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SEO Best Practices for Migrating to Shopify

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SEO Best Practices for Migrating to Shopify

Imagine the despair you would feel seeing your new Shopify store’s organic traffic tank, sales evaporate, and page 1 rankings drop from search results.

After spending months building out your new Shopify site, sleepless nights going back and forth with web designers and developers, nail-biting hours spent refreshing your Analytics, and waiting for sales to trickle in again, let’s just say, migrating to a new ecommerce platform can be a daunting task.

But don’t worry, this won’t be you.

By following these SEO best practices for migrating to Shopify, you can eliminate the anxiety and pave the way for a smooth transition to your new Shopify store.

Why Migrate To Shopify?

Shopify is the global leader in supporting independent ecommerce brands to branch out and grow their store on their own terms.

It’s a great alternative to the likes of Amazon, allowing merchants more control over their brand and marketing.

In 2021, merchants sold $175.4 billion in sales through the Shopify platform.

They’ve recently welcomed onboard some massive brands like Hello Fresh and French Connection.

With an inexhaustible library of apps and access to Shopify marketing experts and developers, it’s a comprehensive and attractive platform for taking your business to the next level.

Migrating To Shopify

If you’re ready to take the plunge and migrate your ecommerce store over to Shopify, take the time to understand the SEO implications of migration.

The last thing any business owner wants is to lose all their hard-earned domain authority, backlinks, and organic traffic.

Regardless of how large or small your business is, migrating to a new ecommerce platform is not an easy process but heed this warning don’t migrate your store to Shopify without a plan.

If you don’t plan and execute a migration correctly, organic traffic can be cut by 50% within weeks of migrating.

For instance, while migrating, a web designer treated the new website as a whole new business.

When migration occurred, there were no 301 redirects in place, resulting in 404 pages and crawl errors everywhere.

These errors signaled to the Google bots to stop crawling the pages.

As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for traffic to flatline.

No crawling means no indexing and no indexing means no URLs will show in search results.

And just like that, you can kiss your hard-earning SEO goodbye.

Pre-Migration

1. Set Up The New Shopify Store

Signing up and selecting a plan is the first step.

Select a Shopify theme according to your needs.

Use this as an opportunity to refresh the canonical link structure and SEO setup of your store. Consider the following.

  • Navigation structure – Are your top-ranking pages or highest value collections or products accessible through your site’s navigation? Does the flow of your navigation make it easy for your customer to find what they are looking for?
  • Collections – Shopify utilizes ‘collections’ to group similar products. These are critical pages for SEO, and you want to ensure your products are categorized logically.
  • Pages – Now is the perfect time to audit and review the key pages of your store. In Shopify, ‘pages’ are informational in nature and include your ‘About’ page, ‘Contact’ page, ‘Shipping and Delivery’ pages, etc. Pages like these are important trust signals for your site’s SEO.
  • Products – These are your transactional pages, and keywords will most likely be transactional in nature. Shopify automatically creates product URLs based on the product name, but you can edit these as you create or review your products. If there are changes to an already published product, an automatic 301 redirect is created to the new URL.
  • Blog – Shopify hosts your blog content within its own platform. Now is the time for a content audit to make sure you’re capitalizing on your blog and not migrating useless content.

2. Review Canonical Link Structure

The canonical link structure tells search engines which page you want to rank.

For example, if you have a variant of a product or a product included in multiple collections, new URLs are automatically created for each.

Allowing these URLs to rank can cause indexing bloat and may take away from your SEO efforts in getting the original product or collection to rank.

You can set your canonical link structure to point back to the original product or collection you wish to rank for using a simple line of code known as a rel canonical tag,

For example, the URL: myonlineshop.com/collections/shoes/products/brown-shoe
or myonlineshop.com/products/brown-shoe?variant=123856445631

will have a canonicalized URL to:

myonlineshop.com/products/brown-shoe.

You can check whether rel canonical is in use by viewing the page source of a couple of pages, collections, or products, and searching for ‘rel canonical’ in the HTML code.

If it is not in use or used incorrectly, the following code can be added between the <head> and </head> lines of your theme.liquid file in Shopify:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”{{ canonical_URL }}” />

So in our example, the rel canonical tag will look like this:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://myonlineshop.com/products/brown-shoe” />

If your store contains over 100 SKUs, you likely use tags on collections to filter.

This produces a collection URL like https://myonlineshop.com/collections/shoes/brown.

It’s rare to index these because of the difficulty in editing the content in a way that is different from the parent collections (the exception is if you have a large inventory strategy to capture search intent).

