TOP SEO QUESTIONS

Matthew Carter
Hello friends, my name is Matthew Carter. I’m a professional link builder for a large SEO agency in New York City.

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So, you are considering SEO or are doing it currently, but have some burning questions about the hows and whys of this digital strategy. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked SEO questions.

Consider the yearly price it would cost to do SEO yourself:

Google obtains the majority of search traffic, with about 67% total searches. Bing comes in second with about 17%, then Yahoo with roughly 12% and the remaining Search Engines all total about 4%.

1. How much does SEO cost?

SEO isn’t an overnight strategy. The first few months are dedicated to making updates to your site and waiting for the search engine spiders to crawl and index the changes. Depending on your website, the amount of work it requires, and the crawl frequency of the search engine spiders, it typically takes 3-9 months to begin seeing new rankings.

Only the techs behind the search engines know this answer for sure, but Google’s head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, has been quoted saying that more than 500 updates are made each year. Since the search engines are constantly evolving and changing, it is crucial to stay on top of the changes, make constant updates on our end, and only use strategies that are ethical and sustainable.

Pricing for a comprehensive in-house SEO strategy can easily run upwards of $245K per year for small or medium-sized businesses. Agencies can offer their resources, expertise, and team for a lower cost than it would take to maintain an in-house team and involves less risk than outsourcing to a cheaper company.

Traffic is typically a direct result of an increase in rankings. Once your rankings begin to increase, you will also begin to see gradual increases in traffic to your website. Keep in mind that new rankings and traffic are not instantaneous, it takes a few months to complete the necessary updates and get them indexed before you will begin to see these increases.

SEO can vary greatly in price depending on who is offering the service, and there is a large price disparity for a reason. Companies who offer SEO at very low prices usually tend to cut corners, use ‘black-hat’ techniques or use improper SEO strategy, resulting in penalties, decreases in traffic and spam for unsuspecting business owners. Agency prices tend to run higher, but you are paying for their experience, ethics, and effectiveness.

Achieving the rankings is only half the battle. Since the search engines are constantly evolving and updating their algorithms, your rankings can fluctuate from one day to the next. Maintaining current rankings is just as involved as getting new ones; it takes constant research, updates, and testing to keep your URL ranking in the top positions. Discontinuing SEO after you’ve achieved rankings will result in a loss of rankings fairly quickly.

2. Once I start SEO, how long will it take to get rankings?

SEO strategist: $100,000 + Coder/Developer: $55,000 + Technologist: $50,000 + Coordinator/Reports: $40,000 + Salaries/Fees: $245,000 +

Although link building can be an important aspect of SEO, purchased links and links from spammy websites or ‘bad neighborhood’ sites can actually hurt your rankings rather than help. Search engines are constantly looking out for links like these. In fact, Google’s ‘Penguin’ series of algorithm updates is geared primarily towards penalizing sites who obtain links unnaturally through link exchange schemes and purchasing links or have links from spam sites. A recovery from a link penalty is not an easy one and can result in significant traffic losses.

General terms are highly competitive and would be extremely costly to rank for based on the time and resources it would take to achieve rankings for a term that broad. Another reason we advise against going after terms that broad is relevancy. If you are a lawyer in Wisconsin, traffic from Arizona probably isn’t that relevant to your business. It is more cost effective and pragmatic to go after terms that relate to the location of your business.

Pay Per Click is a great additional strategy to supplement your SEO efforts and can help enhance relevant traffic. Depending on your particular website, industry and the competitiveness of the keywords you want to go after, a good agency will recommend PPC on a case-per-case basis.

8. Can you get me ranked for general terms like ‘lawyer’?

Ethical SEO agencies cannot guarantee something they can’t control and beware of any company that claims they can. There is no way to know 100% how a site will rank because of the search engine’s constantly evolving nature and to guarantee rankings would be unethical. Also, beware of companies claiming they have a special relationship with Google or can ‘priority submit’ to Google to guarantee ranking positions. This is completely false and untrue, and Google itself warns against companies that make these claims.

If you have any additional SEO questions that we did not answer in this article, or would like a free SEO consultation for your website, please contact us.

