Posts in SEO
What is Inbound Marketing? | A Simple Guide to Generating Inbound Traffic
 What is inbound marketing? Image of a dartboard accompanying an article about how to generate inbound traffic.

‘Inbound marketing’ is all the rage these days, and with its promise of potential customers coming to you rather than you having to go out and grab leads’ attention, it’s obvious why business owners are so interested in the idea.

But what exactly is inbound marketing, and how do you go about creating an inbound marketing campaign?

Simply put, inbound marketing is a way to pull people to your business, rather than relying on advertising spend or PR to push potential customers towards it. It typically revolves around the web, and involves three key steps:

  1. Getting found (i.e., attracting traffic to your website)

  2. Converting visitors to leads (capturing data and generating sales)

  3. Analysing (looking at site stats and sales data to improve steps one and two).

Let’s look at each step in more detail.


1. Getting found

Getting found boils down to

  • what content is on your site

  • how it is presented from a search engine optimisation point of view

  • how easy it is for readers to share it.

Content

Content is the most important aspect of an inbound marketing strategy: your website needs to contain a reasonable number of high-quality, informative pages on it.

This ensures that you have keywords on your site that can be indexed by search engines, along with interesting content that you can promote and your site visitors can share. 

But before you start creating content, you need a strategy: you need to take what people are actually searching for into account before publishing a single page or post. You can do this by using a variety of keyword research tools such as Moz's keyword explorer or Serps to compare volumes of particular searches against each other.

Say you are thinking of starting a pie recipe site in the UK. You might find using a keyword research tool that a lot more people are searching for ‘English pie recipes’ over ‘British pie recipes’ - and as such may wish to optimise your content accordingly.

However, if there are lots of posts already in existence which use the more popular phrase, it may be worth plumping for the less popular and more ‘niche’ one – so long as you are confident that you can dominate results for that particular phrase.

The trick is to find target keywords that are capable of driving significant numbers of visitors and which you can realistically rank for. To help you with this, most keyword research tools will give you a 'keyword difficulty' score which tells you how hard it will be to rank for that keyword. 

Once you've got your target keywords sorted, you now need to focus on the 'quality' side of things. If a potential client arrives at a page full of nonsense, they’re not going to take your business very seriously - no matter how many keywords you've stuffed into it. They’re not going to share the content and they are not going to create links to it on their site – which, as I’ll explain below, are vital aspects of an inbound marketing campaign.

The best strategy when it comes to content is to blog – but to do so in a really informative way. This does not mean blogging about your business, but rather your business area.

For example, if you run a cocktail bar, you might consider posting blog items about how to make classic cocktails. If you are a web designer, you could blog about your favourite tools for building websites, or provide CSS tips and tricks. And so on.

These kinds of posts are genuinely useful and answer real questions that people might have about the area that you work in. They are likely to garner Facebook likes or Twitter shares, or be linked to on other websites – all of which drives more traffic to the original post. And lo, your inbound marketing strategy beings to take shape.

Search engine optimisation

To give your content a boost, you should make sure that it is presented in the easiest way for search engines to understand.

This means that you need to

  • use page titles and H1 tags that explain precisely what your content is about

  • use meta descriptions which summarise the page / article content in an accurate and engaging way

  • include keywords in your site’s URLs – for example, if you’re writing a blog post about cocktails, it would be better to use a page URL of www.mysite.com/cocktails over www.mysite.com/?page=sakhkxas123.php

  • use anchor text in links (either on your own site or others) which is relevant to the content – i.e., rather than simply using a big long URL like ‘www.mysite.com/cocktail-recipe-blog-post’ as a link to a cocktail recipe, you should use the words ‘cocktail recipe’ and put the link behind that.

For a few more SEO tips, you might like to download our in-depth guide to SEO or read our tips on how to make your site more visible in Google.

Making it easy to let people share content

A crucial part of an inbound marketing strategy is to ensure that people can share your content really easily. The more likes and tweets of your content that you get, the more visitors you will attract to your site.

To this end, you should ensure that social media share buttons are highly visible on your site, and that visitors are actively encouraged to use them. Tools like Sumo are invaluable in this regard, providing you with lots of sharing icons and analytics tools that you can make use of simply by adding a few lines of HTML to your site.

Additionally, you should actively encourage users to create backlinks to your content on their own blogs or websites (a little ‘feel free to create a link to this on your site’ plea at the bottom of posts can help with this).

In general, every backlink you have to your content usually serves as a vote for your site in search results (with the important caveat that certain backlinks – for example those created through spammy backlink creation services – may actually hurt your position in search...avoid them!). 


2. Converting visitors to leads

Once you’ve attracted visitors to your website through content, SEO or shares, it’s time to turn them into leads, and that means capturing their details.

Most visitors are not going to buy your products or services the moment they rock up to your website – but, assuming they are impressed enough by the content that got them there in the first place, they are quite likely to be open to submitting an email address in exchange for a promise of similarly interesting content in future.

