Your business wants to be found. It’s sitting on the internet, saying “Find me! Pick me!”. And yet, when your friend pulls out their phone and searches for exactly what you sell, your website is nowhere to be seen. Here’s why, and what you can do about it.
SEO: The Secret Sauce of The Internet
Search Engine Optimisation is the term used for content creation that is easy for search engines, like Google or Bing, to find.
These are the words people are looking for when they search, and the basic words that describe what it is you do. They can also include location, and attributes of your target population. Think “cozy sweaters” “knitwear” “alpaca jumpers” “christmas gifts” “sweaters for men” “Melbourne jumpers” etc.
Keywords are what you should strive to incorporate into your text, especially your headlines and within your first 100 words on each page. You can also put them in the back-end of your SEO preferences.
When you search for something on Google, right under the link to the website is the description. You can edit your descriptions to incorporate more keywords and sound more professional. You can also edit page titles, which appear at the top of the tab or when you hover your mouse over the browser tab. Here are the common guidelines for character count.
Title: Up to 70 characters (Google cut’s off long titles in search results. Cutoff is based on pixel length of the title not the number of characters. To be safe, keep your titles between 50-60 characters.)
Meta Description: Up to 160 characters containing one of your keywords.
URL: The URL should be short ideally contain relevant keywords to the specific page.
Photo Alt Tags: These are displayed when someone hovers over your product photos. Make sure you’ve got keywords and a short description.
From your Shopify store admin, go to Online Store → Preferences to edit these.
External links are part of how Google finds your site in the first place. Internal links (when you link from one of your pages to another page or a product) can help Google build an accurate picture of your site, and not miss any of your pages.
Want to learn more about SEO? Check out this guide, which is a checklist for more in-depth optimisation.
What Does Google Do?
The Google Index
Google has created, essentially, the world’s biggest library of websites. It uses crawls to find new pages, figure out the gist of what’s on those pages, and mark the site in a giant index like you’d find in the back of a textbook. Copy, meta details, alt text for images, links, location, videos and more are all incorporated into the Google Index. When someone searches on Google, it pulls up the results that are most relevant from this index.
So how is this index created and updated? Google uses website crawlers, especially one called GoogleBot. Think of GoogleBot as a giant spider, crawling all over the internet and finding out what’s new. It’s a software Google uses to see what’s out there on the web, starting with sites it has already registered and finding new links from them to other sites.
Check your website on Google’s Crawl Error Reporter to look for errors. If there are errors, it’s going to be harder for Google to register your site on the index.
What Happens in A Search?
When someone types a search query into Google, here’s what happens.
Image by Google
You heard them. The signals Google uses to find out which sites are relevant include things like how fresh, well-written and updated your content is, how many websites are linking to you, and how well the title and URLs on your site fit the search. While you won't be able to control all of your signals, there are plenty you can work on.
Google uses an algorithm called PageRank to figure out how high up your site should be displayed. It’s based on 200 indicators, including especially how many people link and click on your site. The more traffic you’re getting, the better you’ll be ranked, and of course, the better you’re ranked the more traffic you’ll be getting. This is why it takes time. You can be set up for success with a stellar website, but still need to use marketing tools to drive people to your site.
See how often search results find your site using Google’s Search Analytics Report. You can find out a lot about what people are searching for to get to you. You can also see how you’re doing using the Google Webmaster Search Console.
How Do I Improve My SEO?
Ah, and you thought you never had to think about spelling anymore after finishing school. The content on your site needs to be clear, spelled correctly, and broken down with plenty of headings. Don’t worry about writing one keyword 100 times on the page, just make sure it’s in a heading, in the meta, and mentioned one or two more times.
Metadata, including titles, descriptions, photo tags, URLS and keywords, is of course hugely important to the indexing process. Make sure your meta details are relevant, comprehensive, filled with keywords, and intuitively easy to understand.
Make searching within your own site easier for your users and more likely to get on Google using Google’s search bar integration. It’s free, plus ads might pay you to be on your site if you want them.
Get Buzz Going
The more outside sites that link to you, the more relevant your site is going to seem to Google. Consider writing guest blog posts for other sites, spread the word about anything new across multiple social media platforms, and link to other businesses and people – hopefully they’ll return the favour.
Unfortunately, you can’t usually just set up your store and leave it. SEO changes all the time, and as algorithms and trends update, you also need to. Online stores need regular check-ups, just like a brick-and-mortar store would need to adjust opening hours and signage once in a while. SEO is a big part of this – you want to make sure your keywords are up to date, understandable for Google and your readers, and that your site is considered active. Check in regularly on the copy and metadata for your:
Product listings, promotions and special offers
Store pages (FAQ, About, Contact etc.)
ALT text for product images
When you update your site, Googlebot adds updated links and new pages to the Google Index. It’s a good idea to keep your site updated, not only because it gives Google more reasons to crawl through your site, but also because it ensures you’re creating the most up-to-date content for your potential customers.
One thing to keep in mind when you’re updating your site is changing URLs. If you’re doing a site update and decide to add a new page, or change your sub-URL to a keyword, anyone who has bookmarked your site will get a broken link. You can protect against this by redirecting your old URLs to your new ones. Find out more about URL redirects here.
Want to learn more about the nitty-gritty of improving your SEO? Google has its very own guide. Check it out here.
Seems like a lot to handle?
It is. But it’s not unachievable by any means. Understanding how your website works within the grand scheme of Google is an important step in building a better business. Elkfox helps companies like yours set up a great Shopify store, including setting up the building blocks for well-written SEO and better Google search results. If you’re interested in giving your online business a boost, get in touch today.