Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
This thread/post is design to help answer the most common questions here and also to help spark some debate. The answers below are not perfect nor do I claim they are. I'm hoping for feedback to help make this more complete and accurate so please feel free to point out any mistakes, omissions, or otherwise. If I missed a question you feel is common, let me know so I can add it here.
(Since SEO is not a science this is a gutsy post to make so cut me some slack! :))
Build your website for human beings, not search engines!
What are SERPs?
SERPs is an acronym for Search Engine Results Pages. Basically they are the search results you receive when doing a search at a search engine.
What is anchor text? Why is it important?
Anchor text is the visible hyperlinked text on the page. For example, let's examine this code:
<a href="http://www.go4expert.com/">Webmaster Forums</a>
The anchor text for this link is "Webmaster Forums". This is important in search engine rankings because the search engines use anchor text to help determine the relevance of a page being linked to for those keywords. By having this link pointing to their forum's web page, go4expert Forums will perform better in searches for the phrase "webmaster forums" (and other similar phrases as well).
How do I get a lot of backlinks to point to my site?
A good place to start is to submit to directories. Start with the free ones and then decide whether pay ones are worth it for you. Here's a great place where you can find a free directory listing that sorts them by PR, Alexa rank (worthless), and more: http://www.tipsntutorials.com/Top-Directories/ and also check out http://www.isedb.com as it lists thousands of place you might find worth submitting to.
Do outbound links improve your ranking?
No. This is a myth.
I was thinking of doing <seo trick here> to my site but I'm afraid the search engines might think it is spam. Should I do it?
No. Why? If you're not sure if it will get you in trouble with the search engines or not then it's probably something you shouldn't be doing. Another good reason not to do it is accessibility. Many webmasters employ hacks and tricks in an effort to increase their search engine ranking. Often times these tricks are at the expense of the usability of their website. Not only to those who have disabilities but to anyone who's trying to navigate their site.
How many keywords should I put into my <title>, <a>, and <h1>..<h7> tags?
You should only put the few keywords that are most relevant to your pages. The more you put in each tag, the more you dilute the value each keyword is given.
<h1>Advanced PHP Programming</h1>
is better then
<h1>Advanced PHP Programming Is Really Cool And Stuff Dude</h1>
The large majority of search engines do not use Meta Tags as part of their ranking algorithm. The most notable exception is Yahoo which does use them (at least the meta keyword) but it's weight in their algorithm is extremely low and essentially has no influence on a high ranking (it may be useful to jump up you from the 1,000th position or so). Some will claim Google uses Meta tags in its algorithm. This is entirely untrue. Google, however, will use a meta description tag if it is unable to discern a description for a webpage on its own (if the page has no text and no description in the open directory [dmoz] the it is likely Google will use the meta description tag in its SERPs). Please note that it is only using this description in its SERPs, not its algorithm.
Should you use Meta Tags in your site? Yes. They do have some affect in some search engines and even though that effect is almost zero it is still more then zero so is worth the time.
How much time should I spend on my Meta Tags? Ten minutes. Write a nice concise description of your page and throw in a sampling of keywords (which you should have them handy if you've optimized your pages properly). You should spend no more time then this on them. Use your time to promote your site and get quality inbound links.
How many keywords should I use? As many as you want. If you start to think you may have too many, you probably do. This means you need to divide your page into subpages with each one taking its own topic.
What happens if I use includes for my pages? Will the search engines see them?
The search engines don't care about what server side technology you use. All they see is the (x)HTML your server side code generates. To see what they see simply load your page in your favorite web browser and then view the source. What you see is exactly what they see.
Should I submit my website to the Search Engines by hand or use software?
Do it by hand. It will not take long to do and will ensure that you are successful in submitting each form with the correct information. There is a constant debate about how search engines feel about automated submission software. Since there is a reasonable chance these are frowned upon by the search engines, and since you can do anything they can do on your own, you might as well avoid them.
But, if you're going to use software, these title seem to be the most common ones recommended: Addweb, Web Position Gold, Web CEO
How often should I submit my website to the search engines?
