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260: Ecommerce SEO in 2020: What Actually Moves The Needle

Posted by Austin Brawner on July 14, 2020

With Facebook boycotts, changing advertising policies, and channel unpredictability, it’s more important now than ever to invest in what you can control.

The approach to search engine optimization (SEO) has changed over the last several years, but it still remains an incredibly important component of your marketing strategy.

This week’s guest is SEO consultant and expert Dan Shure. Dan’s been working in SEO for more than 12 years, and he joins us to talk about what’s changed over time when it comes to SEO strategy, the two different types of core content to focus on, what’s working in ecommerce SEO in 2020 and the tools you should be using to be successful.

This episode has some great actionable tips you can start using today, and I hope you enjoy!

Episode Highlights

  • 5:16 How Dan fell into SEO while working as a professional musician
  • 7:50 What is SEO really? Is it a channel, a traffic source, links, or something else?
  • 13:30 The #1 thing business owners need to think about when it comes to ecommerce SEO in 2020
  • 15:49 Informational intent vs. purchase intent content and how you should be using each in your SEO strategy
  • 18:53 Letting the keywords be your guide as you’re thinking about creating content with informational or purchase intent
  • 22:40 Breaking down seed keywords and how to identify them for your brand
  • 26:04 Why Dan shifted from an agency business model to a consulting and training model
  • 31:35 The technical pieces of SEO you need to watch out for in ecommerce
  • 33:55 Should you have a developer on your team to help you with technical SEO?
  • 35:34 Shopify blog or WordPress blog: which is better for SEO?
  • 37:20 What’s working right now with content: remember that keywords are king
  • 42:56 Backlinks: do you need them and how to build them proactively
  • 46:30 Must-have tools for ecommerce SEO in 2020

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Transcript

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner, and today I'm doing a solo interview. My co-host Andrew Foxwell is taking it break from this week's podcast. And today I'm bringing you an episode that I am really, really excited about, you know, in this space, the ecommerce space, the digital marketing space, you tend to realize that you've been in it for a while, it's a small space. And it often comes you learn about people from word of mouth referrals.

And I was searching for somebody to come on the podcast and talk about SEO. And I reached out to a couple of friends and a bunch of people just directed me to this one person named Dan Shure. And they said, you know, Dan's been doing it for a long time. He's super technical. He knows a ton. And today's episode, I bring Dan on the podcast, and it does not disappoint. Dan is truly somebody who has spent his career diving into and understanding what SEO is we get into a lot have both like philosophical ideas around how to think about search engine optimization, what the algorithm is and how we like what how it what it means to your business and also go more practical with some, some like legit tips and tricks. And he shares a bunch of tools that you can use for SEO that just right there in the episode, it's probably worth the listen, to hear the stuff he's using.

And again, these aren't expensive tools. He's got all these very unique tools that are kind of like plugins and stuff he uses to make his job a little bit easier. So if you run a business or if you work at an agency and you're interested in SEO, this episode is going to be a fascinating deep dive with a guy who really, really knows his stuff. So let's welcome Dan to the show.

Dan Shure: Hello, thank you for having me.

Austin Brawner: I'm excited, man. I'm really excited to chat with you. You know, I kind of put some feelers out to connect with somebody who is really in the know around SEO and search engine optimization and, and I just kept getting back, multiple people telling me to reach out and connect with you. And, you know, I sent you a voicemail on your website, we connected and I'm just excited to chat and learn a little bit more about what you're doing and and hear kind of about what what you do.

So I gave our audience a little bit of an intro, but I'd love for you to share, you know, a little bit of an intro of who you are and maybe some of your kind of marketing expertise.

Dan Shure: Sure. So I'm a typical sort of SEO practitioner story in terms of how I got into SEO, I got into SEO by like doing something completely different and then falling into it. Leading up to my start in SEO, which was about 12 years ago now, I was a professional musician. So I was teaching piano lessons and I have a classical piano degree, which is the most worthless type of degree if you want a job from that degree and I will was gigging full time and everything.

And then, you know, got married and wanted to sort of get a "real job." So I stumbled into SEO because I had been making websites for myself and for my dad's businesses, and myself, and everybody wanted to know at that time, how do we rank better in Google? In fact, it's how I built one of my piano teaching studios. I got like, half of my customers from doing local SEO on my own website.

And then as I got an SEO full time and did it professionally, you know, I started with some small mom and pop companies, my dentist, some other music schools, and kind of started working up towards you know, other bigger companies eventually, a lot of ecommerce companies I've worked with along the way, including a few right now. And so you know, it's been a been kind of a slow build up.

