title tags short, ideally under 70 characters, to gain complete display from search engines.
  • Always add your store name in the title tag, to give credibility with search users and create a bridge between products and brands. The best way to include it is by adding your store name at the end of your page title after a separation symbol such as vertical lines “|” or dash “-“.
  • At the very beginning, incorporate your target keywords in your title tag. You might notice in the future that titles containing keywords strive for relevancy and will generate a better ranking than just keywords used for authority purposes.
  • Add variation to your keywords, depending on the page you’re targeting. Home page title tag keywords will most likely differ from product pages, or blog pages. And it is totally fine to differ!
  • Add keywords to your meta-description to boost your search visibility, and use actionable language for your visitors – they need solutions to their search, do not forget to factor in the human aspect.
  • Keep your meta-descriptions under 155 characters, and customize them based on products, pages, posts – you get it.
  • Alt image alt text can contain complex keywords such as 4-6 words (“women denim jeans summer discount”), and ideally, you should rename your image with a proper name – visual search engines will surely pick up on that.
  • Use the platform as a broadcasting environment: each time there is an update, or new product, make sure to write an article or announce it to the world. Search engines love fresh stuff.
  • Product descriptions need periodical check-ups, too. Make sure to keep them fresh and relevant. Don’t over-stuff with keywords, either.
  • Build your traffic with blog posts, customer stories, product updates, new releases, top listings, and so on.

Social Is the New Sociable

You heard me right. Nowadays, there are additional ways to keep in touch with customers and generate new ones. Facebook Live, Youtube Live, AMA (ask me anything) sessions, Instagram Live & Instagram stories. If you’re new to Instagram, check out my Instagram Marketing guide on NinjaOutreach. Instagram has also recently introduced polls into their Insta Stories, so you can ask your audience to directly vote “yes” or “no” (you can also customize your choices) on a new product, update, action the brand is considering taking/making.Plus, you can access insights, and control who is mentioning your brand (option on Instagram). Insights include Impressions, Reach, Website Clicks, Follower Activity, Video Views, Saves, Replies, Exits. With social media platforms enabling video streaming and live video support, this leads to a foundation for community building on other channels besides your own e-store.Word of advice: Don’t shy away from community, as this is also a product itself!

Mobile SEO

Birds of a feather flock together”, and this applies to any type of search engine optimization. In your GA console, you can access specific mobile factors, besides the classic content relevancy, authority, page load speed, and domain age. A mobile page-speed tool from Google will give you access to what needs to be improved for mobile traffic, as well as additional errors, and how to fix them. Plenty of mobile seo tips can be found in the Mobile Usability search traffic section.Now, Google and other search engines pay attention to mobile-specific content and keywords, that are given “preferential treatment” over normal “desktop” pages. Local businesses and local stores are given the upper hand in rankings. Which is great news if you’re planning to optimize your Shopify store deliveries across different countries and cities. To identify which cities and countries to target, start with considering your visitors’ locations (country, region, city-specific), in your GA account, and as well as your social media followers’ location(s), if you wish to target your advertising efforts.Google AMP (accelerated mobile pages) can help in driving more visibility in mobile searches, but not much in desktop searches. AMP works only for publishers or Google News pieces for now, but the future is bright. You could use Google AMP for your PR campaigns or link building efforts.As with search engine optimization for desktop websites, you can improve rankings if you keep in mind the following:
  • Improve your website’s load speed, by file compression, minimization of CSS, HTML, and Javascript, image optimization with alt-tags and size compression, reduction of redirects, faster hosting, better CDN plans, and responsive design.
  • Apply the relevancy principle: help search engines, and users understand what your business is all about. List your business locally in Google Business, Facebook Business, Instagram, LinkedIn, use geo-targeting, and directory listings from Yahoo and Bing.
  • Ask for customer reviews and testimonials. I prefer using Delighted, a simple feedback tracking tool that sends customers an email and asks them to rate your service or shop from 1 to 10, then redirects them to a feedback text box. Once the customer hits Send, the tool collects feedback in a “news feed” type of setup. The tool is free for up to 250 contacts.
  • Use a roadmap or visual planner for your seo strategy to keep tracking updates, changes, optimization efforts. TeamWeek explains better on their blog how roadmap tools work, and suggest first creating separate groups for your departments (or teams), followed by separate milestones along the way.
  • Improve small yet important mobile details such as 404-errors, full screen pop-ups, and faulty redirects.
This SEMRush article explains more about mobile optimization, and recommendations from experts.

Takeaways

As many marketing professionals advertise, anyone today can start a business. The opportunities are endless. But you can’t make it out in jungle without a proper plan. As a CMS, Shopify has potential and clearly benefits the e-commerce business model. The right Shopify SEO strategy starts with the basic fixes and principles, and progresses towards mobile-ready e-stores. Shopify has generated over $5 billion in mobile sales (that’s 51% of total sales), and 62% of traffic is mobile.By introducing the benefits of social media, of Google’s mobile optimization tips, and expert suggestions, there is no way your e-commerce business will lose visibility or exposure in the eye of competition.Image source: Unsplash

Top 6 Social Listening Tools

Social media platforms are at the forefront of communications, and where most of the leads are being generated. Whenever a small business or enterprise uses social media promotion, it is important for them to be armed with the most sophisticated social media listening services at their fingertips.SearchTarget defines social media listening, as the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the web.

