The world of SEO can be a little overwhelming to say the least. At first glance it sounds like a simple concept, but as you start to dig deeper it’s easy to find yourself tangled up in jargon - “SERP? Search Intent? What do you mean they’re crawling my store?”. No one gets the hang of it right away, and we all have to start somewhere - that’s where we come in. We’ve developed a series of four blogs designed to give you a solid foundation from which you can confidently dive further into the complexities of Search Engine Optimization.
For Part 1, we’re going right back to basics and giving a brief overview of three basic SEO concepts, followed by a quick “jargon dictionary” looking at some of the terms that will pop up over and over again on your SEO development journey. Each subsequent blog in this series will explore the concepts in this article in greater detail, so if you’re eager to learn more then stay tuned.
What is SEO, and why is it important?
Before we start getting into concepts, let’s take a look at what SEO actually is and why it should be part of your overall marketing strategy.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the quantity of traffic coming to your store through non-paid (Organic) search results. However it isn’t so much about the quantity, but the quality; SEO aims to bring more people to your store who will actually be interested and engage with your content. You’re looking to understand your customers and target audiences better through what content they already engage with, what words they use, the questions they ask, etc. which will ultimately help you to know what you need to do to bring them to your store. In short, you’re making your store easy to find for your target audience.
But why is this important? If you’re all over social media advertising, using paid search engine ads, and engaging in other marketing tactics, why bother with SEO? The simple answer is most of your store’s traffic is driven by Organic Search; on average, 43% of ecommerce traffic comes from Organic Search. If it’s your biggest source of traffic then you want to make sure you’re making the most of it, right? Plus it pays off over a longer period of time; developing good SEO driven content and optimizing your store now will continue to build trust with search engines and users and therefore bring more and more traffic to your store.
Concept #1 - How Search Engines Work
The first step in getting to grips with SEO is understanding how search engines function in relation to your store. There are three basic functions to know about first and foremost - crawlers, indexing, and ranking.
Crawling is the process by which search engines discover content on websites. Crawlers are essentially programs that visit sites and look over all the content on each page and then stores that information. The content might be written copy, images, videos etc., all of which is discovered via links. This leads us onto...
This is where all that information and content is stored. It’s how search engines organize all that content they crawled to enable a fast, accurate response to search queries. The links we mentioned earlier all get stored in a databank ready to be retrieved when a user searches for something that the search engine reckons will be a good match.
In short, ranking is how a search engine determines the order of the list of sites that comes up as a result of a search query. When a user searches for a specific term, Google will dig through their index to find relevant content that matches the query. The higher a site is listed on a search results page, the more relevant it has been deemed by the search engine. There are a number of different factors that go into a site’s ranking, but in the simplest terms a site needs to be relevant, trustworthy, and user friendly.
Concept #2 - Keywords and Search Intent
The vital component in any good SEO strategy - keywords. These refer to what terms the user is actually inputting into a search engine. So as part of your strategy development you want to do keyword research, find the terms your target audiences are using, and include them as part of your site’s content. Keywords are the battleground on which you’re vying for valuable traffic against your competitors - use the right ones strategically, and you’ll be able to improve your ranking for those terms.
Search intent is another important concept that goes hand-in-hand with keywords. It’s one thing to know what words your audience is using but it’s another to understand why they’re searching those keywords. Are they looking for a definition of a word? To buy something? To know more about a product? There are three broad types of search intent:
Transactional - the user is looking to make a purchase e.g. “fleece lined sweatpants buy online”.
Navigational - the user is looking to navigate to a specific type of content e.g. “Nike Instagram”.
Informational - the user is looking for specific information on a subject e.g. “best coffee New York”
Once you understand the user’s search intent, you can fine-tune your keyword strategy so that your store is offering a solution to the specific reasons for a search.
Concept #3 - User Experience
This refers to what it’s like for a user to actually navigate and browse your store. User experience is a big part of SEO strategy - if your site is tricky to navigate, slow to load, or difficult for finding relevant information, then search engines won’t rank your site highly. The better an experience you provide users, the more trustworthy Google and other search engines will determine your store to be. For your user experience you’ll want:
- Fast page load speeds
- Easy navigational structure
- Clear calls-to-action
- Relevant keywords
- Focussed and optimized content
By making it as easy as possible for the user to get what they want from a page, you can build trust with search engines and therefore improve your store’s ranking.
SEO Dictionary: 10 Words to Know
There are a lot of different terms and phrases used in the world of SEO. Some are simple, whilst others are a bit tricky to grasp right away. In order to help you navigate your way through the jargon jungle, here are ten words you'll see appear in articles and guides regularly.
Artificial intelligence (AI) - The smart learning programs a search engine uses to understand and interpret a user’s search term to deliver the most relevant results.
Backlinks - Links from other sites which point to your store. Also known as inbound links.
Black Hat SEO - This term refers to tactics which violate guidelines used in order to artificially “trick” search engines into ranking pages favorably. For example, keyword stuffing.
Conversion - This refers to when a user performs a specific desired action e.g. making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter etc.
Featured Snippet - A block which Google displays for certain search queries, usually informational.
Internal Links - Links on your store which point to other pages on your store.
Keyword Stuffing - The practice of trying to cram as many keywords onto a page possible, even if they’re not relevant to the content.
Longform Search Term - Instead of a keyword or a couple of keywords, a longform search term is when a user is searching for something more specific. For example a question such as “Best gifts for amateur photographers this year” or “how to care for a calathea plant”.
SERP - Search Engine Results Page. Exactly as it sounds, but it’s almost always abbreviated. This is the page that comes up when you put a query into a search engine.
UX - User Experience. Refers to how users interact with your store through content, navigation etc.