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SEO: How to get to the top of Google

This monster blog is about Search Engine Optimisation. It takes you through how SEO works from first principles and provides a formula for working your way to the top spot on Google, whatever your market is, starting you on a journey towards a torrent of traffic.


Pic: NASA

Paid advertising can get your store featured around the edges of search results but the search results page itself is not organised by money. It is about what content Google’s algorithms deem to be most relevant to the search criteria – and if your content is higher quality, more relevant and trusted you will appear top. Dominating a search on google is as valuable as having a shop on every high street – and that spot could be occupied by you. SEO costs nothing.

A good rule of thumb is that over 80% of all searchers click the top result, so the prizes for a top spot are juicy traffic figures.

In this blog post, we’ll explain how to understand Google and the decisions it makes. We’ll also explain how we take care of a lot of the technical and coding side of SEO our end so that you can focus on optimising the content side of your Teemill store to get more traffic for your website.

Hacks and workarounds? Narp

First things first, we won’t be sharing shortcuts – there are no tricks. If you think about it, Google is the most popular search engine because it is the best at finding and arranging genuine, quality content at the top of search results for every search phrase. Or to look at it another way, they’re better than everyone at finding cheaters and ignoring them forever – that’s why they’re the top search engine. And they have thousands of employees dedicated to this mission.

“You can get fairly good results fairly quickly if you are creating high quality, genuine content. Trying to hack or cheat your way to the top will end badly.”

So pitfalls done, we’ll be starting from first principles. Google are dedicated to quality results. Their algorithms make the decisions, not people – and the computers are merciless about rewarding quality, accuracy and relevance – and brutally disregard  anything dishonest. Google does this by sending “spiders” or bots, basically little computer programs, around the internet to gather and assess your website.

It’s important to accept that the assessment of your content will be done by a computer and it does not do empathy: An ok description is not good enough. Having done most of your SEO is not all of it.

Whilst technology is advancing to the point where Google can fairly accurately understand what your picture is (and isn’t) Google still relies heavily on words, which means your writing is important. And that is the number one hurdle for getting started with SEO: It turns out that a lot of people just don’t like the hassle of writing lots of stuff, let alone crafting quality product descriptions that use the right words. That line is the first one to cross going from not-1st-in-google to the top spot.

Thinking about what you’re saying, or meaning – in terms of “what would someone type into google to find this?” is a habit that must be learned before you start writing. Don’t expect to show up for a search on “T-shirts” if your shop says it’s selling “Bat themed tees” – the aim is to be specific and clear and carefully choose the words you use to describe the content on your page. Some quick takeaways at the halfway point of this blog

  • When describing your product, use words that people may search.
  • Use honest descriptions and tactics
  • Write great quality content on your pages that adds value.

So what specifically do we need to do to grab the top spot off our competitor? Well, there’s an immensely complex set of algorithms that do this and whilst they change regularly, the first principles are consistent throughout in a way that anyone can understand, and everything google does is related to it.

Think of variables like a department store

The best way to explain it is to think of your website like a real life shop, on a high street. Google started out questioning how to make the best search engine and using biomimicry you can see why a shop is a good analogy: Human’s had already worked out the format that we like to find things in. A long line of square shops, with big words over the top that say what’s in them, big windows so we can see what sort of stuff is in them. And if you go into a supermarket, aisles are labelled and arranged by category, with more space given to more popular things.

Translate that online and you can understand every possible decision google might ever make in context.

Why do Google punish slow page loading speeds? Imagine trying to get into a supermarket but the door takes a minute to open. Why do they reward big keywords in the product name or the titles at the top of pages? Well, imagine walking down a high-street where all the signs are removed, that would suck. Google is a digitisation of the most advanced product-sorting-and-finding system humans have designed, the high-street.

Google work really hard to make their algorithm “see” and “think” like a person. The program has ‘bots’ or crawlers that cruise round the internet and check out your shop, sending back data to Google servers almost like a mystery shopper doing a review. They read your titles, descriptions, and even look at what’s in the photo to see if they match (that technology got spun off into the “search by image” feature, which you might have seen). The point is that scrutinising your website’s quality as if you are a shopper is essential to get the perspective that Google sees. When was the last time you went on your site and really had an honest look at how fresh it was, the quality and relevance of the photos and read the product descriptions to see if they’re amazing, compelling and original?

