The Zen of search engine optimization (SEO)

Optimizing for search engines (SEO) is a must, when you build an online store. After all, searching the Internet for products and services has become as common as it used to be to look up the Yellow Pages.

Your online store should be among the results Internet users find, when they use search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Fortunately the act of optimizing is not too difficult. The best shopping cart software solutions such as ShopFactory support many search engine optimization functions.

The most popular search engines are, with the vast majority of all searches Google followed by Yahoo a distant second and then, even smaller, Microsoft's Live and Ask.

The information on this page will help you develop a successful SEO website promotion strategy.

Just keep in mind that search engine optimization should only form part of your marketing. No one can guarantee, that you will always be found at the top of any given search result. There are just too many web site owners trying to achieve this, and only the most persistent move to the top.

SEO is important for the success of your online venture. But so is looking for customers outside of search engines.

How search engines find your website

To be able to list your web site in a result, a search engine first has to find your web site.

There are two ways to achieve this: you list your website directly with the search engine, or the search engine discovers your web site when it indexes another web site which mentions your web site and links to it.

You will find resources on how to do achieve this on the page "Free SEO tools for keyword discovery".

Some shopping cart software packages such as ShopFactory will list you in shop galleries to help search engines discover you, as these sites are regularly indexed by search engines.

However you should always also list your web site directly with search engines as well as get more web sites to link to you. After all, without either of the two occurring, you may have your website on the Internet — but search engines will not know about it.

This is not a complex task at all, but it can take some time. Resist using automatic tool for this, as these can lead to you being banned by search engines, and resist the urge to constantly relist your website, because you can not yet find it in a search engine, as this can also get you banned (relisting once or twice because you become impatient doesn't count).

Once a search engine knows about you, it will start indexing your website. From then on, your results can be found it the search engine.

Unfortunately it can take a long time before a search engine starts listing you, a good reason not to rely on SEO web site promotion as your only promotional tool.

For SEO the content counts

The process of a search engine indexing your website is called spidering.

Little software programs called robots visit your website and follow all the links they can find, to locate as many pages as possible.

They don't care if you created your website with shop software or manually coded it. They simply search for information.

The more SEO friendly your shopping cart software is, the more information the robots will find for the search engine to analyse. The more information the robots can extract from your web site, the better for you.

After all, the analysis of this information will decide the ranking of your page in any particular search result.

The better your web site matches a search term entered by a search engine user, the higher your website will rank in the result pages created.

Getting your web site as close to the top of the results for a particular search term as possible is called search engine optimization, or SEO. 

Pick an SEO friendly e-commerce solution

To achieve this, you should start by picking an SEO friendly shopping cart software or e-commerce solution such as ShopFactory — in fact good SEO features are what you should expect from all the best shopping cart software packages.

This ensures that your website will be optimized for easy indexing by search engines.

Not only does your solution have to make sure that all the pages can easily be found when following the links through your website, it also has to provide certain information, which makes it easier for search engines to weigh the content of your website.

A good e-commerce solution such as ShopFactory for example will automatically create site maps for search engines and create and update robot.txt files — small files used by search engines spiders to navigate your web site.

After all, you want to make sure that as many of your pages as possible will be indexed, when the search engines check out your website.

This is an important basis for a good ranking in search results.

Find the search terms your customers are using

To be able to properly do SEO web site promotion however you first have to find out, which search term to optimize for.

What is the most likely term potential customers will enter into a search engine, when they are looking for products and services you want to sell to them?

In the early days, people searching the Internet would enter a single word when using a search engine to find a suitable web site. Today most people enter a combination of words, to get the best results.

Of course the easiest way to find out is to ask customers, if you can. But there are also tools designed specifically for search engine optimization, which can help you do this.

We have listed some on the page Free SEO tools for keyword discovery.

And many companies have specialized in SEO work, to help you with this, too.

Not all content is equal

When you build a web site, many different pages will be created. The most important page to a search engine is your home page; the first page visitors will see when they go to your Internet address.

