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

Google Product Search Changing Into Google Shopping

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