FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
hat’s the difference between SEO and SEM?
While some people use SEO and SEM interchangeably, SEO (search engine optimization) is actually a part of SEM (search engine marketing).
SEO refers to the process of using on and off page factors (typically free) to get your web pages ranked for your chosen keywords in order to get more search engine traffic to your sites. SEM takes it a step farther to include using paid search engine listings and paid inclusion to get more traffic to your websites.
What’s the difference between paid and organic search listings?
Organic search engine listings are the main results users see when they do a Google search. The websites appearing in the organic listings appear because those sites are most relevant to the user’s keywords. Indeed, most of these sites appear in the top of the search engine results because the webmasters of these sites have used SEO tactics to ensure top rankings.
The paid (or “sponsored”) listings usually appear on the top, bottom and to the right of the regular organic listings. Usually these are pay per click (PPC) ads, which means the website owner only pays when someone clicks on his ad (as opposed to paying for impressions).
This isn’t an either/or game. Just because you do SEO doesn’t mean you can’t/shouldn’t use PPC and vice versa.
SEO is not free traffic, it takes time and/or money to get good organic rankings but in the long run it’s usually cheaper than PPC.
What’s on-page SEO?
- On-page SEO refers to the things you do on your own site to enhance it’s ranking in the search engines. This includes but is not limited to:
Creating content around specific keywords.
- Formatting/designing your site so that the most important keywords are emphasized and appear near the top of the page.
- Including the chosen keywords in meta tags.
- Including the keywords in the navigation menu and other links.
- Using your keywords in other parts of your site, such as the title of the page, the file name, etc.
- Using related keywords on the site (see the question on LSI for more information).
What’s off-page SEO?
Off page SEO refers to those things you do outside of your own web pages to enhance their rankings in the search engines.This is a glorified way of saying, “get links” and did I mention, “more links”.
How quickly will I see results?
If you target long tail keywords you can see results pretty quickly but always remember SEO is a long term strategy not a set and forget thing.If you’re after more competitive keywords prepare to commit to it for at least three months of consistent effort.
What other factors affect rankings besides backlinks?
Where you’re getting your links, the quality of these links, the relevancy of these links, how many links you have and what keywords you’re using as the anchor text all affect your rankings. But there are other factors that affect your ranking, including but not limited to:
- On page optimization factors – this is how well you’ve optimized your tags, content, formatting, keyword proximity, site map, and links on your web page. This also includes whether you use your keywords at the top of your page and in your “alt” tags (both good things).
- Having a lot outgoing or reciprocal links pointing to “bad” sites (like link farms) – can negatively impact rankings.
- Whether you have unique content (which the SE’s like).
- How frequently you update your site. Faster isn’t necessarily better. Check what ranks well for your niche and aim to match it.
- Whether your domain includes your primary keywords.
- Your domain’s age, reputation, IP address and whether it’s a top level domain (e.g., a .com is better than a .info although probably not by much).
- Shady practices such as keyword stuffing or using text that’s the same color as the background can negatively affect your rankings. Only an issue if your site gets manually inspected and you don’t have a legitimate reason for it.
- Showing one page to the search engines and other page to visitors negatively affects your rankings. (Cloaking and doorway pages.)
- Frames negatively affect your rankings.
- Using content that the search engines can’t read, like audios, flash, videos, graphics (without alt tags), etc.
- Whether you have a robots.txt file that tells the search engine bots to stop crawling or indexing your site.
Does domain age help?
Yes – search engines view older domains as more trustworthy, which means older domains may have a slight advantage. But this is only true if the older domain has a good reputation (e.g., it hasn’t been blacklisted, penalized or banned from the search engines).
Why would I want to 301 redirect an aged domain?
Google passes link juice/authority/age/ranking strength (call it what you like) from one domain to another if you do a 301 redirect on it.
For the less tech savvy out there the 301 code means “permanently moved” and is a way to announce that your site that was once “here” is now “there”.
The upshot of this is that you can buy an aged domain and “301” it to the site you’re trying to rank instantly passing on all that lovely ranking power that it’s acquired just by sitting in some domain squatters account for 10 years.