Once. Resubmitting your url does not get you indexed faster or improve your rankings. Also, resubmitting your site will never cause your site to be banned. If so, then all you would need to do is submit your competitors' sites repeatedly until they were banned.
Pages with .php extensions don't rank as well as pages with .html extensions
This is a very common myth that is 100% untrue. The file extension does not affect your rankings in any way. After all, no matter what server side programming language you use, and what extension you choose to use with it, they all just spit out HTML in the end. That's all a web browser will see and that all a search engine will see.
Sites with .com rank higher then with <TLD here>
This is another common myth that is untrue. The only time a domain extension can affect your ranking is if the search is based by country. The country-specific TLDs (e.g. .co.uk) will have priority over non-country specific TLDs (e.g. .com or .net).
One observation many make is that .coms tend to rank higher then other domain extensions. They assume it is because .coms are given preferential treatment. This is a poor assumption. .coms seem to rank higher then other extensions because they are by for more popular then any other domain extension (there are more .coms than .net, .org, .biz, .edu, .gov, and .info combined) so they naturally have a greater chance of ranking higher vs other domain extensions through sheer quantity alone. .coms also tend to be older sites so they have had a chance to establish themselves whereas newer domain extensions have not. They have also used this time to acquire more backlinks which is an important factor in search engine algorithms.
It is also commonly believed that .gov and .edu sites are given preferential treatment from search engines. This is also untrue. Web pages on .edu and .gov domains tend to rank well because they contain quality content and many webmasters will link to their content as a result. Both of these are key elements in SEO. But the fact that they are .edu or .gov domains does not benefit them directly in the SERPs.
Pages with query strings don't rank as well as without query strings
Another common myth that is untrue. The only way variables in a query string can affect a site in the SERPs is if it has a sessionID or something that looks like a sessionID in it (e.g. id=123456). These usually prevent indexing of these pages or limit the amount of pages indexed. But query strings do not affect the page's ranking. Neither in a positive way or negative way.
Should I use relative links or absolute links?
Absolute links. It is recommended by Google as it is possible for crawlers to miss some relative links.
I just changed from .html to .php. How can I switch without losing my rankings?
There are two ways to do this:
1) Tell Apache to parse all .html files a .php file. Using this method you do not have to change any files extensions or worry about any redirects. To do this, place this code in your httpd.conf file:
You'll need to do a 301 redirect from the old domain to the new domain. Fortunately this is not difficult to do. You'll need to add the following lines of code to a file called .htaccess and place it in the root directory of the old domain:
If your site is less then six months old stop reading now. Your site is too new to be worrying about getting all of your pages indexed. Be patient. It takes time to crawl through your whole website and add your pages to the index. If you are sure your pages are search engine friendly then you have nothing to worry about.
If your site is six months old or older you need to check your website to make sure all of your pages can be found and indexed. Have you:
1) Made a human sitemap?
2) Made a Google or Yahoo sitemap?
3) Used search engine friendly URLs?
4) Used search engine friendly navigation?
An additional note: get incoming links. These are important for the search engines' algorithms and may play an important part in how deep the search engines will crawl your website.
How do I check if my site is search engine friendly?
What does it mean to have your site indexed by the search engines
To be indexed by the search engines means your webpages have been crawled and included in the database of the search engines. Your pages are now avaialble to be included in search results of user queries. This doesn't mean your pages are guaranteed to be included. It just means they are available. The pages will still need to be relevant to the search terms before they will be included in the SERPs.
Which is better for domain name and/or url: hyphen (-), underscore(_), or plus sign(+)?
Hyphens are the best keyword delimiter you can use in your domain name or URL. Hyphens are universally accepted as a keyword separator by all major search engines. Yahoo and MSN do recognize the underscore (_) as a keyword separator but Google does not. As Google has the lionshare of the search market its methods must take presedence and thus hyphens should be chosen to separate keywords.
