Without any doubt, search engines are an important traffic generator for any e-commerce business. Generally speaking, the higher your site ranks on the search results page, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users. These visitors can then be converted into customers.

For many internet users, a search engine like Bing and Google, is the default home page when opening the internet browser – opened before accessing any other site. Search engines have the objective to give users the best possible answer on a search query. To do so, the robots behind these engines crawl the internet (discover content), index content (analyse and store content in the search engine’s database) and retrieve it when a user query matches the content.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of helping search engines giving the right – your! – answer to users’ queries.

SEO explained

SEO is the practice to make your website rank higher on the search engine results page than your competitors’, thereby driving more traffic to your site and potentially more business.

A search engine’s ranking algorithm, like that of Google and Bing, checks search queries against billions of pages to determine how relevant each one is. This operation is possibly among the internet’s best kept secrets.

SEO marketers investigate how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by a company’s target audience. Optimising a website and its pages involves editing its content and coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.

More than Google

For many, Google is the one and only search engine to go for. In most Western markets, Google is still holding an absolute dominant position. However, its smaller brother Bing has gained significant market share in particular in the US and United Kingdom. Other regional areas, also, have other market leaders. In Russia, for instance, Yandex has lead the market for ages.

Whenever a company holds a monopoly position, like Google, alternatives also arise. Thus, search engine DuckDuckGo (for instance) has gained in popularity too for those who favour searches without personalized tracking.

SEO and content marketing

Content is king. Digital marketing does not work without quality content. Content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing meaningful, reliable, and valuable content to a product’s (potential) customer. Content should provide assurance and build confidence. Each page on a website could become a destination when you publish quality content. A group of pages on the same topic could make you an internet hero in that specific domain.

Compared to content marketing, SEO is a bit more technical. SEO is about analysing search queries, evaluating your site’s performance for those queries and optimising a web site and its pages technically. Domains like data analytics, the web site’s structure and UX and on-site optimisation play a main role in SEO.

SEO demands content. And the only way to ensure the return on investment of content marketing is to have potential customers find it, applying SEO in its implementation. Thus, SEO and content marketing overlap – and an integrated approach to them will bring you more than the sum of the individual parts.

Mobile UX

Since 2015, mobile search has surpassed desktop search in many markets. Google, therefore, is developing and pushing mobile search as the future in all of its products. SEO is about creating a website that fits customers’ needs. If your audience is looking for you using a mobile device, then your mobile site should provide a best-in-class user experience for mobile use. If your site does not give visitors the best possible mobile experience yet, then it might be the right time to do a full redesign.

A site’s mobile user experience also relates to its speed. Mobile use is most of the times on cellular networks or shared WiFi connections that do not give the same speed as a fixed fiber connection, to make a comparison. Users tends to hit the back-button when a page does not load quick enough, thus, SEO marketers should be among the first to find solutions for this.

The future of SEO: voice search

Voice search is widely acknowledged as the fastest growing type of search. It is considered to be faster, it is hands-free and it lets you multi-task. Additionally, in the past years, voice recognition technology has undergone massive improvements towards maturity. All major players are now commercially active in this area: Google Now, Apple’s Siri, the Amazon Echo and Microsoft’s Cortana. Voice search, or perhaps even its more advanced variant ‘conversational search’, therefore is the future.

From a user’s perspective, voice or conversational search is different in nature from the very beginning. When you speak, you are more likely to ask the complete question (“What’s the best razor?”) than a few words (“best razors”). Search engines, therefore, are learning to interpret natural phrases. The advances of voice search include spelling corrections, narrowing down results on what has been previously searched for and delivering results based on the user’s context, such as a location he or she is in.

While there’s no single SEO strategy, when it comes to SEO for voice- or conversational search your strategy could focus on:

  • long tail keywords that typically come closer to natural language and conversational search;
  • pages that answer FAQs, since these questions typically begin with “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How,”.

Also, technical aspects of SEO remain a minimum requirement. Proper scheme mark-up, for instance, helps search engines understand the context of your content.

What’s better? SEO or SEA?

People are more likely to end up on your website via a search engine than going directly to it. So, how to catch these visitors and what strategy should you give priority? Search engine optimisation, or pay-per-click search engine advertising (SEA)?

Both SEO and SEA have benefits and costs. A search engine’s results (often referred to as ‘organic’ or ‘earned’ results) are much more likely to be clicked on than paid search results. In the past decade, internet users have learned the difference between both and recognise organic results to have a greater value.

For companies, what mostly matters however, is the customer acquisition costs. There is no such thing as ‘free SEO with immediate results’. SEO takes time and serious efforts. SEA, on the other hand, allows you to be on the first page for a multitude of targeted terms within a day.

The short answer: both SEO and SEA play a role in ensuring you will receive a piece of internet traffic. SEO will help you get long-term results, while SEA will support your current campaign instantly.

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How do search engines work?

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As a partner in e-commerce, EMAKERS is glad to help you reaching your digital marketing goals – including supporting you in the field of SEO. Curious to find out more? Contact us for a short meeting, coffee included!