You know that SEO is important. You have heard it and have felt anxious about it and knew you needed to deal with it…but…it feels like this great big haze of I-don’t-know-how-to-do-that!!! So you put it off. Again.
The good news is that if your online store is on Shopify (or any other hosted platform), you have a lot of the most technical stuff taken care of. They also make it easy for you to add other SEO-enhancing details using no more tech know-how than typing a few extra words in when uploading a photo. You can do that!
But first! In order to implement SEO – aka make it easier for people to find your site via search engines – you need to know what people are searching for. This is called keyword research. There are lots of great articles and tools that can help you come up with a full list of keywords, but the very basic version is this: make a list of words people would use when searching for a product like yours.
For example, I might Google “ethical sneakers.” If you want Google to bring up your site that sells ethical sneakers, the words “ethical sneakers” need to appear together on your site. If you need more keyword ideas, search one word on Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter and see what the related searches or hashtags are.
A quick disclaimer: this post does not cover all the intricacies of SEO. You can get reeeeeal deep into this, and some people do. For even more background on SEO, check out the Small Business Advisory’s blog post about building an SEO strategy for your ecommerce site. It touches on so many important things that I’m not even going to get to here! But now we’re going to talk about the specific ways you can optimize your content to grab Google’s attention.
Put keywords in headers.
From the about page to the product listings to the terms & conditions page, there are A LOT OF WORDS on your website. And search engines figure out what the most important words are by how you emphasize them.
You know how right above the text field you can choose if you want your text to be Paragraph or H1 or H2, etc.? The words that you put in headers (H1-6) appear the most important to Google. H1 is the largest of all the headers, so words in H1 will be given more weight than words in H3, for example.
Using descriptive headers isn’t just good for SEO. This is how people read: a mix of scanning headers and jumping in at the stuff that interests us, so this will help your visitors find the information they are looking for too!
WARNING: Don’t just pack keywords into headers like you’re screaming at Google, “NOTICE ME!!!!!” First and foremost, your site needs to be valuable for humans – not our robot overlords. Choose a header that describes the content that follows.
Show products on your home page.
Another way Google can tell how important something is on your site is how many clicks it takes to get there. If you have to click three times to get to a product description, but only click once to read your about page, Google will think your about page is where you really want people to be. Displaying your products on your home page will show their importance and make it easier for visitors to purchase!
Use image alt tags.
Since search engines can’t read images, they rely on alt tags to know what the image is about. If you’re using Shopify, this popup will appear when you upload a new photo. (Other platforms will have similar options.)
See the field that says “image alt text?” All you need to do is briefly describe the photo using some of your keywords. For example, if it is a photo of an organic cotton dress for kids…say that.
And before you upload that photo, make sure it has a descriptive file name. You know, something other than IMG05738.jpg.
Edit the title tag and create descriptive URLs.
When you create a new page or product, there is a title field. Make sure the title accurately describes the page/product/collection. For instance, if the garment is a shirt, include the word “shirt” in your product title. If it’s your about page, put “About Us” (or something similar) in the title field instead of a creative alternative.
This title will probably turn into the default URL, but you can also edit your URL. If your blog post has 9 words in the title, shorten the URL to use just the three most-likely-to-be-searched words.
Modify meta descriptions.
You know when you Google something and the results show a short description of each page? You can (and probably should) edit the meta description for every page on your site.
This is what Poppy Barley’s looks like. See how it gives you a sense of what the brand is all about in just a few short sentences? Google your favourite brands (and your competitors!) to see how they describe themselves!
Include product descriptions.
Fill the product description with useful information buyers want to know. What fabric is the garment made of? How does it fit? What details or special features does it have? What are the care instructions? Consider how people would search for that product and include those keywords. Don’t skimp on these – this unique content is what Google grabs onto – but also keep in mind that it’s hard to find information in a giant wall of text.
Don’t use the same text to describe multiple products.
You’ve written a great product description, so now you’ll just copy and paste it for the three separate product listings for the same shirt in different colours…NO! Do not do that! Google doesn’t like seeing duplicate content and may apply sanctions against your site. Which is the opposite of what you want! Even if two products are very similar, you have to customize their product descriptions. You don’t have to change much – just say what is different about the two listings (like colour!).
If you are reselling garments that appear on other online stores, you should write your own product descriptions for the same reasons.
Remove pop-ups from mobile.
Pop-ups inviting people to get a discount if they sign up for your newsletter are really effective, but guess what: they are a pain in the neck on small screens. Since the beginning of 2017 Google has been punishing sites with popups on mobile. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a popup at all. It just means that you might need to change the settings so that it only shows up on desktops.
Have other websites link back to you.
Okay, so this one isn’t so easy to implement on your own. But when Google sees that other websites are recommending you, your site appears more reliable. You can get other sites to link to you by:
- getting press coverage
- writing an article for another blog or website
- paying a blogger to feature your product on their website
Add your sitemap to Google.
This is where it gets kinda techy, but it actually isn’t that hard. Your sitemap helps search engines quickly scan your website for content. If you’re on Shopify, your sitemap.xml is automatically generated and Shopify provides simple instructions to submit it.
Update your content regularly.
Google likes new content. It shows that your site is still active and that you have something new to offer visitors. If you only have new products a few times a year, consider adding a blog or customer reviews to your site.
If you want to delve deeper into SEO, there are lots of apps that will help and SEO specialists that are worth the investment. But there is a lot that you can do on your own – and once you know how to do it, it won’t take any more time than uploading a product did before.