Never forget that the internet is not made for humans. People use it, certainly, and it benefits them. People shop with it, look up information, and communicate, all using the internet. But the internet is not like a piece of paper upon which you might write a bill of sale, a book, or a letter to a loved one.
The internet is more like a carrier pigeon. With a carrier pigeon, the message is obviously why people use it. But the pigeon is an entity unto themselves. People have to develop ways of feeding, nesting, and breeding the pigeon in order for it to behave the way they need it to. And in a similar manner, people need to develop ways to organize, track, and respond to information contained within the internet.
Fortunately for people, there are tools for doing exactly that in the context of eCommerce.
But, as we said before, these tools do not exist to make things easier for humans. They exist to make things easier for a computer to understand various things. In order to understand what SEO tools are, you have to understand what they relate to in the real world, as well as how they are represented.
That is what we are going to talk about today. We will go over the basics of SEO tools, what they aim to track, and how to implement them into a business. The business side of things is, ultimately, their final destination, as you basically can’t have an online business without them these days.
Table of Contents:
What are SEO Tools?
Let’s start at the start. After all, if you have seen the phrase “SEO Tools” before, but never had it defined, then you may be operating off of limited information. So, what are SEO Tools?
To begin with, “SEO” stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. That means that SEO Tools are tools for getting things noticed by search engines. Imagine you type “Best place to eat near me” into Google (or Yelp, or Uber—everything uses SEO Tools). How does Google know what to look for?
The answer to that is, essentially, simple: It matches up the search terms you used with the terms in various websites that it keeps track of. So, if you type in “best place to eat”, Google will track down a restaurant that calls itself the “best place to eat”. But there is something you are probably noticing.
As simple as it is to match up your search terms with the terms used on a restaurant’s website, that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. For one, how does it value one term over another? Are websites with repeated terms given more favour than others? What about partial matches?
And won’t every restaurant say that it’s the “best place to eat”?
How SEO Tools Choose What to Show
Yes, most restaurants will call themselves the best place to eat. Every dry cleaner is the best dry cleaner in town, every mechanic is the most skilled in the west, and so on and so forth for infinity, across the entire internet. If the only thing a search engine considered was the words you put into it, then that search engine would be useless. Most search engines include at least three more factors.
Let’s go over those three common factors one at a time.
This is the easiest to identify. When you search for somewhere to eat, you will always get certain restaurants shown to you over others. Next to their listing, whether on Google or any other search engine, you will also usually see a little tag that says “ad”. That is because Google is a business, and one of its main methods of making money is letting businesses pay to appear at the top of searches.
The searches in question can be as broad as “anything that includes the words ‘restaurant’ or ‘food’” or as specific as “Any of the many possible misspellings of the word ‘McDonald’s’”.
While we’re talking about this, it is a good time to note why we are going to focus on Google when we talk about search engines. It is not just a matter of the fact that Google is the obvious industry leader in search engines. Alongside that, most websites that use a search engine use one powered by Google.
As a result, the way Google handles Search Engine Optimization has been inherited by many of the companies that end up using it as an easy way to search their website. Which, of course, results in even more websites and businesses being forced to conform to Google’s way of searching for things.
Google does ads in this way, so most websites will do ads in this way.
So, you’re searching for the “best restaurant nearby”. How does Google know best restaurant #43 from best restaurant #82734? It can’t taste test the food, it can’t evaluate the interior, it can’t experience good or bad customer service. But you know who can? A human. Therefore, Google has reviews.
If you take a look at reviews for books, movies, and restaurants from before the internet, you will notice something interesting: There are very few scoring systems in place for them. The reason for this is that the scoring system is one of many ways to organize information for a computer, rather than a human.
This creates a funny situation where people are forced to express their opinions within the one-to-five-star scale that Google uses to sort its reviews. Think about it: If Google can’t write its own review, then it certainly can’t understand yours. The five-star scale gives it a way of reading those opinions.
