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Episode 83 - eCommerce SEO with the Game Steward

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Scott Austin:
You're listening to the Shopify solutions podcast, a podcast for Shopify store owners that brings you concrete examples on how to build and grow your eCommerce business. My name is Scott Austin, and I have an eCommerce agency named Jade Puma in this podcast. I'll share my eCommerce insights and best practices with you. Hey everybody, Scott Austin here. And for this week's episode, I have a, a guest with us. His name is Dan Kaplan. He's one of the founders and owners of the game steward and the game stewards, the Shopify store it's been around for a number of years and they focus on a niche. And a lot of people say, you know, there's riches and niches. And the game steward is really chasing that they're focused on selling board games that were first distributed through Kickstarter. So it's a really focused area that they're on. So welcome Dan.

Dan Kaplan (00:00:52):
Hey Scott. Good to be here.

Scott Austin (00:00:53):
Can you tell us about the origin story behind the game steward? If you were a Marvel movie, what, what would your opening 15 minutes look like?

Dan Kaplan (00:01:01):
Well, my business partner, Mike PHE was bitten by a radioactive Kickstarter board game back in 2010, 1213. Actually it was Michael who did this sort of as a side gig for a few years. He was attorney by trade. And what he did was, is he would buy Kickstarter board games. And if you're not familiar with Kickstarter or kickstart board games, basically this is a crowdfunding site where people pitch projects. What Michael was looking at particularly were board games. And these are games that people wanted to bring to market don't exist anywhere except in their designers' minds. And so it started off as a very rudimentary thing around the 2000 10, 11, 12 around 13 or 14 started to pick up speed and it really has never slowed down. And now we have Kickstarter board game campaigns where people crowdfund and raise sometimes, you know, a million dollars plus to design and publish a board game.

Dan Kaplan (00:01:59):
And what the game steward does is that based on Michael's original side gig, starting in on 2013 and really becoming official in 2016, we more or less angel invest in these crowdfunded board games. They don't exist. So more border game stores will wait until a board game exists and is in distribution when it's carried by a few national distributors, which means that literally thousands of copies have already been made. The game store is very different in the sense that we're backing games that may never exist, that only exist in the minds of their creator still, but they have had success. Successful crowdfunding campaign say on Kickstarter or now game found is the up and coming one that specialize in crowdfunding for board games. We give them money. And then sometime between a year to two years later, we'll receive the games in the meantime, because we've given them extra money angel investment money.

Dan Kaplan (00:02:52):
They can produce more units at lower cost when they produce them in China. And we're guaranteed a certain number of units that basically we bought through our contract, at which point we put them online for sale, and we began to advertise them kind of aggressively online and make them available with all the information and a lot of as assurance as well because Mike and I worked very hard as, as our staff to, you know, for trust and to maintain a very high level of quality. We also do things like on a Kickstarter if the Kickstarter fails and the person fails to produce the game that's happened, sometimes mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, or they run off the money that's happened occasionally the game steward, if you buy from us, for example, what we do is we guarantee the game. So basically if the Kickstarter doesn't happen, you get your money back a hundred percent. And so basically we serve as that secondary market working in a sense after the Kickstarter and now after game found to make the game more popular, produce more units and make it available to more people who missed the Kickstarter initially.

Scott Austin (00:03:50):
Yep. That, that makes a lot of sense. You guys are helping them get over their Kickstarter goal in their 60 day window or whatever window they have, but then you've got a year or two while they're making the game to actually sell the games that you've put dibs in on

Dan Kaplan (00:04:03):
That's right. And it's a model that works well. I mean, it's a very unusual model for the board game retail industry. We were the first who really did this as a main pursuit, typically brick and mortars will back a few Kickstarter games at the request of their customers, maybe a few on their own because they like them. But we were the first and we are the largest one to do it online as a, a main avenue of our business. Virtually all of our games are these limited edition Kickstarter edition games.

Scott Austin (00:04:32):
So you guys have been doing this for a decade or so. How is your business doing these days?

Dan Kaplan (00:04:36):
We're doing very well. Our business is growing. We were doubling and this year, basically, we're looking some months between 40 and 50% of our last year. So we're still growing by in multiple digits, which is to be expected as we grow larger, it gets harder and harder to double your business. Yep. We've got no complaints. Our staff works hard. We work hard to make our customers happy. And our customers are paying us back in spades by shopping with us and limit us great reviews.

Scott Austin (00:05:03):
That's awesome. And, and just give a little context, like, what is the size of your team? Just so people know that it's not just a guy hanging out in his garage doing this as a side business. You've got a, a full-time staff in a warehouse. I believe

Dan Kaplan (00:05:15):
Now we have I believe we're up to 12, including Michael myself team members. And we have a warehouse in Viton Virginia about 8,000 square feet.

Scott Austin (00:05:24):
Yeah. So that, that gives a context of you guys are serious, legit doing volume business. We're here today to talk about SEO. Can you explain for our audience, what is eCommerce SEO

Dan Kaplan (00:05:36):
For those who've never heard the phrase SEO. It, it is out there quite plentifully called search engine optimization. And just to mention what that is in general is basically for any website if you want Google or Microsoft or one of those search engines to find you, and to really lift you out to search results for people searching for them, then you need to do search engine optimization for your site and for other sites as well, they call it OnPage and off page, for example. And when we talk about eCommerce SEO, what I talk about anyway, what I really mean is SEO not designed for things like blog pages, for example, which are perfectly legitimate businesses, where you wanna bring people to see your ads, but E SEO really designed for shops. Now you could have a brick and mortar. So I would call that brick and mortar eCommerce, SEO. I'm really talking about online shop eCommerce, SEO, very specifically. So for example, like Shopify shops, like we are

Scott Austin (00:06:32):
Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> now, how much of your traffic and sales today are driven by e-commerce SEO

Dan Kaplan (00:06:41):
Day to day? I will tell you, depending on whether we're off season or on season, for example, we may get 2000 visitors a day from pure Google, SEO, not counting other sources. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> off season. It may go as low as 1500 a day. So that's a fair amount of traffic for us. We have about a, in the us it's about 1.5, 2% conversion rate internationally, we have a 0.5% conversion rate mm-hmm <affirmative>. So I don't, I, I, I honestly do not know the cash per day that we make from the SEO clicks. But if you do the math out of a thousand people you know, 1% would be like 10, right? So it, my, my standard, checkout's probably like 160 bucks or 180 bucks, depending on the month. So that's probably, you know, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 a day.

Scott Austin (00:07:27):
Yep. Earlier you mentioned good old Microsoft in the, you know, Bing is most of your SEO traffic coming from Google, or do you get a, a noticeable percentage from the other engines or is it just mostly Google?

Dan Kaplan (00:07:38):
I think it's a fair question. I was looking actually recently on a conversation on the Facebook Shopify plus where we were talking a little bit about that. And I tend to look at the statistics a little bit more carefully when I'm looking at the, the shopping aspect of it, which, you know, we do aggressively Scott, but for the SEO aspect of it, I would offer that it's probably about 3% to three and a half percent Microsoft. And I would offer 95% Google. This is just rough, really rough estimates or estimates. And then the rest of it's a combination of the other search engines. I mean, I could go, if you want me to and take a look and tell you exactly the numbers that we get from these, but

Scott Austin (00:08:15):
No, that's, that's more than directional enough. What, what I just heard you say is it's all Google.

Dan Kaplan (00:08:21):
Yeah. Yeah. That's very just, do you,

Scott Austin (00:08:23):
Do you even think about the other platforms or you just optimize all around Google and just come? What made from the other platforms?

Dan Kaplan (00:08:30):
Oh, I definitely do. I mean, one thing about this is, is that there are many opportunities you want as a shop owner, especially one, when you start off and you don't have a lot of resources, you want to exploit them as much as you can, which is to say, you wanna leverage them to your purpose for eCommerce SEO. So what you're gonna want to do is I would offer is you want to definitely register with your Google search console and definitely get your website set up on Google search console. Now Google search console used to be called, I think Google web master, web master. Yep. Master tools. And actually that's something to talk about a little bit, you know, there's a phase change. That's happened since like 2010. It used to be that we thought of the web and we thought about webmaster, right? Making the best website they could, but what's really happened in a way is that now every, and this everyone will listen to this will, will know what I'm talking about.