And with that email address comes the opportunity to forge a relationship with your lead, showcase products and services and ultimately gain some business. Even if you don’t generate any business directly from that lead, they may nonetheless help your inbound marketing cause by sharing some of the content which you send them via e-newsletter (or creating backlinks to it).

As such, your blog or website should always place a large emphasis on data capture, and you should always:

  • make it extremely easy for people to sign up to your mailing list – place a form on the side of key pages and at the bottom of any posts

  • spell out the value of joining the list - highlight some of the useful content and resources that your subscribers will receive upon joining it.

Some potential customers may not wish to submit an email address, but might feel more comfortable with following you on social media and getting links to your content that way. Accordingly, ensure that you have ‘follow’ buttons clearly visible on your site. Again, tools like Sumo can help with this.

Finally, on the subject of data capture it’s a good idea to think about using autoresponders to automate some of your e-marketing. 

Autoresponders are e-newsletters that are automatically sent to your mailing list subscribers at pre-defined intervals after they sign up – you can set them up so that the second somebody signs up to your list, they receive a simple welcome message; a week later they could receive links to some interesting articles they might have missed; three weeks later they could receive an encouragement to follow you on social media.

The point is that you can use autoresponders to automate your e-marketing in a way which helps you to generate more inbound traffic - without you having to constantly send out e-newsletters manually.

(On the subject of e-newsletters and autoresponders, you may find our Getresponse vs Aweber, Getresponse vs Mailchimp and Mad Mimi vs Mailchimp comparison reviews handy).


3. Analysing

The final stage of an inbound marketing campaign is the analysis: you need to crunch the numbers, find out what’s working well (or not) and use this information to refine or improve the whole process.

There are two key tools which should always be a part of this: Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Both will give you a picture of the kind of content that is being read on your site, and the kind of keywords that are driving traffic to it.

In addition, by registering your site with Google Search Console you are placing yourself firmly on Google’s radar – doing this helps Google crawl your site in the most comprehensive manner possible; and if you enter all your site details correctly, you are giving its algorithms the most accurate picture possible of your website, thus helping it to serve the most relevant search results from it.

In addition to the above, you will be able to use other analytics tools to measure success – for example, your e-newsletter reports and, assuming you’ve added one to your site, stats from sharing services – to identify particularly popular or successful pieces of content.

By identifying the blog posts or site pages that are attracting large numbers of visitors, you can drill down into the reasons why – and write articles on similar topics (or structure new articles in a similar way).


Some top tips for creating a successful inbound marketing strategy

  • Carry out keyword research to ensure that your content is going to be focussed on searches that people are actually making - and ones that you can rank for.

  • Blog regularly. Not only will this make your site more keyword rich, it will help it be taken more seriously by Google’s search algorithms (which factor in frequency of updates when determining where to plonk your site in search results).

  • Create quality blog posts. Don’t pack your site full of keyword-rich but ultimately useless drivel – it won’t impress anyone (Google included).

  • Create backlinks where possible. Ask clients, colleagues and friends who run relevant websites or blogs to provide you with a backlink and reach out to popular bloggers in your business area to see if the can help. Avoid spammy link building services like the plague though, as they can damage your position in search results.

  • Get on Google’s radar: register with Google Search Console and swot up on what Google actually recommend you do from an SEO perspective.

  • Use Sumo or a similar service to make it easy for people to share your content.

  • Always make it easy for people who visit your site to sign up to your mailing list (and encourage them to do so by offering interesting content/features/tools in exchange for their details).

  • Analyse your site, e-newsletter and social media statistics regularly to see which content is driving the most traffic to your site, and adjust / refine your content strategy based on this information.


Other inbound marketing resources from Style Factory

You might also like to download our e-book on SEO, 'Super Simple SEO.' This introduces you to the topic of SEO, and takes you through all the steps you need to take to make sure your site is visible in Google (doing so so in a friendly, jargon-free way!).

Also, we recently put together an inbound marketing infographic, which aims to demystify the topic and spell out some of the key steps you need to take to create a successful inbound marketing campaign.

Finally, you might find our post on how to increase blog traffic helpful. This highlights 10 simple ways that you can get more readers eyeballing your blog content, something which is a key part of an inbound marketing campaign.


Got any thoughts on inbound marketing?

If you've got any thoughts on inbound marketing, or have run inbound marketing campaigns in the past, do feel free to leave your thoughts, queries and tips of your own in the comments section below.

(Please note that if you're reading this blog post on a mobile phone, you may be viewing a faster-loading AMP version, which doesn't facilitate comments. If you can't access the comments, just click here to access the regular one. )

Six Simple Ways to Make your Site More Visible in Google Search Results
 Ways to make your website more visible on Google (image of a magnifying glass)

Getting a good placement in Google search results may seem tough, but you can make life a lot easier for yourself and your website by taking some simple, Google-recommended, steps to help the search engine giant know you’re there.

In this article, we give you some key tips to make Google sit up and notice your site. 


1. Register your site with Google Search Console

Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a free service from Google that allows you to submit your website (and its sitemap) to Google for indexing.

