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How to Drive More Organic Traffic to a Shopify Store for Free

Updated: Jan 18, 2023


Shopify is the gold standard of eCommerce. No other platform even comes close. But the reality is that there is only so much that software can accomplish on its own. Shopify can hand you the tools and the ‘How-To manual,’ but they can’t use the tools for you, and they can’t make decisions on your behalf.


That much is up to the merchant.


So, what is the secret to having a successful Shopify store?


Well, it’s not a secret at all – the most successful Shopify stores are the ones that drive the most traffic to their site.


In this article, we're going to examine the which tactics for driving traffic to a Shopify store yield the best results; according to experts.


Table of Contents



Introduction

Driving traffic to a Shopify store consistently and continually is the modern-day equivalent of having a goose that lays golden eggs.


It’s the gift that keeps on giving.


You see, anyone can set up a Shopify store, but it takes real skill and experience to make that store successful. So, how then do we drive real traffic to a Shopify store? Or any other eCommerce store, for that matter?


We asked 50 different marketing, SEO, and successful eCommerce merchants that very same question.


What is their “secret sauce” for making more sales?


We listened to their responses and compiled a database of all the answers we received. Every time one of our experts voiced support for a particular tactic, that tactic received a ‘vote.’


In addition, we looked into the credentials of the experts who participated by ranking them according to their Alexa rank..



For anyone unfamiliar with Alexa rankings, Alexa was a web-based SEO analysis tool that evaluated every website on Earth in a head-to-head comparison by assigning them a rank that reflects their overall popularity.


Unfortunately, Alexa went out of business in early 2022, but that doesn't make this research any less valid.


The most popular website on Earth (Google) is #1, and - like a golf score – the higher your Alexa ranking, the less popular your website. This ranking system means that when a website gains traffic, its Alexa rating decreases.


The Alexa rankings of the marketing experts we spoke to range from 16,201 to 6,443,675.


Eight of the experts we spoke to had Alexa rankings below 100,000. Thirty-two of them had Alexa rankings below 1,000,000, and the average Alexa ranking among the participants was 1,096,639.


In total, our 50 experts suggested 31 different tactics for driving traffic to a Shopify store.


We scored each method according to the number of times one of our experts mentioned that tactic. When there was a tie, we settled it by giving preference to the tactic that experts with low (good) Alexa rankings had endorsed.


Unlike previous marketing studies, we didn’t hear any bad ideas.


Some tactics were more popular than others, but none of our experts suggested anything we would consider a waste of time. Every idea we heard had some degree of value.


We combined the overlapping ideas for clarity, but the overall ranking order remains the same. The most popular ideas are at the top of the post. However, we caution readers against disregarding the tactics at the bottom of the list.


Yes, they received fewer votes than the other methods, but these are still excellent ideas that will yield good results.


We encourage our readers to implement the complete list of tactics.



The most effective methods for driving traffic


1. Content Marketing

With 22 mentions, Content Marketing has earned the top spot on our list, and it’s easy to understand why. Creating and publishing information that answers people’s questions will increase your placement in search engine results and attract the most attention.


"When it comes to making your Shopify store a success, it all comes down to effective product research followed by a low-competition content map," says Pulkit Bhardwaj - eCommerce Coach at BoutiqueSetup. "You can use keyword research tools to get started."


Other marketers agree that product research is indispensable.


“It all starts with a talkable product,” says Dan Gdowski, Content Marketing Specialist at ShipMonk. “With that as the foundation, you can rely on tried-and-true strategies like paid advertising and link building to close the gap.”


We should also mention that Gdowski’s website had the lowest (best) Alexa ranking of any other expert we interviewed.


“Basically, in order to generate buzz, your products first have to be buzzworthy,” says Gdowski.

All of our experts were in agreement that when it comes to content, quality always beats quantity.


“The content does not need to be too in-depth,” says Harriet Chan – Co-Founder and Marketing Director at CoCoFinder. “The most important thing is to keep the content relevant. You [should place] the content at the bottom of your category page and be sure to include the most searched keywords for the product,” said Chan.



“You can utilize keyword searching tools to come up with the most appropriate keywords. They will help to generate organic traffic to your online store.”


We should point out that Keywords was the second-most popular answer that we heard from our experts and was mentioned 17 times.


Zachary Rego – VP of Sales and Marketing at Unstack; A no-code platform for marketing teams that works with Shopify – Had some excellent advice to Shopify merchants looking to increase traffic.


“The number 1 thing we see the market trending towards is shoppable content with owned analytics,” said Rego.


“[Meaning] taking thought leadership to the next level on our blog with product or collection components built into the content. This tactic (if done correctly) drives traffic, increases credibility, and drives additional revenue.”


“How can you start?” we asked him.


“Consolidate and review the top questions asked in your industry. Look through your chat logs, support emails, and really understand what your customers need to know to make a purchase,” said Rego.


“From there leverage tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or even Google Keyword Planner to understand search volume, keyword difficulty, and review the competition. Find keywords that have OK volume, lower difficulty, and page 1 rankings by domains with lower or similar authority to you.”



Rego said that traffic results from people finding solutions to their problems on your page.


“Create a piece that answers the questions people are asking, use these questions as your H1 or H2, and insert your product or collections in the blog,” said Rego.


Oskar Nowik, Head of SEO of EposNow, agrees that keywords are the backbone of any successful content strategy.


“A great way to drive organic traffic to your eCommerce store is by optimizing your site, so it is easier for your potential customers to locate,” says Nowik.


“They’re likely already searching for your products, so you need to ensure that you’re easier to find on search engines than your competitors. A great way to do this is by making sure your site regularly features the specific keywords your potential customers are typing into Google.”


Robin Brown, CEO at ViviPins, also had some constructive advice.


“Provide great content that is related to what you are selling on your website,” said Brown, adding that good content “will increase trust, social sharing and drive traffic.”


Brown also had some valuable insights on tactics.


“A lot of websites have started using infographics which not only help gain links from other [authority] sites, but they also boost traffic quickly,” said Brown.



2. Backlinks

One of the most significant ranking factors that Google considers in its search algorithm is ‘Backlinks.’


The Google algorithm considers backlinks to be the most reliable indicator of quality content, especially if those links are coming from other reputable websites.


The logic being, ‘if other experts agree with you, then you must know what you’re talking about.’ That’s why sites with high numbers of quality backlinks probably get prime placement on search results pages.


Therefore, by increasing backlinks, we increase traffic.


With 11 total mentions, Backlinks came in third place on our list of traffic-driving tactics.

Herbert Riggs, CEO of UnscrambleX, wasn’t surprised.


“Websites with a high backlink profile are favored by search engines,” says Riggs. “This indicates that other websites are linking to your store and its content, [signaling] that [your website] is a reliable source of relevant information.”



“It’s better if your website has a lot of links referring to it,” Riggs continued.


“Your pages will be [shown] more frequently to individuals seeking products similar to yours, resulting in an increase in organic traffic to your business.”


How to Build Quality Backlinks

OK, so we’ve established that backlinks are essential… Now what?


How do we go about building quality backlinks for our Shopify store?


Chris Zacher, Content Marketing Strategist at Inter-growth.co, relies on a proven strategy for accomplishing this monumental task.


“Respond to queries from journalists and bloggers on HARO,” says Zacher.


HelpAReporter.com is a website where writers go to source quotes from experts on the topics they’re writing about. HARO sends out three emails every day with a few dozen queries on all kinds of topics.”


“Subscribe to those emails and respond to as many queries related to your niche as possible,” Zacher says.

“Landing a quote in an article isn’t just a good way to get backlinks, but it will also get your brand in front of new audiences. Sourcing quotes from other writers is an excellent way to drive traffic to your site, too. When you quote other bloggers and influencers in your content, they’re going to want to share it with their network, which can drive new audiences to your site.”



Jeff Moriarty, Marketing Manager at MySupplimentStore.com, takes a slightly different approach.


"For all our different manufacturers, we have gone through and contacted our reps to get links added to their websites back to our websites,” says Moriarty.


“Out of the 200 manufacturers we have on our website, we have been able to get 40 great links just this year. It has not only helped us build our domain authority, but 20% of our traffic now comes from manufacturer’s websites.”


Marques Thomas, Owner of QuerySprout, relies on a method that came in 6th place out of the 31 tactics our marketers mentioned.


“Write guest posts, newsletters for your email list, or attach valuable digital files that could be of help to them. Integrate the link to your Shopify store naturally,” says Thomas.