Information on this page is valued more highly. But pages are not the only items on your web site, which are treated unequally.

The content of the HTML Title, the title which appears in the blue bar at the very top of a browser when you visit a web site, is also regarded by search engines as more important.

Larger headlines are also be valued more highly.

What this means is that this information is more important to search engines when they rank your website. They should therefore contain the search terms you are optimizing for.

A good shopping cart solution will allow you to easily enter and adjust the information which is relevant to search engines, and automatically create titles and headlines with an appropriate value for search engine optimization purposes.

How to integrate search terms in your web site

When you make your own website, integrating the best search terms right from the beginning will help your ranking in search engines. Limit the main optimization to only one or two terms, as otherwise the results will not be worth it.

They should be included in the HTML title of a page, as well as in the main title of the page.  You should also ensure that your search terms are used in product or paragraph titles.

Also make use of Meta tag fields, which any SEO friendly shopping cart software should give you access to. While many search engines no longer use them for indexation, they still review them. Google often displays the Meta tag description in its search results.

Some shopping cart software solutions also allow you to change the file names of the pages generated. Using the search term in the file name may also help improve rankings.

Don't sound awkward

Be careful your optimized text doesn't sound awkward. There is no point in having a website which is so optimized, that it is no longer of interest to people trying to read it. After all, you are not selling to the search engine.

There is little point in generating a website with works great when search engines index it, but which does not turn a customer into a customer.

Your text should still flow well, and your integrated search words should not disrupt reading.

The importance of context

Another point to take into consideration is the context — the other text you provide on your website.

These days search engines don't stupidly index your website, adding up the keywords. They know what other words should be appearing on your website based on your keywords, and use this knowledge when ranking your site.

This won't matter much to you, as these words will naturally be included by you as you create your content.

But it indicates that a website generated without the proper knowledge of a subject may have more problems ranking well.

Don't try tricking search engines

Google is the biggest search engine there is — and they are spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure that the search results they return are relevant to the searcher.

After all, the quality of these results is what has made Google so big.

Don't use hidden text on your web sites, don't repeat the same search terms again and again at the bottom of your web page or in the Meta tags. Search engines know all the tricks, and many of them are automatically discovered, without a human person becoming involved.

Once you have been caught, you may be banned from the search engine. Depending how much your website depend on search engines, the results of this can be bitter.

Check out the Google Webmaster Guidelines for search engines. Since Google is the biggest player, their guidelines basically rule.

How Link popularity drives your rankings

To make your life more difficult, websites which are mentioned on other websites are regarded as more reliable by Google.

It will give them a higher ranking in the results. Other websites listing you and linking to you therefore can help boost your rankings in the search results.

But not just any other website can do this. Google will check, if the web site linking to you is related to what you are doing.

If many web sites link to you, which are not relates to your business, Google may regard this as an illegal attempt to boost your rankings, and will penalize you by letting you drop in the search results.

So there is little point in paying for solutions on the Internet, which promise to list you on thousand of websites in return for a small fee. You could end up paying them for sabotaging you.

On the Page "Free SEO tools for keyword discovery" you will find some web sites which will list you and will positively affect your rankings. Some for free, some in return for a fee.

SEO web site promotion is not magic

No one can realistically promise to put you on top of search engine results for popular search terms. The competition for these terms is fierce, and there are many website owners who constantly tweak their websites to stay on top.

There are no magical quick fixes or free rides.

Search engines today try very hard to make sure their search results are relevant to the searcher. They do not care about your website. They only care about returning the best possible search results. This means they apply selection processes, which make it harder for you.

For example older websites are regarded as more trustworthy. Web sites, which are mentioned on many other web sites, are regarded to be more relevant.

While there are ways to move to the top, you should not regard search engines as the only way to market your web site.

Remember: Marketing isn't just done on the Internet. Even if your customers buy from you online, they aren't online all the time.