Now, similar to the “best restaurant ever” situation, you might have noticed that there is nothing stopping a restaurant from just giving themselves good reviews. It might be hard for a small business, but for a huge chain it would be trivial, particularly if you set up a bot to write the same review over and over again. Some businesses do exactly that, though they have to be careful to get by spam detectors.
3. Repeated Terms
People will often hear this one and say, “Really? That’s how it works? It’s that simple?”
Yes. We have mostly been using the example of searching out restaurants. But imagine you’re looking for an article on how to get rid of bedbugs, or what happened in the stock market today, or why teenagers are so moody. The simplest way to find an article that’s relevant to your search is by volume.
Specifically, volume of keywords. A search engine can look at what you are searching and see the whole sentence structure. It is (usually) capable of reading the sentence and finding articles with similar sentences in it. And the more similar sentences within that article, the more relevant it assumes it is.
This is where things start to get a little silly. So, a business can pay to have its website promoted, they can write their own reviews, and then they can also write articles that are just nonsense filled with keywords that the search engine believes are relevant? In a word, yes. That’s how it is.
Keywords: The Essence of Search Engine Optimization
One of the interesting things about picking the right keywords, however, is the fact that you can’t just shove every keyword of every subject ever into or onto your website and expect it to work.
If you did that, it would have a diluting effect. Search engines would not be able to tell the important once from the unimportant ones. Not to mention it would slow down your website.
It is important that your keywords be many and varied, while at the same time being as niche as you can possibly make them. How can they be both niche and varied? Think of it like this: Think of as few colours as possible while thinking of more than one colour. You have to think of two colours, right?
Well, keywords are like that. You can pick from any colours that exist, but you should try and choose as few of them as possible, and you should try to find the colours that go the best together.
The fine art of picking the right keywords in this way is something we will explore as we continue.
How are Websites Search Engine Optimized?
So far, we have been viewing SEO Tools through the lens of the client. Things look very different when you are looking through the eyes of the server. That is, the eyes of the people running the site.
Think for a moment about how you find the websites that you use. Most people use websites habitually. That means they go to Facebook, or Twitter, or YouTube every day. But that is how people use social media websites. Tons of money has flowed into social media and communications technology because it is so lucrative to get people to use that kind of website every day. But most websites aren’t social media.
Have you ever used WikiHow? Or Yahoo Answers, back when that existed? How about Quora? Or Pinterest? All of these sites have social media-like elements, but their uses are a little narrower.
You will probably find a WIkiHow article by searching “How to…” and then a task that you need done. What a lot of people do not know is that a website can tell when you do that. A website knows how you find them, when you find them, and some can even know what you’re doing before and after.
Websites are optimized for search engines by analysing how, when and why people go to them.
How Websites Track Traffic
When someone visits a website, the website calls that “traffic”. As we just mentioned, the website knows a few things about the traffic that they get. Part of optimizing a website for search engines is integrating the knowledge gathered from this information and designing the site around it.
First, let’s go over some of the things that websites look at to study their traffic.
1. How People Get to the Website
Let’s go back to the WikiHow example. You search “How to make a hamburger” and click the first link Google offers you. The information WikiHow receives is that you got to their exact “How to make a hamburger” article, you got there through a search, and you clicked the link the search engine provided.
They will also probably know how long you spent between entering the search term and clicking their link. One thing they do not know is whether or not you clicked any other link before theirs (unless it was another WikiHow article, or an article belonging to a company that also owns WikiHow).
2. When People get to the Website
As you might expect, “How to make a hamburger” is a far more popular search during dinner time than during breakfast. Since a website will know when people access it, they can get an idea of when their services are most in demand, as well as what kind of services are most in demand at what times.
This is highly relevant to certain small businesses, who might not be able to afford the same amount of bandwidth 24/7. If they see that people are mostly asking questions in the evening, they can set their website up to be basically under maintenance for most of the day, and only actually turning it on when people are going to use it. This saves money and makes things better for the user.