“Guide your community or audience to your store as you connect with them.”



One of the most creative strategies we heard for building backlinks through Guest Posting came from Nicholas Rubright, SEO Manager for Cannaflower, who faced the challenge of building backlinks in a controversial industry.


“It’s especially difficult for us, being in the CBD niche,” says Rubright. “Nobody wants to link to CBD sites.”


(Interviewer) “So, how did you fix it?”


“By running a link-building campaign in the eCommerce niche,” says Rubright. “We use internal data to build marketing case studies that we then pitch as stories to marketing blogs as a guest post.”


“So instead of chasing the niche and paying for links like most sites in our industry do,” says Rubright, “we’re making ourselves relevant to the marketing industry so that we can execute a link-building campaign in an industry that’s more link-friendly.”


In recent years, marketing agencies like Fat Joe have emerged who specialize in backlink building. Their services include blogger outreach, link placement, and article writing.


3. Social Media

In third place, with 11 total mentions, is Social Media. (NOTE: Although Social Media and Backlinks each received 11 mentions, the experts who recommended Backlinks had more impressive Alexa ratings.)


Darren Litt, Co-Founder of Hiya Health, has some excellent advice for merchants looking to boost traffic by leveraging the social media universe.


“Social media and influencer marketing is extremely valuable for driving traffic to your Shopify store,” says Litt. “An easy tool to get your brand more exposure is setting up brand ambassador programs targeting influencers with smaller but useful platforms.”


“If you provide social media models and entrepreneurs with products or services,” says Litt, “they can give you a post or video in return, boosting the awareness of your brand.”


Brandon Chopp, Digital Manager at iHeartRaves, agrees; and has taken the time to build an ambassador campaign of his own.


“Typically, an ambassador will receive a 10% commission on any orders they generate on our website throughout the year,” says Chopp. “But during the holidays, we offer them extra incentives for helping us promote our sales to their friends and followers.”


“In the past, we’ve asked them to post to at least three different placements on social media such as Instagram feed, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat,” says Chopp.



“In exchange, they not only receive a 10% commission on any direct sales they drive, but we also enter them to win a gift card giveaway or give them a 30% off coupon to use anytime the following year.”


Chopp says the added incentives correlate to a boost in affiliate sales during the campaign.


“Typically, we see a 20-30% boost in affiliate sales during Black Friday and Cyber Monday when we run this campaign,” says Chopp.


Influencer marketing finished in fifth place overall and also received 11 mentions from our experts.


Shiv Guta, Marketing Director for Increnemtors Web Solutions, was a particularly vocal proponent of this tactic.


“Influencer Marketing is a new child on the block,” said Gupta. “The idea involves [using] both old and new advertising means, combining [products] with diverse modes of celebrity endorsement helps stimulate an entire content marketing campaign.”


“Several plug-ins are available for influencer marketing which, when [used] correctly, can not only increase immediate purchases but also lead to an expansion in the overall organic reach your brand has.”



One such plug-in is BuzzSumo, which maintains an extensive database of influencers in different markets.


One of our experts managed to hit the nail squarely on the head when asked about which social media platforms drive the most traffic.


“Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest,” says Janis Thies, CEO of SEOlutions.


“These three platforms give you an avenue to post images of your products without having to spend on advertising. You only need to work on getting followers and engage them,” says Theis.


We should point out that our research also revealed these three social media platforms to be the most influential social media platforms of all; and that Theis managed to name them in precise ranking order.


Theis went on to reveal the details of her social media strategy.


“Depending on your approach, you can post product images as they are or use them with models,” says Theis.


“The latter is more costly as you have to pay models and photographers. However, a way to reduce the cost of image-based posts is to use stock images,” says Theis. “Simply embed your logo or product on the image. You can also post inspirational quotes on your pages. [These] things get attention and generate clicks; and therefore, traffic.”


Quora and Reddit also received a few endorsements from our experts. Each platform received exactly two mentions.


Twitter came in last place with only one mention.



4. Paid Search Ads

In fourth place, with five total mentions, is paid advertising, specifically search ads.


Although this article is mainly about free methods of of driving traffic, we decided that this tried-and-true method still deserves a mention.


“Google AdWords provides a popular and effective way to reach your targeted traffic,” says Olivia Tan, Co-Founder of CoCoFax.


