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SEO Update: Why Google Is Gonna Love Ecwid Starter Sites

Search Engine Optimization For Beginners: SEO Fundamentals

22 min read

SEO is a huge thing. Let’s walk step by step.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Google is the world’s most popular search engine. When you want more information about a topic, you ask Google. First you type a search term into the search bar, and then Google shows you the search engine results page for that term.

Each listing on the search engine results page includes a link to a website and a short description of the website.  You will probably visit one of the webpages suggested to you on the first page of search results. Like most other people in the world, you trust Google to show you the websites that you are looking for.

Google Search Result Page

Google Search Result Page

Search engine results pages are also called SERPs. If your website ranks at the top of the SERPs for several search terms, you will get a lot of free traffic. Search engine optimization is the process of designing websites that will rank well in the SERPs. Search engine optimization is often referred to as SEO.

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Why Does SEO Matter?

If your site doesn’t get traffic, then you don’t make any sales. Traffic can be separated into two categories; free traffic and paid traffic. Obviously, free traffic is better than paid traffic. SEO gives you free traffic.

SEO can take a little while to start working, so many companies buy ads on Facebook and Google while building their website’s search rankings. Once the organic traffic has become established, the business can cut back on paid traffic.

If you never establish search engine rankings, then you will be stuck paying for traffic to your website forever. Search engine optimization can be a bit complicated, but the effort to build your site correctly will pay off in the future!

Search Engine Optimization 101: Just The Basics

How do search engines work?

Search engines have three main functions; crawling, indexing, and ranking. The search engines never sleep, they are constantly looping through these three functions. This allows them to keep up to date with all of the new websites published around the world each day, as well as all of the changes to existing websites.

Crawling

Even an army of humans could not keep up with the workload of constantly analyzing and updating all of the websites on the internet. That is why search engine companies created spiders. Spiders, also known as web crawlers, are automated code bots that follow hyperlinks and collect information about websites.

Indexing

Once your site has been crawled, the information that was collected is submitted to the search engine index. The index is a massive database that contains entries for most of the websites in the world. Your site must be indexed before it will show up in search results.

Many data records are stored for each website. For example, the index will record how old your domain is, how many backlinks your website has, how many pages your website has, etc. These data points are called ranking factors.

Ranking

When you want to find something on the internet, you type in a search term. Google compares the search term you entered to the websites it has indexed, then the most relevant websites are shown to you. The search engines decide which websites to show you by comparing the ranking factors of the sites in its index. This process is called ranking.

SEO starts with keyword research

The ranking process begins when a user types a search term into the search bar. These search terms are also known as keywords. The first thing Google does is search its index for websites that contain that keyword. If your site doesn’t contain that keyword, it will not be analyzed for other ranking factors.

The most important decision online business owners must make is which keywords to build their business with. This decision must be made based on hard data. Keyword research is the process of analyzing search results databases and choosing the best keywords for your website.

Keyword research tools

There are several companies that compile keyword research databases. Their databases can tell you how many visitors search for a keyword each month, and how much ranking competition that keyword has. You can also search keyword data by geographic area. This means that you can narrow down your research by choosing a country, city, or town to focus on.

Ubersuggest is the cheapest and simplest keyword research option for most small businesses. A lifetime individual membership for Ubersuggest is currently $120USD. If you sign up for the free trial and cancel, you may be offered even lower lifetime rates.

In comparison, other industry tools range from $30 a month to well over a hundred dollars per month. This is the list of other cool keyword research tools out there:

There’re more, so make sure to check out this great article by ThemeIsle that breaks down the popular keyword research tools and their pricing.

How to perform keyword research

When you look for a competitive product or service to sell, you are looking for high demand and low supply. Keywords work the same way. You want to find keywords that many people are searching for, but there should not be many websites already ranking well for those keywords.

The first step of keyword research is to identify your seed keywords. Seed keywords should be single words that define your business. Let’s say that you have a website about watches. In this example, we refer to the words “watch” and “watches” as seed keywords.

There are hundreds of thousands of other websites in the world that are also about watches. Your new website stands no chance of actually ranking for these seed keywords because the competition is too high. Seed keywords are used for research purposes only.

When you enter your seed keywords into a keyword research tool you get a long list of related keywords. Each row of results shows you a keyword, the search volume associated with that keyword, and competition metrics. This is a lot of data to comb through, so you need to sort and filter it. Each tool on the market lets you add keywords from the large list of results to a custom list of keywords for your project.

