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10 min read

Driving revenue with technical SEO

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Paul Shapiro gave this talk at the Revenue Marketing Festival in New York, December 2022. You can watch the talk (and others) in our On-Demand section.

Hey everyone. My name is Paul Shapiro, and I'm the Head of Technical SEO at Shopify. I specialize in technical SEO, as well as the intersection of SEO and data science. I used to work at Condé Nast and was agency-side and GroupM, helping many many businesses with their SEO. Today, I’m going to share some SEO tips and strategies to help you drive revenue with your website.

What is SEO?

As you may know, SEO stands for search engine optimization. That still sounds pretty abstract, so let’s take a look at what I mean.

Google search example

Say you searched for jeans on Google, these are the results you'd get. Everything in red is an ad. The organic results are in green – that's what SEO is concerned with. There’s a list of websites, and generally speaking, your goal is to bring your website closer to the top of that list. That’s what’s going to result in more traffic, more conversions, and more money for you. That's all SEO is – simple, right?

How does SEO work?

To understand how SEO works, we first need to understand what a search engine does. Very simply, it carries out these four steps:

  1. Crawling – There's essentially a bot that goes through the entire internet, clicking on all the links, discovering new pages on websites, and even reevaluating old ones that it might already be aware of.
  2. Indexing – Once the search engine is aware of these pages on the web, it needs to catalog them, so it takes the content and metadata from those websites and adds it to its internal database, aka index.
  3. (Rendering) – This is an unofficial aspect of what search engines do (hence the parentheses) and it’s come about because the web has gotten a lot more complex. After the initial indexing, Google and other smart search engines will come back and reevaluate all the JavaScript and other dynamic media on the page, and then that gets put into the index.
  4. Ranking – This is the end result for the user. You type a keyword into the search box, then Google applies its algorithms and decides what goes at the top and what goes at the bottom.

So how do you influence that? These are the three SEO pillars that decide your rankings:

  1. Content and keywords – If you don't have a piece of content with the keyword somebody is searching for, you won’t appear in their search results. That one’s pretty straightforward.
  2. Crawling and indexing – If the search engine can't access a part of your website, then it can't serve it in a search result.
  3. Digital PR and backlinks – Google uses a primary algorithm called PageRank, which evaluates all websites based on how many links point to that page. To put it very simply, those links are almost like votes of confidence.

Once you get to the ranking part, there's a lot you can do to improve your click-through rate (CTR) and user experience, which will hopefully improve your conversions too. We’re going to dive a little deeper into each of these areas later on, but first, I’m going to give you a few tips on getting started with your SEO strategy.

Opportunity sizing

Let’s dive into strategy and how to think about what you should go after. We’ll start with opportunity sizing. If you run a business where you can tie your online actions to revenue or conversions, then it's absolutely imperative that everything you do in SEO has an opportunity size.

There are a few ways to approach opportunity sizing – I'll give you an example of a formula you can use in a minute – but it’s important that you don't make the process too difficult or time-consuming. Often, a SWAG analysis is all you need.

Example of opportunity sizing

Here’s one way to calculate the size of your opportunity:

  • First, you take the search volume (i.e. how many times people search for a keyword; that data can be provided by Google).
  • Next, you apply a click-through rate curve (more on that in a second) to estimate how much traffic you’ll get based on your position.
  • Then I recommend using a competition-dampening tool (not all keywords are created equal; for instance, it's a lot harder to rank for “blue jeans” than it is for “Revenue Marketing Summit”).
  • Finally, you should apply your average conversion rate, and that’s going to give you the opportunity size for a keyword.

You can take this even further and size a whole group of keywords or a whole topic, almost like a TAM analysis.

CTR curve

Ideally, you’ll be able to create a click-through rate curve using your own first-party data. It’s very easy to do with a free Google Search Console account. If your website is new and you don't have that data, you can use a public repository.

I really like this one from Advanced Web Rankings. What's great about it is you can look by the industry and vertical that you're in, as well as by segment. As I said, not all search results are the same. Sometimes you'll see more ads on certain pages than others. Sometimes you'll see different search features, like a definition at the top of the page. You can segment all of that and get the click-through rate curve in aggregate for the websites they're tracking.

Competition-dampening metric

You can also roll out your own competition-dampening metric. Usually, that will incorporate some aspects like how many backlinks all of the websites on page one get. If you want to make your life easier, use a third-party tool like Semrush rather than making your own metric.

Written by:

Paul Shapiro

Paul Shapiro

Head of Technical SEO at Shopify

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Driving revenue with technical SEO