That’s not all though: you can use the tool to do a lot of other useful things including:

  • check important backlinks to your site

  • ensure that Google is not experiencing any crawl errors with your site

  • let Google know if different versions of your websites exist for different countries

  • view the kinds of search queries that are driving traffic to your site

  • tell Google when you’ve updated a piece of content so that the fresh version can be displayed in search results more quickly.

Most importantly, by submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console you are telling the search giant that your website exists. Which of course is the starting point to appearing in search results.

As soon as you register your site with Search Console, Google will send you an email with several tips about how to use the tool to maximise your visibility in results. Make sure you follow them!


2. Link your site to Google MyBusiness, and start using Google+ properly

Google My Business

Registering your business on Google My Business (essentially the successor to Google Places) can help it appear in relevant geographic search results.

When you do this, Google will send a postcard containing a pin to your business address – you can use this to ‘verify’ your business with Google.

This verification lets Google know that your business operates in the physical location you stated, meaning that you have a stronger chance of appearing in search results – and on Google Maps – for people who are searching for a business like yours in the area in which you operate.

If, for example, you run a web design business in Hackney, London and somebody with a Hackney IP whacks ‘web design Hackney’ or even ‘web design’ into Google, you may surprise yourself by popping up in a higher-than-expected position in search.

The bottom line is that Google My Business is a massive part of local SEO, and if your business relies on attracting customers in your own area, registering on this service is absolutely vital.

Google+

When you register your business with Google MyBusiness, you will be provided with a Google+ page (if you don’t already have one). Use it! Google is increasingly showing business’ Google+ pages in search results when people search for that that business' name (usually in a big, hard-to-avoid box on the right-hand side of the results).

This means that potential customers are now quite likely to see the Google+ information before they encounter your website – so if your Google+ page isn’t updated or contains incorrect information (like an old telephone number), then this is going to work against you.

There is a debate to be had as to whether the number of Google 'plus ones' has any bearing on search results (Google says not, but some Moz data suggests otherwise) - but either way it’s a good idea to share content from your site on Google Plus and let people “+1” it easily (at the very least this will raise its visibility on Google+).

You can make it easy for people to +1 your content from your site by adding sharing icons to it (via a service like Addthis), or simply by grabbing a plus one button from Google direct (they give you a snippet of code you can add to your site’s HTML).


3. Make your site load as fast as it can, particularly on mobile

Google has been using 'site speed' as a ranking signal since 2010 - and as such it's important to ensure that your site is loading as fast as possible.

This means that you should

  • minimise the number of HTTPS requests on your site (to do this, keep use of scripts to a minimum and use images only when they are genuinely beneficial to your content)

  • ensure your image file sizes are as small as they can be (you can use tools like Tiny Png to help you compress them with minimal loss of picture quality)

  • use fast hosting

For a more comprehensive run down of the things you can do to speed up your site, I'd advise using Google's Page Speed Insights tool (screenshot below).

Not only will this help you to you to test how fast your site is loading (on both mobile and desktop), it will provide you with a report containing a checklist of things that you need to do to help you speed up your website's performance.

 Google's PageSpeed Tools can help you find ways to improve the loading times of your website.

Google's PageSpeed Tools can help you find ways to improve the loading times of your website.

It's particularly important to ensure that your website is blazingly fast on a mobile, and that the user experience for people viewing it on smartphones is as good as possible.

Studies show that 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site if they are not satisfied with how your site performs; as such Google places a strong emphasis on rewarding sites that load quickly on mobile devices with higher positions in search. Another thing worth bearing in mind is that Google prefers mobile sites that are clutter free - i.e., ones that don’t feature obtrusive popups or ‘interstitials.’

You can view Google's mobile SEO overview guide here, which outlines how you can maximise your mobile site's visibility in search results.


4. Use relevant keywords in your page titles, meta descriptions and URLs

Ensure that your page titles and meta descriptions contain

  • accurate, concise descriptions of your page content

  • keywords that you are hoping to perform well for you in search

  • some location details if relevant.

Google often shows snippets of your meta descriptions in search results, and can use them to decide how relevant your site is to particular searches (by monitoring the clickthrough rates they generate in search results, with higher clickthrough rates indicating that a page answers a particular search query well).

 In the above example of a search result, you can see that in addition to including the business name in the page title, the site owner has included some information about the type of food served, along with some geographical information.

In the above example of a search result, you can see that in addition to including the business name in the page title, the site owner has included some information about the type of food served, along with some geographical information.

Avoid being spammy though by stuffing titles and meta descriptions with too many 'catch all' keywords however, because this can:

  • actively damage your chances of appearing high in search results (Google's algorithms are, to say the least, pretty good at spotting spam)

  • make your site appear appear off-putting or 'cheap looking' to users who come across it during searches.

In addition to focusing on creating well-optimised page titles and meta descriptions, you should try to ensure that your site URLs also include keywords that you are focusing on for search purposes.