Just make sure they do a domain push at the same registrar it was originally registered at or all these effects are lost.
Also, you have to wait up to 2 weeks to see the benefits. They are not instant!
What is rel=”canonical”?
If you have two or more pages with similar content, you can tell Google which is your preferred page to show in the search engine results. This is referred to as your “canonical” page. If Google agrees this designated page is the best version, it will show this preferred page in its index.
To tell Google which page you want listed as the canonical page, add the following bit of code into the head section of the similar (non-canonical) pages:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/filename.html”/>
Naturally, you should replace the example.com/filename.html with your actual domain name and file name.
Example.com/file1.html is your preferred canonical page, the one you want displayed in the search engine results. You don’t have to add any tags to this site.
Example.com/file2.html and Example.com/file3.html have similar content to example.com/file1.html. As such, you’d place the canonical code within the <head> tag of these two sites to tell Google that example.com/file1.html is the most important page.
The most common reason to do this is to tell Google that these pages are all the same –
Don’t go overboard with this and certainly don’t use it on stuff like paginated comment pages because they are “similar” but contain the same post. They contain enough unique content to be treated as unique and Google will start to ignore your legitimate canonicals if it finds too many instances of you misusing it.
What’s the truth about duplicate content?
There is no duplicate content penalty when it comes to multiple sites. Otherwise, your shady competitors could just create near-clones of your site to make your site disappear. But that doesn’t happen. Indeed, run a search for a PLR article and you’ll likely see many SE results for that same article.
TIP: Nonetheless, it’s better if you have unique content, rather than competing with others for the same keywords using similar content.
What about duplicate content on your OWN site? In other words, what happens if you have two web pages with the same content but different file names? In that case, refer to the question on rel-canonical for instructions on how to deal with this.
What is a doorway page/cloaking?
Cloaking refers to showing one page to a search engine and a different page to your human visitors. Doorway pages are optimized pages that pull in SE traffic, but this traffic is immediately redirected (either manually or automatically) to a different page.
Google and other search engines do NOT like these practices.
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are information that you put between the <head> tag of your web page’s source code. These meta tags primarily tell search engines and other user agents about your site’s content (description), keywords, formatting, title and whether you want the search engines to crawl (and index) the page.
There are also some tags that are shown to the user, such as the title tag (which is the title that appears at the top of your browser).
Note that the big search engines no longer take these tags into consideration when ranking your web pages (with the exception of the title tags). Some smaller and more specialized search engines still utilize the keywords and description tags when ranking and displaying your site.
What is the “freshness” factor?
Search engines such as Google prefer “fresh” (newly updated) web pages and content over stale content. That’s why when you first add content to your site – such as a new blog post – this page may sit high in the rankings for a while. Eventually it may sink to a more realistic ranking.
It’s this “freshness factor” that allows your pages to get those higher rankings, even if the ranking is temporary. Thus updating your pages frequently can help push them to the top of the rankings.
This is one of the primary reasons why you hear people talking about how “Google loves blogs”. Google doesn’t love blogs, Google loves regularly updated sites.
What is a C-class IP and why should I care?
A computer’s IP address is it’s address on the Internet. A C-Class block of IPs are ones which are next to each other. Links from the same IP have very limited value. Links from the same C-Class IP block have a little more value but still not much. Links from different C-Class IPs are worth the most.
Not as important as it once was, especially when it comes to sites hosted on huge shared server clusters like those at HostGator/ThePlanet, BlueHost and others. The shortage of available IP addresses is driving this.
Most importantly tons of domains all on the same IP or C-Class that all interlink are the fastest way to announce to Google that you’re trying to cheat the system. This may have worked a couple of years ago, now it’s just a flashing neon sign telling Google to deindex you.
What is LSI?
LSI is short for latent semantic indexing. This refers to different words that have the same or similar meanings (or words that are otherwise related). For example, “housebreaking a dog” and “housetraining a puppy” are two entirely different phrases, but they mean about the same thing.
The reason this is important is because Google analyzes webpages using LSI to help it return the most relevant results to the user.