Many say that separators are not necessary as search engines can find keywords in URLs without assistance. Also untrue. Well, not entirely. They are smart and most likely can pick some keywords out of a URL. But they are not that smart. Sometimes it is not obvious where one keyword ends and another begins. For example: expertsexchange.com can be seen as "experts exchange" and "expert sex change". These are obviously two very different topics. In this case a hyphen would clearly separate the keywords and solve this problem.
Will too many hyphens in your domain name will cause the search engines to label your site as spam?
No. This is a myth caused by many spam sites using multiple hyphens in their domain name. Many people have wrongly concluded that only spam sites would need to use more then one hyphen. The truth of the matter is that having more then one hyphen in your domain name will not result in your site being penalized. The more likely scenario is that having multiple hyphens will result in a flag being set at the search engines and a manual review being done to see if the site is spammy or legitimate.
One thing to keep in mind when choosing a domain name with hyphens in it: you users. When using a domain with multiple hyphens you make it more difficult for your human visitors to remember and type in your domain name. Domain names with more then one hyphen should only be used if you are attempting to market your website through the search engines. If you plan on doing offline advertising, including word of mouth, one hyphen or less is recommended.
Does the order of the keywords used in a search affect the search results?
Yes. Do a search and see for yourself.
Does the order of the keywords in a domain name/URL matter?
Yes. You will typically rank better in the SERPs for the phrases that use the words in the same order as your domain and URL then if they are not in the same order.
Does using automated SEO software cause a website to be penalized?
No. This is a common myth that is untrue. If it were true you could get your competitor penalized or banned by using automated SEO software to resubmit their website every 60 seconds. Naturally this does not happen (nor should it).
Some webmasters will try to say to say that Google says in their guidelines that you shouldn't use automated software like Web Position Gold. The reason for this is that most of these tools scrape Google's SERPs to find your site's ranking information. This is in violation of Google's terms of service. Software that uses Google's API is acceptable for querying their servers. Also, if you constantly use SEO software to query a search engine's servers you might find that they ban your IP address to prevent you from using their resources any further. However, this has no effect on your web pages' rankings.
Can search engines see password protected pages?
Search engines are not different from regular users in most ways. They cannot go anywhere that a regular user cannot go. If you have a password protected area of your website that cannot be accessed without a login and password then the search engines cannot see it.
Which is better for SEO: text links or graphical links?
Text links are better for SEO. Text links can contain the anchor text that your page wishes to rank well for and that is an important factor in all three search engines, especially Google. Image links are still valuable but do have less benefits compared to text links. This is true despite image tags having the ALT attribute available. The ALT attribute can contain keywords but thanks to keyword stuffing they now are virtually worthless. (You should be using your ALT attributes for usability and accessibility and not SEO anyway).
Does validation help your ranking?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: No. But having a webpage that validates is a good idea. A webpage that has been validated to a W3C standard contains no errors and therefore can be easily parsed and understood by the search engine crawlers. An invalid webpage runs the risk of being misinterpreted or just not read at all.
What is a quality link?
A quality link is:
1) On topic (The page linking to your page is about the same main topic)
2) Ranked well for the keyphrase you are after (In the top 1,000)
3) Has high PR (PR 4 or higher)
I left out high traffic because that is irrelevant from an SEO point of view. But if you're looking at the big picture that would be #4.
Why should I not launch an incomplete website?
1) Users will remember that your site was incomplete and will be less willing to come back
2) Search engines may index incomplete pages and cache them and then not refresh their cache for months or years
3) Other webmasters will not exchange links with incomplete sites
4) Directories won't accept submissions from incomplete sites
Keep in mind this generally covers your "under construction" kind of incomplete sites. You certainly can launch a site and then continually add to it and grow it. Even adding whole new sections. But a site that is obviously incomplete just shouldn't be set loose in the wild until it is ready to go.
Will changing hosts/IP addresses affect my rankings?
What is referrer spam?
Referrer spam is when a spammer sends fake referrers to your server. They do this because they know most web stats lists referrers as hyperlinks. They then submit your stats to the search engines in the hopes that they will crawl your stats and find that link. They also hope you click on that link yourself.
What is a doorway page?
