Search Engine Optimization Tips

In the Winter of 2018, I was invited to teach Search Engine Marketing (SEO and Google Advertising) at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. Since 2015 I have taught Social Media Marketing so teaching wasn’t new but helping students with questions I generally don’t think twice about was a fun challenge. This post contains a list of the best SEO questions people have asked me over the past few years; and my answers of course. Here is my list of Search Engine Optimization Tips and citations when I consulted other sources from the Internet.

Feel free to post any and all SEO questions here or email me and I’ll post your question and the answer. You can ask about ranking factors (content, backlinks, domain names, website speed, title and description tages, Google webmaster, Google Analytics, htaccess, 301 redirect, images size in kb size in pixels, page names, H1,H2,H3 tags, duplicate content, citations, Yoast WordPress Plugin, doing a website audit, and anything else you want to know about SEO including my opinion on a website or an SEO related article you found online. 

(1) In analyzing keyword search results and rankings, if google returns a hit for your site in the “places” section (with the pins on the google map) but not in the main search results, do you still count it?

Great question! The answer: Maybe. A listing on the Google Map is incredibly valuable but there are a few things to be aware of. If Google knows your Geographic location (the place from which you are doing the search) then it will give nearby businesses a priority. For example, if I search Calgary Marketing Company from my home, then David Howse Marketing will come up as #1 on the map. If I search Calgary Marketing Company from somewhere in Calgary NW then David Howse Marketing  will not come up on the Google map at all. Experiment with a search from your home, at work, and while at MRU and see if there is a difference. I would count it if you were listed on the Google Map for an area where maybe 50-100K people lived and or worked in Calgary. For David Howse Marketing , I come up when searching in McKenzie Lake but I’ve never received a call from someone living here.

(2) I am auditing my own website and I’m embarrassed to say that I have done absolutely nothing in terms of SEO.  I have opened a Google Analytics account.  How do I set up a Google webmaster account?  Is this the best way to begin?  Also, I don’t understand how to interpret the data on the gt metrix.

I like to do a live demonstration for this question. Some important things to remember and will be discussed  (don’t worry about the technical code, I’ll explain it):

(a) Once you open the Google Analytics account you have to paste the GA code in to your website. You will paste something like this

<!– Google Analytics –>
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-XXXXX-Y’, ‘auto’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);
<!– End Google Analytics –>

or just this little bit to a Google Analytics plugin in WordPress: UA-XXXXX-Y

(b) Google Webmasters: the easiest way to set up Google Webmasters is to already have Google Analytics installed on your website. To connect Google Webmasters  to your website to have to verify that you own the website and since installing Google Analytics requires control of a website, Google will accept Google Analytics as verification. I will show this in class.

(c) Gtmetrix: provides more than enough data for anyone trying to speed up their website. I usually just do a before and after test and some additional tweaks. When your website is published, run your domain name through Gtmetrix to get a score. Then enable compression. Compression can be enabled through a WordPress Plugin such as W3Total Cache or editing the .htaccess file and adding the following code:


NOTE: *********Back up your website before attempting this*********  Make sure you have FTP access and CPanel access in case something undesirable happens. Also, make a backup of your current .HTACCESS file.

The important thing to note for GTMetrix is where or not Browser Cashing has been enabled and your overall score improves after enabling compression. It is possible that compression can deactivate CSS, depending on the server your site is hosted on.

(3) On WordPress, can you explain the difference between a post and a page?

Here’s an in-depth explanation:

Simply, Posts and Pages are the same but are used for different purposes. Pages are meant to be created as main content on a website while posts are meant to be used for blogging/a regularly scheduled content piece about something topical. They technically can be interchanged in WordPress but that would defeat the purpose of the classification of each.

The difference between Posts and Pages is that Posts appear in the site’s RSS Feed (website news feed), while Pages do not.  This is a key SEO distinction, especially if you syndicate your content (or your content is forcibly scraped).  The other main distinctions are that Pages can be hierarchical (it’s possible to make some pages look more important than others) and Posts can add tags (good for creating content themes/groups from several pages).  These are the main things to consider when deciding on your site architecture. (

(4) With your business, you offer a ton of services that touch on all aspects of Digital Marketing and more.  I have just touched on the Social Media side of things thus far.  My intention is to offer multiple services eventually. Thinking about SEO and proper name for said business I have chosen [business name removed].  Is it safe to keep [business name removed] and SEO the heck out of the website, and update when I am ready to add new services?  Also, Google Adwords requires you to set up a website and create an ad with payment info before you can get to the tools.  How to go about finding searches to gear my domain after?

