Relevancy: The Core of SEO

Relevancy is at the core of SEO. It has been at the center of SEO for a long time and will continue to evolve as search engines become smarter. In the early days of SEO, all a person had to do to rank a website was repeat the target keyword or phrase an excessive amount of times within a page. AKA: “keyword stuffing”.  Webmasters would abuse meta tags, titles and other on-site elements to the extent that, today, Google and other search engines attach little to no significance to certain HTML elements.

There is no doubt that relevancy will always remain an integral part of SEO. If relevancy was removed as a factor to ranking a website, search engines would cease to exist. However, the rules and use of relevancy has changed from the keyword stuffing days. Two types of relevancy are particularly important when trying to rank your website: content relevancy and link relevancy.

Content Relevancy

Creating relevant content  can be daunting task, but in all actuality, it’s pretty basic. Simply write content around a pre-selected topic. Use your target keywords in the appropriate places and an appropriate amount of times and the page has an opportunity to rank. The question then arises: Where are the appropriate places? And how many times is enough?

      • Title tags are first and foremost. The title tag tells search engines and users what the page is all about. It often appears in the search engine results page (SERP), creating a connection between the search performed and the search results displayed. We recently wrote about the anatomy of a perfectly optimized title tag, which goes into more depth about titles, how to write them, where to place the keywords, etc. You can read that post here.
      • Next, heading elements. H1, H2, H3, and so on. In my experience, try to use the exact match phrase in at least one H1 or H2 tag, but not both and definitely not all heading elements (do that and your site begins to look spammy). Instead, use other related terms or longtail keywords where additional headings call for it. Of course there are exceptions to this rule like page length and necessity, but those are the general guidelines.

      • Finally, the body of the document. As a general rule, use the target keyword(s) 3-4 times within the text. Proximity and close occurrences of the keywords are important factors to look at when creating content. Using keywords too close together or too many times can have an adverse effect, as Google and other search engines can see right through it. Rather, try spreading out the keywords and phrases, and using synonyms instead of the exact match. The frequency of the keyword may depend on the length of the page.

Most importantly, write for the user first. Then go back and insert keywords if necessary in places where it sounds natural. Don’t force anything, and honestly, you may find that writing for the user the first time was sufficient and no keywords need to be inserted.

Using these quick rules will have you on your way to creating user and search engine relevant content.

Link Relevancy

Prior to Penguin, exact match anchor text allowed a website to rank rather easily. All that was needed was exact match anchor text with high frequency. Many link profiles that ranked well had 75% or more exact match anchor text. Link building tactics such as link wheels and blog networks were super effective because they made it easy to create hubs and lots of links with exact match anchor text. However, times have changed and so have link building tactics. Because link building strategies gave changed, here are some essential questions to ask yourself, along with guidelines to answer those questions, that will help you get the most out of your link building efforts.

Finding Relevant Links Post-Penguin

What is the site about? And What can authors write on?

The answer to this question should be “its about my topic, keywords and/or industry.” If I am writing about speakers, I probably don’t want a link from a food restaurant site.

Are the keywords I want to rank for used on the site?

If the website does not contain your keyword it may be ok, but it should be related in one way or another. Take a hard look at the content on the site. David McBee says “I think that having the keywords on the site helps, but I can also think of lots of cases where the site is relevant without having keywords. Example: A site about home improvement can link to a page that sells patio furniture without the keywords patio furniture previously being on the site.”

Is the keyword I want to rank for in the site title or description?

If your target keyword is in the title this adds extra value to your link. Search engines give prominence to titles. Therefore having a link from a site with your keyword in the title can provide a great boost to your relevancy for a given search.

If it is a guest post, how does the author allow me to link to my site?

Having an in-content link is ideal Be careful and cautious with selecting your anchor text- select a relevant link in the middle of the first paragraph or somewhere in the second paragraph when/if possible. Search engines give prominence to elements towards the top of the page. One key to selecting anchor text is making it look natural. The majority of links you obtain naturally will be branded. If the website won’t allow you to have an in-content link but will allow an author link, make sure you have a killer bio with your keywords all around your link.

Do I have to identify myself as a guest writer?

Currently, I have not seen any importance to this. However, in the future it could be a signal to the search engines on how the link was acquired. In recent months “Author Rank” is being used more and more and may have an increasingly significant role in SEO in the future. If the website does allow you to post without being a “Guest Author” this can be a bonus.

Will my post be tagged with a topic in the archives?

