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Google’s Algorithm Changes So Far This Year (2018 Edition)

2018 has been a rollercoaster of a year for Google. We’ve seen big sites go overboard and small fish rise to the top (erm, in a non-dead way…). In our last post, we talked a ton about 7 ways to put out killer content that ranks, so, we thought we’d dive into Google algorithm updates in 2018 to show you why you should be putting energy towards high-quality original content.

Let’s take this oppor-tuna-ty to see how Google’s algorithm has changed in 2018. Sure, some of this may be a little technical, but we’re going to try to cut out all of the fancy acronyms and overused tech buzzwords. Trust us; this post will have you hooked!

March 7th, 2018 (The Brackets Update)

Let’s get one thing straight, we didn’t get to name this update. The credit for “Brackets” goes to Glenn Gabe over at GSQI. We would have picked something way better, like “The Betta Update” or “The ClickBait Update.”

This Google Algorithm update was one of the “nothing to see here” updates that Google is famous for. SEO experts were seeing shifts about a week before the update was officially announced, and Google made sure to clarify that the update was broad, not specific. Essentially, we saw another quality-emphasized update. Google wants to see unique, quality content, and websites that weren’t delivering took a ranking hit.

We can’t give you any specifics, because Google didn’t release any. But, we can tell you that the update seemed to be 99.9% quality oriented. For anyone familiar with SEM, this update isn’t surprising. There seems to a slew of these “broad” updates every year, and almost all of them are content focused.

The Brackets Update Takeaways

  • You need to be leveraging unique content if you want to stay ahead of the pack.
  • Google is dead set on releasing these broad updates yearly, and we’ll probably see another one pop-up before the year is done.

Tip: For any of you who are having issues penetrating high SERP, check out Google’s official guide on creating quality content. Be warned; it’s dense.

March 26th, 2018 (Mobile First Indexing)

It’s finally here! It seems like Google had been talking about mobile-first indexing before smartphones were invented. Ok, so really they had been toying around with the idea for 2 years, but it seemed like forever.

Google’s index is essentially its collection of web pages. So, all of the web pages that Googlebot crawls through, it indexes. Until now, Googlebot has been indexing pages through desktop crawling, which means that it was only taking into account pages that it found on desktop versions of sites. Of course, not all websites have the same content on desktop and mobile (don’t be like these websites!) Unfortunately for Google; mobile searches overtook desktop searches back in 2016 (and are dominating them in 2018.) So, this was leading to some obvious inconsistencies for all of us who use mobile search.

Now, Google is indexing via mobile. This does not mean that Google is using two indexes; it still only uses one. Now, the index is mobile-based.

The Mobile First Indexing Takeaways

  • Make sure that your mobile site matches your desktop version. Don’t publish different content to each.
  • Mobile is Google’s primary focus, which means that it should be on your radar. We aren’t saying to ditch the desktop. Just like investing, your SEO strategy needs a blended portfolio, or your risk is far too high.

June 14th, 2018 (Goodbye Video Thumbnails)

We could all sense this coming from a-mile-away. Google dropped support to video thumbnails and uses the carousel to rank content now. Of course, the carousel is a mobile-first feature, which further emphasizes Google’s love for mobile this year. Here’s where it gets a little fishy. If you’re an eCommerce site, you need to be paying careful attention to your ranking strategy.

Since Google removes anything in the carousel from the organic search results, anyone whose primary purpose is to sell product may get a negative impact due to this change. If you have a video popped up on a product page, make sure that it’s the correct one. If the thumbnail ends up looking nothing like your product and you get into the carousel, you’re going to get destroyed on ranking.

For example, let’s say that I sell pens. I have a huge page of pens that are all grouped together. I put out a video of my most expensive golden pen. People search for black pens, which I also sell. I used to be on the top 10 Google results page as an organic link (the blue links.) Now, my video is in the carousel, so Google removes me from its organic search. Suddenly, the person searching for black pens is seeing a video of a golden pen and completely skips my page.

This update may not seem significant, but it’s important to pay attention to small details like this. If you feel like you had a ranking hit (or sales have slowed down) since this time period, reach out to us. We’ll get you right back on track.

The Goodbye Video Thumbnails Takeaways

  • Webmasters need to pay careful attention to where and how they’re positioning video creatives; missteps can lead to colossal ranking hits.
  • Google really wants everyone to know that they love mobile. Make sure that you have a mobile-friendly site and start optimizing your creatives for mobile consumers.

July 24th, 2018 (HTTPS)

If you weren’t using an HTTPS website on July 24th, 2018, you were a fish-out-of-water. Starting this year, all sites that didn’t have HTTPS were displayed as unsafe on Google Chrome. We can burst through this one quick. If you aren’t using HTTPS, stop what reading this blog post right now, and go fix it. You can’t rank, and visitors aren’t going to visit your website.

The HTTPS Takeaways

  • You website has to be HTTPS secured. Period.

August 1st, 2018 (The Medic Update)

Google Medic was first discovered by a bunch of health and wellness webmasters who noticed some(fin) wrong with their rankings. Moz started to see some crazy ranking fluxes during this time period, and these rank changes seemed to disproportionately impact health and wellness websites.

This update was another quality-related rank change. Essentially, Google is starting to penalize websites based on their authority. Google’s asking “what authority do you have to make medical claims” and using that as a basis for ranking. For businesses, this means that peer-reviewed studies and consistent linking are a necessity. It’s not enough to say that Octopus Creative is the best agency on the planet, you have to prove it.

The Medic Update Takeaways

  • Make sure that you’re backing up any claims that you’re putting out.
  • If you’re in the health and wellness niche, make sure that you’re not making any claims that could be perceived as fraudulent.

The Other Google Algorithm 2018 Updates

There were a few other updates this year, but they were either A) small or B) had unknown impacts. Here they are:

  • July 21, 2018: Search Engine Round Table shows some significant inconsistencies and ranking shifts. Update unknown.
  • July 9th, 2018: Google announced that mobile speed would play a role in ranking factor. So far, it’s only penalizing super-slow sites. We expect it to start putting more emphasis on speed in the future.
  • May 23rd, 2018: Moz and Search Engine Round Table show some strange ranking patterns. Update unconfirmed.
  • May 13th, 2018: Google reduces snippet length to the previous 150-160 characters (thankfully!)
  • April 17th, 2018: Google confirms a core update after Moz and Search Engine Land find strange ranking temperatures. No one knows why, but most think it’s related to quality.
  • February 20th, 2018: Moz predicts algorithm update, Google denies it.

Conclusion

Google’s algorithm is a living breathing AI that will continue to evolve and adapt to the way that people intent searches. Quality remains a pressing issue for Google, and most changes reflect a distinct craving for quality content. Some strange situations might pop-up due to the Carousel and Medic update, which is why it’s important for SEO companies to be hyper-vigilant about staying consistent with Google.

If you’re running a business and all of this seems like way too much for you to have to think about, we get it. You have a company to run and a brand to build! Let us step up and use our SEO skills to reel you in clients and throw some bait at the bottom of your funnel. Also, don’t worry, just because our brand is an octopus doesn’t mean we’re from Finland, we’re located right here in Canada! (sorry, we had to)

Can You Really Beat the Algorithm? 7 Google Search Secrets Revealed

With the average small business spending around $75,000 a year on digital marketing, it’s hard for startups to compete. Without Google search secrets to take advantage of SEO algorithms, you could be going into the red just to get attention to your site. Search engines are valuable tools but if you don’t know how to take advantage of their inner workings, you could lose out to your competition.

Here are four ways to stay ahead of Google’s search algorithm.

1. Unique Content

If Google wants one thing from you and your site it’s for you to have lots of unique content. Because Google’s web crawler is seeking to index every single page of the internet, they’ll know if you’re reusing or rehashing content. You can’t cheat the algorithm that’s seeking out new and unique content relevant to your audience.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, become a resource about your industry. Start a blog that’s chockful of information about what people ask you the most about your business.

Instead of leaving a boring and underwhelming FAQ page kicking around your site, create a blog where each one question has an answer in the form of a post. This way you can keep your URL constantly refreshed with exciting content for your clients while feeding the SEO beast.

Unique content will help you to set your brand apart from other brands in your industry. When you answer the most pertinent concerns that people have about products and services in your industry, you provide value. When the answer to those problems leads back to your own products and services, you can sell services in a sincere way.

2. Prioritize Linking

One of the things that Google wants to know about your URL and your pages is that they have some relationship to the rest of the internet.

The internet was started with just a small network of computers that were hardwired to one another. The originating code and ethic of the internet were to ensure that everyone was always contributing to a community. The internet isn’t a one-sided conversation like television or radio.

Take your time to populate any posts that you write with links that can help to support the information that you’re sharing. The more reputable your sources are, the higher you’ll rank. When you connect your information to highly reputable news and information sites, you’ll show that you know what you’re talking about.

Avoid connecting to sites that are purely commercial or e-commerce pages. This will lower the ranking of your pages.

When you’re sharing information, stick to the facts. Pepper the most important keywords in your texts and include information about where you’re located. This will help you get the edge when to comes to searches originating from your area.

3. Get Some Guest Posters

Having a few well-known bloggers to guest post on your site will give your page some extra clout. When you connect with a writer or blogger who is well known and has their own following, you can cross-pollinate. You can double each other’s following when you write a guest post for them and they write one for you.

Guest posters help you in search results by showing off your products and services on well-established sites. These are difficult to acquire compared to paid links and ads, so by trading guest posts with writers, you give each other a bump.

Contact other writers in your niche and see if they’ll trade articles with you. Build relationships over time so that you can continue to stay connected as you each grow your base.

Some sites need writers and will be happy to add you as a guest blogger. Your presence will help them to add content to their sites and you’ll be able to get your name out there.

This kind of network can only yield positive results as more people see your name and find links to your products and services. When you mention products and services, be sure to keep your use of keywords and links organic. Selling too hard will make you look too desperate and will lead users to pass right by.

4. Seek Reviews and Testimonials

Reviews and testimonials are vital to the survival of any brand in the contemporary internet environment. When you search for products and services on Google, you’ll often get links that lead you directly to certain brands and companies near you. Along with the names and addresses of these companies, you get reviews.

If this happens and you don’t have good reviews under your belt, you could be losing the attention of hard-won customers. Getting customers to find you is difficult and resource heavy. If you lose them before you get the chance to make your pitch, you’re tossing marketing efforts down the drain.

Reach out to your most loyal customers and ask directly for them to write testimonials or reviews. Some brands will even run in-store promotions for when you like or review them on social media. Whatever works for you, make the effort to collect more reviews.

While you can’t exactly hack the algorithm on search engines with this method, you can ensure that you get a lot more hits by showing off reviews. Without enough good reviews to buffer against a bad review, one wrong move could do serious damage to your SEO ranking. Collect positive reviews to combat this potential.

Google Search Secrets Will Save Money

A few Google search secrets will help you get ahead and stay ahead of your competitors. When you provide the kind of content that Google knows their users want to see, you’ll be able to claw your way to the top of the rankings,

If you’re struggling to get the attention you deserve on search engines, check out our guide to outsourcing SEO efforts.

SEM Guide: What is Search Marketing?

Being visible online is important to every business, whether you sell business services or sweatpants.

To launch your brand to online success, you likely need some form of search marketing.

When people think about search engine marketing, often times they focus on optimization techniques known as SEO. But SEM is distinct from SEO and is an important part of any internet marketing plan.

Here’s the skinny on SEM.

The Language of Search Marketing

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is a practice where marketers essentially purchase authority within search engines through advertising, keywords, and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns.

It differs from SEO in that search engine optimization focuses on your organic ability to earn a ranking on a search engine.

A winning search marketing strategy has both SEO and SEM.

SEM vs SEO, Yo!

As mentioned above, SEM and SEO are different because one is a service you pay for, and the other is an accomplishment you earn. Both are important to your marketing strategy.

Here are some key terms and strategies in the SEM vs SEO world that will help you differentiate between the two.

Did Someone Say, “SEM Strategies?”

Below are several popular strategies for building an online reputation with SEM.

  • Paid Search/PPC: the process of buying keywords that will put you in front of your target market
  • Landing pages: purchasing succinct landing pages that offer a great user experience (UX) for customers
  • Local SEM: purchasing 360-degree videos and ads on Google maps, things that will help you appear in more local searches

Well, What About SEO?

Here are the most common terms and strategies used in the SEO world today.

  • Keywords: selecting and using the keywords you want to rank for in your content
  • Organic rankings: use on-site SEO strategies like content marketing and seamless navigation to boost your page organically to top rankings
  • Local SEO: using free and organic strategies to get on local ranking sites, like adding your business to Google maps
  • Site indexing strategies: having a well-functioning site that creates a great UX is a good way to ensure it is indexed by Google
  • Link-building: link-building is an organic SEO strategy by which links from other sites drive traffic to your site and increase its authority with Google

As evidenced above, there are a number of similarities between SEM and SEO strategies. The differences, however, are distinct enough that both should play into a search marketing strategy.

SEM: Some Translation Required

So, that’s SEM in a nutshell. But what does that mean for you? How do these terms translate into something useable for your business?

He Gets an Avatar! She Gets an Avatar! Everybody Gets an Avatar!

At the foundation of any marketing campaign is the customer, and SEM is no different.

To start your SEM journey, you need to first understand who is buying your products and services and create a customer avatar.

This can be done from scratch or from a template.

If you haven’t taken inventory of who is buying a product or service in a long time, a good way to do that is to utilize free tools within the Facebook Business platform.

Start with an existing list of customers and emails. Put that into a new campaign in Facebook’s ad manager, and watch Facebook develop a profile of demographics from your list.

If you don’t have a list, run a Facebook ad campaign and use the analytics built-in to Facebook to determine who is likely to interact with your campaign.

Or pick a look-a-like audience. For instance, our sweatpants manufacturer might choose “people who like Fabletics.”

Once you’ve used Facebook to capture an audience you can pull the analytics to begin filling in your target customer avatar.

Cough Up the Dough

Once you know who’s most interested in your products and services, the rest becomes much easier.

The key to a good paid search campaign is selecting the right keywords to purchase. In order to do that, you need to do keyword research that is heavily based on what you’ve learned about your customer.

For one, you can use social platforms like Twitter to see what your target audience is talking about online. That should give you an idea of what they are interested in.

Then you can jot down a list of hashtags and work backward from there, using any number of free resources to drill down the best keywords from the hashtags.

You can also turn to other blogs and see what they are writing about. What keywords are your competitors using? If your direct competition wants to own a keyword, then consider if you should compete on that keyword too.

After you’ve narrowed down your list of most valuable keywords, you can start making purchases based on search volume and competitiveness.

When you select the keywords you want to focus on in your Google AdWords or Bing account, your ad will appear on search results for those keywords.

It will look like organic search results, only there will be a notation showing that it is an ad. And when people click through you will be charged, hence why this is a form of PPC.

Your Best PPC Campaign

When it comes to SEM, PPC is a big purchase category. However, in most industries, the click-thru-rate (CTR) is less than 1%.

It’s no surprise people prefer being in the top of organic search results and that’s why it’s so important to utilize both principles of SEM and SEO in tandem.

They said, when structuring a PPC campaign, make the following considerations:

  • Ad Campaigns: This is the largest group of like-ads, perhaps you want to run a campaign of seasonal sweatpants and fall patterned leggings because these categories have similarities they would fall under one campaign
  • Ad Groups: The ad groups are a division which campaigns can be broken down into, perhaps one ad group focuses on seasonal sweatpants and the other group is for fall coloured leggings
  • Keywords: For each ad group, you should have a subset of keywords that make up the campaign

By breaking down your campaign into Ad Campaigns > Ad Groups > Keywords, you can target the right market segment and make the most of your ads.

Holla at Your Search Marketing!

When it comes to search marketing, you have to have both SEO and SEM. But the difference between a successful campaign and one that falls flat is in the details.

Pay attention to what your customers are looking for, and appeal to that. Whether you are optimizing or purchasing pay-per-click understanding your customer base is key.

For more information like this for your Calgary, Alberta business, click here.

Why You Should Invest in Hiring Expert SEO Services

Do you need to improve your site’s SEO? Hiring expert SEO services can help.

You invested a lot of time and resources to build your website and make it perfect. Now comes the hard part – driving traffic to it. There are several ways you can drive traffic to your site – social media, SEO and email newsletters are just a few of them.

With SEO, people are looking for information and they’re looking to buy your products or services. In fact, search engines drive 93% of all web traffic and it has a higher conversion rate than other ways to market your business.

Yet, only a small percentage of websites rank in the top 10 after a year.

Instead of banging your head against a wall trying to figure out how to improve your ranking, read on to learn why you should hire a professional SEO company.

Technical Expertise

SEO is much more than keywords.

Google is said to use around 200 factors to determine search results. They range from your online listings and your site architecture to the number of links to your site & keywords.

An SEO firm can point you in the right direction to improve your search listings. They’ll do professional keyword research and make content recommendations.

They’ll also take a look at the back end of your website to make sure your most important content stands out in search results and your site architecture is clear for search engines.

Better Online Presence

Have you ever looked up a company online and found different phone numbers and addresses for them?

It’s frustrating, and it leaves a bad impression of your business. Potential customers will be confused. It’ll confuse search engines, too.

When you hire expert SEO services, you’ll find that they’ll improve your entire online presence. They can help you clean up your listings across all directories so they’re consistent.

Expert SEO Services Saves Time

When you hire expert SEO services, you ultimately save time and energy. How much time do you have to learn what the 200 factors Google uses to rank websites?

After you learn what it takes to rank your website, do you have the time and resources to implement those changes yourself?

No, you don’t. You have a business to run.

Hiring an SEO company would be a smart move because they already have the technical expertise, they have the training, and they know how to implement an SEO strategy to get results.

Improved Conversion Rates

Almost half of all searches are local. Out of those local searches, about 75% of those will call the results on the first page of search results.

Imagine ranking on the first page of Google and getting some of those calls. What kind of impact would that have on your business?

Even if people click through to your website, there’s a good chance that they’ll contact your business because they’re already searching for your product or services.

That improved conversion rate could improve your bottom line in a big way.

Increase Referral Calls

Many businesses rely on referrals to get new business. For 85% of businesses, this is the top way to drive leads. If your business is part of the 85% of those who depend on referrals, SEO can ensure that you’re getting all of those.

Right now, you might be leaving money on the table and not even know it.

Put yourself in a potential customer’s shoes for a moment.

If you’re looking for a particular service, you’d ask people you know. You’ll then get a few recommendations and the first thing you’ll do is look them up online.

If you can’t find that business online or if you find different phone numbers for that business, will you call them? No, you’ll just move on to the next business.

SEO expert services can ensure that your business appears in search results and that your information is consistent across directories and platforms.

That will result in phone calls to your business.

You’ll See How Your Marketing Dollars Are Spent

When you invest in SEO services, you want to make sure you’re getting a return on investment.

The great thing about investing in SEO is that you can track just about anything. You can track keywords people use to get you’re your site and what they do when they get there.

Compare that to other forms of advertising where you invest a lot of money and assume that it works.

You’ll have access to detailed reporting, so you can see exactly how your marketing dollars are working for you.

Stay Ahead in a Constantly Changing World

We mentioned how many factors go into search results. On top of that, Google changes its algorithm frequently, up to 600 times a year.

Technology changes, too. We’ve gone from searching on desktop computers to mobile devices. The next frontier for search is voice search as people use devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo in their homes.

A professional SEO company knows what’s next in SEO and can help you get prepared for those changes.

What to Look for in an SEO Company

When you hire an SEO company, it helps to know that there are good companies and companies who promise a lot and don’t deliver. Here’s how you can tell the difference and hire an experienced company.

SEO Takes Time

When you invest in SEO, be prepared to play a long game. Any firm that tells you that they can get results in a month is probably using black hat SEO techniques.

Understand Your Marketing Strategy

SEO plays a role in digital marketing, but it also works together with social media, content marketing and branding.

Results in SEO don’t happen in isolation, but each component of marketing influences the results of the others to drive results.

A top SEO firm will take the time to look at your entire marketing strategy and implement strategies for each component to maximize all of your marketing results.

Hire Expert SEO Services

An expert SEO services company can help you save time and generate money for your business. They can also improve your overall web presence so it’s consistent to those searching for your business, products, and services.

If you’re ready to hire an SEO services company, we’re here to help. Contact us today.

7 Simple SEO Solutions You Need to Try for Yourself

In 2015, there were more than 1.1 million businesses in Canada. Basically, this means you’re up against a ton of competition as a business owner or marketer.

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is the process of getting your pages to rank higher on Google and other search engines, which will lead to more traffic and more sales.

We’ve compiled 6 simple SEO solutions that you should try out that will make you say, “Shell Yeah!”

Check them out!

1. Find Your Keywords

The first thing you should do when starting with SEO is deciding on your keywords. The whole point of SEO is ranking higher on search engines for specific keywords and phrases! So you need to make sure you’re trying to rank for the best keywords possible.

This happens through strong keyword research efforts. Think about what people are searching for when they look for your business’ products or services.

What do they Google? If you’re a pet store owner, people might search for “dog store in Seattle” or “pet store in Washington.” So you would want to rank for these terms.

Do some research with a professional SEO tool to find out what people search for most. You can also utilize free tools like Google Trends.

2. Content, Content, Content

Another SEO key is producing content. But it shouldn’t just be any content. It needs to be valuable and relevant.

Find topics that people are curious about in your industry. What topics could you write about that will get people to your website?

Once they’re on your site, you can make an offer to them… which means more cash for you! Yeah, buoy!

You should also produce content on a regular basis. Google prioritizes pages that are fresh.

This also attracts readers because you’re providing interesting and helpful content. Whether these are blog posts, ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, or videos, content is a huge part of SEO in 2018.

So make sure you have a writer and a designer on your team who can produce these pieces.

3. Load Quickly: One of the Biggest SEO Solutions

The bottom line is that when websites load quickly, people are satisfied. The opposite is also true: when sites take forever to load, people leave.

This will happen to a certain extent no matter what. In fact, the average bounce rate is 26% to 40%. But many sites are at a much higher level, which negatively affects their bottom line.

Google understands this and so sites that load slowly are negatively affected in terms of SEO. This is because, in order for Google to be successful, they want to provide the best experience possible. And if the first couple of search results for a given query all load super slowly, the user is going to get frustrated and go to a different search engine to do their searching.

This is Google’s worst nightmare. So to avoid this. They give preference to sites who rank quickly.

To improve your site’s load times, there are lots of things you can do. Start by optimizing your images and getting rid of pictures with huge file sizes. Instead, compress them using an online tool.

Also, consider switching hosting providers (there is a reason that some hosting options are considered discount). Sometimes this is the core of the issue.

4. Pay Attention to Your Titles and Descriptions

This is a simple thing with a big impact: optimize your page titles and descriptions. These are the pieces of text that tell both users and Google what your page is about.

Every page on your site should be optimized to include that page’s keyword. This helps Google’s bots understand exactly the purpose of your page. So if your pages aren’t optimized in this way, water you doing?

This is also the text that appears in Google search results when your page ranks. So being clear and getting to the point helps web searchers know exactly what they’ll get on that page.

If possible, you should also include the keyword in the H1 on your pages. An H1 is the main header at the top of the page. Google also pays attention to this.

5. Optimize Your URLs

Also, don’t forget about your page URLs. Google’s spiders look at your URL as well to understand the content of your page.

If possible, include your keyword in the URL as well. This will make things super clear.

Don’t make your URL too long. When it’s super long, it’s easy for the bots to get confused. Shorter is better in this case!

6. Don’t Forget Those Links

Link building is one of the fundamentals of SEO. Google likes to see that sites are linking back to you because it improves your reputation in their eyes.

This is especially true when the links come from domains with a lot of authority! So if at all possible, work with large publications and websites to get a link back to your site from them.

The other part of link building has to do with your site itself. Your site should also have plenty of internal links. This shows Google that your pages are related to each other and it helps paint a better picture of what your website is all about.

So go throughout your site and include links wherever possible.

7. Hire an Expert

When it comes to SEO strategy, do you feel like you’re standing at the seashore screaming, “Kelp! Kelp!”? If so, consider hiring an expert!

SEO is complicated and is always changing. An expert from an outside agency will be able to provide information about the latest strategies.

They’ll know what’s working right this moment to help you rank as well as possible. Our team has years of experience working in SEO and is happy to help you! Contact us today to learn more.

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve gone through these SEO solutions, it’s time to make some changes in your business. Implement some of these on your site as soon as possible! In other words, it’s time to seas the day!

Have questions or want professional help? Get in touch with us and we’ll be your marketing sidekick.

Why SEO Outsourcing is a Great Option for Businesses in Alberta

Businesses in Alberta are turning toward digital marketing to reach their target demographic. 81% of shoppers research products online before making a purchase. It’s essential that customers are able to find your website online.

However, ranking on the first pages of Google isn’t a guarantee for anyone. There are more than 1,877,000,000 websites and counting, meaning your competition is thick.

If you want to show up on page one, you have to earn your place. Companies who invest in Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, are the ones found by customers.

Many are doing this through SEO outsourcing methods. These methods are very effective when implemented through the right companies.

Why More Businesses in Alberta are Investing in SEO Outsourcing

There are many reasons businesses in Alberta outsource their SEO services instead of keeping them in-house. There is nothing wrong with hiring a person internally to handle your SEO strategy. But, many companies find that outsourcing to a third party is profitable and efficient.

Find out why below.

It’s Cheaper than Hiring Someone In-House

For many businesses, the cost to hire an individual with the right expertise is more than outsourcing the job to a company or agency specializing in SEO services.

In-house SEO specialists come with a hefty price tag. The average annual salary of an SEO Specialist in Canada is about C$46,038. The individual’s skills are often rooted in a specific digital strategy.

SEO agencies, on the other hand, typically offer a variety of solutions which you can bundle together while spending less. Their team consists of individuals with different skill sets to accommodate the needs of your business. Social media management, website design, branding, online marketing, and copywriting are all available.

Because SEO agencies take on multiple clients, they can offer these services at a lower rate than what you would spend hiring someone in-house. When combined, these services lead to a cohesive digital strategy at a fraction of the price of executing them in-house.

It’s More Efficient than Training Someone Yourself

What if you train someone who is already on staff? Would that not be cheaper?

No, not really. The challenge with SEO is that it’s complex. If you plan to train someone who has no background in SEO or no knowledge of how it works, you’re in for an uphill battle.

To influence your ranking in search engine results, you have to understand multiple strategies. Strategies such as keyword research, link-building, on and off-site content, and coding are essential for SEO. You also need to understand analytics reports to gauge the success of your campaigns.

The reason SEO companies are so successful is that they have a team of individuals working together to elevate your rankings.

Experienced copywriters that know how to optimize copy for SEO create content for your web pages and blogs.

Web developers create or optimize your website’s design to make sure it loads quickly, is mobile-friendly, and secure.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) experts design, execute and manage campaigns to get your ads in front of your target demographic.

SEO veterans develop your strategy, create backlinks, and execute other tactics to improve your site’s ranking in search engines.

In short, successful SEO strategies often take an entire team with years of combined experience. You’ll have to spend a lot of time and money to train someone to reach that calibre.

Even then, they’ll have a hard time doing it all themselves.

An Agency or Company has the Tools and Training to Help You Succeed

The right agency or company to outsource your SEO needs to will have both the tools and training to help you achieve your goals. There are many tools and programs SEO experts use to manage your website’s rankings.

This includes certifications and ongoing training to remain up-to-date with the latest strategies. Because search engine giants like Google always improve their algorithms, these experts have to stay on top of the latest updates.

Some of these changes are pretty significant. They can require major changes to your website or your content creation strategies. Not keeping up with these requirements can cause your rankings to plummet overnight.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you hire skilled professionals. If he or she isn’t familiar with the latest ongoings in the SEO industry, beware!

Outsourcing Opens Up Time for You to Focus on Other Business Goals

One of the greatest advantages of outsourcing SEO services is the time you save. Your company’s digital strategy is a time-consuming task. One that never ends.

Instead of trying to overcome the learning curb in-house, you get to focus on your expertise. Let your team spend their time doing what they do best.

As the calls and conversions start to pick up from your outsourced strategy, focus on optimizing the new flow of traffic by:

  • Improving your sales process
  • Building on your relationships with existing clients
  • Producing new products or services
  • And more…

By outsourcing this service to experts, you open up your time and budget to other business goals. Use it wisely as you apply your talents to help your business grow.

Hiring an Expert Gives You an Edge Over Your Competition

There’s an old saying that says you should keep your friends close, but your “enemies” closer.

A great SEO expert doesn’t simply get to know its client. He or she also identifies and tracks the client’s competition. They use their skills to give you an edge on your competitors.

This includes competing for keyword rankings and developing strategies to overcome market challenges. Your competition may not be using pros to handle their SEO like you are, which gives you a great advantage.

Launch Your SEO Strategy Today

Are you ready to turn to SEO outsourcing to improve your search engine rankings and get in front of the eyes of your target audience? If so, our gurus are here to help.

Get in touch with us to talk about a custom strategy to elevate your business. Located in Alberta, Canada, our professionals will be happy to meet and discuss how we can help you meet your goals.

7 Signs Your Calgary Startup Could Benefit from Expert SEO Services

Often when a new startup gets off the ground, the owner takes over a large amount of the daily tasks to ensure they are done correctly.

This can work for a while but eventually becomes overbearing and stressful. Responsibilities like marketing, branding, and SEO lose effectiveness because more time is spent on keeping your customers happy and running the day-to-day operations of your business.

While things like SEO can easily be set aside, if a business truly wants to grow, they will need to be passed on to an expert who can dedicate the time and effort this process requires.

Taking full advantage of SEO and using it to bring in new clients is difficult if you don’t have any prior experience. Here are seven signs your Calgary startup could benefit from hiring expert SEO services.

1. You Aren’t Using Social Media for SEO

Effective social media use is one of the most vital aspects of business success in this digital age. A key marketing tactic is to seek out your customers in their natural habitat. Social media platforms are the place to find them.

Sharing engaging posts with quality content will attract attention and lead traffic to your website and service pages. Social media sites update frequently and have a high relevancy for search engines, so using them can significantly boost your search ranking.

A company with expert SEO services can assist you with managing your social media campaigns, making them more eye-catching and attractive.

2. You Received an SEO Penalty

Many people may not know this, but Google can and will punish companies by penalizing their search rankings if they are breaking search optimization rules.

Wait, Google has SEO rules?!

Yes, search engine sites have standards to be followed, and they will quickly deflate your incoming traffic if they find that you are ignoring them. Issues like plagiarized content, duplicate posts, and overusing keywords will put you on a fast track to the bottom of Google’s ranking list.

Luckily, none of these problems is irreversible, but the necessary steps need to be taken to get you back into these search engines’ good graces and back towards the first page.

3. You’re Just Focused on Content

Content is important, and there is no denying that. But more important than simply sharing a post on your blog, is determining whether your content is of high enough quality for your readers. An SEO marketing expert will be able to use insightful software that can determine what people want to know within your niche and how they are searching for it.

This information allows you to choose useful topics and headings that will pull more customers to your blog. Expert SEO services can even provide you with specific details regarding your top competitors’ search engine strategies.

Don’t stop creating content, but ensure that whatever you are producing is reaching the standard your viewers are willing to read through.

4. SEO Isn’t a Priority

Let’s face it, running a business can be an extremely time-consuming venture. While you are trying to take care of current customers, managing employees, and doing payroll, it is easy to let things like marketing and SEO go by the wayside.

If SEO has fallen so low on your priority list that it’s no longer part of your day-to-day routine, then it is time to bring in an expert. Having a dedicated team prepared to manage it for you will relieve a major load of stress and allow you to focus on your other important tasks.

A good SEO company will still keep you informed of updates, stats, and website changes they have made. They understand it is your business and you deserve to be aware of how their efforts are improving your search ranking.

5. You Can’t Keep Up With SEO Changes

Search engine algorithms are constantly changing. Unless you work in the industry, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the seemingly endless updates. Teams who provide expert SEO services are continuously researching and learning more about how their clients can benefit from the most recent changes.

Very few business owners have the time necessary to keep up with these ever-changing rules and standards. Once this becomes a burden, it may be time to look for an SEO marketing company

6. The Keywords You Chose Aren’t Working

Keywords are a still a key part of an effective SEO plan. These are the terms that individuals use to find what they are looking for on the web. Search results for some keywords range in hundreds of thousands, causing inflated amounts of businesses vying for them on their web copy and blog posts.

Knowing the words to use and avoiding vague and overused terms are just a couple of ways an SEO marketing expert can help you. If you previously chose words that are too general, your SEO team will be able to narrow them down and find a more specific niche that will increase your search results.

7. Your Local Ranking is Low

Whether you run a hometown business or offer online services all over the world, your local ranking is crucial to being found by potential clients. One of the first steps to improve this is to establish a Google My Business page. This page will provide loads of relevant information such as a link to your website, hours, contact information, and customer reviews.

If you haven’t already claimed your listing, an expert SEO services provider will be able to set this up and manage it for you. They will ensure all of the necessary details are included and keep it up-to-date.

Expert SEO Services for Your Business

If you have been trying to maintain your SEO alone and are struggling to keep it afloat, then throw yourself a life preserver by hiring an expert SEO services provider for your business.

To get started and schedule in your free consultation, please fill out our Marketing Discovery Form.

Or if you have a burning question or want to know more about what we can do for you, feel free to contact us.

10 Effective Local SEO Tips for Any Business Size

If you have to think about whether you’re a small business, you’re most likely a small business. Which means if you don’t have a local SEO checklist, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Why? Because local SEO is becoming more and more important for local businesses to take advantage of.

And really, you’re too smart a businessperson not to take advantage of an opportunity in front of you. Here are 10 tips to add to your SEO to-do list.

1. Perform a Local SEO Audit

If you cross nothing else off your local SEO checklist, you need to do a local SEO audit.

Think of it this way. You wouldn’t go hiking 50 miles through the jungle without first figuring out what you need to watch out for.

So why would you jump into SEO blind?

An audit tells you where you should be directing your attention and where it’s most valuable to spend your time.

Otherwise, you could miss basic issues in your SEO strategy.

2. Create a Google My Business Page

This should take you no more than 20 minutes to do properly.

It’s a hugely beneficial 20 minutes.

Google My Business is simple but effective. If someone Googles your business, this is what will tell them your name, hours, address, phone number, reviews and other information that they would probably consider important.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Google your business
  • Claim it and verify it with Google
  • Check all the details to make sure they’re correct
  • Proceed to housekeep: answering reviews, adding photos, etc.

Remember, this is a snapshot of your business. Make sure it’s a good one.

3. Establish Local Listings

Now that you’ve handled Google, it’s time to handle everyone else.

Literally everyone else.

We’re talking Bing, Yahoo, Angie’s List, Yelp, Whitepages, business associations, your local chamber of commerce.

Everyone.

At a minimum, everyone should have your NAP: name, address, phone number. Give the best succinct snapshot of your business you can.

4. Accuracy in Listings

It sounds obvious, but for the love of Google and your customers, make sure your listings are accurate.

Despite the fact that you know your business better than you know yourself, there’s this funny thing called human error. You sometimes put in the wrong thing without thinking.

Or you move. Or your information changes.

Your customers shouldn’t be puzzling over what’s the right information. If they have to play Clue, they won’t be customers for long.

5. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

Forget about pictures. Reviews are worth a thousand words.

Okay, don’t forget about pictures. But don’t neglect the power of a positive review.

Listen, reviews aren’t just about checking a box on your local SEO checklist to boost your rankings (though they do help your click-through rate).