For example, a page that has the keyword “housebreaking a dog” but NO other similar words (like housetraining, paper training, potty training, puppy, dogs, puppies, etc) probably really isn’t about housebreaking. End result: Google won’t rank it as high as a web page that does include a lot of relevant, related terms.
What does this mean to you? When you create a web page around a keyword, be sure to also include the keyword’s synonyms and other related words.
Pure LSI analysis isn’t scalable enough to handle the volumes of data that Google processes. Instead they use more streamlined and scalable content analysis algorithms that have some basis in LSI and other related technologies. It also appears that this analysis is ongoing and not just a one time run through the system.
Cliff Notes: Don’t write content that a drunk 4th grader would be ashamed of. Spend the extra couple of minutes to write decent stuff and you’ll be fine.
Should I build links for human beings or the search engines?
Both but make sure you know which one you’re going for at any point.
If you want human beings to click the link then make sure your content high quality and worth that click.
If it’s never going to be seen by a human then don’t spend a week writing a beautifully crafted piece of prose use automation or anything you can lay your hands on to get links fast.
What is an XML Sitemap?
This is a listing of all the pages on a website, along with important information about those pages (such as when they were last updated, how important they are to the site, etc). The reason to create a sitemap is so that the search engines can easily find and crawl all your web pages.
This is really only important if you have a large and complex site that won’t be crawled easily. A 10-20 page HTML mini-niche site doesn’t really need one while a 20,000 page product catalog might benefit from one. Also avoid automating this on WordPress autoblogs since sitemap generation is a processor hog and can get you kicked off of shared hosting.
What is robots.txt for?
This is a file some include in some or all of their website directories. Search engine robots (bots) look at this file to see if they should crawl and index pages on your site, certain file types or even the entire site. An absence of this file gives them the green light to crawl and index your site.
If you don’t want search engine bots to crawl your site, then create a robots.txt file in your root directory that includes this bit of code:
You can also create a meta tag that keeps the search engines from indexing your site:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
Important: Only “well behaved” bots read robots.txt so don’t use it to “protect” content on your site just to keep Google from indexing stuff. Most importantly be aware that malicious bots will look for pages you’re asking not to be indexed and go to them with priority to see why.
What’s a spamblog?
A spamblog (or splog) is a blog used primarily to create backlinks to another site. Splogs tend to be populated with fake articles, commercial links and other garbage content.
In other words, they provide little or no value to a human reader. As such, the search engines tend to de-index these sites once they discover them.
What’s an autoblog?
An autoblog uses an automation tool to pull in content from other sources and post it on the blog. In other words, it’s an easy way to automatically and frequently update a blog.
They are a great way to build foundation sites to provide link juice to your higher ranking, more competitive sites but a good way to get sites banned if you don’t know what you are doing.
Most importantly there is a lot of discussion about how legal they are due to reproducing content. I’m definitely not going to get involved in that discussion and I ask you not to turn this thread into a flame fest discussing it.
What’s an “authority” site?
An authority site is one that is seen as influential and trustworthy by search engines, and thus it tends to rank well. Authority sites tend to be well-established sites that have a lot of high-quality, relevant content as well as links from other authority sites,
Obviously, getting your own website recognized as an “authority site” will boost your rankings. However, it’s also beneficial to get backlinks from these authority sites.
What are “supplemental” results?
These are results that are displayed in Google’s index after the main results – especially if Google’s trusted websites didn’t return many results. These supplemental results are no longer labeled as “supplemental” results. However, this secondary database still exists to index pages that have less importance, such as duplicate content on your site or orphaned pages.
For example, if you have multiple pages on your site with the exact same content, then Google will index your most important page in the main index, and place the duplicate page in the supplemental index.
What is Page Rank?
Page Rank (PR) is a numeric value from 0-10 that Google assigns to your individual web pages, and it’s a measure of how important that page is.
Google determines this importance by looking at how many other high quality, relevant pages link to a particular page. The more links – and the better quality those links are – the more “votes” a page gets in terms of importance. And the more “votes” a site gets, generally the higher the PR.
How often does Google update Page Rank?
It used to be every 3 months but it’s becoming more and more erratic.
Does PR matter?
