Search Engine Optimization
We approach search marketing as a partnership with our clients. There is no single strategy that fits every website. The better we understand your business and the more we can integrate with you on strategy, the better chance the project will succeed.
Success in search marketing relies on your site (and you) being an authority. Combining our expertise of search marketing with your business, we can help you produce long term success.
We can help optimize your website for optimal performance on the search engines.
Contact us to get started.
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Search Engine Optimization Veterans
Search engine optimization was the very first service we offered at Relentless. Back then, the search landscape was very different, and included names like AltaVista, Lycos, LookSmart and HotBot. We use to have to run client reports for 15 of the major search engines (yes, 15!). Almost all of them are gone now with the exception of Google, and to some extent, Yahoo and Bing. In the last 15 years, we have seen the search industry change dramatically, and we've navigated all of the technical and strategic challenges that our clients have faced along the way.
Optimization is in our DNA, and it's baked in to everything we do.
Relentless specializes in the technical implementation of search optimization for very large sites. Typically, we develop for big sites with +10,000 pages but we still do work with select smaller clients and websites whenever possible.
The Benefits of Search Marketing
People turn to the Search Engines to specify their needs on the web. Through search, people can find the answers to their queries for research, commerce, entertainment and pretty much anything you can think of. The websites that rank highly for popular search terms, stand to benefit.
Everyday, Google.ca is visited 20 million times by Canadians - that's 800,000 visits per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Through keywords, search visitors reveal their precise intentions to buy, research or connect with goods and services. Search engines can deliver potential prospects to your website who are actively engaged in seeking out the services or products you offer.
There is a lot to be gained by investing in search marketing. But first you have to earn those top positions.There is no easy button to becoming relevant in the eyes of Google. In fact, search traffic is often referred to as earned traffic. Creating the authoritative content that earns this relevance takes a lot of work. But when done right, earned search traffic can be financially more efficient than pay per click advertising in the long term.
A Short History of Search Engines
When we were cutting our teeth bringing businesses online, by far the most popular website destination was Yahoo. Back then, Yahoo was a hierarchical web portal with the purpose of theoretically categorizing and listing every single website in the world. Users of Yahoo would click through categories to find what they needed. For example to find Relentless, you would have had to first find Canada, then BC, then Vancouver, then Marketing Agency, and then finally browse through all of the listings in the category.
This wasn't ideal, and as the web took off, this proposition was impossible. Just as you can't browse a catalogue with millions of items, you can't browse the web that way either.
Early Search Engines aimed to solve this problem by searching the directories themselves, and eventually the entire web. Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, and AltaVista were some of the early search engines, but it was Google that innovated the space with their Page Rank algorithm.
Other Search Engines at the time used a keyword-based method for ranking search results, where the frequency of search terms on a webpage was a strong ranking factor. Google' s Page Rank, on the other hand, analyzes human-generated back links that naturally connected websites together.
Google's results were so much better than their competitors, that the word "Google" would go on to become synonymous with searching the web. One by one the competitors fell, and today Google commands near monopolistic search share, especially in Canada and parts of Europe.
The only real competitors to Google in the West are Bing and Yahoo, both of which have a combined search share of about 30% in the USA and have formed a search partnership in an effort to compete with Google.
Search Ranking Factors Today
Google uses over 200 different indicators in their algorithm to rank pages. These factors are closely guarded secrets to prevent abuse and keep a competitive edge. Bing and Yahoo use similar ranking factors. All of these ranking factors can be split in to two main categories - off-site and on-site.
Off-Site Ranking Factors
The search engines use links from other websites as a way to determine the results displayed for queries. Since social networks have become so popular, mentions and discussions on these networks may have an impact on the search results as well. Off-site ranking factors are generally thought of as third party votes of confidence.
Types of off-site ranking factors:
Google views links to your website as votes of confidence. This is similar to how a university research paper gains authority by the amount of citations it receives. On the web, the more popular your website is through backlinks and mentions, the more likely your website is an authority on your subject. This is why Google's Page Rank algorithm works so well.
Not all backlinks are the same though. The quality of the linking websites matter a great deal. Popular websites such as major news outlets, government or university websites are stronger ranking factors than low quality and unpopular websites. Additionally, a website with similar subject matter to the website receiving the inbound backlink is a stronger signal than an unrelated website.
In general, the value of a backlink is directly proportional to how hard it is to attain. This is why using backlinks as a ranking signal has worked so well for relevance. If it is too easy to manipulate the system, the quality of the search results would be horrible.
There is something to be said for quality versus quantity of backlinks. One high quality backlink is likely better for your SEO than hundreds of links from low quality websites.
The same applies to domain diversity. Two high quality links from two different domains is better than dozens of links from a single domain.
When trying to build out links for your business, there will likely be some low hanging fruit. For example, if you have a Better Business Bureau membership, you might have a profile on the BBB website that can link back to your business. Your relationships with industry associations might also present linking opportunities.
Well-positioned websites will typically have a high number of Facebook likes, shares, and Twitter posts. Frequently shared content on these networks increasingly correlates with good rankings. Your reputation is also a factor. If well-respected people are sharing your content, this is a signal of trust and authority.
How you and your business are perceived online can affect your rankings. Does your site use unique company photos showing real people and link to third party business profiles such as LinkedIn? This helps show you can be trusted. Has your site used spammy tactics in the past? This can negatively impact your level of trust.
