“Build it and they will come” is the absolute worse strategy to start a Shopify store. If you do not have a clear plan on how to drive traffic to your Shopify store then you are doomed to fail before you even start.
There are literally thousands of dropshipping stores all fighting for their piece of the pie. Traffic is the fuel that will drive your store. Without iot you are going nowhere.
If there is one skill you want to get really good at then it is getting traffic. While the competition for traffic is getting more fierce, the good news is that there are so many avenues for you to follow.
I will attempt to give you a short overview of how to drive traffic to your Shopify store. These are by no means the only ways but this will get you off to a great start. Any one of these traffic sources can get your store to at least 7 figures.
While the temptation is always to do “too much” I would urge you to pick just one and master it. Unless you become an expert at a given type of traffic you will never truly reach its full potential. Do not get tempted into trying 3 or 4 at once.
First we will look at free traffic to your Shopify store. I would recommend this if you have more time than you have money. This is slow and it takes time to build some momentum with free traffic. In fact, you may be tempted to just give up after 2 or 3 months of doing this.
Keep at it. It typically takes about 6 months to start seeing any real results – especially with SEO. The upside is that once you start getting free traffic you will see some huge ROI’s.
The downside is that if you spend months getting traffic and it converts poorly you might have spent a lot of time and effort without seeing any real results. Do not let this deter you though.
Once you have the traffic there are always ways to monetize it better.
Free traffic is also not limited to SEO. To be honest, SEO has gotten a bad wrap – mainly because of years of people using SEO to manipulate search engines. They then wake up one day and all their traffic is wiped out.
These days are well and truly over and any and all tricks will soon be found out and eliminated by Google.
With free traffic you have to take a long term view. You need to be super committed to your store and the products you sell. Do not think about what you can achieve in the next 2 months. Think about what you can achieve in the next 18 months.
After all, you are building a business – not a cash cow.
The most underrated aspect of free traffic is the fact that it adds real value to your Shopify store.
The kind of value that allows you to sell your store for big money.
Shopify stores (especially those that dropship) that rely on paid traffic only, are pretty much worthless when it comes to selling them. It’s not really a business – it’s a cash machine and most of the time the margins are razor thin.
How To Get Free Traffic To Your Shopify Store
Below we will look at 10 major sources of free traffic for Shopify stores. These are by no means the only ones but any one of these can be enough to sustain a good volume of sales.
There is off course a wealth of free traffic opportunities within your store’s niche is always be on the lookout for opportunities.
Free SEO traffic for Shopify stores is where the real gold lies. Search engine traffic converts at least twice as well as any other form of traffic (in most cases).
When someone finds your store and your products through a Google search then they are already pre-qualified. They don’t feel like they are being advertised to and they are most likely already looking for what you are selling.
SEO has come a long way since the days when it was easy to manipulate search results with backlinks. While this is still important, it is far more important to focus on your content.
You need to write GREAT product descriptions that are based around your target keywords. Make sure that your images, titles and headings all include your keywords and variations of your keywords.
Also, make sure that you target keywords with low competition. Long tail keywords are not only more targeted but can get you ranking for a ton of related searches.
To be honest, doing SEO for a Shopify store has one major flaw. Google wants content and there is only that much content you can place on a store and about a product. You will have to attach a blog to your store (which you can do with Shopify).
This will allow you to add some more content and fatten up your store. The great thing is that you can place “Shop Now” buttons in your content and make it easy for people to buy products from general articles.
Always make sure that your blog content is aimed at your main keywords and always sprinkle your content with links back to your store where people can buy your products.
Becoming informative and offering customers a lot of great information will also help build trust. If you can funnel a customer from your blog content to your products they are far more likely to buy.
Make sure that you follow proper SEO practices for your images and do not skimp on writing descriptions for your category pages. You can use an App like Smart SEO to make sure you do not miss out on any on-site SEO opportunities.
With Shopify it is quite easy to get all the on-site SEO right. To get your store ranked for the best keywords you will have to do a lot of off-site SEO.
I don’t want to get into link building but because your store is thin on content you probably won’t attract a lot of organic links. You may have to look into different strategies to build authority links to your store.
While SEO is free Shopify traffic, it does take time and in many cases it takes work and/or money to get the free traffic.
Pinterest has become one of the biggest websites in the world and what makes it great for your Shopify store is two fold. Firstly, it is visual and relies a lot on images. Selling products (as opposed to services) is ideal for the Pinterest platform.
Secondly, Pinterest users are buyers. Unlike other social networks Pinterest users interact with images and not really with other people.
Getting free traffic from Pinterest relies heavily upon the images you Pin and the industry you are in.
The top Pinterest categories are:
1. Food and Drink
2. DIY and Crafts
3. Home Decor
4. Women’s Fashion
5. Health & Fitness
A LOT of products fall into these categories and the vast majority of users on Pinterest are female. So, if your products appeal mostly to women and fall into any of the above categories then you have green light.
To see any significant amounts of free traffic from Pinterest you need to post a lot of fresh Pins – ideally 5 times per day. At the same time you need to build your following by following others and pinning content that is very interesting to your audience.
The images you pin on Pinterest will be vastly different from images you post on Instagram. Its a different platform and its users respond differently.
Looking around Pinterest you will quickly see what type of images/pins are the most popular. Try and replicate this as much as possible. It is mostly the really interesting and informative type of pins.
Instead of just pinning pictures of your products, create content that users would want to see. “The 10 must Have Women’s Shoes for Summer 2020” or “The 20 Gadgets All New Moms Need”.
Linking Pinners from your pin to an article and then on to buy may seem like a cumbersome process but it is proven to work.
Linking your Pins directly to your store does not work very well.
To get significant amounts of free traffic you will have to distribute your pins either through Group Boards or through Tribes by using Tailwind.
Tailwind Tribes is currently the best way to get a lot of traffic fairly quickly. It can be quite time consuming though but if you use Tailwind’s Smartloop feature you can leverage your best post for a continuous flow of traffic.
Tailwind offers a free plan which is plenty to get you started. As you start scaling you can up the ante with one of their paid plans down the road.
Creating new pins, repining your best pins and distributing your pins via group boards and tribes is a very basic process but it can be time consuming. Pinterest traffic can take time to build but it is still much faster than SEO.
At the end of 2019, Pinterest started allowing video pins.
These are seeing some amazing CTR’s and the strategy is to add some element of animation to your images and to Pin them as “videos”. Because so few people are using video Pins, they stand out and get a lot of traffic.
Jump in early on this new video trend and mix it in with your image pinning process.
Pinterest traffic for Shopify stores work and it can be very high converting traffic but it is not suitable for all niches. Also, do not just send your Pinterest traffic straight to your product pages. You will be disappointed.
Make sure you enable Rich Pins on your Pinterest account and you should at least have all your products pinned to Pinterest.
One thing I do not like about Pinterest though is that it is not a perpetual traffic machine like SEO. It requires constant pinning and re-pinning to maintain your free Shopify traffic.
Instagram Influencers have taken over the world – or at least it feels like it. Instagram is an incredibly interesting platform and when Facebook bought it everyone was wondering if they would ever be able to make money from it.
Maybe The Zuck knew something we did not.
Instagram traffic works incredibly well for physical products. In fact, Instagram influencers only exist because of the products they promote.
We will look more at using paid Instagram traffic later, but for now we want to focus on getting your own Instagram traffic – for free.
Posting pictures to your Instagram account is where its all at. It is an image based platform and unless you can create or get a constant supply of great images you will struggle on Instagram.
Not everything you post has to sell something. In fact, this is not a great strategy.
You want to focus on building your following by posting interesting images that your audience will like. Growing your followers organically is all about being interesting and standing out. You need to give people a reason to follow you.
As you build your following it will snowball. Your goal should be to get to that first 10k followers. That will give you a large enough audience to really start making money with your Shopify store’s products.
The temptation will always be there to buy followers.
Do NOT do this.
Not only can you lose your account but fake followers never translate to sales.
You are only allowed one link in your Instagram profile. Make it count. If you use an app like Later.com you can create a shoppable “page” for your Instagram posts/products. I would highly recommend this as the app also allows you to schedule posts.
If you do Pinterest you can also use your Tailwind account to schedule your Instagram posts. This makes it less tedious and you can easily schedule a month’s worth of posts in a few hours.
Building your instagram account and building a big following can be incredibly lucrative for your Shopify store. One very effective strategy is if you are the “face” of the brand.
This makes it easy to create content and get customers to connect with “you”. Selling products becomes much easier then. Just look at the Kardashians and how they do things on Instagram.
Getting free organic Shopify traffic from Facebook has become much harder as of mid 2018. Facebook has figured out that they can make more money by making people pay for traffic – duh!
There was a time where Facebook would distribute your posts and you could get millions of free visitors off a single Facebook post.
Times have changed and unless your post is really good, you will probably not see much traffic at all.
Facebook seems to favour video content. There certainly has been many dropshipping videos that went viral on facebook to get a lot of views and free traffic back to the stores.
This is definitely not the norm and usually for new-ish products that have serious wow-factor. People share stuff like crazy if it is truly interesting and gadgets with wow factor are everywhere on Aliexpress.
If you have a Facebook page with an audience over 10k then you will certainly see a trickle of traffic every time you post something. The really large pages over 500k that post 3 to 5 times a day are the ones that are able to bank on their free Facebook traffic.
Is growing your Facebook page still worth it?
I doubt it. It has become too risky to invest your time and money because even if you have a large following on your page, facebook will only show it to a small portion of your audience.
Yes, the odd post will be a real hit and get you thousands of free views but it is the exception rather than the rule.
In 2020 and beyond, Facebook Groups is the name of the game.
Building a group around your niche and creating a community is completely different. You get to post to the group whenever and whatever you want – ie. your products.
Unlike a Facebook Page where Facebook will only show your posts to a percentage of your audience, with a Facebook Group the entire group will ALL see everything you post.
You can even send out notifications to the group which makes it a little bit like an email list.
Amazingly, Facebook still helps you to promote your group organically and for free. You can quickly grow your Facebook group organically – especially if it is good and interesting.
You have to be the one to drive the group – especially at the beginning.. You need to give people a reason to join the group by providing something useful.
After that initial push these groups start taking on a life of their own and the group members are the ones creating the content “for you”.
For this to work, it needs to be quite a tight niche and be based around a topic that people like to talk about and interact with.
If you want to see free Facebook traffic to sell products through Shopify then focus on creating a Facebook Group. It can be as good as an email list because you can market to the group over and over again without spending a dime.
Youtube is huge and people spend enormous amounts of time watching content on Youtube. You can learn to do almost anything on Youtube. You can get instructions for almost anything on youtube.
So, how do you get and use youtube traffic to sell your products?
There are a few strategies and we will look at the paid traffic option later. When we start looking at getting free Youtube traffic for your Shopify store you need to get creative.
People do not go on to Youtube to see videos about you trying to sell products. People are looking for solutions to problems. If your products solve a problem then that is where your focus should be.
Creating a Youtube channel for your Shopify store and starting to create video content around your niche is probably the fastest way to start getting sales.
Product reviews are huge on Youtube. Education is huge on Youtube. This might not fit all niches but with the right angle you can make almost any niche work with a free Youtube channel. Be careful to not become a “salesman” but rather be a “teacher”.
Youtube also has another use when you sell Shopify products. People will often go an search for your store and your products on Google before they buy.
By having a great Youtube channel with a good presence where you illustrate and review products that you sell can help you immensely with “sealing the deal” – especially paid traffic.
Affiliate traffic is highly underrated and something that very few Shopify experts talk about. It may not be 100% appropriate for dropshipping but if you have unique products or even white label products then you most certainly can look into running your own affiliate program.
You can either plug into a big affiliate network like Share-a-Sale or Commission Junction and get your products in front of thousands of potential affiliates – instantly.
Running an online store is not for everyone. A lot of people prefer to be an affiliate as it is a business model that has almost no moving parts. It’s just about getting traffic and earning a commission.
Amazon has been using affiliates with huge success and many others do the same.
You will have to sacrifice some profit. Affiliate commissions on physical products range from 3% all the way up to 30%. The higher a commission you can offer the more affiliates will be hungry to promote your products for you.
Affiliate traffic is free. It is relatively easy to set up your own affiliate program on your Shopify store but if you go this route you either need to have a great and unique product or you will need to reach out to a lot of potential affiliates.
If you are creating your own products and they are truly unique and interesting then I would encourage you to start an affiliate program.
Goaffpro is a really easy to use Shopify app that allows you to set up an affiliate program with zero technical skills.
If you are dropshipping then you will most likely not succeed with affiliates. If you whitelabel then you possibly can make it but profit margins will always be an issue if you have to pay affiliates a commission.
Having your own affiliate program on your Shopify store has another great use…
Instead of paying influencers upfront to promote your products you can offer them a commission. With an affiliate program this is quite easy to manage and you can be completely transparent with the influencers.
This can be very effective since a lot of campaigns where you pay influencers upfront never result in a positive ROI.
By splitting the profit with an influencer you cover yourself against potential losses and there is a much bigger incentive for them to actually make sales.
With so many influencers all now competing for advertising dollars, this will become a much more viable strategy in the next few years. Many influencers are hard up for cash and although this is not their preferred model, many will take it.
Make sure it is always a win-win and make sure you offer generous commissions otherwise no influencer will fall for it.
Quora is a questions and answers website that has taken over the search results in Google. If you are old enough to remember Yahoo Answers then this is very similar.
It allows anyone to ask and answer questions. It has a huge community where people offer each other answers to common (and not so common) questions.
While the site mostly provides a service there are a lot of marketers that use it very effectively to get free traffic. By offering great answers and truly helping people solve problems you could self promote your products – but very subtly.
Obviously this does not work for every type of product but if you are selling products that solve a problem then this could be a goldmine for you.
I would caution you right from the start that going to Quora just to plug your products will not work.
You need to become very active and offer a lot of value with your answers FIRST.
If you are really building a business with your Shopify store and the products you offer then this can be a great place to build credibility as “the expert” and occasionally plugging your products in your answers.
Do not underestimate the volume of traffic on Quora.
