One of the main marketing strategies that can help online retailers build a successful Internet business is search engine optimization (SEO), the process of tailoring your website to the algorithms that search engines use to rank websites based on "signals" that the site emits.
However, search engine algorithms continue to change with time as the Web evolves (Panda Updates, anyone?), so online retailers need to evolve with the engines. We must make sure we keep up to date with best practices to claim the best possible rankings for relevant keywords.
If you want your website to rank well in 2012, here are 6 components of SEO that online retailers should know about when optimizing their e-commerce website to rank well in top search engines:
- Keywords. Keyword research is the first step to a successful SEO strategy. Those successful with SEO understand what people are searching for when discovering their business in a search engine. These are the keywords they use to drive targeted traffic to their products. Start brainstorming potential keywords, and see how the competition looks by using Google AdWords Keyword Tool. If you notice that some keywords are too competitive in your niche, go with long-tail keywords (between two and five words) which will be easier for you to rank. The longer the keyword, the less competition you will have for that phrase in the engines.
- Meta tags. Meta tags still play a vital role in SEO. If you type any keyword into a search engine, you’ll see how that keyword is reflected in the title for that page. Google looks at your page title as a signal of relevance for that keyword. The same holds true for the description of that page. (Don't worry about the keyword title tag -- Google has publicly said that it doesn't pay attention to that tag, since it has been abused by webmasters and all those trying to rank for certain keywords.)
- Content. It's true, content is king. Search engines have stated that creating quality content is the best way to not only rank for keywords, but also create positive user experiences. It will also go a long way with making sure you’re educating your consumer, and being an authority in your niche will leads to boosts in sales.
- Backlinks. If content is king, then backlinks are queen. Remember, it's not about which site has the most links, but who has the most quality links pointing back to their website. Build backlinks by submitting monthly or bi-monthly press releases on any exciting company, and contacting popular blogs in your niche to see how you can work together to get a backlink from their website. Create the best possible product site you can, so people talking about the products you sell will link back. Try creating graphics or newsworthy content that will influence bloggers and news websites to link that content.
- Social media. The algorithms have truly changed since social media first emerged. Many content websites are community-oriented -- Digg began allowing users to vote which stories make the front page, and YouTube factors views and user ratings into their front page rankings. Therefore, e-commerce stores must establish a strong social media presence on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. These social media sites send search engines signals of influence and authority.
- Product images. If you think images don't play a role, think again. When many consumers search for products in the search engines, not only are they looking at the "Web" results, but they're also looking at the "images" results. If you have quality images of that product on your site -- and the files' names contain relevant keywords -- these images will rank well in search engines. This avenue will drive a lot of traffic to your site, as potential customers will click on that image to find your store.
In addition to optimizing these six areas of your site, analyze your competitors and see what they are doing in terms of on-page optimization, off-page optimization (competitive link analysis) and social media. While you may be doing a lot of the same things they are, it’s incredibly important to think outside the box to get a leg up over the competition.
Pablo Palatnik is the founder and CEO of ShadesDaddy.com, one of the largest online retailers of sunglasses in the world.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.