Hidden text/DIVs are only bad if you are using them to manipulate the SERPs. There are many practical uses of hidden text/DIVs that enhance a web page without being malicious.
Good uses of hidden text/DIVs: Dynamic menus, dynamic page content
Bad uses of hidden text/DIVs: Text that is present on the page but cannot be viewed by human beings at any time
Common SEO Myths (These are UNTRUE)
Keyword Stuffing - This occurs when a web page is loaded with keywords in the meta tags or in content.
Link Baiting - Writing good content that people will naturally want to link to.
Link Building - Getting more links to point to your webpages. Also known as "acquiring inbound links".
Link Farm - Any group of web pages that all hyperlink to every other page in the group. Done with the intention of manipulating the SERPs and is usually penalized by the search engines.
Organic Search - The search results determined by a search engine's algorithm. The opposite of paid inclusion advertising.
Spider - Also known as a web spider, web robot, or bot is a program which browses the World Wide Web in a methodical, automated manner.
What is the story with Alexa?
Alexa's rankings are generally considered to be inaccurate at best. Their rankings depend on a user having their toolbar or their spyware installed in order to track their surfing habits. Plus their software is limited to the Windows operating system further limiting the reach of their software and accuracy of their results.
With the possible exceptions of selling/buying a website and applying to and ad service, Alexa serves no useful purpose and important decisions should not be made based on its results.
If you want to improve your ranking in Alexa just install the toolbar into your browser. Be sure to visit your site daily. This will cause your site to jump in the rankings after a few weeks. Get your friends to do it, too, and you can make a significant impact on your rankings.
What would be a good SEO strategy?
Before you write one line of code:
PR stands for PageRank. As explained by Google:
PageRank != Page's Rank. They are two very different things.
Google Sitemaps is an easy way for you to submit all your URLs to the Google index and get detailed reports about the visibility of your pages on Google. With Google Sitemaps you can automatically keep them informed of all your web pages, and when you make changes to these pages to help improve your coverage in the Google crawl.
The Google Sitemap is an XML file in a specific format that tells Google the information it needs to find the pages of your website.
Google Search Shortcuts
site:www.example.com/ - Indexed pages in your site
allinurl:www.example.com/ - Pages that refer to your site's URL
link:www.example.com/ - Pages that link to your site
cache:www.example.com/ - The current cache of your site
info:www.example.com/ - Information Google has about your site
related:www.example.com/ - Pages that are similar to your site
What is Googlebombing?
Googlebombing is a certain attempt to influence the ranking of a given page in results returned by the Google search engine, often with humorous intentions. Due to the way that Google's PageRank algorithm works, a page will be ranked higher if the sites that link to that page all use consistent anchor text. A Google bomb is created if a large number of sites link to the page in this manner.
Why does my site rank well in MSN/Yahoo but not in Google?
MSN and Yahoo have vastly different algorythms then Google. With MSN and Yahoo on-page factors (page titles and content) tend to have a greater influence on a page's ranking whereas Google tends to put more value in off-page factors (incomming links). Many websites tend to rank well in MSN and Yahoo before they rank well in Google as it takes time to acquire the backlinks required to influence Google's rankings.
How do I find out what my PR is?
There are many different ways to do this:
Websites that check for you: DigitalPoint, PageRank.net, WebmasterBrain, StarGeek, PR Lookup
Software: Google Toolbar, PageRank FireFox Extension
How often does Google update their PR?
Google representatives, such as engineer Matt Cutts, have publicly indicated that the Toolbar PageRank is republished about once every 3 months, indicating that the Toolbar PageRank values are generally unreliable measurements of actual PageRank value for most periods of the year.
However, PR is updated at Google daily (or close to daily). New links are factored into the equation and they are applied to a page's PR. You just cannot see this this PR until Google does its next public PR update.
How important is PR in Google's algorythm?
This subject is open to great debate. It's overall weight has been reduced since it's original inception. Anchor text has far surpassed it in importance. The general rule of thumb is that PR is used as a tie breaker amonst similar ranking sites.
How do I increase my PageRank?
