35% of online purchases start with a Google search. If that isn’t enough to convince you that your store’s performance in search engines is important, then your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.
Jokes aside, the world of SEO (search engine optimization) can be intimidating for those who aren’t buddy buddy with it. A slew of abbreviations, tags, and just when you think you’ve got a grasp on it, they change the rules again.
Despite the initial learning curve, SEO can be easily implemented by any solopreneur without having to hire agencies or tools that cost an arm and a leg. All it takes is starting with baby steps.
We’ll cover simple SEO elements that any store owner can implement, without enormous capital or incredible tech knowledge. Here are some of the topics you’ll feel comfortable with by the end of this article:
- Link building
- On-page SEO
- Common mistakes and how to fix them
Bear in mind that SEO consists of many little things. If you already have a large ecommerce store, it might be unrealistic to expect to be able to implement all of these ideas in one go. Start with your best-selling product page, pages that bring you the most value, and pages that have the largest amount of traffic. You can find all of that data in your Google Analytics account.
Cultivating your relationship with Google can bring great results. Consider it a form of free advertising – the more search engine optimized you are, the more often Google will suggest your page to people who are searching for things you offer. Here’s where you can start.
1. Link building for the biggest SEO impact
Link building is the practice of increasing the amount of links from reputable sources pointing to your URL. This is also commonly called a referring link, or backlink.
Out of 1 million Google searches, link building was found to be the #1 factor Google takes into consideration when choosing what results to display. If you were to only focus on one thing to increase your SEO standing, then this would be it.
Quality over quantity
To dissuade trollish behavior and link farming, Google has learned to differentiate between quality links and spammy links. The more reputable the source the link is coming from, the more positive results for SEO will be. Whereas link farming, the practice of spamming any possible internet site with your link, can actually hurt your SEO position. One way to know if you’re posting on a “quality” page is if that page (either in the title, URL, or header) contains keywords that you want to rank on.
How to get more backlinks for your online store?
There are many ways you can go about setting up backlinks. Some area easier methods than others. Generally speaking, the more work put in, the more qualitative SEO result you’ll have. Read this post on getting featured in an industry publication for step-by-step instructions. This is a more time-intensive process, but what you get back is gold: increased traffic (which turns into increased sales), improved SEO rankings, credibility, brand recognition, and so much more.
A more simple approach to getting backlinks would be to post on sites that don’t require a vigorous process to get published. For example posting questions on industry-related forums or commenting on related blogs. The internet is a massive place, where you’re bound to find a blog and forum for any niche industry.
Where does social media stand in all of this?
There is currently is vague information as to how social media posts affect your Google ranking. For example, if a tweet containing a link to your store goes viral, it won’t necessarily improve your SEO.
In a Google Webmaster video, a Google representative said that Google does NOT use social media as a ranking factor for their search engine. One of the reasons is because of the amount of social content created, Google simply isn’t able to index and crawl all of that information.
On-page SEO – optimize your site content
2. Avoid duplicate content
Use the Siteliner tool to check to see if you have identical content that repeats itself on your site. If it’s inadvertently duplicated, then you can delete the copy. If it’s done on purpose, then you can reword the content to express the same idea but in different words.
Take Printful’s landing pages for different ecommerce platforms as an example:
And see the same message in slightly different wording:
3. Copy – optimize your website texts for search engines
The words you use within your site have importance. Your keywords should appear in the H1, H2 and first 100 words of your website for the most effective SEO.
The header (also known as H1) of your store is a major signifier to Google about what your store is. This is where keyword research comes into play. To learn more about how to implement keyword research, take a look at this keyword research guide by Hubspot. Place the main keyword you want to rank in for in the header, and a more long-tailed keyword in the subheader (also known as H2). Equally important are all the other words you use on your site, also called paragraph copy. To make the most of this, identify the keywords you want to rank for, and implement them in all sorts of combinations throughout your site.
Pro tip: Your support emails are a great place to get ideas for keywords. If you have a person who manages your store’s support account, talk to them and ask what the keywords are that your customers most often use to describe your business. This is how the “real world” perceives your business, and it’s helpful to have a fresh set of eyes.
Product descriptions not only help increase sales, but also will boost your SEO positioning as well. Go here (scroll to the section “how to write awesome product descriptions”) for some more tips and tricks on how to write excellent, converting product descriptions.
4. Long form content leads to higher rankings
As you can see in the graph below, longer content = higher results. This is only one of many reasons you should consider running + keeping up a blog. Not only does Google prefer pages with longer content, but it will also give you the chance to rank in Google for a plethora of different keywords that are related to your industry. That way you have a higher chance of attracting similarly minded people, who can then be convinced by your excellent long-form content to buy your product.
