How to Run a Successful Print-on-Demand Business on Shopify using FREE Traffic

15 min read

At first, I didn’t believe that we could make a ton of sales by selling print on demand products on Shopify with free traffic.

Free traffic … seriously? I’m a HUGE fan of paid traffic.

I love using Facebook Ads to promote all my products. I love the feeling when I scale my FB Ads campaigns. (Yes, even when it burns up my advertising budget and I sometimes get no conversions).

My knowledge about SEO is limited. I know only basic on-page SEO only. I think many of you who are SEO experts haver probably noticed that this blog has a lousy SEO structure!

Anyhoo…

Recently, I’ve been surprised that my ‘testing’ Shopify store has generated a lot of print-on-demand sales from ‘free traffic’.

Notice that I used the word ‘testing’ because it’s not the main store I want to make my sales from.

Actually, this store was the built because my programmer wanted to use it to check the connection between Shopify and PODTurbo (my POD Automation tool).

podturbo shopify

When there’s a problem – like when my customers can’t upload a product to Shopify, or the order is not fulfilled by PODTurbo – my programmer will spot the problem and use this store to test and fix it.

That’s the primary reason why we built the store.

It’s just a basic Shopify, which charges a $29 monthly fee. No app. No paid theme. No optimization. Just the plainest possible store.

But after PODTurbo uploaded over 100,000 products to this store, it made ‘this SEO noob’ over $4,000 passively in less than two months – all from ‘100% free traffic’.

shopify earning

Want to know how I do this?

In this post, I’m going to show you what I did with this store, what I found inside my Google Webmaster Tool and Google Analytics,  and what I’ll do next to make this store a mini-version of Amazon and Etsy that sells only print-on-demand products.

Okay, let’s get started.


The Basic Shopify Setup


As I told you earlier, I didn’t do much of anything with my Shopify Store. I didn’t install any apps or use a paid theme. Let me show you what I’ve done. You can easily do the same thing.

shopify mobile

First, create a Basic Shopify store, which costs only $29 a month. We don’t need professional reports or low transaction fees yet. We just need a store with tons of products in it.

Next, set up the general information for your store.

Make sure to have a good-looking logo. No need to spend much money on it. Go to Fiverr and select one that costs $5 – that’ll do it. If you know how, you can create it by yourself.

Create the basic pages, which are the Privacy Policy, Terms of Uses, Refund Policy, and Contact Us. If I’m not mistaken, these pages are important for SEO rankings as well.

Then, create collections of products in your store.

This is very important, because the URL of your product will contain the collection name. The URLs of products in Shopify look like this:

https://[YOUR_STORE_DOMAIN_NAME]/collections/[COLLECTION_NAME]/[PRODUCT_NAME]

It’s important to have a keyword in the URL, so make sure to name the collection properly.

I usually name collections in my store like this (feel free to copy it):

Gifts for Mom
Gifts for Dad
Gifts for Son
Gifts for Daughter
Gifts for [PROFESSION]
Gifts for [Dog Breeds]
etc.

So the products in my store have URLs like this:

https://[YOUR_STORE_DOMAIN_NAME]/collections/gifts-for-mom/funny-mothers-day-mug

I currently have over 1,000 collections targeted at many different niches in my store.

When creating a collection, make sure to set up the conditions such that your products will be added to the right collection automatically.

For example, create a condition like this:

In this case, all products that have the word “Mom” in the title will be automatically added to Gifts for Mom.

Take your time to create collections like this, because you’ll have tons of print-on-demand products in many different niches.

If you’ve created collections with conditions like this, all products in your store will have SEO-Friendly URLs automatically.

Then, set up the theme for your store. I use a free theme called Minimal. It’s actually the first theme I used back in 2015. I like it because the UI is clean and loads quickly.

If you’re just getting started, you don’t need to use a paid theme. The free theme is enough. Don’t spend too much time or money, especially when you’re just starting out. The goal is to launch a shop and send some traffic to it as soon as possible.

Okay, after you’ve installed the theme, it’s time to customize the main page.

Most of the theme will include components such as slides of the products, news, blog post, etc. in the main page. I remove them all and add some collections to the main page.

The reason why I do this is because I’m too lazy to create a slider for the products and add a blog post to my shop. These components are not that important. Just make sure the page contains some products or collections.

Now your Shopify store is almost ready. The last thing to do is install Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics.

