SEO 101. Learning the basics of search engine optimization. Marketing & Web Services

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1 SEO 101 Learning the basics of search engine optimization Marketing & Web Services

2 Table of Contents SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION BASICS WHAT IS SEO? WHY IS SEO IMPORTANT? WHERE ARE PEOPLE SEARCHING? HOW SEARCH ENGINES WORK HOW ARE PAGES SORTED/RANKED? WHAT DO THE SEARCH ROBOTS SEE? EXAMPLE 1 - ADIDAS EXAMPLE 2 - PATAGONIA HOW TO INFLUENCE YOUR SEARCH RANKINGS OVERVIEW 7 1. KEYWORDS 7 KEYWORDS AND THE SALES FUNNEL 7 WHERE TO PLACE YOUR KEYWORDS 8 2. SEARCH ENGINE-FRIENDLY SITE INBOUND LINKS 10 7 SEO CHECKLIST 11

3 Search Engine Optimization Basics As we begin launching the new we will be incorporating SEO into the setup and content for each new site. Moving forward, it s important that you understand the basics of SEO if you plan to edit or create additional content for your departmental site. What is SEO? Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a set of methodologies that make it easier for search engines to find, index, categorize and rank web content. The better your search ranking, the more likely users will find and click on your link in the search results. Why is SEO important? More people search for information online than any other medium: Daily newspaper circulation Monthly TV Viewing Monthly online searches 48.4 million 285 million 14 BILLION SEO can: Increase your traffic organically Reduce your marketing spend or need to advertise externally Increase sales (conversions) Where are people searching? Search Engine Popularity 4% 4% 20% 8% 64% Google Yahoo Bing Ask Network AOL

4 How search engines work Search engines follow a series of steps to get the information it needs to build search results for a given user query: 1. Search engine robots travel the web, jumping from link to link, making copies of all the pages it visits 2. Information is extracted from each page 3. An index is created and stored on servers worldwide 4. The location of where words are found on the site is recorded 5. Once the user performs a search, the query is matched against these indexes 6. The matching pages are sorted/ranked before being displayed as search results How are pages sorted/ranked? Relevance of site contents to query Site authority based on quantity and quality of inbound links User information Google uses the following components to determine which results to display for any given search query: relevance of a site s content to the search term the authority of the site based on the quantity and quality of inbound links to that site user information such as the user s location, and, if he/she is logged into Gmail, his/her web browsing history. For instance, a user types in a query for apple. If the user is logged into Gmail, Google will look at where that user has been before (perhaps apple.com or apple.ca) and past searches (for ipods, iphones, etc.) to determine the best results to display. In this example, Google will likely return results around the computer/technology company rather than the fruit.

5 What do the search robots see? Search robots can only see textual information. They cannot get information from pictures or graphics, nor can it read text embedded in flash, ajax or javascript applications. It s important to avoid these programming languages, where possible, and add Alt Text to your images so the robots can see what that visual is portraying. Example 1 - Adidas Adidas What the search robot sees The Adidas site is mostly visual, with very little text. When you roll over the various pictures, text does appear; however, since robots cannot read Flash, Java or Ajax, the robot would not be able to see this information. The robot would only be able to see the footer links located at the bottom of the page, which do not contain any keywords that would accurately inform the robots that Adidas is associated with running shoes and sports apparel. In fact, Adidas doesn t even show up in the first 100 results for men s running shoes.

6 Example 2 - Patagonia

7 Patagonia What the search robot sees The Patagonia site also employs large visuals, but also includes a text list of product categories at the bottom of the page. Search robots would be able to see this list of categories and products and be able to determine that Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company. In fact, Patagonia comes up as the #2 result for outdoor clothing. How to influence your search rankings Overview There are three areas in which you can optimize your website and web content to improve your overall search ranking. These three areas are Keywords, a Search- friendly Site, and Inbound Links. Key components of SEO include: Keywords Search- friendly Site Inbound Links 1. Keywords Keywords and key phrases are the words/phrases that your target searches for when looking for information. By incorporating these search terms into your site, you are increasing the likelihood that Google will return your site as a match when a user searches using that particular keyword or phrase. Keywords and the sales funnel As users move further down the sales funnel from the research stage to the buying or conversion stage, their search terms are likely to get longer and more specific. They are known as Long- tail Keywords.

