Top SEO FAQs Answered By Our Project Managers - SmartSites
SEO

Top SEO FAQs Answered By Our Project Managers

Director of Project Management

SEO FAQs

1. What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. Nowadays, ranking well in the SERPs for your business’s relevant search terms is going to be key to obtaining new customers/clients.  According to Moz, “SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results”. 

The equation we like to use here is: SEO = [Onsite Pages x Offsite Links] – Technical Errors. The quantity of your traffic is built through building onsite pages while targeting various keywords. The quality of your traffic is reached through offsite links by bringing authority and credibility to your site. Technical errors are important to make sure that Google can crawl your site without encountering any roadblocks. SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies because it targets users who are already actively searching for what you offer, and provides your business with long-term benefits for lead generations

2. Why Should I Do SEO?

According to Webfx.com, “SEO offers a 14.6 percent close rate, which is 8x higher than traditional marketing”. This is just one of many reasons to implement Search Engine Optimization. SEO makes your website accessible to search engines while also appealing to the users who are utilizing those search engines (which nowadays is most of your target audience). By attracting organic traffic to your site, your company’s brand recognition is elevated. This is especially important for any new business working to gain visibility in front of a new customer base. 

SEO also helps you to gain visibility in front of potential customers who have already determined a need for the product or service you offer, but may not have heard of your brand yet. If that wasn’t incentivizing enough for your business to implement SEO, know that your competitors are most likely already doing it! Companies as large as Amazon and Macy’s, or as small as your local plumber, have benefited from implementing SEO. Although it’s hard to catch up with major brands; a later start is better than never.

3. Is Duplicate Content Bad for SEO?

Yes, duplicate content is bad for SEO. Google has several factors when it comes to search engine rankings. Duplicate content happens when more than one source has the same content that isn’t referenced in the code. When duplicate content is not referenced in the code, Google does not know who to credit the content to, as they want to give credit to the original creator. Their algorithms do have some negative effects for sites that frequently post duplicate content, especially those who don’t have unique content of their own.

Sites that steal and recycle content are heavily penalized in terms of search engine rankings. These Google penalties result in your website not showing up as often which ultimately results in less visitors and negatively affects your bottom line. When it comes to duplicate content, it is best to reference the original source in your code so that Google does not penalize you. During our technical audit, we make sure our crawler searches for duplicate content so that it does not impact your site negatively. 

SEO Project Managers

4. What are Meta Tags and Do They Still Matter?

Meta tags are basically snippets of code that describe a page’s content. These meta tags are not actually visible on frontend website pages, but can be found in the page’s source code. So, should you care about meta tags? Yes, but not all meta tags are important. Here are the four types:

  1. Meta Keywords Attribute [Not Important Anymore] – This used to be a way marketers did keyword stuffing to improve ranking, and is no longer included in Google Algorithm.
  2. Title Tag [Most Important] – This impacts search rankings and is the only meta tag that is visible to users (in their browser tab).
  3. Meta Description Attribute [Important] – This is the description you see under your Google search that is typically about 130 to 160 characters long, and can help your CTR. They can also be described as organic ad copy. 
  4. Meta Robots Attribute [Important] – This tells search engines what to do with your page (To show or not to show on Google).

When doing a technical audit, we optimize your site’s meta titles and descriptions.

5. How Often Do I Need to Do SEO?

Constantly! SEO is a long-term process, not a one-time quick fix. It is important to always monitor your site’s SEO as Google’s algorithms are constantly changing. If you are just starting out with SEO, you can typically expect to start seeing results in 4-6 months as it takes time to make an impact on your site. 

Once you implement SEO strategies, it has a permanence factor. However, that does not necessarily mean you can proceed with 2-3 months of SEO and then stop. As your competitors are going to be improving and maintaining their SEO strategies, you may fall behind if you pause. Google gives preference to “freshness”, thus meaning it is important to constantly monitor Google algorithms and your site’s SEO performance. So, when it comes to SEO, if you snooze, you may lose!

6. How Does Google Know About My Website?

Google uses bots which crawl the web to gather and analyze information they find to determine where to rank the different pages on your website. Eventually, those bots will “run into” your website and scan your pages. Sometimes it can take multiple weeks for Google to discover and rank the new pages that you have added to your site. By creating new links to your site, this will build more authority; meaning that Google will crawl your site more often. You can also alert Google by submitting your site on Google Search Console. Bing also offers a similar option called Bing Webmaster Tools. Once you submit your site to Google Search Console and continue to create new pages and build new links over time, Google will then rank your website in the SERPs.

