In this article, we are going to list the top 10 resources and offer a whole range of Shopify tips. The article will focus mainly on beginners and will give you a great entry point to the ecommerce world.
Each point will highlight some key takeaways from the articles as well as a link to the resource so you can do some further reading.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on November 16, 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
1. Setting up your store
When starting off in the ecommerce world your eagerness can get the better of you. Ambitions of setting up your brand and taking on the world mean that the very basics can slip by the wayside.
So, first off you need to ensure you have set up your store correctly and here’s a good place to start: Beginner’s Guide to Shopify.
This is a great resource from MonetizePros. It goes through important topics like pricing on the platform and how to set up your online store from scratch. It also deals with various features essential for any newbie, as well as a quick background on the app store.
- Hosting – None of Shopify's plans includes a domain or email hosting. Therefore you will need to contact an internet domain registrar such as GoDaddy or Namecheap. In regards to GoDaddy, you can register a domain for the first year from as low as 99c. They also offer email support, where you can register a company email address and each user costs around $2 a month. You can also get 30% off your first order by using the code GET30OFF
- Payment – When you are looking to make your first payment to Shopify you can get a 10% discount if you pay for an annual plan or 20% off for a biennial (two years) plan
- Domain – Struggling for a name for your store? Not sure what's available, then check out a business name generator tool to see what domains are available
- Theme – one of the most important elements to consider is the theme. Shopify offers 9 free themes out of the box, including the very popular Brooklyn theme. However, if you're super serious about your business we would recommend one of the paid options, or to reach out to a developer to help build a custom theme. This can really help you set yourself apart from your competitors which we cover later on
How to build your product pages
Nailing your product descriptions is essential to ensuring the success of your ecommerce business and is arguably the most important aspect of your business. So here are a few product page best practices.
- Metadata – Shopify presents you with a search engine listing preview when building your pages. Adding a succinct 50-60 character title that also matches your URL will help. Perhaps the most forgotten element is the meta description. Although not a ranking factor, it will help improve your click-through rate, which in turn will help boost your ranking. The ideal character count for this is 130-160 characters
- Content – writing your product descriptions is the most important thing that you'll do, so how do you do it well? First, they need to be lengthy, with no stone unturned. Make sure you use headings and space key points out by using bullet points. Don't forget to use alt text for your images as well. Search engines can't ‘see' your product so will rely on you describing it to be ranked
- Customer Service – there are two big elements to this and they are reviews and faqs. First off you want to display the full written reviews on the page. Our favourite plugin is Yotpo which is free if you receiving less than 50 orders per month, perfect for a startup. Each product page should include an FAQ, ideally, these will be searchable for the user. Another tip is include a voting system so the most popular answers rise to the top
2. Domain setup
When you initially set up your Shopify store you are given a free myshopify.com domain, so your store URL, for example, would look like “http://sportshoes.myshopify.com“. This doesn't look great from a users perspective and it also doesn't help you build a strong brand. Also if you are looking to put your URL on printed materials then it's not going to look instantly recognisable with a ‘myshopify' part of it in the URL.
Therefore it's important to purchase a domain from GoDaddy or Namecheap and point your domain to the Shopify store. In fact, the latter wrote a fantastic article on how to do that.
- Domain does not connect – Initially when you follow the steps to update your domain you may see an error where it tells you that your domain is not connected. Don't worry as sometimes it can take up to 24 hours for the DNS records for the domain name to be updated
- SSL – If you are looking to get an SSL certificate and have your website set up on HTTPS (and you should) then you will need to contact Shopify directly for issues rather than the domain registrar
Connecting a third-party domain?
Purchasing a domain from the aforementioned companies is our preferred method of doing things. Here are a few things to consider when connecting your custom domain to your Shopify store.
- Transferring – once you have purchased your domain, to make it easier you can transfer it directly into Shopify. This allows you to manage all your domain settings with your Shopify admin section
- Delay – bear in mind that it can take up to 48 hours for your custom domain to connect to Shopify. Plan this around your store launch as this could potentially delay things for you
- TTL – there is a solution to the above point and that is lowering the time of live (TTL) value of your domain. Contact your provider to see if this can be reduced
3. Launching your store
Now that you’re familiar with the first steps, it’s time to launch your store to the world!