Yes and no.
Originally PR was all that mattered in the search rankings but today that’s just not true since there are a myriad of other factors that Google considers when weighting who should appear where.
That said, high PR is always worth having just don’t obsess over it.
What is the “Google Dance”?
When “stuff” changes the SERPs fluctuate, sometimes wildly. One day your site could be number 1 and the next nowhere to be seen. One of the main contributing factors to that is how Google sees your backlinks (which you’re consistently building, right?).
Don’t obsess over it, just keep building and you’ll be fine.
How does Google personalize my results?
If you’re signed into Google, then Google keeps track of what search engine results you’ve clicked on. And even if you’re not signed in, Google keeps track of what results people who use your computer click on.
Over time, Google starts to detect a pattern. For example, if you seem to always click on Wikipedia results, then Google will start showing you more Wikipedia results. If you always click on health results from webmd.com, then you’ll get more webmd.com results when you run a health-related search.
What is a backlink?
This is when a third-party website links to your website. For example, if you write and submit an article to an article directory, then you’ll have an incoming link – a backlink — from the directory.
The search engines prefer one-way incoming backlinks from high-quality, relevant websites.
What is anchor text?
When you create a link, the anchor text is the clickbable part of the link. For example, in the phrase, “go to Google,” Google is the anchor text.
The reason this is important is because you want to use your keywords as your anchor text on incoming links. So if you’re trying to rank for “gardening secrets,” then those two words should make up the anchor text for several of your backlinks.
What is a do-follow/no-follow link?
There are two types of “nofollow” attribute. The robots meta tag version –
<meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow” />
Which tells (well behaved) bots/crawlers/spiders not to follow links on the page
And the link attribute
<a href=”http://www.google.com” rel=”nofollow”>
Which tells search engines not to count the link in terms of ranking pages.
In theory these links are worthless for boosting your search engine rankings. In practice you’ll often see some benefit, especially when mixed in with a load of dofollow links.
Links are automatically “dofollow” in the absence of the rel=”nofollow” attribute. There is no rel=”dofollow” attribute.
Can paid links harm my ranking?
Google’s official stance is that buying links is an attempt to manipulate rankings – and Google frowns on this practice.
In reality, however, it’s very hard for Google to penalize you for buying links (and they wouldn’t be able to tell for sure anyway). Indeed, if there was a penalty, then you could destroy a competitor simply by purchasing links to their site and then reporting them to Google. Poof, competition gone.
Of course it doesn’t work that way. As such, if there’s any “penalty,” it may just be that Google doesn’t “count” links from paid sources.
TIP: Google does penalize the sites that are selling these backlinks – so if you buy backlinks, be sure that the backlinks aren’t coming directly from the penalized sites.
Are reciprocal links bad?
They’re not bad, per se, especially if they’re coming from relevant, high quality websites. However, one-way incoming links tend to be more valuable in terms of SEO.
What is a one-way link?
This is a non-reciprocal link. That means that Site A links to Site B, but Site B does NOT link back to Site A.
The search engines prefer to see one-way links from relevant, quality sites.
What is three-way linking?
Three-way linking is a way for two webmasters to exchange links so that each person’s website gets a one-way link (rather than a reciprocal link).
In order to make this work, at least one of the webmasters has to have a second site in the same niche. Here’s how it works:
Webmaster 1 links his Site A to Webmaster 2’s Site B. Then Webmaster 2 links his Site C to Webmaster 1’s Site A.
Thus Sites A, B and C all have one-way incoming links, like this:
Site A -> Site B -> Site C -> Site A
What is a site wide link?
These are links that are found on every page of a website. For example, many people have a link to their “home” page (the index page) on every other page of their web site. That’s a site wide link.
What is pinging?
Pinging is informing web-crawling bots (such as search engines or directories) that you’ve updated the content on your web page. The goal is to get these bots to crawl and index your new content immediately.
For example, if you post a new article on your blog, you can use pingomatic.com or pingler.com to inform multiple bots about this change.
What is link velocity?
This refers to how quickly you gain backlinks. For best results, maintain a consistent link velocity.
