Welcome to the J+ Community introduction to SEO for commerce content creators. In this article, you’ll learn the essentials of search engine optimization, covering:
What is SEO?
Keyword research & integration
Title tags and meta descriptions
Glossary of common SEO terms
Note: SEO is a huge topic, so this guide will focus on the areas that are most relevant to commerce content creation. If you’re interested in learning more about SEO beyond what’s in this guide, we recommend the following resources:
Moz’s Beginner's Guide to SEO
Search Engine Journal’s SEO for Beginners Guide
Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to Keyword Research
For all things to do with the Google algorithm, head to the Google Search Central Blog.
What is SEO?
Now you know what it stands for, but what does it really mean?
SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website from organic search engine results. “Organic” means the results are not paid or promoted on the SERP – in other words, they are not ads. By practising SEO, you’re increasing a site’s visibility and traffic by making the website more appealing to search engines and users. This means the potential customers you attract will be brought to the site by their own intent.
Putting SEO into practice takes many forms, ranging from ensuring a clear site structure to optimising the technical, behind-the-scenes elements of a site. Within the realm of commerce content, SEO is mostly geared towards producing high-quality content that search engines will reward with high rankings.
So how do search engines decide what results are best? SERPs display results that are generated by complex and ever-changing algorithms. These algorithms take into account lots of different content criteria, including…
All of these factors aim to help search engine users find the most useful results for them. So if Google chooses to rank a site high up on the SERP for a particular search term, it’s because it has deemed that webpage more likely to answer the user’s search query.
Top takeaway: search engines serve the user, so strong SEO content should do the same! Keep the reader front of mind.
How does SEO impact the user journey?
SEO has the potential to impact all stages of the user’s journey along what we call the ‘purchase funnel’, the progression from awareness (becoming aware of a brand/product) to action (deciding to add to basket).
The graphic below illustrates the impact of SEO on this journey in a helpful way:
At the higher end of the funnel, high-ranking search results can inspire awareness of the category or brand. Moving down the pathway to purchase, SEO can influence actions by providing easily accessible educational content, carving out a helpful path to find the right product, and ultimately boosting customer loyalty.
In other words: successful SEO provides commerce sites with tangible benefits. When implemented at every stage of the user journey, SEO can directly contribute to sales.
What does Google classify as good content?
So what does Google in particular look for? As the leading player in the search engine realm, Google has an ever-changing and highly complex algorithm. It’s important to remember that we should never try to ‘game’ the Google algorithm – there’s no shortcut to high-ranking content. Google will penalise content that is duplicated/plagiarised, keyword-stuffed, difficult to read or lacking in helpful information.
Keyword research and integration
When you enter your search query and press return, you’re essentially telling Google what kind of content you’re looking for.
All across the world, thousands of others are doing the same – and it’s all tracked.
Keyword research is the process of analysing that data and using it to identify opportunities to meet demand, with the ultimate goal of driving high-quality traffic towards a website.
Common keyword research platforms include:
Keyword research: understanding user intent
Keyword research: selection criteria
Keyword Researchers select keywords using platforms that show the keywords’ average monthly search volumes. Once they have found some keyword options, the selection criteria is:
Relevance to the page content - The quality of a keyword is measured by how accurate and relevant it is to the page at hand.
Specificity - The more specific the keyword, the better! ‘Long-tail’ keywords pull in more qualified search traffic as they’re more likely to relate to the user’s search intent.
Uniqueness - Avoiding duplication is key. If multiple pages on a site are optimised with identical or similar keywords, they will compete against each other. This damages the site’s organic performance, as the search engine will be confused about which page to display – Google cannot determine which piece of content to rank higher. This is called keyword cannibalisation.
Search volumes - Average monthly search volumes tell us the volume of monthly queries registered for a specific term in a search engine. ASV depends on the subject, as well as seasonal and regional fluctuations. Low ASV isn’t a bad thing as it likely means greater specificity and therefore qualified traffic. Think about stock prices – these are searched for multiple times daily, usually by a relatively stable number of 'power' users.
Competition - How hard the keyword is to compete for can also be a factor, but it should never come at the expense of relevance.
