MARSWorks Answers Part One: What is SEO?

The team here at MARSWorks has been busy over the summer creating responsive websites and applications for clients across North America! Our Digital Marketing services have continued to grow as well, offering services such as SEO & PPC marketing.

We’ve encountered a lot of questions from clients as we take on new tasks and challenges so we decided that we should start answering some of them on our blog. This is part one of MARSWorks Answers where Sean, Anthony, and Jordan provide answers to some common SEO questions.

To start… What is SEO?

(1)    What is SEO?

SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. Google uses algorithms that guide the GoogleBots in crawling (scanning) the near entirety of the internet in efforts to present its searchers with the most relevant and useful results.  One important issue to consider is that Google and your prospective clients and prospects may not agree on relevance. That is where SEO comes in – on-site and off-site optimization ensures that the GoogleBots can read your website and understand its relevance in relation to keywords and keyphrases you’ve chosen as important to your overall business strategy. Almost everyone uses a search engine at some point in the pathway to a purchase. Having your website on the first page of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is essential in reaching your target audiences.

-Jordan Yates, SEO/SEM Specialist

(2)    What’s the difference between organic vs paid results?

Organic traffic is essentially the opposite of paid traffic, it’s free! Users who are defined as organic have found your website via a search on a search engine such as Google. This is a natural flow of inbound traffic, which is the best kind of traffic because the user has specifically come searching for the service your website offers and clicked to visit your website. Paid traffic are users that arrive at your website by clicking on an ad you have paid for. These ads could be from Google’s Search or Display Network, Youtube, banners, etc. The benefit this gives you is that you have targeted a specific audience and often times given them an offer to entice them into a conversion. This can often fill the gap in your marketing campaign where users are not found organically. Most clients we deal with use a combination of paid and organic search campaigns in a well optimized online marketing campaign to achieve maximum results.

-Sean O’Neill, Co-Founder

(3)    What are meta descriptions and do they still matter?

A meta description is a piece of tag in HTML, and should be no longer than 160 characters. It’s not actually shown anywhere on the web page itself. Instead, this is used to describe what the webpage is about to the search engine crawlers and also for users who are using the search engine. The description appears in your website’s snippet when you show up on the SERP after a query. It is argued that in terms of ranking higher on the SERP with newer algorithms, meta descriptions play a very small role. However, this is still an important part of on-page SEO effort. This is your opportunity to display why a user should click on your website link and not another. If you increase your click-through-rate by creating a stellar meta description, then you are winning – and the algorithms will notice this overtime.

-Anthony Whalen, Creative Director

(4)    What’s the difference between internal and inbound links?

This is a great question as both serve different purposes when it comes to SEO.

Internal links are any type of hyperlink, whether it’s pointing to another page or an image, that is part of the same website. As opposed to an outbound link that would take a user to another site. These are important when establishing a good site hierarchy and allow GoogleBots to flow through your site. You should have internal links pointing to your most important pages to ensure they are deemed the most relevant and will rank on Google.

Inbound links, on the other hand, would be an outbound link on another webpage. These are links that bring users and search engines to your website and are also more commonly referred to as backlinks. This is still one of the most important ranking factors for search engines as it acts as a way of showing the legitimacy of your website. If you have numerous inbound links from credible webpages this will increase your PageRank. Google has developed algorithms that ensure backlinks remain legitimate by penalizing spammy link building strategies.

Both are very important when it comes to a well thought out SEO strategy, but as you can see, they serve a different – although similar – purpose.

-Jordan Yates, SEO/SEM Specialist

(5)   How can I see what pages are indexed?

You should have your website’s sitemap submitted to Google Search Console. From here, you can see how many pages have been submitted and how many have actually been indexed. The one downfall here is that you cannot see which pages specifically are indexed or not. This can be remedied in most cases by performing a site search on Google. If you query “”, it will provide you with all pages indexed on Google. If you have hundreds of pages on your website, then determining which pages have not been indexed will certainly be more tedious work.

-Sean O’Neill, Co-Founder

(6)    How many internal links do I need on each page of content?

As discussed prior, internal links are important when establishing a good site hierarchy. These create a good user experience and allow Google to flow through your website, determining which pages are the most important and relevant.

The idea here is that as long as the internal links are useful, have them in the page. What you want to do is nofollow links that point to pages where the bots cannot do anything, such as login and admin pages. There used to be a rule presented by Google that there should be no more than 100 links on a page, however, they have removed that rule from their guidelines.

-Jordan Yates, SEO/SEM Specialist

(7)    Do I need to know code to do SEO myself?

This is one of those questions that has a “however” attached to the answer. Simply put, no, you do not need to be proficient in coding or web development to do SEO yourself. If you are just looking to do some simple optimization for your website you can probably get by. However, knowing code is a very useful skill and will help you in numerous ways. If you want to take on SEO as a profession, you should have an understanding of HTML and in some cases JavaScript. Knowing the basics behind how a website works help you understand how search engines interact with the website and why certain SEO tactics work the way they do. Knowing code will only help you be a more well rounded professional existing within the online and technology industry. There are many more important skills that someone taking on SEO should have, such as analytical skills, however, having some technological background and knowing at least some basic code will help you understand what you are doing.

-Anthony Whalen, Creative Director

(8)What is robots.txt?

This is also called the robots exclusion protocol. This is a text file that is created by webmasters to direct search engine robots how to crawl and index pages throughout their website. This is an important tool used to block certain crawlers from certain folders or pages.

-Sean O’Neill, Co-Founder

(9)What is the sitemap.xml file?

Simply put, this is a listing of all the pages in your website. An XML sitemap is created for search engine bots to ensure crawling and indexing is done faster.

These can be created automatically via plugins if you’re using programs such as WordPress to build your website. Yoast, a commonly used SEO tool, allows you to select a few options and your sitemap is created.

Your next action is to submit this to the search engine. Google Search Console allows you to easily submit your sitemaps for your URL and collect various metrics on the indexation and crawling of your site. This allows you to fix any errors and ensure your site is optimized for search results. If you’re wondering why your site isn’t showing up in Google, check out our recent blog post where we describe a few different reasons for this. Often times, you may have forgotten to submit your sitemap!

-Jordan Yates, SEO/SEM Specialist

(10)Why do you need alt text on your images?

Alt text, or alternative text, is an element in HTML attributed to image files. The best common practice is to use this to describe the photo and its purpose. This is important because search engine crawlers do not view images, they read the alt text to understand the images on your site, thus determining relevance to a user’s search query.

Another important reason to include alt text is its utility in assisting users that are visually impaired. If someone is using a computer software that reads the screen, the alt text is what will be used to describe the image.

Be descriptive and remember to detail the purpose of the image. The goal here is to create relevance.

-Anthony Whalen, Creative Director

Ask us today if you need help creating and implementing an online marketing strategy to help your business or startup!