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Episode 17 - Step 2 of SEO for your Shopify store

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Hello Scott Austin here. And in this episode I'm going to talk about SEO for your Shopify store. I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty of how to do SEO, but instead where I'm going to talk about is how to analyze SEO for your store to see if SEO can be a significant contributor to your business metrics of customers to your site and sales. Now, the promise of SEO is free traffic to your website. So your customer acquisition costs are zero, but we should probably do a couple of definitions here. And the first definition is going to be SEO. And that stands for search engine optimization. So it's an acronym, and that's the process a website takes to rank well in algorithmic search results. Algorithmic results are the ones that are under the three or so ads at the top of the page. So they're not paid placements, they're not paid advertising and Google or any search engine determines through their algorithm or ranking process what pages or what content to put there.

So the process of SEO is setting your site up in such a way that Google or the other search engines look upon it favorably and rank it high in their search results listings. And the other definition I want to give you right now is for keyword or keyword phrase, and that's the term or the query that people are putting into Google or whatever search engine they're using. It's usually multiple words. So the term keyword means when they put in one word and keyword phrase means they put in multiple words and in this episode I'll use keyword and keyword phrase interchangeably and here's a couple of examples of a keyword phrase, ugly Christmas sweater or best shoes for hiking or 4k flat screen with HDR. And SEO is a complex beast to understand, which is why it's part science and part art. And it's complex because you're not 100% in control of it.

There's a lot of forces at play, some of which you're in control of and some of which you're not in control of. So I'm going to explain the different forces that are in play that impacts SEO, traffic and conversion to your store. And each of these forces, it's going to vary by industry. So what may be true for one industry may not be true for another industry, which is why an SEO, it's really important to test in your website and your industry to see what the facts are in your situation. So here are some of the forces at play. And the first one is, do customers search for the keywords that you're trying to get listed for? Do they search for your products or your services? If people aren't searching for your product, then SEO won't work for your business. And here's a real example. In 2015 a new company called tushy started making the days for the US market.

Well, most people in the US don't know what a bad day is and they don't own one and therefore they're not searching for them. So tissue's early marketing did not emphasize SEO because no one was searching for the terms. Now four years later because Toshi and other [inaudible] companies are more successful search query volume for the term by day and similar type terms is rising. But in the early days till she had to educate the people before they could start searching for their products. And the second force in play is how competitive is the keyword. SEO is a very mature practice. Now most successful companies have successful SEO strategies that makes it hard for newer small stores to compete in many keywords. So you'll need to look at the keywords you're trying to get ranked for and see how competitive they are. And the next for us is how competitive or how popular your site is.

Let's think about this as offsite SEO actions that you take. In other words, this is how many links to your site that you have on other websites and the quality of the sites that are linking to you. A big part of the algorithm for ranking is going to be how many links there are to your website and to the specific page that you're trying to get ranked for. So to be successful in that, you're going to have to influence other websites to put a link on their website to your page and your site. And the fourth force at play is how well you optimize for a given keyword. Let's think of this as onsite SEO actions that you take. Some of this is the technical work of ensuring your site is easy for the surgeons just to crawl and evaluate. And some of this is the work you do in picking keywords and creating content for those keywords.

Remember in the end, successful SEO is all about creating great content. Now a word of caution here. Many people when they think of SEO only think about the onsite efforts that they can make on their website, but the offsite efforts are linking to your site has a great impact on search ranking. All too often stores will focus on the onsite work and ignore the offsite work. So I encourage you to, as you put together a successful SEO plan, think about your onsite and offsite SEO actions. So to summarize, there are four big forces at work on your SEO success, two of which you're not in control of and two of which you are in control of the two you're not in control of is do people search for the keyword and how competitive is the keyword? The two of you are in control of is how competitive your site is.

