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The Ultimate Guide to SEO

We run a workshop called “Generate More Leads With Your Content” and every single time we run it we get asked about the most up-to-date practices for SEO. So for that reason, we decided a how-to blog showing you exactly how our Calgary SEO company uses the best search engine optimization practices to help our clients was needed.

Many of these things are very simple and you can easily implement them on your own site. You just have to know the right formula…so here we go. 🙂

Keyword Research 

The very first thing you need is keyword research. Before you can really start doing keyword research though, you really need to have a clear understanding of your target audience (Grab your free target avatar worksheet Grab your free target avatar worksheet here) and know the objectives of your marketing strategy.  In our post “6 Steps to Boost Your SEO and Generate Leads” we talk about ways to strategize and build a plan before setting out to do your on-page optimization, in case you don’t already have a documented marketing plan.

Now back to keyword research…Google keyword tool is now housed under your Google Adwords Manager account found under “tools.” It’s a free and very simple tool to use, and perfect for the average small business owner.

It’s best not to try to go after the most heavily searched terms, because the competition will be very tough and it will be hard for you to rank well enough to be found easily. We like to follow the “quality over quantity” rule with most of the things we do here at brand logic. So if you’re a Calgary realtor, don’t choose “Calgary realtors” as one of your keywords, because that’s going to be a very competitive search that all the “big players” are using. You have to think of other keywords your potential client’s is likely to use. Ask yourself: what would they search if they were looking for someone like you? Or looking for a business like yours?

After you’ve established that, it’s important to look for keywords that have a lower competition, but still a reasonable number of searches.

We suggest starting with something simple in the search phrase box, and here you do want to use that big crazy competitive keyword to start you off, because Google Adwords manager will help you generate other options that fit from real organic searches.

Simply, type in “Calgary Realtor” narrow down by your city (no sense in looking outside of your geographical area you work in) and see what it spits out. Google will provide you with the competition, number of searches per month, along with other related phrases and terms that are relevant. As you pick through the relevant searches, look for three things: relevance to your customer, competition and number of searches. We suggest adding anything to your list that is less than “high” competition and fits the other two requirements.

Also look for phrases that are what’s called ‘long-tail.’ These are phrases that may contain your original searched phrase, but have additional descriptors. For example: “Calgary realtors in the NW,” contains your original ‘Calgary realtors’ but has lower competition and a slightly lower search volume, but may still be very related to what your customer may search. Stacking up a few of these long-tail variations can help you reach the same search volume you would by using the more competitive words, and give you a much better chance of ranking due to the lower amount of competition.

We’ve created a full keyword research guide here that you can grab. 

 

After you’ve come up with a list of 5-10 keywords that you want to optimize on your website, it’s time to get to work on your on-page optimization. Many of these steps are fairly straightforward if you know where to look, it can just be time consuming to complete them all.

We’ve also found that there’s 5 key mistakes that small businesses make when trying to optimize their own website. To be sure you’re not one of them click here to check out that blog.

Meta Descriptions

Although this is nothing new, we see SO many website that aren’t following a proper meta description format…or worse, they haven’t written them at all, and are letting search engines just pull from the top copy on each page!

Meta descriptions should give a short summary of what’s found on the page, and you should include your keywords in it. Google uses these meta descriptions to help find the best choices for people making an organic search inquiry.

 

Example of a properly written meta description:

And one that isn’t quite correct:

 

Notice in the first example, that the description doesn’t end in “…” but the second one does. In the first one, they stuck to the 155 character maximum limit.

The other important thing to note, is that the first example also uses their focused keywords for the page inside their description – Calgary’s plumbing service provider, professional plumbing, air conditioning and emergency repair services. Whereas, the second example only uses plumbing, which means they are essentially competing with every other plumbing business listed on the internet, making it tough for them to get business from a local search.

Page Titles

Your page title is another very simple and fundamental aspect of your SEO. This tells the search engines, and the users, what the page on your website is about.

Page titles look like this:

They should always contain your focus keyword, your company name and page name (where possible). These should be less than 54 characters. We always suggest it should look like this:

Blog | Calgary Web Design | brand logic

Headings

Headings should be used to describe a particular page on your website, and should be unique to each page (avoid duplicates wherever possible). You should also, where it makes grammatical and logistical sense, include your focus keyword for a particular page in each heading.

