Address: Rankhigher
980 Fraser Dr #116, Burlington, Ontario, ON L7L 5P5

Phone: +1 (905) 637-9033

E-Mail: info@rankhigher.ca

Scott Wilson Discusses SEO With Profit 100

Want your company to be the first result on Google? Then talk to Scott Wilson whose company specializes in Search Engine Optimization. In this video Wilson talks about his business and what exactly SEO is all about.

View the interview below.

The Google Gold Rush

The age-old wisdom in retailing is “location, location, location.” The maxim is still true, with one addition: it also refers to a company’s location in Google rankings for keyword searches. With the birth of the Web in 1993, e-commerce has exploded to a predicted US$197 billion in 2011 in the U.S., according to Forrester Research. This will rise to US$279 billion by 2015. Globally it will hit US$1.4 trillion by 2015, according to Cisco Systems.

The amount of those billions your company reaps is directly linked to your Google page rank. Having your keywords ranked number one by Google is a de facto seal of approval. Depending on which study you look at, the number one ranked item on a Google search receives 34 to 42 per cent of the click-throughs, while the top three items combined receive 58 per cent of all traffic. By contrast, the eleventh item receives only one to three per cent of the clicks.

With more than three billion Google searches a day, the spoils for the victor in any keyword query are disproportionately large, underscoring the critical importance of search engine optimization (SEO).

Most Web designers, ad agencies and graphic designers tell their clients they also do SEO, but it’s a highly specialized skill. SEO is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, everyone brags about it, but most of those actually doing it are doing it badly.

Renovation disasters

The Jack Astor’s restaurant chain had its Web site redesigned by an agency almost entirely in Flash. The site looked beautiful but Google has great difficulty reading Flash, so the company’s Web traffic fell off a cliff. The only way you could actually find Jack Astor’s site was by directly typing the company’s name into a search engine. Terms such as “pub” or “restaurant” didn’t work very well.

To fix this, the company hired Burlington-based SEO firm Rank Higher, which worked diligently to return Jack Astor’s to Google prominence, and it’s an ongoing project. The first 10 weeks of the campaign generated 1.1 million unique visits and views between Google Places and actual searches, a 1,000 per cent increase over the 10 weeks prior.

The trust you receive from Google is a function of the age of the page, the links that point to it (which are seen as a vote of trust) and the focus of the information on the page. Rank Higher CEO Scott Wilson points out a classic problem: your company Web site has been around for 15 years and has hundreds of inbound links pointing to pages throughout the site from customers, suppliers and bloggers. Along comes a graphic or Web designer who tells you that instead of HTML your site should be updated in a newer language, like ASP.NET. You agree, your site is re-coded and you’ve just wiped out 15 years of Google equity.

Even changing one character in a URL effectively creates a new page, one with no age and no links, and therefore no Google trust. There are solutions, but unless you’re working with a knowledgeable SEO firm, you’ve just lost years of equity, which you can never win back.

One major financial institution invested heavily in a marketing campaign promoting “discount brokerage.” Wilson was called in—after the campaign launched—to make SEO recommendations. At the time, there were 14,000 searches per month on the term “discount brokerage” but more than 500,000 searches were conducted each month for “online trading” and “online trades.” So the campaign focused on a keyword that resonated with bankers and brokers but not the public. This highlights the importance of integrating SEO strategy at the planning stage of your marketing campaign, rather than as an afterthought. Not doing so could forfeit your fair share of the billions consumers will spend online this year.

HANDLE SEO WITH CARE

Ivor Tossell
Globe and Mail

This is the first of a four-part series on how to make the most of, and what to be wary about, search engine optimization.

No matter how good your business’s website is, it’s not much good if users can’t find it.

This is the simple premise behind three of the most freighted letters in the online world: SEO.

They stand for search engine optimization – the art of coaxing automated search engines like Google to place a website prominently within the results of a web search.

It’s a practice that is by turns essential and shady, full of both trustworthy consultants and outright scammers.

“It’s the Wild West out there,” says Scott Wilson, president of RankHigher.ca, a consultancy that specializes in SEO. “It’s an unaccredited industry.”

And SEO really is a whole industry – entirely devoted to making websites more prominent on Google and its competitors. Users have become so accustomed to finding what they’re looking for quickly that if your website only comes up on the second or third page of a Google search, more often than not, it might as well not come up at all.

In the best of all possible worlds, your website would appear at the top of the list. This can be a stretch – but showing up near the top for the right query shouldn’t be that hard, either.

But does SEO need to be an industry at all?

It isn’t a terribly technical practice. Anyone can do it. There doesn’t need to be much, if any, programming involved.

Instead, it’s achieved by manipulating the content of pages – their titles, the links they contain, and their words and pictures. The basics of SEO are accessible to anyone.

Nor is SEO a precise science. The inscrutable and oftentimes fickle nature of search engines means that a degree of finger-crossing is involved. Results can never be guaranteed.