Now, I'm really lucky enough to work with some, a few notable companies, so Butcher Box, they're meat delivery company, some people might be familiar with them. WGBH is Boston's local NPR channel a lot of digital content and things like that there, did a two projects for an experimental group within Zappos a few times. So that was definitely fun on the ecommerce side of things. So, yeah, SEO is a, there's a lot happening these days. So I'm excited to get into it.

Austin Brawner: It's interesting because you say there's a lot happening these days because there's been a lot happening I feel like in SEO for a long time and you know, when I look back at kind of the I think the way that one of our mutual friends and clients, when he was connecting me said I should reach out to you he said, "He's one of the oh geez in the SEO world. He's been doing it for a long time."

And it's really interesting, because when I look at the industry, you know, SEO was like, incredibly popular for everybody go into consulting for a while. This is man five, maybe seven years ago, eight years ago, something like that. Yeah, I remember it being incredibly popular, it's like the thing to do. And then it was like Facebook advertising and then SEO has continued to evolve and change. I would love to hear kind of your perspective on what SEO even is and what it means.

Dan Shure: Yeah, I mean, I'll give you a real direct answer to me SEO is a layer on top of everything so it's not a channel right that's the mistake people make is they call it like they think of it like PPC is a channel or social media. It's not only a traffic source, I mean, you can get traffic from the search engine but actually doing implementing and thinking about SEO is literally it's a layer on top of everything. So you have development you got to layer SEO to that you have content you got to layer SEO into that social YouTube on and on and on.

There's a really great quote from a really true OG in the SEO world. His name is Adam Audette and he says SEO should be invisible, which I really love because it truly means SEO is like it's kind of this it's like air you know, it's everywhere. So that's really how I think of SEO and I and on a more philosophical level, I have this thing where I call SEO, Search Ecosystem Optimization. And what I mean by that is, you have the entire digital ecosystem, which in my mind is like a mirror of the real world. So like everything in the real world sort of has a mirror in the digital world.

And when you think of it like that the search engine is the bridge between the real world and the digital world. And it's our job as SEO is to understand search engines and how they work as much as possible by like, studying patents and reading Google's guidelines and listening to what Googlers, say, and of course doing your own studies. But then it's really up to us to utilize not only how can we you know, leverage search to get traffic, but what can we learn from search engines as if they're a database?

Because when you really think about it, when you do keyword research, that's literally a database of like human psychology, right like that. You have data around what people wants, desires, problems, struggles, needs are with search volume and everything and how that's changed over time. So that's really how I think about like SEO is really, you know, this large thing. It's as biggest life itself in in many ways.

So that's where I think a lot of people get confused because it's sort of like losing the forest from the trees sort of scenario where, you know, you get so tunnel vision into like SEO is links, right? Well, that's part of how you get websites to rank well, and how you can show Google authority and topical relevance, but it's not all of SEO. So that's where people run into traps is they don't see the big picture.

And that's one thing I think, quite funny enough music has helped give me the ability to do what because when you're like composing a symphony or thinking about a musical score, you need to think macro and micro simultaneously. And I think that's one key pillar of doing really good SEO and SEO strategy and consulting for businesses. You know, you can't ever lose sight of the big picture and the little picture at the same time.

Austin Brawner: It's super fascinating and it's something I haven't heard anybody else talk about when they are describing SEO it's the only person I've heard talking about this a little bit is Naval mentioned that the people who have the most power in our society are the people who are determining the algorithms or tweaking the algorithms and it's interesting because it's almost like almost talking about like crafting reality for people, whatever shows up in front of somebody when they're searching for something and they're expecting an answer is almost like you're crafting the reality in their life and that's super interesting and powerful.

Dan Shure: Yeah, when you think about it like algorithms really do run things like I look at, my wife's family we all went to this like, acapella concert like two years ago like hugely known acapella group, they sing like really popular songs, but when they were performing, they described how they found one of their singers. And it was they just searched for something in YouTube, chose the top result, and it happened to be somebody that worked perfect for them. But like that, literally that musical group exists in that way because of the algorithm. And then the reason why they could sell out big arenas is because of YouTube.

So it is really funny how everything's falling back on itself. We're like, the internet is a mirror of the digital world. But now the internet is influencing the real world. So it is a very, very unique times we're living in for sure.

Austin Brawner: Super unique time. super fascinating. And it also highlights just how important it is to like think about this and talk about this and you know, as a business owner, to really think about crafting the reality that you want people to see around the experience that they have with you. Exactly.

We've talked a lot about kind of the evolve like the SEO, and how its evolved. I'm saying evolving SEO as the name of your company, your website as well. But how it's evolved? I would love to get a picture of like, what is it like to today? We're in, you know, 2020. And I think that sometimes people have an idea of SEO that's a little bit antiquated, right? It's like, what used to work all these different things. If you own a business, you an ecommerce business, what, what even matters today? And how should business owners be thinking about it about like, where to spend their time?

