Below is a list of SEO FAQs, or frequently asked questions about SEO.
What’s the goal of SEO?
The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to drive more relevant visitors to your website from search engines like Google, Bing & Yahoo (primarily Google). This is done by investing in SEO efforts to increase your website’s keyword rankings (also known as search engine visibility, presence, or reach) in search engine results.
These SEO efforts include expanding and optimizing your website content, building links between pages and posts, and optimizing the content structure and performance of your website for topics and keywords relevant to your business and searched online.
How long does SEO take to see results?
Based on the evolving nature of search engines like Google and the ongoing efforts of competing websites, an SEO professional or agency should never guarantee you a specific result by a specific date.
Results can take anywhere from 2-6 months depending on the SEO efforts involved, the primary goal desired from SEO (website visitors, leads, or sales), and competitive factors such as competition levels for the keywords relevant to your business.
Are there external/outside factors that can affect the results from SEO?
Possible external factors that can affect SEO performance include:
- Changes in keyword search demand for keywords relevant to your business.
- The volume and types of keywords searched within your target locations.
- The size of your site in terms of content and links compared to the competition.
- The quality of your site, content, links, and speed compared to the competition.
- The strength of competing websites/businesses and their SEO efforts.
- Changes in search algorithms shifting rankings (Google tweaks its algorithm daily).
What is a typical timeline for SEO?
SEO is a long-term marketing investment and a continuous process of optimizing and expanding content online that is relevant and helpful to your target audience.
Because competing websites continue to invest in SEO and search engines continue to evolve over time, SEO has become an ongoing process that is a vital part of most company marketing plans and budgets. Also, as search engines and user search behavior evolves over time, content and links require strategic adjustments.
As a result, companies get the most bang for their buck from SEO packages managed by an experienced SEO expert that understands the type of SEO deliverables most likely to drive results and produce an ROI. Also, depending on the size of the website and business goals, there may be a setup period of 1-2 months.
The setup phase includes website auditing, competitor analysis, keyword research, and resolving any website content or technical issues critical to SEO success. After the setup period, the ongoing SEO phase of expanding and optimizing begins.
This ongoing phase of SEO includes more in-depth and strategic content optimization and link updates, alongside content creation such as new pages or posts, link building, and keyword rank tracking. Here's an example SEO process and feedback loop:
Re-audit your website -> Re-analyze your keywords and competition-> Update/create content/links based on a fresh analysis -> Re-analyze your website's results/ranking trends and competition -> Repeat the process and adjust direction based on data.
What is involved in website metadata for SEO?
Each page of a website includes metadata including:
1.) Page search titles (the titles that appear in your browser tab and search results, which can be created/optimized, and is not necessarily the visible title on the page)
2.) Page meta descriptions (the description of the page displayed in search results below the search result title, which can be created/optimized, however, Google may decide to auto-generate a page’s meta description based on the content of the page and the keyword searched by a user).
Metadata can help influence users to click on your website’s search result listings over others. Note: page meta descriptions are not a direct ranking factor, however, they can influence clicks into your website, which may lead to improvements in other on-site visitor metrics that could be used by Google as ranking signals.
What is link building (backlinks, internal links)?
In the practice of SEO, link building describes actions aimed at increasing the number and quality of inbound links (whether from another website or another page on your own website) to a page on your site with the goal of increasing the linked pages rankings or website rankings in general.
These links may be referred to as backlinks or internal links (internal links are linked from one page in your site to another page in your site.
Internal links can also be considered backlinks to the internal pages they are linking to.
Why do you need link building?
Links provide additional keyword/topic relevance and authority/popularity signals to Google for the page being linked to. Other than providing quality content on a page, links are the 2nd most important ranking factor when it comes to ranking a website page higher for keyword/s related to the page’s topic.
Just like content creation and optimization, link building and optimization should be an ongoing process for the life of a website due to the constant changes in search engines, links getting removed from websites, and competing website linking efforts.
What are local citations?
A local citation is any mention of your business on the web, such as on other sites, business listings, directories, and social media profiles that include information about your local business such as your company name, phone number, address, zip/postal code, website address, and description or product/service info if applicable.
Having accurate and up-to-date business citations across sites and directories online provides signals of trust to Google, which can help your local search visibility.
Why do you need local citations for local SEO?
