Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization focuses on your website being coded and presented in such a way, that search engine robots can view and understand it. Once visited, your site will be added to a search index, and then included in search results. Learn more about SEO on the following pages:

 

 

As we've mentioned before, there are many, many opinions on best practices.

 

We have always focused on UNIQUE content, relevant and descriptive page titles, and meta descriptions. One of the big divides in opinions is WHO to design your website for. Search Engines? Or potential customers?

We firmly believe that you should design and structure your website to appeal to PEOPLE while observing the do's and don'ts set out by Google. (Much of that can be found in Google's SEO Starter Guide). Here are a few exerpts:

 

  1. "Even though the guide's title contains the words "search engine",  we'd like to say that you should base your optimization decisions first  and foremost on what's best for the visitors of your site."
  2. Indicate page titles by using title tags
    A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. The <title> tag should be placed within the <head> tag of the HTML document (1). Ideally, you should create a unique title for each page on your site.

  3. Make use of the "description" meta tag

    A page's description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. Whereas a page's title may be a few words or a phrase, a page's description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph.

  4. Improve the structure of your URLs

    Creating descriptive categories and filenames for the documents on your website can not only help you keep your site better organized, but it could also lead to better crawling of your documents by search engines.

  5. Create a simple directory structure
    Use a directory structure that organizes your content well and makes it easy for visitors to know where they're at on your site. Try using your directory structure to indicate the type of content found at that URL.

  6. Provide one version of a URL to reach a document

    To prevent users from linking to one version of a URL and others linking to a different version (this could split the reputation of that content between the URLs), focus on using and referring to one URL in the structure and internal linking of your pages. 

  7. Make use of image tags
    Provide a description of your image by using alt and title tags.

So, what happens when your website has reached number one or two on Google, and perhaps Yahoo! as well? You sit back and reap the rewards and live happily ever after? Sorry, to put a damper on things again...

 

It is important to understand what the search engines are trying to accomplish - aside from making money, or better, in order to make money. They, and Google truly is on the forefront in terms of development, evaluate, rethink, and reprogram all the time. The idea is to present RELEVANT information to users. A blog owner who tells you four times on one page to take a hike probably isn't what you were looking for when searching for 'trail hike'. So, search engines change their criteria and methods used to interpret, evaluate, and place websites.

 

What that means for you and for us is, that SEO conditions and requirements change. What was acceptable yesterday may not be tomorrow. What was perfectly good and successful SEO practice last year could be completely irrelevant by now. What works for one search engine does not with the next. And so on. And, let's not forget about your competitors; they also have discovered SEO and did some work on their websites.

 

So, the answer really is ongoing SEO. Give your statistics a good read, check your own website out in several search engines (but think like a potential customer - one who may not know your company name or technical terms), make a list of your most important key words and phrases, and compare where in search your website comes up. You should probably do so every 4-6 months. Then contact us with the results of your findings; we will go over it together, make a plan for improvement, and go over everything with a fine tooth comb again. Alternatively, we can do all the preliminaries for you, of course.

Confused about linking?

Let's try and shed a little light, then. Now, before we go any further - you will hear/read many different takes on the issue of link strategies - this one's just ours.

 

 

Do you have to have links to other sites?

Not necessarily. But you probably can't offer everything from the alpha to the omega to your clients, so it makes sense to offer a few links to companies that complement or expand on your products or services (without being direct competitors).

Example 1:
You offer 2 similar widgets on your site. Someone somewhere took the time to review and compare the 2 - so you might want to provide your visitors with a link to that article. Help them make an informed decision. Add value to your own page. Make it easy for your visitors to get the nitty gritty on those 2 widgets. Provide a one-stop shop.

Example 2: Take our own links/resources section. With much of the communication between our clients and us depending on computers, we often hear about technical difficulties, viruses, etc. So, it makes sense to offer links to websites that can be helpful when dealing with such issues. The sites we list as resources do not link back to us and we do not gain anything from their presence - but our clients might.

 

 

Do you have to exchange links?

Again, you don't HAVE to - but you probably will.
Nobody in business likes to give something without anything in return - so if you want another site to link to you, they'll probably want a link back. But here's where it gets tricky. Who do you want to link to? And once you've been up and running for a while, you'll get tons of link exchange request. Should you set the next week and a half aside to comply with all these requests? NO!

  1. Only link to companies, websites, subjects you would feel comfortable recommending to a client standing in front of you.
  2. Only link to companies, websites, directories that don't bury your link among 1500 others on their page.
  3. Only link to ESTABLISHED companies, websites, directories (unless it's just a good site for your visitors).
  4. DO NOT link to sites advertising adult content (unless you run an adult site, of course); it's just not healthy for your image.
  5. DO NOT link to link farms.

 

 

Again... Huh?

Ok, #1 is self explanatory. So is #4.

#2: Check out where your link is going to be posted. How many links are on that page in total? 10? 50? 150? 500? You don't want to be link #657 on the page! Also, and this runs into...