Top Social Media Monitoring Tools at Your Disposal

Trying to collect these conversations from each channel is one time-consuming task, and that’s where social media monitoring tools come in. Here are the top six tools that will take your social listening to a whole new level.

#1. SentiOne

Description: A screenshot of a social media post Description generated with very high confidenceSentiOne is a user-friendly and effective social media monitoring resource. Not only does it keep tabs on good your brand management and mentions are, but you can interact in real-time with your audience. The tool is available in 24 languages, and includes key features from the 12 types of social media listeners. In addition, its capabilities for online reputation management provide comprehensive analytics which can be used to further understand what works, what doesn’t, why, and spot user behavior, patterns, and future trends.Here is the main problem of today’s Social Web: many brands are still passive. If you, as a consumer, have an urgent need, and wish to reach out to your favorite brand, you do it with the mindset that this present need will not be met right away. In a way, the consumer loses hope of getting an instant response even before sending a message, because most of the times, there is no real-time engagement. If you use the Facebook search graph to identify the pages of your favorite brands in your country, for example, most brand pages will display a response rate of under 75%, and “likely to respond in within a day”.  By offering a real-time engagement solution, tools such as SentiOne manage to create a space of connection for brands and consumers. This helps enterprises in staying connected with their audiences independent of region, country, industry – which is the basis of a functional, healthy community.

#2. Sprout Social

Description: A screenshot of a cell phone Description generated with very high confidenceSprout Social is another easy-to-use tool. You have important functions like integrated analytics. The ability to schedule and queue posts from the different social networks enables users to really target their message, and save time in the process. What could be added down the road to the software is being able to get a consolidated report.

#3. Falcon.io

Description: A screenshot of a cell phone Description generated with very high confidenceWhen coordinating multiple teams (marketing, local marketing group, dealerships and supporting agencies), Falcon.io makes collaboration simple, and ensures a consistent brand message. It means the incorporated functionality allows the targeting of their messages to be similar across different locations.

#4. Oktopost

Description: A screenshot of a computer Description generated with very high confidenceThe social media monitoring tool options from Oktopost offer in-depth reporting. It is a fantastic data-driven marketing software since you can track conversions dollar-for-dollar. No need for previous experience, or a dedicated social media person or team. What some users have reported missing is the integrated customer service function within the tool. But the tool offers plenty of advantages in terms of ROI. This article explains more.

#5. Hootsuite

Description: A screenshot of a social media post Description generated with very high confidenceHootsuite has been around for many years. The software allows you to monitor keywords, manage multiple social media accounts and schedule posts. You can view all your social networks within a single place. Aside from the comprehensive functionality and reporting, the cost compared to the rest of the competition makes one wonder why it is not more affordable.One issue to look out for though is the scheduling part: if not setup accordingly, you can wake up one morning to find your Twitter filled with “monologues” of text without any actual links or images. Happened to many!

#6. AgoraPulse

Description: A screenshot of a cell phone Description generated with very high confidenceThe AgoraPulse tool can be characterized as a social media marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) suite. A lot of ease in scheduling, managing, and publishing posts across different social media platforms. The only functionality to be addressed is you cannot group social media channels per brand along with the scheduled publications in a brand group.

Social Media Care and The Importance of Social Media Monitoring

The use of social media care, social media customer service, is the process of answering questions from users about your products and services in a specific time frame. According to Socialbakers, “Using social listening to generate leads means tracking conversation around your own company and your competition in order to discover interested prospects.”Another important aspect is it allows businesses and organizations to leverage their online reputation. Answering within a reasonable time frame to posts by users shows the brand is listening, and makes interactions more meaningful since you are responding to concerns.

Valuable Takeaways

Compiling these top social listening tools was the result of examining reviews and references via G2Crowd. All these tools stood out from tens of apps and software solutions available worldwide, each offering unique features to their respective markets.Beyond social media listening, it is clear just how much of an impact social media marketing has on our daily lives. Not just as brands, but also as consumers. Brands can no longer rely solely on pushing sales pitches. It’s time to upgrade: they must resort on effective story-telling, and addressing questions from potential customers.Just like Gary Vee said in one of his LinkedIn video stories, discussing why ToysRUs disappeared, “If you don’t upgrade, you die” – a bit harsh, but it’s the truth. If you’re not following the consumers and their path, you won’t ever meet them half way.  

How Brand Monitoring Can Support Your Search Optimization Strategy

SEO isn’t just about optimizing your own content to be easily found by people performing search queries directly in search engines or social media platforms. More sweat is involved to ensure your brand is facing its audience correctly and competently.