The fact that SEO is non-technical and imprecise – yet hugely important – has opened the door for all manner of inflated promises and fly-by-night operations, which use ineffective or unethical tactics to boost (or not) customers’ websites.

Yet reputable and valuable SEO providers are out there. The trick is knowing when to use one, how to find one – and how to avoid the dodgy ones. When is it time to hire help?

EDUCATE YOURSELF
As always, the first step is self-education – and this is doubly true if you’re considering hiring an SEO consultant. Being up-to-speed on current best practices is the best way to tell a good practitioner from a bad one.

The good news is that up-to-date information can be had from the source. Since SEO is the art of manipulating search engines, the search-engine companies are the best starting point for information.

Google maintains a comprehensive SEO starter guide and tips on hiring an SEO.

The basics of SEO are easy to master (we’ll step through them in detail later in this series), and this documentation is a good place to get your footing. Google not only points toward best practices, but highlights tactics to avoid – from unnecessary keywords to long titles.

These are especially worth paying attention to: Not only can they harm your site’s rankings if you try them, but they can help single out good SEO consultants from rotten ones.

There is also an entire blogosphere’s worth of SEO advice there for the Googling. Much of it is good – but take it with a grain of salt, and make sure that the page you’re reading is recent, since SEO information goes stale fast.

THOSE TRICKS YOU LEARNED IN 2008 MIGHT NOT WORK ANY MORE
One of the peculiar challenges of SEO is that, as a discipline, it’s constantly evolving. While Google has clear guidelines on how SEO should and shouldn’t work, it keeps the precise workings of its search engine shrouded in secrecy.

With billions of people trying to use its search engine to their advantage, Google is constantly updating the algorithm that it uses to rank web pages, looking for new ways to search out useful Web pages while weeding out junky ones and thwarting spammers.

Every time the algorithm changes, the factors that make Web pages rise and fall change somewhat, and the SEO industry scrambles to adapt.

For small businesses, this means a couple of things.

First, received wisdom about SEO is next to useless. Ideas that were in vogue a few years ago (like stuffing your page with useless or invisible keywords, or writing swaths of duplicate text) don’t work any more. Best to go back to the source to refresh on what’s effective in 2011.

But the same caveat about do-it-yourselfers also applies to SEO contractors. The field is unaccredited, and it’s a difficult subject to teach in schools, since the subject is in such flux.

“By the time a curriculum is written, it’s irrelevant,” Mr. Wilson says. “You can’t get a degree in it – let’s put it that way.”

Therefore, SEO is best practised by those who practice it – a lot.

HIRE WITH CARE
“SEO is one of those things where you should start to ask very tough questions,” says Ian Capstick, a principal at MediaStyle, an Ottawa communications consultancy. “There are some very good people, and then there are a lot of people who are going to outsource it on your behalf without telling you.”

There are plenty of unethical SEO practices out there. Since search engines determine the relevance of a Web page in part by the number of other pages that link to it, one time-worn tactic has been to create vast networks of phony websites that link to one another. It’s called “link-farming.” Fly-by-night operators can set these up in a hurry, operating overseas, but it’s only a matter of time before Google tears them down.

“Slowly, but surely. Google’s going to sort out that these are totally not valuable links,” Mr. Capstick says.

In general terms, keep a wary eye on any SEO provider that promises results on a given keyword, offers quick fixes or hard-and-fast results, and doesn’t come with references.

Most importantly, read up on SEO basics, and avoid anyone whose techniques seem to be at odds with what search engines like Google recommend themselves.

After all, it’s Google’s game; we’re just playing it.

Good SEO providers will take the official approach and expand on it, showing website owners the tricks to making good on these principles. And that’s just what we’ll explore in this series, in the weeks to come.

Special to The Globe and Mail

GET HIGH ON GOOGLE – SPEEDY AUTO SERVICE

December 6th, 2010
By: Jim McElgunn, PROFIT

GET HIGH ON GOOGLE

Dave Lush learned a startling thing this summer: one way to boost your business is to attract online searchers seeking a service you don’t even offer.

Lush, the Toronto-based president and CEO of Speedy Auto Service’s parent company, discovered this after hiring RankHigher.ca to boost the miserable Google rankings for Speedy’s website. RankHigher.ca, a Burlington, Ont.-based search engine optimization (SEO) firm, began by researching which keywords potential Speedy customers use in online searches. When Scott Wilson, the SEO company’s president, suggested which search terms Speedy should target to win on Google, Lush was taken aback that the list included “muffler repair”— even though Speedy replaces rather than repairs mufflers. But then Lush saw the potential to turn people searching for “muffler repair” into customers.

His realization reflects a common­sensical truth: prospects will find your website only if it uses the same terminology they do. (See “Use the customer’s lingo…” at right.) But when RankHigher.ca recommends SEO tactics such as this one, they’re grounded in more than just common sense, which can be wrong. They’re based on the controlled experiments Wilson’s firm has run over the past three years testing hundreds of propositions about what will land a site a top Google ranking for a given search term. And they’re also based on steadily deepening experience of what works from RankHigher.ca’s almost 50 regular SEO clients.

Wilson’s firm used a long list of SEO tactics to boost Speedy’s ranking for 11 search terms, including the most important two — “auto shop” and “auto repair shop” — as well as “muffler repair.” The tactics he’ll disclose included building more links with sites run by “friendlies,” such as suppliers and distributors Speedy does business with; adding relevant content to a home page that used to feature just “English” and “Français” buttons; and improving the linking structure among pages on the site.

“We went from nowhere to No. 1 as a result”, says Lush. Speedy’s site scored a hat trick in many markets, ranking first or second for the most vital keywords in organic searches, Google Places and Google Adwords. “We were ecstatic,” says Lush. “Our base of new customers has increased this year, and [the SEO project] has been a big part of it.”

Twice previously in PROFIT, Wilson has shared SEO tactics his firm has proven to be effective. Here, he shares seven more.

Use the customer’s lingo, not yours: Wilson says it’s highly likely your prospects use at least some search terms you don’t use internally. He points to a discount brokerage’s site that ranked poorly on Google; it was built around the keywords “discount brokerage.” A free service from Google AdWords revealed that just 18,000 people per month search for this term, versus 550,000 for “online trading,” a phrase absent from the brokerage’s site. To discover the terms your potential clients use, brainstorm possibilities in-house and phone clients to ask how they’d search for what you sell. Then, click on “Get keyword ideas” at Google.com/Adwords and enter a term or phrase. You’ll see dozens of variations, with the latest monthly search totals for each one.

Once you’ve identified commonly employed keywords, pick the most widely used ones relevant to what you sell. “Look for ones with commercial intent,” advises Wilson. “If someone searches for ‘asbestos,’ who knows what they’re after? But if they search for ‘asbestos removal,’ there’s commercial intent behind that.” Start with the lowest-hanging fruit, creating a landing page with rich content about the most popular keyword; then, the second-most popular; and so on.

Don’t throw away Google’s trust: The search engine ranks pages more highly if it trusts them to deliver content relevant to users’ searches. It trusts a given page more as the page ages, provided it has links with other sites that Google’s sophisticated algorithms suggest have relevant related content. Yet companies routinely flush away this trust when altering a page’s URL. “Even if you just change the suffix from “.html” to “.php,” that becomes a new page, which has no age, no links and no trust,” says Wilson. “It’s so sad, because being trusted by Google is the first secret of search. And once a page has lost its trust, it has to start over.” It’s easy to avoid this by having your web designer set up a “301 redirect” for each renamed page.

Load up on “below the fold” content: Google generally trusts home pages more than others, says Wilson, partly because these tend to have the most links. That poses what seems to be a dilemma: how do you maximize your home-page advantage by featuring buckets of relevant content without alienating visitors by overloading your site’s front door? The trick is to run only the first few lines of each article on your home page, with a “Read More” button and the rest of the article on another page, like in a newspaper. Google indexes the entire text as if it were on the home page. Wilson says CRM software-maker Salesforce.com has mastered this tactic with a home page that’s clean and appealing yet offers a wealth of content about customer relationship management.

Put yourself on the map: Customers for a wide array of goods and services prefer to buy from a company with a nearby location, says Wilson, who cites Google’s estimate that 20% of all searches include a location. For any category in which Google figures searchers are likely to care about where a seller is, it first uses the searcher’s URL to determine her location. Then, it displays a Google Places map on the top right of the first page of search results showing the closest businesses matching her keywords — even if she omits a location. This is huge free exposure. Yet more than 90% of the 50 million businesses Google has identified worldwide haven’t claimed their listing at Google.ca/places. “If you don’t do that now, you’re crazy,” says Wilson.

Exploit the power of Places: Few firms understand what works on Google Places, says Wilson. He suggests three proven tactics. First, buy a small Yellow Pages display ad, because Google bought the Yellow Pages listings as the basis for Places and trusts them to confirm that you run a real business. But you’ll rank well only if you format your firm’s contact information identically in Places and the Yellow Pages. Second, try to use all five categories available for listing your offerings. Wilson has a client in Burlington who, he says, topped that city’s Places rankings in part by listing “teeth whitening” and “cosmetic dentistry,” whereas other Burlington dentists listed only “dentist.” Third, ask six to 12 non-competing nearby businesses to add a page to their sites recommending your firm, in return for reciprocating. Google sees such “local citations” as confirmation that a company has a good local reputation.

Fire with both barrels: Until October, Google had separate algorithms for Places and organic searches, so your ranking on one had no bearing on the other. But — in what Wilson says is the most important change ever for Places — Google now combines the ranking points from both so each type of search affects the other. He cites his dental client, who had been No. 1 in Places but only in the middle of the first page for organic searches. When Google changed its algorithms, she shot into first place in organic rankings, overtaking other local dentists who weren’t visible on Places. “For any company where geography matters,” says Wilson, “it’s now essential to optimize your ranking on both.”