Google also looks at the language to help determine which index it should be within. In the UK, they use the word “undershirt” for the US word “vest”. Small signals like this can make a difference, so content should be written properly depending on the location.

Search engines notice fresh, living websites. I do believe that a rhythm of new content can improve rankings, but it isn’t a scientific cadence that does this. There is a concept of QDF (or, Query Deserves Freshness) which is probably still part of the algorithm; Google uses this for content that may change from day to day (like news stories).

If the company is a local company with physical locations, local SEO is a great entry point. You can get quick wins and kick off some awareness momentum. If you’re a company that sells SaaS solutions nationwide, then local SEO is likely ineffective. Or at least a very small part of the total traffic.

Google has said they do not consider user metrics. Possibly because spammers could create bots to inflate those metrics. Logically it makes sense that the more a page gets visited, and the more engagement a website has, the more Google would want to rank it higher.

It depends on the change, the competition, whether there are any penalties, and the equity (or perceived value) of the page and website as a whole. Once a page is crawled and processed, ranking changes happen quite quick (I’ve seen as fast as 15 minutes).

For international companies, what SEO challenges do they face in terms of language barriers?

Absolutely. Mobile SEO is a complete concentration in and of itself. Google is very focused on making better mobile search experiences, so SEOs must learn and practice mobile SEO to be effective marketers. Google now ranks desktop sites based on their understanding of the mobile website.

I recommend everyone who wants to get into SEO take a shot at understanding all the pillars, but you can be a less technical SEO and still make a great living. I’ve seen it time and time again.

As a digital marketer, you can measure the historic success of your work in several ways. One of those ways is by examining key SEO metrics. The SEO industry is fantastic – many are willing to work with each other to answer questions such as this (while balancing NDAs and company secrets of course). While you’re active or wrapping up a strategic campaign, many things can be measured. Did page traffic from organic search grow? Was there a general improvement in visibility via rankings? Did conversions improve? Often times you can make a direct correlation between your efforts and natural search success. Though sometimes, it’s a tweak elsewhere on the site that has a positive ripple effect improving specific goals. As well, Google can make an undisclosed algorithm change that simply gives you a lucky boost or demotes your natural search competitors. Sometimes you can’t find an absolute measurement. Like many things in marketing, sometimes SEO is more of an art than a science.

Google tells us very little, but there are great blogs that track the industry. A few I check every day: • https://moz.com/blog • http://searchengineland.com/ • http://www.thesempost.com/

Google doesn’t have a certification program for SEO, but they do have one for Analytics. I think that would be a great certification to obtain. https://support.google.com/partners/answer/6089738?hl=en.

I personally think all companies should consider working with an SEO agency, or at least having an in-house marketer who is familiar with SEO. In many cases, natural search drives the largest percentage of new traffic. Since most competitors are doing SEO, it only makes sense that a company should get SEO help to stay competitive.

Yoast is easily the most popular, and so far, the best in my opinion. It has a lot of uses and takes a little time to get the hang of all its functions. I would recommend really checking out all the features to make sure you are leveraging correctly. Other than that, WordPress has built in many of SEO’s best practices. I love WordPress for that reason.

Google and Bing make hundreds of unpredictable changes a year. Rankings are often dependent on how aggressive your competition is – that’s an unknown variable as well. The demand for a product or service is always changing. Like all marketing activities, there’s no guaranteed return for investing in online search. However, with the preponderance of search data available, you can do some reasonable forecasting to determine the potential value of SEO for your company.

Content is the key factor in every scenario I can think of. A crawlable site and links to fuel Google’s interest in your site are all necessary – but at the end of the day, you certainly need content to influence search engines and customers. Good SEO content will draw new leads to your website. Providing resources to customers at different stages of the buying cycle will help you build trust with them and prospects alike, and turn more of your traffic into qualified leads.

SEO is something you want to consider in every step of the development process. Typically building a website begins with a heavy focus on technical SEO (ie., URL structures, code base, tags), leading into contextual SEO (keywords, content creation). Once you have a crawlable site with good content, you begin the third and fourth part – link building / PR, and conversion rate optimization.

