Contributor Guidelines: How to Write for the Shopify Blog

The Shopify blog is where our merchants go to find resources and inspiration to help them grow as entrepreneurs in every area of business, from marketing to finance.

Our goal is to provide the world's best coverage on the topics that matter most to independent businesses. So we're in search of seasoned entrepreneurs and business experts who are willing to share their experience through our paid contributor program.

We pay competitively for quality submissions and we'll work closely with you to ensure a polished final product. Interested? There are more details below.

💡 Note: Fair warning, our standards are high. We're not looking for a random assortment of tips; we need deeply thoughtful content that offers our merchants practical advice and education. Please allow an appropriate amount of time to create something great.

How our contributor program works

The future of commerce needs more voices, not fewer. This belief is at the heart of how we build Shopify's products and how we produce content, too. Anyone can apply to contribute to the Shopify blog and we carefully consider each pitch based on its merit and how well it fits our audience's needs. We're not looking for a random assortment of tips; we need deeply thoughtful content that meets our audience’s needs and gives them practical ideas alongside genuine insight.

Due to the volume of pitches we get, we can only follow up on a select number of submissions. If you don't receive a response within two weeks, you’re welcome to send a new pitch for us to consider.

Here’s how our contributor program works:

  1. Check out the Shopify blog and read our guidelines below to get a sense of the kind of content we’re looking for.
  2. Pitch yourself through this form and if we’re interested in your submission, we'll contact you through the email address provided.
  3. We’ll consider the original content ideas you include in your pitch, but will also work with you to suggest related ideas or other angles we think would provide more value to our readers based on your expertise.
  4. Once we’ve agreed on a topic and rate, we'll commit to a timeline of 3-weeks from pitch to publish and set a due date for the first draft.
  5. Once you’ve completed your first draft, we’ll provide feedback and edits to ensure it's polished and fit to publish. If you didn’t submit a bio and headshot in your application, we’ll get these from you now. 
  6. We’ll then lock in a publish date and notify you by email when your content is live, along with instructions on how to get paid.
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Priority coverage we’re looking for

Below, you’ll find a list of priority topics we’re actively looking to cover for our audience. We’ll update this list over time, so be sure to check back in the future:

  • A primer on Google retargeting 
  • Deep dives into specific areas of YouTube marketing
  • A beginner’s guide to Snapchat advertising

What makes for great content?

“Great” content is fiercely subjective and painfully inscrutable, so a single doc can’t possibly cover everything there is to know. Instead, we’ve tried to distill what works on Shopify’s publications and what traits we believe make for a stand-out piece of content.

This is provided to all contributors as a way to quickly get on the same page without a lengthy back-and-forth over email. What’s outlined below serves as a general guide for creating uncommonly good material for our merchants (customers), but you’re more than welcome to consult the editorial team (editor@shopify.com) with any specific questions you may have. We’re not here to control your story, we’re here to help you realize it.

I. Keep our merchants top-of-mind

Shopify’s current audience are your future readers; knowing who they are and what they need help with counts for a whole lot. Below is a short list of information to give you a better sense of who you’ll be speaking to.

  • Many already have a store. Our readers are primarily store owners who already have a product to sell. However, most are fairly new to ecommerce and are budding entrepreneurs.
  • Most are selling physical products and goods.
  • They share many of the same struggles. In particular, generating targeted traffic, converting the traffic they have, and retaining customers who have already made a purchase.
  • They operate in a variety of industries, but the most popular are fashion and apparel, home decor and art, and health/beauty-related products.

II. Start with a point of view

Even highly tactical posts benefit from a strong opinion and/or a unique viewpoint. Consider this quote from poet Philip Larkin on how he wanted his readers to feel: "Yes, I've never thought of it that way, but that's how it is."

Generic incentives are the most common cause of a piece not living up to its potential. There needs to be a distinct reason why this post should reach our readers’ inboxes. Let’s identify it early.

III. Treat writing like a conversation

No one likes being on the receiving end of a self-centered lecture. People enjoy learning from other people, especially through personal conversations. Write the way you talk, and avoid language that implies your audience “should have known better.”

Assume your reader is fairly new to your topic, but is intelligent overall. That way you won’t patronize or accidentally speak down to anyone. As an added benefit, this will help you avoid the curse of knowledge, a common cause of bad writing that usually appears as acronyms and jargon, non-obvious references, and prose more concerned with being clever than being clear.