Since PageRank is an indicator of a page's link popularity it should be obvious how to increase your PageRank - GET MORE INCOMMING LINKS! High PR links are ideal but don't underestimate the power of low PR links. Afterall, PR does add up.
Why does <website goes here> have such a high PR/high ranking with so few backlinks?
1) They have a lot of low PR links pointing to the home page. These usually don't show in Google's backlink report but can still propel a site high in the rankings.
2) They have a lot of links pointing to internal pages within the website. These links will only show when you do a backlink report for that specific page, not the homepage. These pages usually pass on a lot of PR to the site's home page and propel it in the rankings.
3) Web pages with high PageRank have linked to the site's home page. High PR links carry much more weight then links from low PR pages. A link from a PR8 or PR9 page can make quite a difference in a web page's PR and ranking.
Why does my website have a higher PR with the 'www' then without it?
Google sees your website with the 'www' (http://www.example.com) as a different page the without (http://example.com). Pages that link to the page without the 'www' are hurting your pages with the 'www' as the PR is essentially being split between the two pages. Fortunately this is easy to fix. Use a 301 redirect to redirect Google, and everyone else, to the 'www' page from the non 'www' page. The code would look similar to this (mod_rewrite required):
You can use a robots.txt file to tell search engines (and other bots, too) where they can and cannot go. An excellent tutorial can be found at http://www.robotstxt.org/wc/robots.html. And an excellent example of one can be found at WebmasterWorld: http://www.webmasterworld.com/robots.txt.
I just switched domain names. How do I transfer my PR from one domain to another?
Use a 301 redirect. Put this in .htaccess file in the root directory of the old website:
Outbound links are a balancing act. You need to decide how much PR is worth to you (as compared to your users' experience at your site) and then decide what is the best way to acheive your maximum PR without sacrificing a satisfactory user experience.
One thing you could do is use a robots.txt file to prevent search engines from crawling pages with outbound links. Then no PR is lost because the search engines aren't even crawling those pages. But keep in mind that any internal links on those pages won't be counted either. This is common to do with a directory.
Another thing you may want to try is to use a script that redirects users to external sites (example: http://www.domain.com/outboundlinks.php?id=linkidhere) and then put outboundlinks.php into your robot.txt file. Then the search engines won't follow the links because they can't access the script that does the redirect. Why would you want to do this? Becasue search engines do follow redirect scripts so the PR is being sent out of your site anyway.
The latest technique available is to put 'rel="nofollow"' in your anchor tag. Google, and others I do believe, will no follow these links and in Google's case not pass along PR.
Does having Adsense on my website help me with my search engine ranking?
Not really. It may get Google to spider your site more completely and frequently as it needs to know what the content is on your pages so it may serve up the right ads. But it won't give you a boost in any way in the rankings. Won't give you any extra PR either.
My site has gone from PR<whatever> to zero. (Or the Google Toolbar is greyed out) Why?
My site has disappeared from the SERPs. Why?
This seems to happen on occasion and the natural tendency is to think you've been banned. However, this is rarely the case (if you've been doing bad things then you're not asking this question because you already know why this has happened!). For reasons known only to the powers to be this just happens. After a while, usually next update, things return to normal. What can you do about it? Nothing really. You can write to Google but all you'll get is one of the generic responses that doesn't really tell you anything. The best thing you can do is to sit back, have a beer or three, and wait for things to be set right again....on their own.
Also, new websites can take a while to have visible PR assigned to them. This doesn't mean the site doesn't have PR. It just means the Google Toolbar or other methods of checking just haven't been updated yet.
Buying Text Links
For SEO purposes webmasters often buy links for their sites. As links from higher PR pages are believed to be more valuable they tend to be more expensive. It can be an effective and viable marketing strategy to buy link advertisements on content pages of quality & relevant sites to drive traffic & increase a webmasters link popularity. However, Google has publicly warned Webmasters that if they discovered to be selling links for the purpose of conferring PageRank and Reputation, their links will be devalued (ignored in the calculation of other page's PageRank). The practice of buying and selling links is intensely debated across the Webmastering community.
