Towards the end of 2017, I became increasingly intrigued with Shopify.
The main reason I first decided to see what all the fuss was about was that there were so many Facebook ads popping up in my feed about “making your first million with Shopify”, and “explode your shopify profits with Facebook ads” etc.
Why is Shopify so popular
That’s all well and good, but why was it so popular?
I opened an account and had a play with the platform.
It was pretty obvious to me that the ease of use and speed at which you could get a store up and running was the core to its success. That’s no mean feat, as I’ve built WooCommerce and Magento stores that are quite tough to get to launch. With Shopify, you literally can have a store live in under 30 mins. There is an element of intuitive design that makes it child’s play.
The founders deserve a lot credit, as I believe they really nailed a product that the market was crying out for. A dedicated eCommerce solution that anyone could master quickly. There was nothing on the market remotely close to what they deliver, and they keep delivering with every update.
With its ease of use, it was (and still is) a prime target for savvy marketers to get in fast and develop products around the platform. Most though, are wholly focused around paid advertising to Shopify stores. They seem to do well, and that’s great and I know quite a few marketers are doing well with that strategy.
Do Shopify stores rank well in search
But I was more interested in the SEO potential of the platform, and could it actually rank?
It’s all well and good building a great platform for the user, but did it have the structure to do the job organically?
When I first started researching the subject, I really couldn’t find any answers. I did find this quora thread that didn’t paint a very positive picture. I was almost going to forget about it, and then by coincidence a friend was starting a new online eCommerce venture and asked if I could help with the development, and they had chosen Shopify as the platform. And so began my journey into Shopify search engine optimisation. So… to answer the question above – do Shopify stores do well in search? The answer is YES, they rank very, very well. I will say though, that you do need to firstly have sound foundations in search engine optimisation.
As with any site, on page is super important, even more so for for eCommerce, (as I’ll explain later). As it’s a dedicated eCommerce solution, the Shopify team IMO have done a pretty good job at sorting out some of the typical eCommerce inherent problems such as product variation duplication (inadequate canonical URLs), and poor URL structure.
One of the criticisms I’ve noticed about the platform is the inability to affect the structure characteristics easily, as you can, with say WordPress. But IMO I think this has worked in their favour. They’ve created a structure that works really well, and keeps the platform tight, but cleverly allowed just enough open source tweaking with their Shopify App Store. This allows users to add extensions for all kinds of features, such as re-marketing automation and funnel creation.
Shopify SEO case studies – show me proof
OK, so as I mentioned I took on a client on the platform.
Shortly, after that, I was referred a second Shopify client on the strength of the results we were achieving with client no. 1. What I really like about the results we are achieving is not just improvement in ranking, but real actual ROI you can see in the store everyday. So below are some of the stats on the two clients over the last 3 months. I can’t tell you the stores, due to privacy arrangements, nor can I tell you the specific niche. I can say however that both these stores are in the sport apparel and sporting gear niche respectively.
Case Study – Store 1
Case Study – Store 2
As you can see, both stores were in different times in their life cycle. Store 1, was developed from scratch, and initially developed a strong brand from a bricks and mortar store, and had strong POS sales even before the online store was launched. It’s important to realise that the strong brand, and in particular the initial strong brand search that was already present in Google, really gave the store the foundation to be ultra successful from launch. Customers were already searching for the brand, and this created a strong brand identity for Google to pick up and run with. If nothing else it’s a great example of how important branding is in Google search.
Store 2 on the other hand, had an aged domain with a very outdated online store. The old store was removed for a period of months where the domain remained dormant, until Shopify was installed. You can see almost immediately after install traffic increased on the SEMrush traffic graph, and sales took off as a result.
Apart from standard detailed on page and off page SEO, there are two elements of Shopify which I think go a long way to explaining the quick improvement in rankings and traffic. I’ll explain these in more detail below.
What we did to improve rankings and traffic
So as mentioned, the first thing we implemented was standard and detailed on page SEO. A full audit was completed on all on page elements such as internal links, titles, descriptions, image alt tags, combined with some in-depth keyword research to optimize both product and category pages. All very standard protocol. So nothing new or exciting here.
What I did find though is you can certainly tweak code if you’re happy to play around with the .liquid code (an opensource code written in Ruby). This allows you to make edits and add advanced theme features such as schema. There are many extensions available for adding product schema, but I was more interested in adding schema to the category pages, however, as I was finding these were ranking crazy well – not unsurprising, as I was hitting them with with some strong off page seo.
Apart from foundation social and citation type link building, some guest posting and PBN links, there is nothing special in the types of links we were building. What is a little different is “how” we were building them. If you’ve worked with web 2.0s extensively, this will be nothing new, but I do think it’s a feature of Shopify that is overlooked. I’ve scarcely noticed even the most guru of guru SEO’s talking about it. Quite simply every Shopify store is first created on a sub domain just like you would with the free versions of Weebly, WordPress, Tumblr or Wix. So when you first set up your store, you’ll create it on:
When you add your custom domain, this sub domain is automatically 301 redirected if you chose that option. Shopify itself has a DR of 73, and a DA of 92. This provides the unique opportunity to build links via the subdomain, and funnel through the super powerful sub domain. While initially it might not seem special, when you consider there are scarce competitors in the eCommerce niche that can do this, it sets them apart.
So a proportion of our link building efforts we made via the subdomain.
eCommerce store speed
As the platform is hosted on its own servers, (you can’t self host…yet), the stability and speed is superior. Pingdom and GTmetrix routinely have these stores in the top 70% for speed of all websites. Again, overall not that special, but for eCommerce, it is.
To summarise, I’m really liking the potential of Shopify to rank eCommerce sites at the moment, and the results shown above are more than encouraging. With the platform company’s growth and smarts, I can only see this improving.
If you’ve had a bad experience or struggling to rank a Shopify site, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Just leave a comment below. Keep in mind, I’m sure there are some problems with other aspects of the platform, but this article is only talking about specifically rankings.
WooCommerce can be faster
In terms of pure speed, however, at Silicon Dales, we can usually make WooCommerce sites perform significantly faster. This is one place where having complete control can lead to major speed improvements. See our WooCommerce speed optimization guide for more on how we speed up Woo sites for clients.
To gain further understanding of it’s true potential, I’ve started my own store on a brand new domain, to get an understanding how a brand new store will rank from scratch. I’ll report on this when I have something to report!
What Youtube Says?
What Twitter Says?
— Shane Barker (@shane_barker) October 22, 2017
Optizen – the free Shopify SEO App
The author of this article, Jono Farrington, has made a free Shopify SEO app called Optizen. Click on the button below to get started.