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2 What Is SEO? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. When a web site has been optimized, it has been set up so that search engines will find the site and rank it well in their organic listings 1. What s the point of search engine optimization? When someone searches online for your products or services, does your web site show up first? That s the point of search engine optimization to tweak your web site so that the search engines regard it in its best possible light, and rank it as highly as possible. If you optimize your web site, you could enjoy top rankings that bring you qualified web traffic (people who are looking for your product or service and are ready to spend money). If you don t optimize your web site, it's akin to being invisible: You might as well not be online, as those qualified leads will be finding your competitors instead. So how do you build a web site that will be indexed the way you want it to be? How do you ensure customers find you? And how do you know you're doing it right, considering the rules of the search engines' algorithms aren't public knowledge? These are the important questions that this guide will help you to answer. 1 What s organic about SEO? Search engines generally have two listing types paid ads (a.k.a., sponsored) and unpaid listings (a.k.a., organic or natural listings). SEO efforts focus on improving the unpaid organic results, not the paid sponsored search results. When a company has paid ads, usually they are billed each time a customer clicks on these ads. However in the case of the unpaid listings, when a customer clicks on the listing, the company doesn t pay anything Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 1

3 Why Should You Care? What would it mean to your business if every time someone in your city searched for the product you offer, your web site showed up first? How many additional orders would your web site generate? Search engines exist for the searcher. Generally, when someone conducts a search, they have a keen interest in whatever they are searching for. If a customer is searching for exactly what you sell, in your city, then they are a hot lead! What would it mean if they found you, instead of your competition? Sites that are in the top 3 rankings on each keyword generally generate the most traffic. If your web site shows up on page 4, it is very unlikely to be found. Test Google for yourself by doing some searches for businesses in your area, and see what comes up. Are the results relevant to what you're searching for? Can you see how the top results get the most attention, and therefore the most sales? Can you see why it s so important to be on the first page, if not within the top three search results. How do search engines rank web sites? The search engines use robots (a.k.a., spiders, crawlers) to comb through all of the web sites that they can find to determine what each web site is about. Each search engine has their own complex set of rules (a.k.a., algorithm) to determine the order of the web sites they display in their search results. Some of the elements that are considered by some of the search engines include: meta tags (titles, keywords, descriptions), headers, content, how frequently content is refreshed, inbound links and page rank. It s important to note, however, that the algorithms are tweaked periodically by the search engine companies in an effort to improve their search results, and when that happens, these elements can change in importance. Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 2

4 When Should You Work on SEO? It's a good idea to have a strategy to continually evaluate and improve your search engine rankings; after all, higher search engine rankings should only help to grow your business. In fact, you're probably losing sales right now if your site isn't optimized. That said, there can be a lot of grunt work involved in optimizing a web site, so frequently the easiest time to start working on optimization is often when you're building a new site, or are re-launching an existing site. If you don't want to wait for results from search engine optimization until the redesign you're planning for next year, you can start optimizing your site right away with the 7 steps outlined on the next pages in this guide. These steps are the initial steps on the path towards optimizing your small business web site for the search engines. If your industry is highly competitive, there are many other strategies that can be tested and implemented on your site. Keep in mind that SEO is a process. Results don't always come instantly. It takes time for the search engines to re-index your site. They might index news sites frequently, but small-business sites aren't always their top priority. Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 3

5 7 Steps to Better Search Rankings for Your Small Business Get started today with these do-it-yourself steps. 1. Baseline If you don t already have any analytics software to help you understand your web site traffic, then you need to get some set up. While there are some very advanced, expensive alternatives in the marketplace, we recommend Google Analytics, which is free, and which you can sign up for here: Once you ve signed up, you ll need to add a small bit of code to each page on your web site, and then Google Analytics will start tracking the traffic that comes to your web site. You ll learn how many visitors you have, how they found your site, how long they stayed on your site, which pages they were interested in, and more. Best of all, you can create a baseline of how your site is performing in the search engines by looking at the percentage of your traffic that is currently coming from organic searches. Another free tool that s stellar for benchmarking your site is: This tool compares your site to all others who have submitted sites through the tool, and gives you a grade. After you ve done your initial SEO work (steps 2-7), you can come back and see the impact on your grade. 2. Submit Your Sitemap Sitemaps help you communicate the pages that you d like to have indexed to the search engines. They can help you draw attention to your site when you need it, and the Webmaster tools provided by the search engines can help you learn a lot about your site. For an easy way to create a sitemap, open notepad on your computer, and create a list of the URLs that you really want the search engines to index from your site. It should look something like this: etc. Save it as a text-based file (.txt) and then upload it to the root directory of your web site (so typing the following url into a web browser would show your file: ) Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 4

