Let's Opt Out of the iOS Drama, Right Now
Let's talk for a moment about organic traffic -- one of the other ways to navigate some of these iOS (all versions) blues...
So this may be a bit "in the weeds" but there is a Google Core Web Vitals update coming in May. And Google doesn't even pass their own tests (across three measures) at this time.
The most recent major update was in December.
Megan and I were covering some of this last week in the live call on Tuesday, but at a high level. We didn't go into deep details about how to get good with organic.
(We did end up talking back channel after the call, and I wanted to share the non-private stuff here to help everyone with these concepts).
So, a little bit of WHY first:
iOS is a hot topic right now. We're all jumping through hoops to make FB talk with Apple devices and soon Google will be in the mix.
CAPI and domain verification are a start to bridging paid traffic and visitors. You're in the upper echelon right now, with these technologies in place. Many store/site owners don't even know about these yet.
But what if there were more ways to get traffic that avoided the issue all together?
That's what this post is about. It's longish -- and it could have been much longer. So please dig in and ask questions if you have any.
To start with the basics, here are three non-negotiables on sites that want to attract organic traffic:
1: continual new content
2: detailed site wide structured data
3: alt tags for all images
Now, these are just the very basics. But let's cover what they're about and some ideas about how to benefit, and why to use them in the first place.
Continual New Content
All platforms (Google, Facebook, Amazon, and everyone else) have at the top of their missions "great user experience". Google uses certain KPIs to measure what sites give good experiences, and promote these in organic search results.
Sites that only feature stale content rarely make top SERP (search engine results pages) listings. When you see these old, frequently ugly, sites appear in the results, it's because people voted that the content was important.
Votes happen by people linking to the site and other measures of virality.
Shopify includes a built-in blog feature to help with this. By continually publishing content on this blog you're automatically updating your sitemap so that Google can index the new pages (posts). Each blog post is a new spoke in the wheel so that people can find your site through organic methods.
Wordpress has blogging built-in as well. Same details apply.
This is a very long process in many cases. In the past I've taken a year or two to develop sites that have 130 pages, 250 pages or more, to get the things indexed and thereby attract organic traffic by organic methods.
Why is this important now?
Organic is a good way to skip the iOS drama.
Someone searches for your thing, or for information about your thing (see "content concept" below). Google, Yahoo, Bing... the search engines offer your site and others as possible answers to questions people asked. Someone sees your site as the answer to their query. Clicks through. Ideally reads, and really ideally, buys. (Of course other actions can be taken, too, but this is a crayon-drawing and not a detailed schematic explanation).
iOS and other tools that block traffic aren't even in play. Google can offer your site as an option. There is no trick. There is no mega-technology to use. There's no permission to ask for.
Even more importantly, organic traffic a phenomenal relationship builder with your audiences. With good content your site helps to establish your authority in your space.
How can you be relevant in organic search?
Everyone here has a content concept that your store serves. That's the topic for your blog, and the blog plus internal links, are a major contributor to helping you with the organic traffic machine.
Now let's talk about...
Everyone here knows how excited I get about schema. This is because I grew up with meta tags, which are a page by page dictionary for the search engines to discover what your site is about.
Structured data, rich results, markup, schema (all of these words refer to the same thing) tell the websites in detail what your site is about. This is item by item on a page -- not just one set of data per page. Brilliant.
I think I've already placed this suggestion in the Business tools PDF in the group files (I'll check...) but you can always keep an eye on how your site stacks up here:
This, too, is an ongoing activity. It's not a "set and forget" task. Think of schema as a dictionary that continually defines for the search engines what your site and its pages and the granular content on your pages is about.
Exhausted? Don't worry. Just make a monthly project of checking your structured data, updating a few details here and there. Two or three hours a month is a good time investment. Use Schema App to set up the basics. Most Shopify themes include at the very least product page markup. Use Pixel Helper to determine where your markup shows up and where it's missing.
Third point, let's talk about...
Alt Tags on All Images
For every image (hero image and every image for every product) in your store is an opportunity to talk with the search engines about the product, price, item details, availability and more.
You know that SEO stuff in the right side of the images when you're creating a new product page?
Leave it blank at your peril.
Make a habit to fill in the entire form every time.
And it's SO worth it to go back and fill these in now, for any products with blank fields.
One of these fields is for "alt tags". Think of these as code-based captions for images.
Alt tags serve two purposes, and depending on your point of view, either one of these could be your #1 reason to use it.
1. SEO. Search Engine Optimization of your site. Search engines read the data you put in this and other SEO fields, and can use it to serve up your site when someone is searching for you.
2. Accessibility. A bunch of years ago I was on a team of contractors working on a SaaS (software as a subscription) project. We sold a website builder that made building websites possible without developers (Russell Brunson was still in high school, or maybe starting college, and Clickfunnels and others like it were only a pipe dream).
One of the other contractors on the team was visually impaired. He wasn't totally blind... he could see some light. But functionally the guy could barely see his computer. So he used a tool for the visually impaired called a screen reader.
He also built a website with the product we were working on. So he had two incomes -- the contractor fee, and his business. His whole world was built around this product.
Suddenly the whole thing came crashing down.
We didn't know that an update was coming that eliminated his ability to use a screen reader. The developers had made changes to the software and had eliminated the possibility of reading the web pages to use the suite of tools. The capability was not going to be restored.
He could no longer keep his job or run his business web site. Gone. Overnight.
Since then accessibility has become important to site developers and to attorneys as well.
I've seen a number of articles in the news about law suits brought against big brands who don't use accessible features on their sites.
Screen reader software use alt tags and other code details to read details of each page, and enable users to navigate sites by voice prompt.
Without alt tags, screen readers are extremely limited in what they can tell a visitor is on the page.
Now, does this mean that if your alt tags aren't filled out you'll be sued?
Probably not at this level of business.
But there is growing support for accessibility being legally required. Corporations hire lawyers to cover their assets on this stuff.
Even if it's not legally mandated, wouldn't you like to expand your site to be able to serve anyone who uses a screen reader?
Imagine the loyalty. If my former colleague shopped on two sites -- one with images and details he could listen to, and one without, don't you think he'd come back again to shop another time at the site he could actually use?
Do you think he's on forums and Facebook groups with other visually impaired people who exchange notes about sites that support (or don't support) their screen readers?
The added benefit to you is that search engines read alt tags, so if you're not doing it for my friend, do it because you'll be improving your SEO. (No judgment. But seriously, be a mensch).
Is this everything?
Not by a long shot.
Google's next major core web vitals update is in May.
If you're interested in digging in, or if you have a developer who helps you with this stuff, here is THE resource so you're not relying on second-hand updates and interpretations of John Mueller's announcements... (Mueller is the search advocate at Google -- the official words come from him).
I also follow @JohnMu on Twitter -- again, straight from the horse's mouth.