This is a given. If the site doesn’t have an archive system or tagging system, how will people identify your article in the future? How archive systems work can have value because they are surrounded by similar content and keywords.

These questions are prerequisite to asking the question: To link or not to link?”

To follow up on some of these questions I would highly recommend researching and understanding what a hub is and how powerful they can be.

Combining Relevant Content & Relevant Links

In today’s post-Penguin and Panda apocalypse, matching relevant content with relevant links can have a significant impact on your SEO efforts. Matching the content where the link is coming from to the content on the page you want to rank will most likely have higher value than what your anchor text is.

Keep in mind that just as these concepts can help you in your marketing efforts, they can also be abused or overused. Fundamentals of SEO will exist as long as search engines do. Understanding how search engines use relevancy today is essential to today’s SEO.

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Is SEO Dead?

While some people think SEO is dead and a thing of the past, we know the truth. SEO will NEVER die! It will only continue to grow, adapt, and develop in the years to come. So stop fighting SEO people, and instead jump on the bandwagon. We have a lot to offer your company and it’s online presence!
SEO is dead.

SEO Graphic by SEO Book

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What is SEO? (Part 2)

When I was a kid, the magic words were always “Please” and “Thank You.” The magic words today? Well, they’re different for every client. Of course, I’m talking about keywords. In an SEO professional’s toolbox, keyword usage is perhaps the most powerful optimization tool of them all. In this blog, I’ll be giving a brief explanation of the importance of keywords in relation to SEO, and how best to use them to enhance your website’s search rankings.

A keyword is a term or phrase that people enter into search engines to find specific information. Most people enter search phrases between two and five words. Such phrases may also be called search phrases, keyword phrases, query phrases, or just keywords. We call them keywords at Firestarter. The search engine then comes back with a list of web pages that have content relevant to the keyword searched for. The purpose of SEO is to ensure that when customers search for keywords related to your business, your website appears at the top of the search results.


Good keyword phrases are specific and descriptive. If you owned a beauty salon, the words “salon” or “hair stylist” would be poor choices, as they are too broad and the competition for them is extremely high. Success for very popular one-word keywords is very difficult. It’s best to focus on less competitive, highly specific keywords that still drive a lot of traffic. For example, “Salon Denver” or “Hair Stylist Denver” or maybe even more specific like “professional colorists Denver” or “blow dry styling Denver”. These keywords are more customized and location based and would produce better results.

Also, remember to choose keywords that are highly relevant to the content of your website. You don’t want to pick random keywords and lead your visitor to a dead end. Give them the content they are really looking for. Once you’ve come up with a list of a few potential keyword phrases, run them past the Google keyword suggestion tool. This tool comes up with a list of related keywords that you can use and shows you the competition level, the estimated global search traffic and the estimated local search traffic. Remember, stick to only optimizing five to ten keywords total. Trying to cover too many is counter-productive.


Once you’ve determined the best target keywords, be sure to use them in the right quantity. Inserting your keywords all throughout your content with no rhyme or reason will actually decrease your website’s quality and rankings, not help it. Also be warned: Your web pages may be penalized by search engines if they think you’re trying to cheat the system. That frowned-upon practice is called ‘keyword stuffing.’ The recommended density is 3-7% for the major keywords and 1-2% for minor keywords. Going back to developing keywords, that’s why it makes sense to only focus on a handful of keywords. Choosing too many will make your content seem artificial and stuffed.


Where your keywords are placed within your website is also important. Be sure to use your keywords in the page title, the headings, and the first few paragraphs. These places are much more effective than using them at the very bottom of the page. Placing keywords in the URL, domain name, file names, page title, and title headings as well as in the body of the text will boost your rankings.

So, there you go. Some quick, in-a-nutshell, information about keywords. Of course, if it were all really that simple, I’d be out of a job. But I can’t give away all of my secrets! However, if you have any additional questions about keywords or keyword usage, feel free to drop us a note here. Or check out our keyword research services.

The Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Title Tag

In the search engine optimization world, rankings are everything. Everyone wants to be number one. They want to be on top. Well, it turns out the elements used by SEO experts to optimize websites are also ranked. When it comes time to rank a website, Google and other search engines leverage certain SEO elements more than others. So what element takes the number one spot? Title tags. Sure enough, title tags are the single most important on-page SEO element.

So read closely my friends, as you are about to learn the anatomy of a perfectly optimized title.