In this case, you want the tagged collection URL to canonicalize to the parent collection.

Find:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”{{ canonical_URL }}” />

And replace it with:

{% if template contains ‘collection’ and current_tags -%}

<link rel=”canonical” href=”{{ shop.url }}{{ collection.url }}{% if current_page > 1 %}?page={{ current_page }}{% endif %}” />

{%- else -%}

<link rel=”canonical” href=”{{ canonical_url }}” />

{%- endif %}

3. Backup Everything

Backup your old website.

The best way to do this varies by platform.

Do a full Screaming Frog scan to capture key SEO data so you can recrawl the list of URLs for 301 status post-migration.

Export the scan to review the data later.

Screenshot from Screaming Frog, taken February 2022

4. Setup 301 Redirects From Old Url To New Shopify URL

This is the most critical step for SEO in migration to Shopify.

You will need to set up 301 redirects from your old website URLs to the new Shopify URLs.

If your domain changes, a domain redirect is not enough.

Each page, collection, and product that you are migrating from your old site will need an appropriate 301 redirect set up.

The easiest way to set up 301 redirects is to export your old domain’s site index either directly from your store following the instructions, or using a program like Screaming Frog.

Using a Google sheet, you can then map out your 301 redirects to your new Shopify URLs.

It’s time-intensive but important to get right.

From an SEO perspective, you don’t want to risk losing valuable backlinks and page authority you may have gained over the years to singular pages.

Redirect won’t come into effect in Shopify unless the old page has been deleted.

You can use Screaming Frog to double-check that all URLs have been correctly redirected.

5. Consider Internationalization

You can run a multi-lingual, multi-regional brand under a single Shopify account.

The best international strategy for a single business is usually multiple Shopify accounts because it allows complete customization of theme, layout, messaging, product offering, and fulfillment.

The primary SEO factor to consider for internationalization SEO is hreflang tags.

We strongly suggest using the Multi-Store Hreflang Tags app to configure hreflang tags across multiple stores.

That way, you avoid duplicate content, pass rank value between alternate pages, avoid 404s, and get the flexibility to customize URL handles to suit the language native to users.

Hundreds of Shopify stores are sabotaging their SEO by keeping the same language structure in their URL handles across all stores. An English store should contain English handles while a Spanish store should contain Spanish handles.

Here’s a screenshot of the allbirds.com homepage.

Allbirds hreflang tag exampleScreenshot from Allbirds, taken February 2022

This is a great example of how even huge global brands can get it wrong.

Allbirds have nine domains serving different countries and languages and there is no cross-referencing between their hreflang tags.

With the correct hreflang tags, you can let Google know the most relevant store to serve in the search results and immediately take customers to the right store straight from the search results.

This will also leverage your local SEO, allowing each store to more aggressively compete on local SERPs rather than against each other.

6. Timing

Migrate outside a peak period.

You’re asking for a death wish doing it on BFCM.

Plan your resources accordingly and make sure to have all your key staff available should anything turn sour.

7. Migrate Content

To perform the actual migration of content, Cart2Cart is recommended. This enables the automated transfer of your store’s content without impacting your existing shopping cart.

Their service supports over 85 ecommerce platforms.

A handy tool on their website shows the services they support and what they cover.

cart2cart shopify migrationScreenshot from Cart2Cart, taken February 2022

8. Update Internal Linking Structure

Once you have successfully migrated all of your content, you will notice your new redirects come into effect for internal links.

This isn’t ideal as an SEO best practice to have all links taking the user directly to the URL rather than via a 301 redirect.

While a redirect helps to pass on link authority, it’s important not to rely on them when links can be updated directly.

I’ve seen many clients stuck in the pattern of redirecting redirects, creating an awful redirect chain which often results in broken links and a terrible customer experience.

A program such as Ahrefs makes it easy to identify 301 redirects or any 404 broken internal links that have resulted from the migration.

These can easily be remedied by simply going to the page where the 301 or 404 is occurring, and updating the link to the most appropriate new Shopify URL.

Post-Migration

1. Annotate Launch In Google Analytics

In Google Analytics, select Audience and then Overview.

From here you can click the Create new annotation button.

It’s important to mark the date in Analytics of when the migration took place so you can monitor any traffic or sales changes.

Google Analytics Create an AnnotationScreenshot from Google Analytics, taken February 2022

2. Submit New Sitemap To Google And Bing

Open Google Search Console and under Index, select Sitemaps.

Submit your new sitemap.

You can find your sitemap in Shopify at yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.

Within that parent sitemap, are child sitemaps for each content type.

