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Shopify SEO: Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid with Kerri Bennett (NEWBIE)

Shopify SEO: Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid with Kerri Bennett (NEWBIE)

Common mistakes that will drag down your conversions

 

So perhaps you’re a new business considering taking the plunge into the Shopify pool.

Or maybe you’ve taken that leap off the diving board, and are already splashing about and wondering if your Shopify site is really up to scratch.

And no matter what you’re selling – whether it’s fun pool floaties, funky garden gnomes, or eco-friendly fashion –  you know you need to rank well on the search engines to reach new customers.

So today I’ll be chatting with my favourite Shopify pro, Kerri Bennett, and we’ll be covering the top ten mistakes people make on Shopify and how you can avoid them.

 

Tune in to learn:

  • What Shopify is
  • The importance of choosing the right theme
  • Why your theme needs to be mobile-friendly
  • What benefits Shopify has over WordPress
  • How to navigate the app store
  • Why you should be putting more attention into your collection pages
  • How many H1’s are the right amount.
  • What steps you should be taking for SEO
  • Why bigger isn’t necessarily better with your images
  • When you should upgrade your theme version.
  • How to preserve your theme before adding new apps or changes.

 

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About Kerri

 

Kerri Bennett is the friendly face behind Geelong SEO agency Yellow Door Digital. After spending ten years as a digital producer for a large publishing and communications agency in Melbourne, Kerri ditched the commute to open the (yellow) doors to her own digital marketing agency.

With her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach, Kerri cuts through the geek-speak to help her clients get clear on what they need to do to succeed online. With a focus on eCommerce websites – particularly those on the Shopify platform – she can help you develop and execute a solid SEO strategy that will take your visitors from click-through to cart.

Interesting fact: Kerri has a really small head – she even has to shop in the kid’s hat section just to get caps that fit right. Buying Covid masks to fit was a challenge too!

 

Connect with Kerri

 

Useful Resources

 

Transcript

 

Kate Toon:
So perhaps you’re a new business considering taking the plunge into the Shopify pool. Or maybe you’ve taken a leap off the diving board and are already splashing about and wondering if your Shopify site is really up to scratch. And no matter what you’re selling, whether it’s pool floaties, funky garden gnomes, or eco-friendly fashion, you know you need to rank well on the search engines to reach new customers.

Kate Toon:
So today I’ll be chatting with my favourite Shopify pro, Kerri Bennett and we’ll be covering the top 10 mistakes people make on Shopify and how you can avoid them.

Kate Toon:
Hello, my name is Kate Toon and I’m the Head Chef at The Recipe for SEO Success, an online teaching hub for all things relating to search engine optimization and digital marketing and today I’m talking with Kerri Bennett. Hi, Kerri.

Kerri Bennett:
Hi, Kate.

Kate Toon:
How are you?

Kerri Bennett:
Good. Thank you for having me.

Kate Toon:
I’m very excited to have you here, and I’m going to read out your bio now. So you just have to sit there and look pretty. Kerri is the friendly face behind Geelong SEO agency Yellow Door Digital. After spending 10 years as a digital producer for a large publishing and communications agency in Melbourne, Kerri ditched the commute to open the Yellow Door to her own digital marketing agency. With her straight talking no nonsense approach, Kerri cuts through the geek speak to help her clients get clear on what they need to do to succeed online.

Kate Toon:
With a focus on e-commerce websites, particularly those on the Shopify platform, she can help you develop and execute a solid SEO strategy that will take your visitors from click through to cart. So there we go. And it says here, I’ve got my interesting facts here which I love. Kerri has a really small head, she even has to shop in the kid’s hat section just to get caps that fit. Oh my god.

Kerri Bennett:
See now everyone googling me, just to see how tiny my head is.

Kate Toon:
I’ve got a giant head. I have the opposite problem. I remember once going horse riding and they didn’t have a horse riding hat big enough and I thought they were going to have to give me the one for the horse. Like, I’ve got a giant, giant, mutant head. So there we go.

Kerri Bennett:
We’re a good match.

Kate Toon:
I know, we are. Big head, little head. Yeah, so there you go, but you know, I’d like to think it’s because my brain is full of brains. My brain is full of brains? My head is full of brains. I don’t know what it is really.

Kerri Bennett:
What does it make my small head?

Kate Toon:
I don’t want to say. I didn’t say nuthin’, but I’m so glad to have you here. For those of you who don’t know, and why would you? Kerri is actually a graduate of The Recipe for SEO Success course. She’s also a member of Digital Masterchef. She is our Shopify expert and really, you’ve totally embraced that platform, haven’t you? I mean obviously you’re au fait with SEO across all platforms but I think we both saw very early on that there was a need for somebody to just help with the Shopify side of things because Shopify implies that it’s all really easy to do, and you kind of really need to do much SEO. It’s SEO out of the box, but we very quickly realised that that wasn’t true, right?

Kerri Bennett:
Oh, absolutely. You’re right. I have become a bit of a Shopify fan girl, but not necessarily from SEO components.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, and I would also add that Kerri is the Shopify expert on the e-commerce module of The Recipe for SEO Success course so she produced content there talking specifically around how to tweak your settings in Shopify. So there we go. Shopify Pro and that’s what we’re talking about today.

