The Ultimate SEO FAQ
Although SEO has been around for a long time, there is still a tremendous amount of confusion about it because so many different authors around the web publish conflicting information. Having worked with hundreds of clients over the past 7 years, we have a very clear idea about Google’s rules, and what works best for SEO. Hence, we have created this FAQ for you.
Probably the most frequent question I get when I speak is “How do you keep up with Google’s constantly-changing search algorithm? Doesn’t the information you teach get outdated pretty quickly?” This is a very reasonable question in light of the thousands of articles about algorithm updates that are published each year. The truth, however, is that very little about Google’s algorithm has changed for those who are doing SEO the right way. At least since Google came onto the scene, the best way to do SEO has always been to create content of genuine value and then seek links pointing back to it.
When SEO is viewed as a medium to long term investment, it can be the single best use of a company’s marketing budget. Like any investment, if you go about doing SEO in an intelligent way, it is likely to serve you well. On the other hand, if you don’t pay much attention to it, asking an intern to handle it in their spare time or hiring the cheapest SEO company you can find, it can easily fail. If you can find a team to produce top-quality thought leadership content consistently and share it regularly, you have the formula for an investment that will blow away other forms of marketing.
A well-run SEO campaign should be able to show results within 4-6 months. I am defining results as “new, targeted, organic traffic that produces leads.” Of course, there are campaigns that show results in 1 month and there are others that show results in 18 months. The timing of results depends on how competitive your niche is and how talented your SEO folks are.
If you asked the average person how they would determine whether their SEO company is doing a good job, they’d probably say “By looking to see if my site is ranking better than it was before.” To most, SEO is simply the art of getting your website higher in the search results. In fact, that’s a pretty good literal definition. But if that’s the way your SEO company is actually measuring its results in 2015, you’ve got a problem.
The question is actually quite similar to another age-old question around home ownership: is it better to rent or buy? But before I explain how, let’s just define our terms. SEO is the art of getting a website to appear at the top of the organic, or natural search results. SEM (aka PPC) is participation in a paid advertising program that places your website alongside the natural search results.
The long tail theory of SEO is a premise that states that a website benefits more from ranking for lots of longer search terms on Google than it does from ranking for a few big search terms. For example, if you have a wine store in San Francisco, you might think that ranking for “wine store” would rain business down upon you. And indeed, that would be awesome. But the long tail theory hypothesizes that it would be better to rank for “best wine store in SF” “bay area’s top wine store” “store that sells fine rare wines” and hundreds of other highly specific terms. The aggregate value of ranking for all those terms is much greater than the value of just ranking for “wine store.” In fact, “wine store” is so general that the people who type it in may be less serious about finding a wine store than the people who type in “best wine store in SF,” for instance. Research has shown that the longer the phrase, the more likely that the searcher is looking to make a purchase.
If you’re here to understand the difference between PageRank and TrustRank, I won’t make you spend more than 30 seconds. Most of the time when people use either term, they are referring to the private internal score that Google gives every web page on the Internet. This score expresses the amount of trust Google feels that page has earned, which determines how highly that page can rank in its search engine. So both PageRank and TrustRank are essentially the same thing: a “trust score.” How do you get a higher trust score?
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, unveiled their new concept for a search engine, their vision was groundbreaking: the web could be organized by the relationships between websites. Using hyperlinks, otherwise known as plain ol’ links (like this and this and this), Google could understand which websites got “mentioned” the most around the web.
Social media is the new frontier of SEO. Unfortunately for Google, it’s arriving a lot more slowly than they’d like. I will answer the question of what the current impact of social media is on SEO later in this entry, but first it helps to have a little background on the power struggle that led up to the current state of “social” search results on Google.
We frequently get asked by our B2B clients “Is my site’s bounce rate of X% acceptable?” I will explain bounce rate in some detail in this space, but first I will directly answer the question: A bounce rate of 40% is good for a B2B site. Anywhere from 25% – 55% is normal, depending on how aggressively you are marketing your site online.
There are five ways to figure out the best SEO keywords for your website: (1) intuition; (2) asking potential customers what they would type into Google to find a company like yours; (3) using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner; (4) capitalizing on your competitors’ hard work; and (5) running a PPC campaign.
I was having a conversation with a venture capitalist here in San Francisco today and we were discussing SEO pricing. I shared our company’s average monthly fee with him, and he commented that our range seemed in line with what a venture-backed startup or established small business should expect to pay for SEO. This prompted me to mention that we get several inquiries each week from companies that are a bit too small for us – either consultants or businesses with less than ten employees that want the caliber of service we offer but aren’t there yet in terms of revenue.
SEO and PR are two things that go very well together but cannot substitute for each other. I liken the process of getting new exposure and leads to your company – which is typically the main benefit of both SEO and PR – to a weight lifting competition. The competition may seem like it’s all about strength, but in fact, it’s also about stamina, discipline, focus, and a bit of creativity. Hiring an effective PR firm is like mastering the strength component of a weight lifting competition: seemingly the direct route to winning, but in reality, not enough. Doing effective SEO is like mastering all the components of the competition, allowing you to win. Let me explain.
Perhaps the most common missed opportunity I discover when I evaluate websites is a lack of properly-formatted landing pages. A “landing page” is any page on a website that is intended to be the first page that a brand new visitor of your website arrives on (either from the organic search results or some form of advertising). In this post, I will be discussing the best strategy for creating new landing pages.
Often when people find out that I own an SEO firm, they tell me about their own experience with SEO. I like that; it’s a good opportunity for me to learn how people are thinking about the subject outside of the very specific way my company handles it.
In my discussions with companies considering our SEO service, I sometimes detect a hint of hesitation about us writing thought leadership articles on their behalf. The question I can see forming in the other person’s mind goes something like: “How can I get comfortable with the idea of an outside service writing content that represents MY company?”
I frequently receive e-mails from clients linking to articles about Google’s latest algorithm changes. “Should we be worried?” is the usual question I can perceive between the lines.