Frequently asked questions about search engine optimization.

Basics

New Sites

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Rankings

Local SEO


What is SEO and SEM?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving traffic to a website from search engines via organic or non-paid search results. These are also called natural or algorithmic search results. Typically, the earlier or higher a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. Search engine marketing (SEM) deals with paid inclusion such as sponsored advertisements or pay-per-click ads.

To improve organic results, we offer SEO services. To show up in the paid advertisements, we offer SEM or paid advertising.

Organic listings vs ads on Google search listings. Paid ads have the word "ad" next to them.

Depending on the keyword, the organic results may include sections for different types of listings including the regular web pages, map listings, images, videos, shopping products, and news.

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How does SEO work?

SEO is the process of improving traffic to a website from search engines via organic, non-paid search results.

According to the Google SEO Starter Guide,

“Search engine optimization is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results.”

Because Google considers hundreds of factors when they rank sites, there is no single technique or trick that will deliver top rankings. SEO is a long-term investment that includes publishing unique and valuable content, and then optimizing and promoting that content.

The first step in our SEO process is auditing your site to see what modifications are needed. Google’s ranking algorithms change often (over 350 times per year!) so the modifications we need to make change as well. We are happy to share our most important techniques with you. Contact your sales rep for an SEO consult and more information.

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Why is SEO important?

SEO ensures that your site follows search engine guidelines, that all pages on your site can be found and indexed, and that your site ranks as high as possible for search queries. In short, it helps customers and potential customers find your website online.

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How do search engines work?

Google’s Inside Search website tells the story of how search works. It’s geared for Google, but other search engines such as Bing work in a similar manner.

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Which search engines are the most popular?

Depending on which report you look at, Google is the most popular search engine in 2020 claiming 65 to 88% of searches on desktops, even more on mobile searches. They were followed by Bing and other Microsoft sites, Yahoo!, and DuckDuckGo. We gear most of our optimization towards Google because it is the most popular; but what works for Google will often work for the other search engines.

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How much SEO does my site need?

We will recommend an SEO budget based on the size of your site, the structure of your site, and how many other sites are competing for the same keyword phrases. Or, we can conduct a detailed SEO Site Audit and present you with specific recommendations. You can then choose which items you’d like completed. Contact your sales rep for your customized plan and price quote.

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How long does it take to see results from SEO?

In the early days of SEO, it was possible to achieve high rankings for some keywords within days, but that type of SEO is now virtually impossible. There are no tricks. There are no quick fixes. SEO is a long-term investment that includes publishing unique and valuable content and then optimizing and promoting that content. That being said, our experience shows these timeframes for attaining results:

Low Competition Keywords: A new site that targets keywords with lower competition can usually see results in three to six months if the site adds more optimized content and quality inbound links than its competition. Results vary based on a number of additional factors including the amount of competition, mobile responsiveness, online reviews, and other ranking factors.

High Competition Keywords: A new site that targets highly competitive keywords (especially real estate, vacation rentals, hotels, sites with general vs. regional keywords, etc.) may take six months to over a year to get good results if the site adds more optimized content and quality inbound links than its competition. Again, results vary based on additional factors.

Long-tail Keywords: It can be difficult for websites in highly competitive industries to rank page one for their most popular target keywords. Take the keyword “Destin vacation rentals.” That is a very popular keyword, but it is only one keyword searchers might use. Most websites receive search engine traffic from HUNDREDS or even THOUSANDS of different keyword phrases. People are just as likely to search on a “long-tail keyword” like “2 bedroom waterfront vacation condos in Destin Florida.” Long-tail keywords are based on the idea that you can get more visitors through a large number of low-volume keywords than you can from just a handful of shorter, more generic keywords. Long-tail keywords are often easier to rank for than shorter keywords and can lead to higher sales conversion rates because those site visitors are often more targeted to your specific services or products.

Because of the nature of organic, non-paid search engine listings, we can’t guarantee specific results. If you need lots of search engine traffic immediately, then we recommend pay-per-click advertising.

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What initial SEO is included with my new website?

Initial SEO is included with all new or re-designed websites. With Initial SEO, we

1. Install and configure SEO software (WordPress sites).
2. Enter site-wide SEO settings and preferences.
3. Optimize up to 5 pages or posts.
4. Submit an XML sitemap (list of pages) to Google, Bing/Yahoo!, and top directories.
5. Validate and setup the site in Google Search Console.

  • Does your site have more than 5 pages? We can expand the scope of the Initial SEO project to complete optimization on all pages. This can be part of an ongoing SEO Plan or a one-time charge to complete the additional pages.
  • If we do not receive keywords for your SEO project during site development, we will pick keywords based on the content (text) on your website.