Dan Shure: Yeah, the biggest thing for ecommerce when I work with ecommerce companies, the number one thing that a lot of them get wrong, or when they get it right that works really well is really understanding search intent, meaning that at a basic level, Google looks at transactional searches as having one intent, and then informational searches as having another, so you can't rank for men's shoes for sale with a blog post about men shoes, right? Because 'men shoes for sale' is a transactional intent search intent, the clue is right in the part of the keyword that says for sale.

So ecommerce site owners or anybody working on ecommerce should really understand their keyword landscape. That's like the number one thing with SEO and so many people overlook that, or they don't spend enough time really separating out all of the various keywords that they could be covering.

I worked with another ecommerce site, pretty big, fairly well known men's retailer, they didn't have a winter jackets category, which is insane. I mean, probably a lot of ecommerce listeners hearing that, that they they think that that's probably crazy, but it was just overlooked. And so when you don't have a page for a product category, you can't rank for that product category. So it's about understanding that men's jackets or men's winter jackets for sale is a keyword with search volume. And if ecommerce sites want to wants to rank for that they need a page for it and a good keyword is one just simply that has volume. And that where the ecommerce owner has enough products, maybe five at minimum to include an a category result for that. And where it's not really just a synonym for another category, right? So you don't do like what's like a closing synonym, like jeans and denim, right? Like that's kind of a synonym. So obviously, you can roll those into one page. But when it's unique, and there's volume and you have enough products in your shop, you should have a category or something like that. So that's like the fundamental thing.

And then that really aligns to the ecommerce site itself because the mistake I see a lot of people making and you spoke about old SEO tactics. How many people listening out there, or maybe yourself Austin, have you seen a category or product page with products on it that people are supposed to buy? But there's paragraphs of informational content on it? Like, What are men shoes? Where did they come from? What's the history what color shoelaces go with? Like, all of that stuff Google looks at as being informational in nature.

So the biggest takeaway people can get from this episode is to really wrap your head around and understand what is informational content, and what is purchase intent content. Purchase intent content for, you know, I'll use like another thing. So I work in the precious metals company, and they sell silver coins, right? So product intent content, is not where silver coins come from, and what kinds are their product intent content is what's the average cost of these? Why should I buy these versus gold? Is it a good investment? What type of silver should I get? You know, if I'm somebody that is a hobbyist, and just is collecting these for the fun of it, you know, what are the types that I should consider that might be historical or whatever. So you need to think through the purchase consideration and that's the type of content that should go on a category page. Your product page.

And then conversely, you're going to have informational keywords. So as an ecommerce site owner, understanding keywords can really help you think through the funnels of your customers as well. Because all the ecommerce companies I've worked with have done really well also targeting customers for the ones that are searching for what is a silver bar versus a silver coin? That's informational search, maybe arguably a little mid funnel. But that is not a page that's going to have a listing of products and product intent content, it's going to be an informational page that is going to give you information. So pictures and how to tell the difference, etc.

So that's really the fundamental thing. I mean, that does illustrate one of the most important things to understand for ecommerce but also SEO in general now, and I think a lot of people overlook that whether they're in ecommerce or building some other type of website. It's a really critical thing. I see so many companies trying to rank for something but they don't have a firm grasp or understanding of the intent behind that keyword and then match that to the right content type.

Austin Brawner: Sure, it's really interesting. Yeah, I, I was having flashbacks to, like seven years ago when I was working with a company called Tipsy Elves. And they, they sell ugly sweaters and their founder, just a master at SEO. He was so good. And he'd just stack like the paragraphs and paragraphs, what are ugly sweaters, all these things stacked in there. And they were doing really, really well. And, that's like the stereotypical old style SEO. I think what you're saying is super fascinating. I'd love to go into this a little bit more.

How do you connect the two right? You hear people talking about content. I hear this so often, which is like we want to get our blog going. We want to start creating content. And make this happen. So that's obviously one side and often maybe it's information product information versus purchase intent. How do those things connect? And is there a strategy that you kind of look at for connecting those two? Are they siloed? What does that look like? What's the interplay look like?

Dan Shure: With everything in SEO keywords are my guide, right? I can think probably think of a lot of quotes were like, you know, there's probably some Star Wars quote or something like, you know, something where like, you know, you've got this ultimate guide right? So the keyword it rules everything to me. So I really look for if we're talking about ugly sweaters, I map out all I find all the keywords, you can use a tool like Keyword Keg, it's a great tool. It's similar to keywordtool.io, or Ubersuggests, which I don't recommend using anymore since Neil Patel bought it and invented a metric for it that's not even like true, but that's besides the point. There's like a difficulty metric in there that I think is like sort of like kind of made up.

