SEO Q&A – our top 15 SEO questions answered
Just like lawyers wouldn’t recommend their clients represent themselves, we wouldn’t recommend you do your own SEO. But we do recommend you have an understanding of what it is, how it works and how important it is. A lot of people think it’s easy; a few steps here and there and you’re done. In some ways, it is but there are also lots of things you could do and the task list changes regularly.
Staying on top of your site’s SEO and SEO techniques themselves (just like law), is an ongoing exercise. To help you get your head around some of the basics, we’ve compiled a Q&A on some of the most common questions we hear from clients.
1. What is SEO?
SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. In the simplest terms, it means improving your site so you can get a higher level of visibility when it comes to relevant online searches.
The more pages you are able to get ranked highly in search results, the greater the chance you have of garnering attention and attracting even more prospective clients to your business.
2. What is a Google algorithm?
Google algorithms are a very complex system that is used when deciding which sites should be shown, and where.
The algorithm is designed to deliver the best result possible (in Google’s view) to searchers when they enter their query. The search engine uses a combination of ranking signals to deliver pages depending on the relevance of the search request and the searcher’s intent. When you work on your site’s SEO, aside from always writing with the reader in mind, you are also trying to craft your site so that it works in favour of the algorithm.
3. What’s the difference between ‘on-page’ and ‘off-page’ SEO?
There are two main distinctions that search engines look at when evaluating your site. On-page SEO takes into account what your site is about. Off-page SEO looks at how popular, or how authoritative your site is. Simply put, the terms you rank for will be largely influenced by your on-page factors. How high you rank will be influenced by your off-page factors.
4. What are the HTML title tag and meta description and do I need them?
Meta descriptions and title tags are small parts of HTML code which are present in the backend of each page. Title tags help search engines to know what a page is all about. Your title tag will be shown whenever your page shows up in the search engine results page, so yes, it’s important.
Where a title tag is definitely used by Google for SEO and ranking purposes, a meta description is only sometimes used for that reason. Here’s what MOZ says about meta descriptions:
“Meta description tags, while not important to search engine rankings, are extremely important in gaining user click-through from search engine result pages (SERPs). These short paragraphs are webmasters’ opportunity to advertise content to searchers and let them know exactly what the given page has with regard to what they’re looking for.”
5. What’s the difference between a ‘keyword’ and a ‘longtail keyword’?
A keyword could be a single word, or a few (but not too many) words put together. When you have a long-tail keyword, this tends to be a phrase.
Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for but don’t get searched for as often. An example of a keyword would be “family lawyer” but an example of a long-tail keyword would be “best family lawyers in Queensland”. As you can see, one is much longer and more specific.
We always have a mix of primary keywords and long-tail keywords (or key terms) to improve the likelihood of pages ranking well.
6. What’s the difference between an ‘internal link’ and an ‘inbound link’?
Simply put, internal links are links that are within your site. They link to other pages on your site to provide an improved user experience. Inbound links, on the other hand, are backlinks which are on other sites, but which link to your site. Inbound links are a very important component of SEO and getting your site to rank highly but it is also an intensive process to get them.
7. What is CAPTCHA?
CAPTCHA is a challenge-response test. It’s used to try and determine whether someone is human or not when trying to access certain things on your site; for example, completing an inquiry form. It’s most often used to try and stop bots from accessing a site or filing information.
8. What happens when Google crawls my site?
Crawling is the process where Google bots (called crawlers or spiders) visit your site and update any new content that needs to be added to the site index. When the bot visits your particular pages on a site, it then finds links to any new pages and adds them to the index. Changes to your site, new sites or even dead links are all updated accordingly.
9. What happens when Google indexes my site?
In layman terms, indexing is the process where website pages are added to an index (like a filing cabinet or database of all the search information) where Google deems the content to be good enough to serve up in search results.
When a search is undertaken, Google (or whichever search engine you’re using) goes through their index to locate the most relevant content for that particular search.
If you don’t want your page to show on the search engine results, then you can add what’s called a no-index tag.
10. Can I ask Google to index my site or specific pages?
It’s possible to manually ask Google to index certain pages so that they get uploaded faster. At Social Hive, when we add new content to a site, we submit a request immediately upon publication, for Google to index the new URL.
11. How can I see what pages Google has indexed?
It’s very easy for you to see which pages have been indexed in your Google Search Console.
If you are not using the Google Search Console then you can do it for free by entering ‘site:yourdomain’ into Google.
For example, if your law firms web address is smithlawyers.com.au, you would enter ‘site:smithlawyers.com.au’ into Google search and it will serve up all the pages your site has indexed.
12. How long will it take for my SEO to work?
SEO is a long and ongoing process. It’s not something you do once when you build your website. You have to manage it continuously.
You may find that you start seeing some immediate results fairly quickly but it can take 12-18 months to start seeing the results you were hoping for. You can read more about this in our blog “How long does it take Google to find my new blog?”
13. Do I need to ‘submit’ my site to Google?
You don’t have to submit your site to Google. But if you do submit your site, you’ll find that you can usually get indexed faster. You submit your site through Google Search Console.
14. Why do some of my pages come up as ‘404 Page Not Found’?
The 404 error comes from your website and not the server. The 404 error is an HTTP status code and it essentially means that the site is communicating with the server, but the server cannot find the specific page in question.
The most typical reasons for a 404 error are when a page has been removed from your site or moved to another URL. There are ways to counter 404 errors (by creating redirections to suitable published pages). It’s important to regularly check your site for 404 (broken link) errors and fix them.
15. Can I do my own SEO or should I hire an expert?
Doing your own SEO is possible. Some people have had success by taking care of their own SEO, but it’s time-consuming and mistakes can be costly.
If you accidentally (or deliberately, without understanding the consequences) use black hat techniques, then you may find that your site becomes penalised and that you struggle to recover without making some drastic changes.
At Social Hive, our clients are law firms whereas we are a digital marketing agency. We wouldn’t presume to think we could do our own complex legal work so…
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