There are lots of ways to get more customers to your store – paid ads, media coverage, etc. But there’s one super simple method that you can implement today: search engine optimization (SEO).
When someone is looking for a particular product online, what do they do? They search for it in Google (or Bing if they’re old fogies). SEO means getting your store to the top of the search engine results to help customers find your products. It takes time to see results from SEO, but it’s free and easy to do.
Shopify covers the basics of SEO by default, but there are a few things you can do to make sure your site is thoroughly optimized.
Understand the four factors that affect your search engine ranking:
1. The age of your domain name
2. The authority of your website
3. The number of links pointing to your store from other websites
4. The structure and content of your website
If you’re just starting out, there’s not a lot you can do to affect the first three factors. Unless you’re a time traveler, you can’t change how old your site is, and it takes time to build authority (think sites like Leesa and Beardbrand). Other sites are unlikely to link to you until your store has taken the first steps to get optimized. So focus on part 4 to start out. Here’s how:
1. Figure out which keywords customers use when searching for your products
A great place to get keyword ideas is Ubersuggest. If you’re selling avocado oil (it’s trending!), try plugging in something like “cooking oil.” Sort the results by search volume and this is what you get:
When you’re starting out, it’s best to target keywords with a competition score of 0.4 or less and at least 1,000 searches per month. More searches usually means more competition with other stores, while fewer searches means not many people are interested in that keyword. So try to pick keywords from the middle of the pack. Looking through the keywords I got, I might target “healthiest cooking oil,” “high heat oils” and “best oil for frying.”
2. Set the title and meta description for your store
These are the little blurbs you see on Google when you search for something. The title is the link and the meta description is, well, the description of what’s found at that link.
To update your store’s title and meta description, click on Online Store, then Preferences. You’ve got 70 characters to enter the name of your store and the most important keywords in the title. For your meta description, you get 320 characters. Make sure you write something that’s readable and sounds natural. No one will click on a link that looks like it could be spam. Be human.
3. Set the title and meta description for your pages (especially product pages)
Open the page you want to edit in Shopify and scroll down to the search engine listing preview section. Click Edit website SEO. It’s the same as step two, but tailored to each page. Here you can focus on the features and benefits of each individual product while sprinkling in a few of your target keywords.
4. Set your image alt text
Search engines can’t read images, so you have to tell them what your pictures contain. Use your keywords, but make sure they actually relate to the image. Don’t try “keyword stuffing.” Google and your customers are smarter than that.
To set your alt text for product images, click on Products and then select the product you want to edit. Hover over the product image and click on the ALT link that appears at the bottom. Enter your keywords and save. You can do the same thing for featured images in your collections and blog posts.
5. Add keywords to your H1 headers
When you create a product page, blog post or any other page on Shopify, the title you enter automatically becomes your H1 header. These headers are usually the largest text on the page, and they help tell customers and search engines what the page is about.
To add keywords to your H1 headers, open the page or post you want to edit. Add your keywords to the title field and save. Pretty simple.
6. Add keywords to your content
The more you use your keywords, the better Google understands what your site is about. But Google is smart. If you just type “avocado oil” 1,000 times on a page, Google will know that you’re gaming the system. At best, they’ll ignore your site (which means you won’t rank highly), at worst, they’ll ban your shop from appearing in their search results at all.
So use your keywords wisely. Add them to your product descriptions, “about us” page and wherever else you can, just do it in a way that makes sense.
One way to get more keywords into your site without making Google angry is to start a blog. Pick one or two keywords to focus on in each post and write at least 500 words that provide value to people searching for those keywords.
For my avocado oil emporium, I might write a post about “avocado oil benefits” since it gets a lot of searches and has low competition.
I would describe all the wonderful things avocado oil can do, providing links to my products within the post. It’s like saying, “Here’s why this product is great, and here’s where you can buy it.” Make it easy for your customers.
7. Optimize your navigation
If your store’s navigation is logical and well organized, it’s easier for search engines and customers to figure out what you’re selling. Make sure your menu titles describe their contents and that your menu items are in an order that makes sense. It’s also a good idea to make sure none of your pages are more than 3 clicks away from the home page. Don’t make Google or your customers dig for your products.
8. Make Google your BFF
Once your site has been verified, you can submit your sitemap to Google so they understand your site’s structure. Shopify automatically generates your sitemap from your pages, products, collections and blog posts.
To submit it to Google, open Google Search Console and click on your website. Click on “Sitemaps” and then “add/test sitemap.” Enter sitemap.xml and submit. Congratulations, you and Google are now BFFs! Go get ice cream together to celebrate.
If you focus on SEO, you can start seeing more traffic in just a couple of months. But if you want to see major changes, you’ve got to maintain good SEO practices over the course of at least six months. It’s a good idea to track your keyword ranking over time to see your progress. You can do that through Google Search Console or through an app like SEO Metriks.
Gennifer is the Customer Support Magician at ByteStand, where she lives and breathes customer service education while sipping coffee in her pajamas.
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