by Brian Harnish

The Most Frequently Asked Questions I Have Been Asked About SEO

What is SEO?

In short, SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the practice of using certain techniques that help get the organic, or FREE listings of your website to the top of the search engines. There are two fields of thought in SEO, white hat & black hat. Three fields if you count gray hat. White hat uses long term techniques that build a solid relationship with your potential clients & the search engines. This foundation helps your website stay at the top of the search engines in the long term, rather than for just the short term. Black hat, however, is just the opposite. This field of thought uses churn & burn techniques that render a domain name useless after it has been used. Basically, the black hatters just spam the search engines to death, reap the profits, and move on to the next domain name. They are not interested in building a relationship with search engines or any potential clients.

What is the Difference Between SEO & SEM?

While SEO focuses on the free organic results, SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, and focuses on the pay per click results. These are the results on Google that are in the faded, off-white area listed under “sponsored listings”. These are separate from organic listings, and thus separate from the search algorithm. Pay per click is where you bid for a click on keywords. Bids can range anywhere from 1 cent per click to over $1,000 per click depending on the popularity and competitiveness of that keyword phrase.

My SEO company claims to have a special relationship with the search engines. How true is this?

This is absolutely false. There is no special relationship that any one company can have with a search engine over another. If an SEO company claims to have a special relationship with Google or Bing or any other search engine, they are lying and I suggest you run far, far away from them. If they lie about this, what else are they going to lie about?

My SEO company says rankings are up, but I look at analytics and see that conversions are down. Why is this?

This is because rankings are not the be all, end all metric for success that they once were. You can have a fantastic online presence with rankings up the whazoo, but if no one is searching for those terms you are ranking for, your conversions will likely be zero. The reason why is because rankings only look at one part of the picture. If you take an approach that looks at every part of the picture rather than just rankings, you can figure out that if a company is pumping up rankings all over the place but conversions & traffic are down, the company is only doing part of their job. Their whole job should be to increase the trifecta of success metrics, not just one: rankings + traffic + conversions. If a company does their job right, you will see an increase in conversions as a result of rankings targeting terms that people are actually searching. Just ranking for any old term will not do the job well anymore.

How long does it usually take until I see results from SEO?

The right answer? It depends. It can take anywhere from two months to over six months depending on the keyword phrases that you choose. It can sometimes take up to a year or more depending on how competitive and how large the market you are going after is. The thing is, SEO is always an on going effort and never stops – a site is never actually “finished” per se. Consistent SEO is required to keep up in the marketplace and to continue dominating the search results.

What is a good keyword density?

Why won’t this myth die? There is no “good” or “required” keyword density to have on your pages. What matters is that your content is relevant with keywords sprinkled throughout the text in places that make sense. This is not to say that you cannot use ANY keywords, but that you have to use them sparingly while making sure that your content stays relevant for the targeted keyword phrase and the page that’s targeting it. It’s all about relevance, context, and intent. While focusing on ultra high keyword density doesn’t matter much, focusing on relevance is better and will provide better results. Google doesn’t care about certain densities of keywords in your content (in fact, they want some keywords on your page for relevance reasons) but Google absolutely DOES NOT want you to go overboard and attempt to spam them, interweaving keywords into your text to the point where it is unreadable by humans.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is an analytics platform that you can add to your website to find out how much traffic that your site is getting (among other metrics). It can be installed relatively easily by a number of different methods. This way, you can count on being able to access your analytics on a regular basis to determine the performance of traffic to your site from Google.

What is Google Webmaster Tools?

Google webmaster tools is a website diagnostics tool that allows you to see a variety of issues that can plague a website. From 404 errors to server issues, it is an essential tool to have in your arsenal for optimizing your website.

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a way for Google to find all of the pages on your site. Should a situation arise in which a majority of pages are linked to throughout your site, but a good chunk of them are not linked to, a sitemap can be helpful in getting Google to spider and index every single page. This way, no page is left unturned and you can ensure that your entire site is spidered and indexed appropriately.

What is a .htaccess file?

An htaccess file is an essential file on your server that gives you the opportunity to perform redirects and other essential file commands. This file also allows you to specify how certain files can interact with each other on your web server.

What is the best technique to use for SEO?

There is no one technique that is the best to use for SEO. Every website and its competition is completely different and different techniques will be required in order to get it to the top positions. The only way to truly provide effective SEO services is to perform completely custom website audits that uncover all issues on a website. In this way, you can stay ahead of the competition by implementing those proper recommendations made by your SEO provider.

I heard you can manipulate organic rankings as a result of investing in paid search accounts. Is this true?

No. Absolutely NOT. There is no way to influence organic results by buying paid listings. Think about it. If there were a way to manipulate organic results by investing in pay per click, don’t you think everyone would be doing this overnight?

I want to submit my site to thousands of search engines. How do I do this?

First of all, this is a total myth (and a waste of time) that I am surprised still perpetuates itself today. Modern search engines crawl the web and index websites automatically. All you really have to do is find a site that’s regularly crawled by Google, have it link to your site’s home page, and voila, you will be able to have it indexed relatively fast. There is also the option “Fetch as Googlebot” in Google Webmaster Tools that allows you to make this process fast and easy. But, the big thing is – there are only 3 top search engines in the U.S. – Google, Bing, & Yahoo. As of June, 2013, Google has 86.3% market share, Bing has 7.3% search engine market share, and Yahoo has only 3.1% search engine market share. So, as you can see, it makes very good business sense to target Google. It’s a waste of time to even bother with 1,000s of search engines simply because 1. they don’t exist, and 2. if they even do exist, they are so small and no one uses them, so it wouldn’t even be worth the effort to go after them.

Can I do a link exchange with you? Pretty pweeeeease?

Ugh. I love this one. Link exchanges have been dead for awhile now. They do not pass much, if any value whatsoever. If you are still sending me link exchange emails in 2013, shame on you! And if someone recommends you do link exchanges as part of your SEO strategy, run. Away. Far, far away. NOW.

Can you please submit my site to 2,500 directories?

Well, sure. I can! But I can’t guarantee they will actually do anything. Google has heavily devalued directories as an appropriate link building tactic. While directories used to work well, with the advent of Penguin they are now heavily devalued and will only work against you. It is best to pursue natural, spam-free link building tactics that provide value to your website in the long run.

I Want You To Buy 10,000 Links From a Guy I know on Fiverr!!!

Ok. We are getting a bit out of control here. That is not SEO. That is spam. They are likely using existing blog networks that they built on their own. What’s the problem with that you ask? They are likely built with nothing but automation in mind and with super low content quality. They usually have around 200 – 400 words per page, the content reads like crap, and doesn’t provide any significant value from an SEO perspective. While you will get short term gains out of this deal, it could last anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks. After that, Google WILL find out about your shenanigans and your domain name WILL be penalized. Now, you have just built yourself a massive link network that you have to clean 10,000 links out of in order to get back on track. Unless of course you plan on just burning the domain to see exactly how a certain subset of links is going to work for you…