But Keyword Keg is you can plug a seed term in there and it just pulls all of Google's auto suggest terms. So what I do is I pull all those terms, grab all the ones that have volume, and then map them all out, look at all the ones that have informational intent. And then product intent. If you're selling a product category or type of product that you're trying to rank for, it is important to fill the funnel from informational to transactional. Because in my opinion, in my experience, Google may be more willing to rank your product page when you have a high quality informational page, because you're satisfying that entire user journey. Number one is creating content to fill those different points in the funnel.

But number two is maybe on a more technical level, how do you sort of actually connect those together. And so I think of this, you can do this with your website platform, or you can do it in a more manual way, which obviously doesn't scale super well. But at a platform level, you can, you know, work with your developer or your platform and program in so when you're on a category page, maybe it automatically pulls in List of Article links at the bottom of that page. So people can jump from transactional, click a link, and go to the informational version of that product.

On the converse, and one thing I've had a couple ecommerce clients I work with now, when, so one thing you do is when you Google something, try to get a sense for what percentage of that Google search result is informational content and results and transactional. So if I search, "what's the value of a silver coin?" but I see a couple shopping listings, and I see maybe a few PPC ads, and maybe even a category page from an actual ecommerce website, that means maybe there's a bit of a 20% product intent, possibly, possibly from some of those searchers. So what I have my clients do is build sort of a mixed intent page where maybe most of the page is 80% information, but at the bottom, sometimes I'll have them put their product widget where they actually display three products at the bottom of that page. Or they can link to their product and category pages that relate to that blog post. So you're literally linking these and cross linking them together. And it's really just giving the user a path to jump from information to product. And that that definitely works very well.

Austin Brawner: Super, super interesting. So kind of dive in, get get a feel for it, and then make your decision based on I guess, I mean, a lot of what you're saying is coming back to, I guess, keywords being your guide. Yep. Right. And and looking into that. So you mentioned you mentioned keyword keg. You mentioned the seed term for people who aren't familiar with the seed term. What is that? What does that mean? And taking it back to maybe like a little bit more fundamentals? How do you think about that? What does that mean?

Dan Shure: A seed term is just a very broad one or sometimes two word keyword that is a very vague intent thing, right? So shoes, like that can mean a million things if somebody Google's that so it's a seed term. You know another example in the in the in the web space, marketing, right, is a seed term. It's just a sort of just topic with no keyword modifier on it. So like 'men shoes for sale,' that phrase 'for sale' then takes that it's not a seed keyword anymore now that's a transaction intent keyword. So a seed keyword is just like the broad topic. Maybe you know, I work with another ecommerce company that sells commercial lighting, right? So lighting is a seed keyword, maybe even commercial lighting because that's still pretty broad and vague and intent. It's just a starting point.

It's the top level topical word that you can then put in a tool like keyword keg or keywordtool.io, and then get all the specific mid and long tail terms. And just to dispel sometimes a confusion, longtail does not mean many words in the keyword phrase, it means low volume. I've seen seven word keyword searches still have 1000 searches a month. So that is not longtail, longtail is just something that has low search volume relative to the high search volume in your industry. So that's the idea of utilize your seed.

So one of the challenges is figuring out what are your seed terms. For ecommerce is a little bit easier because many times you're dealing with like literally the product right? When I work with software companies, like half of them don't even know how to describe their product, you know, and some of the worst are like service companies where you know, they want to name it some weird fancy internal thing and nobody ever calls it that. For ecommerce you're in luck because you've got the seed terms at least of your product and product. categories. And then you might want to look for seed terms that are touchpoints for things your customer might be searching. So if you sell bracelets, maybe you might look up, you know, women's fashion seed terms, you know, like outfit ideas, and that sort of thing. So your see term, like ecommerce, it can start with product in product categories, but you might want to branch out into informational seed terms as well, because that'll help you dictate content.

Sure, that makes sense. I think it's a pretty clear picture. I want to shift gears a little bit ask you a some more questions about kind of your how you've been involved with this and working with clients over over time. I was reading a little bit when I was preparing for the interview, reading into your bio that you'd kind of shifted your model a few years ago, from maybe it was in I don't know exactly what it was before. Maybe an agency type model to something different. And it parallels almost entirely at the exact same time, as when I did it very similar shift from an agency model to a very similar like workshop model. So what were you doing? How did you transition? And what happened during I think, personally, it's very interesting to me to hear this.

