10 Popular Questions (and Answers) about SEO

Many People Thinking of Questions

What is SEO? 
Some of you might be rolling your eyes at this one, but is actually still an enormous number of organizations that know little or nothing about SEO and the come to us to find out what it is and how it can help them.  SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it is used to describe the ways that website owners manipulate their website information so that it achieves better rankings in search engine results. The higher your website ranks in search engine results, the more traffic your website will get and continually using SEO techniques can help your website to be successful.

Is SEO worth my time?
That depends entirely on who’s doing your SEO for you. SEO is a consistently changing industry and because of that it’s good to find specialists with a strong background in SEO who are up to date on the most recent best practices, but it will also depend on the keywords you’re targeting and your industry.  When your SEO is done correctly by a knowledgeable expert it can be highly effective in increasing website traffic but SEO done incorrectly will mostly be just a waste of time and resources. Our Advice? Make sure you choose your SEO consultant with care.

Why is my website ranking poorly?
SEO is a constant process because the rules for it are constantly changing. If you haven’t kept up with current best practices or aren’t using SEO techniques properly, you may not be ranking as well as you could be. Here are some of the main reasons why websites rank poorly:

  • Missing or incorrectly used Title Tags
  • Keyword stuffing (overusing your keywords excessively)
  • No Alt Tags on your images
  • Poorly written content that is missing naturally occurring keywords
  • Very few pages or content that isn’t regularly updated
  • Not enough relevant backlinks

What makes a link relevant?
Links are one of the most important aspects of SEO because they act like a “vote” for your website. Links from credible websites (ones that search engines deem reliable and authoritative) that have relevant anchor text (the text in the hyperlink confirms what your page is about) will help you to rank better because it proves to search engine crawlers what your website or page is actually about. There are many scams that claim to help you get relevant links, but please, for us, don’t get sucked in. These link “farms” or “exchanges” can lead to heavy penalties in search engines which will actually erode your rankings.

What is duplicate content and how can I avoid it?
You have duplicate content when you have multiple pages on your website that contain a significant amount of similar content to other pages and search engines will penalize for this just like for link farming. This is actually very simple to avoid: just write new content for each page! If your pages are relevant to specific topics and you’re writing according to what your page is about, it shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid this penalty.

Why is content important for SEO?
Your website’s content (blog posts, webpage copy, resources etc) is one of the best tools that you have to help improve your search engine rankings because it allows you to emphasize your keywords, build links and supplement your demand generation initiatives, but remember: you can’t just have any old content. Your content needs to be valuable to your audience for it to help you build links and bring traffic to your website.

What is an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the URLs on your website. This type of sitemap is used to inform search engines about the URLs on your website that are available for crawling so that they get included in the search engine’s database.

How many keywords/Keyword phrases should I target?
That is going to depend on your website and your audience because your keyword choices should be derived from the terms that your users are utilizing to find your website. It will also depend on the size of your website and what products or services your company or organization provides to your audience. Having said that, the best practice is usually considered to be 2-5 keywords per page.

How can I figure out which keywords to target? Choosing your keywords carefully is on the most important steps when determining your SEO strategy and there are several different tactics for narrowing down the best ones. Brainstorming is a good way to get started, but after that there are plenty of free and paid online tools to help you generate keywords and determine which ones you should choose. You’re analytics are a good place to start as well (if you have them set up). Understanding what people are already using to find your website is a good way to narrow down your keyword strategy. Make sure when you choose your keywords you choose based on relevance and achievability. Just because a keyword is relevant for your website doesn’t mean you will necessarily rank for it. The more popular the keyword is, the less likely you will rank highly for it.

What is black hat SEO?
Pretty much everything we’ve already mentioned not to do is considered black hat SEO. Basically using black hat SEO techniques means that you’re doing things that break search engine rules to try and get higher rankings and are generally considered to be cheating and unethical (keyword stuffing is a good example).

Microformats and SEO – What They Are and How They Can Benefit Your Site

Google uses algorithms to pick snippets displayed off a certain page by your click through rates. However, using a set of HTML conventions that’s agreed upon and used to describe a content would mean more control in Google’s SERPs. Microformats has a way of helping you boost your ranking by using rich snippets using proper execution.

This technique is widely getting attention because its more relational and readable compared to using codes. It’s a basic and effective way to create semantic markups. Microformats uses code snippets that lets browsers or search engines easily understand what your site is about instead of just displaying it. Microformats easily conveys various information that are collected, understood and processed in various software. Some of the data that microformats are used in are geographic coordinates, reviews, social relationships or XFN and calendar events to name a few.

