Frequently Asked Questions About SEO and Its Role in Digital Marketing
When potential customers search for your business services, you want to be positioned at the top of the search results. According to Google, nearly 75% of people who find local information in search results are more likely to visit the physical stores; reinforcing how valuable organic search is to growing your business. Check out these frequently asked questions about SEO, and learn how to boost your rankings and increase organic traffic.
SEO Basics and Best Practices
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In its simplest form, SEO is the process of writing and coding website content to best communicate with a search engine. The goal of optimizing site content is to make sure your business is more visible than your competitors, to get in front of new customers without paying and to bring high-quality users who are interested in your services to the website.
Why is SEO important?
SEO helps your website rank at the top of search results. This coveted spot brings free traffic and qualified customers to your website. A website with proper SEO addresses a person's concerns and answers their questions.
How do I start optimizing my website for SEO?
SEO combines optimizing on-page elements such as headings, meta information and page copy, as well as technical factors, such as image sizes, page response codes and more. If you’re planning to revamp your website’s SEO, check out our SEO guide for the full list of best practices. If you’re looking to begin with the basics, here are a few places to start:
- Use one, keyword-rich H1 tag on each page
- Make sure all links are functional and not broken
- Have 3-5 internal links per page pointing to other pages on your site
- Provide a great user experience for customers
- Ensure keyword-rich meta tags and image tags are in place
- Keep image file sizes to a minimum for optimal site speed
How many words should be on an SEO-compliant webpage?
When producing content, keep your word count above 600; a 300 word count is the bare minimum for a search engine to be interested in your page. Search engine crawl bots like to see pages with long-form, quality content.
How long should my meta title & description be?
Meta titles should be 30-65 characters and meta descriptions should sit between 70-120 characters. Meta information compels searchers to click on your listing in the search engine result page (SERP). By staying within these character limits, your meta information won’t be truncated in Google search results on desktop or mobile.
Why does it matter if I have duplicate content throughout my website?
When search engines read content that is the same across multiple pages (duplicate content), they pick which piece of content is more relevant and give preference to it. This means duplicate content causes the search engine to deem one piece of content useless and won’t show it in search results. It’s important to avoid using content that is the exact same on another page on your site or the same as the content on another website.
What is schema and how do I do it?
Schema is a structured data markup language meant to create a universal vocabulary across search engines. You can get a more in-depth explanation in our blog covering Schema and its uses for SEO.
What are internal links and anchor text, and why are they important for SEO?
Internal links refer to links on your website that point to other pieces of content on other pages of your site. Anchor text is a link you place in your content, but this type of link points to a specific location on a page of your site, not just the page itself. Anchor text is used to quickly direct the user to the exact content they were looking for. Internal links make it easier for search engines to crawl more content and can result in users spending more time on your website, improving behavior metrics such as average pages per session and lower bounce rate.
Are header tags like H1s, H2s and H3s actually important? Why should I use them?
Yes! Header tags are important for SEO and provide search engines with valuable information. You should only use one H1 per page but they should be on every page. H2s and H3s should be included on pages, but aren’t as important for SEO. Remember to make your headers keyword rich and descriptive of the section in the copy.
What is a backlink?
A backlink is any hyperlink leading back to your website from another domain. A long-time ranking factor for Google, they help search engines understand a site’s authority. The more authoritative a site is, the better the backlink.
How do I get a backlink?
Some of the most common ways to get a backlink are via guest posts and simply asking. For this to work, you need relevant content that provides value to whoever is granting you the backlink. Check out our blog post on backlinks for a more in-depth explanation on backlinks and how to gain them.
Can I pay for SEO?
No, not if you mean purchasing backlinks, spam traffic and spam comments to gain SEO value. If you are purchasing links and inauthentic traffic to your site, this will only move your website backward. These shady methods of improving your SEO will be noticed by Google’s algorithm. With each update, Google’s algorithm gets better at picking up black hat SEO tactics, and getting caught by the algorithm will practically render your site useless for SERPs. But, if SEO isn’t your expertise, it is certainly safe and beneficial to pay a consultant or digital marketing company to help you optimize your site for search the right way.