6 Now you need to create a Google Webmaster Tools account (which you can do for free here: ) and submit the sitemap to it. Wait a couple of days and you ll start to see which keywords Google thinks are most relevant to your web site. You will also learn of any errors the search engines found with your site. 3. Check out Your Competitors Start by searching for your product or service in Google. Which competitors show up? Which keywords do they rank highly on? Decide on two competitors who seem to be ranking well. For each of them, go to their web site and for each major page type on their site (home, category, product, about) look at their title, meta description and meta keywords. To do this, in Firefox click View -> Page Source, and in Internet Explorer click Page -> View Source. Then look for the title, meta description and meta keywords. This will give you an idea of the work your competitors have done to optimize their web sites. 4. Pick Your Keywords Next you ll create the list of keywords that you want to optimize your web site for. As a starter, we d recommend aiming for a list with between keywords on it (depending on the variety of products and services you offer). This step can be time consuming, but time spent on keyword selection is usually very well spent as it can really impact the outcomes of your search engine optimization project. How do I pick these words? Think about how your customers are searching for you and what words or phrases they use. Write a list of words that describe what you do or sell. Then look for patterns: Look at the keywords your competitors are using Look at how they describe their business Look at what your current users are searching for (you can get a list of the keywords that your users searched for using the Google Analytics software you set up in step 1, and you can also look at your Google Webmaster tools account that you set up in step 2) Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 5

7 Have you found any patterns? Are there any key words that stand out? Start to build your keyword list. Need more keyword ideas? Try this free tool from Google which is designed to help you expand your keyword list: dtoolexternal Got too many keyword ideas? Need to narrow them down? Try this free tool from Google which is designed to show you how much it would cost if you were to pay for ads to be placed on these keywords (and how much traffic you could expect on the paid side): ficestimatorsandbox?resultcacheid= &mode=revise Finalize your list of keywords before going on to the next step. 5. Update Your Site Content Note: sometimes it s faster to do this step and the following step (steps 5 and 6) at the same time. Your web site content needs to reflect your keyword list. This may mean that there are entire pages on your web site that need to be reviewed and revised so that the words match up. Each page on your site should have one H1 tag this should reflect the main keyword string that the page is being optimized for. Please note: adding extra H1 tags actually detracts from this process. Keep it to one per page. Hint: While it is important to use keywords to reinforce how you want to be indexed, you don't want to overdo it. If your keyword is "banana," and you write "banana" 172 times on your home page or in your meta data, the search engines will likely catch on and penalize you for this. They are intelligent enough to know when web sites are stuffed with keywords (they check something called keyword density). Hint: Search engine crawlers know if text is invisible, and are very likely to penalize you if you try to hide keywords on your site. Keep in mind: Your site should be built for your visitor, with the keywords and information they'll be looking for. Write naturally, for your visitors, not only as if you're writing for the search engines. Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 6

8 6. Update Your Meta Data Now it s time to update your meta data. To do this, you ll need to update your meta tags to include your keywords. If you have a content management system, there should be a way to do this on your own, but if not, you may need one of your web team members to help with this step. There are 3 tags that we d recommend starting with: the meta title, the meta description and the meta keywords tags. a) Meta title tag: This tag should be less than 70 characters in length and could contain: the product or service name that is described on the page, the category name, your company name and/or the city you operate in (if the business is primarily local). Example: <title>product/service Name Category Name Company Name City </title> b) Meta description tag: Your meta description should clearly describe what you do or what your web site offers while using some of your keywords. Google and other search engines often use your meta description as the description they show in the search results. It should contain no more than 150 characters. Longer and the engines will just cut it off (or truncate it). Too short, and the search engines may go somewhere else on your site to find a snippet to use. Example: <meta name= description content= This is where you would write your 150 character description of your business offerings. /> c) Meta keywords tag: Your meta keywords tag should contain between 6 and 10 keywords per page. Example: <meta name= keywords content= keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3 keyword 10 /> Note: It also helps to have keywords in your URLs, but this can be a more technically challenging task to implement and there are more considerations involved when changing URL structures. Someone experienced in this area can be quite helpful for answering questions about this. Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 7

