SEO can be complicated — in many cases, overcomplicated. How many ranking factors are involved in generating strong organic search results? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Two hundred?
A quick search for “SEO ranking factors” will give you all of these answers and myriad others. There is a lot of information out there. And the reality is, while there are likely hundreds of variables working together to determine final placement, much of what is suggested is guesswork. And certainly, not all ranking factors are relevant to every business.
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 the 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 GOOG +0% 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 the 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 FB +0%, 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.