Citations in local SEO are a key factor in improving your local search results (alongside website content, links, related optimization, and online reviews).
While Google looks at hundreds of ranking factors/signals, citation-related ranking signals include the quality and consistency of your business's citation information across the web compared to competing businesses.
What is Google My Business (GMB)?
Google My Business (GMB) is a free listing platform for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence locally across Google, including Google Search and Google Maps.
If you verify and edit your business information in a Google My Business listing, you can help customers find your business in your area through your listing alongside your website, and improve the local SEO of your website as well.
Why do you need an updated Google Business Profile?
Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business or GMB) enables you to provide information about your business locally to potential searchers in Google and on Google Maps in your area, including contact info, hours, business categories, descriptions of your business and offerings, photos, and the ability to collect reviews.
An updated GMB listing and collecting an increasing number of positive Google reviews improve your chances of reaching potential customers when they’re searching related keyword searches in your area, both in Google search results and Google Maps. (This is alongside the organic or natural search result listings that a website can rank for through SEO and by publishing quality, relevant local content on the website).
What’s involved in on-page SEO compared to off-page SEO?
On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher for relevant keywords and acquire more relevant visitor traffic from the search results.
On-page refers to both the content, links, and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO, which refers to SEO activities outside of your website, such as updating business citations and building links.
What are the signals/factors that affect your rankings in search?
While there are over 200 ranking factors and Google adjusts these factors daily, some of the primary factors that SEOs have deduced over the years based on data and experience include:
- A secure and accessible website (including hosting with an HTTPS certificate).
- Page speed (including mobile page speed) is affected by page content and the quality of the hosting plan/provider.
- Mobile-friendliness (site and pages built with a responsive design so content looks good on smaller device screens, loads quick, and is legible). Keep in mind – it is now a mobile-first world, where Google prioritizes ranking your site for mobile devices. More people are using mobile devices than desktops to access the web. Mobile rankings can also differ from desktop rankings depending on the keyword.
- Domain age, URL, and authority – Did you know that nearly 60% of the sites that have a top ten Google search ranking are three years old or more? Data from an SEO ranking study of two million pages suggests that very few sites less than a year old achieve that ranking. While it is possible to rank well on the 1st page of Google for target keywords in a few months' time, this study shows how SEO efforts often take time to generate the very best results, and is an ongoing process, especially for new or small sites with a lack of quality content and links built compared to competing websites.
- Optimized content – Optimizing content includes keyword optimization, page HTML code optimization (metadata & elements like title and image tags), and search intent. Keyword optimization includes optimizing a page’s topic to incorporate the keywords (words and phrases) searchers use when they’re looking for information as well as words and phrases related to the keywords being searched. These are also the words and phrases that describe a page's topic, which improves the quality, comprehensiveness, and perceived authority of the page and your site for the topic and related keywords in the eyes of Google. 2nd is the page’s HTML code and related metadata, which helps further optimize the page for both users and Google, as well as giving the ability to potentially alter the title and description of the page’s search result snippet. 3rd is making sure the page is aligned with search intent, which means understanding what people are really looking for when they type in search keywords and providing this information in a user-friendly, understandable way in the page’s content. (Keep in mind: while you may desire a specific page to rank for a specific keyword, the page may never have the chance to rank well for that keyword unless the content is properly aligned with search intent. One example would be trying to get a website or page about a local service to rank for related keywords in another location when Google detects that your business doesn’t actually service or exist in that location based on existing address or other data.
- Technical SEO – This is related to more of the minutiae within optimizing content and links, including the HTML code and related elements such as h1, h2, h3 tags for page headers/titles, alt tags to describe any images on a page, length of titles and meta descriptions, and where to incorporate keywords within these elements based on what Google likes to see in top-ranking results for a specific topic/keyword, link redirects, and the anchor text (keyword phrases) used within specific links.
- User Experience (RankBrain) – For a while now, Google’s been using artificial intelligence to better determine which website pages should rank for different keywords. It calls that signal RankBrain. This includes other sub-signals that affect your website's search engine rankings. These might include click-through rate (or the percentage of people who click to visit your site in search results), bounce rate (or the number of people who click on your page and quickly go back to the search results), and dwell time (or how long visitors stay on your site after they’ve arrived).