Most importantly don’t build a load of backlinks (especially with fast indexation techniques) and then stop. Google sees this as a news article that was interesting for a short period of time but no longer relevant so stops ranking it. “Too many links” or “links built too fast” are rarely a problem but inconsistency is.
Can I build links too fast?
Yes and no. If you’ve got a brand new domain name and you fire up some of the more powerful link spamming automation software you’ll get you domain flagged quicker than you can say, “help me my site is gone”.
If you’re building links manually or controlling your usage of serious spam software you’ll be hard pushed to build links too fast on any domain that’s already been aged a bit. Just be consistent.
If you think you can build links too fast on any site here’s an experiment for you next time you’re having a slow weekend. Go out and buy the fastest, spammiest link building software you can lay your hands on and pick a Wikipedia article that currently ranks quite well. Go nuts. All you will do is strengthen its position.
What is a link wheel?
A link wheel refers to setting up multiple pages on multiple third-party websites (usually at least five) as a means of getting backlinks to your main site.
You link these properties to each other, but not reciprocally. For example, you link your EzineArticles article to your Squidoo page, then link your Squidoo page to HubPages… and so on. Finally, you link each of these third-party pages to your main site.
By using sites with a ton of content (and other SEOs backlinking them) you’re naturally tapping a bigger seem of link juice. Take advantage of this by writing high quality content for them so human beings follow the links as well since they will rank alongside your money site.
What is a mininet?
This is like a link wheel, except that you own all the sites that you’re linking together. You may link together a series of smaller niche sites, with each smaller site linking to your main site.
For example, you might link your dog housetraining site to your dog obedience site, and then link your dog obedience site to a site about training dogs to do tricks. All of these smaller niche sites would then link to your main dog training site.
What makes a good site for a link wheel?
Web 2.0 properties and other websites that have a high Page Rank. The best ones are sites which you get a page that will be automatically linked to from all over the site. Article directories like EzineArticles are perfect for this since you get tons of internal links to kick things off with.
What is link bait?
This means “baiting” others into linking to your site. Typically, this means posting unique, controversial, extremely useful or otherwise entertaining content or tools so that others naturally link to your web page.
In other words, you create and post viral content.
What is a link farm?
Link farms consist of large networks of sites whose sole purpose is to generate pages that can be used to link out to other sites that are actually worth something.
They are pretty much essential to rank for more highly competitive keywords but don’t attempt this unless you really know what you are doing. Google is smarter than you!
How do I get my site indexed?
Don’t bother submitting your site through the traditional methods. The fastest way to get a site to appear in Google’s index is to create backlinks to it. Use social bookmarking sites to create lots of easy win links from sites that are spidered regularly and submit any RSS feeds you’ve got to directories.
If you’re really keen to get indexed as fast as humanly possible –
- Stick Adsense on your pages (even if you remove it later) as this forces Google to spider you.
- Setup an Adwords campaign to your domain (Google has to spider you to determine your quality score).
- Search for your domain name.
- Perform site: and link: searches on your domain.
- Visit your site using accounts with some of the most widespread ISPs (eg AOL) since their logs are used to find new content.
- Email links to your site to and from a Gmail account.
How do I get my backlinks indexed?
The slow way is to wait for the search engines to naturally find them. The faster way is to ping the page after you leave a backlink. For truly fast backlinking social bookmark them or create RSS feeds with links in.
How can I tell if my site has been visited by a spider/bot?
By checking your traffic logs and statistics. Most traffic analyzing software will recognize and label the bots and spiders that crawl your site. You can also recognize these visitors manually, as the “user agent” is usually labeled something obvious, such as “Google Bot.”
What percentage of people click on the first listing in Google?
Only Google knows for sure, but estimates range from about 40% to 50%. AOL once released their data, which suggested that 42% click on the first listing. “Heat map analysis” studies tend to lean more towards 50% or more.
How do I use Google alerts to monitor the SERPs?
All you have to do is get a Google account and then go to Google Alerts. There you enter the keywords you want the tool to monitor the SERPs for, choose “comprehensive,” choose the frequency you want to receive the alerts and then enter your email address where you want to receive the alerts.