Even though we’ll mainly be selling products using free traffic, it’s important to install these pixels. We’ll know the website stats and can use the info from the pixels for retargeting campaigns in the future.

Okay, that’s it for the Basic Shopify Setup.


How to Generate FREE SEO Traffic


Next let’s talk about how to generate FREE Traffic from SEO.

First of all, I want to repeat that I’m not an SEO Expert. I’m actually an SEO Noob. The results I got are from my basic SEO experiment only.

To generate free traffic to sell print-on-demand products on Shopify, I focus on three important things: (1) the number of products in the store, (2) the product title, and (3) the product description and tags.

These three things are very easy to implement, and you don’t have to hire an SEO expert to do it.

1. Upload tons of Print-on-Demand products

The first important thing to do is to have loads of products in many different niches in your store.

This is the easiest way to generate free traffic. The more products with different targeted keywords you have, the more free traffic you’ll generate.

In my store, I have over 100,000 products – including coffee mugs, two-tone coffee mugs, shot glasses, travel mugs, and tumblers with many designs – in over 1,000 niches.

Anyway, you don’t have to upload many products at once. Just keep adding new products every day. The 100,000 products I have are all from around 30,000 unique designs that took 1-2 years to create.

Adding many products in many different niches is very important, because you’ll get free traffic from many different keywords.

For example, if you have products in profession niches such as Engineer, Chemistry Teacher or Underwriter, you’ll have a chance to grab traffic when people search for “Engineer Mug”, “Mug for Chemistry Teacher”, or “Underwriter Coffee Mug”.

Many untapped niches have very low competition. If we list products in these untapped niches, our products could easily be on the first page of the search results.

I just checked my Google Analytics stats and Google Webmaster tool, and my store got free traffic from many keywords I didn’t even think of.

So, this is the first thing you have to do.

The good thing about Shopify is that they won’t charge you more when you upload many products. So, if you use Shopify, keep adding new products to your store.

I once used WooCommerce (also to test the connection with PODTurbo) and my storage filled up. I needed to update the server plan and pay more.

Anyway, a friend of mine who really likes WooCommerce told me that we could install a plugin that moves our image files to Amazon S3, and we can subscribe to Amazon S3 for a very cheap price.

He also said that WordPress – the platform WooCommerce uses – is the best platform for SEO. I might relaunch my WooCommerce site again and see how it works.

2. Write a Good Product Title that includes the Main Keyword and Quote

The second important thing is to create a good product title that includes the main keyword and quote.

Notice that I focus on two things: Main Keyword and Quote.

Most people usually add keywords like Gifts for Mom, Gifts for Her, Mug for Mother to the product title. If you go to Amazon or Etsy, you’ll see that most of them focus on a few main keywords.

This is a good thing to do, and all products should have at least one main keyword in the product title.

But I’ve noticed that few of them add a “Quote” on the product to the product title. This is an important thing that most people overlook.

From my stats, I have found that many people found my store by searching for the full quote in Google or Bing.

Yes, the full quote.

I think this might be because people might find products with the quote they like, but not like the design on the product. So they copy the quote and search for other products that have the same quote on Google.

I went to Google, entered that quote in the search box, and found that my product in this Shopify store was in the first position and outranked other products on Amazon, Etsy, and Zazzle.

If we add the quote to the product title, our product will have a better chance of appearing in the top ten search results for the search query that contains the quote.

Also, by comparing the difficulties of ranking a website for the keyword and quote, you’ll see that ranking your website for the quote is much easier.

So, when you add a product in Shopify, don’t forget to insert the quote in the product title. You’ll be surprised by how much traffic you’ll get from many different quotes.

3. Create Unique Product Descriptions with the Main Keyword

The product title is key, but it’s also important to have a unique description and tags for your product as well.

Most of the print-on-demand products I see in other Shopify stores have the same description for all products. I think it’s the default product description generated by whatever system the store owner uses to upload products.

I bought one SEO course a few months ago and learned that even though your website is a shopping website, product descriptions are still important.

Shopping website don’t need to have long product descriptions (like 1,000-2,000 words) like other websites. But the product description should contain at least 250-300 words, and include the main keywords for the product.

For example, if you’re selling a Father’s Day-related mug, make sure to have at least a 250- 300-word product description that includes the main keyword (like “Father’s Day” or “Dad Mug”).

Adding the main keywords and having a unique 250- 300-word product description will help you outrank many other stores, even product pages on Amazon or Etsy.

