Making up the foundation of search engine optimization are four key concepts on which you should build your SEO strategy. The four cornerstones are: content, keywords, linking, and architecture.
What is content? Why is it important? Content is all of the words that appear on a page or in the code of your website. Think about your business and what you wish customers knew about your product, service, location, or team. Do you have special promotions or certain offerings you would like to feature? Writing about these different subjects fills your site with content. Adding new content to your website in a timely manner helps search engine spiders recognize that your site is active. Additionally, websites can develop an onsite blog as a place for announcements, information, and other pieces of new content that could embellish the website.
What is a keyword? What is a keyword phrase? What are long tail keywords? You may have heard or read about keywords when trying to develop an SEO strategy. Keywords are words that represent the main topic of each page of your website. For example, if you have a business like an Italian pizzeria in South Florida, your main keyword will most likely be “pizza.” Since you are not the only (theoretical) pizzeria in the world, you will want to have pages on your site that have more specialized words describing your specific pizzeria. These combinations of keywords are called keyword phrases. Keeping with the pizzeria example, three keyword phrases could be “Italian pizza by the slice,” “Theoretical Pizza by Juan Carlo,” and “pizza delivery near University of Miami.” Very granular (and often long) keyword phrases are called long tail. An example for our pizzeria could be “New York style pizza with garlic bread crust near University of Miami.” Choosing your keywords carefully and monitoring to see which bring in customers can help you grow your online presence and your business.
Why do you want related sites linking to your webpage? Why is proper internal linking so important? Related sites linking to your webpage (not just your homepage) show search engines that your site is relevant to your industry. A webpage’s ranking potential is partially determined from the quality of relevant sources that link to the website. When structuring the links of your website, make sure that there are no dead ends. It frustrates users and search engine spiders alike. Use proper sitemap syntax. This will tell the search engines which pages to index, in case they missed any when crawling the rest of the site, and how to prioritize the pages they have found. Additionally, a large push to increase the number of links coming into your site all at once could have an adverse affect. Search engines know that it is a slow process and understand that as you add new pages and additional content to your site more people will link to you.
Do you know how to communicate with the search engine spiders? The robots.txt file contains information of where you would like search engines to visit (such as a link to your sitemap), but also information on where the search engine spiders should not go. Making sure search engine spiders can find all of your pages that you want indexed and none of the pages you don’t should be a part of your strategy and not left to chance. How your website is designed is also important. Search engines have a hard time reading Flash along with some other fancy design features. Users visiting your website may also complain of slow load times and music they can’t figure out how to turn off. Simple, user-friendly design is often better for SEO.
Additionally, structuring your site so a majority of your content is contained in images is troublesome for search engines. Other than the image’s file name and alt tag (if there is one) the search engines see empty space. Paying careful attention to site architecture when designing your website can save you from a costly redesign down the road. If you did not have a strategy in place during the formation of your current website, a redesign may improve sales and show a significant return-on-investment.
These four cornerstones make up the foundation of a solid SEO strategy. They work together to increase the number of indexed pages on a website and to increase the chances those indexed pages will show up in search rankings. All can be optimized for placement of your website near the top of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Search is vital for all businesses, whether B2C or B2B, big or small, eCommerce or service based. Any industry can benefit from search engine optimization. Having a sound SEO strategy in place is increasingly important as more and more consumers rely on search engines.
Search engine optimization (SEO) varies by site and industry. Some industries are extremely competitive in the online space, whereas others may be less competitive. With ecommerce sites in particular, there are often challenges when discussing SEO. As a result, we find that many ecommerce sites instead turn to paid search as the quick solution.
Why do ecommerce sites typically have a difficult time for SEO?
First, there is often very little content on these site’s pages. Usually the pages consist of images, product names and manufacturer information that are used as product descriptions. Due to this lack of unique content, ecommerce sites at times have a difficult time attracting inbound links (although this isn’t an issue for the giants such as Amazon.com and Zappos.com). Another problem is that on ecommerce sites, non-SEO friendly URLs may be dynamically created. These are URLs that are tremendously lengthy or URLs that don’t contain keywords. And, to top it off, sometimes the URLs are duplicated, which is where there is more than one URL for one page of content. Multiple URLs create duplicate content on one site, and using the same manufacturer information for product descriptions creates duplicate content across many sites. (If you’re familiar at all with SEO, you already know that this is not good for your SEO efforts).
So, what can be done to overcome these obstacles?
The good news is that even though these issues mentioned above are commonly seen, there are ways to help ecommerce sites compete in the organic search results. First and foremost, the site must have a well organized and logical structure for users and search engines. There should be levels of your site — such as category and product level pages. You should also take into consideration the assets you have available. Ecommerce sites have many pages. Use these to your advantage. Add unique content to category level pages. Content is still one of the most important aspects of SEO, and giving the search engines lots of it will be to your benefit. Also, creating content that your competition does not feature can give you a distinct advantage. Don’t forget about those product pages that contain the generic (duplicated) manufacturing information. Try incorporating customer reviews. This way your customers will do the work for you.
Also, don’t forget about other opportunities to add unique content. Blogs, articles, how-tos are all great ways to accomplish this. Keep in mind, your customer should be at the heart of all of your efforts. Therefore with blog posts, how-tos, etc. create content that people are searching for or that will encourage them to share that info elsewhere on the internet (helping you to build your inbound links, which can be viewed as “votes” for your site).
Although not always easy, SEO can be worked into ecommerce websites with a little time and effort. Adding unique content and following SEO Best Practices will lead you to positive results.
In a recent interview with Matt Cutts, a very interesting topic came to light. In discussion, the topic of 301 redirects came up and how it relates to PageRank. More specifically, is there a loss of PageRank if you use 301 redirects to change URLs? Matt Cutts stated that he thought there probably would be some loss in these instances.
“Matt Cutts: That’s a good question, and I am not 100 percent sure about the answer. I can certainly see how there could be some loss of PageRank. I am not 100 percent sure whether the crawling and indexing team has implemented that sort of natural PageRank decay, so I will have to go and check on that specific case. (Note: in a follow on email, Matt confirmed that this is in fact the case. There is some loss of PR through a 301).”
What exactly are we talking about here? Well, let’s just say you have a website such as: www.mywebsite.com/mineisthebestproductever.php, and you want to know if changing that URL via a 301 redirect to www.mywebsite.com/mine-is-the-best-product-ever.php will perhaps give you an advantage for keyword targeting. In short, no, the benefit of spacing out the keyword within the URL will not outweigh the loss of PR over time.
In many cases, you do not need to change your URL’s. If you create content effectively on the correct page, there should be no reason to use 301 redirects within your existing site.
A scenario where you may not be able to avoid utilizing 301 redirects is when you are creating a brand new website with SEO in mind. In this situation, using 301 redirects is unavoidable because you will be creating new pages, deleting old ones and moving content around to fit your new website structure. This is an acceptable use of 301’s because they are needed to restructure the site. Any loss seen in PageRank, will be made up in the future IF you build your site correctly with SEO in mind.
Some tips to remember:
Changing URL’s for the sake of getting more keyword relevance or to move content is not worth it from an SEO standpoint. Plan your content wisely and consult professionals when redesigning your website for the best possible results.