Dan Kaplan (00:09:17):
Everything is search. Believe it or not. For those of you who are a little younger, it wasn't always like that. There used to be direct, you know, things like this where people would like buy for the name, let's say you know, Coca-Cola dot com because someone would what they wanted to find something, they would type that into their browser as a web address. And they would find the, the shop actually based on the URL name, like the domain name. Now that's unheard of today. Right? And Google has taken huge steps to divorce that. So now, if you are the best resource for sure, piece of information, and someone else is squatting on the best domain name, it doesn't really matter because what Google's gonna do, right. I'll talk most of Google, but it's true. The other ones too, is that Google is going to take your pages and look at what you've done and give the best estimate they can to see what people are searching on Google, to would best be addressed by your site.

Dan Kaplan (00:10:07):
Cause they're, they're basically want to find people the best answers they can. That's what makes Google money in the end is being the best search engine and finding people what they want. That's what brings them back. So I would offer that Google search console is the number one thing. And then it's, now this tells you just a little bit of something it's still called Microsoft being webmaster tool. Yep. It tells you like, Microsoft's kind of a little sleepy in the uptake, but basically that would be the second one I would register on. And I would definitely do it if you're in Europe. And we do it anyway. Like I said, we, I would also do Yandex. Yandex is thought of as being Russian slash Chinese a bit. It's actually, I believe coming out of the Netherlands, but it is also what I would call the third search console or webmaster tool.

Dan Kaplan (00:10:49):
Okay. Where I register my site and your properties. Yep. And I read outside, why, why would you do this? You do this. So that basically Google is aware of your site. And you can literally, if you need to, especially if you're a small store, I should say a store with small number of, of products. You could literally go into that tool and you could put each of your product page URLs into your Google search console and ask Google, could you please crawl this page right away? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and actually get on a queue to have your page crawl. If you don't do that, Google will probably eventually find you, but it may take a long time. And I would offer too. When I talk to my business partner about things I've told 'em over and over again, when we wanna get a product that we wanna get as early as possible.

Dan Kaplan (00:11:31):
Because if you wanna get search results on a product page, my base rule thumb is gonna be 90 days. You're gonna get some before that. But if you really want, like to have like a page about a swimsuit for the, you know, Memorial day in the summer, I would definitely have that page out 90 days in advance, I would put it out and I would go to Google search console. I would go to Microsoft web webmaster tools. And I'd probably go to Yex as well. And I'd make sure that page gets crawled right away so that when people start searching a few weeks before summer for that swimsuit, your page will be at least available for them. And if they hit the keywords just right, then they'll find it. But if, if you haven't put it out well in advance and you haven't registered with these tools, you're making it much harder for Google, Microsoft, and others to find you.

Scott Austin (00:12:21):
So your step number one, for any, any small Shopify store owner who wants to get into SEO and benefit from that on I'm doing air quotes that nobody can see free traffic is the first thing you want to do is to go out to the different webmaster and, and consoles and register your domain. But it also sounds like your second step is I'm not as proactive about this as I think you are like with my websites, I am registered with, with search console, but I just register my XML file for my site map. And I let that do it. When I put up a new blog post or something like that, I don't go out and tell, you know, console, Hey, this new page exists. It sounds like you're being a little more proactive to really push that to Google, to get it indexed more quickly.

Dan Kaplan (00:13:04):
Yeah, I am. And I've got other ways to do that too. So the site map you're absolutely right, is a, a great thing. And if you're a Shopify store, if you look at your URL and you then put like I'm the game If you then say, slash slash site map dot XML, and you would enter on your browser, you too can see this thing called your site map, XML, which in Scott you're absolutely right. You wanna register that on Google search console? Yes, absolutely. Site map XML. Registration's a key step. I would say this. You wanna get registered. That's a first thing. Once you get registered with your properties, reg, the next thing you I would offer is you really wanna concentrate on what I would call your on page SEO for your eCommerce. SEO. If I can use that word, basically what you want to do is you wanna make sure that you have optimized your product pages so that when it gets crawled, all that information's there.

Dan Kaplan (00:13:53):
Now there's nothing wrong with getting it crawled right away immediately. But if you have basically a blank page, it's not gonna have a lot to pick up. And it may be a little while before the update goes through. Of course you can tell Google search console to update their caching of your page if you want to, after you update it. So this is why I would say, especially for a small shop and this, these are the guys gonna the hardest problem, right? Cause they don't have the funds and like myself, I didn't know what SEO meant when we started, I started in 2016, like I've learned all this right. While doing our shop. So basically I would just say register, get it all registered. And then what you wanna do is you wanna optimize your pages.

Scott Austin (00:14:29):
So for you and I, I think your business is a little bit different than most, right? And for you, it makes total sense that the product page is your primary destination from SEO standpoint, right? Because all of your games have a title and people are searching for the title of the game. They're not searching for role playing board games, as much as they're searching for monopoly or risk or whatever the right, you know, Kickstarter games that you guys have on your, on your platform are. So in, in a lot of categories, let's say, you know, shoes is always the example that I see in, in SEO articles where they say collection pages are really important because people are searching for black leather shoes, not, you know, black leather, Manolo, you know, blah, blah, blah. Not at the product level. Most of it's at the category level, but for you, it's definitely the product pages are valuable. Do you see any traffic going to your collection pages or is the bulk going to your product pages?

Dan Kaplan (00:15:25):
You know, I, I, you say go niche, right? I mean if you want to sell chocolates and you, you basically have keyword chocolate over your pages, it's gonna be kind of tough because you're gonna have a lot of competition. Now, if you say chocolate bunnies, you're still gonna have a ton of competition. Cuz obviously Easter bunnies. If you say, if you go chocolate robot bunnies, you're gonna start to get more long tailed keywords where you're gonna start to get into a niche where you might only have a dozen competitors for chocolate robot bunnies. Yep. Now that said, in talking about the idea of a collection page, if your industry is one that curation, I would use that word is key. So let's say you do close. And I had a funny conversation with actually the, one of the people working at my bank, she was thinking about doing a, a shop and she saw my account and she was like, how do you do this?

Dan Kaplan (00:16:17):
And so basically she said you know, we talked about it. So this is a good example. What her friend does for example, is that she's buying all kinds of clothes, but her friend has a certain kind of taste and a certain kind of body shape. She actually models the clothes for herself on her shop. Yep. And so by putting them together, like you're saying in a collection, she has a group of clothes that will appeal to a certain group of people, right. Who maybe you have that same shape, have that same taste. And so for her curation is what makes the collection valuable because the idea is, is that a customer who likes one or two of the items in that collection maybe likes a dozen of them, right? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so yes, if I were doing a shop where curation was king, where if any individual piece you looked at in the ensemble, like the belt or the shoes or the purse or what have you, it could be found anywhere else.

Dan Kaplan (00:17:08):
It's the value is, is that they put it together. They've curated it. And that I believe to a certain extent gets to collection value. So at that point you wanna put a long tail keyword on your collection. Like, are you, do you have funky psychedelic clothes for the summer? That's gonna draw a certain audience, right? If that's your collection page and you've got lots of images on that are gonna attract them, I think that's gonna be really, really useful. Now you and I know that we worked on franchises. Yep. So for example the game steward, one of the things we have now is cool mini or not. It's also called cm. O N they have a lot of games like Zombicide and there's like, literally there've been at least a dozen releases. And then within that, there's like, God, there could be hundreds of different items that you can buy that are various expansions and accessories and so on.