Once you’ve completed those simple steps, you’ll get alerted when new pages that use your keywords appear in the search engines.
You can also use this tool to monitor your backlinks as they appear in Google. Just enter this search term into the alerts field:
Replace the above URL with your actual link, of course.
How can I track the number of backlinks I have?
There are a variety of tools available to you, such as using the Yahoo! Site Explorer, Google Webmaster tools (check the links report) and SEO Quake.
Using these tools is preferable to searching directly in Google. That’s because searching manually generally yields only a sample of the sites that are linking to your site.
Ultimately they’re all wrong! Don’t obsess about tracking these things just focus on building more.
What makes a good keyword?
A good keyword is one that your target market is searching for regularly. An even better keyword is one that’s not only searched for regularly, there’s also very little competition in the search engines. That means you have a good chance of ranking well for that keyword.
How many people are searching for my keyword?
You’ll need to use a keyword tool to find out the answer. Example tools include the Google keyword tool, WordTracker.com, MarketSamurai.com and any number of other similar tools.
What is the “true” competition for a keyword?
Forget all that rubbish you see in just about everyone’s WSO “proof” about how they outranked a bajillion other sites for some phrase or other.
The only listings that matter are on page 1 so the only people you are competing with are on page 1. I would much rather compete with a billion PR0 unrelated sites than 10 PR9s that have been around over a decade and you should too!
Find out the page rank for the top ten listed pages and find the number of backlinks they have. That’s your competition.
What are long tail keywords?
Highly niche searches. For example, “dog training” is a short tail keyword, while “how to train a deaf dog” is a long tail keyword.
Long tail keywords tend to have less people searching for them than short tail words. On the other hand, they also tend to have less competition in the search engines, thus it can be easier for you to get top rankings for these words.
What is the official Google/Yahoo/Bing policy on SEO?
The search engines encourage you to design your site and organize your content in a search engine friendly way. This includes proper use of meta tags, creating information-rich sites, including words on your site that your users are searching for, using site maps and more.
However, they all strongly discourage any attempts to manipulate your search engine rankings, such as keyword stuffing, link spamming, cloaking and similar practices.
Why doesn’t Google tell me how many links I have?
Google only shows a sample of backlinks, because generally it’s only webmasters who are seeking this information. As such, webmasters who know ALL of their competitor’s backlinks can just go and get links from the same sources (which may be viewed as manipulating the rankings). By only showing a sample, Google helps reduce this practice somewhat.
They also make some claim about the amount of resources required to list all this information which I guess would be true if they didn’t have to have it stored for a million other reasons. Bottom line, they don’t want you to have it, get over it.
Can anyone guarantee a 1st place ranking?
No. Because the search engines can and do change their algorithms, and because a third-party site may drop or change your links, no one can guarantee a first place ranking for a keyword.
However, SEO experts can create high rankings – even first place – for certain keywords. They just can’t guarantee those placements, as the algorithms and third-party links are not under their control.
What is a backlink packet?
Instead of searching for high-PR, .edu, .gov and authority sites to place your backlinks, you can save time by purchasing a “packet” that lists these types of sites for you. These packets typically include “do follow”:
- Blogs where you can make comments.
- Forums where you can set up profiles.
- Directories where you can post content and backlinks
…and similar sites.
The bonus of these packets is that they save you time since you don’t have to seek out these sites yourself. The downside is that sometimes the webmasters change their policies once they get an onslaught of these links. For example, the owner of a high-PR blog may change to “no follow” links or disallow comments altogether.
What SEO service should I use?
This question is far too contentious for a forum FAQ like this so I’m not going to name specific services. Instead here’s some general advice on selecting SEO services.
Don’t fall for hype about “ranking for the most competitive terms in the SEO industry”. SEO companies that do this are pouring their resources into this highly competitive game because of the PR boost its worth. Ultimately that cost has to go somewhere. Instead find SEO firms that focus on customer testimonials showing good results.
Don’t get involved in “my links are better than your links” battles. Nothing annoys me more than seeing arguments about how so-and-so’s link packet is more effective than such-and-such’s. Just focus on building a large variety of links and you’ll be fine