Your website is the gateway to your products and services. It is how customers will usually interact with your eCommerce business and where they will – hopefully – make purchases. However, if it’s not properly optimized it won’t get found. But what exactly is optimization and how can you optimize your homepage to ensure a good ranking on search engines?
There are many things to consider when doing business online. It’s not enough to simply set up a website. You’ve got to pick the right technology – whether that’s the best text messaging apps for Android and iOS, the right website host, or a great live chat solution. Not only that, but your website should be well designed, be easy to navigate, have great product images and perfect content.
Your website could be the best-designed site in the world but still go completely unnoticed. Without effective optimization, potential customers will simply not find your website when they search for the products or services they need. Your search ranking is an essential factor when it comes to doing any sort of business online.
What is Optimization?
In the dictionary, optimization is defined as:
“an act, process, or methodology of making something (such as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible…”
In relation to websites, we talk about search engine optimization (SEO) which refers to how we customize sites using relevant terms and words in order to increase visibility when people search for things. The higher your visibility, then the higher your ranking – and the more likely that customers will visit your site.
How Does SEO Work?
Any search engine uses bots to visit and examine all pages on the internet. They collect and collate information from those pages then put them in a special index. Once indexed, algorithms analyze all that data using hundreds or thousands of factors to decide where that web page/site should appear in relation to a specific query from a user.
For example, if you wanted to search for a property to rent in London, a simple search with those terms would give thousands of results. But the ones that rank the highest will have used a number of more specific terms that the search engine recognizes as being relevant.
Improving SEO rankings is not only about keywords and phrases. There are many factors that major search engines such as Google take into account when calculating where a website should be placed.
If you are building a new website, there are a number of factors to take into account to ensure that your site is optimized and that it receives the best ranking it can.
Your website may contain good phrases and words but unless your content is of sufficient quality, then you will not get far. A page should contain a minimum of 300 words of original content (search engines can spot plagiarized or duplicated content and will penalize you for doing so).
Long rambling paragraphs are another no-no. Ideally, you should break your content into smaller chunks and use headings and subheadings where appropriate. Google, who processes around 3.5 billion searches per day, also in 2018 introduced what is known as EAT criteria.
E = Expertise
A = Authoritativeness
T = Trustworthiness
These criteria are especially essential if you are discussing sensitive subjects, for example, treatments for cancer. A good EAT score would cite peer-reviewed research, statements from recognized professionals/experts in the field, or links to reliable sources such as .edu or .gov websites.
2. SEO Keywords and Phrases
Your quality content also needs to contain effective keywords or phrases to optimize it for searches. Such words need to be relevant to the subject matter to recognize the sort of terms a user may use to search. Following a simple checklist can be a big help with this part.
- Have one main keyword and a few related keywords (3 to 4 should suffice).
- Always include the primary keyword in the page’s URL.
- Also include that primary keyword in your meta description, in your title tag, and in your H1 (main heading).
- Create varied content with keywords and phrases throughout.
- Use subheadings and bullet lists where appropriate.
- Any links to other pages on your domain should have a clear and effective anchor.
- Use images, a good guide is one image per 300 words or so.
For example, if you were selling a small business phone service, then there are certain keywords you would want to use, such as; reliable, secure, cloud-based, telephony, and other phrases that reflect the features of your product.
Backlinks are another useful tool to optimize your site and push you up rankings. If other websites recognize the quality of your own site and link to your site from theirs, then search engines will note this and rank you higher. But how do you get those sites to drive traffic to you?
If you create quality and engaging content that other sites want to share, then they will include these backlinks to their own site. Unique content can be a great way of encouraging other sites to backlink to you, as is the use of good infographics, interesting statistics, or unique content.
It is also worth considering what tools you use as an eCommerce business. If you have a well optimized website and have backlinks feeding to your site, then you may also be selling via multiple channels. Keeping track of your stock using the best inventory management software helps ensure you know what you have available to sell and avoids customer disappointment – you don’t want those backlinks to be from negative reviews, after all.
4. Site Crawlability
It may sound like a strange term but crawlability describes a search engine bot’s ability to access and crawl all of the content throughout your site. If those little virtual bots cannot access any of your web pages to index that content, those pages will never be ranked.
Make sure that your site allows bots access to every webpage by having a good linking structure that fluidly connects all of your pages together. If there are pages you don’t want to be crawled, you can use a robots.txt file to exclude them. For Google, their Search Console not only lets you see what pages have been crawled, it also has a robots.txt generator you can use. Search Console also offers a secondary method for Google to discover your pages by submitting them in a sitemap.xml file.
People may ask why security is important to site optimization. Remember: no-one wants to use a site that puts them at risk. You can forget about good backlinks if your site is not viewed as trustworthy!
Make sure you always use HTTPS encryption on your site. This will provide you with SSL certificates, offering a trusted and secure connection between your portal and your customers device. For accessibility, make sure your site is well coded and that it has a sitemap so that the bots and search engines know what your site is about.
In this part of the information era, users expect fast speeds when accessing a website. This is another crucial factor for optimizing your website. If your website has a low loading speed, then you will be unlikely to figure higher up any search rankings. Consider these three loading benchmarks:
- High-ranked sites: less than three seconds
- ECommerce sites: 2 seconds or less
- Optimum time (as seen by Google): less than half a second.
Your development team should be looking at everything they can do to increase speeds, especially in light of Google’s Core Web Vitals Ranking Factor update. This can include things such as combining files and minimizing HTTP requests. They should also look at your server’s response time.
7. Engagement Levels
While quality content is a crucial factor, it does not tell the whole story. Even the best content will not be of much use if your users do not engage with it. Google uses RankBrain to monitor and assess how much users engage with your site. Metrics like click-through rate, dwell time (how long a user spends on your page), and bounce rates are taken into account.
A high bounce rate – where people leave your site quickly – will affect your overall performance and ranking. Make sure not only that your content is good, but that the overall design of the site is high quality too and that the site is easy to navigate around.
- Optimizing your home page and website is crucial if you expect to do any level of business online. It’s also important to remember that this is not just a one-time task. Some of the criteria for ranking sites can change on a regular basis, so it is essential that you carry out regular assessments and make relevant changes as needed.
- Look at everything that makes your business more efficient and engaging better with your customer base. That includes not only your website but also utilising tools such as a VoIP system for small business. Having a good, well-ranking website is great, but it needs to be a starting point rather than an end goal.
- With the eCommerce sector becoming increasingly competitive, your sales conversions and revenue stream depends a lot on people finding your site with little effort. Once they find you, it’s time to drive them towards a purchase, provide excellent service, and push them towards becoming a repeat customer.
Is your website also Core Web Vitals ready?
In June 2021 Google’s Page Experience Ranking Factors update will launch with user experience being the primary focus. If you’re not up to speed with the Core Web Vitals and how they could impact your website ranking check out our new study!
You can download it for free here!