Dan Kaplan (00:17:53):
So we, to a certain extent do that, right? We, we do these franchise collections. And if you're interested in some part of the Zombicide franchise, you can see the rest of the Zombicide franchise. You can also see what we cared before and you can sign up for that again, to get it reissued, getting a little off subject. But the key there is is that we do that, but it's not as strong for us, for us. At least my belief is, is that a lot of our customers are looking for that game. They just learned about from their friends that they missed and they know the exact wording of the game, or they know how to describe it. And so they're doing what you said, Scott they're searching. And when they search, they come up with our site. Obviously we have lots of images so they can see what they're looking for as well.

Dan Kaplan (00:18:31):
And we can talk about, you know, using images to sell your products too, which I think is really underdone by a lot of shops. And then basically they come into our site and they search again. They find that product page and they buy it. Now, once they discover that page and they discover that game that they really wanted, might they discover that we have like three or four or five other accessories that go with it because of the franchise pages that are combined. Yes. But for us, I believe the funnel, if you wanna call it that the sales funnel is that first they look for that killer thing that they're, they must have they find out with us and then they discover, oh, there is a lot of other things I need, as opposed to say someone who comes in because they want that funky psychedelic summer swimwear. Yep. And that, that collection has that name.

Scott Austin (00:19:11):
So your product pages are your, your bread and butter for your SEO efforts. What do you do specifically on your product pages, outside of what Shopify and your theme does for you automatically? What do you do to optimize those pages for SEO?

Dan Kaplan (00:19:27):
So there's a lot of things you can do for on page SEO, just speaking first off in terms of strategy, before you even begin. And I'll say this people who do blogs, they actually work in reverse of people like you do. E-Commerce like we do. Yep. By that. I mean, they say, well, what's a great key. That's not, that's like getting traffic, but not all good results or would be easy to get number one on. And then they write an article right. To, to steal that headline and try and get number one

Scott Austin (00:19:53):
And a real example, just so the audience understands is somebody may be looking on, on Google for what people are searching for. Like, should I buy solar in Southern California this year? And then they'll build an article around that keyword phrase cuz they see the traffic volume behind

Dan Kaplan (00:20:08):
It. Now most of us don't do that. Most of us have a dream, right? Like Mike and I are board gamers. And so the dream was to have a board game store. So we start off first with a product. Now the thing about our product particularly is, is it's always, it's good to go niche. We talk to like about chocolate robot bunnies as opposed to like just chocolate or just bunnies chocolate bunnies. If you get in there, you have a, a very specific niche that no one else is really exploiting. That's obviously gonna be ripe ground. So one of the things you wanna do too, is if you're gonna, if you haven't done your story yet and you're looking to figure out what you want to do, look around a little bit and see what your angles are like. You know, if what you're about to do, if you search for it is covered by dozens of other stores, you're gonna have to figure out how you're gonna do it better. You're gonna have to also figure out how you're gonna express it in searchable words, that, that your audience will find you that maybe they can't find it now.

Scott Austin (00:21:01):
And, and, and my advice there also is when you look at who the, your, your competitors are an SEO, I also look at, is it Amazon target and Walmart? Or is it John's game board shop Jim's game board shop, you know, board game shop kind of thing. Are they stores that are massive who have tons of SEO Jews? Or are they people that are your size? Cause it's easier to compete with people your size, if you just outgun them, it's hard to outgun Walmart or Amazon.

Dan Kaplan (00:21:32):
And we're talking about strategy, right? First thing is, is the thing that I wanna sell. You know, how do I get it out there now once I have my strategy, right? And once I have this product set, where I believe that it's not currently represented and that especially shop could be useful, I'm gonna do my on page SEO. Right. And I'm gonna make sure that I have those keyword, like let's say in my case Kickstarter board game, and I'm gonna wanna make sure it's in the content. So it's gotta be well written descriptions, right? That read like English, but contain the keywords. There's gonna be obviously titles. This is really critical. The first 70 characters of the title a really add to your SEO. So you wanna make sure that you express in those, what it is that you're offering.

Scott Austin (00:22:14):
So to be clear to, to the, the audience here that that's your SEO title and your SEO description, which in the products page on the Shopify admin are down at the bottom of the page and you've gotta click to expand. I think it's called SEO, meta fields or something. And you click to expand it. And then you'll see these two entries and your theme and Shopify automatically populating those, the SEO title, probably based on your product title and an SEO meta description, based on the first, you know, characters in your product description, are you then going in there and overwriting what is automatically put in and, and optimizing those

Dan Kaplan (00:22:51):
When you have a product page, okay. Here, the areas are really your description, your title, your meta title. You have canonical tags, you have alt texts on things like your images. You have also have image. And, and then within that, right, you can do things like I would recommend. We did very early on. We have LD SEO application that we've used before. It was part of themes. Now it's largely part of themes. Like we use flex, for example, with the game store right now, and flex obviously has some built in SEO. Should I put it fields that users don't see that are what you just said, Scott, they are the SEO title. They are the SEO description. They are also some other things that categorize it. So that search engines can read that very carefully. You want an application? That's gonna give you that formatted data within your page so that when Google crawls your page, how Google gets your information and when Microsoft being crawls your page and Yex crawls your page, that they can crawl those areas and read them immediately and very clearly, and know exactly what it is.

Dan Kaplan (00:23:56):
You're trying to tell them your page is about. Yep. They're often very similar and they, I would offer. They probably should be somewhat similar to your actual visible title and your actual visible description. If those two things are disconnected my, this is my understanding is that Google will penalize you. If they think that you're saying one thing and doing another. So I would offer that they're supposed to be the same now. And also I will say this Google has been very clear. They do not want, for example, your SEO title or your regular title to be a bunch of gobbly, good keywords. That's called keyword stuffing. If you repeat them a lot, what they really want, well, edited English copy. Now, when I say that, it should read to a human and being is if it's just the article or description of your, your product and the title of your product, for example.

Dan Kaplan (00:24:43):
But when you're doing that, remember to include your key words, right? So I can say, you know Zombicide invader. And then in parenthesis, after that, I often say like Kickstarter pre-order board game or special or whatever, have you. Now within that, I have made that first 70 characters right. Contains the title of my game, but it'll also often contain the word Kickstarter right within that as well. So that when someone searches for Zombicide and they say Kickstarter, the search engine will go wait a minute. I know a lot of people are selling retail Zombicide games, but this guy said, Kickstarter in a search and mine will say, Zombicide the name of the franchise, if you will invader would be the name of, let's say that particular expansion and then it'll have the keyword Kickstarter at the back. And so as a read like English, yes it does. Is it English? Yes it is. Can people understand it pretty well? Absolutely. And now when the search engine searches, it, does it have the distinction of like that we talked about like again, chocolate versus chocolate bunnies versus chocolate robot bunnies it's specific so that the people who are really looking for my content can find it

Scott Austin (00:25:50):
Mm-Hmm <affirmative>

Dan Kaplan (00:25:51):
Where everything you do on your page should read just like English. Well, good copy of English. Right? Well written, but at the same time should contain those keywords that you think your customers will be using to find your products.

Scott Austin (00:26:06):
Yep. So step one, we went into console and, and webmaster and told the engines were there step two, we went on site and optimized, whether it's a product page or a collection page or a blog article page, you know, depending on your business, optimizing the, the technical structure of the page, what is the next step in, in this process that we're walking?

Dan Kaplan (00:26:28):
Well, I would offer once you've optimized your on page and that's not a small step. Like for example, one thing I would note is is that like I talk about LD, SEO which is a Shopify app that you can buy one time. That's what we use, but there's like I said, lots of themes have them. Now, another thing I would offer everyone should have is they should have a image optimization tool. I use crush picks. I love crush picks. They, they don't have a lot of utility. They only cost me the, I think they literally cost me $5 a month. I have been their, they have my longest running app. I've used 'em for years and I love them. And they've improved their products as ears have gone by. And what they do is this for me, they do a number of things.