Choose the right words

By now you should be motivated to go and upgrade all your writing for starters. But it’s not all about writing pages and pages. First, we need to find a few key words, which SEO pros call “keyphrases” – We start by walking down the imaginary high street, looking for a [insert word here] that you sell. That word, the keyphrase, needs to be big and clear on the page that you’re optimising. If you’re selling a Red T-shirt with a bat print, it’s no good having words that say Mr Nighttime Novelty Shop if the customer is looking for Bat T-shirts. Ask yourself, when you write that product name or description, what do you really mean?  Some people call this keyword research: It’s the art of answering this question: What IS it? What is it specifically? 

When choosing product descriptions and product categories, you can make a list of all the products you aim to sell and choose a keyphrase for each one that is the perfect match for the product, category or page, then keep that in mind when you are writing. It’s a bad idea to just keep repeating it, that would be spammy. Just use the word as the product title and then use it naturally, once say, in the description or paragraph.

Let us optimise the code while you focus on your wording

Next we need to make sure our door is wide open, warm, fast and clean and tidy inside the imaginary shop in the metaphor. So where do you find a professional programmer to optimise your code? For free, when you use Teemill.

Our team of boffins at Teemill take care of SEO and optimising the code, and we’re constantly working on this. Ongoing under the bonnet improvements come free with all Teemill accounts.

So you if you use Teemill and thought SEO was about code, relax – we’re working on the techy side of SEO on your store while you read this. Your job is to focus on the content, the wording, descriptions and how they match up with what’s out there being searched for.

Great quality content.

So the real thing with SEO is describing things clearly and making great quality content. as well as accurate, engaging spiel, it pays to keep things fresh. Starting a blog and posting some relevant content helps – making your site a source of useful information for people gives Google a reason to reward you with good rankings. If your site has lots of Bat T-shirts on it, a bat t-shirt collection with a blog about how to wear your bat t-shirt and why bat t-shirts are great for Halloween outfits is all relevant and useful stuff.

Google uses metrics like bounce rate (how many customers bailed half way through reading) and time on site to tell if your stuff is any good.

So you want your customers to stick about and maybe have a look. It’s kind of like a well made up shop display or informative, knowledgeable shopkeeper. In both, your online equivalent is the product description. At Teemill we force you to have a description for this reason: Nobody likes a silent till attendant! Friendly, knowledgeable and relevant product advice without typos and definitely not repetitive. Copy and paste isn’t quality.

Build trust with Online PR

So now you have a shop that’s clearly named and labelled, with great products with clear, informative, honest descriptions. Next up, you’ll need to build up some trust. Of course, you could just sit there and hope that a passerby will give you a go, and over their lifetime, tell a few friends. But like a high street, you can be pro-active about building trust. Online, trust is measured in simple terms with links. That means that one site, linking to another, is seen as endorsing it.

The value of a link to your store is related to the relevance of the site linking to you and their own trustworthiness. Get quality, relevant sites to link to you. You can send a press release to the editor, or offer to write a guest post.

Imagine you own a brand with a Bat t-shirt design. There might be an online bat news website who would love the chance to blog about your bat-friendly designs and probably send their readers to you via a link in their writeup. But Google will also recognise this as a valuable connection in the bat world, and improve your trust score for Bat-related searches, like “Bat T-shirt”. When you mix that with a site that has a great Bat t-shirt description, you end  up top of Google for that search.

Cutting Corners

Again, some get caught out trying to cut corners: Paying for links is the equivalent to asking a gang to hang out by your store and force people in. Don’t be surprised when you lose your ranking.

A big part of SEO is trust, and trust is about quality, not quantity.

The top Teemill accounts all use effective link building to boost the rank of their store, whether that’s linking from an existing website they own with massive trust scores or using online PR to get articles and features to link back- they do it regularly and build momentum into their routine.

Tip: you can use advanced tools like SEOprofiler to find more link building opportunities, and analyse your page content.

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