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Everything you wanted to know about SEO but were afraid to ask

20 of the most common questions about SEO that you absolutely need to know

Search engine optimisation has long been considered the dark arts of digital marketing. You will find that many very seasoned digital marketers don’t fully understand what is being implemented in the name of SEO. They know they need it and know they do want to rank organically for relevant search terms, but they have only vague ideas about what it takes to make that happen. Below we will explore common questions that you might be afraid to ask, but certainly need to know in regards to the key components of your SEO efforts.

How does SEO work?

Simply put, search engines like Google will crawl the text on your site. This is performed by Google bots that will discover new and updated content and add it to the Google Index.called crawling. Some pages are known because Google has already crawled them before. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page. Still other pages are discovered when a website owner submits a list of pages or sitemap for Google to crawl. After a page is discovered, Google will assess what the page is about and then add to the index. Then, when a user types a query, Google looks to their index to find the most relevant content and ranks that in order of the greatest relevance. Ranking factors include keyword relevance, traffic volume, and content authority assessed by the kinds of links pointing to the page.

When I hire someone to do my SEO, what am I asking them to do?

An SEO professional will look at your site from a technical, keyword set up, and content perspective. They will conduct a technical audit, analyse overall site and url structure, perform keyword research, and recommend an overall link-building and content strategy for your site. Your SEO specialist will need to maintain ongoing content creation, link-building, and site assessments so that, once you are ranking for relevant keywords, they can assure you keep ranking. They’ll look to grow out new areas of the website to ensure your target audience’s questions and queries are being met. They will also look to future proof your website to accommodate all relevant Google updates.

How long does it take to see results?

It does take time for SEO tactics to help improve ranking. Many will say that it may take 4 to 6 months to start seeing results. If done well, your rankings should increase over time. It is important to note, that once content creation and site maintenance stops, your ranking will certainly drop.

Does PPC help SEO?

Technically PPC has no direct impact on SEO. But, there is an indirect benefit of using both tactics at the same time. When you run a PPC ad, your listing will appear at the top of the search. If you are also ranking organically on the first page, your site will then occupy significant real estate on the initial page of the search query which will allow for increased chance of gaining a click through. Also, PPC allows for a good keyword test case. While SEO does take some time to start seeing results, PPC will appear at the top of the page immediately. While you are waiting for SEO to work, you can begin assessing what keywords drive the most traffic for PPC.

Is SEO a way of cheating Google?

It is a common myth that SEO is really just a way of “tricking” Google to get your site ranked and that these tactics could potentially be penalised by Google. This is not true. In the early days of SEO there was some element of “gaming the system” but that is no longer the case. Google actually relies on good SEO as it informs their keyword index and allows them to serve relevant content to their users.

What are SEO black hat tactics?

Black hat tactics are designed to cut corners in SEO and aim to boost rankings in the immediacy. Tactics used would include embedded widgets, invisible keywords, or link building through a private blog network that you created. These types of tactics will be penalised by Google even triggering a fine in some cases. So, beware of SEO firms offering immediate and low cost results for SEO.

How can I tell when SEO is working?

Marketers should track all digital marketing efforts through Google Analytics including SEO. Google Search Console is key for tracking all of your SEO efforts. You will be able to track performance on a keyword level to assess which keywords are garnering the most traffic, time on site, lowest bounce, and highest conversion. Assessing these key metrics will inform necessary content and site optimisation to help further improve site performance.

Do you need to understand code to do SEO?

To perform the technical aspects of SEO,it is important to at least have basic coding knowledge. SEO professionals should make recommendations based on site speed, site rendering, metadata tags, site structure, broken links, redirects, and basic html tags. To do this successfully, the SEO professional will have to have knowledge of the overall technical landscape of a site. While you may find some SEO professionals who may not be as tech savvy, you will certainly find that the best ones are.

What is metadata and meta tags?

Metadata is text added to page code that provides a description of what the web page is about. This description will help inform the Google Index and ultimately when to serve page content to qualified user queries. Meta tags include the title tags, meta descriptions and keywords for the page.

Should I be tailoring my URLs to support SEO?

URL site structure is an integral part to every SEO strategy. It is important to optimise your URL structure based on high volume and relevant keywords. There are three main components to every URL structure; the protocol, domain name, and the path. The most common protocol would be https indicating a secure site. The domain name is the main URL of your website, or host name. The path is the designation after the forward slash indicating where you are on the site. This is where your site filing system comes in. Each path or site navigation element should be given a description based on the content in the web section or page. These naming conventions should also be informed by relevant keywords. These path names will not only help inform users where they are on the site, it will help inform Google Indexing.

What is an xml sitemap?

XML stands for “extensible markup language.” An xml sitemap is a text file that will detail all the URLs on the site. It is essentially a table of contents for your site. It is used in SEO to inform google of all URLs on the site so they are able to crawl and index all indicated pages. While you should ensure a comprehensive internal link structure, XML sitemaps will inform Google about pages that are not linked internally so they can be crawled and indexed.

What is domain authority and how do you get it?

Domain Authority is a metric first coined by Moz that indicates how well a website will rank in organic search. Domain authority is calculated using various factors including number of sites linking to the website and overall site traffic. While Google does recognize the term, the domain ranking score is not considered by the Google Index. The primary way of earning a higher domain authority score is through link-building and outreach. You can check your domain authority score through Moz as a way of tracking the success of your link outreach activities.

What is robot.txt?

Robot txt can trace its roots to the 90’s when the internet was its infancy. Developers created a rule rule book that would indicate how to crawl and index new web pages across the internet. This “roadmap” dicated the rules that all bots must follow. Google bots, once developed, would follow these rules as well. Today, Robot txt informs search engines lives as a text file in the back end of your site and informs search engines which pages to crawl and which to ignore. Robot txt, when implemented, can also improve crawl frequency which will ultimately improve search rankings.

How do I know what keywords to use?

Generally speaking, you will generate your keyword list through the keyword research process. Keyword research is a process of understanding keyword search trends as they relate to your product or service offering. This process will indicate which keywords present the best opportunity for ranking on Google. Keywords with the highest volume of traffic represent the best opportunity for reaching your target. Keywords with high volume and low compeitition present the best immediate opportunity for ranking on Google. There is an opportunity to rank for highly competitive keywords, but that would require time, effort, and some investment.

When should I use long tail keywords?

Long tail keywords are longer and more specific keywords used in search queries. They are used primarily when you are trying to optimise for highly competitive terms. For example, if you are a plumber and are hoping to rank for that term, it may be beneficial for you to rank locally rather than broadly for “plumber.” Instead, you should look to rank for terms such as “plumber in south manchester.” Also, in optimising for specific terms, you will likely attract a more qualified user base. There is no real value in ranking for plumber in Birmingham if you are serving your local community in South Manchester.

What is link-building and do I need it?

Link-building is a series of actions that aim to increase the number of links to a site. The number of sites linking to your website will ultimately increase search rank. But, the sites need to have some level of authority and traffic. As mentioned in black hat tactics, you cannot create a network of sites yourself as that will be penalised by Google.

Link-building is an essential tool for most SEO campaign strategies. It is especially crucial if you are trying to rank for competitive keywords. While it is a standard SEO tool, most links will need to be paid for, making this prohibitive for smaller budgets. For niche product and services that generally do not have much keyword competition, we may recommend internal linking only with minimal to no budget for inbound links required.

Do I need to have an active blog?

Let’s put it this way, maintaining a blog on your website is better than not. Managing and creating a blog is important for a search optimised site as it will increase the amount of pages ultimately indexed by Google. It is important to note that Google indexes web pages individually, so the more pages you create that is relevant to your product/service and user base the more likely you are to rank for relevant queries. Blogging is a good way to accommodate the longer tail keywords you are looking to rank for. Search trends indicate that “how to” keywords are growing in popularity. Therefore, creating “how to” content will be crucial for capturing these queries. For example, if you have a home and garden website, you may want to create a blog that titled “how to create a flower garden” to help capture all search queries of that kind.

Once you do create your blog, you do need to ensure that you update it regularly as a stagnant blog will not have a positive impact on SEO. An outdated blog also offers a bad user experience and will give an overall negative impression of your product or service.

Is there an ideal length for blog articles?

Not necessarily, as long as they are answering your audience's needs and requirements the length isn’t important. Google and other major search engines check out the metrics of each page. If the blog you write is achieving a strong dwell time, with limited bounces and lots of people are sharing and linking to it, then you know you’ve done the right thing.

What is AMP and why is it important?

AMP stands for “accelerated mobile pages” and is an open source coding standard for mobile websites. AMP is developed by Google and was created as their mobile-first index. Given this icode is created by Google, they are able to crawl and index your mobile pages more readily thereby improving your search rank through Google mobile search.

How do my social media channels impact SEO?

While social media can help SEO, like PPC, it only impacts SEO indirectly. In other words, having multiple social properties will not boost your search rankings for your site. One way social media can impact SEO is by creating backlinks to your site from your social media feed. Because content can be shared, these backlinks have the ability to go viral which can significantly boost your domain authority. Also, your social media pages will also be crawled and indexed by Google which may increase your real estate on search results for your product or service.

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