(a) Yes [business name removed] is fine. My name, Matterhorn Solutions says nothing about seo or even marketing. The trick, though, is to have page names that do describe the topic very well.

(b) Creating a Google Adwords account without a credit card is quite easy – (after I spent an hour trying everything imaginable! Google can be quite archaic.) Look for the Skip The Guided Tour link and click it. If you didn’t do this and followed the normal instructions then you’ll have to set up a new Gmail account and try again.


(5) I haven’t done any research yet but, how to manage your clients Adwords/Analytics account? I currently use Business Manager for Facebook and manage multiple ad accounts.  Do Adwords and Analytics have the same sort of system of managing multiple accounts with different payment methods?

Yes. You can manage multiple accounts under one AdWords account. 


(6) Could you explain the difference between the WordPress you discuss in class the one I use in [name removed a site? I looked it up and unless I pay for the business plan, I can’t put in social media plugins.What free website or cheaper website company would you recommend for a new website? 

Not only do I recommend WordPress (the version you have to host yourself) but I generally refuse to work on anything else; WordPress is that good.

Here’s a great comparison between (free hosting and the one you use for [name removed]) and (register a domain, pay a hosting fee):

Here’s a comparison of several free hosting platforms: WP Beginner Best Blogging

Here’s a good conversation on website platforms and SEO: Moz seo


(7) In assignment number 1, there’s a question on “traffic techniques” and a second question on “outreach”. What’s the difference?

Please see questions 11  for examples. Or just visit:


(8) In google adwords, it seems like I could easily purchase an ad to promote a site that I don’t own or have any connection to. How do they protect against misuse?

There is nothing to stop this other than reporting malicious ads to Google or our legal system. Here is Google’s link to report abuse:


(9) In google adwords, I don’t see the same tools that you showed in class. I see a very limited interface, not the full keyword planner tool you demonstrated. Does it change if I actually buy an ad? Here’s a sample screenshot of what I see:

This seems to be the case – it looks like Google wants to your credit card number. You don’t have to but the ad though. If you set up a campaign with one ad, you can immediately pause the campaign and not be billed but still have access to the full Keyword Planner.


(10) I am a minister at a church, one thing we would like to do is become more “web” friendly and to let people know what we offer – especially three areas of outreach: Weddings, Moms and Tots, and Labyrinth. When I search [removed] or [removed] Church or [removed] Church we are within the first 5 or 6 sites listed.  However, search for church of calgary church, well we are nowhere. How do we get the ranking higher? Keep in mind that we are limited of what we can do on WordPress, it is provided through our national church.  So, we cannot add plugins at all. This is the challenge.

The second related question what can we do, with the limitations, to increase our SEO so that when people search for “weddings” they see our venue? Again when I search “church wedding” [removed] shows up on the first page; however, for “wedding venues” we are lost. The same goes for the Moms and Tots Program, as well the “labyrinth” The biggest challenge I think, is our limitation on what we are allowed to do on WordPress (i.e. we have no control over plugin). Would it work to include the keywords more often in the pages? How about having a few more pictures with description that includes the words “labyrinth” etc?

The issue you face is very common in large organizations. Your SEO will me limited to (a) backlinks (b) citations (c) page name ie. (d) Good H1 content title (e) 2-3 mentions of Calgary wedding venue such as the opening paragraph, “As a Calgary wedding venue, we ….” (f) Outreach – find links to your website. How do they look? Ask a few of these people/companies to make the link text “Calgary Wedding Venue” and point to the wedding venue page. (g) Outreach – think of people/companies who should have a link to your website and let them how about your services. (h) Images on your website with the alt tag “Calgary Wedding venue” or what ever the page topic is.

Ultimately, the solution is to ask for a minute to propose an idea at the next AGM or find out if there is some sort of Marketing Committee and educate your organization on SEO.


Here are several good ideas:

(11)  Can you explain how to tag images for SEO? David the instructor added, and some other tips.