3. What People are Doing at the Same Time
This is a little shadier, and not every website does it. But really big websites (like, for example, WikiHow) will usually be able to tell what you are doing at the same time that you are browsing their website.
So, if you are looking up a WikiHow article on “How to program a SQL server” at the same time you are looking up “What is SQL?” is another tab, then WikiHow might see that and decide that they need to include a section on what SQL is in order to capitalize on that need.
4. When, Where, and How People are Closing the Website
Let’s pivot away from WikiHow and talk about another popular website: Twitter. One of the interesting features of Twitter is that it can let you scroll infinitely. This is a well-known element of what makes it so addictive. People are incentivised to be entertaining on Twitter in order to make themselves known in order to make money, so idly scrolling Twitter is always at least mildly stimulating.
A less-well-known element of Twitter is that it tracks your scrolling. It tracks how long you scroll, how far, and it tracks where you stop scrolling. It knows to show you more of what you stop to read, even if you don’t like it. It has to do this if it is to give you an infinite amount of content to scroll through.
And because it tracks this, Twitter had to pioneer the technology of tracking when users close the website or the app. That technology got circulated, and now websites know where you are when you stop scrolling, as well as what is on your screen when you leave the website.
You can combine this with knowledge of when users access your website and how people get there to establish some more information on the people who make use of it.
But let’s not get into that piecemeal anymore. Let’s take a deep dive and explore just how this information is put to use.
How SEO Tools’ Data is Put to Use
There are a lot of different ways to make use of the whens, whats, hows, and wheres of SEO Tools. We already mentioned a few as examples, such as adjusting your website’s bandwidth. But let’s talk about the issue more in general, and then provide a few specific examples. Starting with a question:
What are you trying to accomplish with the data that SEO Tools gives you?
The answer to that question will change slightly from business to business. For some people, it’s about getting a message out. For others, it’s about letting people know what their business offers, and where to find them. But for most, it is all about making money by selling products through eCommerce.
SEO Tools give you only half of the knowledge you need. In order to turn that knowledge into profit, you need to be able to connect data points that might not be obviously connected. We will give you three examples of connecting data points in this way, in order to help you grow your business.
1. Combining the What and the Where
Let’s say you’re an eCommerce platform selling widgets. These widgets could do anything and be made of anything. That’s not important. What is important is that you notice that your website gets traffic from people looking for widgets in a certain part of the country. What do you do with this information?
Simple: Identify that there is a need for widgets (the “what”) in that part of the country (the “where”). You can focus some of your marketing in that area to let people who need widgets know where to get them. You can also contact widget sellers (and buyers) in that area directly to see about getting your widgets distributed directly to that region, making them even easier for people to buy.
2. Combining the When and the Why
One day you wake up and find that traffic to your website has quadrupled. What is going on here? There are orders coming in from all over the place. Did your business suddenly take off? Are people finally appreciating you for the genius that you are? Well, let’s not get too excited. The market punishes hubris.
If the “where” of your traffic is not consistent, but people are coming all at once (the “when”), it is safe to say that there is a specific reason (the “why”) for this happening. If you figure that reason out, then you can get a firm grasp on why the market is suddenly treating so well, and what it means.
For instance, another famous widget seller might have sold out of widgets, gone out of business, or suffering some other unfortunate fate that results in people turning to you for their widgets.
It might also have been a recommendation from a famous widget influencer, a new regulation passed by the Board of Widget Control, or it really might be that your widgets have been “discovered”.
Why is it so important to find out the “why” of such a boom in widget business? Well, you don’t want to treat a sudden, temporary boom like the new normal. To a lesser extent, you also don’t want to treat a new normal like it’s temporary. This information can make or break your business going forward.
3. Combining the Who and the How
Some SEO Tools will allow you to gather information on the demographics of the people visiting your website (the “who”). If you are in any way directly connected with Google, then you will get this information if your visitors have a Google account, due to the information being entered there.