Google uses the links that point to your site to start profiling your site and to figure out if your site and business is a trusted source or not. If you consistently get links from shady sources, then maybe you can't be trusted. Google also likes to see real world credentials. For example, does your business have a LinkedIn profile that links back to your website? Does your business have links from the Better Business Bureau? Does your company have a Google+ account that is verified and linked back to your website? Or maybe even government website directories? The more real world credentials Google can associate you with, the more Google might trust your website.
Search engines also take into consideration the age of your domain and how long that domain has been registered for. The longer the domain has been registered for, the greater the level of trust.
On-Site Ranking Factors
In general, on-site ranking factors are within your control to improve. These include things like content, design, and the technology that makes up your website.
Types of on-site ranking factors:
Content you create for SEO has to be able to be indexed by search engines. This is the content that attracts potential customers, educates them on your business or products, and engages them to connect and take the next steps.
In order to rank well, the content you create has to provide value to readers. You can't just put up 400 words about what you sell, and expect Google to rank you for the most desirable keywords. You have to give value to readers if you hope to be an authority on your subject. Assume that only the highest authority websites will rank for the most desirable keywords.
The most successful content marketing campaigns we work on are when our clients work with us to determine who their audience is, what to write about, and then commit to a schedule for consistent content additions to the website. This typically requires a full-time content writer who posts several pieces of content per week.
Investing in content marketing can be a big expense, especially for very competitive industries, but it's one of those things where you get back what you put in. Great content results in people talking about you, linking to you, and promoting you through social channels; all of the ranking factors of off-site SEO. A good content marketing strategy is critical for SEO.
Is the content up-to-date and relevant on the subject?
You may notice that some results in Google have the post date right in the results. For some queries where results are timely, Google will show you the latest and most relevant information first. You can think of this simply as high-quality content with a recent date stamp.
Is it comprehensive and authoritative?
To rank for a certain query you have to ask if your content is the best representation of that content. In other words, does your content deserve to rank well for relevant queries?
Is the content unique and not duplicated somewhere else on the site or web?
If your content is similar to other posts on your site, or is posted on other websites verbatim, then you are essentially competing against your own content for rankings. This makes it tough to get these pieces of content ranked well.
Does the page need to exist?
Google only wants to crawl and present the most important pages of your website. Your readers will only read and share the pages that they think are important. If both Google and your readers are skipping over certain pages, should those pages even exist?
Is the page gaining links, shares and generally being well received by readers?
Citations around the web in the form of shares and links are used in Google's algorithm. If a page is not getting shared or linked to, AND is not being read, then maybe that page needs to be repurposed or rewritten.
Is the page answering a searcher's query and delivering visits to the site?
If the purpose of your content is to capture traffic then what should we do with pages that are not succeeding with that mission? We should first be asking the questions above and then developing a strategy based on the answers to those questions. There is likely an opportunity to improve pages and republish to get different results.
The markup used to build your site tells your browser how and what to display when visiting the website. The search engines also use your sites HTML to see what your page is all about, and to tell the search engine what to display in the search results.
The title tags and meta description of your pages are not necessarily seen on the front-end of your website but these are generally what is displayed in the search results. Think of these like Ad copy. You want the most relevant keywords here and you want the copy to be enticing to the searcher. You want to assure them that your webpage will answer their query. This is the time to set the expectation.
The headlines on the pages should reflect what the page is about and have the most relevant keywords included in them. Clear and concise for the reader, will mean clear and concise for the search engines.
Content and Architecture
We need to think about content for your readers but also for the search engines. Generally the two go hand in hand. But there are some significant Google issues we need to address.
Without getting too technical about it, Google will crawl the most important pages of your site more often. Pages it deems not as important will not be crawled as often. If a page hasn't been crawled recently, it won't rank well.
Which pages are the most important?
The pages that have backlinks from third-party websites will get crawled first. The pages Google crawls next will be the ones directly linked to from this first set of important pages. Google is looking to ensure that the most important pages remain the ‘freshest' in the index.
Google released an algorithm change that aimed at removing thin content from the index.
"...low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site's rankings, and thus removing low quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages…could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content."
Relentless Search Marketing Services
At Relentless, our search marketing services have become an integral part of everything we do. Search marketing tactics typically overlap many of our other services such as development, analysis and strategy.
For clients that only require Search Marketing services, the process is as follows:
Google Analytics Auditing
We ask for access to your Google Analytics (or equivalent) so we can begin auditing your historical search engine traffic. We are looking for search traffic ratios, which pages are receiving traffic, keyword data, and the outcomes of your search traffic. Insights found here are used in the next step.
We analyze every page on your website to see how it fits in to your search marketing goals. For large sites we run standard and custom tools that crawl your site and index all of the parameters that affect search crawls and visibility. We identify potential problems and areas of opportunity. This may include crawling and indexing issues, content issues, technical issues or even usability issues such as navigation problems.
Most of the sites we work with are large, content heavy sites. These content pieces are typically the client's biggest asset for search marketing. We dig deep into the effectiveness of existing content and make recommendations for new and updated content moving forward.
Reporting and Insights
Search marketing, and content marketing in particular, are cause and effect processes. Once we implement search strategies we continue to do comprehensive insight reports to measure results. These are not ranking reports (though we do include position checks). These Insights reports show how the search engines are contributing to your business objectives. Our reports start with your search marketing needs and include actionable recommendation reports each month.