Yeah. You know, when I started in SEO, and you kind of hinted at this, SEO was this thing that agencies did, right? Like, when I started coming up in SEO, I was looking up to like Sierra Interactive and Distilled, and those sorts of companies that turned into these big 20 to 50 per person agencies. And so that was kind of the tried and true model, right. Like if you weren't going to go work in house, the company, at some point, it was like this unspoken expectation that you were going to kind of grow an agency. And about seven years ago as well, I also, you know, I know I threw Neil Patel under the bus a few minutes ago, but his cousin was a bit of a business mentor of mine for a little while. So his name is Sujan Patel. And he's really smart marketer, a great business person. And he urged me to, you know, he kept saying, if you want to make more income, grow an agency, you know, you need to hire and get employees. Sure.

And so that was sort of on paper, what seemed like it was the next reasonable step like okay, I've had clients for a while and now you get employees, you train them, like, the whole thing. We had worked with contractors for a little while I did get him an employee and we he worked for me full time for 18 months. And for context, the company right now is just myself and my wife. So it's a two person company, but at that time, it was a three person company with that one employee and then a very involved contractor who was kind of really an employee like you know, in terms of scope of work and stuff.

But after, you know, a good 12 to 16 months, 18 months went by, you know, I realize more and more, just personally, for me, it was not working, it was not a situation that I was having fun with. I didn't really enjoy it. I don't like being a boss. And so, you know, this was a slow realization over that 18 month period, one in which, you know, I, in hindsight, I should have, you know, put the brakes on sooner, but I kept saying to myself, well, I'm just going to like dig in and keep trying, and I think, you know, maybe I just need to give it more time, that sort of thing.

Sometimes when you are embarking on something, it's almost like when it becomes too much it starts to impact how you were feeling physically. And I distinctly remember there was, clear as day, this one moment where that sort of physical like feeling completely drained of that situation just took over. And at that point, I had no choice but to ship. So it was basically like, you know, my intuition finally coming to a head and telling me like, you know, to reverse path there.

Really, ultimately, you know, I do SEO consulting now but what I really am as a teacher, trainer and motivator when I'm working with clients and strategists so I really love the strategy side of SEO, I love doing the audits and coming up with the plan and the action items. And like I spoke to earlier, knowing the big picture, a little picture, but then having the clients train the clients and working with them to execute. And whenever I've put myself in that position, every client has always won and succeeded as long as they're executing. So and that to me is you know, my when I do like my Strength Finders test, which I recommend everybody doing, it's really amazing. You know, I always get strategy, ideation, communication, you know, teaching that sort of stuff for my strengths, not like oh, I want to nurture an employee and like, run a big business. So it really aligns with just me personally and how I tend to work best.

Austin Brawner: It's really fascinating because when you think about this, I look at like the "crush it" culture that there that is is propagated in entrepreneurship to a certain extent, I'm like out of that. I'm out of that now. But a lot of people are still in that. And what you're talking about, is I had a very similar experience where it got to a point where I was like, I need to make a change physically, I felt it. I think what's interesting was when that culture is pushing you, people are saying, "oh just work harder, like just work harder, it's going to be fine. Just work harder." Needing the time and the space to be able to figure out what you actually want is incredibly valuable. And it can be a massive shift. You make a change that shifts you in a direction of what you actually want.

When I work with clients, that's a lot of what we talk about is is really trying to connect in with what they're good at and what they want and wanting something because they actually want it versus defaulting to something. Like you mentioned, like an agency, because that's what other people are doing. That's what I fell into. To a certain extent. It was like, I didn't know, we kept getting more clients. I didn't know what to do. So we built an agency. And then sure enough, you got an agency. And I'm like, this isn't really what I signed up for. And now livelihoods are connected to it. And that makes it even more challenging.

So taking this back to like, what is actually working now? I mean, back in the day, you would hire an SEO agency. I mean, I think the first company I worked at we hired multiple SEO agencies, they had like, one of them had, like 40 people in Costa Rica making links. That's not happening anymore. From a consulting perspective, or like an SEO move the needle perspective, when you're working with clients, can you talk a little bit about like strategy and what that actually looks like? And what are some of the strategies that somebody might implement to make some changes in their business?

Dan Shure: Yeah, I could separate To three things, I mean, there's three core pillars, right of this technical content, which I spoke about a little. And then there still is an element of off site promotion and links. On the technical side, and this is really key for ecommerce. I mean, this is where ecommerce is one of the types of sites where you can easily run into technical problems that will hurt your SEO. The thing to know about technical and how it fits into strategy is these are not silver bullet things, right? These are just things where you can make some optimizations that in aggregate will help you over time, but you can't, if you don't have the right content, and you're not aligning the right pages to the right keywords, no amount of technical fixes are going to help you, you know, they're only going to optimize stuff that's not well optimized to begin with in terms of keywords.

But with that said, you know, ecommerce site, you do want to be careful and look out for things like make sure that you don't have over crawling happen, right? Because especially if you have a lot of products and a lot of skew numbers, you might end up with situations we have faceted navigation filtering, sorting items, lots of pagination and things like that. So, you know, I can't convey all this obviously, in a quick podcast. But sure, you know, there's some technical audit checklists out there that are pretty solid, that if people are just curious, you can look at those even just Google's guidelines on SEO and their developer guidelines is good for technical stuff. But just to quickly speaking, yeah, that should all be in check.

Austin Brawner: When you talk about this. I mean, you mentioned being a trainer and a communicator. Yeah. I think one of the things that throws people off is the technical jargon, right? Around SEO, how do you communicate with somebody who looks at this, they're like, "Dan, can you just do it for me? This sounds also complicated. Can you just do it for me?" How do you approach that because I feel like a lot of people are in that space.

Dan Shure: I kind of take the easy way out. I only work with clients that have developers that want somebody to give them stuff to do. It is hard. When somebody does not have a developer resource, and you're telling them all this stuff, but they don't know how to execute it, I can hack my way through some things, but I'm not the best person to actually make development changes. So yeah, I mean, if anybody out there listening is wondering, like, should I have a developer resource to do these things?

I mean, part of this, I'm honest with people like strategically speaking, you want to make sure that there's nothing like really bad happening, right? And you might want to consider an SEO audit to figure that out. But unless they find something that's like Google can't access your site, right? Or like, there's lots and lots of errors, or there's an infinite crawl issue, like unless there's something really, really alarming like the websites on fire, you could put the technical fixes aside, maybe do a few easy things, but then honestly, strategically focus on content and site structure, and like I talked about earlier, aligning keywords to pages and things like that, that's where you're going to get all your bang for your buck. Technical fixes are going to help you, but they're not going to take you from you know, like Point A to Point B in terms of traffic growth all the time.

So that should be comforting. I hope for some I mean, like I said, you do want to make sure that there are no huge, huge issues. But if you're using a Shopify, if you're using a WordPress with ecommerce functionality, these platforms are going to get you 80% of the way there unless somebody has baked in some crazy, like weird customization that makes it worse. You know, if you're on a pretty out of the box, Shopify, your SEO is going to be, you're not going to have any of these fires you need to put out. Now Shopify is not the best, like ultimate SEO platform, because there is a little bit of a lack of customization, but you can have the comfort in knowing that you can set up a Shopify store and then move on and focus on content.

Austin Brawner: Do you recommend the Shopify blog? So this is a contention I think in our community around blogging using the Shopify blog or setting up a separate like WordPress blog. How do you think about that?

Dan Shure: So this is funny because this is where the diehard you know, tunnel vision SEO will go into like, some SEO diatribe about you know. For me what how I guide people is it really comes down to can you easily with your development resources, build a WordPress blog inside of it? If yes, do that it's better. And also more writers and content folks are going to know how to use WordPress, and be familiar with that rather than Shopify's blog.

However, if it's not easy for you to do just go with Shopify blog, like just because move on and work on content, right, because content is going to be what is going to make you successful. It's like in my world of music, it's the common thing where everyone wants to know what's the best plugin to get or the best software or if you're doing photography, what's the best camera like none of that matters, what really matters is how you use it, and then the content you put in the blog. Again, if it's easy, if you have the ability to set up a WordPress blog, do that it's better. If not, just go with Shopify and you know, don't lose any sleep over it.

Austin Brawner: Then you go to content, which you talked about. What type of content and this is again, gonna be general, I know, because it's hard to categorize everything in a tight little thing. A lot of people have tried, and I think a lot of people have done a good job in the industry of like, naming things specific ways to kind of communicate the style of things that are working. I think there's skyscraper content at one point, what is working now around content? Is it 10X-ing the best other pages out there? Is it shorter? How do you approach and what do you see working these days?

Dan Shure: Yes, so first of all, shout out to Brian Dean skyscraper technique, backlinko.com, this guy's got great SEO great training program. I want to remind everybody the keyword rules everything. So this is where people get mixed up. They hear about, oh, you have to skyscraper or build, you know, 10X content, 5000 words or whatever, but that's a hammer looking for a nail. Because everything comes down to the keyword.

So I showed an example the other day in my Twitter feed, I think it was commercial indoor lighting. The number one result was a category page with zero words on it. It was a list of image links to their actual specific commercial indoor lighting, product categories. That's an example where it's a category page, you literally don't need content if you're a good store, and you've got the right categories linked there. That's the page.

But if you Google something like indoor lighting design, when you Google that you're going to see certain types of content. They're not going to be 10,000 page Wikipedia articles, right? They're going to be useful probably, but your goal there is to answer that query for the user in this as many or as little words as it takes. And the interesting thing is, is sometimes you can answer all that on one page, sometimes you can answer that but link to sub pages that continue and go down in deeper. So this is why I say the key word rules everything because, you know, you only really know by looking at the keyword and then determining what the user wants with that.

So I actually do have a few common content types for informational content. That again, they all aligned to keyword types. So what I would call an information list, this is anytime you have a keyword that has something like examples, strategies, techniques, tips, things like that. It's a plural noun, that is telling you the user wants a list of things, right. So in the marketing world, "content marketing examples," when the when the user queries that they are literally looking for a list of examples.

Austin Brawner: That's when you see the 197 content marketing examples.

Dan Shure: And some of the become cheap listicles. But that is a content type. And sometimes you need to dig to find the ones that have opportunity. Because that can, you know, it's a good content type, because it's a little easier to do. But it's also a little more competitive because it's easier to do. In the ecommerce side of things it might be 'back to school outfit ideas,' right? And what I urge people to do is get specific 'back to school outfit ideas for middle school kids' or something like that, right?

So like, if there's search volume around something that is a long phrase like that, that's fine. It just means you can create a specific piece of content but as long as it has that plural noun in it, like ideas. So Pinterest is known for this, I mean, they rank for idea queries, right? In fact, ecommerce site owners could look at all the different Pinterest pin boards that exist and get content ideas from those because that's essentially like ecommerce content. Information lists is one type of content.

Another type of content is versus content. So this is when you have like,

Austin Brawner: ...like, jail speakers versus something else like this.

Dan Shure: Yeah, comparing products. This is where affiliate websites really come in, right? Because they're, they're rating and reviewing. But as an ecommerce site owner, you could find places where you can either compare product categories or actual products, or brands or whatever is relevant for you to compare. But that content type then means you're going to likely, you know, start out by saying, you know, what is this thing and what is that thing? It's 99% of the time going to have some sort of chart in it. You see this all the time, when you query versus stuff, you see content that has comparison charts. So that's a different content type.

You also have thing lists. This would be like lists of podcasts, lists of books, even lists of products. So sometimes you might find, and this goes back to keyword intent, let's say it's like best mystery books. That actually might rank blog posts and articles, not actual ecommerce category pages. And that's why actually Googling it is the way to go. And so if you discover something like that, usually when it has the word 'best' on it, Google is usually going to rank content, they're not not a category, because when the user queries 'best,' they're kind of implying they want more of an editorial, right? Like a guide, kind of viewpoint on it.

So you could take your product category and do you know, best women's bracelets and then go to town and see if there is actual content there. And then put that in Keyword Keg. And get all of the specific best women's bracelets topic ideas too. Yeah, so there are a lot of common content types. Again, it just goes back to identifying those based upon what your keyword type is.

Austin Brawner: Sure. Super interesting. Really appreciate you diving into these different ideas and giving some kind of tangible takeaways for people.

Dan Shure: You asked a little bit about backlinking and off site promotion. I think it's worth mentioning that there's a lot of people think these two statements are both the same, right? Like you need to build backlinks and backlinks are good for SEO. That is not the same statement, right? Like you don't have to proactively build backlinks because most companies that are doing real things and selling real products are going to naturally build backlinks. So a lot of your backlink stuff is going to happen organically.

However, there might be scenarios where you might want to get a little bit more proactive with that. And so just to give some really common tried and true ways of doing that, guest publishing is a really great way. You want to think of like backlinking as, do a activity that you would do for another reason, but also get you a backlink. So when you guest published, you're getting in front of their audience, you're networking with that publication. You might even sell a few products that way. You might learn and get insight about your customer because you're trying to reach them at a different place, and you're getting a backlink.

So another really great thing to do is sign up for HARO, help a reporter out and reply to journalist's queries. I just did an interview on my YouTube channel called Evolving SEO with a with a PR expert. His name is Dimitri and he, in that episode, talks all about how to like use like Twitter hashtags, like JournoRequest, I think is one of them so you can actually follow hashtags. Where journalists actually want people to provide tips and information resources, etc. These are great ways to get backlinks. But you're also doing a little bit of PR at the same time and getting your brand out there. So backlinks are very important.

