All the SEO FAQ Answers
You Really Need
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of improving your website content, and the presentation of this content, to increase its visibility in search results when people search for keywords related to your offering in Google, Bing, and other search engines. Better SEO leads to increased visibility of your content in search results and a higher likelihood that your web content will attract the attention of the searcher.
For your content to appear in the prominent positions on search engine result pages (SERPs) and in the quickly-emerging voice search results (Alexa, what are voice search results?) it needs to be “optimized” for that goal. This optimization involves keyword demand research, copywriting, technical enhancements to your website, and community outreach to build meaningful links back to your content from other websites. Anyone with up-to-date knowledge, patience, and access to the right tools can do SEO but since search engine optimization typically requires a lot of time in addition to these factors, many brands choose to work with an SEO company to help produce and optimize their digital content for search and expedite their results.
Over time, ranking prominently in search results has become increasingly complex, requiring current specialization and focused attention to succeed. An SEO company can help by finding the search query keywords that are best-aligned with your goals, producing content optimized for those keywords (or optimizing the content you produce independently) and lowering the technical barriers to having your content prominently featured in the search results for those terms.
Since the search engines measure their success by providing the most valuable content to searchers, SEO is an increasingly powerful core discipline in modern digital marketing because it requires brands to produce content that is valuable to their audiences in order to capture inbound traffic from search. Providing this value to your audience builds trust and authority that lowers barriers on their journey from stranger to prospect, prospect to client, and client to advocate. In short, great SEO creates a win-win-win for the brand, the audience, and the search engine itself.
Search engines keep their specific ranking factors a secret to prevent low quality content providers from gaming the search results with “black hat” tactics. Google and the major search engines measure the success for each and every search made through their engines by judging how valuable their searchers find the search results to be… so the short answer to how SEO works is that it brings the most valuable content to the most prominent positions in its results.
Because the world is an ever-changing place with new businesses coming and going, events pages being updated regularly, etc. Search engines have the challenging task of sorting through, analyzing and indexing endless data to find users the most relevant and useful results. In order to do this, Google will weigh a large set of specific factors, when assessing content; such as how many times the searched keywords appear on a page (not too few, not too many), the number of times other websites link back to this page, how long users stayed on the page after arriving there from search, and so on.
Expert SEO companies are constantly researching to remain current on the known ranking factors and which of those factors are most important. By using the strategic advantage this knowledge provides, it is possible for an SEO expert to improve the search rank position of a given web page in an efficient and timely way.
An SEO Company is a type of digital marketing company that a business owner, or anyone looking to promote their website, would hire to become more visible, accessible and successful online. Whether it's a local or regional search in Calgary or a topical search you're hoping to rank highest for, hiring an SEO is a critical component of your marketing. Google, Bing, and other search engines use complex and ever-evolving algorithms to ensure that their users find the highest quality content without being inundated with spam or junk content. Did you know that search engines actively penalize sites that aggressively try to rank content that is not relevant to a user's search queries? It’s true. And once a site finds itself in one of these holes, it can be very difficult to dig back out.
Google’s algorithms are designed to promote content that has developed an organic audience - meaning that has developed popularity because it is authentically valuable, relevant or popular in the real world. SEO companies use strategies that promote and amplify this organic growth of online popularity (higher google rankings) in a much shorter amount of time. As business owners know, sometimes it can take years to establish a following or solid customer base. The same goes for content online. When done professionally, the work of an SEO company will save a website owner time and money while ensuring that a site is not penalized by Google’s algorithms for over-optimizing or using black hat SEO tactics.
Yes! Although it is often considered a longer-term tactic, SEO is one of the best marketing investments you can make in your business. By tapping into existing demand for the correctly matched keywords, SEO allows you to capture inbound demand from a motivated audience that is already looking for the information you are providing. Because of this, your captured search audience is typically much “warmer” and/or further down the sales funnel than the audiences captured by other forms of marketing.
Hiring an SEO expert in Calgary is an excellent way to increase the amount and quality of qualified website traffic, increase site conversion rates, and enhance your brand’s reputation all at once. And since locally-relevant search is a slightly different animal than other search, working with an SEO that knows your local market and brand geography can provide additional advantages to your business in search.
Some of the tactics involved in SEO include...
Choosing strategically-aligned keywords - Through careful analysis of the search history of millions of users, finding and prioritizing the right keywords can make a huge difference in your SEO results.
Improving information relevance through proper organization of pages - This is also known as the information architecture of your website. By organising the pages on a website in a way that increases the site searchability, ease of navigation, and relevance of information, websites have a better chance of being seen as the right match for a query in a search engine.
Restructuring the content of your web pages - the hierarchy of titles and heading, meta descriptions, and body text, and accessibility of information on a web page are all important components. Striking the right balance of keywords and related keywords is a factor too. The existence of the phrase “keyword stuffing” should be a clue that this can be overdone.
Broadening and deepening content - Google uses the amount and quality of content related to a topic on your site as indicators of your site’s authority on the matter. Take the example of a photography business. By only writing “Photography” on a single page in your site with very little content on that page, you are demonstrating less authority than a company whose site describes, in detail, all of its varieties of photography services Wedding Photography, Portraits, Real Estate Photography, etc.
Page markup code - The markup code structure of a web page plays a significant role in its search rank. Even pages with great content will miss an opportunity to rank well if they are not properly code and taking advantage of search-optimized data structures.
Page load speed - considered an increasingly important ranking factor since the Google algorithm’s Hummingbird update, taking the steps necessary to minimize your page load times by optimizing server configurations, file sizes, caching protocols, and script loading are playing a growing role in Google’s interpretation of your dedication to quality content and user experience (which they reward with page rank).