8 For example, someone thinking about buying a new TV might search for TVs when doing research. Once they have narrowed down what kind of TV they want to buy, their search term might change to LCD 32 TV. Once they have come to a buying decision, they are more likely to further define their search for LCD 32 TV Ottawa retail. Where to place your keywords The search robots look for keywords in a number of spots on each web page. It is important that you include your most important keywords in these areas. URLs Google looks at the words in your URLs to get an idea of what that page is about. It s important that you use keywords separated by a dash when creating new pages. YES: of- media- design/programs/advertising NO: WO Page Title (Title Tag) Each page should have a unique title that accurately describes what the page is about and uses the keywords that users are likely to search for (not internal jargon or codes). Since the robots only read the first 65 characters (or 8-10 words), you will want to put the most unique keywords at the beginning of the title. YES: Advertising Program Algonquin College NO: Algonquin College Advertising Program NO: 1456X01FWO Algonquin College Meta Description The Meta Description is a one- line description/selling point of what that particular page is about. It is located in a page s source text and is what Google displays under your link in search results. While it doesn t necessarily help your ranking in the eyes of Google, it will help users decide whether to click on your link in their search results. Keywords in this sentence description will be bolded in the search results and may help to catch the user s eye. If you don t fill in this section, Google will grab the first chunk of text it finds, which may or may not be an accurate representation of that page s key message or selling point. YES: The School of Media & Design at Algonquin College offers a variety of diploma and certificate programs to explore your creative side. NO: Take our programs to explore your creative side.

9 Meta Keywords Meta Keywords are located in the page s source text and should contain the 2-3 primary keywords associated with that particular page. These have become less important over time, but it is still a good practice to fill in this section to focus your efforts while creating content. Link/Anchor Text Robots look at the words you use in your navigation and page links to determine what can be found on that page. Like your page titles, it is important that you use specific, unique names for the sections/pages in your navigation. Robots use your navigation and links within your text to move throughout your site. It is important that you take advantage of these links and choose appropriate, descriptive words in your link text. Proper link text also makes it easier for users to scan your content and easily move throughout your site. Never use Click Here as your link text. YES: Download our Algonquin College Newsletter NO: Click here to download our Algonquin College Newsletter. NO: Download our newsletter. Headings Headings, defined by H1, H2, H3, etc. depending on size, are also looked at by Google robots to determine what that page is about. Not to mention, headings allow your user to scan through your page to get to the information that interests them the most. It s important to use keywords in your headings. YES: Welcome to the School of Media & Design NO: Read this NO: Welcome Page Content Using keywords in your actual copy is also important. It is most effective to place your keywords higher up in your copy and towards the left, as robots won t necessarily scan your entire page. It is important that you use the full department name with any internal acronyms and the full name of the College. YES: The School of Advanced Technology (SAT) at Algonquin College offers exceptional diploma and certificate programs. NO: Our School at Algonquin is great. NO: SAT is a good school. Image Alt Text & Other Info Google robots and screen readers cannot see visuals. Image Alt Text is used to describe the visual so robots and screen readers can translate these visuals into useful information. Robots also looks at other image information to determine what that visual is about. It is important that you use descriptive words in your: Image name

10 Use Algonquin- College- Sign.jpg, NOT IMG jpg or graphic.jpg Image Metadata Right click on an image to see the details of an image, where you can add a title, description, and other details. Title & Alt Text Image Location/URL create descriptive folders for your images: YES: images/design- classroom.jpg NO: 2. Search engine- friendly site Site Setup - Making sure your site is easy to find and crawl is essential to improving your search ranking. This includes a logical site architecture (navigation), easy- to- crawl links, and avoidance of complex URLs, temporary redirects, and use of ajax, flash and javascript in your site navigation. In developing our new site, most of this has been taken care of for you, but it s good to keep these points in mind. Fresh Content - Google likes fresh, new content, as it gives them a reason to come back and re- crawl your site. If your site content doesn t change that often, consider starting a blog. It s a great way to add a dynamic, conversational element to your site, engage your users, and gives Google a reason to re- crawl your site on a regular basis. Site Registration Google also looks at how long your site has been in existence and how long your site name is registered for to help determine how reputable your site is. Algonquin College is golden in this realm. Digital Footprint The more pages the site has, the more chances it has to be indexed for particular keywords. Algonquin College does pretty well in this area, but universities, with more pages, easily surpass us in this score. 3. Inbound Links Probably the most important, influential aspect of SEO is the quality and quantity of links coming to your site/pages from other sites. Depending on where the links are coming from and the words used in the link text to your site, these links can improve your site s reputation and ranking for particular keywords. The more authoritative the website, the more link juice is passed onto you. You can get inbound links from: Social media sites: sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc. are considered to have great authority due to their popularity. Linking from your account on these sites to your Algonquin College site or page is a great way to help your search rankings.

11 Great content: Creating great content that people naturally want to link to through blogs, articles, news, etc. is also a key means to get links. Partnerships: cross- promoting your partnerships with industry associations, vendors, etc. is a good way to get more links. RSS: syndicating your content through RSS feeds is another way to get your site links out there. Press Releases: embedding links into your press releases provide another avenue for links. SEO Checklist Create new and great content (blogs are great for this) Incorporate relative commonly searched for terms in your: o URLs o Navigation o Page Titles o Meta Description o Meta Keywords o Page Headings o Content o Link Anchor Text o Image Alt Text Ensure your site is organized logically and is easily crawled Get more inbound links through o Social Media o Great Content o Partnerships o RSS o Press Releases Incorporate links between your pages in your site copy Avoid extensive use of flash, java, ajax or page frames in your site

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