Search engines basically run the eCommerce business. Let’s say you’re selling custom-made iPhone cases. You want your store to be among the first results someone gets when they type “custom iPhone cases,” right?
If you are new in the ecommerce world, these three letters, SEO, may not mean much to you. If this is the case, we have some news for you – the future of your Magento store lies in these three letters and in the way you implement their meaning.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the number one way to get your online store out there and visible – to make it appear in search results and to rank high, preferably on the first page for whatever your key search word is.
But that doesn’t just happen by itself. There are hundreds of stores just like yours, and if their SEO game is better than yours, there is no way you’ll survive on the market.
When it comes to search engines, Google is still the alpha and omega. Not only it is the most widely used search engine in the world, and one likely to keep that position for a long, long time, but its databases are also used by other, smaller search engines.
So, you want to do well with Google. In order to do so, you need to keep in mind three basic rules: be visible, be relevant and be popular.
By being “visible,” we mean being “visible” by Google. You need Google to see you and to index you. Basically, to become aware of your existence and to form a certain “opinion” of your website. This is a mechanical process. What Google does is scan the web for sites, pages, headlines, links, content, headers, files and all the HTML that breathes underneath all that. It then indexes what it sees. But it needs to see it. Not all websites get seen. A lot of what should be seen just remains buried deep inside site databases and never even gets noticed.
But if your store is built in Magento, we have some good news for you. Magento is extremely SEO friendly. For instance, it uses flat and readable URLs, HTML is well-structured, sitemaps that Google uses are automatically generated and you, as a user, have full control over all of your SEO assets, most importantly over meta data.
But there is one thing that is more important than anything else – it’s the page title, so you want to make that one very clear and effective. Next, you want to focus on meta descriptions, which are added to the database and which make the first lines in results right after the page title. Experts believe that these are even more important than keywords, which used to be considered as the number one SEO asset. Finally, pay attention to the HTML tags, which basically instruct Google what to look for in your website.
After you have made sure your assets are all in order and your visibility is guaranteed, you need to think about relevance. To do this, you must have all the elements of your site consistent with your purpose and goal. Everything must be harmonized and pointing in the same direction – titles, headers, images, files, meta tags, descriptions…If all the elements say “custom iPhone cases,” then Google will understand loud and clear that, when it comes to selling iPhone cases that can be customized, your ecommerce store is a relevant one.
Now, this seems easy but it’s actually a little tricky and here’s why: it’s all about generic propositions. Generic is not easy to do, not to mention in throws you in the pool with some very hungry competitive sharks, i.e. other stores selling the same thing. Generic propositions are actually your keywords. Google compares everything on your site with those keywords, and if they match nicely, Google will conclude that you’re relevant. So, you need good keywords. In addition to figuring out what customers generally search for, you should also make use of available tools, such as Google Adwords, which helps you figure out demand and saturation in any given moment and serves as a very useful keyword planner.
You should also consider customizing your URLs, so that they are short and clear, and, most importantly, indicative of your product and your site content. Magento generates URL names by itself and it usually does a nice job at it, but you can customize them if you’re not happy, for instance if they are too long or contain words that have little or no relevance.
Another good idea is to create the so-called “content blocks.” These are additional pages with interesting and relevant content (lists, blog posts, how-tos, etc.) which Google will read and index too.
Finally, don’t forget to make a sitemap, which is a listing of all your pages and their links that Google reads quickly and easily. Once you set up a sitemap in your Magento Admin Panel, you will have to submit it to Google Webmaster Tools, which is a pretty straightforward and quick process.
Popularity is what all your SEO efforts are all about. Popularity means rankings – Google has an algorithm that ranks each and every of your pages and the search engine will base the frequency of its visits to your site on these rankings.
The crucial thing here is link building. Basically, in order to rank high and be popular, you need to have links pointing to your website from many other websites. These website that link to you should also be relevant to your business and popular as well. The better the site linking to you, the more “link juice” you’ll be getting from Google.
You can link build through affiliate. You can send out press releases or simply add your website to different directories. But your links need to be real, not the kind you buy from affiliate companies – these are ignored by Google. It may seem impossible to do, especially for a young business, but don’t worry, there are tricks and methods here. You need good content. In fact, not good content – great content. Such content will basically generate links by itself, good links, solid links, from personal, social media and commercial websites. But don’t forget one important thing – the content itself needs to be relevant.
Measure Your Performance
One of the many good things about Google is that it allows for a lot of analytics and measurements. You can see how your Magento store is doing at any given time. You can use Google Analytics to check the number of visitors, see what the traffic sources are and which terms and keywords are generating the most traffic. When you compare these numbers with your conversion numbers, you can easily see if your SEO efforts are good enough and where they need improvement.
More SEO Advice
When it comes to Title tags (your Page Title tags), they need to have 70 characters or less. Anything longer than that will not be registered by Google. Next, all of your pages should have their own titles, which, again, need to be relevant. Finally, always open your title with the most important phrase.
When it comes to Meta Description tags, they should be 160 characters or less. Not more. They can (in fact, they should) include words and phrases that were included in your title tags, as well as at least three or four top keywords, and these should be placed at the beginning of your Meta Description tag.
As for the Meta Keyword tags, these are not as important for Google as it once were. Other search engines do look for them, but they don’t have a particular bearing on the rankings. Still, you should use them, and you should always make sure they correspond to actual pages or phrases that appear in your page content. Ideally, this tag should be 200 or 250 characters long, and no longer than 500 characters. Also, since these don’t actually appear anywhere and only Google can see them, you can use them to target people with spelling difficulties by adding a misspelled word here and there.
Next, your images should have high quality alt-tags. Google does not read images themselves but it does read tags pertaining to them. In your Magento store, images contain tags with product names, so that part of the job is done, but don’t forget images in your content blocks.
All internal and inbound links should contain your main keyword in the link name itself. Also, make sure your navigation is well-structured, meaning that reaching any page on your website should never require more than three clicks.
Finally, as for your page copy, it’s all up to you and it’s your job to cover this part well. In general, every page should have 300 or more words of copy to it. Of course, it needs to be relevant copy, not just any sort of text you decide to throw out there. Copy should contain your most relevant keywords, it should be very well written, light and readable.
Try to incorporate your main key phrases in the first sentence or two of the text, or at least somewhere in the first paragraph. Your keyword density should be somewhere between 2% and 5%. The target key phrase should ideally be used in its integral form, but it doesn’t hurt to throw its separate components somewhere in the copy.