External Factors beyond the site itself - How often do other trusted websites promote, mention, or make reference to your website? The more “popular” you are with other high quality sites, the better! An SEO can help make this happen.
All of these tasks can be divided into three categories, Technical SEO, On-Page SEO, and Off-Page SEO. To learn more about the distinctions between these sub-disciplines, read on.
These are the optimizations that require web development or programming knowledge in order to carry out. They form an important foundation for the rest of your SEO strategy because all of your efforts will be enhanced or limited by whether these technical optimizations have been made or not.
HTTP status code optimizations - Even a great website build can have below-the-surface technical barriers to SEO. Often these are found in the form of “lost” content (status code 404), improperly redirected content (status code series 300), or even content requests that end in a server error (status code series 500) that are improperly presented to the search engine’s indexing crawler. Cleaning up these loose ends is often an early optimization task for Calgary SEO experts.
Robots.txt - Your website should have an accessible and properly formatted set of instructions for search engine page-crawler robots. This file is named “Robots.txt” because it is the first thing that these robots look for when they are exploring a website.
Metadata and Structured Data - A search engine-optimized web page will contain up-to-date metadata (data about data) that succinctly describes its contents to the search engine in specifically defined format that is easily consumed by the search indexing process.
Mobile-First Index - At the time of this writing, more than 60% of visits to a given website come from a mobile device. Search engines know this very well and so they prioritize the ranking of content that is not only mobile friendly but actively optimized to enhance the mobile user experience. Great SEO-aware web designers are incentivized to follow a “mobile-first” design practice that recognizes and works with the constraints of the mobile web browsing experience.
Site structure and internal linking - Your site’s information architecture provides a range of signals to the search engines regarding how much your organization cares about providing valuable information to your audience on the keyword topic. Helping your audience find additional relevant information by linking to other pages on your site and grouping relevant content (while separating out less relevant content into separate groups) is key to providing these signals.
On-Page Optimization is work done to a web page and/or website that will improve its chances of being favourably ranked by the search engine. Some examples of On-Page SEO include:
Compilation of the semantic core (selection of priority keywords to optimize for)
Keyword focus in page content
Content depth optimization
Increase the relevance of the pages (matching the user's request)
Providing internal linking (cohesion between your website as a whole, consider each individual page)
To rank well in search, a given web page simply needs to show the search engine that it presents authoritative and relevant content that the searcher desires. Like all simple things, this is typically more easily said than done. On-Page SEO can be time-consuming work. Keyword demand is always evolving and so keyword research and prioritization requires periodic updating and the occasional strategic pivot in order to maintain relevance.
A good adage commonly used to describe how search engine algorithms rank external signals of your site’s rank worthiness is “you know a person by the company they keep.” For Google, this means that the more often your content is linked to by other trustworthy (the measure of this trust is called Domain Authority, or “DA”) websites link to you, the more trustworthy and authoritative your website is considered, in turn. This external endorsement, or “trust signal” is crucial for a website in getting a higher ranking. Off-Page SEO campaign is the creation and expansion of this reference network, by getting links from other sites to your site. In real life, having a celebrity genuinely endorse your product is a great way to grow your following. The higher profile and more trustworthy the celebrity, the better. Same goes for online content.
The key here is quality before quantity and site owners need to beware of SEOs that offer to provide you with high volumes of cheap links. While this tactic was effective in the 90’s, a careless or less-than-genuine approach to link-building can actually do long-term damage to the reputation of your website. To properly increase the organic awareness of your site by other sites and to grow a quality reference network, an SEO will provide you with:
Establish authority by facilitating continuous publication of fresh, relevant and interesting information that your targeted users will naturally consume and share
Link opportunity analysis
Link building with relevant and high DA websites
Register your website in various in search engines, catalogues and relevant databases
Exchange links with popular and high-quality resources; sharing is caring
Provide quality and strategically placed press releases; in the form of blogs, updates and posts
Stimulate and provide continuous activity on relevant forums and blogs
Maintenance of broken backlinks
Off-Page SEO should not be done without first doing an analysis to see what competitors are doing well, where relevant backlink opportunities exist and what actions should be avoided to prevent being flagged by Google as spam. Google’s algorithms actively work to ensure that a site grows organically, so poorly done Off-Page SEO work is worse than doing nothing at all.
Just like keyword stuffing, link building is not what it was in 1998. It has evolved to become focused on quality over quantity in an effort by the search engines to provide genuinely valuable content to their users, rather than delivering traffic to whoever can game the system best. This is true across almost every SEO strategy that has ever existed. Unprofessional (or simply ignorant) SEO businesses that offer discounted links or spammy content will cause a website to be flagged and actually punished with lower search result ranking. Professional SEO companies, however, view optimization tactics in three categories that help them follow current and safe SEO best-practices.
White-hat SEO tactics include all optimizations sanctioned by the search engines and aligned with the greater goal of improving value and user experience for the searcher.
Gray-hat SEO methods are not officially prohibited, but their use can be regarded as an unnatural overstatement of a site’s popularity. Some search engines block such sites and search rank successes using these tactics are short-lived, at best.
Black-hat SEO tactics include methods that are contrary to the optimization rules set out by each search engine and sacrifice user experience for search rank.
White-hat SEO guidelines are publicly available in the Google Search Console Help Center and can be done by anyone at any time. A professional SEO company will just save you lots of precious time because their cumulative knowledge and support systems for SEO and content marketing are pre-existing and expedite the deployment of these SEO best practices. Keep in mind that “cheap” SEO companies are seemingly more affordable because they sell less-than ideal tactics like farming high volumes of completely useless backlinks using bots. When rules of search engines are not observed, the consequences for your website can be dire.