How to get started with microformating

1.) Update and validate your mark-up. By using Google’s Rich Snippets test web tool you can validate your microformats markup and preview the results of it.

2.) Make sure that no errors comes up your markup. If you’re getting an ‘insufficient data to generate preview’, make sure to check to validate again your markup. You can also check for sufficiency of your date to create a preview of your snippet by checking your microformat syntax.

3.) Use hCard microformat. It helps you structure contact information of a person or business easier using this. The end users and search engine bots can easily recognize the data and use it for various coverage of services. Google Maps uses hCard data to search for certain locations, which is used similarly with geo microformat.

In terms of SEO use, microformats are now being integrated to score higher ranks off search engines. Not only will this make it easier for search engines to detect, it will also be easier for the end user to find and check information about your business, what’s it about and your list of services and products. For business looking to boost their site’s ranking, using microformats are channeled in local directory listings. Aside from that, it also helps search engines understand your website better because of the clear information provided.

Nowadays, web developers are making use of this tool in their pages to make sure search engines will be able to pick up the websites and use it to gather leads. Currently, Yahoo and Google are using this to make it more semantic and give users a better search experience. Other popular sites using microformats are LinkedIn and Technocrati. If you’d want to get ahead of your competition, adding this technique to your list can improve ‘searchability’ and leads of your site.

Microformats works complimentarily with other web tools to get your rankings up in search engines. Having this as part of your SEO tools may put you ahead of your competition. Though learning this may take time and persistence, the results is worth the wait. Master the techniques in microformatting and it will do dramatic changes to placing your site on top of SERPs.

Black Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO is an SEO technique that only an exceptional few knows how to use. This is a practice that increases page rank in search engines by violating its terms of service. This is a questionable type of SEO technique that many are still using despite knowing the risks involved. So the question would now be: Are you willing to risk your business for this?

Black Hat SEO is the type of practice that boosts your site’s SERP rankings by using techniques that are against search engine guidelines. Google and Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines has openly denounced these Black Hat tactics but many are still using its techniques.

This type of SEO method basically revolves on increasing page ranking and leads without adding value to the users end. Most of the contents found in its site are just fluff, keyword stuffing, automated contents, hidden links or texts, sneaky redirected links, cloaking and doorway pages.

Here are some of the technique that Black Hat SEOs use:

a.) Article Spinning: This is one way to duplicate an article once or twice. It uses a software that changes some of the words to make a ‘slightly different’ article out of the original one. But the tricky part of this technique is making the content sound ‘organic’ even with keywords stuffed in it.

b.) Doorway/Gateway Pages: These are intended for search engines and not the user. These are fake pages with contents and greatly optimized for one or two keywords linking to another site or landing page. End users never sees the page as these are automatically directed to that intended page.

c.) Link Farming: FFA (Free for all) pages are all intended to place all links of unrelated sites. This technique runs the risk of getting your site banned and doesn’t drive in traffic.

d.) Cloaking: This is a tactic where a content shown in the search engine spider is not similar to that shown to the user browser. This is a deceptive tactic where contents cannot be located because it’s in a non-textual container such as a video or Adobe flash component.

e.) Keyword Stuffing: This Black Hat tactic uses a set of keywords stuffed in the head tag page in an attempt to increase ranking. Meta description keyword stuffing is used to describe a certain content off your page. It’s composed of 1 to 3 sentences and most of these are stuffed with keywords for optimization purposes.

f.) Affiliate participation without adding value to its content: It still boils down to keyword stuffing found in contents, making it less valuable for the reader. Affiliate sites are designed to give out content of products or services from affiliate networks the site is linked with. But in the case of Black Hat SEO, it focuses on copy-pasting contents to increase ranking.

If you’re thinking long-term, credible and income generating, the answer is no. Despite the reviews you may have read about this, Black Hat still remains a high-risk practice that eventually will lead to problems later on for your business. Rather, search for alternatives on how to land better search engine rankings and keep your business afloat.

Gray Hat SEO

Gray Hat SEO is one of the three techniques that may come as riskier than White Hat. If not done properly, this may result to banning of your site from search engines and affiliate sites. Though many may find this technique a little ‘shady’, rocking on this technique for your site may be beneficial (given that you do it properly).

Gray Hat SEO basically is a practice which is ill-defined by the guidelines published in Google. For many businesses, it may seem like a good practice to help their sites have good rankings off search engines.

