Managing an e-commerce enterprise is no mean feat. Above and beyond building a customer base and generating revenue, you also need to establish a strong brand image. And in today’s digital age, a visually appealing, SEO-friendly website is the foundation on which to launch a successful business. The following article details how merchants can propel their brands towards success on the world’s leading e-commerce platform – Shopify.
Designing Attractive Websites On Shopify
As your virtual storefront, an aesthetically pleasing website plays a part in influencing the actions, visitors take upon arriving on your website. In a matter of seconds, they will be forming an opinion on your brand as a whole. If they are not immediately impressed by what they see, it can lead to a higher bounce rate and diminished conversions. On the other hand, a beautifully designed website encourages visitors to explore your e-commerce store further, increasing the potential to convert them into customers with every passing minute.
Depending on your Shopify store needs and budget, a decision will need to be made regarding using a free theme or a paid theme. It is this broad selection of themes that gives Shopify websites distinctive visual styles. Different choices allow for varying levels of customization, allowing each company to create an online presence that aligns with their unique brand aspirations.
Picking Your Theme
Free Shopify Themes
Anything free is often perceived as being of low quality. That’s not the case with Shopify. There is a selection of free Shopify themes, which meet a wide range of e-commerce needs to choose from. Merchants can still create attractive websites with a professional look and feel. Shops with small, medium and large inventories are all catered for.
Some options offer features such as slideshows, sidebar filtering, dynamic product grids, and much more. In addition to this, several third-party themes are on offer at no cost.
Premium Shopify Themes
To reach your full e-commerce potential, premium Shopify themes are the way to go. They offer significantly more features, provide more scope for customization, and look even more visually striking.
It’s also wise to consider your design needs in the future. Premium Shopify themes are a lot more conducive to “future-proofing” your website due to their more customizable and feature-heavy nature. For example, you might be planning on significantly expanding your catalog down the line. This may require a larger or more sophisticated image gallery. By finding a premium theme that offers this flexibility from the onset, you’ll make your life easier as your business and website develop over time.
Once the theme is picked, web designers can get to work to bring your brand identity to life. This helps to differentiate you from competitors and present your business as credible and trustworthy. Numerous studies have been conducted and conclude that customers today are increasingly buying from brands they trust.
But it’s not just the visual element of website design that impacts your business performance. It’s important to go “under the hood” and ensure that your website not only looks good but is also set up for search engine success.
Optimizing Your Shopify Store’s SEO Rankings
The most beautiful website in the world will not be of much help to your business if no one ever sees it. The best performing websites take both the design element and functionality into account. A functional website is easy for people to find using organic search. To make this possible.
Shopify websites are designed to assist your SEO efforts and make it as easy as possible to improve your specific niche rankings. Examples of this come in the form of the platform’s browser caching and CDN utilization.
When it comes to CDN (Content Delivery Network) utilization, Shopify uses Fastly. CDNs enable some of your Shopify content to be stored on servers located in different parts of the world. This approach minimizes the distance between your website content and your users, improving general site performance.
However, additional strategic steps can also be taken to maximize the chances of appearing towards the top of search results and therefore welcome more traffic to your store. These include:
- Developing an “easy to navigate” site structure
- Taking extra measures to increase website speed
- Identifying the right keywords
Developing An “Easy To Navigate” Site Structure
One of the most important steps for ensuring an optimized Shopify website is the site structure. In effect, this tells search engines what your most valuable pages are. It makes it easier for search bots to crawl your website and feed your content to users. The best practice approach for structuring your e-commerce store is to divide it into categories and then further subdivide these into products. A basic example would be a fashion brand having a footwear section with sub-pages for shoes, sandals, and boots.
An “easy to navigate” site structure is also beneficial when visitors arrive on your website. User-friendly navigation enables potential customers to find the information they need quickly and easily means they will spend more time browsing your pages. Such factors also indicate to search engines that your website and content deliver value, meaning they will serve your website up to even more potential customers.
Whether it’s for crawlability or intuitive navigation, a purposeful site structure will help you rank well for several keywords, which positively impacts traffic and revenue.
Taking Extra Measures To Increase Website Speed
Another crucial element that helps to improve your Shopify store’s SEO is website speed. It’s a simple measure of the time it takes your landing pages to load when a visitor comes to your website. Faster websites play a significant role in increasing your conversion rates, which directly impacts your bottom line.
Major search engines such as Google advise that load times should ideally be under 3 seconds. There is a wide array of free diagnostic tools available to measure how your Shopify website fares on this metric. Good examples of these include:
Placing the respective URL into the search field provides an analysis of your website’s speed performance. Suggestions on how to implement improvements are also given. Some easy wins for improving Shopify site speed are provided below.
Optimizing Your Website’s Images
The larger the image file size, the more bandwidth it takes up, which does more to slow down page loading times. That being said, heavy formatting can lead to low-quality images, which does not favor your brand image. By optimizing images on your website, you find the sweet spot between image files being as small as possible with no compromise on image quality to the naked human eye.
There are various plugins available for Shopify to assist with your image optimization efforts. Apps such as SEO Image Optimizer, Crush Pics, and TinyIMG SEO & Image Optimizer will help you optimize your images. They all offer free plans as well.
Avoiding Too Many Plugins
Although using plugins on your Shopify store can provide many benefits, adding too many will negatively impact your site’s speed. The extent to which they will affect this aspect depends on the characteristics and configurations of the plugins themselves.
To assess just how much plugins affect your website’s speed, running a scientific test is a good idea. Doing so benchmarks the site performance using one of the tools for measuring site speed (Pingdom Tools, GTmetrix, or PageSpeed Insights). The next step is to turn off one of the plugins and re-run the test to identify its impact on your results. From there, it’s easier to weigh up the plug-in level of importance against the negative impact on performance and make an informed decision regarding removal.
Identifying The Right Keywords
Another key component of setting up an SEO-friendly Shopify store is identifying the keywords that your customers are using to find brands and products like yours. A combination of some good old fashioned brainstorming and the use of online tools will propel your website to where it needs to be to generate more targeted traffic.
Brainstorming sessions can start with a list of five to ten topics that potential customers will most likely use in a search. This information can come from closely analyzing buyer personas, looking through forums, researching social hashtags related to your niche or products, and studying the best performing competitor sites.
There is also a range of useful SEO tools that improve the end-to-end scope of identifying the right keywords for your store. Some excellent tools include:
- Google Keyword Planner
- Ahrefs Keyword Generator
- Keyword Sheeter
- Answer The Public
There are also many other tools (both free and paid) that will streamline keyword research. Once a good list of keywords has been identified from the research, it becomes a task of incorporating them on the website. A well-optimized Shopify store naturally includes keywords in applicable URLs, page titles, meta descriptions, image ALT text, header tags, and the general website content.
Reap The Benefits Of Attractive, SEO-Friendly Shopify Websites
These are some of the keys to designing attractive, SEO-friendly Shopify websites. After picking a theme that best suits your design needs, an emphasis on the SEO element should become even more of a factor in every decision that’s made. The visual aspect is crucial once visitors arrive on the website, but the search engine optimization behind the scenes will organically reel potential customers in.
Right out-of-the-box, Shopify websites are designed to help merchants start on good standing with search engines. In addition to this, a strategic site structure, taking extra measures to increase website speed, and identifying the right keywords will not just get you in the race but rather will propel your Shopify store towards the top of search results within your niche.