Note: Google does not use words in keyword lists (Keyword META tags) for ranking purposes. Google gets keywords for your site from other places including page titles, page headings, page text, the alternate text for images, and in navigation links. Therefore, we do not enter keyword lists or Keyword META tags.

Learn more about all of our SEO services on our SEO page or by contacting your sales rep.

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What are other ways to promote my site?

  • Continue to add descriptive and unique information about your keyword topics to the site. According to Google, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factors.” A blog is an excellent way to easily add new content. Aim for at least 500 to 1,500 words of text on each page and do not copy text directly from other websites. Contact your sales rep if you’d like us to help you add or optimize new content.
  • Get other sites related to your industry, topic, or geographic area to link to your pages. Google looks at the quality and quantity of inbound links when they rank sites. Most links will be gained gradually over time as people discover your site and link to it. Google warns to avoid spamming link requests out to all sites related to your topic area, purchasing links from other sites for the purpose of manipulating rankings, and participating in automated link schemes.
  • Sign up for profile pages on social networking and review sites like FaceBook, Twitter, Yelp, and Pinterest. If possible, include a link to your website on your profile page. Need help with graphics for your social media pages? Contact us at 850-233-5514 for more details.
  • Don’t forget about offline promotion. If you have a business website, make sure its web address is listed on your business cards, letterhead, posters, radio and TV advertising, etc.
  • Participate in pay-per-click advertising or buy online ads. Paid advertising can send even more targeted traffic to your site. Get more information on pay-per-click and ad buys.
  • Add and verify your business on Google My Business (formerly known as Google’s Local Business Center) This can help you reach customers on the Google Maps website and in the map results embedded in regular Google searches. To see if your site is already listed search for your domain name at Google Maps.
  • Sign up for local listings on other local sites such as Bing Places, Localeze, and CitySearch. Be sure to use consistent information on all listings–the EXACT same name, address, phone, email, etc. This will prevent duplicate listings and help build your brand. We can help you sign up for listings as part of an Advanced SEO Project. Contact your sales rep for more info.

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Do you add META descriptions and META keyword lists to websites?

Unfortunately, there is a LOT of old and misinformation about META data on the Internet. In the past, META description and META keyword tags were used by search engines in ranking web pages. If everyone had used those hidden tags fairly, they would have worked quite well. But many websites overused the tags by stuffing them with keywords in the hopes of getting better search results.

Google recognized this and in 2009 announced that they would no longer use META descriptions or META keywords in their search algorithms for ranking purposes. Having META keyword lists won’t hurt the website (as long as they aren’t overdone), but we don’t like to charge for work that won’t help rankings.

Instead, we work on creating useful search snippets (SEO titles and descriptions) and on adding relevant focus keywords to the page areas where they WILL help search engine rankings. This includes adding keywords to page titles, page headings, page text, link text, and in the alternate text for images.

Note: Sometimes, we let Google create their own SEO description from the page text as that can help improve click through rates. Other times, especially when there isn’t much text on the page, we find it more beneficial to supply Google with the SEO description. And, there are times when Google will create their own SEO title and description regardless what is provided to them.

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How can we measure the success of our SEO campaign?

The best method is by how much traffic your website is receiving (shown in your website stats), how many leads you are getting, and by how many sales you are making–not through a handful of individual keyword rankings.

Both Google and Bing use “personalized” search results. For any query, the displayed results change based on the person’s search history, geographic location, account settings, etc. This means that different people get different results. You may be on page three for one person and on page one for someone else. In addition, desktop results will be different than mobile results.

Because of the nature of organic, non-paid search engine listings, we can’t guarantee specific results. If you need lots of search engine traffic immediately, then we recommend pay-per-click advertising.

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Do you guarantee rankings?

Because we do not own the search engines and directories, we have no direct control over where your site will rank, how fast your site will be included, or when a site might drop you–that is up to the individual search engines. Per Google’s own website, “No one can guarantee first place in search results–not even Google employees.” We do offer ways to help your site get listed faster and rank better. We have over 26 years of experience in SEO and have helped hundreds of clients increase leads from the search engines.

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Can we see examples of your SEO work?

We have many SEO clients who rank at the top of the search engines for target keyword searches and who have improved the number of visitors to their site from organic, non-paid search listings. Please contact us for more information.

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How do I get good rankings?