This makes it easier for users to spot relevant pages in search results, and also means that if somebody creates a link to your site from theirs, but only copies the URL, the keywords in the URL would become the anchor text. As Google looks at what words are in the anchor text when indexing content, accurate ones can help you rank better. 

As a very simple example, if you are trying to sell guitars on your website, a 'clean URL' of www.mysite.com/guitars would be more likely to help your search engine cause than a more generic www.mysite.com/instruments. 


5. Create backlinks to your site

Even if you've got fantastically well-constructed page titles, meta descriptions and URLs, they're usually fairly useless unless you've got 'backlinks' pointing to your website too.

Backlinks are essentially links from other sites to your site, and in a very simple sense Google counts them as 'votes' for your content.

There are two main ways to generate backlinks: 

  • via outreach, by asking other site / blog owners to feature links to your content on their sites

  • by creating long, keyword-rich blog posts that are extremely relevant to your business niche (if they are REALLY interesting / helpful articles about your area of business, they are more likely to attract a relevant audience, a proportion of which will create backlinks to them).

Avoid using companies that promise to create thousands of backlinks for you however - Google can and will penalise your site if it thinks there is spammy activity going on in this regard.

Our ‘Super Simple SEO’ e-book features a lot of tactics you can use to build backlinks effectively (along with other key SEO tips).


6. Follow Google's advice

Google are actually pretty helpful when it comes to advising you how to improve your site’s performance in search results – so helpful in fact, that they provide a free guide to optimising your site for Google search.

Read it cover to cover and make sure you are following all their advice. The guide can be found here and deals with the nuts and bolts of SEO – how to use headers, meta data and keyword-rich content appropriately.

As mentioned earlier, it's worth checking out Google's mobile SEO overview document too.

You might also find Google's guide to page titles and snippets handy too (you'll find a video at the end of this post, and an article on the topic here).

If you're a Google+ user, you might want to stay posted to the Google Webmasters page - where you'll regularly get tips on SEO and other Google-related issues straight from the horse's mouth.


More ways to boost your position in search results

I hope the above tips have helped you understand how to make your site more visible in Google search results! However, there are a lot more steps you can take to improve your ranking, and if you're interested in finding out more about these and want to make more substantial improvements to your site's performance in Google, then you might like to download our 'Super Simple SEO' book.

Written in a friendly, jargon-free way, the book is ideal for website owners who need to get quickly to grips with SEO without spending a fortune on consultants or online courses. Find out more about the book and download it here.

You can also join our mailing list for more tips on SEO.



Any thoughts?

Got any search tips of your own? Feel free to share in the comments section below (note: if you're viewing this on a mobile device, you may be reading our faster-loading AMP version, which doesn't currently show them. You can view and leave comments by visiting the regular version of this page.


More SEO resources from Style Factory

If you'd like some more advice on how to improve your site's general visibility in search, make sure you join our mailing list (we send out regular tips on SEO).

Additionally, you may find these resources useful:

Shopify SEO (2018) - 12 Ways to Make a Shopify Store Rank in Search Results
 Shopify SEO - image of a computer screen containing site traffic stats

Shopify is one of the world’s most popular e-commerce solutions, with 600,000+ businesses using it to host their online store. The platform is feature rich; comes with attractive templates; and ultimately offers its users a very easy way to sell goods - either physical or digital - online.

However, it’s one thing creating a nice-looking, well-specced website using Shopify; quite another to deliver organic traffic via SEO to it. So in this post, we’re going to delve into the SEO functionality of the platform and provide some key tips on how to make a Shopify store rank in search results. 

Below you’ll find a checklist of key things you need to do to maximise the chances of your Shopify site appearing in search results. Some tasks on the checklist apply to optimising any website, but we’ve aimed to provide pointers that are as specific to Shopify SEO as possible.


1. Use SSL

Search engines give ‘https://’ websites (i.e., those that use SSL, ‘secure socket layer’) preference over non-secure, ‘http://’ ones in search results. 

Additionally, internet browsers tend to dislike non-secure websites and display warning messages to people visiting them, eroding visitors’ trust in affected sites.

So it makes sense if at all possible to ensure your Shopify site is secure, and for this you’ll need an SSL certificate. Helpfully, Shopify provide these to online store owners as part of their subscription - you can activate these by going to your Shopify dashboard and then to Sales Channels > Online Store > Domains.

However, before activating SSL on your Shopify store, there are a couple of things to consider.

SSL for new Shopify stores on new domains

If you are building a brand new new Shopify store on a brand new domain (i.e., you are not migrating an existing site to Shopify), then activating SSL is a no-brainer. Doing so will ensure you are ticking an important SEO box from the outset and improving your chances of your site performing well in search results.

Migrating to SSL from a non-secure site

If you have a existing but non-secure Shopify store that you wish to make secure, or you are migrating a non-secure site from another platform to Shopify, you may need to be careful. 

This is mainly because creating a ‘https’ version of your existing ‘http’ one can damage your search ranking if you don’t ensure that every old http:// link redirects permanently (using a ’301 redirect’) to its https:// equivalent.