Dan Kaplan (00:27:05):
They start off by just reducing image sizes not the actual physical size, but the physical, the size of the weight of the bites of the image. So you can, yeah, I can load up a, a thousand. I try not to load anything larger than 1000 by 1000 for speed optimization purposes. And then what they'll do is they'll optimize based on what I've told them how good should the resolution be? All right. Will my pictures appear a little bit fuzzy? Sure. But is you know, the, my theme sending them out at 400 X instead of a thousand on a side to cell phones. Yes, it is. So basically that's the main functional is they reduce the size to increase the speed and, and speed is actually the as aspect of, you know, making your website move. So with the images that they do is they set the alt text.

Dan Kaplan (00:27:48):
So then they also rename the image. So I can give it a formula where I can say here, use these aspects of my onsite data and, and name the alt text. Yep. Of the image. This is one that doesn't show, but this is the thing that basically communicates to web browsers, for example, and searches, what is that photo about? And also it will rename the image itself, so it can put keyword in that image name, and those can be different. So now I've got like another, 140 or even more characters or words that I can actually add a character with the words I start not saying. Right. Quite right. That can add SEO with. And when people search for, let's say Zombicide invader, or they search for Marvel zombies, that's gonna be a huge one, right. They search for Marvel zombies, all of that art and all those images will have Marvel zombies somewhere in their title and somewhere in their alt text.

Dan Kaplan (00:28:40):
So when they go to Google and they search, yep. Google might say, you know, I don't remember Dan's page for Marvel zombies, but I do remember he has an image called Marvel zombies. Let me show that to this guy. And if he sees a picture of that box yep. For the game at Marvel zombies and he clicks on it, he's like, oh, he's there. So that's a good example, for example, where we can take an image and that's also an SEO route for a sale, cuz we've optimized that image, right. We've made it the right size. We we've reduced the size. We've only made it as large as it needs to be. We've given it its alt text, we've given it's title. And a lot of this can be automated by tools like crush picks, which is again a, a Shopify app.

Scott Austin (00:29:19):
No, the, the crush picks tool is absolutely fabulous. And I don't think everybody understands how important and I'm glad you're stressing that how important image search is, how many people like look at search results and see the text like I'm lost and they go and they hit the image tab on Google. It's a very common scenario, especially in shopping scenarios. I do it for things like, you know, color schemes all the time. I'm not gonna look at color schemes in a search. I might look for, you know, autumn color scheme. I'm doing an image search when I do that thing. So the images are super important, especially in e-commerce and a lot of people, you know, taking their own photos and they upload the image DS 3, 4, 5, 7, 2 dot JPEG. And it tells Google nothing about what's inside that image. That could be a Nike shoe. It could be a blank box. So having crush picks and renaming the image and adding the alt text two very valuable signals for Google to listen to on regular SEO and on image SEO, I think it's a super valuable tool and tip that most store should be thinking about doing

Dan Kaplan (00:30:17):
Commission. One other thing, you know, that affects both images and what we've talked about so far, which are, and I kind of hit on a little bit, but was they call it long tail. And basically what that is, is we talked about earlier, how people went from searching for website domain names to just searching on Google. It started to punish people who had bad pages that didn't explain things very well, but happened to be sitting on great domain names. And so this today is often referred to as long tail keywords. If you're gonna succeed in the great Moras of advertisements and products are out there today and you want to go niche and you want to like be the biggest in that niche, then what you really need to know is, is like that long tail semantic is important. It used to be, people would say things like, you know, I want to be the number one, what's a good example bathing suit site.

Dan Kaplan (00:31:05):
So I'm gonna use the word bathing suit a million times at each of my pages. That's no keyword stuffing for example, but now what they're doing is they're much more complex. And this is actually advanced. This has been over 10 years now where you can get more and more nuanced in your title in your alt text for images in the title for images in, you know, the descriptions that you use and Google will read through all that, including the SEO aspect of that, that you provide through J for example, LD JS, or the part that you actually provide for the readable part of your page. And they'll tease through that and they'll use in the latest updates in the last two years, for example, they'll use the context, they're actually getting to the point now where people can use natural word language, they can just type their question the way they would ask it normally.

Dan Kaplan (00:31:49):
And if you have the answer on your page, their Google's goal is to serve your page up. So I would just offer everybody if you want to describe deeply your products and the images for your products and the titles and so on, in a deep way and get into nuances of it. Like let's say for example, you spend extra on a hundred percent pure Egyptian cotton. You know, you might want to get into that on your page because there may be some people, literature, wool, don't like other things who are searching specifically with clothes and cotton. And because you added that to your description, you know, you went into it in depth. Some of those keywords were register for them. So I'll just say this too, whenever you're writing this stuff, and whenever you're doing these formulas, you still want them to be what you believe your custom base is gonna be searching on, but you want to get deep. You want to get nuanced and you really want to get those long tail keywords because really Google has done a lot and it's only accelerated in the last two years. And like I said, start 10 years ago where you can really get in there and do these nuanced titles and description.

Scott Austin (00:32:54):
Do how much time do you spend, how much energy do you put into the customer facing product description? Do, do, do you and your team focus on creating copy and optimizing that like you're talking about so that it goes into those long keyword phrases.

Dan Kaplan (00:33:09):
I do not spend a lot of time on keywords for SEO specifically. I, we spend our time writing those descriptions and those titles. And I'll say though, you know, we do have some patterns that we follow for describing them, partly because we want to give our customers who are repeat customers, an idea of our cadence and where to look for things. So just like on a page, you might always keep certain information, the same place. So your customers know where to look for it. Like they'll clear footer to see like, if they wanna sign it for your newsletter, they click on your logo and the title. If they wanna go to your homepage, right? You don't need a homepage button for that. People know where these assumptions are gonna be, so we try to be repeatable. And then that helps us to frame it up.

Dan Kaplan (00:33:51):
Like I will start the description for my board game with for example, Kickstarter exhibition of such and such a board game, Kickstarter, exhibition of such and such a board game accessory. So I'll do things like I'll include the aspect of the game is an accessory is a supplement, is the standalone board game I'll include like, was it Kickstarter? Was it game found? I'll include the title. I'll also say, say things like sort of a little formulaically, but I'll just put in the same place I'll say from, and I'll put or buy and I'll put the vendor or the, the producer who created the game. And I do that, that first line, if you look at my website will always have that same cadence to it. And then the next line will be includes. And that's where I'll get into each of the individual pieces of the game, particularly ones that are not in wide distribution, like we said, we do limited edition.

Dan Kaplan (00:34:42):
So the, the thing that defines limited edition is is that there are parts to this game gameplay aspects to it that will not be available later in retail. And so one of the things I always try to include, mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, what are the main items that are included, but particularly those exclusive gameplay items and I list them out. So I have a pattern, a cadence where I'll start with one sentence that kind of breaks down what it is, and very early in the description and, and totally readable English. Right? And then I'll get into a second sentence, which really says what this includes, what are the key highlights? And, and from there we'll continue. And then we'll start to get into things like flavor language, like, you know, is this a pirate game? What's it about? And we'll also, you know, go to our publisher, the guys who made the game and we'll say, Hey, what do you have something about this, a write up for it.

Dan Kaplan (00:35:26):
And we'll use that as well. And so we'll include that as well as images and so on. So the first part, what we do, we do follow a formula and it is keyword heavy because you know, the first, whatever it is you know, a hundred, 200 letters of the description, definitely Google, definitely. And I would offer even more for Microsoft, cuz they're probably not as advanced as Google at this point. And so that way we know exactly how to start things. We know what to include when I write this stuff up, I have a Google sheet and I do things like my business partner write 'em too. I have a little thing in my formula that says, Hey, was the type of game included in description. So I'll know quality control, right. Did we say board game accessory in the description because we noted is a board game accessory. So I've got a series, I've got a Google sheet where we write our copy. I've got what kind of component or game this is. And I've got a certain number of politic control checks that tell me automatically, did I remember to include those in that description outside of that, you know, whatever flourish my business partner wants to put on or I wanna put on it is fine, right? As long as we have those main key components.