There are over 200 factors that affect where your site ranks for specific keyword searches. Most of these factors can be grouped under these main topics:

  • Get indexed: Make sure the search engines can find and list all pages on the site.
  • Be relevant: Give visitors the information they are looking for. Offer unique/ original, optimized content on an ongoing basis. Don’t just copy text from other websites. Use target keywords effectively throughout the site.
  • Get optimized: Don’t try to trick Google, but do make sure your pages are optimized. This is our specialty! We have many years of experience in optimizing sites based on Google’s recommendations.
  • Be popular: Get inbound links from popular sites, participate in social networking, and get good online reviews from your customers.
  • Be fast: Make sure your pages load fast and are error free. Site performance is a ranking factor!
  • Go mobile: Google rewards mobile-friendly websites with better rankings in mobile search.
  • Be Secure: Google recommends using https / SSL on your website.

Do all of these things BETTER than your competition!

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Why is content important for good rankings?

According to Google, “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factors.” Is your site an authority on its subject matter? Google wants to give searchers the information they are looking for. The content on your site should be unique, up to date, easy to read, well organized, and should address your target keywords. Large sites often get more search engine traffic because the more pages you have, the more keywords we can successfully target.

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How do I use my blog to get better rankings?

Blog posts are VERY search engine friendly if you follow a few basic rules:

  • Write original articles. Do not copy articles verbatim from other sites as Google will see the articles as duplicates and won’t rank them very high. You can reference or summarize other articles, but put them in your own words. Aim for at least 500 to 1,500 words of text on each page.
  • Stay on topic. Write the majority of your blog posts about the topics you want to rank for or about the products and services you sell. For example, if you have a real estate site write about the real estate market, new properties, or buying and selling homes. You can write about your favorite sports team or a local event, but that won’t help rankings for your target keywords and can confuse Google as to what your site is really about.
  • Strategically target your top keywords. Pick one target keyword phrase for each post and use that keyword in the post heading, in the first and last paragraph of text, in the SEO title, and as a Tag. If you would like us to optimize your blog posts with keywords it takes around 15 minutes per post.

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Does site design affect search engine rankings?

If you are planning to use search engines to drive visitors to your new website, there are a few steps you should consider before design begins. Read our blog article on designing SEO friendly sites.

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How do backlinks (also known as hyperlinks or inbound links) help rankings?

“A link is a connection from one Web resource to another. Although a simple concept, the link has been one of the primary forces driving the success of the Web” (W3.org). Google uses links in two main ways. First, Google’s web crawling bot, Googlebot, crawls from one link to another to discover new and updated pages to be added to the Google index. Googlebot also notes when pages are no longer available so that the pages can be removed from search results.

Google also looks at the quality and quantity of backlinks when they rank websites. Most links to your website will be gained gradually over time as people discover your site and link to it. You can promote your content (and get more backlinks) by blogging; promoting your URL offline; submitting your site to directory, review, and social websites; adding “share icons” to your site; and by reaching out to those in your site’s related community.

Google warns: Avoid spamming link requests out to all sites related to your topic. Do not purchase links from other sites for the purpose of manipulating rankings. Do not participate in automated link schemes. Recent Google updates have targeted these practices and they could hurt your rankings.

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Can keywords in my domain name help rankings?

Google says no, but they may help because:

  • When you spell out your domain name on your own site, then those keywords get more exposure on your pages.
  • When other sites link to your site with a link like http://www.yourdomain.com, then the keywords in the domain name are included in the link text. And keywords in link text may help rankings.

Note that you can only fit a couple of keywords in a domain name, but searchers may use thousands of different keywords to find your site. In the final analysis, domain names were created so people can locate sites on the Web. Any gain in search engine traffic shouldn’t outweigh a good, short, easy-to-type domain.

In addition, recent Google algorithm updates may penalize low-quality websites with search terms in the domain name. If you choose to go this route, make sure you back up your keyword-rich domain with a high-quality, informative website.

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Will it help SEO if I have two (or more) domain names point to my site?

It’s OK to have multiple domains pointing to one site BUT THERE IS NO SEO OR RANKING BENEFIT!

Google is very particular about how you use multiple domain names. In the Google Webmaster Guidelines, it says you should NOT have the same content on different domains; but, if there is a reason why you need multiple domains for the same site then use a “301 redirect”. This means “this site has permanently moved” from one domain to the other. That is something we can setup, but there is NO SEO ranking benefit. It simply tells Google that one is the main site and not to index the other domain name.

Some people need multiple domains pointing to one site because they a) have links or advertising pointing to both sites and they don’t want to lose the traffic from either domain, b) have different domains that are easy to remember for different products, c) they buy another company that comes with its own domain name(s), or d) they simply don’t want their competitors to have the other names.

If you don’t use a 301 redirect but have duplicate sites at both domains, then Google will most likely index the oldest domain name and ignore all or most of the other site. There is some speculation that there is also a penalty from Google if you don’t use a 301 redirect–we don’t know for sure.