Fortunately when you switch SSL on in Shopify, it automatically creates permanent 301 redirects from all your non-secure URLs to your new, secure ones (it’s not clear on the Shopify help resources that this is the case, but this was confirmed by their support team to me). So all in all, making an existing Shopify site secure should be a straightforward enough process. 

However, if you're moving to Shopify from a different platform, and you're making your site secure for the first time in the process, there is some additional technical work you may need to undertake to ensure you don't damage your position in search results. 

Accordingly, I would suggest that you take an in-depth look at Google’s guidelines on making the switch to SSL before carrying out the migration; it might also be worth chatting to Shopify’s support team in advance of the move to ensure that you haven’t overlooked anything important relating to your migration.


2. Register your Shopify store with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Registering a site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is something all website owners who are serious about SEO should do, regardless of the platform they’ve used to construct it. 

By registering your site with these two services you are telling the two major search engines that your website exists and are ensuring it gets crawled. 

One thing you should remember with these services is that you should register BOTH the www and non-www version of your domain (i.e., www.yourdomain.com and yourdomain.com), and, if you’ve got a secure and non-secure version of your website, the http:// and https:// versions of each.

Registering a Shopify site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools is pretty straightforward - but for more information please see the below resources:


3. Submit your Shopify store’s sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Once you’ve registered your Shopify site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, you’ll need to submit an XML sitemap to both services - this helps both services index your site accurately and quickly. 

Helpfully, Shopify generates a sitemap automatically for you - the URL for this on your store is simply www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml - and you just need to enter this link into Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. 

In both Search Console and Bing Webmaster Toosl you do this by going to your site’s dashboard, and then clicking ‘sitemaps.’


4. Ensure your Shopify store is loading as fast as it can

Page speed is a signal used by search engines to rank websites, with fast-loading sites given preference over slower ones

Your options with regard to reducing page speed are a bit limited with Shopify - because rather than being able to buy your own hosting and code your own template, you have to use Shopify’s servers and their templates (which, whilst perfectly good, don’t give you fine-grain control over the speed with which your site loads).

That said, there are some things you can do to make a Shopify site load as quickly as possible:

  • Use compression tools like Tiny Png to reduce the size of any images you’re uploading to Shopify.
  • Keep use of any external scripts or custom code on your site to a minimum.
  • Avoid using a large number of web fonts on your site, or even consider ditching them entirely in favour of web safe fonts (these load faster).
  • Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format for your Shopify pages and posts - this displays extremely fast-loading versions of your content in mobile search result. AMP content is sometimes prioritised by Google in results (it’s more likely to appear in its ‘Top Stories’ carousels) and because pages in AMP format load so quickly on mobile devices, they’re more likely to be read (thus increasing the dwell time on your content, which many SEO experts believe to be a positive ranking signal). To use AMP with Shopify, you’ll need to install and pay for a third-party app like RocketAmp, but I’d argue that it’s worth it.
 The Rocket Amp app can help speed up delivery of your Shopify store on mobile devices - this is something which can improve SEO.

The Rocket Amp app can help speed up delivery of your Shopify store on mobile devices - this is something which can improve SEO.


5. Get your page titles right

One of the most significant elements of a web page is its title - search engines treat it as a key piece of information when working out how to categorise / rank it, and your title itself shows up as the largest component of a search result (as well as at the top of browser windows). 

You should ensure your Shopify page and post titles are never vague in nature, and ideally start with your ‘focus keyword’ - the phrase you want to rank for in search.

For example, if you run a business called “John’s Cars”, which is located in Brooklyn and specialises in Volkswagen car sales, you are better off using a page title which includes the phrase ‘Volkswagen Cars Brooklyn’ instead of a more conventional (but less SEO friendly) ‘John’s Cars’.

A good page title for the above example would be ‘Volkswagen Cars Brooklyn - John’s Cars.’ (Note: there are various keyword research tools that can help you find out which phrases are actually searched for on search engines (popular ones include Ahrefs and Moz’s Keyword explorer).

In Shopify, there are two different processes for editing page titles - one for your home page, and one for every other type of page.

Editing your Shopify home page title

To edit your home page title, you need to click Sales Channels > Online Store > Preferences. Then, use the box provided to enter your home page title.

 Editing the home page title in Shopify

Editing the home page title in Shopify

Editing other page titles in Shopify

For other pages, the method you use to edit a page title in Shopify is more or less the same, regardless of whether you’re working with a static page, product or post.

You need to locate your page, product or post in the Shopify dashboard - once you've found it, it’s simply a case of scrolling down to the bottom of it and clicking the ‘Edit website SEO’ link. You’ll then be able to edit the page title (along with your meta data and URL - see below).

 Editing page titles in Shopify

Editing page titles in Shopify


6. Use headings properly

Ignoring headings is a common mistake made by people who build and update their own websites using platforms like Shopify. Instead of applying headings correctly (H1, H2, H3 etc.) to their text - as a developer or webmaster might do - they add bold or capitalised text to break up their content. 

