The common and important questions (and answers) in search engine optimziation (SEO).
Despite well over a decade of documented information on the processes, techniques, tactics and software
necessary to secure top positions on the results pages of popular search engines, the art and science of search engine optimization remains quite the mystery to your average Internet professional.
Website Magazine's June 2013 issue featured an article which covered the most common questions in SEO and provided some answers to help alleviate at least some of the confusion. As you might imagine however, there were even more questions (good questions which digital media professionals just like you) need to have answers for.
Below you'll find Website Magazine's Big List of SEO Questions, an ongoing effort by the WM editorial department to document the most frequently asked questions, and find answers (and real ones at that) to the most important SEO questions of the day. Since there are different skill and experience levels in the Website Magazine community, our staff will be updating this list in the future on a regular basis.
Did we fail to answer an important question? Don't worry - submit a comment below with the question (and ideally an answer too) and we'll include your name, company and a link back to your website for your help in expanding this important knowledge base.
Without further delay, here's the Website Magazine BIG LIST of SEO Questions.
How do search engines find websites?
There are several ways that search engines can find websites. Search engines "crawl" through the Web by following links that it finds elsewhere. The fastest way to have a search engine find your website is to obtain a link from a website that is
Will link popularity (or the number and quality of citations) ever be devalued in favor of other
While search engines are certainly sophisticated enough thanks to improvements to behavioral tracking to understand specifically how relevant a particular item of content or a product is to a particular user, search engines will likely always rely on the quantity and quality of link (i.e. popularity of a website) as a means to determine ranking.
What's the best way to remove non-authoritative links to a website?
Many websites are unaware that they are being linked to from websites that are of a lower quality - from content scrapers to outright spammers. The best way to remove non-authoritative links (those which carry low value in your total link profile) is have the link removed from the website. Google does provide a way to disavow links from sites which are unresponsive to direct requests.
How do Google and Bing value and treat linkbait?
Linkbait is the practice of using content with high appeal for the purpose of attracting users from search engines and social media networks. Linkbait, and its respective content, is not typically treated (or valued) any more or less highly than content without the linkbait label.
Is PPC a link building tool?
PPC, or pay-per-click (advertising), is not a mechanism by which you can build links directly but create a flow of interested prospects to your website. PPC does however offer an opportunity to expose product, information or service to those prospective buyers/customers. Typically, a portion of the audience will share your website (and its pages) to social networks, further distributing your brand and its message, which may ultimately result in links from websites also interested in your product or service and linking to it.
Do article directories provide any value in link building?
Article directories were once a mainstay in link profiles of brands both big and small. Search engine's algorithm updates over the past few years however have been a damper on the link building free-for-all these directories once presented. Links from content that are placed within article directories do count as citations and can count as good quality citations (if the content is relevant to the query, not duplicated elsewhere, and obviously include links to the primary website).
Are press release networks an opportunity to build links?
Much like article directories, press release submission sites were once a popular and effective method to build links. In many ways they still are, but present a better opportunity to (once again) increase exposure with key audiences (such as bloggers, writers and journalists) capable of bestowing links - and less of an opportunity to increase actual link counts directly from the sites of the syndication networks website. Value in these networks can also be obtained from distribution points for these networks including newspaper websites and curation blogs.
What's keyword research?
Users of search engines use a variety of words and phrases to find a website (the website they are looking for) on the search engines. The process of keyword research is the seeking out of those key words and key search phrases, which unlock the
connection between your site and the user (as a result of the search engines). Keyword research is important because the keywords that your website and its pages are optimized for are ultimately the words and phrases that users will find you under at the search engine - so it's important you choose the terms and phrases that matter most to your
business. Use relevance and popularity as two concepts by which your SEO should select keywords.
Does the order of keywords in the title influence ranking?
Keyword order can play a role in ranking - but it is only a small factor. There is actually a more important reason to keep the keyword that the page is being optimized for as close to the front of the title as possible - it's more noticeable for users (as well as search engines). Many sites opt to order their title tags so that their company name comes up first (sometimes even the date) before the page title - which can and should include the keyword being optimized for.
What role does design play in a successful search engine optimization campaign?
Design actually play a far more important role in a successful SEO campaign than ever before thanks to the greater importance that search engines place on the quality of the user experience. There are numerous barriers to an optimal user experience and search
engines have openly warned against the most egregious (and somewhat obvious) barriers to not only a good experience for users and search engines - broken links and design.
Does social interaction play a role in SEO?
Search engines once indexed the full fire hose of tweets from Twitter and were able to index Facebook profiles when social users' privacy settings were set for public crawling. While the volume of retweets hasn't been shown to directly influence ranking (since neither Google or Bing use the Twitter
fire hose), Facebook citations may influence rankings thanks to deeper integration with Bing. Since Google has its own social ecosystem in Google+, and is using every avenue available to provide brands with opportunities to expose and expand their community, social interaction is playing a very direct and even prominent role in SEO - more so than ever before.
Is there still a need for directory submissions?
Another holdover from SEO days gone past, directory submissions - where SEO's would submit a title, description and link to stand-alone digital website directories - no longer provide as much value to enterprises and their SEO campaigns. There are remaining only a handful of large, somewhat valuable Web directories, but most SEO's time is better spent finding smaller, more niche (topical) directories that have the ability to drive user traffic to your website on their own (as opposed to serving as a destination to acquire a link and ultimately improve overall ranking).
What are some factors in credibility from the perspective of search engines?
Surprisingly, it doesn't take much to be seen as credible in the virtual eyes of search engines. When a website is available (not suffering from downtime), hosts no malicious scripts (malware), and links to known authoritative websites, it will likely be
designated a credible web destination and not subject to excessive filtering from the search engines.
Is there some definitive keyword density that I should follow?
Keyword density is the practice of ensuring the right amount of keywords and relevant keyword derivations are included in Web copy. While it is important that individual pages be optimized for a particular keyword, which would naturally include related terms (keyword derivations for example), the density of that keyword matter only a little (obviously, it's best to have some density but not too much and not too little) as there are more important factors related to content (such as it actually being worthy of a link) and the number of citations it obtains.
Can search results be modified for brand keywords?
website with a strong level of authority are provided what are known as "sitelinks" - additional hyperlinks under their primary website listing on the search results pages. Those sites which have been given sitelinks have the ability to restrict/prevent which URLs show in those positions.
What are the best metrics to use in analyzing SEO performance?
The actual position of a website for specific keywords was once the single most important metric in analyzing SEO performance, but as a result of increased personalization (location, context and behavior) it is not more important to measure broader, yet as revealing, metrics. For example, the number of unique visitors and page views that result from new content published for the purpose of improving ranking.
How do the search engines differentiate between paid and unpaid links?
An entire industry has been established around the buying and selling of links/citations. As any good Internet professional would imagine, the search engines tend to frown upon this activity as it pollutes the "natural" optimization performed by others - natural in the sense that citations were earned (and not paid) based on the quality of the information, the service or the product. Search engines have penalized and outright banned (kicked out of the index) websites which were openly in violation of their best practices.
What type of website software is most/least crawlable?
Most of the software designed today for use by Internet professionals on their websites is already SEO-friendly, meaning it does not by its very nature prevent search engines from crawling through it. Ideally, any website software solution selected (be it an e-commerce platform, a content management system, or some variation) should be
Do comments on blogs carry link value?
In much the same way as any other link, blog comments do carry value under certain conditions - namely that the blog where the comment appears must be "no-follow" - open to crawl for the search engines.
Is small scale link swapping acceptable?
Exchanging links is not necessarily a bad practice - in fact, finding other websites to exchange links can be a good thing (particularly when they are from a reputable source and refer users on their own). While direct links certainly count most, reciprocal links still matter so taking a measured approach (using link swapping as one part of your overall link building strategy) is a smart practice.
How long does it take to recover from an update?
If your website fell victim to a search engine update and lost rankings (and visitors) as a result, the best course of action is to identify any potential barriers to indexing, modify any behaviors that could put your website in jeopardy, and remove anything from your website that may be the reason for the lower rankings.
Will removing duplicate content improve ranking?
Duplicate content is a genuine problem for Internet professionals. The more of it you have on your website, the less value the original document will have. Removing duplicate content (either manually, or by providing direction to search engines to use the canonicalized version of pages - particularly those with numerous conditions) is the best practice.
What page language is best - PHP, ASP, HTML?
Search engines don't have a preference for any particular language when it comes to ranking web pages as by the time it gets to the user's browsers - it's being rendered as HTML (for the most part). What SEO's should consider is the structure/organization of the rendered page, and whether content has been
separated from style and is prioritized based on importance to the user.