Does the frequency of updates (like a blog attached to a site) affect the rankings?

Google is by far the most advanced, the others tend to follow suit (if they catch up). However, Bing (who powers Yahoo) should also be studied. We also sometimes focus on non-traditional search engines like Youtube, App Stores, Spotlight (Apple), and Amazon’s internal search.

AdWords is a fantastic component to employ with SEO. Studies show that when a website is shown in both the organic section and paid section of results, the click-through rate is better. Be strategic with them both!

Relevance is key. If someone is talking about antioxidants, then a link to a website’s antioxidants page is more relevant to a link to the homepage. Google will pass more value through a link that is more relevant. So, we urge others to link to the most relevant page that SEOs are trying to promote.

Keyword research takes a little practice, but when you get better at it, you’ll generally feel like you’re finding what is important. But, like all things, it’s iterative. Once the keywords are added to your copy, you’ll know within a few weeks whether they were the right choice. It’s important to use your analytics data to compare the keywords you discover to the keywords people are already using to find you.

There are different ways to build a website for several international audiences. Some sites use sub-domains or folders for different languages, and some try to auto-direct users (with behind the scenes logic) when they “sniff out” a user from a specific region. In these cases, websites are presenting mirrored versions of the main website, which can cause confusion with Google if not presented properly. HREFlang tags and settings in Google Search Console are important in sending the proper signals to Google. As advanced as Google is, we see many times where a wonky configuration causes the wrong language to rank on the wrong international version of Google.com.

That depends on the client, but usually, the SEO team (from one agency) is working with the development team (or another agency). That’s a very common scenario.

Also, engines can most certainly create new rankings for new keyword targets. So that’s another reason to keep posting valuable, sought after content.

Have you seen any errors in the analytics of web activity?

The SEO industry might have more tools than a carpenter. These are what we use:

An SEO can assist in copywriting and coding (often depending on the client and how open they are to let others touch their code and content), but it is not required. However, to be a full stack SEO, it’s vital to have all those skills.

It depends on the company. Some SEO companies perform all of the SEO from A-Z like Greenlane, while others just focus on link building, or providing advice, or only content creation. Sometimes we have clients that have the resources in-house to write, but just want the guidance on what to write about and how to optimize that content for search engines. Just like the needs of clients, many SEO companies can be quite different, for better or worse.

Usually, local search is abundant with heavily geo-focused content. If you have a fine-dining restaurant in Philadelphia, your content may be about the uniqueness of your food in contrast to the other local restaurant competitors (for example) – not necessarily against the food of big fast food chains. That typically leads to more local conversions. That’s not to stop a local company from attempting to be the premier authority on gourmet food around the country. The latter could earn links and engagement – thus improving your overall SEO – but may not lead to local foot traffic. It’s really a decision made by the marketer and company.

The right SEO tactic can be a huge timesaver, helping you dodge common traps and build beyond the limits of your personal experience. But there are so many SEO tools and so much digital marketing news published in blogs every day that you could waste a whole day just reading them. Select the right SEO tools simply through thoughtful analysis and testing.

SEOs who only focus on copywriting are pretty common. There are a lot of writers out there; many say they know SEO best practices, but aren’t up to date. A copywriter (with SEO knowledge) would be different than a content strategist. The latter is someone who can not only write, but put together a content strategy, find opportunities, and identify what is working for competitors in order to replicate it.

That’s the magic question SEOs are always trying to answer. Being valuable and earning the links is usually the best way. Have a piece of content that a blogger might love to show their readers? Have data that other websites can use as citations? Each industry has their own uniqueness, and SEOs should tap into that value and promote it for return links. There are hundreds of clever link building tactics (a quick Google search can show you many), but as long as they fit with what the goals of your client, and can’t be considered spammy by Google, they’re probably worth trying.

If it is evergreen content, you may not need to update the date stamp. If it’s an update to a post, simply changing the date of the piece will eventually populate in Google. I wouldn’t recommend doing this to try and influence rankings, but to provide user value instead.

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