IV. Write deliberately for the web

It pays to remember distractions are always just a click away. Writing for the web means combining substantive material with approachable formatting.

Effective writing pleases at a glance but rewards careful study. Make strategic use of worthwhile breaks in the text with bullet point lists, informative callouts, eye-catching visuals, and compelling subheadings.

  • Do include thoughtful formatting choices to highlight and strengthen your article’s most important ideas.
  • Don’t pollute your article with chaotic styling; all of your formatting choices should add, not detract, from the value of the piece.

V. Aim for “actionable + referenceable”

Actionable content is something you can act on today, or in the near future. Referenceable content is something you can keep with you as you make progress.

Great content is often a mix of both. Offer readers tangible takeaways, but try to design your piece so continual value can be extracted from your suggestions i.e., the ideas within can be revisited when merchants plan their own roadmap. (“How did we begin building our store’s keyword strategy? By following Julia’s post on Shopify.”)

If your article is valuable today and not tomorrow, you may be addressing a swelling trend, or you’re trying to lay out the future. Occasionally, that’s okay. But the majority of “great” articles have a reasonably long shelf-life. 

VI. Capture key ideas visually

Just about everyone has stumbled over a confusing passage in a textbook, only to have things cleared up thanks to “See Fig. A.”

If you’re describing an idea, concept, or example that’s best expressed with a graphic or a clean, high-resolution screenshot, supply something simple and we’ll apply polish. When appropriate, favor demonstrating an idea over merely describing it.

Noteworthy examples

The traits all of our best contributions share is they’re opinionated, built from real experience, and offer non-obvious advice to help solve fundamental challenges. Here are a few contributors that have helped set the standard.

Note: Please check-in after your post is published to answer a few comments. Articles that drive conversations tend to be the most popular!

Style

This is a brand-level assortment of non-exhaustive guidelines for how we stay consistent when we write.

Looking for basics, like answers to questions about things like “Should I capitalize this?” “Do I spell out this number?” and more? Check out the grammar and mechanics section in Polaris. And, if you don’t find it there, please refer to the AP Style Guide.

Tone

Clever

Intelligent, not cunning (FYI: clever ≠ sly, funny, or sarcastic.)

This

Not this

Mobile flexes its muscle.

Mobile lives up to the hype machine.

Purposeful

Decisive, not impulsive:

  • Respect our users’ time
  • No “just for fun” content
  • Content has a primary purpose for the user

Approachable

Inclusive, not exclusive:

  • Language is conscious
  • Language is not overly casual or slangy
  • Content is accessible
  • Content doesn’t presume (i.e., all, every)

This

Not this

Entrepreneurs work hard.

Every entrepreneur works 7 days a week.

(Implies that working hard is only working 7 days a week.)

Honest

Sincere, not blunt:

  • Be forthright
  • Speak plainly, but not flatly

This

Not this

Making your first sale this BFCM starts with making your store shine.

Customers don’t want to shop at an ugly store.

Plain language ≠ Conversational

We want to speak to our users as humans, but this does not mean writing the way we speak or text. Beware of filler, overly familiar phrasing, and rhetorical questions.

This

Not this

It’s frustrating to lose an order.

You know how frustrating it is to lose an order?

(What if I don’t know? How do you know?)

Avoid idioms

Idioms cause confusion, don’t (usually) translate, and can veer into the dreaded quirky territory, which is off-brand.

This

Not this

Prepare for the holiday season with BFCM Toolbox.

BFCM Toolbox has everything you need to be on the ball for the holiday season.

The fine print

Except we’ve highlighted it so there are no surprises. When writing for Shopify, please keep these points in mind:

  • Contributors are allowed one link in the body of the article to non-gated content they own. Contributors are allowed two links to an owned property in their author bio. (Bios are 2-3 sentences.)
  • Shopify reserves the right to edit your writing to fit our style guidelines. We want to maintain your voice, but be prepared for a number of strategic edits.
  • Shopify owns the rights to any and all content published on its platform. Shopify reserves the right to repurpose, republish, update, or remove contributed content at any time.
  • Please don’t republish material you write for us on any other platform.
  • Please act like a professional. The following will not be tolerated in any form:
    1. Plagiarism, even self-plagiarism.
    2. Mentioning or linking to clients you work with for payment, or not disclosing your relationship with a client who is mentioned in your article. (Bottom line: If a client or customer you work with is mentioned in your piece, you must tell us.)
    3. Questionable promotional tactics to drive traffic to your contributed article.
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