Does it have a lot of links to it and all the onsite work you do to around giving keywords? Now I want to walk you through the evaluation process that I go through to determine those first two forces were not in control of do customers search for the keyword and how competitive is the keyword. And that's a key aspect to building out your SEO plan is knowing these forces you can't control. What do they look like and how they're going to impact your SEO efforts. So I'm going to give you a walkthrough of how I do this for my clients. Now personally, I own a package wows. I have four of them sitting here with me as a record. This right now. So from my example, I'm going to examine a hypothetical Chihuahua t-shirt business. So let's go through that evaluation of the forces we can't control.

The first is to do customers search for the keyword or what keywords are customers searching for is another way to think about that. Now we can use Google ad words to see how often the keyword is searched. Even if you're not doing paid advertising on Google, you can create your own Google ad words account. I'll have a link in the show notes on where you can find that and you can use that tool to do keyword research inside of the Google ads site. The tool you're going to use is called keyword planner. So the keyword planner tool for my chow, a tee-shirt idea. What I'm going to do, I put in the keyword phrase Chihuahua t-shirt and then the keyword planner is going to tell me how often this keyword phrases search for in a month. And it will also give me recommendations for other keyword phrases that are similar to it.

So in this example I put in Chihuahua tee shirt, chihuahua's shirt, Showa clothing and tee-shirt, which wow image. And what the planner told me was that show a tee-shirt gets 480 queries per month. A shirt gets 480 queries per month, Schwaba clothing. It actually changed to Choa clothes and told me that it gets 3,600 queries per month. But I'm thinking that this is not a tee-shirt query. This is actually for clothes for the dog. So I'm not going to include that in my list of keywords because it's not relevant to my t-shirt business. And then the keyword phrase tee-shirt, which wow, an image gets zero queries per month. And then the other terms that it recommended, I look through them and there was another 400 queries per month on those additional keywords that it recommended that I thought were relevant for my business.

So that's a total of 1,360 search queries per month. Now if we look at the business opportunity from that, let's assume for a second that we ranked number one on all these keyword phrases. Now if you ranked number one, the average click-through rate you're going to get is 35% on Google. So 35% of 13 is 476 so that means I would get 476 visitors to my website from SEO for that month. Now let's say I have a good site conversion rate of 3% so that 476 visits would then turn into 14 sales per month. So if everything goes really well, and I ranked number one, which is not a given at the moment, but it's an assumption we're making, I'd get a total of 14 sales per month. But if I was ranked number three for those three results, we know that the average click-through rate from number one goes down from 35% to 11% to number three when you ranked number three in the listing.

So 11% click-through rate would give me four sales per month. So we can quickly see that there's not enough search volume for these keyword phrases to build a business just with SEO or search as my traffic generator. If I really wanted to build a Choa t-shirt business, I'd have to look at other customer acquisition channels. It doesn't mean I shouldn't invest in SEO. It just means that SEO alone is not going to be enough for me to build a business that is sustainable. So force number one, are people searching for keywords that are relevant to your business. Now, forced number two, how competitive are the keywords that are relevant to your business inside of Google search results? So what I did is I just went to Google search in my Chrome browser and I typed in Chihuahua tee shirts and saw what the search results were for that keyword phrase.

This isn't a tool. This is just inside of Google on the front end that any customer can do. The first thing I notice on this search results page is that all three ad slots are in use. Google. At the top of the listing, we'll put three ad slots if three or more ads have been sold for that keyword phrase, and then if I go to a second page of search results, I see different ads, which means more than three people are bidding on that keyword phrase. You'll see in some more tail keyword phrases. There may be no ads or one ad or two ads, and that's just a sign of advertising interest in that keyword phrase. Now these may be some of the stores that found SEO too hard and are instead relying on paid advertising to generate traffic from search. Then the next thing after the ad slots I look at is the top five what are called organic spots and what sites are taking those and the sites in the Choa t-shirt results.