“They allow you to place your website directly in front of the people doing the searches.”


Although Paid Search Ads was not one of the more popular tactics that our research uncovered, the marketers that did recommend Paid Ads all had impressive Alexa ratings.

This pattern is likely indicative of two things:


  1. Paid ads are an effective means of driving traffic

  2. Paid ads are costly and therefore only utilized by websites that can afford them and likely already have considerable traffic.

Google was the clear winner among search engines, which isn’t surprising considering that they’re the most popular website on Earth.



Bing came in second place despite having a higher Alex rank than YouTube, Yahoo, Amazon, and Reddit, which also offer paid search ads.


In contrast, social media advertising only received a total of four mentions from our panel of experts, but Facebook Ads received the same number of mentions as Google AdWords.



5. Discounts & Giveaways

In fifth place, also with five mentions, is Discounts & Giveaways. Olga Voronkova, Marketing Director at KeyUA, sums it up perfectly:


“Incorporating various discounts, coupons, and offers into the promotion campaign tends to engage the audience more,” says Voronkova.


Several of our experts, like Daniela Sawyer; Founder of Find People Fast, also reporting using this tactic as part of their customer retention strategy.


“Everyone likes goodies,” says Sawyer. “Provide giveaways periodically to your customers. It helps in getting existing customers to revisit your portal.”


If you decide to use discounts & giveaways as part of your strategy, we recommend choosing something with real value to get people excited and increase engagement.



6. Google My Business

Four of our experts recommended utilizing Google My Business to get the name of a store in front of local customers. Google My Business lists your business on Google Search and Google Maps so that your name appears when customers search for your type of company from within your defined service area.


Essentially, Google My Business determines what someone will see if they enter a generic search phrase into their phone like “Restaurants near me.”


Google has their ways of knowing all the restaurants in a given area, but the order in which they will show them to you depends mainly on reviews and having an optimized Google My Business listing.


It’s also free to use.


Jessia Rhoades, Owner of Create IT Web Designs, reports having tremendous success with this tactic.


“One of the things that we make sure our e-commerce clients do is list their best-selling products in the Google My Business profile,” says Rhoades.


“There is a section in Google My Business specifically for products where you can link your products in your store. For some of our customers, 1/3 of their organic traffic comes from Google My Business (local searches), and this is a great place to highlight your best-selling products.”



7. Email

Although seemingly less trendy than social media marketing, good old-fashioned email continues to be a vital source of traffic for several of the experts we interviewed.


“Focus on developing attractive emails for the people who have visited your site,” says Christian Vellitchkov, Co-Founder of Twiz LLC.


“Send your customers reminders and news of any attractive offers that may be launching soon,” says Vellitchkov. “Email marketing might not include [the] aesthetics or creative elements that social media does, but it still contributes towards the highest returns on investment.”



8. Data Analytics

Big data is revolutionizing eCommerce, and businesses of all sizes from every conceivable industry are taking advantage… or at least they should be.


As Darshan Somaskekar, Founder & CEO of Solitaried, explains, utilizing data analytics is not that complicated.


“Viewing your previous sales analytics data is one [way] to get an idea of what areas to focus on to draw more traffic,” says Somaskekar, who pointed out that Shopify does most of the heavy lifting.


“Shopify does an excellent job of compiling vital statistics and data for your online store. Bounce rates, page visit length, sales, and much more can all be displayed. You can also decipher statistics from individual sales channels,” says Somaskekar.


“Analyzing this data is a great method for learning more about your Shopify business and the most effective way to expand your organic reach. If you notice that certain sales channels, such as Facebook, outperform others significantly, you should refocus your efforts to increase traffic to your online store,” Somaskekar says.


“The data available can provide critical insights into areas that require improvement as well as future performance estimates.”



Gayle Rodgers, Founder & CEO of The Atomic Agency, believes that data analytics is the backbone of any effective marketing strategy.


“It starts with solid target market research,” says Rodgers.


“You have to know a lot about your target market and their common likes and dislikes that are either laterally related or unrelated to your products. These are also commonly known as psychographics.”


Rodgers also pointed out that having good data will lead to residual benefits in other marketing endeavors.


“In the short-term, this strategy will help build authenticity and a natural affinity with your target audience. In the long-term, [data] will help you build quality links and email lists for future marketing initiatives.