5. Optimize images, because Google looks at your pictures too
Image file names
The images on your site are indexed by Google. They play a role in telling the search engine what you have to offer. Not to mention they’ll be more likely to be displayed under the “image” tab. Be sure to accurately name your image files to best results.
Image alt tags
Alt tags can be added to images so that for some reason if your image isn’t able to be displayed (loading issues, internet connection errors, etc.), in the place of your image a small text appears. This plays the role of letting your visitor understand what you wanted to show them, in case your image can’t load.
6. Metadata – tell Google what you offer
Technically speaking, metadata is data, that describes data. You’re using different tags and information to communicate to Google what the content of your website is.
Title tags are an important element. This is a short description, between 55-60 symbols, that describes your store.
You see it in three places:
Your browser – this is the text that you see in the tab when you open a new page.
Search results – this is the main text you see in Google results
Social media – when your page is linked, your Title tag will be pulled out as a “title” for the content.
Here’s what it looks like in your browser tab:
Tags can be added to your store by adding the HTML into your store’s code, but there are also many tools that will help you out with that.
Google short description
Meta description is the text shown underneath the title in google searches. Though the words you use don’t play a role in your Google position, they do play a meaningful role in whether or not the searcher will choose to click on your link or not. Take a look at how Something Geeky’s description speaks to the person who’s searching:
Note that Google won’t always use your metadescription, though most often it will.
Metadata in Shopify
If you’re using Shopify, then implementing SEO elements is made easy. You can go to each product, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and input the different information you want to be visible.
If you want to try out Shopify, click here for a free 30 day trial (instead of the usual 14 days).
Metadata for WooCommerce
If your store is using WooCommerce, then you’re using wordpress as a foundation. You can change the general site-wide metadata in your settings, by going to Settings->General->Site tag.
However if you want to implement more detailed metadata, then you’ll have to use additional plugins.
One of the leading SEO plugins on WordPress is Yoast, which will let you edit your meta descriptions.
Common errors and how to fix them
7. Not being mobile friendly
Since mobile traffic will account for 68% of all of the internet’s traffic in 2016, Google is giving preference to sites that are mobile friendly.
Not sure if your store is mobile friendly? Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Check tool.
8. Intrusive popups – no longer tolerated by Google
Starting January 2017, Google will be cracking down on intrusive popups, also called “interstitials.” Sites with invasive popups will be penalized in terms of SEO.
This comes as a result of the increasing traffic on mobile devices, and Google’s aim to make browsing a pleasant experience.
Google defines “intrusive” as “covering the majority of the content.” Here are some examples of intrusive popups that will be penalized:
To stay ahead of the curve, disable your web-based popups before the New Year to steer clear of any unexpected drops in organic traffic.
Pro tip: Check to see if your popup service lets you choose where you place your popups. For example, popular services like Nosto and MaxTraffic let you choose if your popups are shown while accessing your site from a desktop, or from a mobile device.
9. Slow site speed – keep your site fast to keep your visitors interested
Your store’s speed plays a large role in whether or not your visitor is going to stay.
A single second delay in your website loading time can result in a 7% loss in conversion, and 40% of web users will abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. – Hosting Facts
If you’re not sure about your site’s load time, you can measure your site’s speed with the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
There are many ways to speed up your website, but we recommend you to start with the basics:
- Pick a quality of your hosting provider – one factor to look for is your hosting provider’s uptime score. This is the amount of time there’s “up and running.” 99.5% is the recommended amount, and you shouldn’t consider anything under 99%. Learn more about choosing a hosting provider here.
- Reduce image size on your website – the larger the images on your site, the heavier it will be, the longer it will load. To keep your beautiful high-res images without compromising on the load time, use tinypng.com to compress your images
10. Lack of SSL certification – a signal of safety
Google has been proven to give preference to sites that are SSL certified. This is an added safety measure that ensures that purchasing processes are encrypted, and therefore, that your customers’ personal information is protected while checking out.
You know if a store is SSL certified if the domain starts with “https”, rather than simply “http.”
If you’re using Shopify, you can easily get your store HTTPS recognized. Simply activate the SSL certificate.
Every little bit counts
SEO isn’t a magical element that you either do have implemented or not. It’s a series of many small things that add up to one big result – your search engine presence. No matter what little element you start with, just start gradually chipping away at the SEO mountain, and you’ll see your results slowly improving.
Do you have any SEO tips we missed? Share the in the comments to discuss!