Kate Toon:
So let’s start off with the basics for the newbs. If I’m sitting here, as an e-commerce store, and I’m debating whether to go with WordPress, WooCommerce, or Shopify, what would you say the advantages are with Shopify over WordPress?

Kerri Bennett:
That’s a question I get asked a lot. Essentially for me, Shopify is built with e-commerce in mind. The whole intention, the whole reason for Shopify existing is for e-commerce. If you are interested in e-commerce it’s worth looking at whether the solutions right for you. It’s also very friendly, user-interface in the backend, just makes sense as opposed to some of the other platforms that require maybe a little bit of a training and a bit of knowledge on how to use.

Kate Toon:
So they also have some special features that I think you don’t really get with WordPress in terms of the cart checkout experience and all of that. Can you talk to those a little bit?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, sure. So because of the e-commerce focus, they’ve made sure that they’re having checkouts and carts, and everything is around e-commerce as opposed to trying to be everything to everyone. I mean I have clients come to me, and they’re like, “Oh, I should do Shopify, it’s great,” and they’re a service-based business. So it’s not the solution for you, definitely look at WordPress or another platform for that, but because Shopify solely look at e-commerce, they’ve become experts in that and they know how to tweak the cart, to build the sales, help people put more things into their cart and get that smooth transition through the check-out to stop anything stopping people, I guess, dropping off.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, I think that’s the cart abandonment stuff and some of the bells and whistles they have around that are fabulous. I guess we should state straight up that the differences with WordPress as well, obviously, WordPress you can host yourself, you own your domain, you own your hosting, and there is to a degree, some extra bits and bobs that you can do that Shopify won’t let you. Obviously, essentially, Shopify is closed-source, WordPress is open-sourced, there are pros and cons to that, we’re going to talk through some of them today in terms of with Shopify you don’t have to worry about your hosting so much, you don’t have to worry about your security of your backups and things like that. We’ll talk to that a little bit today.

Kate Toon:
I think you know a lot of people would think that Shopify is just easier to get started with. Would you agree? Or what do you think?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, absolutely. Shopify is easier to get started with when you first open your account, they put a theme in there for you, so you can just start developing on that. Putting some pictures in, it’s all quite user-friendly, like I mentioned before from the backend, it makes sense. There’s nothing tricky, there’s no, “Hey, update your PHP,” or “You haven’t connected your hosting,” kind of messages coming at you where you have to delve down and research.

Kerri Bennett:
And Shopify has that 24/7 support as well, so if you get confused about how something works, you can kind of learn on your own terms.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, I think these days when people say, “Which should I choose? Which is better for my SEO?” I’m like, “It’s less about that these days.” All the platforms are catching up in terms of SEO and functionality. It’s more like what kind of human are you, you know? Are you someone that likes to tinker? Or are you someone that likes things ready to go? But that said, there is a lot of tinkering you can do and we’re going to talk to that today.

Kate Toon:
I should also say for disclosure, that all my shops are on WordPress so Kerri is most definitely the expert here. So let’s get stuck into the mistakes and we framed it that way because I think you’ve given a lot of good advice on what you can do but I think mistakes… I guess they make people more stop in their tracks and go, “Oh my god, I didn’t even know that was a mistake,” so that’s why we framed it this way today.

Kate Toon:
I think the biggest mistake I see, and you see it too, is people choosing the wrong theme, or maybe we could say people choosing a cheap theme. So take us through themes. How do we know how to choose the right theme?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, good question. Like I just mentioned, you do get delivered a free theme as soon as you start your Shopify store. I see lots of stores that don’t move away from that, and it’s the most basic. It’s quite fast, but it hasn’t got a lot of functionality to it. It hasn’t got a lot of customization to it, so you’re pretty stock standard.

Kerri Bennett:
Often if I’m talking to someone about renovating their site or upleveling it, we look at a new theme that actually gives them more control over how things are presented, and things like that. The theme… Yeah, you get a lot of free things with Shopify but then they sort of scale up to about $180US and then you can even get some premium themes that are kind of in the $400US dollars kind of area and the more you pay, basically the more support you get from your theme developer. More updates you get from your theme developer, more regularly, and you also get great support from them but more customization ability in the back end.

Kate Toon:
And more flexibility in the front end as well in the way that things look and the way you present things?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, absolutely, that’s right. So one of the recent premium themes that I’ve been using, you can add your own CSS page per page directly to that site, and if that’s not for you, that’s fine, but if you have got that tendency to be technical or want to really tweak something, some of those premium themes have that option.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, I’m thinking when we are working with our students on the Recipe for SEO Success course, I’ll be making recommendations around usability in terms of how the nav is structured, how the page is structured, and often the answer that comes back is, “I can’t change that, because my theme won’t let me,” and so you end up… It’s not that you need to rush out and change your theme today, it’s when you start coming up against things you want to change that that theme won’t let you change, I think another thing that you and I both notice is that different themes have a big impact on site speed.

Kate Toon:
So some themes are a lot faster than others. If you were to say today to somebody looking for a more premium theme that had that flexibility, are there any themes that you would recommend?

Kerri Bennett:
Well I would first look at the navigation structure in new. You hit just on it right then, so a lot of people come to Shopify and it’s so easy to set-up that they dive straight in without any thought about their content planning. The debut theme, which is delivered to you out of the box may actually be fine for you, but you really need to structure where your contents going to go and when Shopify sitting there saying press all the buttons and do all the things, and build your site right now, some of that stuff can get skipped. So I think it’s better to plan what you need so that when you look at the theme, you’re kind of going, “Okay, I’m going to need a really big menu.”.

