SEO or Paid Advertising? Which is Better For Shopify Stores?

Cici Nguyen
Jun 7, 2024
3 min read

Getting traffic to stores is the top priority of all e-merchants. But what is the best way to drive consumers to your Shopify store? Should you invest time and money into developing an SEO strategy, or focus on paid advertising?

These are questions every e-merchant will undoubtedly ask themselves at some point. If this is the position you’re currently in then look no further. In this article, we’ll look into how each of them can boost online traffic and see which one is best for Shopify stores.

What’s the difference between SEO & Paid advertising?

Before we begin scrutinizing SEO and paid advertising, let’s start by having a quick refresher on their differences.

SEO and paid advertising distinguish themselves based on the type of traffic they attract and place the activities occur. SEO focuses on drawing in organic traffic from search engines. It involves taking action on your store and its web pages in addition to off-page activities like guest blogging to rank high in SERPs. This is seen as a long-term strategy.

Paid advertising, on the other hand, puts an eCommerce store in front of potential customers in the following formats:

  • Search ads: these appear usually at the top of SERPs against the search terms and audiences you have bid for.
  • Display ads: these ads exist on the websites, videos, or articles consumers are viewing. They surface when their browsing history is relevant to the products you are advertising.
  • Social media ads: they are shown as sponsored posts on a specified target audience’s news feed.

These efforts bring in paid traffic, and unlike SEO, is a much more immediate solution.

Why should I do SEO marketing for my Shopify Store?

A major reason why SEO marketing comes out on top when you pit it against paid advertising is its trustworthiness. 46% of consumers believe that organic search results are more trustworthy than ads. This is because they reach your intended audience in a more natural way and are perceived to be more relevant. As a result, store owners can increase their chances of scoring that ultimate goal - higher traffic.

consumers opinions on organic search results | seo or paid advertising

Consumer attitudes are generally more favorable towards organic search results compared to paid ones. (Source: SEO Training London)

Another striking feature of having an SEO strategy is that it is a long-term solution and therefore has more longevity than paid ads. An effective strategy requires merchants to consistently pull out all the stops in order to rank higher on SERPs. Tactics like implementing keywords, improving the user experience of your store, and backlink building leave a lasting effect that both search engines and customers will love. It ensures that your store’s content is of top quality, continuously relevant, and helps you build a better Shopify store.

A well-executed SEO strategy also plays a major role in strengthening your brand. Imagine coming out on top for all the search terms related to the products you sell. This tells shoppers that you are an authoritative voice in your industry that they can rely on. It shows them that your brand is credible and genuinely earned its place in the top league.

It’s also a lot cheaper to implement an SEO strategy. In fact, in most cases, you won’t have to spend a single penny. Shopify provides a ton of in-built features that will improve the SEO of your store. You can easily manage and edit metadata, it generates your sitemap for submission to Google Search Console, canonized URLs are automatically created, and redirects can be applied if needed. Should you need a helping hand to get your SEO marketing off the ground, the Shopify app store has plenty of free and cheap tools that will help you boost your store’s ranking regardless of your skillset.

Read more:

Why should I use Paid Advertising for my Shopify Store?

Paid advertising can really be an advantageous technique in drawing attention to your Shopify store, particularly if you want a more immediate impact.

Climbing up SERPs organically is a slow process. All the efforts you make towards improving your SEO won’t materialize instantly. If your promotions or business goals are time-sensitive, using paid advertising is your best bet. The moment you start on your campaign, your products will appear right in front of shoppers.

Are there particular audiences you want your products to be shown to? Or specific messages you want to show to different customer segments? Then paid advertising is for you!

