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Search Optimization Trends Impacting Small Businesses in Canada

By Julie King |

The rules of search optimization are transforming, particularly when it comes to being found in a Google search. Things that once worked well are no longer as effective.

Trends in search and how to optimize in this shifting environment will be a key topic of conversation at the upcoming SES Toronto conference, which is taking place from June 12-14, 2013.

Krista LaRiviere is an SEO expert who will be on the Winning SEO Strategies panel at SES Toronto. LaRiviere is the co-founder and CEO of the gShift Labs, a company that provides SEO software to SEO agencies and marketers. CanadaOne recently caught up with her to learn more about key trends small businesses need to be aware of.

The importance of in-bound links

A few years ago, the number of inbound links were a critical component of SEO. LaRiviere explains that links are still important, but in a different context.

She explains that today quality is important and backlinks help to prove relevance and authority. She recommends using a "RAID" test to evaluate every backlink that you build. (Raid stands for relevance, authority, influence and diversity and is explained further in this blog post.)

Essentially, the idea is that a good quality backlink is from a source that is Relevant to the content subject matter, was written by someone with Authority and Influence and that Diversifies and adds value to the company's digital footprint.

If a backlink passes the RAID test, then the link has a positive impact on SEO. However, links that do not pass all aspects of the RAID test will have no impact or even a negative impact.

User metrics matter

When asked what user metrics matter most, LaRiviere noted that in her opinion, all of them are important.

"Even if they are not factored into Google's organic search algorithm, they are still important proving relevance socially," noted LaRiviere.

Focus on content before search

When it comes to SEO, LaRiviere recommends putting your audience ahead of your search optimization practices.

"Think beyond the Google search box. Concentrate on producing content that your target audience finds valuable, distribute it to your social channels and the rest will follow."

Once you have done that, it's time to create a content schedule.

"Start small, stay on track then build from there," advises LaRiviere. "But don't even start until you understand your highly converting, unbranded keywords that are driving organic search traffic and conversions. Once you know these then build them into your content strategy."

LaRiviere notes that once you have created your content schedule, it is important to stick to it.

Local or Global? Focus your approach

It is important for smaller businesses is to recognize that there is a difference between Google's Local and Global index, something that is particularly important for Canadian companies. (Terry Van Horne wrote an article on leveraging local search for us last summer.)

LaRiviere recommends that small companies doing business in a local market find a search agency that specializes in local search strategies and to understand their business vertical.

She has similar advice for brands that want to break into international markets: Hire a search agency that has a proven track record for getting results in the country where you need to be found.

"Searchers in different countries may use different combinations of words to describe what it is they are looking for at the Google search box," notes LaRiviere. "Don't assume that a highly performing keyword in will also be highly performing in"

"You need to analyze the differences before getting started with a content strategy in a different country."

Changes ahead

The one significant change LaRiviere expects to see in the coming year is a shift in the things SEO agencies prioritize when talking to clients.

"SEO Agencies will stop reporting on rank/position data," says LaRiviere. "They will begin to understand (some already are) that it is about visits and conversion by keyword that matters more that the rank by week or month."

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