Search Engine Optimisation - Frequently Asked Questions
What is SEO?
- SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process of making your site show up in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), for keywords pertaining to your website content.
What is on-page SEO?
- On-page SEO (sometimes called on-site SEO), is the process of optimising the text and meta information on the website to make it "search engine optimised". This also includes having a sitemap, as well as optimising other aspects of the website design.
What is off-page SEO?
- Off-page SEO (or off-site SEO) is the process of getting other websites to link to yours. The more trusted the site linking to you, the better the link. The more high quality links you have pointing at your site, the more trusted it will be, and the more likely it is to appear at the top of the search results.
What else affects the search results?
- Other factors such as having keywords in your domain name, the age of the domain and its history will also affect the speed at which the SEO takes effect. A well aged domain name containing keywords will be much quicker to appear at the top of the search results.
Can you optimise my site for any keywords?
- No. We can only make it easier for the search engines to see what your site is about - it's not possible to optimise your site properly for words that aren't on the page. If your site talks about cats, but doesn't mention dogs, then we can't make it appear for searches related to dogs.
Why is content so important?
- The process of SEO is to lay your site content out in a search-engine-friendly manner. If you site has very little content, then the search engine will not see it as a relevant, trusted authority on a subject.
How do I know what keywords to choose?
- Your keywords should be as niche as possible. If you are a plumber in a certain town, it's pointless to be number one on Google for the word "Plumber", as you could never service the whole UK, and it would be a very expensive exercise to SEO for this. However being number one on Google for "Plumber in Cheltenham" would be perfect, because it will be cost effective, and bring you lots of relevant enquiries.
I'm getting a new website, can I leave SEO until it's finished?
- Absolutely not! SEO should be at the heart of your website's design, right down to the different pages you have, so it should be the first thing to consider when commissioning a website design. Also, search engines hate it when you constantly fiddle with your site's core information, "chasing their algorithm", so getting everything right before the site goes live is much more effective.
Do we enter into a contract?
- No. Like all our services, we never tie people into a contract. Otherwise there would be less incentive for us to deliver the results you need. Our clients are so happy with the service we give them, that none have ever cancelled due to poor results, although those who decided to stop due to financial reasons were glad they could walk away and not owe any money.
What is white hat and black hat SEO?
- White hat SEO is ethically optimising a website in accordance with Google's webmaster guidelines. Black hat SEO is deliberately breaking these guidelines, using automated process that spam the search engines, and other tactics such as cloaking, doorway pages, and hidden text. This may sound clever, until you get caught and your site is blacklisted!
Help! Has my site been blacklisted?
- You can check this by Googling your domain name in the following format: "www.yourdomain.com" and the name of the site in the format: "your domain". If your site comes up, then it hasn't been blacklisted. If not, then it's likely you have been caught for using black-hat techniques and will need to ask Google for reconsideration, after undoing all of the suspect SEO techniques.
Why does everyone focus on Google?
- Simply, it's used for around 90% of UK web searches. It's better to be in front of 90% of the UK population, than the 10% who use other search engines. However Google, Yahoo and Bing! all use similar algorithms, so by optimising for Google, we are also increasing the chances of your site being picked up by the other search engines.
According to a study by Hitwise in June 2009, Google accounted for around 80% of all uk searches. Since purchasing Yahoo, Microsoft has launched a new search engine in order to take-on Google. This is no doubt a response to Google going after Microsoft with Google Docs - free office-compatible software, as well as thei new browser: Google Chrome. Microsoft has retaliated with their new Bing search engine (a hybrid of MSN and Yahoo), however as of June, take-up is still minute in comparsion to Google.
Google is globally recognised by some of the largest computer firms in the world as the number one search engine; and often by the other search engines as "the one to beat". Because of this, ranking highly on Google can add more trust to your site than being ranked in a higher position on a lesser search engine.
Why avoid cheap SEO services?
- John Ruskin's law applies here. It's easy to optimise your site for long strings of words that are unlikely to be searched for, and it's easy for companies to bluff about SEO as it's perceived to be such a complex thing. If you are considering doing an SEO campaign, you should make sure you aren't in a contract, there is some form of guarantee they will deliver the results, and that the results they are offering are worth getting. It's one thing to be number one on google for "I would like to find a cheap and punctual plumber in Cheltenham", and something else to be number one on Google for "Plumber Cheltenham".
How long do SEO campaigns need to last?
- This depends on the market place you are in. Generally speaking, you SEO campaign should last forever, but the cost of it should vary. It's a bit like running a race and starting from the back. You need to sprint for the first few stages to get to the front of the pack, after which you can resume a steadier pace to hold your position. The more competitive the marketplace, the faster everyone runs.
We're in the top ten sites on Google - What next?
- Statistically 50% of the clicks on Google's first page of results will be on the top three sites. So pushing for a top three, and then a number one position is something to strive for.
Does linking to other sites affect SEO?
- It's inbound links from other sites that help your own SEO. In fact linking to certain types of site can actually penalise you. Only add outbound links where they help your site visitors, and try to make them open in a new window so you don't end up driving traffic off your site and on to someone else's!
What about "no-follow" and "do-follow" links?
- Nofollow links are generally used if you don't want to show a vote of confidence to another site. Sites such as Wikipedia use the rel=nofollow attribute on outbound links to help prevent spam, as do some forums and blogs.
Will a change in my hosting provider affect Google positions?
- Probably not; provided it's done correctly! Make sure that only the most recent version of the site is moved across. If you are moving from an Apache to a Windows server or vice-versa, things work differently on these two platforms so it's a good idea to check things such as "301 redirects" and "URL rewriting" - because we also offer web hosting on both platforms we can help manage this transition for you.
Why are my keyword positions always changing?
- There are a number of factors that cause positions to fluctuate. The SEO we are doing as well as SEO your competitors are doing will affect things. Also changes to Google's algorithm (the bit of code that it uses to calculate results) can affect positions regularly. Also; the search engines have indexes across the world that all update independently causing different results depending on where you are at any given time.
Can a Pay Per Click campaign boost my organic results?
No. Although if you use PPC to bolster your SEO campaign to give you more "presence" on the first page of results, you can get a higher level of trust and thus clicks - for example even eBay advertise themselves for "eBay" searches!
What are the best keywords for my site?
We conduct an in-depth analysis of your target market to determine the relevant keywords. We then ascertain how many people do searches for each keyword, how many sites are competing for that keyword, and how relevant to your site they are. Ideally the keyword will be relevant to the site, have the maximum number of searches and the lowest competition. Because this is rarely the case, we give you a full breakdown of these keywords and quote them accordingly so you can choose the best fit for your budget and business plan.
I'm in a prime position on Google, but I'm not making money - why?
- This is where you need to look at Google Analytics to see why people visit your site, and why they leave. It may be that you have outbound links that open in the same window - this takes traffic off your site and on to someone else's. You may need to improve the layout and design of the website, perhaps the colour scheme, and place calls-to-action such as "contact us", "get a quote", "subscribe to our newsletter", etc in the places where people are leaving the site.
Our competitors are way higher than us - why?
- There are a number of factors that will affect this. If they have been performing search engine optimisation for longer than you, or have a site that is much older than yours, have more content, or more inbound links, they can rank higher than you. We will assess this and determine which areas you need to focus on to catch them and overtake them.
Why do I sometimes see different positions to you?
- If you are logged into a Google account such as Google Webmasters, Google Analytics, Gmail etc, you will get "personalised" results based on your searching history which is distorted from what everyone else sees - just log out (top right) and then try again. Search Engines also use different servers all over the world to produce results. They update at different time and try to give results based on location so someone on one side of the country might see a different set of results until that server updates.
What can I do to keep search engines interested in my site?
- Keep adding relevant content. Setting up a blog/news feature on your site can help, larger sites sometimes have a forum running on the back of their sites - a few ways to keep fresh content trickling into the site. Don't change content too much though - once you have created a page, minor changes are fine, but regularly rewriting the same content will mean that the search engine isn't sure what will be there next time it visits, reducing your site's authority for keywords. It's best to add a new page of relevant content whenever you can - this really helps SEO. Content can also be in the form of PDF files which are hosted on the site, and linked to in relevant text - this all adds to the authority your site has for a certain topic.
Why avoid hidden text on my site?
- Hiding text is a great way to get your site either penalised or completely blacklisted - white text on a white background is likely to get you penalised; hiding text through more complex methods can carry heavier penalties. Our home page is a prime example - yes: it would look a little tidier if there wasn't so much text there, but it needs to be there for the search engines to rank the site. It's better to have a site that ranks well in the search engines with a slightly untidy home page is much better than a site that looks perfect which no one can find!!!
Why has my Google Page Rank not increased since you started?
- If you download Google Toolbar, there is a Page Rank button on it which indicates the page rank of a site. This has in the past held more relevance than today for assessing a site's overall authority. It also gets updated very slowly (up to 6 months) so can take a long time to pick-up the work we are doing. It's fairly irrelevant these days however - the most critical factor is where you are in the organic listings - put yourself in your customers shoes for a minute - how would you try to find your site?
Why Google not indexing my new pages yet?
- A page with lots images only is not likely to be deemed "worthy" of inclusion by Google. Pages not in your site map, with duplicate content on them, lots of flash, or not linked to within your site are unlikely to be indexed, and even if they are, this can take a few weeks.
My positions have suddenly plummeted - Why?
- Changes in Google's algorithm, the site being down when Google tries to crawl it, broken links, or sluggish server performance are all factors that contribute to positions changing. These changes are common when a site is being worked on, and will flatten out as they gain authority. Most drops occur for anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. Provided you are performing ONLY white-hat SEO on your site, you have nothing to worry about; you'll bounce back.
Should I change the meta data often?
- No. We change this as part of the SEO process. Changing this will help to undo the work we are doing at best. At worst; regular changes will baffle the search engine as to what the page is pertaining to, and it is likely to be penalised as a result.
Why do we not rank as well as a site we have copied?
- Search engines can penalise copied content as it is of no value to their customer (the searcher). It's best to write in your own words, and then let us optimise what you have written - this ensures it is different enough to someone else's words.
If I buy thousands of links to my site, can it help you get me to number 1?
- No, actually quite the reverse. We build links at a steady rate, adding 10,000 links in one hit will get you flagged, and advertise to the search engines that you are trying to manipulate their results inevitably causing penalisation or blacklisting in the worst cases.
Why should I avoid repeating the same keywords too often?
- Your site should read properly to a human. Over-optimised text is easily detected by search engines which then discount it; penalising your site - it's best to let us do your on-site optimisation, once you have written the copy.
Why is it not worth adding lots of keywords to the "meta keywords" section?
- It might sound crazy, but these days (as a result of them being abused to manipulate results over the years) search engines pay little/no attention to theese - which is great news as it will save you lots of time when adding pages to your site!