Keyword integration principles
The keyword describes the page content accurately
The keyword is relevant and makes sense in context
Grammar & syntax
The keyword is grammatically correct in context
The keyword reads naturally and fluently in the target language
Closeness to keyword
The word order of the keyword is preserved as far as possible
The exact grammar of the keyword is preserved as far as possible
What does that mean for integrating the keywords in practice?
Make grammatical changes to ensure linguistic quality and correctness.
Eg, you can change singular to plural, add prepositions, and change verb/noun endings to agree to the rest of the sentence
Shuffle word order to ensure readability and fluency where necessary
Merge similar keywords where necessary in order to avoid word repetition
Top takeaway: Relevance and linguistic correctness come first. Exact integration is less important than high quality content!
Keyword integration: examples
Why do headings matter to SEO?
Headings refer to your headline and all subheadings within your content.
Your headline in particular is key to letting users and search engines know what your content is about, so it’s important to include your keywords in them.
That way, search engines will see the relevance of your content for the user search queries that you want to attract.
What makes a good SEO heading?
Keep it natural, relevant and accurate
Include one (or two) target keywords
Make sure all headings are fully representative of the content they head up
Question-based (long-tail) keywords make for great subheadings
Note: While a web page can have multiple H2s, H3s and H4s etc. it should only have one H1.
How to tag your headings
Tagging your headings (rather than just using a larger font size) signals to search engines what they are.
Eg: <h1>This is my headline</h1>
When using J+ Scribe for content creation, you can use our built-in buttons to automatically tag headings accordingly:
Internal links are hyperlinks that direct the user to another page within the site.
As well as creating a positive user experience by pointing readers to similar content, they allow search engines to find out what content on your site is related, and help determine the value of that content.
If a page contains multiple links (and is linked to from other pages), search engines will deem it more authoritative. Therefore, strong internal links are helpful for SEO.
What is anchor text?
Anchor text is the word or phrase you attach the link to. It ‘anchors’ the URL, signalling to users and search engines what the destination page is about.
This means it’s important that the anchor text relates to what is on the page. Search engines can then understand and assign the relevancy the destination page deserves.
Note: Do not repeat the same anchor text for different links – each link should have a unique word or phrase.
Adding internal links to your work
Avoid excessive internal linking that doesn’t add additional value for the reader.
Too many links can also appear ‘spammy’ to search engines and therefore affect how well you rank in results pages.
While there’s no magic number, 100 links maximum on a page - including all header and footer links - is an approximate guide from Google.
Within an article itself, 5-10 links can be a good number to aim for.
Title tags and meta descriptions
What are title tags and meta descriptions?
Title tags (sometimes referred to as meta titles) and meta descriptions are the results you’ll see on the SERP after searching a term.
The purpose of metadata is to provide an accurate and succinct representation of the result page.
Meta titles and descriptions are not significant ranking criteria for search engine algorithms… but they are very significant!
This means the main KPI is click-through rates.
Is an accurate and relevant description of what can be found on the page
Includes a call to action encouraging users to click through
Stands out from other results on the SERP with excellent quality
Incorporates relevant primary, secondary and tertiary keywords
Metadata may be the first experience of the site that the reader has in their user journey – make it a good first impression!
Keep metadata on-brand and in the correct tone of voice
Use SERP preview generators to check character limits, particularly for non-Roman alphabets
Keep a user focus in mind: would you click?
Title tag best practices
Provide an accurate title that is relevant to the page content
Incorporate the primary keyword, and the secondary and tertiary keywords if possible
For Roman alphabets, stick to a character count between 50 and 65 characters including spaces
Where possible, treat title tags like headlines, using Title Case accordingly
Use a delimiter such as a hyphen or a pipe, and include the brand name afterwards
Maintain a consistent structure across all title tags for one site
Meta description best practices
Provide an accurate description of the page content
Incorporate the primary keyword and secondary keywords, and tertiary keyword if possible
For Roman alphabets, stick to a character count between 120 and 150 characters including spaces
Include a call to action (CTA)
Hold meta descriptions to the same standard as on-page copy
Glossary of common SEO terms
We appreciate that talking about SEO can sound like a different language with all the related abbreviations, acronyms and jargon. That’s why we designed this handy glossary to give you a quick rundown of what’s what when it comes to SEO vocabulary: