7 Questions Answered to Help Demystify SEO

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There's no shortage of SEO advice online.

You’re only a quick Google search away from hundreds of thousands of articles, tips, tricks, advice and courses that claim to give you the best search engine optimization results.

The truth is, you can’t copy someone elses strategy on your site and expect success. SEO is a spectrum, and without understanding why something works, it is impossible to make that strategy successful for your own business.

In order to have a successful search engine optimization campaign you have to implement the proven strategies that best suit your businesses unique needs.

But how do you know which strategies are right for you? That truly is the million dollar question. There is no use in having the best tool for the job if you don’t understand how to use it.

Lucky for us, I got some great advice to share with you on ways to implement some techniques for your own business (more on that below in the interview).

I read (and write) a LOT about search engine optimization...

And no matter how much material I consume I continue to learn more every time.

There’s no “on” and “off” switch for SEO.  There is no time when SEO is complete. It’s a task that doesn’t have a finish line. It’s one that you must continue to work on and improve over time in order to succeed.

Simply defined, Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results (this according to Moz).

At it’s core, that’s pretty easy to understand. But what makes this a very in-depth topic is trying to understand how that really works.

That's why I asked an expert to join me.

My goal, like always, is to make this information easy to understand for any business owner.
 
The more you understand how SEO works, the more success you will have implementing strategies or working with an expert to drive more traffic to your site.
 
To help us understand this a bit more, I asked a friend of mine (and all-around SEO wizard), Chris Castillo to join me in answering a few questions.
 
Chris’ company, Propel Digital Media Solutions, is a powerhouse in the SEO space. Not only is he helping customers triple and quadruple their organic traffic, he recently produced a fantastic course on the ends-and-outs of SEO (I seriously can’t recommend this course enough). This course really unpacks the “how” and explains (in great detail) different strategies and how they can improve your optimization.
Chris Castillo - Toronto SEO

My name is Chris Castillo, and I’m the founder of Propel Digital Media Solutions. I have a passion for helping business owners experience the full potential of the internet as a marketing and business development channel. I’m experienced developer turned digital marketer and entrepreneur, with a focus on marketing strategies. When I’m not helping businesses online, I’m helping them offline with workshops that help educate business owners on effective marketing strategies.

Q: If websites were a car, which part of the car is SEO?

To compare a website to a car, I prefer the comparison of them specifically with race cars. After all businesses are all racing and competing to win their own niche race. Going with that analogy, I would suggest that SEO is the design and engineering of the race car.

That might come as a surprise given that the engine and transmission might seem like the obvious answer. But hear me out! To win a race, you just need to be faster than your competition. Why overspend on a cutting edge, technology packed, powerhouse of an engine if your competition are all driving slow, aging race cars?

The SEO of your website is the strategy you put together and execute to win the race. If your competition is racing cars with extremely powerful engines, then maybe improving the aerodynamics of your car will give you the edge. SEO is about learning what your competition is doing right, and wrong, and then using that information to put the right engine, transmission, body, chassis, and even driver in place to beat your competition.

Q: If you don't have a large budget, what are the most important basics to cover?

First and foremost, research! Research doesn’t cost anything if you do it yourself. From there, content creation is the next most effective and cost-efficient task.

Basic research is easy enough for any business owner to do. Find your competitors (the ones ranking in the top 3 for your desired searches) and browse their sites to see what sort of things they are doing. Look at their content and their website structure.

Creating content is something that business owners often neglect to do, or do well. They put copy together that almost feels like an afterthought, and then don’t create more content once the site is up. Creating content regularly, be it maintaining a blog or creating new pages that supplement existing ones, is something that doesn’t have to cost anything.

Q: What’s the biggest myth you’ve heard about SEO that isn’t true?

LOL, there are too many to list here. The myth that you need to invest a fortune in SEO to get results is definitely one. The return on investment for SEO, and content marketing, is one of the highest. Some companies hire internally to have a staff member manage their blog and post regularly. More often than not, it’s actually more cost-effective to hire an agency/freelancer to create that content for them. For less than what they would pay for a part-time intern, they can have an experienced SEO creating content for them and getting their SEO on track to providing some great returns!

Another myth I run into a lot is that it takes a long time for SEO to produce results. While that can certainly be true for some markets, for small local businesses I’ve seen results in as little as 3 months.

Q: What are some easy things business owners (who are not necessarily tech-savvy) could do themselves to improve their SEO?

A lot of what makes good SEO is probably outside of the realm of what a “non-tech-savvy” person would be comfortable with. Meta descriptions, keywords, and website performance optimizations, to name a few, might spin some people’s heads.

Give people what they are searching for. Give them great content, or in the case of sales pages, sell your services with sales copy that really connects with your audience. The latter requires a good understanding of who your potential customers are and their pain points. These two things can drastically improve the effectiveness of their website – both from an SEO perspective, but also a sales perspective.

Q: We both use WordPress, but is that a good platform for SEO?

Absolutely! WordPress is great because it allows business owners the ability to add/edit/update their website. WordPress was created as a blogging platform, and blogs are one of the best ways to improve a website’s SEO by creating regular blog posts. Just about anything you need to do can be done with an existing plugin, which makes the platform super flexible.

Q: There are a lot of DIY website options out there (like Wix, Weebly, & SquareSpace), can you get as much optimization out of them?

I know of others who have worked with sites built on these other platforms and they’ve managed to get them to rank well in organic search results. It’s not impossible, but there are limitations to what you can do with them in terms of optimizations. Most of these platforms let you access basic components that you need to optimize – things like headings, titles, descriptions, etc. But some of these platforms use their own servers which they don’t give you access to improve performance.

Q: You've helped a lot of businesses with SEO, what is your biggest success story? How has it changed their business?

My biggest success story so far is the work that I did for a women’s wellness clinic in my city (Toronto, Ontario). Before coming to me their website was generating around 800 – 1000 visits per month, primarily from people searching specifically for the business (ie; branded searches). We worked at putting a strong SEO strategy in place, which was really tricky because they offered over 12 services – with each service fitting into a slightly different market with different competitors. Think chiropractic care, lactation consultant, doulas. Within around 3-4 months of launching their redesigned, SEO-powered website, they reached page one of search results for various key search terms. Within 6 months their website traffic tripled, and their business was growing month over month. Today, they now dominate several search terms and continue to see the same growth trend with their traffic. I’m definitely a very proud of that story.

See, I learned again!

I’m 100% sure I’ve said that SEO is the engine in a car, and I’m so glad I asked this question to Chris, because he’s completely right.

What makes an SEO strategy effective is how it positions you in the field. There are hundreds of factors that can improve your optimization, but the ones you want to focus on are the strategies that help you outrank your competitors.

And what I really love about Chris’ advice is there are so many things you can implement yourself. Doing research and writing content about the subject you know best (your business) are easy ways you can better understand your positioning in search results and what things you can do to improve them.

So the question is… where do you rank, and where would you like to be?  If you need help figuring out the right strategy for your business, or want a hand implementing your plan, reach out to Chris or myself and we’d both be more than happy to help.

A BIG THANKS

I owe a big thank you to Chris for taking time to provide his insight. I’m truly lucky Chris still returns my messages with as many times as I’ve asked his advice. I knew he’d be able to bring a load of experience and expertise to this subject.  Having this network of experts is the key for OGAL Web Design being able to easily scale our team up in size and specialized expertise for projects of any size. 

Kyle Van Deusen
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyle Van Deusen

For the past 15 years I have helped businesses like yours increase their online presence through powerful websites, strategic marketing strategies, and recognizable brands. I want to partner with your business to help you succeed.

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