Scott Austin (00:36:29):
Well, I, I think the important thing to point out here is, and, and this is valuable learning for, for many stores is you are reselling other people's products and they are giving you content. They're giving you photos, they're giving you copy and you're taking all of that. But then you're, reprocesing it all. And rewriting it optimized for your customers. You don't copy and paste what your vendors give you and put it up there. You're authoring it cuz you know your customers best and optimizing it around what they want to hear about and, and how you want to communicate to them. And, and like the best practice there is how many store owners out there today are not touching the product description given to them by their vendors and, and it's most. And if you wanna differentiate and be unique to stand out in the crowd, you're gonna have to add value to that copy so that Google can pick up on that, see that you're different and highlight you.

Dan Kaplan (00:37:22):
There's only eight or nine spots on the first search page for Microsoft, Google other search engines. And so if you want to be in that first page again, what Scott's saying is keys. You gotta write the copy. You, you want to be in a niche where hopefully, you know, there are maybe only six other people who have pages like that so that you will show in that first page. Mm-Hmm,

Scott Austin (00:37:42):

Dan Kaplan (00:37:43):
Everything we're saying here. We're talking about strategy really, but what it boils down to are these are strategies that will hopefully get you within those first eight results on the search page so that when people, when SEO starts to go through 90 days later and people are starting to find you, if they decide, Ooh, that actually sounds a little bit better to me than that first three or four results. Now odd offer two though. Obviously everybody wants to be number one. I would never tell anyone, try and necessarily be number one. I think if you can get in the top three and you have a good product, people will choose you. They'll see mm-hmm <affirmative> cause nobody likes to often when we look at the first couple things on Google, for example, they're ads and I don't about you, but I have learned to go, oh wait, that's an advertiser. That's an advertiser. Okay. Here are the actual search results, human beings. We know what we're looking for. Right? And so basically everything that you know, you and I Scott, you and I are saying here is basically to help figure out how to write that page, a strategy wise to get on those first eight or nine search results. And that's where those long take two words, that niche product, that spending time to rewrite things so that the way that your customers will be searching for them will all pay off.

Scott Austin (00:38:53):
Yep. And, and another way to say that is for, for, for me, I'm a one person business and for a lot of my, my clients and a lot of our listeners, they're small Shopify stores. They don't have a dedicated SEO team and things like that. So we don't have the time and energy to spend optimizing every single page and tweaking things and all that stuff. It's more of a spaghetti strategy, do the best you can with all your products. And you don't know which ones are gonna be number 1, 2, 3, 4, or five. Like there's a bunch of search phrases that Jade Puma ranks number one for, but I had no idea they were gonna be number one and a lot of that's cuz there wasn't any competition in those areas. Back in 2014, I wrote it in an article about shopper approved reviews and how to implement them on Shopify.

Scott Austin (00:39:34):
And it ended up, I was the only place on the internet. You could find information about shopper approved and Shopify. And I ended up getting clients because of that. But I didn't know that, right. It was just, I was putting content out there and you see what sticks kind of thing. So, you know, for the small people, we always try to engineer things too much, I think. And we gotta forgive ourselves where we've only got limited bandwidth. We're gonna do best effort. We're gonna do the smart things. And then just trust that enough of it's gonna be successful that we're doing, we're gonna be successful from it.

Dan Kaplan (00:40:04):
We've talked a lot about the page development. There's some structure elements too. I mean we get into that go kind of go off page. Like there's internal page, linking like collections are good for that. For example, I think everyone probably, if you haven't heard the word back link and I think every shopkeeper cringes slightly when they heard the word backlink because everyone like Scott, for example, will tell us like you need back links. Which is to say for those who don't know you need, it helps the authority recite to have other sites point to you, right? To say, Hey, these guys have a great chocolate robot bunny or they have a great board game or you know, this is a good deal. And you know, for a long time, Google and other groups have used that that was actually one of the original Google formulas or, or calculations was using back links to figure out what's the most important page as opposed to keyword stuffing.

Dan Kaplan (00:40:50):
That is important. So I get this other thing, which is structure right now, the structure markup that really refers more. I think to the thing Scott was referring to, which is like, do you have an app that does your SEO title and your SEO description page URLs? Like are they linked together? So everything, if your front page is the, my highest ranking page in your site for a lot of people, it is any page internally you have linking from your front page will actually get a little bit of a boost because your front page acts kind of like a back link from another page cause it's high ranking. So they actually just don't use ranking of external pages to your website for back links. They actually look at your internal linking as well. So if you want to get a page to make it more important, if you have a product that's sold out, for example, get it off your front page, put the products that are, that are now available onto your front page so they can get that kind of boost.

Dan Kaplan (00:41:38):
Right. And those other ones don't, if you have a collection that's like, like Scott was saying is super hot as opposed to product page. Well, there you go. All of the product links to that collection page, you're gonna benefit from that. If that collection page is your higher stringing page in your whole site, then that is the best internal linking you can do. Now that said, I'll just mention back links in that same context, if you know a sister site, if you have either acquaintances or industry, folks who know you and they write an article and they put a link to your collection page or to your product page, it'll work the same way, the more authority and popularity that that page on their site has link backlinking to your page. The better your page will benefit from it. And there are sites that benefit a great deal from, you know, really a tremendous number of backlinks.

Dan Kaplan (00:42:26):
I'll just say though, you know, Scott, we don't have a lot of back links on our site. Like we have a number, but we've never really courted a ton of them and we've done. I feel like we've done quite well. Like I said, I sell thousands of dollars a day in free SEO. I know I'm getting 1500 to a thousand, 2000 links just from Google search console. Yep. All of that is important, but you don't necessarily have to do it. And it, and I know everyone, I know, I just say this, everyone told me a millions of times backlink backlink back links and it's a terrible task because it's the one thing you really can't control. Right? Because they want you to find folks with other websites to link to yours.

Scott Austin (00:43:03):
Let, let me just summarize there, the, the, the two things so that the listeners should, should understand. And you know, I was one of those people, you know, year or two ago, Dan, I was telling you, it's all about back links, you know, from, from outside your site and what I've learned from other clients of mine, you know, I've changed my thinking about that because I've seen stores not increase their back links from external sites at all, but seriously increased their backlinking strategy on their own site and improve their SEO drastically so much so that I now think that, you know, onsite linking is also very important where I, I didn't put any weight behind that a few years back. So the onsite linking and making sure that you're crosslinking as many places as you can, where it logically makes sense is an important part of, of a strategy.

Scott Austin (00:43:47):
Just like you're saying with, you know, you have collections that point to products, you can have multiple collections that point to the same products. You can allow people to, you know, browse something. Let's just say, it's, you know, board games, they could do it by price, or they could do it by genre, right? That's two different ways, two different collections that have the same products inside them. So that onsite linking is very important. And then the offsite linking is also important, but as you said, much harder and you're not in control of it, but you are in control of onsite. And I've, I've seen it in a couple clients in the past year have drastic results cuz they improve their on onsite linking strategy.

Dan Kaplan (00:44:23):
You know, I think part of that Scott too is because the universe changed, you know, in 2019 came out with Bert and that was October two 19. I remember that because I saw it change my SEO and I didn't know why it took me a couple of months to figure it out of reading. Cuz I looked at the date and then I realized what had happened. Burt bidirectional, encode representations from transf transformers. What that's supposed to mean. I don't know, but here's what Bert does. Bet does kind of like what Panda did on steroids. It's the, that release from Google in October of 2019, that actually took us even further away from back links. Like we're talking about and further away from like 2011 and Panda and like having a classic domain name to search because what it did is it taught Google, the prepositions like four and two and the relationship between words so that when they write an English sentence, for example, that's that update, they can find the exact page and I would offer, that's probably the greatest thing Google has done for small business outside of free listings, outta Google merchant, which I think we're gonna get to, which is basically that now if you don't do back links and if you do just minimal or whatever's best, you know, whatever you can do to triage your internal links, right?