Choosing & using your keywords

There are three types of keywords that you need for your website. These keywords are usually referred to as primary keywords, secondary keywords, and long tail keywords. You stack these keywords in the form of a pyramid. Many long tail keywords form the base, a set of secondary keywords form the middle of the pyramid, and a few primary keywords crown the pyramid.

pyramid keyword example

Pyramid keyword example. Image source.

You only have a handful of primary keywords. These are usually one to two word phrases that get a lot of traffic but also have a lot of competition. These primary keywords set the keyword theme for your website, so they should all be related to each other. You will not rank for these terms quickly, but over time your site may gain enough authority to compete in the SERPs.

Top level pages can be reached in one click from the home page, and are usually included in site-wide header and footer menus. Your top level pages should each be assigned a primary keyword. These pages should be formatted as “pillar content”, which means that they will contain longform entries of at least 2000 words.

Every pillar page should be linked to multiple supporting pages and blog posts. Many people refer to this style of site architecture as a “silo structure”. Secondary keywords are short phrases with low to medium competition and medium traffic. Try to find five secondary keywords for each of your primary keywords. Create supporting pages and blog posts with the secondary keywords.

silo structure example

Silo structure example. Image source.

Long tail keywords are long phrases that have medium to low traffic and almost no competition. Collecting a large list of long tail keywords is recommended, you should have over a hundred when you have finished your research. Long tail keywords are used for posting articles to the blog according to a pre-scheduled content calendar.

Maintaining a blog is a very important part of SEO. It is very easy to rank for a long tail keyword by writing a simple blog article. As your long-tail keyword blog articles begin to rank, they will draw a steady flow of traffic to your site. The new content being published also forces the search engines to reassess your rankings frequently.

The more small blog articles that you have ranking for easy terms, the more authority the search engine gives to your site. If you also build backlinks and social signals, you will eventually begin to rank for your secondary and primary keywords.

How many keywords do you need?

Let’s say you are starting a new website. You choose five primary keywords and create five top-level pillar pages. You create ten supporting pages using secondary keywords. Then you write 15 blog posts using secondary keywords. You use the five primary keywords as the blog categories, and you write three posts in each category. This is an excellent core content recipe for launching a new site.

After your site has been launched with its core content, you need to feed a steady flow of articles to your blog. If you want to publish two blog posts a week, you need to collect 104 long-tail keywords for the year.  This means that your keyword research session should produce:

  • 4-5 primary keywords
  • 20-25 secondary keywords
  • 104 long tail keywords

On-page SEO

There are several forms of meta-data that you can add to the pages and blog posts in your website. Meta-data is information that is read by search engine spiders, but is not displayed to your site visitors. Most web building platforms have built in tools for adding this information to each page and blog post.

Meta-data that you can edit usually includes the page title, description, keywords, and image descriptions. The page title and description will be shown to users in the SERPs, so it’s important to write compelling copy that will drive traffic.

Another form of meta-data that is becoming popular is called schema data. This markup tells the search engine what your website is about. There are different types of schema mark-up for reviews, business information, articles, recipes, products, etc. If you are going to use schema data it is very important to validate the data and make sure that the information you are providing is accurate.

The way that you format your web page or blog post will affect its ranking. The URL of the web page or blog post should contain the keyword that the page is targeting. That keyword should be used in the first H1 heading of the page or post, and in the first sentence of the copy. Using LSI keywords throughout the text also improves ranking. You can check your copy with one of the many keyword density analyzer tools available on the web. There are many and they all do the same, just Google it.

There are several AI based content optimization tools on the market that can take your keyword and tell you exactly how many words to write, how many headers to include on the page, and how many outbound links to include. These tools will also provide suggested sources for the article, and some even auto-generate a content outline. SurferSEO and Frase.io are currently the most popular AI content optimization tools on the market.

Off-page SEO

Backlinks are a very important ranking factor. You need other websites that have good search engine rankings to link to your website. It is even better if they link to your website using your keywords in the anchor text of the links.

One of the easiest ways to find sources for backlinks is to search your competitors’ backlinks. There are many tools that provide this feature, but SpyFu is the most famous. Ubersuggest also provides this functionality. It is important to check each backlink site’s rankings in Google. You don’t want to be associated with poor quality sites.

Another easy way to get backlinks is writing guest posts on related blogs. You are normally given an author bio at the end of the article that can contain links back to your site. Writing 1-2 guest posts a month will steadily build high quality backlinks for your business.

Many businesses pay press release companies to have an article with links back to their website published on many sites across the internet. Press releases can work, but only if the network of sites that will publish the article all have high quality search engine rankings.