If you use PODTurbo to upload products, this automated system has the function called “Category Template” which you can use to create your own unique product description for all product types using the {NICHE} token.

What’s {NICHE} token? Well, when uploading a product to PODTurbo, there is a field called “Niche Keyword” for every product.

For example, if you upload an Engineer Mug, you might enter “Engineer” as the Niche Keyword. This “Engineer” keyword will be inserted into the {NICHE} token in the product description.

This is one of PODTurbo’s most powerful features. It gives our members’ products their own unique descriptions, each with keywords that helps increase the product’s search engine rankings.

Okay, these are the most important things I focus on when I create products. They’re critical to helping people find your products.


Further Actions


Since I’ve found that I can generate print-on-demand sales in Shopify store using free traffic, I plan to do a few other things to make more sales from my test store.

– Use the store to find Unicorn(s)

Making sales from free traffic is great. But scaling your site with paid traffic is a lot better.

As I wrote in my previous article, I use PODTurbo to list products on Amazon and Etsy. We can use these two marketplaces to generate free traffic l and discover which products sell the most. Then I pick some of them to promote using Facebook Ads.

For this past Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I used this method to find winning products from the marketplaces and promoted the winning ones with Facebook Ads.

As a result, I sold over 24,000 coffee mugs within about two months.

I’ll do the same thing for the winning products in this Shopify store. I’ll pick the winners and scale them up using paid traffic.

PODTurbo is not only an automation tool that helps you list products in many marketplaces and Shopify. It also helps you find winning products.

It’s different from finding best-selling products on Amazon or Etsy, because those are other people’s products.

If you want to sell other people products through Facebook Ads, you have to redesign them. You can’t just copy other people’s work and promote it. It’s illegal.

But even if you redesign other winning products, your success rate may not be that great. People might not like your redesigned version.

The winning products you find with PODTurbo – your unicorns – are 100% unique to you. If your winning product has sold well in the marketplaces with free traffic, it’ll probably sell well when you promote it using Facebook Ads.

I’ve done that many times, and my win rate is around 70-80%.

This is the first thing I’ll do next for my store. I’ll use it to find unicorns.

– Add an email abandoned cart app.

The second thing I’ll do is install an email abandoned cart app in my store.

As I told you, I haven’t installed any apps on this store yet. It’s just the basic Shopify store that I haven’t done anything much to, so adding the email abandoned cart app could be a good idea.

If you don’t know what an email abandoned cart app is, it’s basically an app that sends follow-up emails to people who added an item to their cart, but didn’t complete the checkout process.

We have to send them an email notification to remind them to return to the cart and complete their order.

My Shopify app tells me that I’ve lost $624.49 to abandoned checkouts in the past 30 days.

abandoned checkouts shopify

So I’ll do some research and find an email abandoned cart app to install in my store. I think I could make more sales from the abandoned cart emails I send out.

– Add Facebook Retargeting campaigns

The next step is retargeting. Many people won’t decide to buy a product right away. Apart from the abandoned cart emails, we need to show them ads to bring them back to our store.

But creating retargeting ads for every product would take too much time and might not be effective, because this kind of store probably won’t have much traffic.

That being the case, I create a Dynamic Product Ad or DPA campaign for all of my products.

dynamic product ad

A DPA is basically a personalized ad that is automatically created based on a person’s browsing history. If someone visits one of our product pages, the DPA campaign will show them ads with lists of products that they have previously viewed in our store.

We can specifically target people who visited the product page and added the product to the cart but didn’t check out, or just people who visited the product page. It depends on how we design the targeting.

To do this, we have to install Facebook Pixels in our store and create a catalog feed for our products.

So I’ll install an app that can create and update the catalog feed for all of the products in my store and create DPA campaigns on Facebook for the retargeting.

– Hire someone to write content and build backlinks once a month

The SEO course I took a few months ago told me that we should have content pages that link back to the main page we want to rank. This will help the main page get a better ranking in the search engines.

backlink network

For my Shopify store, I plan to hire a writer to write blog posts about the products and inset links back to the main product pages in my store.

First, I’ll select some of the store’s top-selling products to write blog posts about.

The blog posts will have titles like “Birthday Gifts Ideas For Mom” or “Top Fiver Funny Coffee Mugs For Dad”. I’ll let the writer write the content and include links back to my top-selling products or the collection pages.

