When I first started out in marketing, I thought I knew what SEO was all about. I knew it stood for search engine optimization. And I knew that the better your SEO was, the higher you would rank on search engines. I'm an SEO genius now, right?
Not so much. There's a lot that I didn't know I didn't know -- and as I learned more, it bred more and more questions.
So let's talk about all of the SEO things I had questions about along the way, but wasn't sure who to ask for clarification. Hopefully it'll help you, too, if you're struggling with any of these questions that are seemingly simple, but still cause a lot of confusion.
Answers to SEO FAQs You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask
1) What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It refers to techniques that help your website become more visible in organic search results for the people who are looking for your brand, product, or service via search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. For more information, check out this post.
2) What's the difference between organic vs. paid results?
Organic results are the results that appear in search engines, for free, based on an algorithm. Paid -- or inorganic -- search results appear at the top or side of a page. These are the links that advertisers pay to appear on different search engines.
3) What are meta descriptions and do they still matter?
A meta description is the text that appears below your page in a search engine result that explains what the page is all about. In this example, the meta description is "Learn the elements needed to write a comprehensive blog post in just 9 easy steps."
Meta descriptions still matter, just not in the same way they used to. They used to be a place to optimize for keywords so crawlers would know more about your page contents; now, it's more important you write something compelling that makes readers want to click so you can improve conversion rates from SERP results to your website.
4) Should I optimize my domain name to include keywords?
Your primary domain should not include a keyword just for the sake of keyword optimization -- that can actually hurt your SEO. If your company name happens to have a keyword, that's fine, but don't go buying inboundmarketingsoftwarebloggingsocialseoemailautomation.com. Get what I mean?
5) How do I know when I’m using the right number of keywords on a page?
Unfortunately, I can't tell you an exact number that is the "right" number of keywords on a page, mostly because that's the wrong way to think about keyword optimization.
There's no keyword density you should be aiming for -- in fact, using a keyword too many times can result in penalization due to "keyword stuffing." Just keep the reader in mind, and only use keywords when you need to. You'll find enough natural opportunities to include keywords that you won't even have to worry about reaching an arbitrary number.
6) What’s the difference between internal and inbound links?
Internal links are links on a page on your site that go to another page on your site. Inbound links are other websites that link to your content. Both are valuable for SEO.
7) How many internal links do I need on each page of content?
Just like you should avoid stuffing too many keywords into your content, you should avoid stuffing too many links into your content. Only include them when it improves the reader experience.
8) Where is the "|" on my keyboard?
See the screenshots below to find that symbol.
9) Do I need to know code to do SEO myself?
You do not need to know how to code for every element of search optimization. There are some more advanced SEO tactics that you will need a basic understanding of code for, but it isn't necessary for every part.
10) What is robots.txt?
This is a page that gives search engines information about the pages a company wants indexed or crawled. You can find this page by doing to YOURDOMAIN/robots.txt.
11) What is the sitemap.xml file?
This file is an index of all the pages on your site. It's a quick reference for search engines of content that you want indexed.
12) What is the difference between indexed and crawling?
When search engines look through the content on your website, they are crawling your site. As they crawl your site, they index content that will appear in the search engine. However, an important thing to remember is that not all content is indexed. Search engines pick what content they will and won't index as they go through the crawling process.
13) How can I see what pages are indexed?
It's as easy as typing in site:www.YOURDOMAIN.com to find the pages on your site that are indexed.
14) Why do you need alt text on your images?
Search engines cannot read images, but they can read text. The alt text helps them figure out what the images are all about. Plus, if a page doesn't load for some reason, people can still find out what the image is by reading the alt text.
15) How long does it take to see results from SEO?
There are a few different factors that will determine how quickly (or slowly) results will come. This list includes, but isn't limited to:
How much content you create
The quality of the content
How the content resonates with your audience
If you're a big or small site with strong or weak domain authority
A large site could possibly see results in a couple of days if a search engines is crawling their site regularly. Smaller sites will most likely take longer because they get crawled less frequently. Wait at least a week, but probably closer to a month, before you consider changing your SEO strategy -- a bit longer if you're brand new to SEO.
16) Should I hire someone to do my SEO?
Hiring someone internally or externally to do your SEO can be helpful, but it can also be dangerous if that person doesn't actually know the modern rules of SEO. Google goes into the risks of hiring the wrong SEO person in this support doc.
17) What's a good goal to set for your SEO?
When you think about your goal for SEO, don't just think about the top of the funnel and how many more visits you're getting to your website. Think about your full marketing funnel and how much quality traffic you're getting to your website.
Are the people who are finding your website through SEO actually qualified prospects for your business? If not, does it really matter that the traffic to your website has increased?
As you create your goals, consider what general traffic vs. quality traffic means to you. Set goals not just based on traffic, but based on the entirety of your marketing funnel.
18) What about SEO has changed in the last few years?