Ask an Expert Series Part 3: Ask an SEO Specialist

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve certainly heard a lot of buzzing around about this particular buzz word. I guess it’s actually buzz-acronym, in the case of “SEO.” I’ve been looking forward to posting this interview with our very own, Ballyhoo Design in-house SEO Specialist, Joel Blain, for a long time now. Not only is Joel an SEO guru, he’s also a really excellent guy and someone who knows how to explain things without the jargon. If you’ve ever been confused about SEO, this interview will clear it all up.

I’m by no means an SEO newbie, but I really wanted to break things down in this interview so that it makes sense for people of all experience levels.

First things first: I started out by asking Joel what exactly is SEO? And why is it so important?

“SEO is, by definition, Search Engine Optimization. This is how people find and search for your website on the internet. And what’s the point in having a website if no one can find it?

Each search engine (google, bing, yahoo, etc) uses a different algorithm to provide the searcher with relevant information according to the search terms (keywords) they inputted into the search engine.” 

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Right. So, optimizing your SEO makes sure that you’re found online.

“Yeah. In its most basic way there are 2 forms of SEO, on-page and off-page.

On-page SEO is the method of writing the copy on your website with the searcher in mind. For example, let’s think about veterinarians. If you were looking for an emergency veterinarian in Toronto, you’d probably put the words “emergency vet toronto” in to your search bar. The vet’s marketers would definitely want to include those keywords somewhere in the copy of their website to make sure they come up in the search.”

That makes perfect sense. What about off-page?

“Off-page works a bit differently. Off-page SEO is about having other websites linking to your pages. This has changed a lot and some of the practices that were successful in the past can have a negative impact on your website.

For example, with one of our vet clients, CTVRC – Central Toronto Veterinarian Referral Clinic, if we were to have too many links pointing that your site with the anchor text “emergency vet toronto,” Google may think we are over-optimizing for that keyword and they might penalize us.”

I imagine that’s because of those spammy sites we’ve all seen. Could you break down what happens with anchor text?

“Anchor Text is the visible, clickable text on your website in a hyperlink. In modern browsers, it is often a different colour than the body text and underlined, such as this link to the Central Toronto Veterinary Referral Clinic.”

Got it. So what’s the best way to handle off-page SEO?

“When doing off-page SEO it’s important to ensure that the links coming to your website are from relevant websites or relevant content. In addition to not optimizing for just one keyword over and over again, it’s best to use a variety of anchor text. This shows a more organic growth of external links and will hopefully benefit your site, and the readers who are reaching your site by clicking on these links.”

That’s an important point for all of us website builders to keep in mind. SEO is important for readers and customers, it’s not just about us.

“Absolutely. SEO is definitely important for the searcher. It helps the searcher find relevant content on the internet. The main point of SEO from a whitehat perspective is to provide the searcher with the most relevant content in regards to their search query.

For example: A user wishes to find a page about “travelling in costa rica” they click the first result in google and the page says “travelling in costa rica where you can get cheap shoes”. Now this page was using that keyword (search term) in order to get people to their page so that they can sell them some shoes. Annoying! The user then leaves the page and looks somewhere else. There’s a name for that kind of annoying optimization. It’s called “black hat SEO” which means that it’s not providing the user with the most relevant content. The content on your website needs to reflect what you think your audience is actually looking for. Not trying to trick them into buying something they don’t want.

This is the biggest challenge of SEO and its easy to lose sight of your long term goals when you are looking for short term gains.”

Joel, it’s been so great to see you in action on the CTVRC SEO campaign. We set out to improve search rankings for this client and we’ve done a pretty great job, I’d say. I thought it would be helpful to share some of our SEO strategy here.

“Absolutely! Since we kicked off that SEO campaign in March 2014, we’ve achieved first page ranking for CTVRC in the top 2nd and 3rd positions for our desired keywords. We plan to keep the SEO ranking at the top with our continued monthly efforts. It’s been a great campaign. It’s definitely an ongoing effort and it makes a great case study in SEO success.”

What do you think everyone should know about how SEO works, yet they don’t seem to understand?

“I can’t emphasize enough that the job is more than just initial set-up. It’s about ongoing maintenance and tweaking for results. Many people–and this even includes some web developers –don’t pay nearly enough attention to SEO. Not enough people truly understand what it’s about. The general view is that you put a bunch of keywords on your website and hope people will find you on google when they search for these terms. While at one point that was somewhat true, in the current state of SEO that’s just simply not good enough to get found on google.”

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It’s definitely not a quick fix, but a solid marketing campaign seldom is. People really need to change their frame of mind.

“Yes! As much as keywords matter, they will do you no good if your content isn’t good.

Having interesting and engaging content is the most beneficial addition you can make to your website. To really do it right, it requires constant updating to your blog, news feeds, tips, etc.

Also interacting with other individuals in your field on other forums, blogs, groups, etc. can be very helpful.

Many websites suffer because they have the “build it and they will come” mentality. You may have a good or even great idea for a website but if your content is old, it’s lacking. You might have a customer swing by once and be reasonably content, but when that customer visits a second time and the content hasn’t been updated, you probably won’t be seeing them again.”

And that, my friends, is what you need to know about SEO from Mr. Joel Blain.

Joel Blain is the in-house SEO specialist at Ballyhoo Design. He has been internet savvy since BBS in the 90’s. He is always looking for new innovative ways to get companies’ messages across. Placing a focus on organic marketing strategies for business to grow their brands. Mr. Blain is always transparent with his clients. Educating clients one website at a time.


If you’re looking for a website or digital marketing strategies including SEO, contact reesa@ballyhoodesign.co, or visit the Ballyhoo Design website (www.ballyhoodesign.co) to check out past projects.

About the Author

Reesa is an art school taught / self taught / eyeballs taught designer based in Toronto, Canada, and is the Owner and Principal of Ballyhoo Design. If you like this post, then you may also enjoy more marketing tips and trends via the Ballyhoo newsletter.

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