- Links – The web is built on links. So naturally, links are a crucial SEO ranking signal. There are three primary categories of links: inbound links (or backlinks), outbound links, and internal links. All three types of links can include descriptive anchor text, which is the keyword phrase used as the link to describe the content being linked. (This can lead to being an aspect of technical SEO).
- Real Business Information/Citations/Reviews – This last ranking factor is important for businesses targeting particular local areas. Alongside having optimized local website content and links built, the presence or absence of business information such as business mentions, local citations, and online reviews is one of the more important local SEO ranking factors. This includes NAP (name, address, phone number), having a verified Google My Business listing, collecting Google reviews or reviews on other relevant sites such as HomeAdvisor or Yelp, and incorporating relevant local search terms in your business information.
Why do you need editor access to my website?
We require website edit access in order to make content and link changes across your website’s pages. This is necessary to make SEO and content adjustments with meaningful impact.
Why did the content on x page change; do you need to edit our page content?
While we attempt to gain approval to optimize and potentially expand upon your site’s existing page content before starting SEO (depending on the agreed-upon SEO plan), someone at your company may be caught off guard noticing changes in a page’s content, especially if more than one person is analyzing or working with your website.
As part of on-page SEO, we do often adjust content for clean formatting, alter titles/subtitles, keywords, metadata, and potentially expand the content about the page’s topic based on competing pages in search results and to increase the word count of the page if it is thin in comparison to the competition and what Google is looking for as a quality page result about that topic and related keywords.
What primary KPI/metric do you measure SEO by?
While it depends on the type of site, industry, and offerings, SEO is primarily measured by improvements in the volume or quality of visitor traffic to your website coming from search engines (known as organic search traffic, primarily from Google). This in turn leads to either the desired goal of more leads (calls/form fills) or site sale transactions.
The secondary KPI/metric leading to more traffic and leads or sales is improvements in the ranking positions for your website’s pages in search results, and potentially an increase in the total number of keyword rankings on average for your website.
Why do we do monthly reporting for SEO?
It can take time to see improvements in results with SEO, as search engines like Google & Bing require time to detect new content and link changes for your website pages in relation to other sites, as well as how users interact with the page changes.
Based on experience performing SEO for client websites across many industries, analyzing results and providing SEO reporting in a shorter period of time such as weekly or biweekly doesn’t provide enough time to rely on that data being related to recent optimization updates.
Can we focus on this x page or thing?
This may depend on deliverables and the client's situation. One thing to keep in mind is that starting on a new page/topic/keyword will take time, as it's similar to starting a month 1 setup phase.
The client may expect noticeable results in under 1-2 months for this type of request, however, it may take 3-6 months, especially if the topic is brand new or does not exist within the site and a new content and link building process is required.
What is Schema/Structured Data?
Structured data is a type of markup code added to a website page that provides additional meaning and context to what a page’s content is about.
Schema.org is a project that provides a particular set of agreed-upon definitions for structured data markup.
Search engines like Google may decide to alter the display of a website page’s snippet/listing in search results based on the type of content and structured data markup on the page.
Is Schema/Structured Data a ranking signal?
Not directly at the moment based on official statements from Google, however some structured data markup, if chosen to be shown by Google, could potentially improve other indirect ranking signals if the structured data leads to more visitors clicking on the page (such as if Google decides to show review stars in a search result snippet).
Why is it beneficial to have SEO in place long-term?
SEO requires ongoing structural, link-related, and content-related production and maintenance efforts to stay competitive. Competing sites that continue to invest in SEO efforts can overtake a website's search rankings at any given time, and search engines like Google are constantly evolving as well.
Google likes to see your site's content and links being updated on a consistent basis (website freshness signals). Continuing to expand and optimize your website's content and links strengthens your website's position for target topics and keywords in the eyes of Google compared to competing sites with content and links about similar topics. User search behavior and Google itself change over time, and links can break or disappear from websites, so close monitoring and optimization of content and links isn't a one-and-done effort if you want your business to stay competitive.
SEO efforts take time to see results, however, once results start building up and compounding, the results are often worth the investment compared to relying purely on paid ad channels. Optimization and adjustments to your website content and links are recommended as an ongoing effort to increase the potential for better and more secure results, based on trend insights from website data analysis tools like Google Analytics and other SEO reporting software.
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