Great question. To understand SEO, you need to understand search engines. A search engine is a piece of software that crawls the internet and indexes its pages in order to provide the best website recommendations based on a user's search query. And they use complex, ever-changing algorithms to do that.
Moz said it best, “imagine the World Wide Web as a network of stops in a big city subway system. Each stop is a unique document.” As search engine bots crawl and index webpages, links serve as bridges that let them reach the billions of interconnected pages on the internet. From there, search engines are able to analyze and “understand” the contents of each page. When a user performs a search, they provide the best answer possible based on their algorithm specifications, ranking the results according to what they deem most relevant. It's all very impressive and can feel a little scary — but never fear, we're here to help.
The factors that search engines use to rank results include social media engagement, off-site optimization, topical authority, latent semantics, mobile friendless, local optimization, domain authority, and much more. That's where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in. SEO is the process of implementing strategies and techniques (both on site and off site) in an effort to achieve a higher rank in search results. Typically, the higher a site is in search results, the more visitors it receives.
Although there is much to learn about search engines and how to optimize for them, the following chapters will outline the steps to get you started with SEO for your BigCommerce store and, in time, help lead you to search engine domination!
Here are a few general items you need to be aware of when it comes to your SEO strategy.
Although this guide will point you in the right direction, don't expect immediate search engine domination. Every market, every vertical, even every product has a unique SEO landscape. Patience and persistence will play key roles in your success. It's all a matter of how much effort and commitment you're willing to put forth.
Don't get bogged down by SEO terms and concepts. Although we'll be talking a lot about search engines, your main goal is actually to tailor your online store and its contents to your audience. Search engines simply want to deliver the most relevant results to their users based on search queries. If you're providing a stellar shopping experience, you're already on your way to ranking well.
As smart and sophisticated as search engines have become, they still understand one thing above all else: content. Content is unique, original material you create and publish on your site. It can be anything from product descriptions, to blog posts, to videos and images, to your About Us page. Content not only serves as the medium search engines use to understand your website, it serves as the connection between you and your customers when selling online. Great content never sleeps, never needs a lunch break and is adored by search engines and shoppers alike.
We've watched so many clients focus heavily on things like design and then try to implement SEO later on. However, SEO should be kept in mind throughout the entire process of building your online store. Effective content curation, better accessibility practices and proper information architecture are all key components for strong SEO. If these are ignored (especially in the initial design stage), you may have to waste countless hours later on retrofitting an existing site to better talk to search engines and shoppers.
Duplicate content is content that appears in more than one place online. When there are multiple pieces of identical content, it's difficult for search engines to decide which version is more relevant to a given search query. That means you're relying on Google to define your website. For example, if Google sees four URLs from your website that have the same or similar content, odds are they're going to rank the one they consider most relevant and ignore the rest. Google doesn't want a search to yield identical results from the same site, so it's unlikely those results will be ranked very highly (remember, they want to deliver the most relevant results for each query). The same can be said if you're using content you found on somebody else's site; if Google has already indexed that other content, they're unlikely to rank yours higher. Instead of leaving that decision up to Google, you should take control of it for yourself by using original content on each page.