Otherwise, you may need to get your visitors to enter that information themselves, whether through a survey or by making an account of some kind. Just be sure you actually have something to offer for that.
In any case, these methods of tracking your users will allow you to know a bit more about them. The simplest data points are their age and gender. These will give you a pretty good idea of the type of person who is buying your widgets. But what do you do with that information?
Cross referencing the personal information of who is visiting your website alongside how they are visiting it can give you an idea of which marketing is working, and which marketing is not (the “how”).
Imagine that you find that most of the people visiting your websites do so by first entering the URL directly into their address bar. They don’t click a link and they don’t follow a banner. They go straight there. At the same time, most of your visitors are males in their 40s and 50s. What does this tell you?
Well, males in their 40s and 50s are far more likely to read a magazine or newspaper. If you have any marketing in those mediums, then an abundance of customers like that can tell you that those advertisements are working. If you have ads on Instagram, but no 18-to-20-year-olds visiting your website, then you have strong cause to reconsider the value of that marketing.
Should You Pay for Ads?
A rookie mistake in the world of eCommerce marketing is to think that the relationship between money spent and money made is one-to-one. Businesspeople, marketing specialists, and social media gurus would have you believe that if you just spend more, get more ads, get your name out there, that you will reap commensurate profits. But you should be wary of this line of thinking, especially in eCommerce.
Paying for ads to your site can do wonders for your exposure. But there is a flip side to that exposure. For one, people in general have trained themselves not to click on anything that they recognize as an ad.
What a person recognizes as an ad, however, is not as set in stone as you might think. Part of the reason Google can get away with listing ads on the top of its search results is because there is usually a strong overlap between what people see in the “ads” section of search results and what people see through their actual search results. This lends some credence to the ads and makes people view it better.
But imagine if all a person sees of your website is a tacky banner ad on a website. If it’s a big, obnoxious ad that takes up half the screen, plasters terrible graphic design everywhere, and makes an offer that looks like a scam, then the user is going to think following it will give them a virus and not click it.
Worse, they will start to avoid your website should they see it represented elsewhere. Essentially, many people view buying ad space on search results as a shortcut to success. But it can just as easily be a shortcut to failure if you do not use it right. Your ads need to be as elegant as your website.
What are the Best Premium Services for SEO Optimization?
SEO Tools are such a dominant force in the world these days that mastering them has become an industry unto itself. And for the same reason, owning the technology to master them is its own industry.
So, what are the tools of the trade for the SEO Optimization Tools industry? That’s what we are going to briefly go over. There is no single tool that is going to make your business take off, nor is every tool going to work for every business. Especially in the case of eCommerce, you have to figure out what you can get your hands on and how you can get the best value out of it. More on that later.
And last thing, these are not specific tools (though we will give specific tools as examples). These are the types of tools that you might use. You can decide on your own specific tool within these types.
1. Keywording Tools
Every site needs content. It needs words describing your products, your services, how they are delivered, what sets them apart from other people’s products, and so on and so forth.
In order for search engines to find your content, they need to correlate the words people search with the words in your content, as you may remember. Keywording tools read the content you have written and either (or both) find places to repeat important keywords or find new keywords for you to use.
Given the importance of keywording in search engine optimization, you can imagine how critical a service like this is to getting your business noticed. Some businesses can get away with using these services and programs once, but most will need to keep them around as they expand.
Far more words go into making a website than you might think, especially if you want that website to stay up to date in the rat race of SEO Tools. As the internet expands, search engines have to expand their definitions of what is “enough” keywords to consider a website relevant to a certain topic.
That means if you want to stay on top of a search engine’s listings, you have to either get consistent traffic, or continuously expand the scope of what your website does. That second one is what copywriters focus on. It might seem impractical and expensive, but there is a simple and cheap solution for it.