Our Etsy Spreadshirt cafe press, Amazon red bubble. Now notice all these are retail sites and for those that don't know Spreadshirt cafe press and red bubble, they're all t-shirt companies. They sell t-shirts in many designs. Some of them are uploaded by users, some of them are designed by the company themselves, but they have you know, thousands and thousands if not millions of designs for tee shirts on their websites. So you want to look at what type of site and how large of a site is ranking in those top five spots. And you can look farther down than five if he wanted to get really in-depth in your analysis. Now if I look at these five sites and I want to look at how big they are, you know, we all know that Amazon and Etsy are big, but the other three, I wasn't sure how big they were.

So now for this I use Amazon Alexa site info tool and I'll include a link to that in the show notes. And what that will do is it'll tell me the rank of these websites. Number one being the most popular website in the world, all the way up to about 20 billion or so websites that exist. So the higher the number, the more popular the website is, the more visitors it gets in a month. And Etsy ranked 130 fifth in the world. Spreadshirt was 6700th cafe press was 9,700 yeah, Amazon was number 12 red bubble was 1500 so these are all large popular websites. And to give you a comparison, a website that gets 50,000 users a month will rank around 350,000 in the globe. So the highest-ranking one of these was cafe press at 9,700 so it's much larger than 50,000 users a month. So this keyword phrase is already dominated in SEO by very large retailers, direct competitors to my desire Chihuahua t-shirt business.

And another thing to look at in these top links, these websites is how many inbound links do these sites have to them? Cause that's a big factor in the Google ranking algorithm. If your competitive sites in the keywords you're going after are small Stites and are sites that don't have a lot of links to them, it means you have a higher potential of outranking them. So when I looked at these five sites, also using the Alexa site info information, I found that Etsy had 125,000 inbound links. Spreadshirt had 4,400 cafe press had 26,000 Amazon had 530,000 red bubble had 10,000 in other words, all of these sites have a massive, massive volume of inbound links. Be really hard to compete against that. And then I look at the actual words that are showing up in these five top listings to see how optimized they are for this keyword phrase.

And in this case, they all had the words Chihuahua and t-shirt in the description, and many of them also had the keyword in URL. And what that means is they've really spent time and energy optimizing these pages for this keyword phrase. If the sites that are listed in the keywords you're looking at don't look that optimized, that's another sign that it's not that competitive and be easier for you to get ranked for those keyword phrases. So here's my summary of this analysis of the situation for a Twyla t-shirt business. And that is that there's not enough search traffic to justify investment in a new [inaudible] t-shirt store. If I want to get all of my traffic from SEO, there's just not enough people searching for relevant keywords for any player big or small successful or non-successful in SEO to generate enough volume through that. And that's not to say that SEO doesn't drive ciao a tee-shirt sales.

It looks like it does as the top organic results and ads are from retailers. But notice what these stores are doing. They have thousands or millions of products. [inaudible] tee shirts is one very, very small category for them. Their SEO efforts across their entire product catalog is what gives them the ability to rank for Twila t-shirts cause they have all those inbound links which gives their site a lot of street cred with Google and the few sales they make through their SEO efforts in shower tee shirts are worthwhile because that same effort gets applied across their whole product catalog of thousands or millions of products. So they get a drop from Twyla tee shirts, but those drops from all the other products they have. Add up to lakes or oceans when looking at it catalog wide. So Chula tee shirts is an example where the SEO effort won't be able to build a substantial new business, but the opposite can also be true.

Do this level of research in your space and see what the results yield and this is going to take analysis on your part to understand all these different forces and how they are interacting in your space. Typically a store will go through this process multiple times to find what part of their business. It can be significantly impacted by a CEO. For example, a jewelry store. We'll quickly find that jewelry is a highly competitive space for SEO, but they may find some uniqueness in their business that helps them be competitive in a part of SEO. So while a store may not be able to compete for the keyword diamond engagement ring, a very popular but also very competitive keyword, they may be able to compete for a keyword phrase like handmade geo necklaces, much less popular and therefore less competitive keywords. Now let's talk about SEO metrics.