What is "rel=nofollow"?
In early 2005, Google implemented a new attribute, rel="nofollow", for the HTML link element, so that website builders and bloggers can make links that Google will not follow for the purposes of PageRank— they are links that no longer constitute a "vote" in the PageRank system. The nofollow attribute was added in an attempt to help combat comment spam.
How do I rank well in Google?
Ranking well in Google is fairly straight forward.
1) Acquire incomming links with the anchor text you wish to rank well for (This is the most important by far).
2) Optimize your title tag
3) Use and optimize your Header tags (h1, h2, h3, h4)
Why does Google have less pages indexed then MSN/Yahoo?
This should be addressed by the Bigdaddy update. Google has admitted to having issues indexing some websites. Their Google Sitemaps does address this issue as well and is probably the best thing you can do to ensure Google crawls your website. The PR of your pages is also a likely factor. If they are very low (PR2 or less) they tend not to be indexed well.
Why does Google show less backlinks then Yahoo and MSN? Why doesn't Google show all of my backlinks?
Googles purposely does not list all links pointing to a particular page. This is an effort to keep webmasters from manipulating their system. They also only update backlinks on a periodic basis so you may have acquired new backlinks but they haven't been refelected in Googles update. That doesn't mean Google doesn't know they are there. They just haven't publicy acknowledged them yet. It is also important to keep in mind that Google only shows backlinks for the specific page you requested (usually the homepage), not the whole site like other search engines do.
Also, Google also only displays the number of backlinks to one specific page. This is usually the homepage since that is what most webmasters check for. Yahoo, and other search engines, report the number of incomming links per domain.
Why doesn't Google index all of my site's pages? Why does Google update some pages more often then others?
1) Your site is new. You don't really expect Google to index every page you have immediately, do you? ;)
2) Your site has low PR. Consensus indicates that Google will crawl sites that have higher PR deeper then sites with low PR. They figure the more popular your site is (PR is a popularity contest, remember?) the better a resource it must be.
3) Your site uses dymanic pages/session ID's and they are not search engine friendly. Session ID are search engines like garlic is to vampires. They repell them. Have your site remove them when the bots come around and you will fare much better (yes, this is ethical and acceptable to the search engines). Query strings that are either very long or conatin "id=" tend to limit the amount of pages some search engines will index (Google is a good example of this). Change "id=" to "page=" or something similar and you should do better. Or read the article about search engine friendly web pages.
If a site has high PR and updates its content frequently, Google will index its pages more frequently (usually every few days or even sooner) then low PR sites that do not update frequently.
Future PageRank is not accurate. It is for amusement purposes only. If you choose to use one of these tools it is for your amusement only. You should not be making any decisions based on the results you get.
Compiled by John Conde (stymiee)
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
My site has been live for <some number less than 6> weeks. Why haven't any of the search engines picked it up?
Answer: It takes a good 6 to 8 weeks to get picked up by the search engines, and maybe longer if your site has say, thousands of pages.
If you choose to include this in the FAQ, feel free to change the wording as you like it.
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
I didn't know about the tip regarding rank of "www" versus without. I've got to set up a 301 redirect now!
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
Added one more question
How I redirect my index.php file to the root / without infinite looping. to the list
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
shabbir thanks buddy ....i am really getting a lot from this forum .......i just read 4 to 5 threads regarding SEO information and i found amazing information and i hope it will helps me in many ways ......
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
The pleasure is all mine.
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
thank you so much shabbir
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
gr8 post ..especially that list of directories which i have been pondering all the google
Re: Search Engine Optimization FAQ's
I think anyone who is a novice in the matters of Search Engine Optimization would benefit immensely from the thread here. This does not limits itself to the boundaries of any specific area and appeals for all. What makes me most bewildered after reading these sections are the lack of knowledge, we are obviously being driven by the myths and tend to go about the tasks accordingly. Thanks a ton for opening my eyes and I am optimistic of setting about my task rather confidently henceforth.
|All times are GMT +5.5. The time now is 23:43.|