If you have a website, and you've either conducted research on how to market your store online or have spoken with someone on the subject, it's likely you've come across the term “search engine optimization” (SEO). In short, SEO refers to the various facets of your site that make it attractive to search engines, who, in turn, make it easier for users to find you through relevant searches. Optimizing this aspect of your website as much as possible can be a murky process. While there are some obvious rules, search engines don't publish all the particulars about how they determine what websites appear first in results, which makes it tempting to experiment and reveal some of the hidden details. Yet while testing and analyzing your site's SEO can be valuable in learning how to impact it positively, focusing too keenly on the day-to-day variances in search engine traffic can also be a dangerous rabbit hole that undermines how a business can think about its website. Ultimately though, despite the complexity of SEO, there's a simple philosophy that represents the driving force behind most of its facets: give users a good experience.
On the first page of Google's SEO guide it says, “You should base your optimization decisions first and foremost on what's best for the visitors of your site.” The rest of the guide covers a number of topics, but they devote the most pages to the subject of creating quality text and image content. In fact, the word “content” appears 144 times throughout the entire guide—more than double the number of instances of basic technical words like “tag” and “HTML”. For a potential online wine store, this content might take the form of information about where your business is located, specifics on the products you sell, and details on current promotions and events. When it comes to writing this content, use descriptive language that flows naturally and has your own voice. While SEO algorithms change frequently, they rarely ever punish a website that earnestly tries to provide visitors with well-written, useful information.
It's also worth noting that SEO isn't just about the content and structure of your website itself. Search engines also look to see how other websites interact with your online storefront. In other words, don't hesitate to promote your website through other channels such as wine directory sites that will list your inventory and pricing (e.g. Wine-Searcher), social media, and other potentially relevant sites. High volume pay-per-click (PPC) advertising services, such as Shopping.com, may also play a significant role. We took a close look at the traffic history of 15 of the retail websites on our network that have participated with these advertisers, and we've found a strong correlation between increased organic search traffic and PPC referral traffic. There's not enough conclusive evidence to suggest that running PPC services—with certainty--improves organic search traffic (there are too many additional variables to confirm it), but, the upshot is the promotional efforts you make outside your website have bearing on how search engines treat your website.
Ultimately, while there are dozens of elements that factor into search engines ability to show your website in search results, the crux of much of it is managing the online business quite naturally: providing useful content, advertising and promoting the business where it makes sense, and generally trying to give your website visitors a pleasant experience. While a more mature online business might take a closer look at refining the particulars of their SEO strategy, a young online business should focus their efforts on their general storefront and promotional efforts.