When you create an ad campaign for search engines or on social media, you have an array of targeting options. Audiences can be segmented based on demographic information, browsing history, or life events to ensure your products are in front of the right consumers. You can even run retargeting campaigns to improve retention of your Shopify store.

targeting options for advertising are diverse

There are plenty of targeting options available across paid ad platforms. (Source: Search Engine Land)

Google ads also offer a number of different ad types to expand your targeting prowess. You can use branded ads to target consumers who are searching for your store, competitor search ads to bid on branded keywords of your competitors, or dynamic search ads which do the leg work of matching the best keywords for your products to relevant searches.

| You May Be Interested In:Common Mistakes That Hurt Your Google Ads Campaign of Your Shopify Store

Once your audience segments and ad types are decided on, formulate copy tailored for each of them, and hey presto, you’ve made a targeted ad. This hyper-personalization is unique to paid ads and could be the hook that reels in your most desirable customers. What's more, you can gain valuable insight into how your target audiences respond to your ads and use it as a basis for improving future campaigns. This data helps you build a holistic view of your audience which in turn will make you a better advertiser.

Paid ads are also a lot more visually appealing than organic results shown on SERPs. Google ads and social media ads offer a variety of options to make your ads more enticing. You can add carousels to showcase a selection of relevant products, use Google Shopping ads to include rich snippets, or incorporate a video showing your products in action. This can help express your brand’s image and story in a way that is captivating and comprehendible. A picture is worth a thousand words after all!

facebook carousel for social advertising

Apiece Apart used the carousel format on Facebook to tell a story that relates to their target customers; modern, adventurous women.

If you want to pay particular attention to social media users, you basically have no choice but to opt for paid ads. Organic reach on social media is declining, in fact, the average reach of an organic Facebook post is 5.2%. Those are crumbs, so if you want a full piece of the pie you’ll need to invest in a paid social ad campaign.

Shopify makes it easy for e-merchants to create, launch, and measure paid ad campaigns through Shopify Marketing. Here, you can run paid ad campaigns for both Google and Facebook.

Which one is better for Shopify stores?

After seeing how both SEO and paid ads can be of huge benefit to your Shopify store, we’re sure you’ll agree that this is quite a tricky question to answer. If we take a look at the data, organic search is the dominant source of website traffic, but it is important to note that paid ad traffic is growing.

proportion of website traffic sources

Sources of website traffic (Source: BrightEdge)

Successful Shopify stores employ a mixture of both, however, the top-performing stores gain an astoundingly high percentage of traffic organically. For example, Gymshark receives the majority of its traffic from search with roughly 60% of it coming from organic searches.

Gymshark gets its visitors mostly from search which suggests they have a solid search engine marketing strategy. (Source: Similar Web)

It’s a similar story for the hugely popular clothing brand Fashion Nova. Search comes in second, just behind direct when it comes to traffic sources with over 78% of search traffic being organic.

So does this mean that SEO is the clear winner? Not necessarily. Whilst top stores do receive most of their traffic organically, there’s still a sizable chunk coming from paid advertising methods. Plus, it’s not unusual to see successful stores with a more even split between SEO and paid ads. Allbirds and Red Dress Boutique are prime examples of this.

traffic source breakdown of some shopify stores

Allbirds (left) and Red Dress Boutique (right) have a reasonable amount of traffic coming from paid advertising efforts.

The best option for driving traffic will entirely depend on the goals of your business. Paid ads are excellent if your goals are to see instant results, reach targeted audiences, or retain control over your marketing operations. If you want a low-cost solution to gain exposure, build your store’s credibility, or implement a long-term solution that is easily scalable, then, an SEO strategy is your best option. Regardless, these are both great tactics for getting ahead of your competition and increasing traffic to your store.

In fact, savvy e-merchants will take an integrated approach to surcharge traffic to their store. SEO can be used to attract new customers, who can then be remarketed to using paid ads to improve retention. The data gleaned from Google Ads analytics can be applied to SEO strategies, like the best performing copy, keywords, and meta titles. If you’re a newer Shopify store, get the ball rolling by investing in paid advertising while you build your SEO strategy and wait for it to come into effect.

How Will You Draw More Traffic To Your Shopify Store?

SEO and paid advertising have their perks and pitfalls, but they are both invaluable methods of luring shoppers to your Shopify store. Shopify makes it a breeze to set up either one of them for your store, so there is little stopping you from being on your way to boosting your store’s traffic.

Assess your goals, work out your budget and decide which approach aligns best. Or even better, take a page out of the expert’s book and combine SEO with paid advertising. You’ll surely see your store traffic soar.

Cici Nguyen
Email Marketing Specialist
June 25, 2024
6 min read