9 7. Evaluate and Determine Next Steps Search engine optimization is a process. It is something that should be monitored on an ongoing basis. All of your changes will not necessarily be noticed the very next day. It takes time (sometimes up to a month) for the search engines to re-index your site. Give it a little bit of time, and track your progress using these tools: The Google Analytics package that you set up in step 1 Hubspot the website grading tool you tried in step 1 ( The Google Webmaster tools account that you set up in step 2 should provide you with some more information about which keywords your site is ranking well on, and which people are searching for. Note: after doing all of this work, it is a good time to re-submit your sitemap to Google. Not Interested in the Do-it-Yourself Approach? There is another option for optimizing your website for the search engines: You can hire an SEO company. Let's look at some of the factors you'll be thinking about as you make your decision. Process: If you've never optimized a web site before, the whole process is a learning curve. SEO companies have established processes that have been tested and reworked, to be more efficient and effective. Knowledge: If you've never done SEO yourself, are you sure that you know the best ways to go about it? Hiring an expert could help alleviate potential headaches. Speed: Your team might need to learn a lot about SEO before they can jump in and make the necessary changes. An experienced SEO firm will generally optimize a site faster than an inexperienced in-house team. Once you can see the progress that you ve made so far, you can figure out the next steps you d like to take. Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 8

10 Service: Your team likely has other projects they are working on. SEO can distract from these projects, and vise versa. But how do you know an outsourced company will service your needs better? Getting references can help you feel more comfortable that they will focus on your project and deliver the results you need. Cost: It's true that SEO is an investment, but it is an area that generally provides a positive return on investment. When you consider the cost of training, and the time your team spends distracted from their other projects, you may find that doing it yourself will not be as cost-effective as you initially thought. What You Need to Know Before Hiring an SEO Firm There are many reputable search engine optimization specialists who can help you optimize your web site quickly. However, the search engine optimization industry does have some less-than-reputable SEO companies and we d like to help you hire the right firm. Black-hat SEO Techniques: In the industry, there are companies that practice white-hat SEO techniques and others who practice black-hat techniques. It s a goodguy/bad-guy analogy. White-hat techniques are unlikely to get you penalized by the search engines, while black-hat techniques, including link farms, keyword stuffing, using invisible text, or building doorway pages may work in the short term, but are very likely to get your site blacklisted or penalized by the search engines. It can be very difficult to get your site re-listed if you ve gotten involved with a firm that s used these techniques. Overpromising: "I can get you to the top spot on your keywords Guaranteed - We know Google insiders and have been told..." When it comes to search engine optimization, no one can truly guarantee you any result. There are too many unknown variables that the search engines do not share. Sometimes the search companies who guarantee placement are actually setting up paid advertisements that will have an ongoing cost. Be sure to be clear with your search engine marketing company whether they re setting up paid or unpaid listings. Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 9

11 Competing Web Sites: Be sure to check with your search engine optimization company if any of your competitors are their clients and if they will offer you an exclusivity arrangement. Why? Simply put, if your SEO firm optimizes your site, it s a lot easier for them to optimize someone else s site to knock yours down the rankings. Once bumped, you re likely to go back to them to ask them to do more work on your site to optimize it again, and effectively they end up being able to play two clients off one another. The only group who truly benefits here is the SEO firm not you. Billing: You should also be aware of your SEO company's billing: Do they charge monthly or ongoing fees? If so, be sure to ask what you get for these fees. Many companies will do most of the work on your site in the first six to eight weeks. Why should you keep paying for months afterwards? Creekside Communication is Ottawa s premiere network of experienced Internet marketing professionals. Our customized teams of web copywriters, web designers, search engine optimization specialists, and Internet marketers work together to help you enhance your marketing return on investment. We are here when you need us and gone when you don t so you only pay for the services you actually use. We strategize, design, develop, implement, evaluate and train and we are looking forward to helping you take your web presence to the next level. Connect with Creekside p f e. web. twitter: marketingmic Creekside Communication Inc. All Rights Reserved. 10

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