SEO for Beginners

Business owners who have finally brought their organization into the digital age can feel a little overwhelmed about where to go next. A website without visitors isn't of much use, but where do the visitors come from and how do you get them?

More and more people are turning to the internet first when researching a new business, and with powerful smartphones and tablets in bags and pockets everywhere the trend is only set to increase. If your business isn't on the first page of the search results, then it is missing out on a lot of new customers.

While there are many different strategies one can use to attract visitors to a new website, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most fundamental aspects of web design that will help ensure the long-term viability of your online presence.

What is SEO?

SEO is a strategy which makes a website attractive to the search engines. Google's main product and money earner is its search engine, and providing answers to queries could be considered their main product line.

When a searcher types a query into the search box, it's Google's job (and that of its rivals as well) to deliver websites which provide the best answer to the question in the search engine results page (SERPs).

Therefore, SEO is all about making sure your site is considered by the search engines to be the one that is best able to provide the answers their customers are looking for, but businesses can go one step further by improving their local SEO?

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the term used to ensure your business gets to promote its products and services whenever someone searches for relevant keywords related to your business.

A searcher will be given more information about your business right from the search page, which can help the customers find out more about your organization. They will be able to read showcased reviews, browse images of your company, and find out its hours of operation.

For instance, if someone decided they needed the help of an SEO expert in Squamish, then they would probably type in a phrase similar to "Squamish SEO," or "Vancouver SEO." A site you have optimized for local SEO around those terms is more likely to feature at the top of the search results page.

It's an incredibly effective strategy to attract more leads for very little expense when compared to traditional advertising mediums. According to Google 46% of searches have local intent.

General search queries such as "how to fix a blocked drain" are much harder to secure a ranking for due to the number of sites worldwide competing for that term. However, a search term with local intent such as "plumbers in Squamish," has much less competition because fewer people are competing for it. Therefore, it's a lot easier to get your business featured at the top of the page when implementing a local SEO strategy.

Google My Business

Google My Business is a Google service that allows a business to reach more local customers by standing out in the local search results page. When your organization creates a listing, you will be given the opportunity to add photos, hours of operation, phone numbers, as well as display customer reviews.

How Does Google Decide Who Gets A Spot in the SERPs?

There are many variables the search algorithm will use to determine if your business is a good fit for the term typed in the query field. Distance from the individual is one factor Google will take into account, but prominence and relevance can also affect the outcome.

Relevance refers to how relevant your business is to the search query, and prominence uses other information around the web, such as what customers are saying about your products and services.

How to Improve your Local SEO Results?

1. Localize Your Website

To localize your website, you must have your country, city, county, or region mentioned naturally throughout the content on your site. Getting involved in community events and discussing them in the articles on your site is one way you can improve your localization metrics.

2. Use Citation Sites

A citation is simply a mention of your business on another website, preferably with your full NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) displayed. Citations are like backlinks in that they are a popularity vote for your business; the more you have, the more authority will be afforded to your company.

It's important to note that citations don't have to be a link pointing back to your site, as they will work just as well if they are plain text.

3. Get Your Business Listed on Google My Business

As discussed above, making sure you create a listing in Google My Business is an essential step towards ensuring you achieve a front page ranking in the local search results.

4. Build up Your Backlink Profile

Backlinks will be an essential ranking metric for some time to come so acquiring backlinks should receive some focus in your SEO strategy. You will need to ensure your backlinks are from good quality sites, so Google recognizes you as a trusted source. Try to get links from local news sites, bloggers, and business associations for the best results. Learn more about Backlinks.

5. Manage Your Reviews and Ratings

Online reviews can make or break a business because people trust them almost as much as they believe a personal recommendation from a friend or relative. Reviews tell Google how much trust the local community puts in your site, business, and service so you will need to ensure you stay on top of them to ensure they cast your organization in a positive light.

Excellent reviews will enhance your local results position, but so too will the number of reviews your business receives, and the level of quality your customers are ascribing to your organization.

Traditional advertising media is a blunt force approach creating a lot of wasted exposure. SEO, and local SEO in particular, are laser targeted strategies which only reach customers when they are actively looking for your business. It's an incredibly efficient and cost-effective method for bringing in more leads and increasing market share.

Local SEO works for all types of local businesses, from Florists and Cafes to Plumbers and Attorneys. The time for you take advantage of local SEO is now, but you may find it to be overwhelming in the beginning. Call your Squamish SEO expert today to secure the future of your business.

Foundations of On Page SEO

Using on-page SEO for every page or post will ensure that every piece of content you publish will work for you at bringing in highly qualified, targeted traffic. On-page SEO can seem highly technical, but if you follow a few simple principles, you will have it mastered in no time.

The Title Tag

Every page or post will have a title tag embedded in the tag of the HTML code. The title tag is important because it makes up the clickable text a searcher will see in the SERPs. The code for a title tag looks as follows:

     <title>Example Title</title>

For optimum results, use your keywords in the title tag, with the primary keyword as close to the beginning as possible, then follow it up with a secondary keyword or brand name.

URL Structure

A URL is the address of a webpage shown in the address bar of your browser. Structuring your URLs, so they follow a sensible hierarchy is highly recommended, for example:  https://www.comicbookssuperstore/comics/superman/history-of-superman-comics

The above URL shows a clear hierarchy between comics and Superman, and the history of Superman comics. Search engines will use the hierarchy to determine a page's relevance to a search query. URL structure will also help those linking to your site to use relevant keywords when they create their anchor text (the words which make up the link).

Heading Tags

Heading tags can be used to organize your text in a way that makes it easier to understand. The main title and keyword will be wrapped in H1 tags, the next most important topic will be a subheading between H2 tags, with H3 tags and H4 tags being used as necessary. The target keyword should also be included in at least one H2 tag to help emphasize its importance.

Page Content

While URL structure and title tags are important for on-page SEO, it's the content of the page which makes it worthy or not worthy of Google’s top spot in the search engines.

Your content should fill a demand. In the case of SEO, supplying the demand involves providing the best answer to a searcher's query. The page content should focus on your primary keyword in a logical and detailed manner and should include phrases which are related to the subject matter. Keywords should be bolded or italicized to make them stand out to both human readers and to show their importance to the search bots.

Image Optimization

Images inserted into a page or post should also be heavily optimized around the keyword phrases the content is targeting. A well-optimized page will include the keywords in the filename of every uploaded image. And don't forget to add the keywords and description to the alt tag of the image.

An alt tag, or alt description, is text that is used as a placeholder on the web page should an image fail to load, but it also helps to provide more information to the search bots. An example of an SEO optimized alt tag can be seen below.

<img src="https://www.comicbookssuperstore/comics/superman/history-of-superman-comics/history-of-superman-comics.jpg alt="history-of-superman comics - Superman leaping over a tall building">

As you can see the image filename contains the main keyword, as does the alt tag, but the included detailed description of the image also gives the reader an idea of the image's content should it fail to load.

Technical Considerations

Sites which operate efficiently gain more favor with the search engines, which means you should be spending time ensuring that it works and looks good on all devices, screen sizes, and browsers. Fast load times are essential because Google considers the speed of a website to be critical for a positive user experience.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is a term used to describe the strategies a site owner uses to build awareness about their website through creating links, relationship building, and using off-site content to promote a site as relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy.

Link Building

Google has a great deal of trouble determining the value of a page when no links are pointing to it, so back linking will remain an essential component of off-page SEO for some time.

There are many ways to get links to your website, but the process should always focus on attracting quality links from trustworthy sites.

Natural Links:

Good quality content will attract natural links. For instance, a diet site owner may point a link to their favorite Yoga site to provide additional information to their readers about how practising yoga can aid weight loss. Links are acquired without any action on the part of the site owner.

Self-created Links:

Online directories, forums, blog comments, and press releases are all types of content that site owners can use to build awareness about their site while also pointing a few links back to it. Care should be used as the search engines consider artificial link building to be a way to unfairly manipulate the search results (which is often referred to as Black Hat SEO). Learn more about White Hat SEO VS Black Hat SEO

Manual links:

Manual links are acquired by the site owner actively seeking out influencers, other site owners, and customers to ask for a link back to the site and share content.

Off-Page SEO without Links

Because good quality links have the most potential for boosting a site's search engine ranking, link building will often receive the highest priority in an off-page SEO strategy. However, social media, influencer marketing, and guest blogging should also be actively pursued.

Social Media

You will need to maintain an active presence on your target market’s favorite social media sites, depending on where they like to hang out the most. Regular posting interesting content and interacting with your audience will build a good vibe about your business or product. Gaining more followers will help build authority and trust, which will lead to more traffic to your website. The more traffic you get, the higher will be your chance for scoring a natural link.

Strengthening Your Brand

Building a massive network of links will help your website rankings, but if you happen to be promoting a crappy product, it will only last for as long as it takes public perception to catch up with you. Once that happens, it won't take long for Google to drop your site from its SERPs.

Promoting your brand while also backing up its reputation with a solid product and fantastic customer service are a significant part of off-page SEO, as people will only share and link to content they like and trust.

As you should see by now, off-page SEO is not purely a link building exercise. Perhaps a better way to think of links is as a reward for building a great product, sharing quality information, and keeping customers happy. However, links should not be the be all and end all of your SEO efforts.

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