Kerri Bennett:
If you’ve got 8,000 products, you’re going to need a very different menu structure than if you’ve got three.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, like planning to scale. I think this is it. We should always plan assuming that things are going to be a success, that we’re going to add more products. Maybe we’ll start off with a single product, but we plan with the end in mind. Now another thing, mistake number two, and a big problem that we see, is often there are themes that look great on a desktop, and they say that they’re responsive, but the theme really isn’t mobile friendly when it comes to actually using it. Talk to us about the importance of mobile friendliness with themes.

Kerri Bennett:
Yes, I’m glad you brought that up, Kate, because most of the ones in the shop, or all of the ones in the Shopify theme store are responsive. They will be okay for desktop and okay for mobile. Some of the more premium themes allow you to add different images for mobile, so you really get that thing. In theme places off Shopify, whats happened a lot of the times is someone, a developer, has developed a theme for say WordPress and they want to make a bit more money, so they’ve gone,” Actually, let’s just change it, the same thing, and let’s just code it differently for Shopify.”

Kerri Bennett:
And they chuck it off on some theme place where you can buy your themes from, and it’s not quick, it’s not fast, and they’re not updating that theme either. They’re just looking for the quick buck, so I steer clear of anything that’s not either a Shopify theme or from a Shopify developer specifically.

Kate Toon:
Now on WordPress you can see the number of downloads a particular theme has had and when it was last updated. Is that functionality available in Shopify? Because I think those are two really good ways to judge how invested the theme developer is. You know? If they haven’t updated it since 2018, you maybe want to stay away from that one.

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, that’s a good point. You can’t actually see how many downloads there’ve been, but anything that’s gone into the Shopify store has to be vetted by Shopify itself. I often get my clients to reach out to the developer and just ask them a question because all that information is provided there. At the end of the day, they want to remain in the Shopify theme store so they’re going to be coming back to you with your questions.

Kerri Bennett:
I also askthem for their latest change log, which is a list of changes they’ve done to their theme to keep up with pushing e-commerce forward, which is what Shopify is all about. So ask them for their change log, and most of the time you’ll find that they’re doing updates quite regularly. And it might be something small like supporting currency natively, as in out of the box with their theme, but yeah, if they haven’t updated it in a year or so, which I actually haven’t seen in a Shopify theme that’s done that, but that’s a good way to just test how good this is.

Kerri Bennett:
And I’ll just go on to say that Shopify will allow you to test a theme. So if it’s a $400 theme, you actually have the ability to put it into your store, in draft, even if your store is live, and test how your content looks within that theme.

Kate Toon:
Oh, that’s what I was going to ask you next. Because obviously changing theme on WordPress is a hell of a nightmare these days with short codes and whatever. How easy is the transition from one theme to another in Shopify?

Kerri Bennett:
Well I want to be careful not to say it’s easy, but it’s definitely easier than what you’re saying with WordPress. Shopify have a status of live and then draft mode, and you can pop any theme that you like into draft mode and all the pages, and your products, kind of filter through to that new theme as well. So you can start.

Kerri Bennett:
You do have to do a bit of customising and if you’ve done some custom code to make extra functionality on your live theme, that won’t directly come across, but you can get a really good look about how your website is going to look in a different theme and how you can play with it.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, and I guess the demos are pretty great as well for being able to see what you can do with those themes before you even put it into draft mode as well. Now, question, obviously in Shopify world, plug-ins are apps, so we have a lot of apps in the store and I know that you have feelings about your apps, so our mistake number three is I guess around people choosing bad apps. So talk us through that. How do we know whether an app is worthwhile or not?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, so apps are so tempting in Shopify. It’s like hey, it can do this and it can have this whizbang thing and you start just installing and installing… Majority of the apps on, or a lot of the apps on Shopify store are paid ones, so it’s something you really want to look at. Is this going to be for me.

Kerri Bennett:
You can also look at their installs and how many installs on an app has happened. Unlike the themes, you can actually see what the rating is and things like that on those apps. I had something go terribly wrong with someone the other day, they installed an app, didn’t work, and then I sort of said to them, “You know it’s got three reviews and they’re all bad and it looks like it was just released a month ago. You’re a guinea pig. Do you want to be guinea pig with an app on your live site? Just start doing your research on whether this app is for you.” Just because it’s in the Shopify store, be careful, is this for me, or is this just adding weight to my store because I think it’s shiny and adds a bit of bling. And it’s a pretty easy function, you know? Just click “add to my store” and pretty much configure a few things and it’s working.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, so mistake number three is choosing bad apps but I think another kind of sub-mistake to that is just having too many apps. Apps for everything. Apps that wiggle and jiggle and flash, that maybe you feel are adding value to your site because it’s making it sexier but actually maybe impacting the user experience especially on mobiles.

Kate Toon:
Are there any apps that you would recommend? What are your do or die apps on Shopify?

Kerri Bennett:
I tend to dislike the reviews app from Shopify so I tend to look at a review based app. I’m a more judge.me fan but there’s other ones as well, that are just as good. But yeah, the one that’s built into Shopify natively isn’t great for outreaching people to come back to your store and leave a review, so I always look at putting in a review plug-in and then I always add an e-mail plug-in as well, particularly something that connects really well with e-commerce and understands e-commerce so particularly Klayvio is what I’m hinting at there.So an e-mail app and a reviews app I think is really important.

