Here are details on the most frequently asked questions about SEO.
Our useful, jargon busting FAQs to help answer common search and client queries.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It is based around specific techniques that increase your website visibility in the organic search results for the people that are searching on Google, Bing, Yahoo etc.
What are organic results?
Organic results are the ‘natural’ listings, as opposed to the ‘paid’ listings, which usually appear right at the top, but cost the advertiser ‘per click’. It is best in the long run to increase your organic ranking, otherwise you’ll be paying advertisers indefinitely.
What is PPC?
PPC stands for ‘pay per click’, these are adverts that you can buy that appear at the top of the search engine results page. PPC will cost you money indefinitely whereas obtaining a good organic ranking can often be a lot cheaper, as well as the fact you don’t need to pay every month forever.
SEO or PPC?
SEO is cheaper in the long run as you don’t need to advertise forever. PPC can give you instant results but only as long as you are willing to spend on advertising. Good SEO practices can keep your site at the top naturally.
What are keywords?
Keywords are words, or groups of words, that have been identified as being the best description for the services you offer. The goal of SEO is to make sure you use the words that people search for on your site, this helps increase your ranking, which in turn increases the amount of visitors to your site.
How do you identify the right keywords?
Sometimes it can be very simple. If you do nothing but sell cakes in Reading, for example, your keywords are going to be variations of ‘cake shop reading’ and so on. When things aren’t that simple, we research your competitors, and use the Google Keyword Planner tool to find out what people in your area are actually searching for.
What are meta tags?
Meta tags are tags containing keywords and descriptions. A visitor to your site would not see these, but when the search engines crawl your site, they will be looking out for these specifically as they will guide the search engines towards knowing what your website is about. Meta tags often contain your keywords.
What’s an inbound link?
Inbound links come to your site from another site, as opposed to internal links which are contained solely in your site. Inbound links make up an important part of the search engines decision on your ranking, as it is a form of ‘social proof’ which tells the search engines that other people / sites trust and enjoy your site. The more natural links pointing to your site the better, but it is important never to pay for inbound links as Google specifically is able to make a pretty good guess when links have been paid for, and this practice could result in you being penalised.
How much SEO can I do myself?
This depends entirely on your experience working with websites. SEO can be very time consuming, because everything has to be unique and targeted. When working with clients, we always provide them with a checklist of good practices they can follow when they are adding content to their site.
What are robots and sitemaps?
These are both simple text files that sit on your server, at designated addresses. Search engines will look for them to provide information about your site, like whether to ignore certain pages, or where to find certain links. Keeping these up to date ensures that every time a search engine visits your site, it knows exactly what to index.
What is an alt tag?
Alt tags are snippets of code that describe images. Search engines can read text and code but cannot make an accurate guess at what is displayed in an image. To get around this, and also to provide valuable information to people who may be blind, images are recommended to always have a descriptive alt tag. If you sell tshirts, then your alt tag for one of your tshirts could be something like ‘white tshirt with short sleeves’, which will both help your ranking, and the user experience of anyone that can’t see the image.
How long until I see results?
This depends entirely on the size of your site, your existing ranking, and the amount of work undertaken. Google can crawl a website anywhere between every hour, and once a month, or even longer. It is imperative to make sure your site is registered with Google Webmaster Tools, as you then have the power to force Google to crawl and index your site. It will usually always take at least a few weeks, if not a month for you to be able to see increases in ranking. It’s best to do things slowly but surely rather than completely overhauling everything, unless of course you are having a new website built from scratch.
What are ‘black hat’ and ‘white hat’ techniques?
Black hat techniques involve processes that can often get you banned from the search engines. These are techniques which Google and others have gone on record to say will penalise your ranking, and in some cases get your listing removed entirely. These include things like hiding text, keyword spamming, and paying for inbound likes. On the other hand, white hat techniques are safe and approved and mostly revolve around increasing functionality and descriptions for your users.
My site was banned from Google, can you help?
Yes, we can quickly look through site and your webmaster tools account to find out what it was that got you banned. We can liaise with Google (this can sometimes take a while) and in the mean time, correct any errors and remove all black hat techniques from your site.
Do I have to sign a contract?
No, everything we do here is pay as you go. Other than the cost of the initial report, and fixing of important errors, you are in complete control of how much you pay per month. We work together to settle on a plan of action, and if you don’t want to pay more than £100 a month, then we will do £100 worth of work a month. You can also cancel any time.
Why does my search engine ranking change?
Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms in order to more accurately display results. Between iterations, the things they mark you highly and poorly for may change, if one month you are ranked at #2 but the next time you check you are #4, it may be because you are using outdated SEO practices, or it could just be that the 2 other companies have been heavily investing in SEO practices over the last few months and have overtaken you naturally.
Why is my website ranked #1 at home but not anywhere else?
Google now takes into account your own visits into your ranking. If you work from home and spend a lot of time looking at / working on your website, Google will naturally decide that when you search for something relating to your business, it should display your site at #1 as you already visit it often. In order to accurately test your ranking, it’s best to sign out of Google, and if you can, use a proxy server so you can anonymously check your ranking. Alternatively, just use a friend’s computer.
A detailed list of SEO jargon with descriptions of each term.
Here are the most common terms you might need to know during your website optimisation.
A permanent redirect of one page address to a new page. The best way to replace or update page names on your website
The error code given when the web browser cannot find the page you are looking for.
Google’s advertising portal, where you can bid on advertising space and jump the listings with paid for ads.
Complex code written by the search engines that takes all manner of things into consideration when deciding where to rank websites.
Hidden text that describes an image, useful for SEO purposes as well as helping blind people know what’s on the page.
Google’s free tool that allows you to monitor stats and visitors on your website, which is extremely useful to monitor SEO progress.
Business to business marketing.
A link from a site to your site. Building up back links is an integral part of SEO.
A technique which is considered illegal by the search engines. Using these techniques will likely get you banned from Google and it’s almost impossible to get back on.
Also known as a robot, spider or crawler, these algorithms travel the web and report back to search engines.
The percentage of visitors to your site that left straight away when reaching your home page.
A small and easy to use navigational menu that displays the ‘path’ you went down to get to the current page.
Clicking on your competitors adverts to cost them money.
Stands for content management system. These allow you to edit and update your own content.
Robots or people adding junk links to your comments section.
Advertising that is relevant to the website it is placed on.
Also known as a goal. If the aim of your website is to get bookings, then a completed booking would be a conversion.
The percentage of visitors that complete the task above.
Stands for cost per click, and is the amount that you are willing to pay per click to advertise on Google.
A website that lists links to other websites. Directories can be a useful way to get good quality backlinks early on in your websites life.
Identical content that appears on two separate pages. This is usually a bad thing but is fairly harmless on blog pages for example as it is unavoidable. Copying content from another website can be disastrous for your ranking.
An online shop, where you can buy things direct online.
A visit to your site.
Stands for hyper text markup language, and is the code that websites display in.
Similar to hit, an impression is a visit, or a view of a particular item / page.
In bound link
A link that is coming from another website to yours.
If a page is indexed, it means it is listed on Google and can be found in the search engine results.
An integral part of SEO, a keyword is a word that describes your business. The goal of SEO is to use keywords to make sure that when people search for things on Google, your site is displayed at the top.
The ratio of keywords to non-keywords in your page content. This shouldn’t be too high or too low.
Researching keyword popularity before starting SEO work will give you the best list of keywords to use on your website.
The homepage of your website, or the page designated as a destination for an ad.
A link from one website / page to another.
Building up backlinks to your site so that your site is ranked higher on Google.
Paying for junk links from non relevant websites can decrease your ranking.
The text that appears as the link to a page / website. Ideally the text should be relevant to the page.
Hidden tags that tell search engines what the page is about.
To make money from your website / page by placing relevant ads in the content.
The top ranked listings on a search engine that have not been paid for.
This tag tells search engines not to follow this link.
This tag tells search engines not to add this site to their results.
A natural link that links to a page / website that has not been paid for.
Stands for pay per click. The advertising that appears at the top of the search engine results after you search for something.
A text file uploaded to your site that gives commands to search engine bots / crawlers.
Automatically taking content from one site and displaying it on yours.
Stands for search engine marketing, a combined approach of SEO and advertising.
Stands for search engine optimisation, the process of trying to naturally increase your ranking without paying for ads. Considered much more sustainable in the long run.
Stands for search engine results page – the page you see full of links after you search for something online.
A complete list of all the pages on your site. These are helpful to the search engines as they give a complete list of pages for them to index.
Someone, or a robot, that spams comment boards or forums with links to cheap shoes etc.
A homepage that displays an animation, or a severely minimalised block of content. You usually have to click to enter the site. This is now considered bad for SEO.
A page that displays information that has been created manually and that does not come from a CMS, database.
Submitting your site to a directory, or to be listed on a search engine.
Stands for uniform resource locator, a URL is the page address.
SEO practices that are considered safe, and that will not get you punished by the search engines for trying to manipulate the results by cheating.