Proceed to do the same for Bing.

3. Submit Change Of Address Request In Google Search Console And Complete Bing Site Move Tool

This step is only needed if the domain URL changes.

Google has detailed instructions of when and how to use this tool.

Google Change of Address notificationScreenshot from Google Search Console, taken February 2022

4. Check That Google Analytics And Search Console Are Functioning Correctly

Log into both Google Analytics and Google Search Console to make sure all your traffic data is being picked up for your new store.

After 24 hours, you will have more data to determine whether sales and traffic are properly attributed.

There are two reports in Google Analytics that provide the easiest feedback for this:

Channel sales report: A correct setup will show various sales channels being attributed. A broken setup will report most sales coming from referrals or showing incorrect revenue data.

Shopping Behaviour report: This report should display full data including cart abandonment statistics.

Keep in mind these are just benchmarks and there are still many ways incorrectly set up Google Analytics.

Shopify transactions reflected in Analytics, does not ensure correct setup.

For more detailed information about setting up data reporting in Google Analytics for your Shopify store, refer to this guide.

5. Outreach To Highest-authority Backlinks To Get Them To Update To New URLs If Possible.

Use a tool like Ahrefs or Moz to generate a backlink report.

From here, you can review which websites hosting backlinks to your store are worth reaching out to.

The goal is to get any 301 or 404 links updated to your new URLs.

This is also providing the website host value in keeping their content up to date and creating a better reader experience.

Win-win!

For SEO purposes, it’s always best practice to have URLs taking the user to the direct URL in mention, rather than via a 301 redirect.

If it points to a 404 page, and the website host is unwilling or unresponsive to updating the URL for you, the best you can do is create a 301 redirect for the 404 page.

6. Recrawl The Old Website

Now is the time to recrawl the URL from your old website and correct any outstanding 404 broken links.

Setup 301 redirects if needed.

Check and check again.

Did I mention to check again?

7. Monitor 404s

There are several Shopify apps, such as Link Monitor and Easy Redirects, which will automatically monitor and report 404s as they arise.

Ahrefs also does the job with their site audit tool.

Otherwise, you can create a custom Google Analytics report to monitor and rectify 404 errors.

Shopify Migration Success Is Possible

While not every migration to Shopify will be all rainbows and butterflies, following these steps can help get the best possible results.

There’s zero need to migrate and lose all your hard-earned SEO wins.

You’ve worked hard for them and with these SEO best practices for migrating to Shopify, you can take them with you.

More resources:


Featured Image: fatmawati achmad zaenuri/Shutterstock




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Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023

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5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization

Technologies-B2B-organizations-use-to-optimize-content

As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.

CHATGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.

ChatGPT-for-content

The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.

SEO-and-creating-content-in-2023

It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

Conclusion

The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An “Awesome Idea”

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An "Awesome Idea"

Google’s John Mueller discussed heading elements with a member of the SEO community where he affirmed the usefulness of using hierarchical structure when using heading elements.

Background Context to What Mueller Said

Heading elements <H1> – <H6> are supposed to be used to indicate what a section of a webpage is about.

Furthermore the heading elements have a ranking order, with the <H1> being the highest rank of importance and the <H6> being the lowest level of importance.

The heading element purpose is to label what a section of content is about.

HTML specifications allow the use of multiple <H1> elements. So, technically, using more than one <H1> is perfectly valid.

Section 4.3.11 of the official HTML specifications states:

“h1–h6 elements have a heading level, which is given by the number in the element’s name.

If a document has one or more headings, at least a single heading within the outline should have a heading level of 1.”

Nevertheless, using more than on <H1> is not considered a best practice.

The Mozilla developer reference page about the use of headings recommends:

“The <h1> to <h6> HTML elements represent six levels of section headings. <h1> is the highest section level and <h6> is the lowest.

…Avoid using multiple <h1> elements on one page

While using multiple <h1> elements on one page is allowed by the HTML standard (as long as they are not nested), this is not considered a best practice. A page should generally have a single <h1> element that describes the content of the page (similar to the document’s <title> element).”

John Mueller has previously said that it doesn’t matter if a webpage uses one <H1> or five <H1> headings.

The point of his statement is that the level of the heading isn’t as important as how they are used, with the best practice being the use of  headings for indicating what a section of content is about.

What Mueller Said on Twitter

A member of the SEO community was joking around and gently ribbed Mueller about using more than one H1.

He tweeted:

The SEO followed up by sharing how he preferred using the best practices for heading elements by using only one <H1>, to denote what the page is about and then using the rest of the headings in order of rank, give a webpage a hierarchical structure.