Appropriate understanding of Gray Hat keeps you from negative consequences that costs you time, money and traffic. We all know that Google is known for thinking outside the box and creative innovation. With regards to Gray Hat technique, this isn’t intended for search marketers or the searchers with the changes happening annually. So the trick now is to keep up-to-date and stay informed for its latest categorizations. What could be Gray Hat today may be White or Black Hat the next year.

To define further how to go about Gray Hat SEO, here are some tips on how it works.

Gray Content. If there are limitations to White Hat and stuffing with Black Hat, Gray Hat SEO works by working in between. Enough to be considered as White Hat but not enough to be considered as Black Hat. If you want this to work, you’ll need to work on high-quality content with keywords that sounds naturally in the content. You can also work on creating duplicate contents and posted on different sites.

Gray Links. Purchasing links may be considered a Black Hat activity. But given that links may be exchanged for sponsorship of a certain event, then this is considered safe. Another way is to put your site in appropriate directories. Plan a three-way linking to avoid reciprocal links from appearing and boost your rank in search engines.

Work with old domains. Old domain sites are maintained sites by webmasters but abandoned for some reason. Most of these sites are rich with content and backlinks so if you’re planning to have a website with backlinks ready, opting for an old domain may work.

Replicate content. Content is the kingpin of combined SEO efforts. In Gray Hat SEO, replicating these contents can boost your standing in the search engine ranking. By using spinners, you will be able to duplicate a content – only with some minute changes. What these spinners do is create a ‘slightly different’ content off the original one with keywords and links in the content. Though creating a totally unique content may put your site at a great advantage, having spinned ones may do the same given that the duplicated content gives off the same organic feel to it.

The possibility of your site being banned from Google is lesser compared with Black Hat SEO. However, the risk is still there and may result to a penalty. Techniques are questionable but nonetheless effective if with proper execution and of course, keeping up-to-date with Google’s guidelines.

White Hat SEO

There are many methods in using SEO to get leads to your site. One of these is the White Hat technique or the ethical SEO. How is this relevant for your business? How is this different with the other hat techniques?

The relevance of White Hat technique for your business

This is the opposite of Black hat, meaning you’ll be using practices that’s in accordance with Google’s guidelines. The tactics implemented in this technique is focused on improving your site SERP (search engine results page) within the terms of service. High quality content and services, descriptive keyword-rich meta-tags and easy site navigation are some factors that are considered under White Hat SEO.

By not engaging in any White Hat activity, you’re sure to be banned in various search engines – especially Google. As Google is visited by millions every day, being banned in here can spell ‘disaster’ for your business and re-listing your business on Google may take some time. If not, not ever.

Practical tips on working with White Hat SEO

Focus on content. Your content adds value to your site and optimizes your search engine rank. The aim of search engine is to provide users sites that’s most appropriate and contains high-quality content they needed. If you’re the end user, you don’t want to end up in a sales page. Users focuses on rich content to answer their needs and not a marketing plug. Though marketing is relevant for leads, customers would prefer to get value of visiting a website rather than being sold at.

Use structural mark-up and separate content. Structuring your mark-up semantically lets search engines understand your content better. Use proper heading elements in your site to add weight to your content. Separating design elements using CSS to that of content gives a leaner code.With high-quality content, search engines will be able to see it and place it on top of its list. Again, content remains the key ingredient to attaining good standing with Google.

Proper coding. HTML mark-up like heading tags are essential to identify your site in search engines. Create sitemaps links for your pages so search engine bots may be spread on every page.

Proper Titles and MetaData. Proper titles makes up for the description of what the content is about. Using meta-description and meta-data properly can also improve your search engine ranking. If the page title and content are in sync, it is coherent and will add value to the users reading that content.

Keyword search and use. Going for shorter keywords may not be efficient in ranking you on a good spot in search engines. Multi-word phrases or long-tailed ones gives you less competition and it’s easier to target audiences with specific topics in mind. For example, if a user searches for ‘online marketing’, random pages may appear. But if you target ‘SEO online marketing’, users are more likely to go for a specific niche in sync with your business.

Everything that’s in order takes time to build. Though the other techniques may work just as well, but the penalty off Google can hurt your business in the long run. It’s best to learn further on White Hat technique to add more improvements in your marketing structure and ranking.

How to Do Keyword Research – The Proper Way

It will all start with the words searched on the box. Keywords is essential to your site’s ranking and leads. But if you’re still new to the world of keyword search, then you landed on the right page.

Keyword research is an important aspect for your site because it produces high return results in the search marketing aspect. With the rigt keywords, you’d be ranking your site top of the list, thus getting more leads and customers to your site. By understanding what your market needs are, you’ll be able to learn the terms and phrases to target using SEO.

