Magento has been labelled as very Search Engine friendly, but what does this mean? Why is this important?
The bottom line for any Ecommerce site is selling products. The idea is (or should be) to make money. In order to do this you have to get people to visit your site, and once there convert them into customers. Getting visitors is done by marketing your site. The conversion is done by a combination of making sure the right people visit and your site looks the part to convince the visitors to order from you. This conversion is important. There is simply no point in marketing a site that does not convert visitors into customers. I have covered some of the conversion points in my blog here If you Build it They Will Come
Assuming your site converts reasonably well, then you have to market it. One of the first methods of marketing that is typically done is search engine optimisation (or SEO). Whilst this is important, it should never be your only marketing. It is foolish to rely on a single source of customers.
There are many companies who offer this service. Some are excellent some not so good. Some are positively dangerous and will take your money whilst damaging or destroying your online reputation. Before you do any SEO on your site, or before you hire anyone to do it, it is important to understand what it is all about.
One of the main search engines is Google. There are many others, but in general what applies for Google, applies for all the others. In simple terms, Google is in business to make money. It wants to make as much money as possible. It does this by providing a service on which people advertise. So the more people who use this service, the more it can charge for advertising, and the more money it makes.
People use Google because they can easily find what they are looking for. Again, in simple terms, when you use a search engine you want the first few results to point you at sites that have exactly what you are looking for. You do not really want to dig in and look through pages and pages of results. A search engine that does not delivery quality results most of the time, will loose popularity and people will move on to another search engine.
Now Google has large teams of people all working on their algorithms attempting to do the impossible. Namely reading your mind and getting the results right every time. SEO experts spend their time analysing the results and try to find out how the algorithm works so that the sites they are promoting come in those magic few places in the results. Note the CRUCIAL difference. Google wants the best possible results, the ones that exactly match what the searcher is looking for and makes the searcher happy. Whereas the SEO companies want their clients to come top.
Over time this becomes cyclic. SEO companies find out how to manipulate the site in order to come out ahead, then Google works out how to stop the manipulation and even penalise the “worst” offenders. If you are not careful, any investment in SEO could be eliminated overnight.
So how do you best optimise your site?
In an ideal world your site would be perfect. It would be exactly what the customer is looking for. It would have great content that described the product in the same terms that the customer would use. It would have great pictures, it would be at a price that the customer was happy with. It would stand above the competitors in quality of its content. In this ideal world it will also have found the way in which to tell Google that it is perfect. This is where Magento helps.
With Magento, and the right template (see my blog SEO and Selecting a Magento Theme ), you have the tools necessary to tell Google what your site is all about. To try to give google exactly what it needs to help both you and google deliver perfect results. If you get your content right, if you get the page titles right, the headings right, the descriptions right, and the layout right, then you are a long way into getting your product page promoted high in the results. Of course getting these right is what requires the real skill. This is where a good SEO company can be invaluable.
A good SEO company should tell you about the importance of content. Should help you with titles and page descriptions. So if your target audience is, say English, then the SEO company should use technicians who are natural English speakers. Preferably who use the same phrases and idiosyncrasies as your target audience. You would be potentially crippling your efforts if you rely on a company who uses non native speakers in this part of your SEO. ( I am not saying avoid the Indian sub-continent suppliers, I am just saying that it is unlikely that they will have as good a way with words and phrases).
A good SEO company will give you advice on your site, its navigation, the internal links, the content. All the on site changes and tweeks that will be needed to best promote it to Google and best help the Google spider crawl your site and index it properly. This on-site optimisation is entirely in your control, and should be done first.
Once this on-site SEO is done, then off-site SEO/Marketing should be addressed. This is where the most damage to your site can be done. It is always important to understand what is being done in your name in promoting your site. What Google is trying to penalise is all those sites who try too hard with this off site promotion. Those sites who try to get lots of incoming links from lots of other sites in order to make your site look important. What Google want is to find those sites who are so “important” that lots of other sites link into them because of the content. NOT because some SEO technician has written a short poorly worded blog on a spam ridden forum. Getting good organic links takes time. It is certainly something that should not be rushed. It is far better to get someone to link your site because they want to, rather than because they have been paid to or because they are simply exchanging links with you.
So the real secret to good SEO is getting your site right. Improving its content to such an extent that it stands out above the crowd. So that it becomes THE site for xxxxx. Idealy it will be the reference site that everyone links to, it would be the first place of call when someone is looking for xxx as they know you have it and you are recommended. So a good SEO company then just has to promote this diamond, rather than trying to stuff a lemon into Googles results.