Length of Title Tag

  • Be sure the length of your title tag is 70 characters or less. Any longer than 70 characters and your title will be cut off in all Google results. This leaves your potential customers hanging high and dry, with incomplete information. Also, remember that spaces and punctuation count as characters, too. A comma utilizes 2 characters, while dashes and line breaks use 3 characters.
  • If you need a quick and easy way to check your title length, copy it into excel and use the formula =len(x). This will count the characters for you. Quick, easy and extremely valuable.

Organization of the Title Tag

  • The title should consist of three distinct phases, which need to be organized in a particular way.
  • The first section is where you need to put your keyword. This is the word you are trying to optimize your site for. It should always come first. No questions.
  • The second section should contain a unique or descriptive phrase that helps build upon the first section. This might be a secondary keyword or just a phrase you feel your audience needs to see in order to better understand the page content.
  • The final section of the title needs to be your brand name. This is key. This portion of the title gives your website more legitimacy and builds your brand.

Keyword Usage Within the Title

Seeing as the title is the most important on-page SEO element, you definitely want to use your keyword within it. However, there is such a thing as overusing and abusing your keyword. We refer to this as keyword stuffing. So how do you effectively use your keyword without overusing it?

  • Never repeat your keyword in a title more than twice. When you do decide to repeat it, do not do it sequentially, one right after the other. This looks spammy. Instead, put the word once at the beginning of the first section and once at the end of the second section.
  • Use the keyword in a truly informative and descriptive way. Don’t just throw it into the title because you need to use it. Take the time to really create a meaningful title. It will pay off.

So there you have it, the anatomy of a perfectly optimized title. If you take the time to follow these steps, you are bound to have success in title writing. It is not hard to do, but it does take some time and effort. So go ahead, put these steps to the test. You won’t be sorry!

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Google Releases Over-optimization Penalty

Over Optimization

The algorithm for the so-called over-optimization penalty which sparked fear and murmurings all over the web has now gone LIVE. And now most people can breathe a sigh of relief, except for of course, the ones being penalized. Not to rub it in the faces of those who do their SEO the shortcut way, but “We told you so!” OK, maybe I’m rubbing it in their faces a little bit. The official statement from Google is titled “Another step to reward high-quality sites.” Referring to white-hat SEO and black-hat SEO as the good and dark sides, respectively, Google explained the intent of the new algorithm to reward the sites that take the high road. Google is officially calling the update the Webspam Algorithm Update. Ultimately, the goal is to improve the search experience for Google users, which as an SEO professional AND a consumer, I appreciate. Something I found especially validating was this statement from Google:

“We also want the ‘good guys’ making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded.”

High-Quality Content

But moving on to the important stuff, this is how the algorithm will work…the change will decrease rankings for sites that are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines in order to reduce webspam and promote high-quality content. Of course, Google isn’t releasing too much info on specific signals to keep from people figuring out a way to work the system. Their advice for webmasters is simple: Create “high-quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.” Examples of aggressive webspam tactics are keyword stuffing and unusual linking patterns, (placing outgoing links that are completely unrelated to the actual content). From looking at various webmaster forums, there are already many reports of sites being affected. I mentioned in my last post that shortcuts and shady tactics may bring people to a site, but only high-quality content will keep them there. Now we see the tides are changing.

SEO: Can there be too much of a good thing?

Over Optimization

Rumor has it that for the past few months Google has been working on a new penalty that targets sites that overly optimize for search engines.  Basically, the idea is to reward sites that have valuable content over sites that have low-quality content but rank higher because of more effective SEO.  Google has always frowned upon websites that abuse SEO tactics to optimize sites while ignoring quality content and user value.  Especially within the last few years, Google has encouraged webmasters to provide original, rich content instead of solely using insider tricks to improve search engine rankings. Only recently has there been talk of actually penalizing the sites.  During a panel hosted by Search Engine Land in mid-March, Google’s Matt Cutts announced that Google is working on a search ranking penalty for sites that are “over-optimized.” However, Google has not officially made any statements about the potential upcoming penalty.

Create Useful Content

Being in the business of SEO, I’d imagine that many of my peers have mixed feelings on the issue.  Personally, I fully agree with the principle of continually creating useful web content for users, but my business is also built on the backbone of utilizing SEO practices to improve website visibility.  I believe the correct philosophy is a good combination of both worlds: content and technology.  In other words, to apply the principle of providing valuable, original content along with smart and fair techniques that improve search engine optimization.  Although SEO might bring a customer to your website, good content should keep them at the site and motivate them to come back.  When I approach clients with my plan of action, my ideas include ways to improve or create valuable web content.  What are your thoughts?  Should businesses have their rankings penalized for using insider tricks to bypass quality content? google adsense banned .