As many know, social media plays a significant role in how consumers perceive brands and even in how easily they can find them. Because of this it is more important than ever to include brand monitoring as part of a comprehensive SEO plan. Here is how to do it.

Where to Start

To effectively implement brand monitoring you will need a tool. Relying on Google Alerts is a good start but there are far more effective apps available which provide detailed information and analysis.

Connecting with Influencers

People care about what other people say. Especially if the ones saying it are public figures. Or influencers for that matter. Now, it’s important to understand there are three types of influencers:

  • Local Influencers – their opinion impacts the local industry.
  • Industry-Specific Influencers – these are people that have high authority over specific topics, skills, and industries.
  • General Influencers – people who are public figures, have often hundreds of thousands, if not millions of followers on social media.

Five years later, and this post from Copyblogger still outlines the best way to connect with influencers. A few ideas, besides social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Instagram, include:

  • Signing up for their program, product, service – putting some money in before asking for "free" stuff.
  • Joining their on-site events or meetups: hey, if you have an opportunity to connect 1-on-1, do it!
  • Asking the right relevant questions: One smart question can open many doors for you. Prove that you are smart, and that you know what you want from other people in terms of information.

Using Brand Monitoring Tools: Introducing Brand24

Brand24 is one of the newest faces on the brand monitoring tools scene, and has gained a lot of popularity among brands. The tool provides real-time insight into what is being said about your brand and your competition.

Membership plans start at $49 and can go up to as much as $399, plus customer plan for larger brands. However, a $49 plan is sufficient enough for an early-stage startup to monitor their brand successfully. Bonus: this is a pay-as-you-go type of service, which offers the user more flexibility and doesn’t force him into a 12-months contract or an automated payment scheme. The tool is fully automated, offers Slack integration, and has a mobile app available for iOS and Android devices.

The analytics section provides unique factoring such as advanced search queries, interactivity analytics, estimated social reach, and so on. A demo is available for testing if you need more time to think about it.

If you’ve read my recent article on customer journey mapping examples, then you should understand why knowing how people find you matters in the evolution of your services/products.

How Brand24 Works

Signing up for a free Brand24 account can be done with an email or using their Facebook integration.

Brand 24

Once you sign up, you will be asked to type in your target keywords or phrases. You can also specify what language you want results to be targeting.

Add keywords

The menu is located on the left of the dashboard and offers intuitive controls.

Controls

The overview portion of the dashboard is equally intuitive. It allows users to sort information by days, weeks, or months and to view by the most popular mentions or the most popular authors.

Overview

The bottom of the dashboard is especially valuable for identifiying the influencers who dominate the converstaion for your project’s keywords. Users can view the most influential profiles or sites and view associated statistical information.

Dashboard

The free version of Brand24 is robust. Those who want additional features can also choose to upgrade the service to one of the paid subscriptions.

 

Now What?

Once you are monitoring brand mentions there are two powerful ways to use this knowledge to support your SEO efforts.

Request Mentions beyond Citations

Just because someone has cited a brand somewhere doesn’t mean they have linked to the website. Inbound links from authoritative websites are a valuable portion for your marketing efforts.

If a person is already citing a brand by name, they are more likely to be willing to include a proper mention with a link to their website, social media, or email address. You can use services such as HARO, or simply go the old fashion "blogger outreach" way.

Control the Narrative

If people are talking about your brand on social media, you need to be part of the conversation. Brand monitoring makes it possible to take action and instantly reshape the narrative if the brand is being mentioned in a negative light.

Alternatively, if the brand being complained about is a competitor why not swoop in and save the day? Monitoring your brand is a powerful tool but monitoring the competition can offer even wider perspective into what potential customers are happy with and what need has yet to be fulfilled.

Market Research

Brand monitoring can maximize marketing efforts by providing direct consumer insight from those consumers who are already invested in your service or product. This allows you to learn exactly what they want so you can provide it and gain greater brand loyalty.

It will make it easier to identify the platforms on which they are most active so marketing efforts can be directed toward the right locations. If you know more people are mentioning your brand on Snapchat suddenly, it makes sense to invest the resources into developing a presence there. This is true for the reverse as well. You can avoid those platforms that have limited brand engagement to maximize marketing resources.

Important Takeaway

Any tool will work to a certain degree, whether you choose to pay $500+ a month or settle for $49. But people make the difference – and Brand24 excels in helping you reach those whose opinion counts. Other than that, you should make sure to have behind every brand monitoring tool, a sharp, detail-oriented employee or contractor who knows what they’re doing. The human factor should also be part of your marketing efforts, not just from a customer perspective, but also from an "in-house" operational point of view.

Roxana Nasoi
Roxana is an online community builder and marketing consultant with 8years of experience in startup branding, community building (former Elance.com ambassador, between 2012-2015) and marketing consulting for Fortune500 companies. You can read her blog, SERPlified, and connect with her on Twitter (@roxanasoi). She enjoys traveling, dancing tango, running and reading good books.
Roxana Nasoi