It’s about giving your customers a reason to trust your business. And any true businessperson knows that’s invaluable.

6. Boost Your On-Site SEO

And speaking of invaluable, let’s talk about one of the things you should be doing already and might not be.

Let’s put it this way. If you’re an orthodontist in Alberta, how will your customers or Google know you’re an orthodontist in Alberta unless you put it on your website?

Most of this is common sense – showing your customers and Google the essential information on where you are and what you do in plain terms.

For example, listing directions to your office on your contact page. That’s on-site local SEO.

Don’t go overboard. Incorporating the key information (where you are, what you do, your business hours, etc.) as a part of natural verbiage will work quite well for Google.

7. Build a Better Link Strategy

Links to your website are a lot like reviews. They prove that you have relationships in real time, which is good news to Google.

Backlinks especially. Backlinks, or when an outside site links back to your site, are seen as a sign of credibility and factored into your SEO score.

A word to the wise. Don’t be shady. It’s tempting. Don’t do it. It will always bite you in the end.

Here’s how real marketers build backlinks without being shady.

8. Engage in Social Media

Welcome to the 21st century, where social media is central to business success.

Look, your customers spend a lot of time on social media. Meeting them where they are isn’t just a good way to remind them that you exist – it’s a smart way to boost your search rankings because social media updates so frequently.

The key here is to actively engage with your customers every day through strong social media accounts.

That doesn’t just mean product promotions and giveaways. It means responding to questions and highlighting stories that are relevant to them.

It means being a resource to your customers.

9. Create Relevant Local Content

Which brings us to our next point for the local SEO checklist. Creating relevant local content.

Content is king…if the content is actually relevant, useful and shareable.

Your key goal here should be to create content that informs your users, answers an important question, and entertains while doing it. A blog is the easiest way to build and maintain a steady stream of content.

But remember, you also want this content to be locally relevant. Think local place names, local events, local news, etc.

Know what’s even better than plain old content? Interactive content. Try these 5 types to wow your audience.

10. Ad Extensions for a Local Audience

You probably thought this would be first on the list, didn’t you?

Ads are important, but as a rule, they should be complementary to organic SEO instead of your primary focus.

The easiest way to manage local ad extensions is through Google Adwords. This will allow you to incorporate location data into your ads, like your exact location, a call button, or a link to a details page.

Why does it matter? Because this keeps your ad location-specific, which means you can target people within a specific location to come visit your business.

Which would tend to make sense for local SEO.

Make the Most of Your Local SEO Checklist

If your head is spinning with all the SEO tasks that have suddenly appeared on your to-do list, don’t worry.

Sometimes, you need a professional to take you to the next level (or to help make sense of what’s already in front of you). That’s what we provide with our digital marketing solutions.

Click here to fill out a marketing discovery form and request an estimate. We can’t wait to get started.

SEM: What is It and How to Get Started

Online advertising has a lot in common with its analog counterparts. You want to place your solution where the most people can find it–high traffic areas.

If you are new to the online business game, the prospect of getting your solution on the front page of Google may sound daunting. There’s a lot you need to do, from blogging to keyword optimization–all falling under this vague label, SEM.

Check out this article for a head start on learning about what SEO SEM marketing is and how it can help you rise through the ranks of Google.

What Is SEM?

Okay, let’s start with the basics.

SEM stands for search engine marketing. The term encompasses a series of strategies that work together to improve your standing in Google’s ranking system–which is based on a complex set of algorithms we don’t need to get into today.

SEM is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and this is about paying for ads that show up on Google and Bing or even on sites like Youtube and Kijiji

In all reality, SEM encompasses SEO, and SEO SEM marketing isn’t just for people trying to make their mark on a global or national level. Often, it works well for small businesses like restaurants and shops that rely on connecting with their immediate community online to boost sales in person.

 

So, Can I Really Influence Search Results?

Yes, but you’ll need to put in the work or pay for the clicks.

One of the best ways to ensure you’ve got a place at the top of the heap is to regularly put out high-quality content that actually helps people. This means you’re writing (or paying someone to write) how-to guides that inform–not blatant product plugs. Essentially, you’re writing industry-specific articles that keep others informed. The point is, you’ve got something other people don’t–a skill, an awesome menu, or insight into a complex topic people want to learn more about.

Some Strategies for SEO SEM Marketing Content include:

SEO & PPC: Keyword Research

Because we’re talking content strategy, your starting point should be keywords. Why? Because keywords signal to Google that your content can help answer the questions web users are asking and it also forms the foundation of your PPC bid strategies.

Pretty simple, sure. The hard part, however, is finding out which keywords relate to your business. Start by making a list of all the terms that correspond to your website–then see how your competitors rank for those keywords.

Hubspot has an article that lays this process out in simple terms.

SEO Specific: Writing Blog Posts and Articles

Once you’ve got your keywords in place, it’s time to get writing. Blogs and articles are an easy way to share bits of information with your audience. They function as a way to add more pages to your website, increasing the number of times your site is indexed by Google.

Additionally, good content functions as a sales pitch of sorts for your company. If people like what you have to say, they may subscribe to your RSS feed, keep tabs on your social channels, and more.

SEO in 2018: Video Content

Video is blowing up these days–and for good reason. Short videos on Instagram stories or on Facebook present a unique opportunity to connect with your customers and show off the more “human” side of your business.

Spreading The Word: Promoting Content Via Social Media

Social media is especially important to small businesses. While you might feel like this isn’t the best use of your already limited time, think again. Pushing blog posts, articles, and updates out through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is a great way to reach your audience and drive traffic back to your website. Plus, there are plenty of programs–Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social–that allow you to pre-schedule posts and save time.

Beyond the promotion part of the equation, social media can help you keep tabs on what content is performing well for your competitors as well as what people are talking about in your niche.

SEO Basics: Don’t Forget About Backlinks

Building backlinks is a little tricky.

Google uses a variety of signals to determine the quality of the links that connect to your website, and some are better than others. If a popular news source or a government website connects to your content, that can be a huge boost–a vote of confidence that prompts the search engine to bump you up.