What is SEO? (Part 1)

This might just be the million-dollar question…unfortunately, it can’t be answered in one post. The answers to SEO take years and years to figure out and are found in thousands of books. Our goal is to put together a series of posts to help you better understand how SEO works and why it is important. So if you are looking for answers read on and check back for the next post for more information.

Users turn Online

Now, whether your business is just getting started, or you’re in need of some improvements and looking for your business to grow, your website will play a key role. Today’s consumers are turning to the Internet to research products and services and to purchase items rather than shopping in person. The convenience of shopping online makes it more necessary than ever before for businesses to have a high impact website and Internet marketing strategy to stand above their competitors. If you want to be found easier online and help your organization find success, an understanding of Internet marketing strategies is a must.

Search Engine Optimization

Internet marketing is centered around one thing, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. SEO is a system by which search engines are able to find and index content on a site. By using this system, websites are able to rank themselves higher on search engine results, which will put them ahead of their competitors when customers are in search of products or services. Based on the SEO strategies used by a business, it’s possible to be ranked at the top of results for search terms related to the products and services offered by the company. When building a business or fine-tuning a marketing strategy, SEO professionals will put various techniques to work in order to achieve the best online rankings.

Understanding How Search Engines Work

Your understanding of SEO will rely on your ability to grasp the ways in which search engines work. SEO professionals use various tools and methods to make your site “search engine friendly”. This will make it so search engines can easily find content on your site, index it, and rank your site higher in the query results. Because search engines are so text-driven, the content of your site will be the biggest influence on how search engines respond to your website. SEO companies will recommend making use of several strategies for best results and as they are all important, keyword usage is perhaps the most powerful optimization tool of them all. The secret is how to use all the strategies together to find the best formula to be found.

Having an understanding of search engines and SEO as a whole will come into play when you work with an SEO company. Your understanding of the process will assist in your ability to work with the company for the best possible rankings for your company. The right SEO professional will be able to create a customized method based on your businesses objectives, which will be much easier to communicate with you with a better understanding of optimization tools and strategies.

Check back next time for a more in-depth look and understanding of “Keywords”.

Happy Valentines Day SEO, I Love You!

It’s that time of year again, love is in the air and millions of keywords are being searched for that perfect Valentines Day gift. I don’t know about you, but that excites me.

Now, I know it might sound cliché, but I am so lucky to have found a career that I truly love. I love it for some of the same characteristics and steps that it takes to find your true love in life.

Do you remember when you first realized you had a crush on that special someone? You would go around and ask everyone what they knew about her? What she likes, who she hangs out with, what makes her happy, you know, doing your research. Well in SEO I get to do that every day.

Research In SEO

Research in SEO is so important as well as so rewarding. Doing your research will allow you to be one step ahead of search engines and be able to adapt faster when thrown a curve ball. Just like your crush, being prepared paid off when asking them out for the first time.

Now as time goes on and your little crush begins to mean more to you, the hard work you put in the beginning becomes to seem easier and you want to spend more time and attention on them. This is so true in every aspect of SEO.

SEO Is A Process of Accumulation

The more time a business uses SEO their rankings (love) will grow. And, as that love grows it becomes important to never become complacent and just settle with that ranking. It has been said that a love that is not growing is only dying. Your SEO ranking is the same if you don’t give it the attention it desires you’ll lose it to someone who will. Adding fresh content, backlinks and social media is important all the time and helps strengthen the relationship with search engines.

SEO is challenging, nobody said it would be easy…just like everyone told you that there was no way your crush would say yes. However, how much more rewarding was it when she did say yes? It might have been easier to ask out someone less attractive or not as interesting as your crush, but you would have just been settling, and you can never just settle with SEO.

When it comes to love I’m in it for the long haul. I was never the type for a one-night stand, and SEO is the same. SEO is an ongoing, never-ending process. As soon as SEO stops your competitors will see you as weak and steal your rankings.

True love can be hard to find, but when you do find it you’ll never let go…SEO, I love you!

Quick Rules For SEO


SEO is the process of increasing a site’s visibility in the search engines like Google Yahoo and Bing. SEO is broken up into two parts on-site SEO and off-site SEO.


On-site SEO is editing, improving, and adjusting the HTML and content on a website. Optimizing a website increases its ability to be found, indexed and ranked for specific searches in search engines such as Google.  In general on-site SEO can also enhance the user experience by making it easier for them to understand where specific content is and what pages are about.