Create a list of topics about your business

You’ll need to sit down and think about 5 to 10 topics. List all the topics you feel are relevant for your business and use those topics to create specific keywords later.

Regular bloggers would use the topics that they blog about the most. Example you own a company such as HubSpot, which sells inbound marketing software, you’ll probably want to work on topics like inbound marketing, social media, email marketing, marketing automation and SEO. By knowing what your company is all about, it’ll be easier to identify later your target keyword niches.

Fill in the keywords

After pinpointing your target topics, you can identify the keyword phrases that you think are relevant to rank you in the SERPs or Search Engine Results Pages. Your customers will be using these keywords for them to be able to search your site.

Let’s go back to Hubspot. If you’ll be using ‘marketing automation’, you might be thinking of the following keywords to search online: what is marketing automation, lead nurturing, marketing automation tools. See how it connects?

Keyword search tools

One of those tools you’ll need is the Google Keyword Planner Tool (previously known as the Google Keyword Tool). It shows how many people are using those keywords to search for a specific topic off the Internet. Using this tool, you’ll be able to identify the volume and ‘test’ the traffic to see how much it will convert to leads.

Doing keyword research manually using the planner tool can be cumbersome and take a lot of time. A better alternative is to use software to aid you in your process.

Examples of such software are for instance:

Short and Long-tail keywords

Short keyword phrases contains only one to three words in length. Long-tail keywords are those that contain more than three words in the phrase. Mixing these two types gives you an edge against your competition and will work longer for long-term wins. With shorter keywords, you’ll probably encounter more challenges in ranking it on the top SERPs list. However, longer keywords have lesser competition but will put your ranks on top of the list because its more specific and targeted for the users end.

If you want your site to have a good ranking, you’ll need to focus on the keywords to be used. Consider the right topics that will fit with your business’ profile to get optimum results. You may want to re-evaluate them every few months (once every quarter for starters). As you get more authority in SERPs, you can start adding more keywords on your list and expand to new areas from here.

How to Get Started with Learning SEO

Many have wondered how to get into Internet marketing and often stumped with countless questions about SEO (that often doesn’t make sense unless you study them). So if you’re completely new to the world of SEO and online marketing, you’re on the right page.

SEO is an online marketing strategy that promotes a web site by leading visitors to their site through search engines. This is a powerful tool that content marketers are using to get leads and promote their sites, thus leading consumers to purchase or avail the services they provide. SEO are usually used in article contents or backlinks. In a simple phrase: SEO is a means for your site to be able to communicate with search engines better.

When you search for something online, where do you usually go for? It’s primarily off these three sites: Google, Bing and Yahoo. Yes, it’s a given that social media drives sales into your site. But to make the most of your online presence, having a good ranking off these search engines will give you better leads and drive more visitors to your site. If search engines picks up your site, you will get better leads and many will be more aware of your services and products.

With targeted keywords and visitors, these search queries carries great value for your company. If you invest in SEO, you’ll be have an online presence and better marketing success with the huge market the Internet offers.

Now that you’re given the bird’s eye view of what SEO is about, here are some sites you might want to go to learn more about it.

MOZ

This site offers a lot of insights from the community and online publications to help those who are just learning about SEO. The site offers a 30-day trial to give you a feel of their services and educational materials to get your SEO business running.

Webmaster World

This is one of the longest running forums intended for SEO bloggers filled with web development and marketing online topics. While most topics here are started by the webmasters, there are various topics that are started by those who subscribed as well. Relevant topics about SEO marketing and their experience makes the learning more relational and open. Unfortunately, getting into your hands into these gems are not for free.

Search Engine Land

Danny Sullivan, a familiar face in the SEO industry, started this site. He is active in the latest developments in terms of search engines and has a huge set of connections of SEO experts and developers. SearchEngineLand.com is filled with content intended for SEO bloggers who are starting or wanted to start an SEO business. You just need to subscribe and you’re good to go!

Google’s SEO Guidelines

Google is one of those networks that provides the best searches off the net. If you’re planning to start SEO, might as well count Google in. It’s better to learn certain guidelines and not cross lines with Google. In here, you’ll find certain techniques and tactics that will help boost your searches online through Google.

Despite the good result that comes off from learning SEO, it’s crucial that you take the time to learn about marketing and content. There are a lot of SEO experts online that provide reliable information on how to go about this. They will also assist you in getting the most of your SEO learning and turning it into an income-generating site. And the right time to start is now.