But, you’re not going to get these links overnight, no matter how good your product or your content. To get started, reach out to smaller blogs and review sites and find out if they’ll link back to you. Ask customers to link to your site or do something newsworthy.

A lot of backlink building has to do with building relationships with people willing to talk about you online. If you’re active on social media, create good content, and offer top-notch service, it’s a matter of plugging away and making an effort to connect. If your content is lacking or non-existent, spend some time improving what you’ve got.

Pay Attention to the Competition

SEO SEM marketing doesn’t exist in a bubble. You can’t keep your head down and bang out content without keeping tabs on the competition.

Take a look at competitive sites in your niche and see what others are doing in terms of content. Are people making videos to promote their products and services, or are blog posts more the norm?

Make Sure Your SEO SEM Strategy Is Well-Documented

Monitor your efforts and see what sticks. Maybe your articles do better than your videos or vice versa. Maybe you need to spend more time fostering the kind of relationships that build backlinks.

Track your metrics through tools like Moz, AhRefs, and Google Analytics. Seek out broken backlinks and remove them. Make your content as attractive and grammatically correct as possible.

There’s a ton you can do, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work on the docket, we understand. Octopus Creative specializes in the full scope of web marketing services from content creation to search engine optimization and SEM.

Call us at 1-866-205-8488 to learn more.

How You Can Increase Web Traffic With SEO

There are no secret methods or fancy tricks with SEO. The most effective tips are easy to understand and implement.

If you’d like to maximize your website’s potential, SEO is your key to visibility and success. It takes more than just hard work and effort to increase website traffic. SEO to the rescue.

Rules are forever changing in the competitive world of SEO. To stay ahead of the rest, you’ve got to have a strategy that constantly evolves with those rules.

We’ve put together the best tips for your guaranteed SEO success. Read on to learn more.

Take Advantage of Your Site’s URL

Also called the domain name, a URL is a website’s address. Your URL is an important factor to consider for effective, guaranteed SEO.

URLs can be considered a site’s storefront. It’s usually the first item seen by your visitors, so it’s imperative that it’s clear and impressive. The URL is the first item viewed by search engines when they’re deciding how to rank your site as well.

It’s wise to keep your URL to the point and clean. Leave out anything that makes it confusing, cluttered, or otherwise distracting. This means avoiding special characters, page IDs, dashes, or other similar items.

The best URLs state the name of a business or another descriptive representation of it. You can include relevant keywords if they fit naturally into the URL.

Make Sure Pages Have Titles and Descriptions

So what is a page title and description? These are brief texts that state concisely what a website contains through the use of meta tags. For search engines exploring your site to determine its rank, these are the next items to check after your URL.

Page titles and descriptions will ideally provide condensed explanations of what the site offers and will also include keywords or keyword phrases.

These titles and descriptions will not show on a page. They will, however, be displayed on a page of search results.

This is important because potential visitors see page titles and page descriptions and then use them to decide if they want to visit your site. Make these titles and descriptions work in your favor.

Use Links Thoughtfully

Guaranteed SEO requires good use of links. Links generate traffic, ensure that websites are friendly for web crawlers, and allow visitors to easily navigate your site.

Internal links

Links placed in a website’s content that point visitors to other pages on that site are called internal links. These links make your site easier to navigate so that visitors can find more information.

Internal links also prevent orphan pages. These are dead-end pages with no links. Their presence will hurt your rankings with search engines.

Internal links are made into clickable text. This clickable text is also referred to as anchor text. Its flow should be natural and should include a hyperlink, information relevant to the subject, and keywords.

External links

External links point visitors to other sites containing information that relates to your site’s content.

The anchor text of external links must be used in a way that flows naturally with the rest of your content. The anchor text should also give visitors an idea of where the external link is going to send them.

These links boost SEO because they’re considered by search engines to be third party votes of website popularity.

Use Keywords Correctly

SEO results require good use of keywords. But you can’t just throw them around and expect success. There are a few rules to observe for effective keyword usage.

When people search the web for something, they’ll use a search bar to enter the word or group of words that they feel describes what they’re wanting to know. These words or phrases are known as keywords and keyword phrases in the SEO world.

Your keywords should summarize what your website content is all about.

Keywords Connect

Good SEO is about making sure your chosen keywords and people’s search words are the same. This is what connects you with your target audience.

Guaranteed SEO will involve a lot of keyword consideration, research, evaluation, and adjustment.

To get started, make a master list of the services or products you offer. For each of these, list at least ten keywords or keyword phrases that describe them.

Put keyword research services to work to help you decide which words will be the least difficult and the most popular. These will be the keywords you’ll incorporate into your website content so you’ll have better rankings.

Avoid Keyword “Stuffing”

Don’t “stuff” website content with your keywords. Avoid using them excessively throughout your text.

Don’t use keywords in unnatural ways that flow poorly with your content. Keyword stuffing hurts your rankings with search engines.

Make Your Site Spider, Bot, and Crawler Friendly

A web crawler is a program that a search engine uses to explore sites and gather information. They’re also called bots, spiders, and crawlers. These programs “crawl” through site content, reading it and then sending back their findings to search engines.

Once crawlers have located a site, they will read through the site’s text, links, and source code. They harvest this information so that search engines can then analyze it for website ranking.

Your Site Should Be “Crawlable”

For good search engine rankings, a site has to be “crawlable.” Crawlers have to be able to easily follow links if destination pages are to be included in a search engine’s database.

Make sure the beginning of your pages have quality content. Web crawlers read from the top of a page to the bottom.

Also, crawlers can’t “see” your site’s images. You must use alt text that’s descriptive so crawlers can understand the image’s content. Alternative text, or alt text, is a phrase or word describing the image that’s inserted in HTML code as an attribute.

Be consistent with providing content. Websites should have a lot of quality content for crawlers to report, not just code for these programs to “crawl” through.

Increase Website Traffic with Guaranteed SEO

SEO is a must for better site visibility. The whole purpose of search engines is to scour content to find the sites that deserve top spots in their search results.

To keep your site from getting buried under tons of other results, you need to use great SEO strategies. To find out more about digital marketing and search engine optimization, explore our site or contact us today.