Just before you do so though it's worth momentarily putting the brakes on and double-checking everything is in the right place. Fortunately for you, the guys and girls at Shopify have put together the essential Shopify store launch checklist.
The article covers everything from additional sales channels and image optimisation to analytics setup and tax and shipping settings. When your website launches you don't want to worry about the admin tasks that you didn't take care of initially and you want to focus on your content marketing and ensuring your store gets off to the best possible start.
- Sales Channels – When Shopify users begin their journey there is a worry that they can be narrow-minded, solely focus on their Shopify online store. However, research from Harvard proves that 73% of customers use multiple channels to make purchases from the same brand. Therefore you need to be selling your products on marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, Kik and Google Shopping and using inventory management software to help you manage these
- Analytics – Having analytics set up on your website is one of the most important things you can do as it will give you priceless feedback in regards to how visitors are, or not, interacting with your website. The obvious choice is Google Analytics and you can follow their setup documentation to get this started. We also cover this a bit more in the next step
- Shipping – Not a particularly exciting task but an essential one. Ensure the right prices are set up for your shipping and that you can ship to the locations you've stated. For example, if you are a UK seller, do you want to ship to Northern Ireland? It's part of the UK but the cost of shipping there is much more expensive than mainland UK
Customer support options
Once you have launched your website, you better be prepared for customer enquiries. The best way to achieve this is through live chat and in particular Shopify's live chat plugin Shopify Ping. From March – July 2020, Shopify reported an 85% increase in conversations through their app.
- Recommendations – Ping can let you share product recommendations, offer discount codes and help build relationships with your customers
- Direct purchases – customers can purchases directly through Ping without them having to leave the Shopify app via Apple Pay
- Management – not only can you manage your conversations with your customers but you can also collaborate with your team and use it as a messenger app
For beginners, Google Analytics will be the best tool for you to use to track your website performance. Don’t over complicate things at this stage, so take a closer look at this about how to add Google Analityics to Shopify.
You must be able to measure your store’s performance at all stages, and this thorough guide helps you set up the tool and how you can better understand your reports. It also briefly explains how you can get to grips with your social media analytics.
- Funnels – When setting up and launching any marketing campaign you need to track at what stage of the funnel people are dropping out. Understanding where the barriers are in your marketing can help you understand the psychology behind your customers, which will improve future campaigns
- Tracking – The worst thing that ecommerce site owners can do initially is to spend money on campaigns but then have no results to show if it worked. Setting up UTM codes for all your campaigns will ensure you are aware if it was money well spent
- Facebook – Facebook provides insights on your fans which can give you valuable feedback on understanding your customer base. You have access to demographics, location, language and purchase data. Very powerful if you want to begin using Facebook ads as well
Best social media analytics tools
Do you know which social media platforms work best for you? If the answer is no, or you are unsure then the tools below are a great way of getting you started
- Sprout Social – this tool comes with some fantastic advanced listing options which allow you to monitor audience demographics, identify influencers in your industry and review campaign performance
- HubSpot – if you are willing to splash out a bit it's worth looking at HubSpot's marketing platform. The social media element is just one arm of this very powerful tool
- TapInfluence – if influencer marketing is going to be a big marketing strategy for your business then TapInfluence is an ideal choice. This tool matches you with your potential relationships before you start your outreach
You don’t want to be lost when you see those long lists of plugins, so here you can find the some of the most popular Shopify plugins.
It’s a great list, with plugins that help you with email marketing, posting products to social media accounts and much more. It's a great startup article before you dig deeper into those dozens of other plugins.
- Launching your store – Shopify's app store is separated into different collections, check out our launching your store guide which contains all the essentials you need. A lot of these apps tend to be free as well which is vital when you are looking to keep costs low during your launch
- Reviews – You can easily see which apps are the most popular by checking out the user review and ratings next to each of them. Take time to click on the apps and read the detailed descriptions that come with them and the video guides. Reading the small print ensures that you don't get any nasty surprises in regards to fees
3 best Shopify Plugins to get you started up
There are many high powered plugins for Shopify store owners but what are the best ones that come at a low cost for beginners?