How much should I spend on SEO consulting?
The price you pay for SEO consulting varies depending on your site’s goals. For example, page optimization can take anywhere from one to five hours per page depending on the SEO tactics involved. To effectively utilize SEO, it requires attention and monitoring for a long period of time. SEO is a marathon - not a sprint. If you’re looking for a consultant, be prepared to be in it for the long haul when budgeting. That being said, your SEO consultant should be able to show you progress each month with close monitoring.
What should my digital marketing goals be?
We always encourage companies to gather benchmarks and then create goals around those benchmarks. For example, if you’re implementing a new SEO strategy, a 15% increase (year-over-year) in organic traffic is a good place to start.
Keeping Images SEO-Friendly
When it comes to SEO, images are often an overlooked and underutilized asset. Tasks as simple as naming an image or filling out image tags give you the opportunity to insert keywords and valuable user information. Why not utilize this available space?
There’s also ranking factors, like site-speed, which are directly affected by the size of images. Correcting image errors and file size is an easy way to improve a site’s ranking.
What is an image alt tag?
An image alt tag is what a page displays if the image can’t load or is disabled. This tag should be keyword-rich and describe the image for those who can’t see it and are using screen readers. To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, image tags must be present. Google appreciates and rewards sites striving for ADA compliance.
What is an image title tag?
An image title tag provides additional information about the image. Be sure to use keywords pertaining to your page or product when writing the title tag, but don’t keyword-stuff— make sure to be relevant. Depending on your browser, this is also what’s displayed when you hover over an image.
How do I compress images?
Optimizilla and TinyPNG are great tools for compressing images. Depending on your content management system (CMS), built-in features, plugins or apps can also be used.
Why should I compress images?
Image size is a site-ranking factor for Google, as large images will drastically slow down site load time.
How big should images be?
Industry best practices suggest an image should be smaller than 100 KB. Anything bigger will hinder site’s speed, especially if your site is filled with visual content. Use a compression tool to minimize images already on-site and keep this limit in mind when adding images to your site.
Tools & Resources for Search Engine Optimization
Digital marketing’s ever-changing nature brings constant algorithm changes, updates and new practices almost every day. Staying on top of industry trends is one of the most important things we do as an agency.
To maintain expert knowledge in our field, Blue Compass uses an array of reporting tools and resources to stay on top of SEO.
What Google products should I be paying attention to?
Google Search Console, Google Analytics and Google My Business are a few of the products to keep on your radar. Look for new Google resources quarterly; they tend to favor the use of their products when it comes to rankings, so these products will be important to use.
What resources do you use to stay up to date on SEO?
We follow Barry Schwartz (@Rustybrick), an author who is known for his SEO vigilance and reporting in the community through SEJournal. The Moz blog is another great resource to learn about SEO trends, and Brian Dean’s Backlinko blog is filled with helpful theories and guides.
What tools or platforms do you use for SEO?
Some of our favorite platforms to use to dig into the SEO health of websites and to determine the areas to improve are Moz, Google Search Console, SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner and Hubspot.
Am I signed into my Google My Business (GMB) page?
To find out if you’re logged into your GMB page, open another tab and Google your business name. If you are signed in, a box should pop up above search results with edit functions. If not, follow this link to get signed in.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console is a tool designed for webmasters to better understand their organic traffic and indexing status from Google.
Why should I care about Search Console?
Search Console is a one-stop shop for all things organic traffic. Google allows you to check what queries (user searches) have led to your site and provides valuable indexing information. Because Search Console is a Google tool, it’s the best way to communicate with them and understand how they view your site. For example, you can “fetch and render” pages within Search Console to get a first-hand look at how Google sees your site. You can also determine the number of webpages Google has indexed.
Can you update Google Maps images?
Yes and no. You can update images shown by Google in the panel on the right-hand side of search (view this support page from Google for helpful tips on how), but you cannot edit satellite or street views unless you hire a Google-approved photographer.
What is domain authority?