Here’s the nitty gritty ‘rules’ to follow with headlines:

  • There should be one H1 title, two H2 titles, three H3 titles, and so on
  • Avoid duplicating headlines
  • Use your keywords where grammatically possible

If you’re using WordPress, this can easily be edited in your backend. Here’s a screenshot to show you how:

Alt tags

A fairly overlooked component of on-page optimization is alt-tags on your images. Google’s crawlers are not able to actually ‘see’ an image, instead they can only crawl text. Consider naming your actual image FILES with keyword/post/product relevant names.

In addition to that, always add relevant alt texts/attributes to each image. Google LOVES images, but it must be able to see/read them. Apply this recommendation to every image of your website! Make every image filename and Alt text UNIQUE (avoid duplicates).

Again simple to find inside WordPress:

W3C check

So many people will hire a web development company to build them a fancy new small business website, but many of those website companies forget or don’t think to actually ‘check’ their work. Due to the number of different screen resolutions out there and different types of devices, doing a check with this validator: https://validator.w3.org/nu/?doc=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.brandlogicmarketing.com%2  

This check will show you if there are any issues in the code of your website that need to be fixed and it will also point out things that search engine crawlers are going to frown upon.

Internal linking

Internal linking can be done fairly easily on your website. Ideally, you’ll take your focused keywords and link them back to other pages on your website that are related. Like we did above linking to past related blog posts. This create a web-like network of links on your website, and the search engines like this a lot.The important part about is to make sure they are ‘related,’ and make sense to link together.

Don’t link every page in your website back to your services page, or every blog post to your contact page. Throughout this process you need to think “how can I add value to my user?” not “how can I build false links to make Google happy?”

Great Content

The copy and content on your website is equally, if not more important than the design of it. It never hurts to have a professional copywriter, at the very least, edit for you to ensure you have a cohesive brand voice, proper messaging and have included relevant calls-to-action. It can be hard writing your own copy, and as small business owners, it can be too easy to get stuck in your process, rather than highlighting the actual value that your potential customer gets from your process.

Make sure to include your focus keywords where you can – but don’t keyword stuff! Nothing is more annoying (for both the user and search engines) to read something like “In our Calgary SEO company we pride ourselves on the best Calgary SEO services to ensure that your Calgary business will reach it’s Calgary SEO goals.” {Insert eye roll here!}

The reality is that if you optimize your copy like that (and I wouldn’t really call that optimizing), you might get someone to your website, but when they reach it, they’re going to think you’re a dope and bounce right off again!

Focus on writing great, valuable content that people can learn something from.

User Experience

The user experience (UX) on your site is related to many different things. This isn’t just about whether or not your site works on a mobile device, and it isn’t just about how pretty the design is. UX can help your SEO because search engines give higher weighting to sites that have a better UX. Of course it’s even more important to a user on your site because great UX will help to convert into a lead.

Clear and concise calls-to-action, and clean and simple design almost always wins. Try and focus yourself on having one call to action per page and make it very relevant to the content on the page. To give you an example, don’t use things like “sign up for my newsletter” if they’re on a blog post page about your product features. Better to use something related like “download my e-book about x product” because it’s directly related to the post.

With design, less is always more. We see people trying to fit 50 different widgets and sliders, blog feeds, etc., into one page and it’s just WAY TOO MUCH. Better to have nice imagery that complements the message rather than 10 pictures that are there just to be there.

Install Google Search Console and Analytics

We’ve got a Slideshare that covers some of the basic SEO principles, like installing search console and analytics: 6 SEO hacks.

Installing Search Console is a very simple and easy thing to do and it will pay off in dividends for your SEO. Here’s a simple guide by Google themselves to follow.

Once installed, you’ll start to see data that will not only help your rankings, but also give you intel from a strategic marketing perspective. Simple things like 404 errors you wouldn’t have known existed will show up here. (You can fix these by creating a permanent 301 redirect to a relevant page or post.) You’ll see any issues with your sitemap, crawl errors, search analytics and so much more!

As errors arise (and this can happen when we go through updates) you’ll know about them, so you can have them fixed right away. A healthy site keeps the search engines happy and that’s the only way you’re going to increase your ranking.

Installing Google Analytics is also helpful (and you can link search console to it so you can see your data in one place) because it gives you intel on where users are coming from, what’s performing the best, how many people are reaching your site and what’s converting.

As we always say at brand logic, “don’t bother doing something if it isn’t measured and tested” and analytics gives you exactly that.

We’d love to hear from you and help answer any questions that you have about SEO. It changes with every algorithm update and our experts are always keen to share their knowledge.

Send us a note in the comments below, or book a consultation with one of our specialists.

 

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