Search Engine Optimization Basics that will make your site shine in 2013… & beyond!

Stand out in cyberspace with SEO from Ottawa

Does your site have what it takes to shine in Cyberspace?

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is important whether you’re a small business owner in Ottawa, or in charge of a large corporate website in Toronto. SEO is the process of optimizing your webpages, and your website as whole, to be highly searchable by your target market in order to attract web traffic that is relevant to your offering, ultimately resulting in more customers for your business. SEO is what makes your site stand out in the ever-expanding universe of cyberspace.

If you have a solid SEO program in place for your site, potential customers will proactively find your webpages, using keywords of their choice, on the search engines they prefer, which for most of us is Google or Bing. Do this well, and do it over time, and you will create an inbound marketing program for your business that is sustainable and tough to beat over the long haul.

With all the information and uncertainty flying around about SEO these days: white hat vs. black hat; the constant evolution of the Google Algorithm; the emerging role of social media… it can be hard to know what to focus on. In this post, I’ve simmered down the SEO Basics, like a savory red-wine-reduction sauce, that will make your site appetizing to search engines, and palatable to your customers.

How to Build a Concrete SEO Foundation: Start with Really Good Content

You probably know more about your particular product or service than most people out there. If you’ve been selling your product for a while, or spent significant time learning the ins and outs of your service industry, you are likely an expert in your domain. However, the web-surfing public will only get some sense of your expertise if you write about what you know, and convey your material in a manner that is informative, interesting and engaging.

There are many strategies for writing high quality web-content, but essentially you need to provide content that your target market is interested in reading. Common customer questions, new developments in your industry, and success stories for your business are examples of the types of material that will draw your desired audience to your site and convert them to business for your company. If you‘re passionate about what you do, and you do it well, this will come out in the written material that you produce for your site, gaining you credibility and positive attention.

Not all of us are good writers, but if you have a decent business model, you are going to have some valuable ideas. If writing isn’t your strength, you may need to hire a writer to pull all your great ideas into copy that your audience will appreciate and the search engines will bless.

Warning: Choose your SEO Keywords Wisely

When you have a solid piece of content ready to be published on the web, take a pause… breathe deeply… your work in nowhere near complete. Search engines use keywords to index webpages, and real people type keywords into search engines to quickly find exactly what they are looking for. Any well-thought-out piece of original writing will naturally have some useful keywords baked right into the content. However, it’s not enough to simply guess which keywords people will use to search and find material in your domain. As individuals, we all have different search patterns and ways we go about finding things we want. Keyword Research is required to glean out exactly which keyword search terms have decent search volume and reasonable competition levels, while still being relevant to your offering.

Google’s Keyword Tool is an excellent source for deciphering the search volume of a particular keyword, and for determining keyword variations that may also be valuable for your SEO efforts on a particular webpage. A lot of keyword tools out there on the market derive their source data from the Google Keyword tool; however, for SEO purposes, a couple of important caveats come to mind when you using this free resource:

1) Use [Exact] Match Type for SEO research so that you will know the approximate minimum number of searches for your targeted keyword, exactly as you will be using it in your content and metadata. [Broad] match gives you close variations and tends to skew and inflate the actual search volume for a specific keyword. Broad match is the default setting.

2) The “Competition” column is a relative measure of competition for a particular keyword in the Adwords paid auction. This metric does provide a sense of business value for a keyword, as advertisers are paying for each click (Pay-Per-Click), but it is not a direct measure of SEO competition. I find the approximate number of webpages indexed by Google to be a more significant metric for SEO competition, eg. “About 15,000,000 results.”

Create Accurate, Well-Structured Metadata

Once you’ve determined the keywords you are going to target for a particular webpage, and thematically across your site, you need to create SEO meta tags that accurately reflect the content of your webpage, using your targeted keywords and conforming to the emerging rules and best practices for search. People don’t really see the metadata on your site, except the title element in the upper area of your web browser, but they certainly see it in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

The metadata that drives search engine results should have your most important and targeted keywords nicely infused into this short but very important piece of SEO real estate. Think of this as an ad for your webpage that will entice prospects to click the link leading to your site, and that search engines can understand in order to give your page a fair shake in the search rankings.

Today’s most popular Content Management Systems (CMS), such as WordPress or Drupal, all have plugins so that anyone can input their metadata directly into their post or page through the WYSIWYG dashboard.

Attract Links… Don’t Build Them

Backlinks (links leading back to your site) play an important role in the search engine rankings and credibility of your site. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the Google search engine, in 1996, originally called “BackRub,” links were the primary means they used “to determine the importance of individual webpages.” Since its official founding in 1998, Google’s search algorithm has evolved to include over 200 criteria to asses the ranking of a webpage and a website.

Links are still a very important part of Google’s ranking system, but not all links are created equal, and having a lot of bad links can actual hurt you in the SERPs. Gone are the days of link buying, link farming and dubious link exchange programs. Bots that automatically ping blogs and forums sniffing for low-level link possibilities are being hunted and exterminated. You often get less than you pay for on free directories, and if someone tries to sell you a link, follow, like or circle… run away. Using these black-hat SEO methods might gain your site some initial flash and brilliance, but, like a super-nova which lasts only for a few weeks, your site will soon burn out and dwindle in today’s web universe.

The best kind of links these days are organic links that naturally emerge from producing and maintaining an attractive, vibrant website, with content that real people want to read and share, supported by social engagement (online and in the world of bricks and mortar).

When you comment on blogs and forums, or interact through social media, pay attention to the material you are commenting about and the people behind it. Link out to and mention sources of credible information that you want to endorse and offer a bit of value in everything you do.

Of course business is competitive, so examining the backlink profile of your close rivals, for ideas and possibilities is totally fair game. Just be sure to keep the above principles in mind as the quality of the links you attract totally trumps the quantity of links you acquire.

Check out what Matt Cutts (Google Guru for all things SEO) has to say about Link Building:

Monitor Performance

Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process. After you’ve set up a solid SEO foundation, you need to monitor your results and make careful adjustments as you go. For SEO and SEM, I like to use the Japanese business principle of Kaizen, which means continuous incremental improvement. Small changes over time will bring increasingly optimal results for your SEO and SEM efforts… but you have to stay on top of the web-based drivers for your business.

Google Analytics is an amazing tool for monitoring traffic to your site, including valuable metrics like the sources of your traffic, which webpages were visited and which keywords were used to bring the traffic in. If you connect Google Analytics to Google Webmaster Tools, you will see valuable SEO metrics such as the number of impressions, clicks, and the average position (ranking) of keywords that are driving traffic to your site.

Google Webmaster Tools, and the Bing equivalent, will help you monitor the overall health of your website out there on the net, even providing warnings sent to your email address. For example, if your site is not being indexed properly on the search engine, has been infected by malware or has too many “unnatural links” (the kind that are usually bought and paid for) Webmaster Tools will raise red flags and warn you that your site is driving into the ditch.

Focus on your Bottom Line

SEO can be an incredible top line driver for your business, bringing in traffic (potential customers) to your site, looking for exactly what you have to sell, but it is equally important to focus on your bottom line. Don’t get too caught up in rankings, or the volume of your traffic, if these metrics are not driving you business. A handful of highly relevant web-traffic, that is converting to revenue for your business, is far more valuable than a huge amount of low-quality, tire-kicking visitors, or bots trying to spam you.

Book Your SEO Consult

If you would like to book a professional SEO and/or SEM consultation from Ottawa for your site, Contact Samurai Marketing today, and let’s work out a plan to improve your business results!

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