On Tuesday, October 23, the Magazine Association of BC held its third networking event, Mags BC Remix: Issue 3, at the VSO School of Music. The Mags BC Remix events bring publishing, writing and media professionals together to share their expertise and passion in this fast-evolving industry. Organized by Sylvia Skene, Executive Director of the Magazine Association of BC, and co-hosted by the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), the topic of the night was SEO basics.
What is SEO, and what does it mean for your website?
To demystify the acronym, PWAC BC Regional Director Heidi Turner moderated a panel of SEO experts in marketing and publishing: Martin Wong, Chief Marketing Officer, Smartt (www.marketingsmartt.com), Kristen Hilderman, Assistant Editor at BC Home & Garden magazine and BCBusiness magazine, and Lisa Manfield, Editor of BCLiving.ca, Canada Wide Media's first online-only magazine.
Wong started the evening by defining SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, an all-encompassing term for the techniques used to make sure your website ranks high in search engines such as Google. Wong mentioned that it’s important to make sure the content matches what people search for. When people are searching for something that is related to an article you publish or a product you sell, but the information is buried in your website because the content is not optimized, chances are your article or product won’t be found.
The panelists made a case for optimizing web content. For example, Manfield said that approximately 60-70% of the visits to the BCLiving.ca website usually come from search traffic. Similarly, roughly 50% of traffic to BCBusiness online arrives from Google searches, according to Hilderman.
How should publishers, editors and writers use SEO?
It goes without saying that content should be useful, interesting and well-written. For writers, editors and publishers whose talent and skill revolve around word craft, writing well is the easy part. But throw SEO into the mix and suddenly the craft changes. The witty headline and enticing narrative you originally had in mind has to be balanced with SEO keywords and key phrases throughout your content.
An overview of SEO techniques mentioned included: doing keyword research, making sure your keywords are placed strategically (i.e., in the URL, title, lead, and subheads as appropriate, as well as in the backend tags and meta tags), making sure you don’t bury your lead and that keywords appear in the lead, creating a keyword optimized deck for print articles being adapted to your website, and making sure you create sharable content for social media.
Wong gave an overview of the Google tools that can be used to optimize web content. He suggested using: Google analytics once a month to see how people arrived at your site; Webmaster Tools to help you plan content; Google Insights to track what’s trending in your field or geographically to help you make use of trending keywords related to your content; and Google Blog Search to see what others are saying about your topic.
“Who is responsible for keyword planning?” Turner asked the panelists.
“Currently that responsibility lies with the editor of the publication,” replied Manfield, adding that it could soon become the responsibility of the writer in the near future.
Don’t let cute animals take you down!
Before the session was over, the panel of experts warned against using questionable SEO methods to boost your website rankings. For example, “black hat” SEO tactics that webmasters used to use to boost the search rankings of a website included: keyword stuffing (repeat mention of a keyword for the sake of attracting a higher search ranking), duplicate content (copying content found on other websites), and buying inbound links (links from other websites pointing back to your own site). Wong said that Google developed algorithms, which they named Google Penguin and Google Panda, to penalize websites that did not create original content or have legitimate inbound links.
By the end of the night it was clear that the dense topic of SEO, and the tips and tricks associated with ranking high on Google and being found on the web, would require more than one hour to fully understand.
But hey, the people were friendly and networking was fun!
Photo Credit: apium, Flickr