Domain authority is a ranking system built by Moz to determine the trustworthiness of a site and how well it will rank in SERPs. The score is on a logarithmic scale of 1-100, with higher scores attributing to a more authoritative site. While domain authority isn’t a Google metric or ranking factor, it gives you a good indication of how Google views your site. Google values authoritative, trustworthy sites, so the higher domain authority score, the higher you’ll rank.
What factors are included in domain authority?
The domain authority score comes from evaluating linking root domains, total links, MozRank, MozTrust and other ranking factors.
SEO Errors and What They Mean for Your Site
If you have a site riddled with SEO errors, search engine bots will have trouble crawling the content and sitemap. This, in turn, makes it difficult for Google to rank your site and lowers the likelihood of your brand being found online by people who don’t already know about your company.
To keep our clients’ sites healthy, Blue Compass runs SEO audits using a variety of different crawl tools. This helps us get a full picture of overall site health and errors that may be hindering site performance/ranking.
Whether it be 301 redirects or 404s, fixing SEO errors is a must for any site looking to rank on the first page of Google.
What are 301 redirects?
301 redirects are permanent redirects put in place to move users (and search engines) from one URL to another. An example would be if a website URL changed after a page moved from one section of your website to another. If you change your website URL structure, you’ll use 301 redirects to send traffic to your site’s new corresponding pages. Read more about the issues that can arise from not redirecting old pages when you launch new ones.
Why are 301 redirects important to include on a website?
301s allow you to retain traffic from old URLs that people still might use to reach your site. This comes in handy if you’ve upgraded your site with an SSL certificate (HTTPS) or are using a vanity URL. For example, if your site obtains an SSL certificate and moves from an HTTP address to an HTTPS address, any link pointing to your site with the old HTTP address will be invalid. Setting up a 301 redirect on the HTTP address to the new address will ensure those clicking on the link make it to your page.
Why is it important to find on-page and technical SEO errors and correct them?
If you don’t, a competitor will and you’ll lose business to another company with a website that Google likes better because it has fewer errors. Website traffic equals sales, donations and leads - that’s why SEO errors need to be corrected. SEO errors can easily begin to pile up, making them costly and time-consuming to fix if not addressed in a timely manner. Errors will also limit your search engine visibility and ranking. Depending on the error, they can turn away crawl bots and stop a crawl completely. This basically renders your page useless, eliminating any other SEO-weight attributed to the page.
How do I fix SEO errors?
There are many services, like Screaming Frog or IIS, that crawl a site for errors — replicating what a search engine would do when viewing your site. These services provide a report containing the errors on your site, and you can use this to correct them. If you’re not as SEO-savvy, think about hiring an SEO company like Blue Compass to strategically guide you and implement the SEO strategy.
Search Engines and Using SEO to Rank Higher
When executed properly, SEO brings free, organic traffic to your site. This all comes from optimizing your content for Google and, ultimately, the user. While Google has multiple ranking factors that go into its algorithm, there are a few core pieces of SEO that stand out.
What factors are included in Google's algorithm for ranking?
Google applies over 200 factors into its algorithm, but there are a few standouts you should pay attention to:
- Relevant content
- SSL certification
- Technical code (such as proper 301 redirects, canonical tags, etc.)
You talk a lot about Google. Why don’t you talk about Yahoo! and Bing?
As of April 2017, Google held 77% of the market for search. Since then, we assume Google’s share has only grown with more and more people using mobile to search (in which Google has 95% of the market share). When it comes down to it, Google writes the book on SEO.
Are there any differences between the search engines?
Yes. Each search engine has a different ranking algorithm that it uses for their search results. This means your rankings may vary search engine to search engine, but, as a rule of thumb, make sure you’re optimizing for Google first.
What is SERP?
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. You may frequently see this word thrown around by digital marketers and here on Blue Compass’ site when referring to search engine rankings.
How do we get to page one in SERPs?
