We realised many small business owners have a lot of SEO related questions. So, we decided to gather the best expert advice about SEO and its benefits. Here are the most frequently asked SEO related questions—answered once and for all.

1. What is SEO, exactly?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the science of making your website rank higher in organic searches. The goal is to get you more customer traffic from Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.

2. Why is SEO important?

Your site can get traffic from many different sources (or channels) such as social media, email marketing or referrals. But organic traffic beats other channels because once you have optimised your website to appear higher when a user searches with some of your focus keywords, you can continue to get free traffic and leads every day, without having to publish a post or send an email.

4.5% of organic search visitors considered a purchase — Rand Fishkin, Moz

3. Why don’t I have enough traffic already?

Your site is competing against hundreds or thousands (or possibly millions) of websites in your industry. ‘Build it, and people would come’, simply doesn’t work here. You need to optimise your website so it would appear on top of the organic search listings for at least some of your target keywords. Do it, and only then you’ll get visitors from search engines—people who are searching for a business like yours.

4. How does the SEO process start?

The SEO process starts with an audit of your website against your competitors’ websites. The audit reveals where you stand and what actions you need to take in order to rank better when someone searches with your focus keywords. Many companies offer a free website audit.

5. What is an SEO audit?

The audit includes a review of your keyword research, content evaluation, site structure, navigation, link profile, technical factors such as page speed and meta information, and numerous other on-page and off-page aspects that impact your SEO performance.

6. Why are there dips and spikes in my traffic?

Your website should appear and stay there on page one of organic search results in order for you to receive a sizeable and steady chunk of traffic. If you’re getting most of your traffic from social media or content marketing, you can get a spike in traffic when some of your key terms hit the top spots. This can happen when you are sharing content that is based on current events or news.

7. How can I find out which keywords are working for me?

You can log into Google Search Console, click on Search Console in the left menu, then click on Search Analytics under Search Traffic. You’ll see a list of the top search terms that are driving you traffic, along with the number of clicks each search term is receiving.

8. I have heard that keywords are not important for SEO anymore. Is it true?

Keywords are still important and you should include them in your page titles, content, and metadata. However, keywords alone might never get you ranked on page-1. With that said, keywords are still the first step to SEO because it’s through keywords that search engines and user determine the context of your content, at least initially.

9. How does SEO work today?

Google’s search algorithms have advanced to a stage where they can determine how relevant and valuable your content is by measuring how people are reacting to your content. Are they engaging with the content, sharing it or linking to it?

Google’s Hummingbird update now considers more than 200 different factors for ranking websites. It is designed to focus on phrases or questions instead of individual keywords. It tracks the conversations about your product in real time and is skewed towards voice queries and mobile searches.

10. What are the most important ranking factors for SEO?

Some of the major factors that impact your rankings include:

  • Backlinks to your website from other domains and the quality of those domains
  • Quality and quantity of content on your website
  • The relevancy of your content to the theme of your website and other content published on it
  • How unique and valuable the content is
  • How frequently the content is updated
  • Age of your domain
  • The page loading time of your website
  • Mobile friendliness (especially for mobile rankings)

11. Is content all I need for SEO?

Having high quality, authoritative content is the first step to top rankings. Other people and websites will only link to your content if it’s unique and valuable. However, be aware that many other websites in your niche may be having great content. You should keep optimising content and make sure that you’re not making some of the common content marketing mistakes.

Mediocre content will hurt your brand more than doing nothing at all. — Joe Pullizi, Content Marketing Institute

12. Does paid search (such as AdWords) help my website get higher organic rankings?

No, it doesn’t. Paid ads appear on top of the organic search results because you are paying for them. They have no relation to your organic rankings.

13. How much does SEO cost?

It depends on your goals and the amount of work involved. Just as an estimate, an average SEO expert charges between $80 and $130 per hour and the average monthly retainer for an SEO agency lies somewhere between $750 and $1500 per month (Source: RankPay). You can contact us for a price quote of the cost and the results that you want to achieve.

14. How can I get backlinks from quality domains?

Well, there is not just one way. You can use some of the industry leading research tools and content marketing frameworks from Brian Dean to create and promote high-value on-page and off-page content for your website. You can also optimise and enrich the existing content so more and more people can find it and link back to it. This might sound overwhelming, but it is achievable.

15. Do I need a sitemap for better rankings?

Google recommends that you should submit an XML sitemap. It just makes it easy for the spiders to crawl your website. Although not having it is not likely to affect your ranking much, submitting a sitemap can mean that the crawlers can scan your site faster. It could get you a small edge over competitors that don’t have a sitemap.

16. Do outgoing links have a negative impact on my ranking?

Not at all. In fact, Google likes pages that have outgoing links because it thinks you’re helping the user to find more sources of information. However, be careful that you only link to reputable, high domain authority websites. Never link out to spammy websites.

“The objective is not to ‘make your links appear natural’; the objective is that your links are natural.” — Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam Team

17. Why have I suddenly lost my website traffic?

It’s possible that your site might have been hit by a Google penalty. Google’s Panda algorithm can punish websites that have thin or duplicate content by slapping them with lower rankings. Another Google algorithm, named Penguin, penalises websites that have low quality incoming links. The effect can be a site-wide decline in rankings, and consequently, traffic.

18. How do I recover from a Google penalty?

Panda recovery is typically easier and quicker than Penguin recovery. You just need to get rid of duplicate content and pages with thin content, maybe work on the structure a bit and reorganise the content. But for Penguin, you need to ‘disavow’ spam links, which could take a while. It is a bit on a technical side, so we suggest you take some assistance for this task.

19. How long before I can see the results of SEO?

Once again, it would depend on the scope of work and how competitive your niche is. It can take a few weeks to a few months before you see a significant rise in your traffic.

20. What is the assurance that my site will rank on the first page if I do SEO?

There’s no guarantee. If someone offers you one, trust them at your own risk. Because practically speaking, the odds of your site appearing on page one of your most important keywords is subjective to many factors. However, best SEO practices can help your site rank on the first page for some of the keywords, particularly long-tail keywords.

21. Should I hire someone to do SEO?

Ideally, yes. If you hire someone who has the expertise and skills to do SEO for your website, it will be helpful for your business. Moreover, it will give you more time in hand to concentrate on your business and operational tasks. Just make an informed decision when you are hiring an SEO agency or an expert. Make sure you ask the right questions before hiring an SEO agency.

Final thoughts

So, did you get the answers to all of your questions about SEO? Or has this post given you some new ideas and new questions? Let us know in the comments section below.

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