Even though SEO has been around for a long time, there are still plenty of site owners, web developers and marketers who don't have much experience with SEO. This is through no fault of their own, as SEO has only recently been taken out of its silo and incorporated into overall Internet marketing strategies. A few years ago, SEO was looked at as more of a technical practice, something that was handled behind the scenes. Now, SEO has taken a much more active, marketing-driven role. There is no denying that SEO is important if you want your brand to succeed online, but many people still do not fully understand that SEO is a not magic bullet. It will not solve all your marketing online problems overnight, nor will it supplement your offline marketing questions. Too many site owners are caught off-guard by black hat SEO spammers and con-men, looking to take advantage of "SEO newbies." Here are a few of the most common SEO questions and the white hat responses:
Q: How long will it take me to rank in Google?
A: There is no guarantée as to how fast your site will rank in Google, Bing, Yahoo or any of the other search engines. There are a lot of factors that your SEO is fighting against to help your site perform. If your site launched in a small niche with few competitors (grasshopper breeding), it might rank well faster because there was little opposition. If you launched your site in a highly competitive market (dog breeding), it could take much longer for your site to rank for your chosen keywords. There is no set time frame since each site and industry is different.
Q: How important is my Google PageRank?
A: PageRank is the numeric value given to your website based on its relevance and importance according to Google. Once upon time, it was a major contributing factor for Google's algorithm, as a higher PageRank score (out of ten) signified that your site was useful and had a good trust factor with the search engines. Now the Google algorithm takes into account hundreds, if not thousands of contributing factors when determining where a site will fall in the SERP. While having a high PageRank is nice, it is by no means the most important factor or sign of SEO success.
Q: Which search engine is more important? Google or Bing?
A: Google still has the lion's share of search volume, but Bing has steadily been gaining traffic over the last few months. You shouldn't ignore one in favor of the other. The simple truth is that a different type of user chooses Google over Bing and vice versa. Failing to optimize for both players means your site is invisible to their audience. Google and Bing also fill their search results with slightly different information, so ranking well in one doesn't mean your site is doing well in the other.
Q: How long do I have to do SEO for?
A: SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of tool. It takes constant attention and action to keep your SEO relevant and working. Yes, SEO will build on itself over time, but that doesn't mean you get to 6 months and call it quits and hope your past work will carry you through. The Internet is expanding at an unbelievable rate, which means that every day there are more and more websites vying for the same amount of space. If you want to keep your site competitive and continue growing your online presence, you have to be prepared to strap in for the long haul. SEO isn't ever truly finished.
Q: What does SEO really do for my site?
A: SEO is much more than just getting your site to rank well in the search engines. Good SEO will also help build your brand presence online, help maintain (or fix) your brand's online reputation, drive traffic to your site and improve your conversion rate, establish your company as an industry leader or expert, help you connect with your customers and much more.
Q: Who should handle my site's SEO?
A: If you don't have the knowledge or experience to handle your site's SEO, then you have to decide between bringing in someone to handle your SEO in-house or outsourcing your SEO to an SEO company or consultant. If you want to keep it in-house, your SEO manager needs to be incorporated into your marketing department, not the web design/development or IT team. Everything that your marketing department does to promote you company can be leveraged for SEO. Your SEO manager needs to work with the marketing team to keep their efforts in line.
If you want to outsource your SEO, be sure to do so to a reputable, white hat SEO firm! They should be US based and speak English fluently. A lot of SEO focuses on creating and publishing content and you need someone who understands the US market. Any company or consultant who promises to have your site ranking number one in Google by the end of the month is probably a black hat SEO practitioner and should be avoided.
Q: How do I measure SEO success?
A: There are a few ways to tell if your SEO is doing well. First off, what kind of traffic growth are you seeing? Good SEO should produce additional traffic that steadily increases over time. Peaks and valleys isn't a good sign. You can also look at how well your site is ranking for your chosen keywords. Did your site jump from page 6 to page 3? That means your site is establishing a stronger trust factor with the search engines and is performing well. The biggest indication of SEO success is your conversion rate. Of the traffic that arrived to your site, what percentage of them converted? Each site has a different goal. It could be for someone to call the company, download a trial form of some software, signup for a newsletter, etc. A higher conversion rate means that more targéted traffic is being delivered to your site, a sign that your SEO is doing a good job of positioning your site.
These are by no means the only questions you may have when beginning your SEO process, but they are some of the most common. A lot of SEO is learning and adapting. If you are looking to handle your site's SEO by yourself, you might want to consider taking an SEO training session to learn the basics and answer more strategically minded questions.