7. What Metrics Should I Look For When Measuring SEO Performance? What Things Do You Track In Terms Of SEO?

It’s always important to rely on metrics so that you know how you are performing in your SEO campaign. Overall, we should focus on:

  • Organic site traffic and conversions from organic site traffic

Organic site traffic tells you whether there are more people coming to your site and more importantly, converting once they are on your site. If you have an eCommerce website, we will track sales coming in from SEO efforts. If you are not running an eCommerce site, we track things like phone calls and contact forms to determine the number of leads coming in from the SEO side. By tracking these goals, it will help us determine the number of users who are converting while coming to your site organically. You can find this data on your Monthly Marketing Report, where your PM will highlight significant SEO updates.

We advise not paying too much attention to:

  • Keyword ranking 

We know that many of our clients consider keyword ranking as their main metric for SEO, however, we do not suggest looking at this. Keyword ranking is not an accurate metric for SEO as search results vary per user. Search results change according to personal demographics, search history, geographic location, and other factors. This is why we recommend looking at organic traffic and conversions from organic traffic. 

9. How Do You Track Leads?

We believe that tracking and conversions are an important part of any marketing strategy. A business can utilize form submissions, phone calls, sign ups, and downloads to achieve desired tracking and conversion goals. Research has shown that contact forms and phone calls are the most common types of response we get.  

We use DialogTech to track phone calls through dynamic phone numbers. The number changes depending on the channel that the user uses to find your website (i.e., organic, PPC or direct). At the end of the month, it is important to compile how many calls you get from SEO, PPC, etc. Each call can be recorded and sent to you weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. This way, you can determine both the quantity and quality of your leads. You can also track the quality of your calls by looking at the average minutes per call. Longer call durations typically indicate greater lead quality.

We also track forms through Google Analytics and Lead Tracker to record each form submission on your site. We can determine what page the user filled the form out on to identify your top performing landing pages. Each form submission will be recorded in your marketing report to review at the end of the month. 

10. How Do You Make Sure You Are Following Google’s Best Practices?

Google changes their algorithm thousands of times per year. For businesses and websites that rely on Google for their success, these changes represent a big risk factor. How do you ensure that your website SEO strategy is future-proof? While no one can predict Google’s next move, there are certain steps we can take to minimize the chance that a future algorithm update will hurt you, and increase the likelihood that an update will positively impact your rankings. 

Follow The Updates

We’ll start with the obvious – follow the updates and be quick to implement Google’s new rules. The best place to look for Google search updates is their Official Google Webmaster Central blog: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/ . Alternatively, for a more top-level view, Moz has a great resource: https://moz.com/google-algorithm-change

Say “No” to Shortcuts

Commonly known as black hat techniques, the internet is full of ‘get rankings quick’ schemes. Oftentimes, these scams are mass-emailed to all domain owners but if you go searching for them online, you’ll find plenty. Usually one of three techniques are deployed in these scams:

  • Domain Masking
  • Buying Links
  • Take Your Money & Run

Think Of The User First

In most cases, you can extrapolate Google’s impact by following the user’s experience. For example, say you create a new page on your website to sell Baseball Hats. If you want users to click to this page, you may link to it prominently at the top of your website. Google will correctly interpret the page’s importance and allocate the relative weight to it. Alternatively, if you hide this page from users and only feature it in a blog post, Google will pay less attention to the page. If you always just think of the user first, your actions will align with Google’s interpretation 19 out of 20 times. 

As an SEO-focused agency, we keep up-to-date with Google’s best practices and always keep the user experience at the forefront. As a result, we have never been penalized by Google, and are frequent beneficiaries of Google algorithm updates. 

SEO and PPC Performance

11. Does SEO Help PPC Performance?

Spending money on Google Ads does not help you rank higher in the SERPs, but this approach does offer some other advantages. One of the largest benefits is the insights and data obtained from PPC that can help you with SEO. PPC shows you results and has a quicker impact when compared to SEO, which is more of a long-term strategy. Therefore, you can take the information about what keywords have been more successful for PPC to help guide you on what keywords to focus on for SEO (since that data will take longer to obtain otherwise). Here are some advantages you can expect:

  1. People who see a Paid Ad are more likely to click on an organic listing. 
  2. Users who have been exposed to a brand are also more likely to interact with a website. 
  3. If a user is brought to a site from a Paid Ad and they see with a lot of great content, fast page speed, user experience focused (SEO optimized) – that will also help with overall lead conversion. 

12. What Is Image Alt Text?

Alt Text or alternative text, is the written description for images that appears when the images cannot be loaded on a site page. This text helps search engine crawlers read the content on your site better in order to rank the site.  

