I have been meaning to put an FAQ page on my site for a awhile but never seem to get to it so here is a quick FAQ for Search Engine Optimization.

What are SEO and SEM?

SEO is Search Engine Optimization and SEM is Search Engine Marketing. SEO comes from the early days of the net where it was possible to rank webpages by simply stuffing more keywords into the different parts of the page (ie Title tage, META tags, Headings etc.).

Things have changed though! Now there are many factors both “on the page” and “off the page” that influence a pages rank. See below for more discussion of this.

SEM is a newer term that encompasses the broader range of marketing options beyond just ranking in the ‘organic’ rankings, such as Pay Per Click, Social Bookmarking sites, article syndication and others. Please visit our Services page for Online Promotion Consulting.

Is the main objective of SEO/SEM to rank #1?

Ranking on the first page is important but not everything. The key to successful marketing online is targeted traffic that converts into sales. Getting a top position seems like a great thing, and all the studies show that most people click on the first result in the rankings. However, just because browsers click on the #1 ranked site, doesn’t mean they buy anything from you. Every site is different, but often sites in the #3 – #6 range produce less traffic but more sales.

Overall, the objective is to get people who are interested in what you have to visit your site, and to do that, a high ranking site is important but not everyting. Often, a single-minded focus on getting a top 3 position is a problem because you are focusing on the hole and not the donut!

How do search engine decide the ranking of websites?

This is a closely guarded secret, with no one simple answer. In the early days of the net, there were ‘giant killer’ techniques like 4.5% keyword density, or matching keywords in the TITLE, H1 and H2 tags, that ranked sites instantly. Those days are long gone and today the search engines use as many as 200 factors.

Just to give a sense of the algorithms, here are some of the factors: Age of the domain, frequency of changes to content, number of incoming links, incoming links from what kind of sites, how long sites have linked to you, breadth of subject coverage, website theme, consistency of website theme over time, site structure, number of words on the page compared with other sites in the same theme, uniqueness of content, and so on… The list is very long and this is by no means a complete one!

If it is so tough, what do you do?

The very best thing to do above all others is to focus on a small niche, or ‘micro-niche’ and if your website covers that niche better than anyone else, then you will rank at the top. It is a lot more complex than that, but in general, the top sites on google, are the ones that cover the topic better than anyone else.

Can websites in other languages be optimized for different country versions of the search engines?

Yes, web sites in other languages can be optimized to rank on the different country versions of the search engines. Three elements greatly assist ranking on different country search engines:

1) Hosting is the target country
2) Target country domain extension (ie .ph, .mx, .ca etc.)
3) Links to the site from other target country websites.

How long does SEO take?

See this video.

If I rank first on MSN and Yahoo will that get some sales happening quickly?

It is possible but don’t count on it. MSN and Yahoo have about half the market but the traffic from them is not oriented toward purchases. Google traffic is the hardest to get but also the most valuable.

Why is Search Engine Optimization so expensive?

Search Engine Optimization is a highly specialized science requiring a lot of research, forethought and skill, and can be very time consuming if it is to be implemented properly. SEO is actually quite cheap as compared to offline and print advertising.

The Return on Investment for a top ranking on Google is far higher than any other type of advertising or marketing you can do.

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