This question takes a little bit longer to answer, but we have some great places to start in our SEO guide. If you’re looking for a general starting point, pay attention to these factors:
- Maintain a healthy, error-free site
- Provide relevant, keyword-rich content for search engines and backlinks
- Engage your audience and provide a great user experience
- Optimize on-page elements, such as H1s and H2s
- Include at least 600 words on each page
- Use keyword-rich tags on images, and keep images below 100KB
What are the different types of results that can show up on SERPs?
These are the boxes of content that show up at the very top of SERPs. They generally answer a question or provide a brief description related to your search.
A newer addition to search results, expandable questions fall underneath answer boxes and come with the copy, “People also ask for” written above. These questions and answers serve as expansions to the answer box, providing the user with other helpful snippets of information related to their original search.
You will typically find knowledge panel on the right side of search results, showing you more information about a topic or business location. Carousels at the top of search results displaying information are also a part of the knowledge panel. This is all powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph, a tool used to collect information from various sources and enhance search engine results.
Indicated by an “Ad” icon next to the URL, ads are served via Google Adwords and appear at the top and bottom of SERPs.
These are the ads that look like image results at the top of your search results. They lead to shopping hubs partnered with Google.
AMP stands for “accelerated mobile pages” and are optimized for mobile. They’re lightweight and load almost instantaneously. AMP pages receive a ranking boost from Google and only show up in mobile search.
How Your Website Structure Impacts SEO
Your website structure serves as the foundation for all SEO efforts. Sitemaps and robots.txt files are the backbone of a site and require your full attention.
Is it okay for my blog to be at a different URL than my main website?
To get the most SEO-value out of your blog, we suggest using the same domain as your main website. Google will see more traffic going to the site, giving it more weight in the eyes of the search engine.
What is a landing page?
A landing page is a page created specifically for the purpose of capturing lead information from a marketing campaign. The page should have one goal and conversion point.
Do I need a sitemap?
Yes, a sitemap helps Google understand the content that lives on your site. Generally in the form of an XML file, your sitemap houses every page on your site. This tells Google about the pages you want indexed.
Do I need to update my sitemap?
Yes, with every update to your site, such as adding a new page, you should update your sitemap with the new URLs and submit it to Google (something you can do within Google Search Console).
How can I tell if I have a sitemap?
Check by typing your domain followed by /sitemap.xml. For example, Blue Compass has a sitemap at www.bluecompass.com/sitemap.xml. Right-click on the blank screen and select “view page source” to find your sitemap. If there’s no sitemap, go to your robots.txt file (found by typing in your domain followed by /robots.txt). If you still can’t find it, contact your website administrator.
What is a robots.txt file?
Your robots.txt file is a document that tells search engine bots which pages should be crawled and which should not.
How do I know what is in my robots.txt?
Simply view your robots.txt file by typing in your domain followed by /robots.txt to see the instructions being given to search engine bots.
What should be blocked in robots.txt?
The only thing blocked in your robots.txt file are pages you don’t want Google to crawl. This could be hidden pages on your site or pages without advanced directories. Blocking thank you pages with a download or pages behind an account require some expertise, and we suggest you reach out to your website’s administrator if you’re trying to accomplish something like this.
What are “link-only” pages?
Link-only pages are only accessible by those who have the link.
When should I clear my cache?
Clearing your cache is similar to hitting the reset button on your browser. If you’ve made changes to a page and can’t see them on the live website, just clear your cache before going back into the code.
How do I clear my cache? (For every browser)
Go into your settings and select “clear browsing data.” Make sure you check the box next to “clear cached images and files.”
Click on the “hub icon,” and select the “history icon.” Click the link labeled “clear all history,” and select “cached images and files” before clicking the “clear button.”
Choose “preferences” from the menu button, and select the “privacy & security” panel. In the “cached web content” section, click “clear now.”
Go into your preferences, and select the “privacy” tab. Select the “remove all website data” button to clear your cache.
Most browsers will house the option to clear your cache in the security or privacy section of the browser.
Ready to Take on SEO?
Whether you’re ready to take SEO into your own hands or you’re looking for some guidance, Blue Compass wants to answer your questions. Contact our team of digital experts to learn how we can develop an SEO strategy that improves your search rankings and drives organic traffic to your website.