  • Name the images with SEO in mind. For example, calgary-se-hair-salon.jpg
  • Use the alt tag.  For example <img src=”calgary-se-hair-salon.jpg” alt=”Calgary SE Hair Salon”>
  • Size: If using large images, provide a small one, with the option to click the image to see it larger.
  • Compress the images. Use Photoshop or Google, online image compressor. Smaller files in KB will speed up your website.Use jpg for photos and png for vector style to get the smallest size.
  • Use the title tag: if the image is a link to something use title=”calgary-se-hair-salon”

The final html code of an image may look like this:

href=”http:/coolestwebsite/calgary-se-hair-salon/ “><img alt=”Calgary SE Hair Salon” title=”Calgary SE Hair Salon” src=”/Calgary-SE-Hair-Salon.jpg” width=”25%” >


(12) When using keyword planner to search for tops for content, do you suggest going with topics that have high, med or low competition? Or a mixture?

This is a great question and a difficult one to answer. For faster results pick low competition keywords but know that these search terms will likely have lower search volume (for example 10 to 40 search a month instead of 500.) On average, a well executed SEO strategy can get an “easy” search term ranked in 3 to 6 months. On a high volume search term, it can take longer (time and effort) to get on page one but the payoff can be huge. I have a roofing client that took 12 months to get the low volume terms and 3 years to finally get the high volume/high competition terms. You, your employer, or your client needs to know that SEO is a long game and quick results are rare. The best strategy is a mix because some early wins let you know you are doing the right things and you need to start as soon as possible for the high competition terms.

I have a law firm client that took 5 months to get a high competition term and I am extremely happy with that and surprised that it happened so quickly.


(13) Could you please share the steps that you take when you are doing an SEO audit?

Step 1: SEO Marketing Analysis – what terms should this website rank for? Start with you gut/common sense and then test those search terms in Google Keyword Planner.

Step 2: With knowledge of the best search terms, do a Google search. Tip: set Google to display 100 results at a time. Where does the website rank for those searches. Don’t go past 100.

Step 3: Website Analysis – what elements of the website are trying to target those searches? (a) Title tag (b) website/page URL (3) H1 (4) Search phrase in the first paragraph of content (5) Search phrase found elsewhere in the content (6) Domain a .com or .ca (7) Total words on page less than 300 is not good. The more “good” content the better. (8) How long are those ULRs? For example: will likely outrank joeshvac/get-er-done-with-my-awesome-skills/ for the search calgary plumbing company. (9) Page load time in gmetrix (10) Is the website mobile friendly? (11) Does the website have SSL/HTTPS (12) Is the content original? Copy a couple random sentences and search them in Google – Google hates duplicate content. (13) Can you see signs of recently updated content? Google likes regularly updated websites. (14) Are there typos? (15) Are there “rel=”nofollow” links – a few of these can be good if they point to high authority websites. (16) Inbound links, does the site have any? Are they “do follow” Are they text links of the search term? (17) Spammy Website – are there a lot of inbound links with the exact same link text (this could be a black hat sign)? Does the content read well or s there an over use of certain phrases? (18) What is the MOZ rating of the site and page? Ask me in class to explain any of these in more detail.

Step 4: Do the same for the competition/top ranked websites.

(14) Can you explain the difference between Meta Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords.

Meta Title: Google uses this for ranking. The first bit of text over the URL in a Google search is the title tag. Max length is about 60 characters. People read it too so try to write for both Google and people.
Meta Description: Google may use this but it is a low ranking factor. It is primarily used to help people when they use a search engine. It is the text below the URL when doing a google search. Descriptions between 50–300 characters are best.
Meta Keywords: This is no longer used. Do not use.

(15) If you wanted to share a quote in your content, how do you do so without hurting SEO?

Small amounts of duplicate content will not hurt your SEO. For example, if your page has 500 words of content and you include a 20 word quote from another website then what’s okay. For a best practice, include the source of your quote.

Here’s an example:

Your content here.

According to David Howse, ” Many Calgary business owners have only recently begun to realize the power of SEO. Having your business rank on the top of Google search listings can increase your revenue anywhere from 25% to 1000%, depending on where you currently rank. We have a very successful track record of improving the Google search rankings for Calgary businesses.” (Source:

Your content here.