This causes quite a few problems: first, from a aesthetics point of view it can look pretty bad. Second, it makes it harder for visually impaired visitors to your site using screen readers to understand your content. And third - and of most relevance here - it makes it more difficult for search engines to index your content properly. 

So make sure you read up on headings and how to apply them properly to your text before you upload content to your Shopify site! 

In terms of adding headings and subheadings in Shopify, it’s very easy: when editing a page, you just highlight a piece of text and then choose your desired heading from the formatting drop down menu, as per the screenshot below.

 To add a heading in Shopify, highlight the relevant text and then choose the heading type using the formatting bar.

To add a heading in Shopify, highlight the relevant text and then choose the heading type using the formatting bar.

Of all the heading types, your H1 is the most important, because search engines use it (along with the page title) as a primary way of ranking the page. So it should always include (and ideally start with) your focus keyword.


7. Use engaging meta descriptions

Meta descriptions provide short summaries of web pages, and usually appear underneath the blue clickable links in a search engine results page.

Although Google says that they aren’t a ranking factor, a well-written meta description can encourage more clickthroughs to your website - which raises the clickthrough rate (CTR) of a page. The CTR of a page is generally believed by most SEO experts to be a ranking factor, so getting meta descriptions right is very important.

Your meta description should:

  • be concise (under 300 characters)
  • accurate 
  • contain the keyword you are hoping to rank for. 

As with page titles, different processes apply depending on whether you want to edit your home page meta description or the description for any other page.

To edit your home page's meta description, you'll need to click Sales Channels > Online Store > Preferences and use the box provided on the right of the screen to add or change it.

To edit a meta description for other types of pages, you just need to locate your page, post or product and then click the ‘Edit website SEO’ link.

(See Section 5 above for screengrabs).


8. Use alt text and optimised file names with your images

Search engine algorithms don’t just look at the words on your website when indexing your site; they factor in your images too.

To do this, they look at two bits of data associated with your pictures: ‘alt text’ and file names. Accordingly, you need to ensure both are up to scratch from and SEO perspective.

Adding alt text in Shopify

There are three main reasons why you should add alternative text (‘alt text’) to your images:

  • Screen readers use it to provide a description of an image to visually impaired users of your website.
  • Search engines use it to categorise and better understand your context.
  • If your image fails to load, a description of will be displayed to help avoid confusion.

You should aim to add alt text that works for both screen readers and search engines - a description that that contains your focus keyword but is still perfectly understandable to anybody who is using a screen reader to access your content.

Editing alt text is very straightforward in Shopify. 

For images on pages or posts, you just locate the relevant picture and double click on it. You’ll then see a box appear which allows you to edit various aspects of the image, including alt text. 

For product images, you simply locate the relevant picture, hover over it and then click the word ‘ALT.’  

 Click the 'ALT' icon to change the alternative text for a Shopify product

Click the 'ALT' icon to change the alternative text for a Shopify product

You’ll then see a box appear which gives you the option to edit your alt text.

 Editing image alt txt in Shopify

Editing image alt txt in Shopify

Changing image file names in Shopify

Changing file names is actually not all that straightforward in Shopify - so it’s best to get your file names right before you upload them to the platform. This essentially means ensuring your focus keyword is in the file name, and that the file name is short.

For example, if you are selling blue toy airplanes in your Shopify store, ensure that the image you upload is called ‘blue-toy-airplane.jpg’ instead of something indecipherable like ‘IMG9481JXA-583.jpg’

If you do have to change an image file name after you’ve uploaded it to Shopify, then it’s unfortunately going to be a case of deleting your existing image and replacing it with a re-uploaded version that contains your focus keywords in its file name.

Obviously if you have an existing Shopify store containing thousands of products, this could be a massive job - so you may have to weigh up the time involved vs the benefit of tweaking the file names.

Whilst it’s definitely a good thing to use optimised file names with your pictures, there are other aspects of SEO which might be better focussed on instead (for example, keyword research or backlink building - you can download our ‘Super Simple SEO’ e-book for more details on these important areas).

A compromise in the above scenario might be to change the image file names of products that are particularly important to your business, and which you are particularly keen to see strong search engine results for.


9. Use clean URLs

Using ‘clean’ URLs with a simple structure is encouraged by Google. Clean URLs are short, simple and intelligible: as an example, if you were selling blue guitars, it would be advisable to use a URL of www.yourdomain.com/blue-guitars rather than www.yourdomain.com/prds/ct/p223.php?ref=14556bluegtr

Now with Shopify, the good news is that you're not going to end up with unwieldy URLs like the latter example, but unfortunately the platform nonetheless generates URLs in a way that is slightly less clean than we might like.

This is because the platform adds prefixes to your pages and products, i.e.,

  • /pages/ before pages
  • /posts/ before posts
  • /products/ before products

Strictly speaking this isn’t ideal from an SEO perspective, but it’s not going to stop you ranking highly in search results, as there are many other ranking signals which will take priority over this. 

What I would say is that you should still aim to ensure that whatever comes after the above prefixes is as ‘clean’ as possible, and includes a focus keyword. The focus keyword helps both search engines and humans understand what your content is about more easily.