One product will have 4-5 supporting blog posts linking back to it. Then, after the content is published, I’ll hire someone in SEOClerk to build the backlinks to this content.

Getting good SEO results is a long-term game, so I won’t rush it. I’ll just do it once or twice a month. It shouldn’t take much time to do.


Build your own POD store.


If you’re selling print-on-demand products in marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy, I HIGHLY recommend that you sell your products in your own store, too.

Why do I encourage you to have your own store?

Well, I’ve been in the internet marketing business for over ten years. I’ve sold print-on-demand products on Amazon since 2017 and on Etsy since 2019.

I know it’s risky to have your own assets in other people’s places.

I promoted all sorts of products on Amazon as an affiliate many years ago. After Amazon updated their rules, my account was suspended.

I created a bunch of mobile games for apple’s AppStore and made passive income for a few years. One day Apple shut down my account because some of my apps violated their policy, even though they’d been sitting in the store for a few years.

My Amazon account was deactivated once because some of my coffee mugs contained trademarked quotes which I thought were in the public domain. These products had never sold, but my account was suspended because of them. Luckily, I managed to get it back.

My first Etsy account was suspended after I made my first sale. Etsy never told me why.

A few days ago (my latest experience), my Amazon account was suspended a second time because they claimed I had a related account that violated their policy. In fact, I have only one account, so I appealed. Luckily, they reactivated my account and I can sell again.

Since I have experience with these problems, I never put all my eggs in just one basket. I understand that it’s much better to have my own store.

Shopify might shut down your store, but they rarely do this. I hardly ever hear people complain about Shopify suspending their accounts.

Another good thing about having your own store is that you don’t have to worry much if your item is delivered late or if you get negative feedback from a customer.

I don’t mean that it’s a good thing to deliver an item late or get negative feedback. But if you have your own store, you have a chance to solve these problems.

I get scared when I see negative feedback or bad performance in my Amazon or Etsy account. I don’t know whether they’ll close my account and cause all my revenue to vanish overnight.

So, if you’re selling print-on-demand products on Amazon or Etsy, it’s wise to allocate your time to build your own store.

Even some of you are just getting started in the print-on-demand business, I encourage you to sell your products in both marketplaces and in your own store.


Build a Mini-Version of Amazon or Etsy


I’ve been browsing websites over the past few months to research the market for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and I’ve found that there are some ‘mini-versions’ of Amazon and Etsy.

These sites are selling handmade items like the ones we can find on Etsy. The difference is that there are no competitors inside the store. All the items are made by the shop’s owner.

Some websites I found get over 2.5 million visits a month, and 80% of the traffic is organic or free. This is impressive. They can make lots of sales while other sellers complain about the instability of Facebook Ads.

Amazon or Etsy might get millions of visitors a month, but that traffic is shared across many sellers, and there are many different versions of the same products.

Also, I know that Etsy has recently promoted some of its sellers listings through Etsy’s Offsite Ads including Facebook, Google Shopping, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bing.

I guess these are Etsy retargeting ads for people who visited product pages on Etsy.

Many of my listings have been sold from these offsite ads. I checked the stats and found that I paid just $3-4 per item sold. So I think we can create retargeting ads for our shop, too.

What if we could build it as a mini-version that focuses on product types like print-on-demand?

So, my new goal is to build a mini-version of Amazon that focuses on selling coffee mugs, shot glasses, and travel mugs in many different sub-niches.

You can do the same thing!


Recap


Okay, this is my complete guide to building a print-on-demand business on Shopify and driving visitors to the store using free traffic. You can get started with this business model quickly and with a small budget.

There are three main important things you must do to generate free traffic from SEO:

  1. Upload tons of Print-on-Demand products.
  2. Write a Good Product Title that includes the Main Keyword and Quote.
  3. Create a Unique Product Description that includes the Main Keyword.

If you do these three things, you’ll be able to generate free traffic from many different keywords.

Best of all, you can use PODTurbo to do all this for you. You can add tons of products to the system, prepare a unique description using the Category Template, and let the system automatically upload new products every day.

Then, you can copy the actions I plan to take with my store. I’ll mainly focus on scaling winning products using paid traffic, and creating retargeting campaigns for all the products in my store.

Okay, it’s time for you to build your own Mini-Version of Amazon and Etsy! 🙂

—Bank “SEO Noob” K.


Further Readings:

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