9. Boost Speed

Although we didn’t hear this idea from many people, the experts who recommended boosting page speed all had impressive Alexa ratings. Page load time is also one of the few factors Google admits to considering when assigning page ranks.


The time it takes a website to load has a direct effect on user experience. That is why Google maintains several free resources, including Google Page Speed Insights, to help site owners understand how fast their page loads compared to other pages and figure out ways to improve their load speed.


Load speed was the driving force behind the development of Google AMP, a mobile-based framework that allows for a better web browsing experience on smartphones.


In short, Google rewards websites that take advantage of these tools with increased traffic.

Gerrid Smith, CMO of Joy Organics, has some tremendous insights for accomplishing this through the Shopify platform.


“It’s always best to keep things basic when it comes to design,” says Smith. “A website that is lighter and faster to load can help you rank higher in Google search results.”


Smith went on to detail specific things that merchants can do to boost their load speed.


“Using swift and light themes, having clear and crisp website content, and deleting applications that slow down your store are some of the ways you may do this,” says Smith. “All of these techniques [help] you to provide a better customer experience and attract more organic visitors,” Smith says.



10. Make use of Apps

Anyone who has had the experience of browsing the Shopify app store knows that their collection of apps is expansive.


The Shopify app store has 2,426 different apps. Some of their more popular apps perform tasks such as:

  • Interfacing with external sales channels (i.e., Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, etc.)

  • Finding dropshipping suppliers

  • Designing Print-on-demand merchandise

  • Website design

  • Creating an affiliate program

  • Social media marketing

  • Payment processing

  • Mobile app development

  • Virtual customer service agents

  • Interfacing with shipping companies (USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.)

  • Email marketing

I could keep going.


There isn’t anything related to eCommerce that you can’t accomplish in the Shopify app store.


It is that versatile.


In fact, Shopify can likely attribute most of its success to the depth of its app store.



Steve Scott, CTO at Spreadsheet Planet, agrees.


“Shopify apps can help you improve your online e-commerce store and give your consumers more value,” said Scott.


“Applications can assist you in conducting surveys and polls, capturing emails, and gathering other data. Many of these apps include tools and features that might help your company get more organic visitors. Shopify apps [can] help you improve your store’s SEO, provide you more style options, and add functionality to your e-commerce store.”


Scott went on to emphasize that the potential of the Shopify app store is difficult to understate.

“With Shopify apps, the possibilities are infinite,” says Scott.


“They even contain optimization and SEO [apps] to help your online business reach and rank higher. Exploring the Shopify applications is a good, simple way to obtain more traffic.”



11. Allow for dropshipping

Dropshipping on behalf of your selling partners allows you to build an expansive salesforce without having to invest very much money, and it goes a long way toward building your backlink profile.


As discussed earlier, sites with more backlinks get better placement on search results pages and therefore see more traffic.


Jamie Skinner, Co-Founder of Jungle Culture, has had tremendous success using this tactic.

“Allow other sellers to dropship from your store on the condition that they link to your website via their partners’ page,” says Skinner.


“All you need to do is create a discount code for each dropshipper and issue it to them when they submit a link. Your site will get some extra traffic and authority.”



Conclusion

If you’re looking to get more traffic to your Shopify store, you’ve got to put in the work. Knowing how to drive more traffic is only half the battle. You’ve got to be proactive.


Some of the steps you can take to increase traffic to your Shopify store include:


  1. Create content for your store that answers customer questions honestly, and make sure to optimize your content with appropriate keywords.

  2. The more backlinks you have, the more traffic you’ll get.

  3. Don’t hesitate to ask for backlinks from professionals in other industries that may be more link-friendly. Just be sure that the content surrounding the backlink is relevant.

  4. Guest posting is an excellent way to boost traffic, get more backlinks, and build a wider audience.

  5. Use social media to find and interact with new customers. Promote your store with contests, discounts, and giveaways.

  6. Partner with influencers and incentivize them to perform, possibly through your own affiliate program.

  7. Paid search ads work well but are only practical for established stores.

  8. Collect, analyze, and interpret your data in a meaningful way

  9. Increasing your page speed is an easy way to get more traffic.

  10. Familiarize yourself with the Shopify app store and utilize those apps to scale your business.