To edit a page URL in Shopify, go to the page, product or post you wish to edit, scroll down to the bottom of it and then click 'Edit Website SEO.' Then, make your changes in the 'URL and handle' box (see screenshot below). If you DO change a Shopify URL, make sure that you tick the 'create URL redirect' option. This lets Google knows that you have changed the URL.

 Changing URLs in Shopify for SEO purposes - if you do make a change, don't forget to tick the 'create URL redirect' box!

Changing URLs in Shopify for SEO purposes - if you do make a change, don't forget to tick the 'create URL redirect' box!

Note: changing URLs of pages that aren't currently performing in search results is usually a good idea - but if you are contemplating changing a page that IS already ranking highly, you should tread carefully.

This is because a high-ranking page is likely to have a lot of backlinks to it, and these don't count for quite as much if you change its URL (and won't count for anything at all if you don't create a redirect from your old URL to the new one).

Changing a URL can also affect the 'social proof' of a page because it will reset the stats displayed on your social shares counter for that page to zero.

So in an ideal world, it's good to get the URL structure right at the point at which you create your Shopify page or product, or shortly afterwards.

And if you do end up changing a page URL on your Shopify store, always check that 'Create a URL redirect' box!


10. Add rich snippets to your content

Rich snippets - data that can be added to your content to help both searchers and search engines understand what a page is about - are an important part of how your website behaves in search results (check out this Search Engine Journal article about rich snippets to find out why).

Rich snippets feature visual clues about the content of a page or post - for example, star ratings, author, prices and so on - which appear just below the page/post title and before the meta description, as per the example below:

 Example of a rich snippet. Using them can help improve a search result's CTR, which can in turn ultimately improves its position in search.

Example of a rich snippet. Using them can help improve a search result's CTR, which can in turn ultimately improves its position in search.

Rich snippets are typically generated through the addition of 'Schema Markup' - HTML code featuring tags defined by Schema.org (a collaborative project involving Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex aimed at helping webmasters provide more accurate information to search engines).

There are a couple of ways to add rich snippets to a Shopify store. The first is to add some ‘data markup’ code to your Shopify templates (you’ll find some more information about this along with a code example here).

The second approach is to use a rich snippets app - there are tons of these available from the Shopify app store.

Either way, it makes sense to add rich snippets as they can help increase the click-through rate (CTR) of search results - something many SEO experts believe to be a positive ranking signal.


11. Focus on creating great content and building backlinks to it

A lot of Shopify users focus so much on their product catalogues (the images, the descriptions, the keywords used etc.) that they forget a hugely important aspect of SEO: creating great content, usually in the form of blog posts.

Sites that feature in-depth, informative posts on topics that people are genuinely interested in tend to perform very well in search - and particularly so if there are lots of external links (or ‘backlinks’) pointing to them.

In my Super Simple SEO book I explain the nuts and bolts of how to create great content and build links to it.

You’ll also find some more resources on how to go about creating strong content and building links to it below:

A word of warning however: before you invest time in writing great content and building backlinks to it, some keyword research is essential. This helps you get a strong understanding of the niche topics that people are actively searching for, as well as how hard it will be to rank for a particular niche.


12. Assess the quality of your on-page SEO

On-page SEO is a set of steps that are taken to ensure that as many ‘ranking signals’ as possible are present on an individual page.

These include:

We’ve touched on some of these above, but there are many other things you need to do to ensure your on-page SEO is of a high standard. One way of checking that you’ve ticked all the relevant boxes is to make use of an SEO-checking app from the Shopify App store - there are several available which check the quality of your on-page SEO and supply a report containing a list of things you need to do to improve it.


Download our full SEO guide

The above tips should definitely help make a difference to the performance of your Shopify store in search results, but there is a LOT more that you can do to boost your site’s position in search.

If you're interested in finding out more about the whole topic of search engine optimisation, and want to make significant improvements to your Shopify store's performance in Google, then you might like to download our new 'Super Simple SEO' book.

Super Simple SEO: How to make Google LOVE your website is written for people who are relatively new to the world of search engine optimization (SEO). 

Written in a friendly, jargon-free way, it guides you through the key concepts of SEO; provides you with actionable steps to improve your search ranking; and gives you a series of SEO 'cheatsheets' that make it much easier to implement vital changes to your website and backlink building tactics.

Download the SEO e-book here.

If you'd like some more advice on how to improve your site's general visibility in search, another thing you can do is join our mailing list (we send out regular tips on SEO and inbound marketing).

And finally, if you have any thoughts on the topic of Shopify SEO yourself, do leave a comment below! (Note: if you're reading this on a phone, you may be seeing the AMP version of the post, which disables commenting. Click here for the original post, which allows you to make a comment).




10 Free SEO Resources to Improve Your Site's Search Ranking (2018)
 Free SEO resources (image of scrabble tiles spelling the word SEO)

Search engine optimisation, or 'SEO', is absolutely key to the success of any business operating online (and, in 2018, if your business isn't operating online, it probably should be!).