Essentially, copywriters construct everything from the words used on the front page of your site down to the “Contact Us” page. And if you want to keep your site constantly updated, you can even have them start a blog on the subject matter of your business. Talk a lot about widgets? Have the copywriter write blogs about widgets and break news about what’s going on the widget industrial complex.
3. Metadata Tools
Metadata is the data hidden within your website, and it is a strange layer of how to use SEO Tools within your business. You see, the metadata can’t be seen by a normal person. But it can be seen by the search engine. Essentially, it works like tagging your social media posts: It associates the site with a trend.
If you were to drown your webpage in tags and keywords, the metadata is the place to do it, since it allows you to change the keywords associated with your website without changing the copywriting that the customers will actually read. It still yields to the “drowning out” issue, but it is worth noting.
Metadata Tools will help with two things: First, similar to the keywording tools, they look at the copy on your website to help you establish what tags and keywords should be hidden in the metadata.
But on top of that, they also make sure that those tags and metadata are not slowing down your website. We alluded to this before, but let’s now imagine an example: If you wanted, you could print every word in the English language in a transparent font at the bottom of your website.
Your website would then cover every topic and trend imaginable. As we said before, it would be bad for your site to do this because your intended purpose would be drowned out by all the other words. But it would also slow your website down. Every time someone wanted to load the website, they would have to load all those transparent words. You can’t see them, but your computer can.
Mobile Works Somewhat Differently
There are some minor, but important, differences in how search engine optimization works for websites on mobile phones as compared to browsers. The most obvious is the fact that not every mobile phone uses a Google search engine. The default for iPhones is actually Safari.
Granted, Safari is designed to be as close to Google’s as it can be, since Google is basically what people expect nowadays. However, there is one important difference that shouldn’t be overlooked: Safari takes their phones to web pages designed for mobile devices over web pages designed for the browser.
As a result, it is entirely possible for your eCommerce page’s website to work on a mobile phone. But if its metadata or backend does not indicate that it is the mobile version of the website, Safari might skip over it. Google Chrome will also do this if certain settings are enabled on Android phones.
Why Does This Happen?
The main reason for this comes down to “user experience”, which is a discipline unto itself.
The basic idea is that neither of these search engines is going to trust a website built for a browser. There are just too many cases of users having a miserable time trying to navigate a website that cannot format itself down to the size of a phone. That creates a bad experience for the user (hence the name) and thus, the phones try to prevent their users from running into that, as that would lead to complaints.
Fortunately, it’s not hard for a website to have a mobile version set up, especially if that website already works pretty well on mobile phones to begin with. In fact, most web developers won’t even include making a website for mobile in their fees unless your website is sufficiently complex.
Are Keywords, Ads, and Traffic Analytics all the Same?
Yes, for the most part. More specifically, keywords, ads, and traffic analysis are all there on mobile phones. Keywords work basically exactly the same. Some phones will not be fast enough to process that many of them, so there is a slight efficiency concern, but part of the reason new phones keep getting released is to keep up with the growing need to process complex website code.
Ads are smaller, as is expected from the smaller screen, but they are still there. To give you an idea of what kind of experience Safari and Chrome are trying to save users from by avoiding browser sites, a browser ad will take up the entirety of a phone’s screen and be basically impossible to get away from.
And finally, traffic analytics will oftentimes be better on phones. The reason comes down to the agreements users sign when installing apps (or simply turning the phone on). Apps like Facebook usually can’t be uninstalled, while at the same time they sell the user’s data to whatever sites they go to.
This means that traffic analytics of who a user is, where they are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it are all readily available whenever a user connects to your website through their phone. This is a big part of the reason those analytics have become so valuable: Suddenly, everyone is for sale
Understanding SEO Tools is critical for any eCommerce platform looking to make its way in the modern world. You simply aren’t going to get noticed if you do not respect the hold Google has on the internet.
But more than that, you won’t know when, where, how, or to whom to market your business if you cannot interpret the information that these tools show you.