The simplistic view of on-site SEO consists of two types of activities:  Optimizing content and removing errors, removing errors could be considered optimizing content. I see these activities as separate because optimizing content generally involves the creation of new content. Removing errors comprises of fixing missing pages, server errors, and maintenance activities.

Simple things to look for when Fixing Errors

  1. Fixing any missing pages created by deleting old pages, client errors or server errors
  2. Fix duplicate content errors, the most common duplicate content errors are duplicate titles and descriptions
  3. Fix any missing titles or descriptions.

Rules of Optimizing Titles

  1. Titles should target one-two keywords
  2. Titles should always be unique for each page and never duplicate
  3. A title should be under 70 Characters

Rules for Optimizing Descriptions

  1. Descriptions should be unique for each page and never duplicate
  2. Descriptions should be around 155 characters
  3. Descriptions should contain keywords, don’t repeat a keyword more the twice

Rules for Optimizing Content

  1. Use appropriate HTML for the content
  2. Use Heading tags, Paragraph, and other tags
  3. Use keywords in the text on the page.
  4. Use closely rated terms like the road: biking, cycling
  5. Create New and Fresh content, Blogs, news, etc…


The second element of SEO is Off-Site SEO. Link building is the primary off-site activity; every link pointing to a site is essentially a vote for that site. However, not every vote is created equal; some links carry more value than others. Sites that have more popularity and more authority provide more weight if providing a link.

Rules for Building Backlinks

  1. Links should be from high-quality sites
  2. Links should be from relevant sites
  3. Links should contain targeted keywords, this is called anchor text
    <a href=””>Keywords</a>
  4. Links should come from a variety of different sites
  5. Links should look natural

These quick rules are not the “tell all secret” to SEO. However, if you are looking for a basic start and looking to get the greatest bang for your buck when performing your SEO, follow these quick SEO rules and you can begin to see an impact.

5 Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

One of the greatest things about social media is that it is out there for everyone to see…

One of the scariest things about social media is that it is also out there for everyone to see.

The use of business social media is used for a handful of different reasons. From marketing to consumer relations to SEO, and at the end of the day, it won’t even matter if you are losing credibility by making mistakes that can easily be avoided.

Here are five tips to pay attention to as you engage more in social media this year that will help to avoid mistakes that may hurt your brand image.

Spelling and Grammar

One of the newest tools computers have these days is this thing called “spell check.” It can be really helpful when there is a big word you might miss a letter or two in when writing it out. Seriously, don’t get lazy when it comes to spelling, run spell check and always reread everything you put online. Still, use your free online dictionary to always double-check the spelling and the meaning of your principles/principals or effects/ effects. Do not lose credibility on a word that your child could spell correctly.

“Social Rules”

There are what should be called different “social rules” when it comes to businesses using social media. Posts, tweets, and shares should always keep your audience engaged with your message. Avoid statements and opinions that are impossible to stir up conversation or attention from your followers.

  • Example: “New blog post is up.”
  • Changed to: “Hey everyone, we added a new blog post. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Always try to build conversations with your followers, and make them feel involved with what your business is doing.

Keep it Relevant

Unless you are in the business of breeding and training dogs, your business Facebook page could live without the YouTube video of the cute puppies. Keep your social media professional and relevant and avoid losing followers who might be annoyed by the “junk” that appears in their live feed.

Remember, just because you cheer for a certain team or might be voting for a certain Presidential candidate, doesn’t mean your followers are. Avoid sports, politics and religious posts on your businesses sites, unless your business is sports, politics or religion in which case post away.

Check once, check twice, check a third time

This can be tied to keeping it relevant but deserves its own section due to the problems it can cause if not avoided. Make sure and always check to see if you are logged into your business account or your personal account before posting anything. As you are posting double-check again, and after you post it, you got it, check again. The last thing you want to do is slip up because you’re not paying attention and inform all your business followers that you had the craziest dream about Lady GaGa. Has funny or crazy as your friends might find that, your business following probably won’t care.

A Red Cross employee forgot which account he was logged in to, and told the millions of Red Cross followers that he was so wasted last night and didn’t remember a thing that happened…Oops.

Stay Updated

A social media site that hasn’t been posted on in the last month says only one thing, “we don’t care.” Your followers choose to follow you for a reason. They want to know what’s going on and stay updated with the goods and services your business has to offer. We live in a world where yesterday’s news means nothing. We demand the most up to date and relevant news, and when we don’t get it from one source, we find it somewhere else. Let your followers know that you are thinking of them and share information that they would be interested in.