eCommerce Boot Camp – Your Essential SEO Guide – How Search Engines Work

eCommerce Boot Camp - Your Essential SEO Guide - Part 1Welcome to our eCommerce Boot Camp! The goal of the eCommerce Boot Camp is to give you the basic knowledge you need in all topics crucial for running an eCommerce store. The first thing that we will be covering together is the world of SEO. This is the first of three articles designed to share actionable information, tips and tricks to help you grow your online business through SEO.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, has become one of the most important factors in online marketing. Without engaging in SEO practices, even if your store has a beautiful interface, and you sell the nicest products, your website probably won’t show up in search results, and therefore you probably won’t be getting as many customers as you want. Before discussing some SEO tips, first we want to start by answering a question that I am sure is bothering many of you — what exactly is SEO, and how does it work?

What is SEO?

SEO is the effort of boosting your site’s visibility, credibility, and authority in the eyes of search engines in order to get your website listed higher in search results. The difference between being listed on the first page of a search and the fifth page of a search is obviously tremendous in terms of website visitors. In order to get more “organic” (non-paid) website visits, companies engage in SEO.

How Do Search Engines Work?

In order to fully understand SEO, first we need to understand how search engines work. When you search something on Google, you are not actually searching the entire web, rather you are searching what’s called an “index.” Search engines create indexes of websites, and from there they provide users with search results.


These indexes are built up through the use of automated software called “crawlers” or “spiders.” The way this process works is as follows:

  • The crawlers are given a list of websites to visit
  • Upon visiting the sites, the crawlers copy all of the content on the site, and find all of the links within the webpages
  • The crawlers then enter all of the links which they found and repeat the procedure

As this continues, the crawlers end up copying a remarkable amount of information and send it back to the search engine’s central database to be indexed.


Now that the search engines have built up a large collection of websites, next comes the indexing, which is done in order to provide relevant search results to their users (now you can see how this will come back to SEO).

The search engines use algorithms to sort through all of the information sent back by the crawler, reviewing a number of different parts of the websites in search of keywords that will identify what the site is about. Although the specifics differ from search engine to search engine, generally they look at the page title, headings, URLs and many other factors. This is how indexing takes place. Once a site is indexed it is filed away in the data base along with all of the information extracted from it. This information includes how many keywords were used in the page and where in the page the keywords were used (near the top of the page, or towards the bottom) in an attempt to classify how relevant the page is to its topic.

Website Importance

Topical indexing is not enough; the search engines also look into how “important” a page is. Meaning, even if a page is on topic, it needs to be determined if that page has useful and quality content or not. This is measured in a number of ways:

  • Backlinks to the webpage: How many other websites link back to this website, and how “important” are those websites? This is basically a peer review. If a lot of people think this website is good enough to link back to it, then it must have some good content.
  • Bounce back rates: Do people click on this website, then immediately go back to the search results? This would imply that the content of the page is not helpful.
  • Long click: The opposite of bounce back — do people click on this site, and then stay on it for a while?
  • Duplicate content: Is there a lot of content on this site that is the exactly the same as other sites? Does this site link between similar pages frequently? This makes the search engine believe that the content on this site is not fresh or unique content.

Again, each search engine has its own recipe of what it looks for, but these are some of the main things that are reviewed.

Put It Together

So every time you search for something online, the search engines look through their indexes, determine which sites are relevant to your search based on the topical indexing, sort through these sites in search of quality results based on the website’s importance, and finally, after a matter of split seconds, present you with the search results.

SEO in Practice

With this understanding of search engines, we can better understand what it is that SEO is trying to accomplish, and which points you need to focus on when working on your own website. First of all, we know now that search engines are looking to index based on topics, so that means you need to be on top of your keyword planning. Secondly, we know that website importance is key. This is partially determined by algorithms based on your website’s structure, but it is also determined based on how people interact with your website. So you have to ensure that your web store actually is an optimal place for real human interaction. Make sure your pages are easy to navigate, that you offer new products on a regular basis to keep people coming back, and that your content is good enough to keep people engaged on your site for a long time.

Tune in For More!

So far, we have just covered the basics in order to give you a full background picture before we dive in to the deep world of SEO. Coming up in the next post in this series, we will discuss how to actually accomplish some of the things that were mentioned in this post including keyword planning, backlinks, and website speed. And in the third post, we will talk about how to optimize all of the pages of your web store. So stay tuned, more on SEO soon!

A Quick Tip Before We Go!

If you have content on your website that ranks on page or 2 or 3 of Google, and this content gets traffic, then you should optimize it to get even more traffic!
This is how you’ll find the content that gets traffic: Google analytics -> Behavior -> Site content -> All pages.

Zack Fagan

Zack is a social media enthusiast who loves all things digital. He is the inbound marketing manager at StoreYa where he spends his days searching for the newest social marketing scoop. If you’d like to chat with him, feel free to connect with him on any social platform.



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