Kate Toon:
Fantastic, we’re going to have a talk about SEO apps in a second. So the next mistake we have on our list is H1s. Too many? Too few? What’s the mistake that people are making with Shopify and H1s?

Kerri Bennett:
Well, I guess it’s coming to Shopify without an understanding of SEO in the first place. Shopify doesn’t do SEO for you as much as it might take care of most of the technical SEO kind of things. It doesn’t actually add all the words for you, and all the meta descriptions, they’re all the stuff you learned on the Kate Toon Recipe for SEO success course, it doesn’t do that for you.

Kerri Bennett:
So H1 is one of them and everything’s a little different on where they’ve placed the H1. So the homepages are something I do a bit of work on. Having one H1 is ideal on a homepage with that strong keyword. I often find and have found on ones that have come out of a non-Shopify store-bought theme, they might have 21 H1s on the homepage and it’s just crazy.

Kerri Bennett:
So homepages are a little bit tricky with Shopify getting that one H1 and it might take a little bit of code or just finding where the right place to have that H1 is and that’s where, again it’s a Shopify theme or a Shopify developer theme, you can reach out to them and just say, “Hey, how can I have the most effective H1, where can I edit that?”

Kerri Bennett:
If it’s the debut theme, you’re kind of stuck. It’s wrapped around the logo so you have to maybe have a second H1 or do some coding to get it out of there. On one of the more premium themes you have the option to add in a H1 just through some HTML code.

Kate Toon:
It’s interesting isn’t it, because you’d think these people that were developing themes would have at least a basic understanding of things like H1s. For those of you who are listening and are like, “What’s an H1?”. A H1 is a header tag so there’s an idea in SEO that the H1 has a little bit more weight than any of the other headers. You have H1 to H6 and then ideally, if you can, you have one H1, and you put your primary keyword there.

Kate Toon:
But you’d think the theme developers would kind of know this and not be doing dumb stuff like wrapping the H1 tag around the logo. It just goes to show that the different levels of themes within Shopify offer wildly different experiences. Hopefully they’ll all get better over time.

Kate Toon:
Now you’ve touched on mistake number five just then and the mistake is that people kind of tend to think that Shopify does SEO for you and that you don’t need to do anything. So let’s talk about that.

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, wouldn’t it be nice if we just had a particular platform that we opened it up, we put in a little brief description about what we did, and our SEO is done and we’re number one in all the things we want to be. That’ll be heaven, wouldn’t it? But no, it doesn’t do any of the SEO for you, it does provide space for you to complete that, and it will have meta descriptions and title tags, and even opportunities to put H1s on deeper pages, not so much for home page. If you don’t fill it out, it would just take it from your content. So not doing anything can sometimes be detrimental.

Kate Toon:
And when we talk about plug-ins for SEO on Shopify, what would be your top recommendations for the… Sorry, see? I’m such a WordPress girl. What are your top SEO apps that you use?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, well I’ve called them plug-ins too, Kate, so don’t fear that too much, but I try to avoid them to be honest. I just recently had a client and their SEO on their site was terrible. It was actually wrong. It was throwing errors particularly and they previously had an SEO app installed, they uninstalled it, and it pretty much wiped any ability to have SEOs, so even their homepage was like a colon or something, some strange character.

Kerri Bennett:
So I try to avoid them at all cost and just do SEO in your top kind of pages. If you’ve got a huge site, 8,000 pages, it’s going to be difficult to start from scratch, but I find that the reliance on the SEO apps… You still have to do the work anyway, so unless you’ve got a really good reason to duplicate it scale, I would try and do it natively yourself, within the platform, and save yourself the load speed of having another app have to load.

Kate Toon:
So you can go into individual pages, edit the title tag, edit the meta description, add image alts, all that kind of stuff without the need for an app. That’s great to know. We just did a previous episode with Dan Petrovic about e-commerce optimization and AB testing and forecasting the impact of optimising particular pages. So for anybody listening who wants to go back and listen to that episode, it was really interesting about if you do have an e-commerce store with 8,000 pages, how do you decide which pages to tackle and what do you do on them?

Kate Toon:
And I think that’s so important because SEO is not just adding a title and meta. There’s so much you can do within the page itself, in terms of structuring. Top little plug here, head to the SEO shop and get the SEO friendly product description template, which will just help you create continuity and improve the usability of your product descriptions.

Kate Toon:
We could talk about that all day and I think one of the biggest issues I see with on-page optimization in Shopify is image optimization, and that’s actually your mistake number six, image optimization. So what kind of issues do you see there when it comes to Shopify and images?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, so like we mentioned before, you don’t magically get a little book about how to run SEO once you sign up for Shopify. As you and I both know, having images that aren’t so weighty they’re going to slow down your site is really important. You can have an app that will resize that for you on the site but it’s also worthwhile resizing your image to fit the particular space it’s being used for within Shopify, so that you’re getting that load time that’s not having to load something that’s 3,000 pixels wide when it only needs to be about 300 wide.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I think again, with WordPress or apps that will smoosh your image when on the site, but it’s so, so, important that you get the dimensions correct and the k size before you upload and then maybe that app is just skimming off a couple of K here and there, but it’s not doing the lion share of the work. How does Shopify handle responsive images? The question that people ask immediately is how big should I make the image then? It’s going on my homepage and I’ve got a big computer so it looks to me it’s 2,500 pixels. Should I be measuring on the width of my computer or do the themes give you dimensions that you can work with?

Kerri Bennett:
The themes and within the backend of Shopify generally would give you a recommended size. Generally it would be a recommended width but not necessarily height, so that it will be adapted to the height of the site. But you can try different sizes as well but having a good program where you can do it outside of Shopify and bring it in, I think is worthwhile. Yeah, just so you’ve got more control over it and something… They’re recommending 1,800 wide, that’s kind of for the best presentation but you may find that you can actually have a different image and have it a bit smaller if you wanted to as well.

Kate Toon:
And with those premium themes, they will also adapt that image for the different sizes of devices or allow you to take that image out from mobile. You can play around with them with those premium themes and I think that’s an interesting point you raise, as width is defined. The depth often isn’t the height. And that’s one big issue, again, I see on Shopify sites that they have some giant image on the homepage of a girl in wellie boots jumping in a puddle. And it is literally 3,000 pixels high as well, so it takes up the whole screen, on my phone I’m scrolling, my thumb gets fatigued just trying to get past that first image to actually see a product or understand what your store is about.

Kate Toon:
So that’s another problem as well. People not having enveloped sized images, instead just having almost A4 images on the homepages. I see that a lot, don’t you? Let’s have the biggest image we can possibly have because we paid a lot of money for it, so we want to make it nice and big.

Kerri Bennett:
Then they need to look at that image and how it forms on mobile because some of the themes will actually pick the centre part of the image and show that. And if that’s just the raindrops of the person jumping in the puddle, that’s going to be really useless to you. Like you mentioned, some of the premium themes allow you to control that presentation on mobile a little bit more, but you need to have a look at it on mobile.

Kerri Bennett:
We all love to look at our websites and you know the big screens on desktop but the truth of the matter is most people are looking, especially to e-commerce, on their mobile phones. So be always checking how your presentation is on mobile and how that theme that you’ve got works on a mobile device.

Kate Toon:
So, so, important. I mean I just think people should be following the whole flow. You know you shared your products on Instagram, click on it, where does it take you? How easy is it to check out? How does everything render? Do the images make sense? So often you’re right. You get the odd bit of the image that is nonsensical or that beautiful plug-in that offers you a carousel of images which just doesn’t function very well.

Kate Toon:
It says it’s responsive but trying to get your thumb over the right element is really, really hard. I think there’s also, we’ve touched on this one, we talked about mistake number two: themes that are responsive. But when you actually try and use them, they’re not that great from user experience. We’re going to talk about user experience next. That was a great segue.

Kate Toon:
Mistake number seven, the speed of Shopify sites. So what are your thoughts there? What mistakes do people make around speed?

Kerri Bennett:
Oh well for starters they focus on speed constantly and I’m not saying speeds not important either, but often people hear, reading information, speeds really important, I need to make it faster and Shopify have done a bit of a disservice in the fact that they’ve got this metric on the dashboard that says your site is slower than everybody else. And the problem with that is they’re actually comparing the whole ecosystem of Shopify stores so those people that are on that debut theme that we’ve talked about earlier and haven’t really even done anything with their site, haven’t added any images, because they’re just kind of thinking that this store or doing it as a bit of a hobby side-business, your store that has functionality and has lots of images on or 8,000 products is actually up against that in that ecosystem.

Kerri Bennett:
So that Shopify speed score is really causing some frustration because they think, “Oh, it’s an issue. It’s a problem.” Go off site, look at GT metrics or Pingdom, so some tools that allow you to get a bit of a more generic overview of your site and the speed that that’s loading at. If it’s 1.5 seconds, move on. Move on, people. That’s great.

Kate Toon:
It’s funny because we have this every round in the course. Week 2 is where people do their site speed and I think… Shopify people, you don’t know how lucky you’ve got it because most Shopify sites I see, do load under three seconds. They just… Most of them do, and if they don’t, it’s usually that giant image of the puddle which is very easy to resolve. WordPress people have a few more problems but again, even somebody that’s got a 1.5 speed site will sometimes get that error message and it really throws people.

Kate Toon:
And then they start throwing elements out of their site and kind of ruining their site to try and get it even lower, and it’s like 1.5? Under three? You’ve got other things you can think about. Go and optimise your product descriptions. Go and think about which products you’re showing on your homepage. Look at your checkout. The other thing I think will be interesting to see how Shopify handles core web vitals and how they look at the load of the theme because I do see with some Shopify sites the shuffle.

Kate Toon:
We call it cumulative layout shift where the site is loading, you’re just trying to click on that button and all of the sudden it jumps down the page because now the image is ready to load in, thanks very much, and then you try and click the button again and it shuffles again. It’s kind of like trying to chase a mouse around the page. And I think that’s going to be a major metric for Google from May onwards. It’ll be interesting to see, and of course what will happen is that the premium themes will jump on that straight away because they know that that’s in their best interests. But it’ll be interesting to see how the free themes respond to that.

Kate Toon:
So if you haven’t understood or listened to the episode about core web vitals, it is a bit techy, but essentially it’s about how, not just about how fast your site loads, but how quickly can I interact with it, how does it load in terms of does it take ages for certain images to load, how much does the page wiggle and jiggle as it loads? The only way to try and find that out sometimes is to look at your site on a really slow internet speed.

Kate Toon:
So throttle your internet speed. You can use the Lighthouse element in Chrome to choose a 3G network and see how your site loads and then you will see all the flaws because all these things are happening but they happen so swiftly that we don’t see them, but Google see them. So there we could do a whole another episode on that but I just wanted to mention that it’s not just speed, it’s about speed to interact, and speed until the site becomes fully formed and usable.

Kate Toon:
So yeah, and that’s kind of a combination of speed and user experience. So the next big issue that we see, mistake number eight, is around duplicating and backing up your theme. So what mistake are people making there?

Kerri Bennett:
So a lot of people are making changes to their live site and not doing a duplication, which is a real shame, because Shopify make it really easy to duplicate your theme, see how something works or looks, or what it changes again. Looking at it on mobile and that type of stuff, before making it live.

Kerri Bennett:
When I’m talking about apps, I prefer that you install an app on a duplicated theme rather than on your live one because if that app is something that you… Some apps actually inject code into your website. They have to do it to function but if that injects code and it’s on your live site, when you delete that app, you’re actually not deleting that code, it’s just deleting the payment gateway between that app and Shopify.

Kerri Bennett:
So I like to recommend to my clients to duplicate the theme first, add in the app, test it out, and if you don’t want it, move back to your live theme that’s clean without any of that injected app code.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, I think with the apps the message I’m getting is a lot of people get excited, they install all the apps, they play around, and that can be a real headache, and there’s probably something where you come in, one of the first things you do is go through and just say, “Why you got this app?” And you’re just deleting, deleting, and deleting. But then you equally have to go into the theme and take the code out as well.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, I think just because there’s an app there that does something, doesn’t mean you need to have it. Is that your message Kerri, I think?

Kerri Bennett:
Be really careful about that code because that code gets left hanging around, it can cause some dramas for you and you wonder what’s going on with my site? Oh, I’ve deleted that app, it’s gone, and you can actually reach out to the app developers as well and say how do I safely uninstall this? And they would sometimes get access to your site and uninstall it themselves or they would give you the direct instructions to do it. That’s with the good apps. Some of them don’t.

Kerri Bennett:
And not all apps actually inject code but there are some, so it’s worthwhile keeping a clean theme, as much as you can, which kind of relates back to that speed thing, right? We get too much junk code on there. You’ve had your site for nine years, you’ve installed hundreds of apps, there’s probably a stack of code floating around in there that you don’t need so it’s going to slow it down no matter what. Try and keep a clean theme, it’s like wiping your bench after your dinner.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, a bit of a spring clean as well every now and again and to just have an order of your Shopify site and just look through what you’ve installed and what was installed previously. You know? Especially if you inherit a site because obviously people do sometimes inherit a site, they buy businesses, and one of the first things I would do when you get that site is have someone like Kerri have a good audit through it, give it a good spring clean so that you know you’re starting with a nice, clean, bench top, as you said.

Kerri Bennett:
And you can actually reach out to Shopify and say, “Here’s my website, can you tell me the apps that have been uninstalled?” They kind of resisted a little bit but keep pushing, and they will actually have a list of all the apps that have been at any time installed onto that theme.

Kate Toon:
Oh, yeah. That’s wonderful, isn’t it? Okay, mistake number nine, collection pages. What are the mistakes that people are making there?

Kerri Bennett:
They don’t know what they are and they just use them as a transition page. A collection page is really under utilised in regards to even creating a collection to line up with the Facebook ad can be important as well. It might not appear on your navigation but it might almost be like a landing page for all your black dresses or something like that, that you’ve got going on.

Kerri Bennett:
Collection pages, if I look at Shopify, you’ve got your homepage which has got it’s own little bits and pieces, and then you’ve got your collection pages, which are a type of page, and then you have your product pages and when I look at someone’s site, they’re the three types of templates or pages that I’m looking at.

Kerri Bennett:
Collection pages have a lot of opportunity to drag people through all the products they’ve got, tell them information about that particular collection, you can add content to that page as well, which a lot of people don’t, and you need to optimise pages as well. Just like the product pages and the homepage, you have the opportunity to do the title and meta descriptions, you can add H1s into that page as well, so it’s worthwhile, optimising your collection pages just as much as your homepages, or your product pages.

Kate Toon:
Yeah, so collection pages are similar to category pages in e-commerce world. Totally underestimated, they have so much power. The further a page up is in that kind of pyramid structure, the power that it is, can drive a lot of traffic to that pages whereas most people focus on driving traffic to the individual products, but category pages can be hugely powerful, so I love that.

Kate Toon:
Okay, mistake number ten, and then we have a couple of questions from our listeners. Upgrading your theme, what mistakes are people making there?

Kerri Bennett:
Well I think, not doing a backup of your theme to start with, so it’s pretty easy to just duplicate that theme like we mentioned before, so you’ve got that copy of that. Shopify don’t necessarily need to back up your theme but I would take an export of your customers occasionally. If the world falls down tomorrow and your customers are gone, that’s a bit of a problem, right? I’ve never seen it happen with Shopify but I’m the kind of person that measures twice and cuts once, is that the saying?