One good way to know if you need them is if your domain authority is a lot lower than your direct competitors, or the people that tend out rank you, then you might need to do things proactively to catch up. But if you have a similar or higher domain authority, that's the Moz metric. Then your competitors, you probably need to just focus on content and on the website stuff like all the other stuff we talked about, so they are important, but back in the day SEO would like lead everything with backlinks. You need SEO, let's build you backlinks.

Austin Brawner: Let's get the team cranking them down in Costa Rica. And you know, I like that and it matches up with one of the things I saw on your site, which is you're kind of Seven Beliefs about SEO, the number one was do it for SEO, and, right? Which makes a lot of sense. And I think that I had a conversation with a friend who he built a company, he's putting it he's taking it out now he's gonna sell it, but he was like, the biggest mistake that he made was, he's like, "I built a company because it was a good SEO opportunity, not because I wanted to build the company."

And that just hit so hard with what you're saying. And I think that you can make that mistake if you get too in the weeds with SEO and I think that's kind of where he was with it.

But I want to do a rapid fire question because you're a wealth of knowledge here and you've already dropped some key tools. What does your SEO toolkit look like? What are some of the things you could share that'd be helpful for somebody who's trying to get involved and learn more?

Dan Shure: Yeah, I just created a list for client so I'm going to read from that. One of them is Screaming Frog SEO Spider is like the technical Swiss Army knife tool. It's a web crawler for desktop it's an amazing tool. Others are my list I'll go rapid fire, SEM Rush I love, the Keywords Everywhere plugin is it blows everybody's everybody's mind when they see it. It's the plugin that gives you search volume and keyword data in Google. And it's very affordable, five bucks a month plugin for Chrome and Firefox. I mentioned Keyword Keg, SEO Minion is a free plugin that gives you a lot of SEO information about a website that you're browsing and some data from Google or from the Google search results. So SEO Minion, it's free just download it and check it out.

Also Ask.com is free. People also ask questions from Google on a given query. So it does dives down and gives you like the hundreds of them that exist. So that's really useful. A little off the path one is the Google Natural Language, just like testing the free test version of it. So a couple SEOs got a little mad at me because they call it a tool. And it's technically not a tool, because the Google Natural Language API is what you normally use to analyze large sets of data. But you can use the free version to analyze a copy and pasted set of content so you can paste your content in there or competitors content and see the sentiment, the entities that are picked up the topic categories and the syntax analysis. I have an entire video on my YouTube channel, on Evolving SEO, that talks about exactly how to use that if people want to check it out.

Yeah, and the TFIDF tool is a really amazing tool. It analyzes the top 20 results in Google against your content, and it tells you the one, two and three keyword phrases that are in the top 20 results in Google that you are not using. Now, you don't just stuff those in your content, you actually use those to represent what I call topical gaps. So if you're writing a blog post about bracelets, look at the topical things that other people happen to mention and make sure you're accounting for those. So you're topically complete. So the TFIDF tools are really amazing tool for doing that.

Austin Brawner: Cool. This is frickin awesome. And I really appreciate you hopping on here Dan and sharing some of your knowledge. It obviously has been acquired over many years in this industry. It's awesome to hear. Thank you so much. So you mentioned the YouTube channel, Evolving SEO, I'm going to also put, anybody's listening those kind of rapid fire tools list they'll all be on my website, ecommerceinfluence.com. You can search and find those.

Where would you best direct somebody if they want to get in touch with you, learn more about you. You've got your own podcast.

Dan Shure: Yeah. The podcast is Experts On The Wire, you know, evolvingseo.com/wire will get you there. We're, you know, in all the places Apple, Spotify, Google etc. Twitter is where you can probably get a reply from me or most easily reach me, unless it's for like a business inquiry. So @Dan_Shure on Twitter. I post some stuff on LinkedIn too. So I'm @EvolvingDan is the URL on LinkedIn or just search my name. And then the YouTube channel Evolving SEO. Those are probably the best places.

Austin Brawner: Awesome. Dan, thanks so much.

Dan Shure: Thanks for having me.

Austin Brawner: Hey guys, it's Austin. And if you've been loving the podcast, gotta go check out brandgrowthexperts.com that's where I work one on one with my clients to help them build faster growing more profitable online stores. I've got coaching programs and workshops that we host all over the world, would love to have you come check it out.

If you're a fast-growing ecommerce business or you want to be a fast-growing ecommerce business, you gotta check it out. That's the spot for you. We go more in-depth than we do in the podcast with comprehensive trainings and coaching to help you scale up.

Check it out, brandgrowthexperts.com. See you there.

Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome back to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner, and today I'm doing a solo interview. My co-host Andrew Foxwell is taking it break from this week's podcast. And today I'm bringing you an episode that I am really, really excited about, you know, i...

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