As a small business owner, you have probably received myriad emails from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) outfits, offering to get you to the first page of Google. You may have also heard the collective groans from SEO insiders in response to that claim. At its core, Search Engine Optimization is just how web professionals describe a specific set of information that should be present in your website’s files. There is certainly more to it than that, but this minimum threshold is what we will talk about in this article. So what can do with your CrystalCommerce site to positively impact your SEO?
1. Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools
We’re all pretty much here to appease Google, right? Before you do that, you need to create the account that lets you talk to Google about your business website. The place to go to sign up for that account is Google Webmaster Tools. To sign in here, you’ll need a gmail account that you can associated with your business website.
2. Prove that you own your site
Your new Google webmaster tools account exists, and your site exists. Now, you need to prove to Google that a connection between the two exists! This is called “verifying site ownership,” and once you do it the whole cornucopia of actions available via Google Webmaster Tools is unlocked. There are quite a few ways to verify ownership, and Google’s documentation on their “verify site ownership” knowledge base page is extremely helpful. Here is how they specifically relate to CrystalCommerce:
- HTML file upload
Roadblock: Formatting of the link URL is not supported by our site file structure.
Our site file does not align perfectly with the URL that Google provides for this verification method, so this option is not currently supported. (11/1/2016)
- Domain name provider
Potential Roadblocks: A little bit technical, also requires that you own a domain already.
This method is quick and easy if you already have your CrystalCommerce site visible on ‘www.yourdomain.com’. If you do and you are comfortable with editing your DNS information, you can find Google’s instructions here (scroll to Verification Methods > Domain name provider). If you own a domain, or you do but you are worried about editing your DNS, it’s probably better to get in touch with us first. Luckily, adjusting your DNS settings is something the support department can help you with! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by chatting in via your admin chat tool during business hours.
- HTML tag
Potential Roadblocks: Requires access to our website build system, which means you have to submit a design request.
This method is 100% supported by our system, but not in the way that Google describes. Modern website build tools don’t allow final site files to be edited directly, and ours are no different. Instead of adding a HTML directly to your site files, we add it using a special tool in our build systems while your site is being compiled and exported. Our support department can’t help you here — a design request is required!
- Google Analytics tracking code
Potential Roadblocks: Currently untested as a way to verify ownership with Google.
This might work! I will have to try it on a test account in order to verify
- Google Tag Manager container snippet
Unavailable for use
- Google Sites
3. Build and submit a sitemap
A sitemap is a tool that web crawlers use to read through the pages of your website more efficiently. If your website was a building, the sitemap would be the blueprint for that building. Crawlers can read through the pages of your site without a sitemap, so it’s not totally necessary to have one for your site. However, creating and submitting a sitemap through Google Webmaster Tools serves a second (arguably more important) purpose: indicating to Google that your site is ready to be indexed. Google constantly crawls the internet for updates, and submitting a sitemap “jumps” your site up to the front of the line. After Google crawls your site, the Webmaster Tools interface allows you to see exactly how many pages and images have been submitted and indexed. It will also highlight any errors that you may be unaware of. There are three steps in this process:
- Build Sitemap:
Potential Roadblocks: none
A sitemap can be built by using a free service like this Free XML Sitemap Generator. CrystalCommerce sites all have a large associated database (that’s where all of the products live), so generating these files will take a little while. After this process completes, you need just one file:
sitemap.xml. Download it, and send it to us in step 2!
- Put sitemap.xml on SFTP:
Potential Roadblocks: Requires SFTP access, which means a design request. Best to lump all of these together into one request.
sitemap.xmlneeds to be present in the top-level folder of your site in order for Google to use it. We still have exclusive access to that area of your site, so you will need to get in touch with us via the design queue in order to add that file to your site.
- Submit Link for Sitemap to Google:
Potential Roadblocks: You can’t “upload” a sitemap, you have to link Google to it on your actual website. Unless you’ve finished step 2, step 3 is not possible.
Once your sitemap is created and we have added it to your site’s files, you are all set to submit it to Google via Google Webmaster Tools! Your sitemap will contain only about 500 entries, but when Google indexes your site you will likely have many more. The link that you provide to your sitemap needs to be formatted as follows:
http://yourwebsite.crystalcommerce.com/files/sitemap.xml— don’t forget
This is a huge and active research field, and new “best practices” emerge regularly. It’s important to remember though, SEO is just the collective body of “best guesses.” Nobody actually knows the exact formula that Google is looking for, and these few tips alone won’t get you to the top of Google. What they do instead is to get you a seat at the table, and to get you thinking about what you can do to influence your SEO all by yourself. These are things you can do for free, and (mostly) by yourself! Once you have these three sorted out, you can start digging deeper into what else you can do to help differentiate your business from your competition, and see your page rank rise.
Got questions? Ask them in our Community Forum.