Straightforward. Enigmatic. Outstanding.

Are three words that I would use to describe my good friend Jennifer Banks. Search Engine Optimization also happens to be what Jen does for a living at Epiar, THE search engine marketing experts in Edmonton. And she is really, really good at it!

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing her present to a group of Bossy Mama entrepreneurs and teach us as much as she could about SEO in just under two hours. Not an easy task and yet, many of us left that room with so much information and tasks to do that I am sure there were a lot of late nights for some this past week.

Now I am no expert in this at all, and in reality, I am actually a very recent (6 months) convert to the powers of SEO. And this is all because I had the pleasure of meeting, and having drinks with Jen at another Bossy Mama Networking event.  Yes, I actually told her that I thought that SEO was just a bunch of bull!!

Little did I know that the lack of SEO on my own website was hurting me. Jen schooled me very quickly in this with the help of some very cool and FREE tools that anyone can use to figure out some simple things about keywords, and how people really use search engines.

And here is the REALLY BIG LESSON that I learned from Jen about SEO and what I think everyone with a website/blog/Facebook page/twitter account needs to know.

Do not assume that you know what people are using to search for whatever it is that you are selling/peddling/writing about.  Because chances are YOU ARE WRONG!!

The best tool to use to figure this out is the Google Keyword Tool. This is a free tool that anyone can use. You simply enter your search term or phrase and your country/location and poof! up pops all kinds of useful info for you.  Including if what you think people are "Googling" and looking for is actually what they are looking for! (And in my case, I was very wrong, and yes, I have since fixed this!!)

Another really cool free tool that Jen told us about is UberSuggest. This keyword suggestion tool is really neat. It takes your base term and extracts Google suggestions for it. And if you hit 'expand' it will list all suggestions associated with your base term and list them alphabetically. Ubersuggest is an awesome tool, especially for bloggers looking for new post topics and questions that people are actually searching for.

The other sweet tool that we learned about is the SEOMOZ's Open Site Explorer Link Popularity & Backlink Analysis Tool. In geek speak this tool tells you all about your "link juice".  It shows you who is linking to you and you can also use it to scope out your competition too and see where they are getting their link juice from!  Go here to learn more about what you can do with all this spiffy new information.

There was so much that Jen taught us that night and it really is hard to put it all in one post. My advice is this, A) follow her on Twitter, B) read her Techmommy blog and C) call up Epiar, book a consultation and ask about their SEO for Small Businesses pack.

And then settle in with a glass (or two) of wine and your laptop and get to work optimizing the shit out of your site (and know that this may take a while, but will be so worth it)!!

Cheers all,