Understanding SEO Basics

SEO is an acronym for the term Search Engine Optimization. It includes the process of using refined and optimized words (or keywords) on your website. When done correctly you can increase the chance of your website showing up in search engine results for terms that potential customers search for.

SEO is usually aligned with Google’s search methods first. Based on site visits, they have over 60% of the search engine share in Canada1, which means most of your potential site visitors are using Google to search. The next most popular search engine, Bing, has around one third of that share.

SEO Terms

Page Title and Description: The page title and meta description are both important to SEO. The page title is displayed as the title of the link to your site in search results. The meta description will also display as part of search results. It describes what the visitor will find if they click on the link provided by the search engine.

Image Alt Tags: When a search engine searches a site to find content it comes across images that it can’t read. Luckily there’s a way to provide an alternate text description of an image for search engines. This is often referred to as using an alt tag or attribute.

H1 (short for Headline 1): Each page of a site has a main headline, referred to as an H1. The H1 title contains terms that show up in seach results.

SEO Examples

We’re going to use the website as our example to break down how each of these components affects a site’s search ranking. The Keybrand website has a Content Management System (CMS), so we’ll be taking a look at both what a visitor sees when visiting the site, as well as what was entered through the CMS. However, all of this information can be entered into your site in a variety of ways. They can be hard-coded by your website developer or entered though your own content management system to help your search engine ranking. To find out more about CMS websites, pop over to our article Hands Tied Updating Your Website? Consider a Content Management System.

For Keybrand’s site, we want it to show up when customers search for words that are relevant to the content of the site. Keybrand, deli salad and manufacturer are the key terms we identified as most important. Quite a bit of research and analysis went into choosing these as the most appropriate key terms. This included brainstorming keywords, reviewing search volumes, and ensuring the site’s content included keywords based on our target customers. There are quite a few elements of a web page that are impacted by the keywords we choose to use. What follows are a few main areas.

Page Title and Description

The page title (referred to as SEO title below) and meta description (referred to as SEO description below) are important to SEO. The page title is displayed in search results and should include your keywords. The use of keywords in the title impacts the ranking of each page.

While the meta description is not used for ranking in search engines, it will also display as part of search results. It should accurately and appealingly describe what the visitor will find on your site.

Below is a screenshot from the backend CMS of Keybrand’s site. What we enter here will also appear on Google. You can see that what we entered as our SEO title shows up as the title in the Google search results below. Also, what we entered as our SEO description shows up as a description under the title.

Seo Backend

Example of SEO information (circled in blue) entered in the back-end of a CMS website.

Seo Search

Example of search results displaying that same information.

Other components of your site can affect your ranking in search results, even though they might not be as visible as the page title and meta description.

Image Alt Tags

On our Keybrand site, we have used Keybrand Foods Inc. Deli Classics Specialty Salads as the alt tag for the Deli Classic Specialty Salad image and Keybrand Foods Inc. Deli Classics Salads as the alt tag for the Deli Classic Salad image. Both tags describe the image they are attached to, and include our keywords (Keybrand and deli salad). Despite the fact that visitors to your site won’t usually see this content, it is a useful way to improve your search engine results. Search engines like Google can relate the words used in your alt tags to keywords customers use in their search.

Seo Images

Left is a page with images loaded. Right is the same page with just the alt tags (circled in blue).

H1 (short for Headline 1)

The main headline of our site is also referred to as an H1. This headline helps repeat and reinforce keywords. The H1 title on this page is “With one taste, you’ll know why deli salads are Keybrand’s specialty.” This repeats the key terms Keybrand and deli salads to connect the Keybrand webpage with search engine results for those terms.

There are many more details and strategies for SEO, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The goal of SEO is not to ‘trick the system’ but to help people searching for relevant terms find your site. Understanding SEO correctly can help boost your website visibility and traffic. However, SEO alone is not the answer. For the best results, it must be paired with quality content.

If you’re interested in more in-depth information on SEO, take a look at our article Beware of SEO Link Building.

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