I believe that there are two top-level metrics for SEO success that use store owners should keep of. You can set them up in Google analytics and the top metrics to look at our traffic from SEO and conversions from SEO. Now there are two ways to measure conversions. The first and easiest is to measure transactions or sales on your site and filtering it by those that came from organic search, and this is done in Google analytics by enabling enhanced eCommerce on the Google analytic side and on the Shopify side, but a lot of your SEO efforts probably are not going to result in a direct sale in that session. For example, if you're investing a lot of time and energy in content by creating blog articles or videos that are on your website that are informative to your customers in Mendez, part of the presales engagement with them, the goal of a lot of those landing pages from an SEO standpoint isn't going to be to generate a sale.

It's probably going to be to get the visitor to the site to sign up for your email list. So in that case would you have to think about as conversion isn't just conversion to sales, but it's also to conversion to email signups or whatever your other desired goals are. I've set up stores where you know, one of the desired goals is to have them find the store locator and look up a store. So in this case what you want to do is use the Google Analytics feature of goals and set up goals for all your desired outcomes, like sales, email signups, store lookups, whatever they are. And that way you're taking a more holistic view of your SEO efforts and understanding that sometimes SEO is just one step in a multistep communication with the customer during the shopping process. Now I've created a couple of Google Analytics dashboards for SEO.

One of them uses sales as the metric of success. The other uses Google Analytics goals, and I'll include a link to those two different dashboards in the show notes. And what you can do, it's, it's in what's called the solutions gallery in Google analytics. You just follow the link to the solutions gallery. It'll show you this dashboard and you can import that right into your own Google analytics. Now I want to give you a word of caution here about SEO metrics. Some SEO firms like to show their progress by reporting on the ranking of a keyword or the whole set of keywords that they're investing in on the Google search results. Something like the rank for this keyword moved from number 60 to number nine. Well, anyone doing SEO work should measure the rank of individual keywords. You the store owner, should not be measuring their success that way.

Use the metrics of total traffic and total SEO sales or goals to evaluate if your SEO spend or effort is paying off. One of my goals with this episode is to help store owners be more realistic when evaluating the potential of SEO for their business. I've seen many stores whose business plan is to use only SEO for customer acquisition, but when you look at the details and the data, the search volume just isn't there to build a sustainable business. As a Shopify expert, I get a lot of clients come to me and saying they want to do SEO on their existing product catalog, but I don't jump right into doing SEO on the site. It's easy to spend a lot of time and money on SEO without seeing any impact on sales. And the opposite of this is also true. There's a lot of times where spending just a little bit of effort and SEO can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line.

It all comes down to being smart about where you're investing your time and energy. So my first step is to do an evaluation of how SEO can impact the business. Many times that evaluation will determine that search volume is too low, or the competitive environment is too competitive for that store to succeed in the main terms that the client was expecting to rank on for these stores. I find places where they can compete and then I focus efforts in those spaces. So how I do this is by coming up with a shortlist of keywords that I think they can compete on and testing them in the test. I'm trying to see how easily I can improve the sites, rank for the keyword and seeing the business impact of sales or goals. And one of the keyword phrases that you must be competitive with is your company name.

Many people use search as a way to find a company's website, so they're going to search for your company name. So make sure you're evaluating your company name as a keyword and doing whatever it takes to get to the top of the rankings for your name. And once that evaluation is done, we meaning me and the client can make a much more informed decision about the next steps in SEO. And sometimes that decision is, well, SEO just isn't going to work for this site at this time due to whatever we've learned. And we choose other customer acquisition channels to invest our time and energy in. And sometimes, once again, the exact opposite is true that investing in SEO will actually have a major impact on their business. But now we know that by doing a short research program first to get smart about how SEO works in this industry and on this particular site. And using that knowledge to come up with a better plan.

So I hope this overview of how to evaluate SEO for your business was helpful. Once you know how much you expect from SEO, you can place the right amount of effort on it.

Thanks for listening.

JadePuma is a certified Shopify Expert. If you need any help with your Shopify store, we can help.