In this post I'm going to share 10 free SEO resources that will help improve your understanding of search engine optimisation, along with some tools that can help you improve the visibility of your site.


1. Google's SEO starter guide

Bing, Yahoo Search and Duck Duck Go are all very well, but we all know that if your site isn't coming up tops in Google search, you are going to be missing out on traffic, leads and sales.

So it's important to listen to what Google say about how to ensure good search rankings - and thankfully, they have a lot to say in very own free search engine optimisation starter guide.


2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is arguably the industry leading SEO backlink checker and competitor research tool - you whack in a domain name and get a huge number of insights about it, including a list of backlinks pointing to it, anchor text and more (all vital pieces of information for informing a strong SEO strategy). The full version is insanely useful - but comes at a price (a minimum of $99 per month).

Thankfully, there is a free version of Ahrefs available, and although it's quite limited in terms of functionality, it nonetheless lets you see at a glance how authoritative a particular domain or page is - and this helps you determine whether it's a site worth approaching for backlinks or pitching guest posts to. You can also use the free version to get a (small) list of pages that are particularly authoritative when it comes to your focus keywords.


3. Yoast

If you're a Wordpress user, you really should be using Yoast, a free plugin which evaluates your page content from an SEO perspective. A traffic light system will tell you immediately if the content you've created is search-engine friendly, and if it isn't, you'll get a list of practical suggestions as to how you can improve it.

If you're not a Wordpress user, you can still make use of Yoast by visiting the catchily-named (!) Real-time Content Analysis section of their website. This allows you to enter the HTML for one of your web pages - along with a focus keyword - and it will check how good your on-page SEO is.


4. Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO

Moz is one of the leading websites about search engine optimisation and provides a range of free and paid-for SEO tools as well as resources about the topic.

One such resource is their Beginner's Guide to SEO - a comprehensive, 10-chapter guide on how to optimise your site for search. Well worth a read, particularly for those who are new to the whole area of SEO.


5. Google Search Console

If you've got a website, and you want it to perform well in search, then you've simply got to register it with Google Search Console. This is a free suite of tools which allows you - amongst other things - to submit your site to Google, check it for any crawl errors and view backlinks to it.

As soon as you register your website, Google Search Console will helpfully send you an email with a series of steps you should take to maximise its visibility in search. 

(You should also register your site with Bing's Webmaster Tools - although Google is still the dominant player where search engines are concerned, Bing is generating increasing numbers of searches, particularly in the US and the UK - so it make sense to ensure that it knows as much about your website as possible.)


WHILE YOU'RE HERE:

If you're interested in getting a fuller understanding of search engine optimisation, you might like to download our full guide to SEO, "Super Simple SEO". This easy-to-understand e-book outlines the techniques that we used to grow Style Factory from being a site that nobody visited to a popular business blog that attracts over 30,000 visitors a month.

Find out more about this e-book here.


6. Backlink Watch

It's easy to be put off this site by its lo-fi look and the dubious looking adverts for backlink building services that it contains, but nonetheless Backlink Watch is actually a pretty handy free resource. As the name suggests, it allows you to take a look at the backlinks pointing to any domain.

Whilst not by any means as sophisticated as the likes of Ahrefs (see above), Backlink Watch nonetheless gives you quick (and free) insights on a domain's authority and the sort of links that may be pointing to a competitor's website.

Ultimately, a paid-for keyword research tool is a much better option but if you're in a rush or on a very low budget, then Backlink Watch might come in handy.


7. Screaming Frog

The Screaming Frog SEO Spider crawls your website's URLs and analyses your onsite SEO. You can download it for free, or purchase a licence for additional advanced features.

A few things you can do with the free version of Screaming Frog are as follows:

  • Find broken links, errors and redirects
  • Analyse page titles and meta data
  • Review meta robots and directives
  • Audit hreflang attributes
  • Discover duplicate pages
  • Generate XML sitemaps

Not a bad feature set for a free tool.


8. Hubspot's Website Grader

I've found Hubspot's Website Grader tool pretty handy over the years: you basically enter a URL (yours or that of a competitor or client) and it will tell you 1) how well your site is functioning from an SEO and inbound marketing point of view and 2) the steps you need to take to rectify any problems. It's a good 'sense-checking' tool.


9. Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land is a site that is packed full of SEO tips and news - and in particular, it's a good site to stay posted to if you want to keep on top of the latest Google algorithm changes and additions. If you want to know your Panda algorithm from your Penguin, and when the latest version has been rolled out, it's the place for you.


10. Google Webmasters YouTube Channel

The Google Webmasters YouTube Channel is, as you might expect, full of useful advice regarding SEO. For a good visual introduction to search engine optimisation, it's definitely worth subscribing to.


Get more SEO tips via our mailing list

We regularly send out emails regarding SEO (and other key topics for running a business) to our subscribers - these are packed full of useful resources for anyone hoping to grow a business online. You can subscribe to these for free by clicking here.


Other SEO resources and tools

You may find the below SEO resources helpful too: