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Podcast: On-page SEO for Shopify

Dave Granfield:

Hey guys, I’m back today. This guy Josh Rimmington is the owner of JR Marketing. I wonder where you came up with that name buddy JR, Josh Rimmington. He’s from Hervey Bay in Queensland. He’s a couple of hours up the road from us and Josh has built his own agency based on, primarily you built it based on SEO back in the day, didn’t you? You offer some more lead generation services to people, but we’ve got Josh in today to chat to him about SEO for Shopify in particular and on-page SEO.

Now we are going to do a two-part episode to this. The second part we’re going to talk about is off-page SEO, but they’re both probably two foreign concepts to someone who’s just started out on Shopify or just selling online. So Josh, can you just let us know a little bit about you, a little bit about JR Marketing, and then give us the brief synopsis on what on-page is and what off-page SEO is just to set the foundation.

Josh Rimmington:

Yep, definitely. Thanks for having me. So I started in online marketing about 16 years ago and I started in e-commerce and actually started when e-commerce really wasn’t around as much. The markets got a bit saturated now, but there’s definitely, when I started we had a bit of a blue ocean and no one else doing a lot of products that we were doing. And I did that for quite a while and I found the easiest way, we didn’t have Facebook back then. 

So when I was learning online marketing, everyone was going to Google so that was when I learned SEO and that’s when we got good at SEO and everything else. So we were outranking a lot of the big billion-dollar companies and things like that and able to dominate a marketplace by only being a small business, just because we were showing up in the search engine and people were finding us. After I sold my e-commerce site and got out of that, I actually was continually getting asked about SEO and helping people so that’s how I actually got into the agency space of helping other people with it.

Josh Rimmington:

And as you mentioned, I did start as just SEO. We do offer other services now but I’m still sort of known for SEO and the Google side of it because that’s was my first online marketing love and that’s what I got to know. So that continues to be where a lot of my focus is around and then a lot of my teamwork on other sections of online marketing as well. So from an SEO point of view for people that aren’t totally familiar, it’s a title that people obviously hear around all the time but they obviously don’t always understand it. 

They get told in business, “Okay, you have to have a good SEO or you have to do this.” But a lot of times they don’t know, and a lot of times the water gets a lot muddied by how many people are out there trying to sell these quick SEO solutions and the amount of emails you get saying, “I’ll rank you in a day or I’ll have you number one for this.”

Dave Granfield:

So, I think that’s the biggest misdemeanour and the hardest thing about SEO is the snake oil salesman. SEO is a long drawn out process but once it’s done right, it’s amazing. But one as a business owner you’ve got to be prepared to be in it for the long term and two, it doesn’t happen overnight. So anyone who’s tried to sell it as an overnight solution is just like shifty eyes right?

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah.

Dave Granfield:

All right, sorry. You can continue. I’ve got a pet peeve about SEO agencies just robbing people for money and there’s a big agency in Australia who is fantastic at taking people’s money and locking them into contracts. But anyway-

Josh Rimmington:

Definitely and [inaudible 00:04:07]

Dave Granfield:

Back to you.

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah, and for quite a while I stopped actually using SEO and agency and calling myself an SEO person just because it had been that muddied with those people trying to sell these quick solutions and everything else. So it really has gone those ways. 

So in short, what SEO should be is basically improving your organic ranking so that you’re getting more organic traffic. So Google is like a matchmaker and their algorithm is designed to find when someone types in, is designed to find the best match for whatever someone’s typing in and show a website for that is a match. So when we’re doing SEO, we’re obviously trying to make sure that our website shows up for those matches. So we’re basically making sure our website is the best match for what we want it to show up. So that’s the quickest way of explaining it in short.

Dave Granfield:

And it’s crazy how far SEO has progressed in the 16 years that you’ve been doing it. The natural language forms such a big place in it now where Google now considers what people would be saying in a sentence rather than just a keyword right? And it’s how can people start writing copy and how can stat people designing their Shopify product pages and homepage and landing page based on the current SEO trends and what Google is looking at now with machine learning and natural language. So right. Today let’s have a chat… Oh, sorry. Let’s define the difference between on-page and off-page SEO just so people at home get an understanding of that.

Josh Rimmington:

Yep. So with SEO I’ve always separated it into two main categories, I’ve actually added a third category that I talk about in the last few years and that’s probably the technical SEO. 

So Google is starting to look at a bit more of the technical side of it with people visiting your site, the speed of your site and a lot of different other stuff around it. But on-page is really anything that you can see on your website and anything that you’re putting on your website for people to see. And then off-page is actually anyone that’s linking into your website and your blueprint or your footprint online that’s basically referring to your website. So they’re the two separate section but on-pages basically anything that you can see on-site, which obviously includes your images, your videos, your content, your title tags all your products, everything that’s onsite that you can see and that you put on there, that’s all your on-page stuff.

Dave Granfield:

All right, so let’s break down on-page a little bit more in this episode. And Shopify has never had an amazing on-page SEO ability. It’s not like WordPress you can plug your student and you follow their traffic light system if anyone’s familiar with that. And yeah, you can wing your way to good on-page SEO but what would be your top tips for someone to do on-page SEO if they’re starting out or if they’ve got a Shopify store and they’re just not ranking organically?

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah. So probably the first step is actually something you have to do off-page and that actually works out what people are actually searching for and work out your keywords. So, normally what we do is work up a list of all the keywords that people are searching for in your industry and so your keywords or anything that people are typing in and trying to find products. And you normally want to separate them into intentions. So people will have intentions when they’re typing a searching and by what I mean with that is they might type in buy a product versus compare product or wanting to know about a product. So you actually have to know a bit about the intentions of what people actually want because that’s important when you’re putting content onto your site and when you’re doing your on-page stuff because you want certain pages to show up for certain keywords.

Josh Rimmington:

There are a few different tools that we use. So Keywords Everywhere is a great Chrome plugin that you can get and it basically you can type in any searches and what it’ll tell you is basically how many people are searching for those keywords. But then it’ll give you lists of other keywords that people are searching for that are similar to those ones so it’s a quick little one that you can use. Probably the quickest way to start finding what people are searching for is that you can actually just go to Google type in a product or service and Google itself will tell you what other people are searching for. If you go down the bottom it will say people also searched for. You can actually see what people actually searched for so you start to get an idea on trends that are going on, what people are doing. So if you’re typing in a product, you’ll actually see that people might be actually comparing it to another product or they might actually be wanting to know information about that product or how something works or different things.

Josh Rimmington:

So you will start to work up a list of information and keywords around those products or services. So that’s probably the first step is really understanding, okay, what do I want to rank for? Because the homepage of your website you might not want to rank everything for other than your brands and certain and other things, but you might have certain pages on your site that you’d want to actually do. So you want to start separating your pages into lists according to what keywords you actually want to start using.

Dave Granfield:

Awesome. So number one is you just need to know what people are searching for first, right? There’s no point creating a Shopify store selling German polka dot history records where no one’s searching for German polka dot history records, right? You’ve got to have a product that market fit, but you’ve also then got to work out how people are searching for that particular product that you’ve got. Awesome. Good point. Hey, have you ever used to Answer The Public as a tool to look at [crosstalk 00:09:51] phrases?

Josh Rimmington:

I have and it’s really good especially for phrases and it’s great for creating content. So for blog posts, because basically it’s telling you-

Dave Granfield:

It’s giving you the title.

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah. It’s basically telling you what you should be writing about and what questions you should be answering.

Dave Granfield:

So Josh will put those three tools in the show notes. So Keywords Everywhere which is a Chrome extension or Google, we don’t really need to link to Google, but using Google recommendations and then Answer The Public for long-form questions and those sorts of things. So what are they actually going to rank for? So what would be the next step on on-page SEO for a Shopify store?

Josh Rimmington:

Yep. It’s you basically want to make sure that each page that you are wanting to rank can be easily identified for what you want to actually rank it up for. So making sure that those keywords are actually in your title tags, those keywords are in your header and then making sure that the content on site and the stuff that you’re talking about is relevant to what you are. So if you are talking about buying a product, but the page has the ability for someone to buy the product and it has that intention in there. If you’re comparing a product and it’s an article site then that’s what that’s about. So it should be able to simply… It’s amazing how many sites site I look at and someone says I’m trying to rank for these terms and I go there and just with my naked eye I can’t say that they have an intention to rank for a certain keyword. So if I can’t see it then an algorithm is not going to be able to see it because, in the end, Google is still an algorithm. So we have to tell it what we want to rank for. So we have to have that intention and tell it basically these are the keywords we want to rank for by putting them into the main places that they look at.

Dave Granfield:

So we might come to this slide or on and tell me if we are, but so you’ve got product pages which are literally it’s a purchase page, right? It’s the product description, all that sort of stuff. Is there sometimes a benefit in creating additional landing pages for comparing two different products or a landing page for a collection that’s got more information about children’s bikini’s or children’s swimwear, that sort of thing?

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah, definitely if the searches and a lot of people are looking for certain stuff then you are better off treating it as a separate page or section than you are having it on the same page. Because obviously if you’re trying to get lots of keywords and lots of stuff on the same page one, it won’t read as well because you’re basically trying to confuse people with all the different information. And two, it might confuse the algorithm as well because they might not actually know what you’re trying to rank for that page for. So simplifying a bit and actually having a clear intention of what you want than trying to get a lot of different stuff.

Dave Granfield:

Cool. You just cut out a little bit there, but yes simplify the pages down. All right? So it’s like pick one keyword query and make sure that it’s a good page fit. Whether it’s a product page for buy or a comparison page or collection page. Cool. All right. What’s your next biggest tip for SEO on a page for Shopify?

Josh Rimmington:

Yep. For Shopify, it’s probably around making sure that you’re using a theme and that your developer is actually using a theme that’s actually showing up to Google the right way. And what I mean by that is a lot of them out of the box themes and different things like that create a lot of duplicate product pages and a lot of extra information in there that Google doesn’t actually need to see. 

Because when Google is looking at it and if they’re seeing a lot of the same pages, a lot of the same information and the same page showing in different ways with you URLs then they’ll basically get confused. 

So you want to make sure that you’re talking to your developer or you’re talking to whoever’s hooking it and actually look at the structure of the site and looking what you’re actually showing Google and how your page actually shows up so that you’re not actually confusing the system.

Josh Rimmington:

And easiest way to do that is basically looking at it as a site map or a hierarchy and basically say, “Okay, how are we sending people through the site?” Because when Google looks at sites, they’re basically travelling through the links of the website and looking at the page to page and that. 

But if they’re looking at the page to page that is all the same, they’ll just leave the site. So you basically want to be up against them Google bots to be able to flow through the site cleanly as well and be seeing unique content and pages that are different about different topics and everything like that. 

So just making sure that the overall theme that you’re using and your developed site can be accessed. One, because my control that the pages aren’t blocked or anything else in Google and two, making sure that they can actually flow between the URL’s cleanly and easily.

Dave Granfield:

Cool. So I’m going to get a little bit deeper here but you talked about site maps and how Google flows. What’s the quickest way for someone to check that for a Shopify store if they’ve never done it before?

Josh Rimmington:

Yep. Jump into Webmaster Tools and just make sure you’re verified in there and actually just ask Google to do it for you. So Google will actually be able to retrieve it and tell you what they’re actually seeing and what pages they can’t access, what they can access. So there is obviously because of the way Shopify is set up and not being able to add in separate robot texts and different things like that, you do have a few restrictions but there is ways in the sitemap that developers can non-index certain pages if they don’t want them to show and stuff like that. So that’s what’s say the advantage when you are dealing with developers and people that know what they’re doing. Is that you can tell them I don’t want this page to be shown so you can actually control that flow a bit better.

Dave Granfield:

Yeah. Awesome. So Webmaster Tools is a free Google platform. Literally just Google Webmaster Tools, verify your store and you can then ask Google to crawl your website and it will show you a ton of information. A trove of errors if there are errors, it gives you hints, it’s a fantastic free tool that if you’re not on it you should just be using it as a best practice on your website anyway. Cool.

Josh Rimmington:

Yep.

Dave Granfield:

All right. Hang on, I cut you off then. Did you have something else?

Josh Rimmington:

No, I was just going to say it’s become better and I’m in there every day looking at it because it’s one of the best Google tools now because it’s basically Google telling us what they can see. It’ll actually tell us if they’re getting errors on certain pages. So recently they’ve changed some schemer and different other stuff. It’ll tell me when they do stuff like that and if they can’t retrieve certain stuff that you put on the site and then you can go on there and fix it. 

If they sense that there are links to the site that they don’t like or anything else, they’ll actually tell you that you’ve got those links and you can actually tell them if you want that you don’t actually want those links pointing to your website and to totally ignore them. So there are lots of things in there to actually look at.

Dave Granfield:

That right there is a massive bit of value, especially if you have to go to Fivver or got a really cheap SEO agency to do some work for you and they’ve just got a ton of crappy backlinks which we’ll talk about in the next episode. But how do you disavow links that you don’t want through to your website if you end up with a ton of links that are actually nasty and Google’s not going to like them? So that’s a backlink or an off-page conversation. So we learned about what do you want to rank for, how to make a page identifiable using a theme that shows to Google. Well, what else can you suggest for on-page SEO for Shopify?

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah. When you’re basically looking at your keywords and everything else, looking at, okay, what content can I create on-site to actually add more value to my clients and give them more information, but also look like more of an authority on my topic? 

Because Google is looking for those sites that they think, okay, I want to show them for as many keywords as possible for this topic because of there such a valuable resource to our search engine. So looking at those ones of the questions that people are asking and putting content up there and in articles or blog posts about it, we’ll go over that with links. But that’ll also benefit with people actually linking to your site because you’re creating valuable content to your actual site. But really looking at the way that you can add more information, add more content to your site so that you can basically give more value both to your customers, but then also say Google looks at you as an authority on a topic.

Josh Rimmington:

So you really want to be known for whatever you’re doing. So if you’re doing coffee machines, you want to be known as someone that provides all information about making coffee, coffee machines, this and that. So you want to be able to provide as much information as possible. And that can obviously be the content on the site, creating videos, because obviously Google loves YouTube because it’s their platform. So being able to add some video content on-site and different things like that will actually add to it. And the other main thing is basically to look at how you’re actually linking between your pages. Because I normally compare it to somewhere like Wikipedia, when you’re interlinking between your pages. If you go to a Wikipedia page, you’ll see that they’re constantly linking to other articles about a certain topic. You should be looking at your website and actually giving them that option quite often and say someone’s buying these products, but do you want to compare it to this?

Josh Rimmington:

Or do you want to see our review we did on this product? And different things like that. And the same with those articles linking back to where they can buy it, where they can compare it. So linking between the relevant pages on the site so that you create your own network of information that Google can jump between and say, okay, yeah, there’s heaps of information not only about buying but information about comparing them and information about how to use them.


So you’re basically wanting to create that authority of the topic, not only because it creates trust with your customers because they see you as an authority on the topic, but because Google looks at it and says, Oh well this, this site isn’t just about buying it, it’s got so much information that we want to show it up for as many keywords as possible.

Dave Granfield:

That’s awesome. So that comes back to step one. If you’re going to build a blog post all about fixing a coffee machine or about parts for coffee machines or about cleaning a coffee machine you’re mad not internally, then to try and get them through to your parts pages or your cleaning products pages or you’re buying a new machine or servicing all that sort of stuff. 

It just makes business sense to send them through a journey on your website otherwise they’re going back to Google to search again and chances are you won’t rank for the second part. What about structuring the content on the actual page? So let’s talk about a product page in Shopify because that’s probably one of the biggest pages that people would use there. How do they actually structure the content on the page itself?

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah, so there’s lots of probable argument around the best way to do it. Generally, you want to obviously look at the best way that will convert first, but structure-wise you want to make sure that for SEO you’re talking directly about the topic.

So obviously your main portal has the main keyword that you want to be ranking that page for and then utilizing those keywords actually in their main content as well. And just make sure that if you’re using things like console [dictainers 00:21:16] Or different tabs and different other stuff that Google can actually see the content you’re putting in there and it’s not getting blocked behind some script or anything else.

So the easiest way to do that is just viewing the source of that page and actually see what Google is seeing because the code is actually what Google sees and actually make sure that they can actually see the actual content and it’s not getting blocked behind anything else.

Josh Rimmington:

And then actually making sure that your images are titled right so that actually they’re not titled image one or [SKU 00:21:50] Like that. That you’re actually titling it what it is, what product it is if it’s a colour or SKU that it’s actually getting titled stuff. Because Google doesn’t see the actual image, they see what you’ve actually named it so actually just starting to get that structure of everything that Google can see, making sure that you’re actually making sure it’s got keywords, it’s got the words, it’s got everything that you actually want to rank for in it.

Dave Granfield:

Awesome. That big thing about your content and indifferent tags or different tabs that’s a big thing because most Shopify stores are developed with no tabs and you might have a long description and a size guide and a shipping details and if you have long descriptions hidden behind another tag, Google might not even be able to read that. And that long description might be where all of that beautiful keyword work that you’ve done is and all that information that Google needs to read.

And it might then be relying on a small snippet of a short description, which just isn’t going to cut it compared to maybe a competitor that’s got more. So that’s a good tip there. You can literally right click and view source code and if you can see that Google can see that. That’s probably a massive tick right there. If you’re going to take one thing away today, I’d say it’s that. I know we could talk forever on, on-page SEO for Shopify, is there one more big, the big key thing that you can give me?

Josh Rimmington:

Yeah. The main thing would that just remember that Google is an algorithm and in the end, what you’re putting out there to it is what it can see. So just making sure the way that we just said about right-clicking and seeing what Google sees on-page can be massive because that’s exactly what Google can see as an algorithm. So just making sure that Google can actually see and that you’ve got an intention of actually what you want to rank for. There are so many things where I just see someone having a brand name on a page and that’s it, but you might actually not want to rank for that brand name because it might not actually be with this stuff. So actually look at your intentions of what you want to rank for and actually having realistic ideas of what you want to rank for as well.

Josh Rimmington:

Because if you’ve got a brand name and that brand’s a massive brand but you don’t want to actually rank for the main brand name, you might want to rank for actually something around buying a product or something around an individual product. Actually making sure that that’s what you’re targeting and not the actual big brand and everything else. Because out of the box solutions like SEO for Shopify and everything else will automatically generate a lot of the stuff that you just put in. And yes, sometimes that might rank but it might not rank for what you actually want it to rank for. So just making sure that you actually understand what your customers want and what you actually want to show for them and tell Google exactly what you want to actually rank for as well. So that would probably be the biggest tip around there and just really around making sure that your not falling for the quick sales of someone trying to sell you this quick overnight solution for SEO.

Josh Rimmington:

You mentioned Fivver and everything else doesn’t fall for thinking that you can just buy some links and then you rank. Sometimes it does work, but Google is a lot smarter than it used to be so they don’t fall for a lot of the little tricks that’ll get you quick little rankings and if they did it wouldn’t last very long. So it’s not a long term business solution for you.

Dave Granfield:

Awesome josh, I’m going to cut this one short because this wasn’t short. This was already nearly half an hour but we’re going to pick up again and talk about off-page in the next episode. But if people don’t get a chance to watch the next episode, where can they find you, my man? Where are you available?

Josh Rimmington:

Yep. So for the business side, jrmg.com.eu or JR Marketing Group on all social media sources is probably the easiest one. For personal stuff, if they search my name, they’ll find me on all social media and the internet everywhere around the place.