An example of Alt text is the following: <img src=”funnypic.gif” alt=”Cat Dancing with a Dog”>. The  goal is to be descriptive as to what the image is showing, but it is important to know that you should not blatantly stuff the Alt text with keywords. It also shouldn’t be too lengthy as common screen readers cut it off at around 125 characters. 

Alt text is also used as an accessibility tool for the visually impaired. People who have trouble with their vision may use screen readers when accessing websites on their computer. These screen readers will read out loud the text along with the alt text on the website page to allow them to understand what is there.  

Things like this are gaining more importance as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance has come up in recent news in regards to making sure information technology is accessible to those who have disabilities.

13. What Is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding with a greater ability to rank. The initial concept of it (known as PageRank) was developed by Google founder, Larry Page. It was basically a simple measurement of the amount of links pointing to a website and the quality of those links. 

For a long time that was really important, however, it gave rise to the development of black hat tactics and link buying practices. Today, it is no longer part of Google’s internal algorithm and now, MOZ created what we refer to as Domain Authority. MOZ has crawlers like Google does which they use to determine the authority, but there are also other similar ones such as Domain Rating from ahrefs.com.

14.  Do Redirects Affect SEO?

Redirects refer to the process of automatically moving a web user from one page to another. It can be useful when done correctly and is better than a user getting an error message, “Error 404 not found.” Redirects are also useful if users have already bookmarked a page URL that you are planning to change. They will be directed to the correct page even if they have clicked the old link.

It is important to note that pages lose their rankings if crawlers run into 404 errors. Always remember to implement redirects when you are changing URLs. There are different types of redirects to use, including 301 and 302. The former is the most popular option because it helps improve SEO and passes over 90% of the “link juice”. The latter is typically useful for temporary URL changes, e.g., when you are performing website maintenance.

15. What Is A Google Penalty?

A Google penalty is a negative impact on rankings based on either algorithm updates or from manual review. Unlike the way it is for Hockey or any other sports games, the punishment is going to last longer. This is basically Google’s way of punishing you when you don’t follow their rules. Once you get hit with a penalty, your organic traffic and ranking will drop, either just on specific pages or, other times, a whole site can be banned. Some causes of Google penalties can be seen below:

  • Cloaking and/or Sneaky Redirects
  • Cloaking: First Click Free Violation
  • Cloaked Images
  • Hacked Site
  • Hidden Text and/or Keyword Stuffing
  • Pure Spam
  • Spammy Free Hosts
  • Spammy Structured Markup
  • Thin Content with Little or No Added Value
  • Unnatural Links to Your Site
  • Unnatural links from Your Site
  • User-Generated Spam
  • Expired Jobs

If you don’t know Google’s rules, it is easy to innocently violate these rules.  Check out our FAQ “How do you make sure you are following Google’s best practices?” for more information.

16. How Do I Know If A Backlink Is Good Or Bad For SEO?

A backlink is essentially a link on a site that leads users to a different site. Think of backlinks as a continuous chain that links websites to one another; some chains are firm, strong, and reliable (good backlinks) and others are rusty, neglected, and not doing their job (bad backlinks). 

Qualities of Good Backlinks:

  • Relevant to Your Business
  • High Domain Authority
  • Trusted Website
  • Social Proof
  • Leader in their Field
  • High Website Traffic
  • Has Quality Content

Qualities of Bad Backlinks:

  • High Spam Score
  • Low Page Ranking
  • Low Domain Authority
  • Irrelevant to Your Industry
  • Unnatural

However, even links that may not appear to be the greatest may not be as harmful as you think. It’s like they say “There’s no such thing as bad press”. The goal is for your link profile to look natural; if it looks too perfect, Google may suspect you of link manipulation.

17. What Is Robots.Txt?

A robots.txt file is an optional file on one’s website that dictates how search engines, and other bots, should read your site. For example, a robots.txt file can tell Google to exclude certain pages, like a private admin panel, from being listed in search results.

Proper usage of this file is critical because 10 characters ( Disallow:/ ) could completely remove your site from search engines. While robots.txt files are optional, you will find it on most sites. For example, CNN and Apple have both implemented robot.txt. 

18. Does URL Structure Affect SEO?

Website URL structure is one of the factors that Google looks at for ranking websites. If you are wondering what you should consider for your URL structure, just think, what do users want? The URL structure should indicate where exactly the link is bringing you to as well as contain relevant keywords. Google does have special criteria such as avoiding extraneous characters, including dashes, and adding appropriate keywords. However, it is not the end of the world if there are technical reasons when they cannot be fully optimized. For example, Google Docs have bad site URL structure, but they are still ranked by Google highly.

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