Dan Kaplan (00:45:39):
The best optimization you can achieve. And if you're starting off, none of your page is gonna rank, right? Yep. It's just gonna be your front page now though, you can still get in there because you know, even though somebody else has paid or happened to know thousands of people in our industry and got those links and they had the contacts, if you build a better mouse trap, Google will be a path to your door with Burt because now and this, like I said, this absolutely helped us. This was actually a thing where I watched it at the time. It's now rolled off my Google search console, but I'll say this too, for folks who have never seen it, Google search console has a graph and I'm gonna open a look at mine for a second here. It includes your total clicks, your total impressions, the average clickthrough rate and your average position for your Google SEO.

Dan Kaplan (00:46:21):
And when you launch that graph, you wanna see those numbers go up and up and up. And when you do something on a certain date, it's good to write those dates down. If that has a positive impact on your graph, keep doing that thing. Right? Keep happy accents. I'll I'll just say very few things that I intended to do. Well, Scott did well, almost everything that ever worked <laugh> yep. Was I was trying to do X and I have knew Y and it turns out Y was a happy accident and it actually helped me a great deal. Like for example, you and I talked about this, you remember when I said to you, and I can tell you when it was, cause I could look at my graph. It was Friday, October 8th, 2021. I believe I said, you know what? I'm gonna put back up my sold out products.

Dan Kaplan (00:47:04):
I'm gonna leave 'em up, sold out mm-hmm <affirmative> and I'm gonna let Goul keep crawling them because you know, you, we had worked together. You had suggested that we do back in stock Atvia right. We back in stock and I originally started off, we were gonna do our own little kick throw thing where we said, Hey, should we back this? And that evolved over time into, Hey, this is sold out. Would you like to try it? Or would you like to sign up for, in case it comes back, right? That exam happy accent. So for example, just getting off of SEO a little bit, but this was fantastic. What that turned out to do was is that now every sold out page that we had was a page where people could sign up for it. If it came back into stock. Now not a lot of things do, but sometimes they do.

Dan Kaplan (00:47:43):
But also here was the unintended consequence. This is actually great proof of what I was just saying. A good example. What we didn't know the time was is that I've forgotten about it. We get tons of cancellations on our pre-orders. Like we, because we're, we're putting stuff out years before it's it's available. We sell pre-orders. So our pre-orders can be like six months, 12 months, they can be two years. Well, people have problems. They need to pay dentist bills. And the, we have a hundred percent, no questions asked return policy, all your money back. No, it's not a problem. People keep explaining to us why we're like, you really don't have to explain to us why it's just, you know, here here's your money back. Please take it. And so what happens? That stuff goes back in the stock. Well, before when things went back in stock, they went back into stock and because interest had weighing after the Kickstarter ended, it hadn't come into actual stock.

Dan Kaplan (00:48:30):
Yet the Kickstarter hadn't delivered yet interest would weigh and they might sit there for months. People had looked for it, but it had been sold out. So they didn't look for it again. Now what happens now? Every time a copy goes back out 25 or 50 people have signed up for this now rare item. So now they're all getting email, try to Claveo saying, Hey, this thing's back in stock. And they're all clicking that page. So now all of our sold out pages, when we do get a cancellation, especially if it's a, pre-order where it's sold out, but pre-order when they come back in stock and people cancel all the time. They can sign up again and it's, and they can get a copy of the game. And also sometimes too, like we search the warehouse and we'll find like 10 copies that were not claimed or, you know, were not sold and we'll put those out.

Dan Kaplan (00:49:12):
And so people are really happy. So this, this is an example. We, when we started that, you and I, I think what we had thought about originally was like this idea of like having your own little, you know backer set up, where should we back this game? Are you interested in this game? And what it turned out to be was this happy accident where now every sold out product on our site actually has value to our customers because they might buy three or four things, but they also might sign up for five or six things that are sold out. And if it's a pre-order like I just said, yep, you'll come back in and then boom, they can get it. And they're, they're ecstatic.

Scott Austin (00:49:46):
And here's the SEO benefit of that also, right? You not, not just only the, the back order stuff, which is super awesome. But from an SEO standpoint, just like you mentioned before, it takes 90 days on a good day to, to get a new page index. And you have this interesting scenario where all of your games, you only have a limited quantity and then they're gone. Your inventory's always rolling over and by keeping all of your products up, even the sold out ones, we have all these pages that are indexed that don't get unindexed right. And then those pages that are indexed, even if it's sold out, we're also showing the other games in that franchise and pointing to those other new pages and doing all that crosslinking. You're not refreshing your page inventory every year, every six months, like you were before, you're only building on your page inventory. And, and that I think is one of the things that also, you know, like, like you said, unintended consequences of, of the decisions we made when we set up your redesign site,

Dan Kaplan (00:50:42):
Like I said, it was genius. And the setup that you did is fantastic. I mean, this is something that, you know, if you get like three or four gems out of a rebuild, and that's one of the gems that came out of our rebuild with J J Puma, I'd put out there too, just a note that I know that Google has said, it's better. They say to have like 10 fabulous pages than like a thousand mediocre pages. So I'll put that out there for folks too, like you said, and it's good context. Thank you for putting it out there. Cuz we are a specialty business, right? We're a limited edition. So when I have something that has gone outta retail, you know, it becomes a collector's item, right? When other folks do it, it may not be so, you know, if you can focus and this is one thing we don't do by the way for SEO though, that it's hard to do.

Dan Kaplan (00:51:25):
I've seen one other, I've seen one, gamester actually do it. If you can work with variances so that you basically concentrate a franchise to a single product page, I've not done it. I think it would be very difficult to do. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> you know, infrastructure wise and I think it would be difficult to do otherwise. But then what you can do is you can make that one page, the end all be all page for that keyword. So if you have a bathing suit line or something else like chocolates and you, you know, have a group together on one page, so it's instead being spread against, let's say a dozen pages or, or 20 pages it's on a single page and people's search for every time they're looking for those chocolate chocolate robot bunnies. They go to that page. They can find like five varieties of them or 50 varieties of them. Then that one page yep. Will get a lot more clicks. It'll be come up in search a lot more often. And Google will think that's a high value page.

Scott Austin (00:52:16):
Another way to say that, right, is you're competing against yourself when you have 10 pages going after the same keyword phrase. And if you can make all those 10 pages, one page, you're not competing against yourself, you're just putting all your wood behind one arrow to compete against your competition,

Dan Kaplan (00:52:29):
Where I've got a page that's sold out that I can prune I should, right? Because if it's really got low value, then I should take it out. So for example, we'll have a se, we even have a summer page for ding and dent. So I'll take out the ding and dent pages to make sure those keywords don't show up there to concentrate the search results on those key yep. Call 'em classic sold out pages that might come back into stock. And, and like we said, we do work to, to do that.

Scott Austin (00:52:53):
You'd mentioned a couple times that we should talk about shopping listings, which, which is super valuable for, especially for small stores and getting Google traffic.

Dan Kaplan (00:53:03):
So let's, let's talk about Google merchant. First off, there is this thing called Google merchant. When you have a Shopify shop, for example, you can U use the Google merchant Shopify app, where you can feed a a little bit of your product as a trickle into Google merchant. You may not know that when you're doing it, I would offer that. I don't think highly of the app. I would suggest that anybody who's interested in doing this seriously, look directly at Google merchant, go there today. Create if you, I was gonna create my, obviously my Google search console account, I would use the same account login to create my Google merchant account and on the Google merchant account, what it, what will happen is is that they have their basically lists of products they're called feeds. And you can create a list of products there. Now, actually they actually enhancement three months ago. You can literally just type your product in there. If you want to, if you've got 10 products or five products, you don't even need to do a feed from a Excel spreadsheet, a list of products. You can literally just fill out forms for each of your 10 products and put them on Google merchant.