Be very wary of services offering to sell you high value backlinks or give you a large number of backlinks. This is the area of SEO where the most scammers operate. You’ll either get nothing or a lot of low quality backlinks that could actually hurt your rankings.

Another aspect of off-page SEO is social signals. Search engines consider how many social channels you publish to, how often you post, how many followers you have, and how engaged your followers are. Most businesses should have a Facebook Page, Instagram Business account, YouTube channel, and Google My Business listing.

Online reviews are another off-page SEO factor that can make a major impact in your rankings. Reviews left on sites like Google, Facebook, Amazon, TripAdvisor, etc. carry more weight than reviews left on your website. How quickly you respond to reviews, messages, and questions users leave online is another strong social signal.

Technical SEO

If the code that runs your website is poorly written, you will never rank well in the search engines. It is very important to choose a web design or e-commerce platform that takes the technical side of search engine optimization seriously. You are not an engineer, and you do not have the time to be constantly tweaking the technical aspects of your website. Use a trusted company.

Page speed is a major ranking factor. The faster your page loads, the better your page will rank. Your page must load quickly on mobile over cellular connection, and it must look good on mobile devices. If it does not meet these requirements, your site will not be shown in mobile search results. Mobile search results power over 80% of sales on the internet, so you want to be there.

There are many tools on the internet that will provide you with a technical SEO audit of your website. If you are on a platform like WordPress, you can go into the backend of your website and do a lot of technical adjustments to improve your results. If you are using Ecwid, you can rest easy knowing that we’ve already fine-tuned your website.

How to use Google Analytics

Google provides a tool called Google Analytics that records all sorts of data about the traffic to your website. Most website builders and e-commerce platforms allow you to connect your site to Google Analytics. This is how you connect Google Analytics to your Ecwid store.

Analytics data will tell you:

  • How much traffic your website is receiving
  • What keywords and referring sites people used to find you
  • How much of your traffic comes from desktop vs. mobile
  • Whether your traffic is coming from organic search results, paid ads, or social media
  • How many of your visitors convert to sales
  • Which keywords that you are ranking for in the SERPs

Google Analytics is in the process of a major upgrade. By 2023 there will be no more support for Universal Analytics, and Google Analytics 4 will be the new standard. If you are just setting up your account, choose Google Analytics 4. If you have an existing Universal Analytics account, this is the time to upgrade.

The Search Engine Journal has recently published an excellent guide to using Google Analytics 4. Although it is a long article, it is particularly worthwhile to read the ending, which focuses on using the reports produced by GA4. These reports are the heart of your online business, and will allow you to continue refining your search engine optimization and online marketing strategy.

You should review your website traffic analytics at least once a month, and adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. Social media platforms also provide analytics, and many keyword research tools will track your rankings for the keywords you are targeting.

You should also have sales data available from your online store or invoicing solution, which helps you correlate online marketing data directly to sales and ROI. You can use Google Data Studio to pull all your analytics sources into one easily trackable visual dashboard.

How to use Google Search Console

Google is the largest search engine in the world.

If you want the definitive guide to search engine optimization, then you should be listening to what Google publishes about the subject. Google Search Console provides many useful free tools to website owners, but the free education provided on the site is by far the most valuable asset.

When you finish this article, head over to Google Search Console and start working through their free guides. You will learn how to register your site, check your site maps, and track your search engine performance. The search console will also show you if there are any issues with your mobile site that would prevent it from being included in mobile search results.

SEO Is A Long Term Investment

As you can see, search engine optimization is a complicated topic that involves a lot of work. If you are doing all the work yourself, it could take you six months to a year to get your site optimized. After that, you must continually analyze your results, adjust your strategy, and create new content. This is a long-term commitment, but the reward is consistent free traffic.

After the first year of SEO efforts, you will have built authority. You should have a large content base with good rankings, a decent amount of traffic, and some brand recognition within your niche. At this point you will still need to create new content and watch the analytics, but you can fairly reliably count on your free traffic steadily increasing. Many businesses come to a point where they no longer need paid ads and can drive their sales via social and search results alone.

Regardless of whether your marketing strategy is based on paid ads, social media campaigns, or paid advertising, Ecwid has the tools to help you get it done.

If you are using our platform, please read the article, “Improving SEO For Ecwid Sites and Stores”. Feel free to reach out to support at any time if you have questions about SEO on the Ecwid platform. We’re here to help you succeed!

Do you want to learn more about SEO for online stores?

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About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

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