Which domain should be your main site? Older domains with more inbound links are usually the best.

If you do want SEO benefit from both domains, then create a SEPARATE and UNIQUE website for each domain. Do not simply copy the website or even use the same text. Each site needs to stand on its own — even if one is just a small website. This also means you would need to advertise and maintain each site separately. If you don’t want the cost associated with two sites, then we recommend you point both domains to the same website with the realization it won’t help rankings.

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Can I put all of the information for my site on just one or two pages?

You can, but it’s not a good idea for two reasons:

Usability: Really long pages can be hard to read and navigate. Visitors won’t want to read through all your information to find the one tidbit they’re looking for. And if they aren’t happy, they’ll just go to a different site.

Search Engine Rankings: If you want people to find your site in the search engines, you need to optimize your pages for the keyword phrases you think they will search on. THE KICKER: You can only target a limited number of keyword phrases per page! If all of your information is on just a few pages, you’ll be able to target only a few keywords.

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Why doesn’t my site show up for a specific search?

Google (and other search engines) do not publish their exact ranking strategies. We have found the best way to ensure that your site get listed for your target keywords is to make sure your site is an authority on those keywords, to optimize for those keywords, and to get other sites to link to your pages. If there is a specific keyword you want more information on, we can run a detailed analysis and compare your site against the the page one listings. The report will show how your site compares to the page one sites and will give us a better idea of what areas need work.

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Why is my page’s position in the search results lower than before?

These are the main reasons we see search rankings slip:

  • New competition is outperforming your site.
  • Recent updates or changes to your site have affected rankings.
  • Your site needs fresh (new) content.
  • Google has updated their ranking algorithms. They make around 350 to 400 changes per year!
  • Your site has received a manual penalty.

We can help isolate the causes of ranking and traffic drops and offer ways to counteract them. Contact your sales rep for more info!

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What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the process of improving your business’s presence on local directories, map websites, online yellow pages, review websites, and other location-based resources. This includes sites such as:

Google My Business (formerly known as Google Maps, Local and Places), FaceBook, Yelp, Superpages, YP, Factual, Citysearch, Best of the Web, Bing Local, Yahoo! Local, Foursquare, Hotfrog, etc.

Local sites obtain listings from many sources, so your business may already have local listings even if you did not submit them. This is especially true for the local map listings in Google search results. If you own a local business that serves customers in a specific geographic region, then your business can benefit from Local SEO.

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What is a citation or NAP?

Citations are simply mentions of your business name, address and phone number (NAP) on the Internet. Citations are one of the most important factors that Google and other sites use to determine where to rank your site in local search results!

A listing in Google My Business is one example of a citation. Other examples include NAP mentions in online yellow pages, local chamber of commerce pages, local directories, map websites, and review websites. Other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher in local search than businesses with fewer citations.

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How do I choose a Local SEO strategy?

One of the biggest Local SEO decisions you will make is choosing whether you want to add/edit local citations manually or if you want to use a citation service like http://www.yext.com or http://www.moz.com/local. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. Whichever method you choose, strive to collect CONSISTENT citations across all local sites and to follow each site’s terms of service.

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How do I get local listings/citations?

The map/local listings in Google are controlled by “Google My Business.” We can help you request a listing and manage your profile for Google My Business and other local sites. Contact us at 850-233-5514 or at [email protected].


How do I get better rankings in Google maps and other local search results?

Google (and the other local sites) use complex ranking algorithms to decide which order to list businesses in. These ranking algorithms consider many factors–some positive and some negative.

Positive ranking factors include:

  • The number of citations you have.
  • Name, address, and phone number (NAP) consistency.
  • Customer reviews – quantity, quality, velocity, and diversity.
  • Profile factors – the info you have on profile pages at the local sites.
  • Website factors – presence of NAP on your site, keywords in search engine titles, domain authority, mobile responsiveness, etc.
  • Social mentions, likes and followers.

Negative ranking factors include:

  • Listing detected at false business location.
  • Incorrect business category.
  • Mismatch NAP / Tracking Phone Numbers across citations.
  • Mismatch NAP / Tracking Phone Number on Google My Business Landing Page.
  • Mismatch Address on Google My Business Landing Page.
  • Presence of malware on site.
  • Keyword stuffing in business name.
  • Reports of violations on your Google My Business page.
  • Presence of Multiple Google My Business Pages with Same Phone Number.
  • Absence of crawl-able NAP on the Location landing page of the website.

How can we help?

Our Internet, marketing, and web design experts are ready to help with a free, no-obligation consultation. We believe in building long-term relationships with our clients and hope you’ll choose to do business with us.

Grow your business and get more leads.

Call us today at 850-233-5514 or fill out the following form to get started.




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