#3: Does the page your link will be on have a page rank? Page rank= Google's measure of importance (based on inbound links - links from other websites to this particular page) of the page and anything under a page rank of 3 (on a scale of one to ten) is not really worth linking to. You can instantly check Google page rank of any page here » 
Did you notice, we've just linked to another site ? The site offers a product/service (and free, for that matter) which may help you and certainly fits into the realm of this article .

 

 

So, what does page rank mean, really?

Page rank will not tell you where you or any other site ranks in the search results, but it does allow you to determine if there is an advantage to linking to the site requesting a link exchange. Again, a link from a site with a PR of 2 or less is just about worthless (at least from Google's point of view). Now, other search engines don't show a measure of importance for web pages but you can bet your grandma's slippers, they have one.

 

 

New website, no page rank, now what?

It will take a little time. You won't be a page rank 0 or 1 forever. As you build your site content, get listed in the many free business directories online (many of which do NOT require a link back to them), etc...your page rank will go up. Provided you HAVE QUALITY CONTENT and aren't a link farm. Which brings us to...

#5: Link farms are sites with little or no content, but hundreds and thousands of links. And usually a PR (Page Rank) of 1 or less. Stay away - they'll hurt your website more than they will help.

 

 

Quality Content? As opposed to...?

You'd be surprised. Quality content is 'real information'. "We're the cheapest in town for everything and you'll get free coffee" doesn't cut it, folks. Repeating your product name 3x in every sentence ain't it, either.

 

Exactly what are you selling? What is unique about it or you? Are you the only business in your area to provide such product or service? What is your specialty? What are your limitations? What's your policy? Do you have customer testimonials? Can you offer any resources? Or Training? Do you publish your own newsletters or articles? Or... you'll get the idea. And before I forget: DID YOU USE SPELL CHECK?

 

Actually, SOME words can purposely be spelled incorrectly. Or spelled different ways in different areas of your website. We've done it as well. "Web Design" and "WebDesign", for example, so that if a user mistypes or misspells the word(s), our site will still be in search results.

Sooner or later other websites will link to you. For example, our FAQ page gets linked from other sites. We've taken the time to spell out some very basic terms and there's no need to reinvent the wheel for others, so they just link to our page. And that's perfectly fine with us.

So, we've established what SEO is and why it is important. Or, have we?

 

Let's have a look at an example: Hawkeye Bird Control Inc.
Yes, Hawkeye is one of our clients. And yes, we've spend a huge amount of time on SEO. But it was worth it.

 

For argument's sake (and, really because they ARE pretty much the only ones who count these days) we will focus primarily on Google.

 

Hawkeye is a bird and animal control company. If you have a big pigeon problem on the roof of your store, or your backyard is the place to be for the annual raccoon family reunion - this is who you'd call. But, unless you've already heard of Hawkeye - how are you going to find them? Easy, of course. You'd open your browser and google "Bird control". You'd probably get companies from Arizona, Florida, and the British Isles. So, you should narrow down your search to, let's say, "Bird control in Canada". Since the word "in" is too common, it will be omitted and you can safely leave it out.

 

And, this is what you'll see:

Hawkeye Bird & Animal Control is in the first and second 'organic' search result. Organic here means 'not paid for'. The light yellow area are paid ads and so are the listings in the right column.

 

That's number one and two out of 1,230,000 websites - world wide. Admittedly, this isn't going to work as well for every client, or even every search term. We'll see this in the next example.

seo_hawkeye_canada
Click to enlarge

 

 

Now, that we've shooshed the birds off your roof, let's deal with your little raccoon party in the backyard. Again, we'll assume you've never heard of Hawkeye, so you'll probably do a search for 'raccoon control in canada'.

 

Let's see what we'll get:

Number seven now. Not as great, but still within the first 10 results (on the first page - and that's what we're aiming for).

 

What's interesting here is, that there are only 32,200 results in total. So, how come, we're not doing nearly as well as we did with the birds? The only explanation that makes sense is the company name. We have "Bird Control" in the company name at the top and bottom of every page.

seo_hawkeye_raccoon_canada
Click to enlarge

 

 

Alright, after all those animal problems, you've decided to blow this Popsicle stand and move to Buffalo, N.Y. Now you're looking for a legal expert in immigration matters. So, let's search for "US Immigration Lawyer Buffalo"...

 

 

Number one and two of the organic search results show Berardi Immigration Law. Yes, also a client of ours. In a highly competitive market, too.

 

So, you see, it CAN be done. Now, keep in mind that the top 3-5 results can switch around depending on which day, sometimes even what time of day, you conduct your search. Google (and we're only looking at Google in these exercises) has 6 or more data centers and each of them may vary just slightly. You could be doing your search right now, and so could we - and we could technically come up with slightly different results.

berardi_seo1


Click to enlarge

 

 

Page Summary: Explaining search and search results (organic search, sponsored results, ads) using examples of clients in Canada and the United States.