- Yotpo – if customers aren't familiar with your business then reviews can help them gain a good impression. Can you arrange a giveaway in exchange for reviews? If so Yotpo is a great option to collect them
- Trust Badge – this free tool allows you to attach badges to your product pages to ensure customers that payments are secure. A great visual display to reassure customers and increase conversion rates
- Shipping Bar – people love free shipping! This free shipping bar allows you to add a banner to any of your pages. Our favourite element is that you can target via locations. Can you offer free delivery locally? Then set the bar to show for local customers
6. Website Design
This is a guide for web designers who want to design their own Shopify store: A Web Designers Introduction to Shopify.
You’ll find out how Shopify theme development works, including introductions to Liquid, which is Shopify’s template language. There are a lot of templates available to you through Shopify but nothing beats having your own theme designed like this can really make your site look unique.
- Partner Programme – If you are capable of designing your own store then its worth looking at the partner programme. That way you can design as many stores as you like for free and list them on the partner programme for a price. This can help you supplement your spending on your own website
Shopify website design tips
It's all good learning the technical elements of Shopify's designer program Liquid, but it's important to not forget the bigger picture.
- Loading – long loading times can kill your business. Ensure all your images are compressed using a tool such as Compressor. Another item to avoid is carousels, these really slow down your site and too many calls to action can confuse the customer
- Conversions – a/b testing is essential, just because you like your design doesn't mean others will. Test CTAs, colours, imagery, navigation and messaging
- USP – a fantastic looking website is great but what are you trying to promote? This isn't the slogan but what the product offers, making this front and centre is vital
7. SEO for Shopify
The Ultimate Shopify Users SEO guide created by our colleague Joe, is a fantastic guide for both beginners and advanced users when it comes to SEO.
It's a half-hour read and you’ll find (almost) everything in there, from the first steps right up to Google Search Console and site migrations from other platforms to Shopify.
- Meta Description – You will have an automatically populated description for your store, however, you should be filling this in yourself to make it appealing so that it encourages visitors to click on your listing from the search engine results
- Search Console – Add your site to Google Search Console. This will allow you to see errors in regards to missing pages and server related issues. It will also inform you of any broken links and will give you suggestions on how you can improve your HTML in regards to title tags and meta descriptions
- Sitemaps – Shopify has a built-in XML sitemap functionality, a sitemap essentially is a list of all the pages that are on your website. You will need access to this when you want to submit your website to Google Search Console
3 best SEO Shopify tools for beginners
As you can tell by now we love a tool here at Ecommerce Platforms. There's none better than the tools they offer for SEO.
- SEO Booster – used by over 40,000 stores this app helps you build out your Google sitemap and has the option for bulk alt text upload to save you time
- Plug in SEO Optimizer – this tool comes with an SEO scan that picks up critical issues with your website. Allowing you to fix heading, alt text or broken link issues
- Schema Plus – Schema is a very confusing topic, especially if you're new to SEO. In a nutshell Schema helps search engines to understand your product better and ultimately improve your rankings
8. Building a Theme
This is another resource for web designers. We touched on the basics of Shopify web design earlier, but here's some more in-depth information on how you can build your first theme.
This is essential if you have beginner designer skills and can't quite find the theme that you are looking for on the Shopify app store. It gives you more tips on Liquid, as well as some great suggestions on how you can be creative in order to get your own personalised theme.
- Liquid – Shopify uses a highly readable and expressive Ruby-based language that helps to run their themes. Shopify have put together a very thorough and comprehensive guide to Liquid which shows you how to use various tags, filters and objects
- Slate – There was a demand from the Shopify community for a modern tooling system. Therefore they have provided what they call the Slate Starter Theme which provides all the essentials you need to get started. This includes snippets and templates, as well as the standard tags you need for Liquid. Note that there isn't much CSS in this theme which is purposely done, as this is just a framework for you to get started
The key pages to focus on for your Shopify theme
Learning how Liquid and Slate work is fine but understanding your customer journey and which pages need the most attention is vital. Here's a quick list of the landing pages to focus your time on.