Scott Austin (00:54:08):
So is your recommendation not to use any of those feed apps and to do it from the Google merchant side directly,

Dan Kaplan (00:54:14):
My recommendation for a small store would be to do Google sheets. If you have more than 10 products, I would probably just use a Google sheet and you can use a Google sheet so well, but let's talk about the benefits first and we'll done with the features. Now they also have the same called Google free listings. And that means that instead of having to pay for advertising on ads, which is I've been doing since thousand 16 through Google ads, you can actually create a listing in Google merchant of a product. And then it'll start to show that on the Google shopping page for free mm-hmm <affirmative>. So now that's also great for SEO because when you put that product into Google merchant, they're gonna crawl that product page on your site to verify all the information. So you're gonna get a crawl outta that.

Dan Kaplan (00:55:03):
You're gonna get an update on your site out of that. So I'll just put that out there too. And so what does that mean? That means that anybody in the country, if you basically have shipping, let's see all over the United States, let's say will be able to see your product if they search for it on the Google shopping tab. So if you ever do a Google search, normally you search you're on the search page, right? Well, you probably have seen, I mean, I think at this point, maybe all of us have seen four or five other, other things underneath there. There's images. There's news. Well, there's also this thing called shopping. So, and Google shopping I'll mention is, is great. The reason that Google shopping is so great is that the people who go to Google shopping have already made a decision to buy something. So you could advertise, you can do SEO. You can put yourself out there all the time. And you're gonna see a lot of folks, someone who have no, they're just out there to like buy movie tickets or t-shirt, they're not necessarily looking for your product, but when someone goes to Google shopping, they've already identified themselves as someone who's already entered the funnel. They're about they're ready. They wanna make a purchase. They go there to find a product

Scott Austin (00:56:01):
They're highly qualified.

Dan Kaplan (00:56:03):
There you go. That's a great phrase. They're highly qualified. So any leads that you can get to get on Google shopping are very valuable. That's that's, that's what I'm trying to say here. So now having said the value there, if you go to Google merchant and you create your first feed and you enter a few products, but the benefits are that now your product will show on Google and when click the link for the free listing, which is show in Google shopping, it'll take 'em directly to your product page. So it's not like it goes to Amazon, right? Where Amazon gets credit for all the links, if you sell on Amazon. So if you fill out in Google merchant, a series of product listings, let's say you only have five. You can do those by hand, let's say you've got 10 or more. Also mention feature.

Dan Kaplan (00:56:46):
You could use Google, what's called Google sheets, which are free. And you could type in all the information that you need. It will take a little work. If you try and use a feed, you gotta understand what your column headers mean. You've gotta tell 'em things like what's the title of your product. What's the description, what's the price and so on, right? So you gotta do all that once you've done that, right? And it's in Google merge it. Now when people search, like I said on Google shopping, your free listing comes up. It'll come up underneath the ads. If there are no ads for the thing you're selling, then it'll be on the top. And if you're the only one selling it, then that's where you'll be. And that's where I am for a tons of stuff. Then they click it. It'll take 'em directly to your website.

Dan Kaplan (00:57:24):
Now that your website has recorded this. And now we know that this typifies a person who would be interested in your products. So the more traffic you can get like this until I call it critical mass, you build up a critical mass so that Google can profile who your customers are. And then it starts to make educated guesses outta the blue. Like it would look at Scott and go, mm, Scott doesn't want Dan's board games. Scott wants like console games. He wants computer video games. Right? I know you Scott. And when I search though, they know like I love board games, right? So they're gonna send people like Scott to somebody who's selling video games. I don't sell video game. They're gonna send someone like me to maybe the game steward. Well, they're doing that based on the fact that like, I maybe am a hardcore board gamer and Scott's a hardcore video gamer beyond keywords in general.

Dan Kaplan (00:58:11):
So by putting yourself into the shopping, for example, you're generating more traffic. That's coming directly to your website, unlike in markets like Amazon and Walmart. And now that's gonna add overall to Google's profiling of your site and, and making decisions about who to send next. So I would offer using Google merchant is perhaps the second most critical step. After doing Google search console. You know, I literally get three to 400 visitors a day from free listings. Now I also get like about a thousand people a day from paid listings. They used to have a difference between Google basic. I will call it free listings and what they call enhanced free listings. And last night I called Google merchant. Cause I was like, Hey, what happened enhanced there? The button's gone. Cause I was doing, I get a lot enhanced. They said, well, we made a decision.

Dan Kaplan (00:59:04):
We've merged them all. So now everything's enhanced free listings. So that actually means that if you do just the most basic work to get your Google free listings in there, you will be included in virtually everything they have for free listings, which means like product comparisons search results that you typically expect. But also when people look at a list of vendors for a product, for example, they may look at, they may see chocolate free bunnies and, and click on a link that shows them 10 different vendors who sell chocolate robot bunnies. So your free listings will be included in all of that now. So this is the right time. If you are, if you are doing a Shopify shop and you are, are at all niche and you have not gotten into Google merchant and created your account, instead of at least your free listings of all your products and I would offer, you can have more than one listing for a product.

Dan Kaplan (00:59:56):
I always use the good cloud example of soap. If you sell soap, let's say, and it's great for getting motor oil off your hands. You might put out a listing in Google merchant for saying, Hey, I've got soap that really gets motor oil off your hands. You have the term motor oil in your title. You have all this in your description. Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> people search. They say, I need some soap for motor oil that you, your listing comes up, but you have to have just one listing for product. If your great soap also has a great lemon scent, fresh or fresh lemon scent, you can actually do that too. Don't even mention motor oil, just say same product, same product page, but wonderful lemon scent or fresh scent. And put that in your description. And then people who are looking for, you know, lemon, fresh SCED soap, we'll find you as well, both motor oil people and the lemon appreciating people.

Scott Austin (01:00:41):
This sounds like another reason to use your own manual, created Google sheet versus using a feed from an app, because then you can control how many times you're showing that product UN and under what description. So a question for you there on let's use your motor oil hand soap example where you have one ad for motor oil or one listing, and then another one for lemony fresh scent. Is there a pro or con, I assume that Google wants to see those keywords motor oil and lemon fresh scent on the destination landing page.

Dan Kaplan (01:01:17):
So there's this thing quality now I, I I'm speaking also as a Google advertiser. So I, I I'm, I'm a merchant. I advertise my wear is using Google ads. Yep. So I know a bit about how they do the triangulation between the, the advertisement let's call it that or the free listing and the product page. Yep. And Google merchant. And so your, your question gets into that. So they do some quality control and what you do want, you want a high correlation between the words, what I would do is on that product page, I would be listing the fact that a story like this is great. You know, maybe, maybe you're doing it like a narrative. Like I came in from the garage and my hands were covered up to my elbows and motor oil. I grabbed my trusty bar of Lemone fresh ex soap and washed.

Dan Kaplan (01:02:02):
So now you've got all those keywords in there. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> if you wanna separate them out, tell you by paragraph, you could do that too. Cuz ill tell you, if you answer the question separately, you have a couple shots at other, other search results. Like you could say a question of like, Hey question in your profile. Is this good for moving motor oil? And then you could answer it. You say yes, this soap is excellent from odor oil. And here's why, and then you have another question like, does this, what does this soap smell like? Well, it smells like this. Now you've actually answered both questions on your product page, but you've also made yourself possibly open to a se. So Google in their desire to push, to be the front of eCommerce has provided this, this ability to add your own what they call.

Dan Kaplan (01:02:42):
And I mean, this literally it's called free listings and, and then we call them free listings too, because I think they don't want them confused with ads. Google ads are, you can do that in Google as well. Google merchant, if you load your feed into Google merchant and you go into Google ads and you do, what's called a shopping campaign, you can then sell right. Those same listings for a fee like cost per click or return on ad ad spend you know, on the shopping site as well. Now what we've advocated today, Scott and I is the free listings that everyone should do it again. It gets you exposure. There's the only cost involved is your labor. And you've already spent all this time developing at least one product title, one product description, your price, right? You've got all the information at your fingertips. So why wouldn't you want to put a free listing on Google merchants so that people can find your store.