Kate Toon:
I think so. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, making sure that you’ve download… It’s quite a simple process, go into customers and then you can export them. You can do that with your orders as well and then you can have a copy of your theme as well. So just having that as a bit of a check.

Kerri Bennett:
I did have an issue with there are lots of apps that you can have as well to do backups for you, and if you’ve got multiple people working on your site, you may want to look at some of those apps because if Kate Toon’s making some changes to my site, and I’m making some changes as well, and Kate says, “Hey, I actually haven’t done that but I’ve tried,” and she did it to the live version, you know you may want to have a rollback thing with your backups.

Kerri Bennett:
But for the most part you don’t need to. I did have a situation with one app that just meant that the changes wouldn’t hold any more because the app was a bit crap and we actually uninstalled it, safely uninstalled it, and got rid of all the code because it just would do the changes and then 10 minutes later, they’d disappear again because it was just rewinding it back to the original version.

Kerri Bennett:
So they can cause a bit of issue but they also can be very useful but mainly when its multiple teams and multiple people using the site.

Kate Toon:
I think the message I’m getting from this and I think it’s interesting is that many people just think Shopify is super straight forward. You build your site, boom, you’re done. But I think it’s great that we’re highlighting some of the complexities and the issues, especially as your site gets bigger and especially as you want to achieve more and maybe rank for more keywords, get more traffic.

Kate Toon:
There is a degree of work to be done, and it could be good to have an expert in your back pocket to ask these questions to. Now we’ve got a couple of questions from members of the I Love SEO group on Facebook. The first ones from Rosie Robinson, and her website is Wuf Design.

Kate Toon:
“Is there an app you would recommend for implementing schema?” That’s the first question. She’s got two, so we’ll start out with that one.

Kerri Bennett:
So schema, yes and no. So a lot of the themes and Shopify mandate this now as well, have to have some schema built in. What they didn’t mandate is how much schema they have to have built in. So I would check first, what schema you’ve got included in your theme per se. And like we mentioned before, it’s more obvious that their premium themes are going to have more schema attached to them or built in already.

Kerri Bennett:
And then you’d want to look at what schema do you actually want to put in there. So having a look at how much schema it’s already got, deciding on whether an app, which is the best way to put schema into your site that I have found… I have got a particular app that I use, it’s by a company called Little Stream Software and most apps… It’s called JSON for SEO I think is the name of it, by Little Stream Software. It is in the Shopify store but it’s got a one-off fee, which usually with Shopify apps you have to pay ongoingly whereas this one has a one-off fee.

Kerri Bennett:
So if you do need to get to that end and have extra schema installed, there is an option, however have a look at how much schema you’ve got on your theme already, just out of the box.

Kate Toon:
One thing that we notice as well a lot in the Digital Masterchef’s crew is that people are quite au fait with schema. If you’re not, listen to the episode about schema and they’re going into Google Search Console and they’re getting warnings saying that this tag or this tag is missing, and they’re freaking out.

Kate Toon:
Clearly if it’s missing, it’s just not part of your platform. You don’t need to have every single e-commerce related schema tag on your site. Your main ones would be product name, price, availability, star ratings, you might not have every single one that Google Search Console looks for but remember, a warning is not an error. We get that all the time, don’t we Kerri?

Kate Toon:
Kerri is constantly saying, “It’s not an error, it’s just saying you could have this, but you don’t, so don’t worry about it.”

Kerri Bennett:
And even if it is an error, because these things are being used by a lot of people, often the developer, if they’re doing regular updates, will have updated that theme so it stops happening because they’re getting so many queries sometimes, so look at your theme version, and look at the latest theme version, and there’s a chance there’s been an update done as well, so you won’t actually have to install that app or anything like that.

Kate Toon:
Okay, great. Now this is a big question so we’ll try and answer it briefly. Again, from Rosie. “Any tips and hints about Shopify and the Google Shopping Feed?”

Kerri Bennett:
It is a bit of a big question. It’s great in Australia that Shopify has made it really easy to connect to Google Merchant Centre, so that’s quite a simple process but then it goes on to have to add all these different elements to it as well and that can be quite a process, so don’t underestimate how long of a time it can take to get all your products sorted out and add the right information in there for your Google Shopping feed.

Kate Toon:
Would that be something that you would work with the Google Ads person with? To help you do that?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, absolutely. So when I’m working with someone, we make sure that it’s installed and it’s installed correctly and it’s quite an easy process. Shopify have done a good job to make that quite simple but the second step, definitely with a Google Ads expert or someone that’s even a Google Merchant expert to help you make sure that your products are coming through correctly, and it will show you on the dashboard that how many are live with Google Merchant Centre and how many aren’t, but unpack if they’re not coming up.

Kerri Bennett:
It may be some wording, it may be some missing information. I recently had one and some of the language used in that was indicating some content that they don’t allow. It wasn’t accurate, and the client subsequently got it listed, but yeah, it might be just something you have to work through with the Google Merchant Centre expert or a Google Ads expert.

Kate Toon:
Perfect. And I think the next question was just from Leanne Tubby, I think we’ve kind of covered this but is Shopify the same as WordPress in terms of plug-ins, add-ons, forget functionality, I think there’s comparisons, there’s different plug-ins, different apps, but I think we’ve kind of covered that.