A Hierarchical structure communicates sections of a webpage and any subsections within each section.

He tweeted:

“I’m too traditional with header elements. (HTML 4 for Life! lol)

I’d still recommend using just one H1 element on a page.

I patiently go back to pages to implement header hierarchy for fun.”

John Mueller tweeted his approval in response:

“I think that’s an awesome idea & a great practice.

Header hierarchy is not just useful to Google, it’s also important for accessibility.

(Google still has to deal with whatever weird things people throw up on the web, but being thoughtful in your work always makes sense.)”

Hierarchical Page Structure

In the early days of SEO, <H1> used to be counted as an important ranking factor, one that was more important than an <H2>.

So, back then, one always put their most important keywords in the <H1> in order to signal to Google that the page was relevant for that keyword.

H1 used to have more ranking power so it was essential to use the <H1> to help rankings.

Google’s algorithm was using keywords as a way to “guess” what a webpage was about.

Keywords in the anchor text, keywords in the title tag and keywords in the <H1> helped Google guess what a page was relevant for.

But nowadays, Google doesn’t have to guess.

It is able to understand what sections of a webpage are about, and consequently, what the entire webpage is about.

Despite those advances, many SEOs still believe that using an <H1> is some kind of magic ranking factor.

Headings are no longer about shouting what keyword you want to rank for.

The role of heading elements are now about telling search engines what a section of content is about.

Each section of a content is generally about something specific.

Heading tags make it easier for search engines to know what a page is about.

And that helps them rank the page for the topic.

And according to the official HTML specifications, that’s technically the proper way to use heading elements.

Lastly, Mueller mentioned a quality of the heading element as a way to better communicate for accessibility reasons, like for people who use screen readers.

The official HTML specifications say:

“Descriptive headings are especially helpful for users who have disabilities that make reading slow and for people with limited short-term memory.

These people benefit when section titles make it possible to predict what each section contains.”

So thank you John Mueller for calling attention to the benefits of using headings with a hierarchical structure, for calling attention to how hierarchical structure is useful for Google and for accessibility.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported its fourth straight quarter of declining profits.

It made $76 billion in sales over the past three months, but it wasn’t enough to meet Wall Street’s expectations.

Google’s revenue was down 9% compared to last year, and its biggest business, Google Search, saw a 1% drop in revenue. Even YouTube’s advertising sales fell by nearly 8%.

Alphabet has decided to cut its workforce by 12,000 and expects to spend between $1.9 billion and $2.3 billion on employee severance costs.

This latest earnings report shows tech giants like Google are facing challenges in the current digital advertising landscape.

But Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, believes that the company’s long-term investments in AI will be a key factor in its future success.

In a press release, Pichai says he expects major AI advancements to be soon revealed in Google search and other areas:

“Our long-term investments in deep computer science make us extremely well-positioned as AI reaches an inflection point, and I’m excited by the AI-driven leaps we’re about to unveil in Search and beyond. There’s also great momentum in Cloud, YouTube subscriptions, and our Pixel devices. We’re on an important journey to re-engineer our cost structure in a durable way and to build financially sustainable, vibrant, growing businesses across Alphabet.”

Alphabet’s CFO, Ruth Porat, reported that their Q4 consolidated revenues were $76 billion, a 1% increase from the previous year. The full year 2022 saw revenues of $283 billion, a 10% increase.

Going forward, Alphabet is changing how it reports on its AI activities.

DeepMind, which used to be reported under “Other Bets,” will now be reported as part of Alphabet’s corporate costs to reflect its increasing integration with Google Services and Google Cloud.

What Does This Mean For Marketing Professionals?

It’s important to stay updated on the latest developments in the tech industry and how they may affect advertising strategies.

Google’s declining profits and decreased revenue in their search and YouTube platforms are reminders that the digital advertising landscape is constantly evolving, and companies must adapt to keep up.

Marketers should consider diversifying their advertising efforts across multiple platforms to minimize the impact of market swings.

Additionally, Google’s focus on AI and its integration with Google Services and Cloud is something to keep an eye on.

As AI advances, it may offer new opportunities for marketers to target and engage with their audience effectively.

By staying informed on the latest tech advancements, marketers can stay ahead of the curve and make the most of these opportunities.

Despite Google’s recent financial setbacks, the tech giant is still a major player in the digital advertising landscape, and its investments in AI show its commitment to continued growth and innovation.


Featured Image: Sergio Photone/Shutterstock

Source: Alphabet



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