Scott Austin (01:03:34):
Let's start wrapping things up. We've been chatting here for a little bit. If I was to summarize everything you've said so far, you know, to, to the small Shopify store owner that really hasn't gotten started in SEO. The first two things they've gotta do are create accounts with Google merchant and, and Google search console. I'm gonna say, yeah, Bing and Yex if you want, but the, the must-haves are the Google one. And then in Google, you wanna make in the Google search, you wanna make sure that your product inventory and your collection, all your pages are getting indexed and it'll show you that you, you can actually see the numbers on the indexing. And there's all sorts of things you can use that tool for, but you're gonna have to get hands on with these accounts. You're gonna have to play with them.

Scott Austin (01:04:13):
You're gonna have to understand them, cuz you're gonna use these frequently. We all have lots of tools we have to use in running of our businesses. And these are just two more. You're gonna have to add to that tool set because they're important. You're you're gonna be, you're gonna be in them quite often. And then on your site, you're gonna wanna make sure that you know what your important pages are, products, collections, blog, articles, those kind of things. And do the, you know, the technical SEO as you called it on those pages. Things like the title, the description, and especially the images which most people forget and optimizing your images for that SEO best practices. And then making sure for the onsite navigation that you know, things are linked to clearly and as many times as logically possible. But the big one for me, the hard one, that's why it's the big one.

Scott Austin (01:05:01):
It's the big one from effort is you've got to create your own copy. You've gotta create your own content. You just can't copy and paste because when you're copying and pasting, you're not differentiating. You're not standing out. You're doing what everybody else is doing. And the whole point of is to stand out and Google today is smart enough. That quality makes a difference. It's no longer the, the vote method used to do how many people were linking to you. That method isn't as important today. Today. What's important is what you are doing on your site with your content and how you're authoring. That the best content Google is smart enough to let it win. Even if you're a small store without a lot of inbound links. Is is that a summary of everything we've been talking about?

Dan Kaplan (01:05:44):
I think it's a great summary, Scott. I think it's a great summary. Yep.

Scott Austin (01:05:48):
SEO is such an important traffic driver that most companies that are going to scale to a certain size are gonna have to become experts in that process.

Dan Kaplan (01:05:58):
Yeah. If you have a passion for your product that can translate, everything's always hardest. The first time you try. So Google search console. The first time I looked at it was like, wow, there's a lot of buttons here. There's a lot of stuff here. You don't swallow the whole cow one bite, right? You're you're gonna have to take it a little bit at a time. You it's gonna probably take it took, I mean, I've been at this for years, you're gonna find nook and crannies there that you find useful. You're gonna discover new things. If you just dedicate maybe half an hour, a week to looking at Google search console. And just so what's really rewarding when you start seeing queries come in and you start seeing those search terms, it actually, it can be quite interesting because you're like, wow, I didn't know. Like, Ooh, that's what they're looking for.

Dan Kaplan (01:06:40):
You know? Oh, you know, I see that this one page is doing well. Cause I mentioned this one word, but this word actually applies to like a dozen other products. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. So if you really care about your product set and you're interested in it, then this actually can be a reflection of that. It's not necessarily completely different, but you know, it isn't for everyone. I know with Mike and I, for example Mike has a passion, really good passion for board games and I've always been more, slightly more of a analytic for a person. So for me, this was a kind of a, a no brainer to kind of dive into the analytics of it. But like I said, you've gotta take it slow. It may be a matter of finding someone you can work with, you know, who has a passion for it.

Dan Kaplan (01:07:17):
If you do not, you gotta find a way to live with it. It's gonna be with you for the whole life of your online store. And until you get big enough that you can actually hire someone else to do it, I would offer, you know, you're going to be either doing yourself or having a staff member do it. If you hire someone to do this, I have never hired anyone to do this. I see this as integral to my website as packing the boxes. Now I don't, I don't pack as much as I used to. And I, and I, but I, I taught my people how to pack. And like I said, you know, we wanna use extra bubble wrap. We never want our games to be dented. We wanna do everything with care. We want the game to arrive as we would want it ourselves.

Dan Kaplan (01:07:54):
Right? Well, if you're gonna take that much care with your business, take that care. If you possibly can get it outta yourself, outta Google search console, go in there, learn it yourself. Nobody else is ever gonna know your business like you do. So if you can get at least a rudimentary grasp of SEO and you understand your business, you're gonna be a powerhouse for your business. Because I, I trust me, I, I have never been able to hire anybody who had a passion for my business. As I do a lot of folks who do this, I mean, nothing against them. They're handling dozens and dozens of accounts. You're gonna be like one more cog in a wheel. They may not figure out the special nuances of your particular store. But if you care about it, if you love your product and you understand your customers and your keywords, and you look at this, you are gonna be able to see the opportunities that they can't recognize.

Dan Kaplan (01:08:45):
And you're gonna take the care to do it, that kind of attention and that kind of care. Google search console, Google merchant, free listings, take care with it, do it yourself. You can hire other people. Like I said, they're never gonna understand your business quite the way that you do. So I would strongly urge everybody. And it's very rewarding. Cuz you begin to understand aspects of your business that come back and inform how you write your product pages, come back and inform how you do everything. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so that your customers can find you on the web. It's not magic. It just takes practice.

Scott Austin (01:09:19):
I, I agree with you so much. I'm so glad to hear you say that cuz the way I think about it for any online business, I think the hardest part of the online business is customer acquisition and that's the secret sauce. Those who figure it out, it's their secret sauce. Why would you outsource that? You know, how can you outsource that? The like, like you say, they just don't care as much as you do. And I I'm shocked at how many people just wanna be hands off with customer acquisition. When I think it's what everybody should be the most hands on in their business about,

Dan Kaplan (01:09:47):
Well, I hear you. And you know, I, I, I, so I'm thinking of the shop, keep who, who loves to like, let's say they make their product, right? They're like a Potter or chocolate maker. They may not really want to get involved with the customers in that kind of way. One nice thing about this is this is a craftsman's job, much like crafting chocolate or crafting pottery and putting things together, Google search console and keywords that is crafting you. You are not having to necessarily be a people person, but you can see how people are finding you and quietly at your own pace. You can develop a skill, hone it and be rewarded for it.

Scott Austin (01:10:26):
And, and have it be one of your strategic differentiators. I really appreciate all the insights you've given us and all the knowledge you've been sharing. Any last points you wanna make before we sign off here?

Dan Kaplan (01:10:37):
Well, I will say this it, the one thing about starting a shop. If you're just starting, it will take probably longer than you think. Okay. I mean we're, I mean, I, I will tell you that Mike and I, early days, it was just the two of us in the garage. We had slow days where like, you know, you wonder if it's gonna, if it's gonna work, it takes time the first year, you're just building your business online. So if you've been online for one year, don't take that as a sample of how successful you're gonna be. The only way you're really going to succeed at this is if you can persevere, you know, and at least get into your second and third year. Some people maybe are really successful and they just skyrocket. I think those are very rare.

Scott Austin (01:11:18):
They're their Kardashian exception. They're not the rule at all. I, I totally agree that e-commerce is a marathon. And it's one of those things where the foundational things you do today, you don't get to see the benefit of those for years down the line, but they do show up and they just keeps building and building and slowly becomes one of those exponential things where you get so big down the road, you never could have conceived of it when you first started out.

Dan Kaplan (01:11:41):
Absolutely. And if I could build a time machine and give this podcast to myself, when I first started, I could've saved myself a year easily in terms of building my business. These are all the things I would've loved to have heard back in the day.

Scott Austin (01:11:55):
Well, thanks for sharing all that. I really appreciate it, Dan. Thanks for your time.

You've been listening to the Shopify solutions podcast with Scott Austin. This podcast is brought to you by Jade Puma, a Shopify focused agency located in San Diego, California. If you like, what you heard, please leave a review and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast.


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