Kate Toon:
I guess my question, which I’ve had many times in the groups and communities is around the cost of Shopify. One of the reasons why people go with WordPress is it can seem… The decision people make is financial so with WordPress you have to pay for your hosting, you have to pay for your domain, you have to pay for backup security. You can get WooCommerce but if you want to have any of the add-ons, you’re paying for those, and to people… Then obviously you’re maybe you’re even also paying for maintenance, so someone to make sure your site is up to date every month, check the plug-ins, $50 dollars, whatever a month for that.

Kate Toon:
So people can say, “Well WordPress is expensive. I’m going to go with Shopify because it’s a set fee.” But from what everything you’ve said today, A, that fee changes I think as you sell more products, is that right? And also you’ve talked about paying for certain plug-ins, paying for certain themes, it sounds like it can be just as costly in the end to have a Shopify site?

Kerri Bennett:
Yeah, absolutely. You know those shiny plug-ins or apps that we talked about earlier can all add up and they all have those lucrative free trials that you can have, and there are some genuinely good free apps, but essentially I think that when you’re starting your Shopify store you need to pick a plan, and it’s $29 to $299 dollars for the main Shopify ones, but then also create a bit of an app budget, so you’re going, “Okay, maybe I’ll spend $20 a month as a maximum,” and look at… You’ve got to do the math, right? On how much you’re making.

Kerri Bennett:
And whether adding that particular app is going to add value to your store, right? We talked about the SEO one before… If you needed that, if you had to have that, is that going to help you make more money at the check-out at the end of the day? So balancing what you’re spending on apps with what you’re making through the checkout as well, is important.

Kerri Bennett:
Don’t get too carried away by all the shiny things you can do. The big wheels you can spin-

Kate Toon:
I hate those wheels. God, I hate those wheels.

Kerri Bennett:
Please take all your wheels off.

Kate Toon:
Wheels to Shopify are like sliders to WordPress. They’re just the worst thing ever. They look sexy but they’re really weird in usability. And I think as well, we talk a lot when we talk about WordPress about having someone, a developer, even if you are DIYing, having a developer there that can help you in crisis mode, or can just do check-in with you once every three, six months, whatever, to check that everything’s going okay.

Kate Toon:
So that’s another cost that I think you need to consider. DIY is great, but DIY will always only get you so far and sometimes a quick chat with an expert who says, “Nah, nah, nah. That plug-in, that app, don’t use it. It looks good but it’s not good,” can save you so many hours and so much money in the long term.

Kate Toon:
And obviously now you all know Kerri so she can be your go to person. So Kerri, thank you so much for coming on today and talking about mistakes. I’m just going to quickly recap.

Kate Toon:
The ten mistakes for those of you who got lost along the way were; choosing the right theme, making sure your theme is mobile friendly, thinking about best apps for you, considering the use of H1s and other SEO elements and whether your theme allows you to edit them or alter them, remembering that SEO isn’t taken care of for you on Shopify, there’s still work to do, thinking about your images, thinking about speed and user experience and the compromise between the two, making sure you duplicate and back up your theme, considering collection pages, and ensuring they are well optimised, and when you update your theme, making sure you do all the stuff to make sure that it’s safe and sound and you’re not going to lose all the wonderful customizations that you’ve made.

Kate Toon:
So thank you so much, Kerri. Where can people find out more about you?

Kerri Bennett:
Well, I’m at yellowdoordigital.com.au or you can find me sometimes on Instagram as well but I’m usually delving too deep in Shopify sites to pay attention to my socials. All the social media people are going to cringe, but yes, generally the websites the best place to leave me a message or reach out to me.

Kate Toon:
Fantastic. Well I’ve included links to your Instagram, your Twitter, and your Facebook which will probably be sorely under maintained, but we don’t mind because we’ve also got a link to your Yellow Door Digital site. Kerri’s also a member of the I Love SEO group on Facebook and she is our resident expert in the Digital Masterchef’s Shopify group, so you can find her there as well.

Kate Toon:
Kerri, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been smashing.

Kerri Bennett:
Always smashing to talk about Shopify, Kate, so thanks for having me.

Kate Toon:
Ah, that was special. I love that. I feel like I learnt a lot about Shopify then. I think sometimes I’m guilty of dismissing Shopify a little bit, so that was good to hear the pros and the cons and get a realistic picture from the wonderful, Kerri. So that’s the end of this week’s show. If you have questions about Shopify SEO then you can head to the I Love SEO group on Facebook. Kerri’s actually a member there, she also runs audits of websites. If you’re thinking, “Oh my god, I’m guilty of all those mistakes,” then for sure head to the episode notes and hit her up for an audit.

Kate Toon:
And we have shout out now for one of the lovely listeners. Thank you so much for leaving these testimonials. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. It’s a bit of a one way street, this podcast. I don’t get much feedback from people on whether they’re liking it or not, so these testimonials really help.

Kate Toon:
This is from MC Electric and they write, “It was time I started to get a better grasp of SEO for my blog and website, and this podcast has been the perfect place for me to start. Thanks.” So thank you for that MC Electric, and thank you to you for listening. You can leave reviews on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you heard this show. As I said, you can head to the show notes for this episode, therecipeforseosuccess.com where you can learn more about Shopify, read the transcript, and check out the useful links as well as being able to get in contact with Kerri Bennett as well.

Kate Toon:
So thank you everybody for listening, and until next time, happy SEOing.