Reddit is a truly unique website and one of the few old school web communities that survived the social onslaught from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Reddit users protect the community fiercely and have a distinct radar for anything that is remotely BS. They also have a very strong aversion to self promotion and advertising on their platform.
If you are to go and do any sort of “selling” on Reddit then you will get your ass kicked. No doubt about it.
Building a reputation and spending a lot of time on the platform to provide value upfront is the way to go.
Reddit followers are fiercely loyal and because there is literally no room for BS on reddit, you can be either wildly successful or public enemy number 1.
Unless you have a truly unique product that is genuinely good, stay away – or at least go for the paid option on reddit.
This is definitely not everyone as I’ve seen far too many people crash and burn when trying to promote anything to the communities on Reddit. It certainly is possible but not something I’ve had success with.
In my opinion it is far easier and less stressful to just buy ads on Reddit. What I would add though is that if you do see success with your paid ads, it’s well worth having a crack at getting involved with the communities you are advertising on.
9. Forums and Communities
Online forums have declined sharply in the last few years thanks to social media. Before Facebook and Facebook Groups the only way for communities to exist online was with Forums.
However, in some niches forums are still huge with massive membership numbers. The really good Forums are well policed by the community and doing self promotion is always frowned upon.
Similar to reddit you need to build a reputation by helping people.
You will have an opportunity to post a link back to your store in your bio that everyone will see when you make a post.
To succeed with Forum traffic you will have to be in the right niche. If there are no significant forums in your niche then it’s obviously not worth your time.
One niche where forums are still huge is in the automotive industry. People LOVE to talk and share pictures about cars. If you had a store that sells car accessories this can be a massive source of traffic.
An older male demographic still seem to prefer forums over Facebook groups so if your store hits that demographic then you most certainly can start looking for related forums.
I would suggest you dig into one or two forums for the long haul and focus only on posting quality content and helping to answer people’s questions.
If you have 1000 posts in a forum then you will have 1000 “ads” back to your store. Make sure that your bio and your bio link is engaging and gets people to click. Also, make sure you offer a discount for that forum’s members only.
Once you’ve build some credibility you can also approach the forum owner and see if you can strike a deal or work out ways to promote your store on the forum. Remember, forum owners can send out emails to their entire list – wink, wink.
10. Offline Marketing
Offline marketing is often overlooked just because we tend to have such tunnel vision when we work online. The fact remains that there are many opportunities to drive free traffic to your store from offline sources.
You will need to be creative here but one way is to start thinking about how you can fulfill a need with what you are selling.
Where do your customers hang out? How can you reach them outside of the internet?
Because nobody does this, it can be a very high converting idea. One great example is with conventions and conferences in your niche.
You can hire a stand, buy a few sample products and have a laptop where people can place orders on the spot.
I’ve seen this a lot in shopping malls lately. One guy was selling Print On Demand T-shirts. He had 1 sample of each of the 20 or so T-shirts he was selling. He rented a cheap “table” in the local mall with a laptop where customers could place an order on the spot.
This is not really free traffic but you get the idea.
Summary: Free Shopify Traffic
Getting free traffic to your Shopify store is slow. It takes a lot of your time and it can take months before you start seeing even a trickle of traffic from Search engines.
Using Pinterest is much faster but takes a lot of consistent effort. Make sure you use Tailwind and make full use of Tribes to boost the content you Pin.
Organic traffic from facebook is pretty dead and continues to decline. If you have a big facebook page with a very engaged audience it is still worth it – otherwise don’t bother.
Focus on creating a Facebook Group instead and building a community. A Facebook Group allows you to reach the entire group with your posts at any time.
Instagram is a great option for many niches but you will need to have a consistent flow of great images to post.
Start building your Instagram following from day one. Similar to a Facebook Group it can be a huge asset to your Shopify store.
Youtube is a great option in certain niches but avoid posting videos of your products. No one really cares except those who want to rip off your videos. Create valuable content around your products and your niche and if you have to post about your products make it informative and fun.
Also, do not underestimate how great product reviews can work.
Quora and Reddit are massive online communities that can be a great source of free traffic but you need to understand both the written and unwritten rules of each. If not, you will probably get kicked out quite quickly.
Don’t be afraid to create an affiliate program for your store if you have truly unique products. Affiliate traffic can be great – especially if you can get into some of the big affiliate networks like Commission Junction.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment with marketing offline. If you are really creative and you are passionate about the niche you’re in then you will have no problem coming up with ideas to drive people to your Shopify store and turning them into customers.
The most important lesson to take home from free traffic is that it is a real asset to your business.
Getting SEO traffic, having a big Facebook Group or a big Pinterest following really does translate to money when it comes to selling your store.
If the idea of free traffic sounds like its too much work, then make sure you read How To Drive Traffic To Your Shopify Store With Paid Traffic.