- Homepage – goes without saying that this your most important page? But what can give it that boost? A clear proposition, detailing how your product provides a solution. Offer simple navigation with a clear call to action and try not to make the page too busy. Make the contact options clearly visible and use high-quality imagery to grab their attention
- Product Page – highlight the key benefits of your product in a list format. Use a tab system to give additional information on your products such as specifications, size and information on shipping
- Collection Page – users don't want to be scrolling endlessly through your website so collating your products is an important step. Make it easy for them to select brands, sizes, pricing and product types
9. Video Guides
If you think a video course is more your cup of tea, then try the online video courses from Lynda. They will walk you through launching, setting up your store, payment gateways, shipping options, and how to customize your site.
Patrick who runs this course is an ecommerce expert and offers fantastic insight on how you can run a successful online store. Courses on Lynda are now available on LinkedIn Learning and you can access more than 6,000 courses. You can also start by having the first month free.
- Discounts – Not only can you set up a discount code but you can also run a banner on your website to showcase your discount. Patrick shows you how to set this up to maximise your sales in peak sales times such as Black Friday
- Shipping labels – Patrick takes you through the process of how you can print your own shipping labels within Shopify. This will save you an abundance of time, which otherwise would be spent queuing in line at the post office to send out your parcels
- Orders – Patrick highlights how when using 3rd part gateways such as Paypal, that Shopify can sometimes say that the order was ‘unpaid'. This is due to Paypal having to redirect the user back to the site, if the user doesn't wait for this process then it can show as unpaid. It's worth checking in your orders screen daily to match up your orders with your 3rd party gateways
3 online courses on Lynda for Shopify Store Owners
Lynda is a fantastic resource to teach you everything about the basics of Shopify, right up to the most advanced techniques. But what are the pick of the courses to spend your hard-earned money on?
- Shopify Essential Training – as mentioned above Patrick Rauland's essential training course is an absolute must for ecommerce retailers. Patrick takes you from setting up an account right through to configuring a point of sale (POS) for your business. It's 3 hours of dynamite tips to give you all the Shopify know how and it comes highly recommended
- Shopify Ecommerce for Marketers – once you have the admin side of things set up, it's time to flex your marketing skills. Led by Sam Dey of Deytips focuses on the marketing tools within Shopify and how to best use them. This includes email marketing, retargeting and how the Shopify affiliate system works
- SEO: Ecommerce Strategies – the two courses above are listed for beginners. Once you have completed them it's time to step it up to the intermediate level. Sam is back again to showcase how you can improve keyword rankings and build traffic to your website.
10. Product Photography
Using eye-catching high-quality images is essential to ensure you are making your products enticing to your visitors. If people visiting your website can't see a clear image of your product then you may as well set yourself up for failure.
It can be very pricey to pay for a professional photographer, especially if you have a large collection of products. So the good people at Out of the Sandbox (check out their their template collection here) have put a handy DIY guide together titled “Secrets for taking great product photos for your Shopify Theme”. In an age where smartphones are becoming more powerful, it's never been easier to take photographer esque photos with your handset.
If you're looking to use dropshipping then it's worth asking your suppliers if they already have some high-end photographs.
- Background – Visitors to your website want the focus to be on your product, so ensuring you have a white background is essential. Out of the Sandbox suggest simply using a white piece of poster board pushed up against a wall
- Lighting – The flash of your camera won't be good enough so ensuring you have great lighting will really make your images stand out. The article suggests clamp-on utility lamps and painters lights which are both very affordable
- Uploading – Once you've completed your photoshoot you can easily upload them to your Shopify stores backend. If you are an Apple or Mac users then you can use the Airdrop feature to transfer your photos quickly and efficiently
Essential tools for perfect product photography on a budget
- Camera – you don't have the break the bank here and in a lot of cases the latest smartphones are powerful enough to take great product pictures. If you want to branch out a little more than we suggest using a Canon Powershot SX430. At just $200 it is a great entry-level camera to capture the great pictures
- Tripod – in order to get the best picture you are going to have to set the aperture on your camera to very low. This means you will get a great depth of field, but it will mean there can be a lot of blur on the image if the camera is not steady. You don't have to spend big here and a sufficient tripod can be bought on Amazon for just $20
- Table – sounds obvious, but you need a flat surface for your products. Aim for something at least 20 inches in width which is foldable to save on storage
Have you read any of these articles and found them helpful? Have some tips on how to succeed with Shopify? Then share your comments below and let us get a topic discussion going!