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SEO's seven most often asked questions

April 25, 2008      (Updated from our Feb. 13, 2001 article)

In this article, I have included the seven topics of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) I have been getting lately on search engine optimization. These seven most often-asked questions are filled with important information and what I recommend the most for achieving the best overall results in efficient brand management and increased return on investment (ROI).

Question number one:

Please help! My website has been banned! I cannot find it anywhere in Google or even in AltaVista for that matter. Since 3 years now, I have been following all the great advice you give in your newsletter and on your website. I've always been number 3 or 4 on the first SERP of Google, but now I just cannot find my site anywhere! What should I do?

Under normal circumstances, sites don't "fall off a cliff" like yours seem to have. Is it possible you may have done some "important experiments" or installed some new or unproven technology on your site recently? For any search engine to ban altogether a whole website takes some serious actions on the part of the webmaster or the site owner. I have seen many sites in the past (and still do) that get penalized for a month or two. But, to get banned altogether seems a bit exaggerated, although anything is possible.

My first suggestion to you would be to write a friendly email to Google explaining in detail what has happened and telling them "everything" they need to know, even if there "are" certain things you have done which you know you shouldn't have. The great people at Google are also humans just as the rest of us and they know that sometimes, site owners will run into trouble, either by lack of proper knowledge or, as is sometimes the case, there could have been a few violations or abuses in their Terms of Use policies.

I still get a lot of assignments for websites that some of our "competitors" have, let's politely say "abused", and these sites were penalized for a month or two. Things like "invisible text" (you'd think that after all these years they would know better, but apparently not). The first thing I always do in cases like that is: first I look for anything that could have been in violation with any search engine, and then I correct it with the right and accepted procedures, and I always follow every step "by the book". Once I have rectified and corrected all there was to be corrected, normally, after a 30 to 60 day period, these sites usually re-appear in the Google database and all the others for that matter.

To help speed-up things a bit, once I am finished with the "damage control" and once all "fires are extinguished", I will write a friendly email to Google explaining them the Before / After scenario and tell them everything I know and normally, things get fixed afterwards. It may take 3 to 4 weeks, sometimes a bit more, but what is important is that the site gets back in the index and it usually does on most times. Always be frank and upfront when dealing with the major search engines and you should do pretty well.

Question number two:

Is search engine optimization writing all we need to rank well in Google and the other major engines?

The right answer to that is no. Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing is a science as well as an art. Additionally, it has to be an ongoing, continual effort. Search engine writing constitutes about 65 percent of your successful Internet marketing campaign. The other 35 percent depends on your actual site structure, quality inbound links, the keywords and key phrases used in your site and, generally speaking, the programming of the whole web site.

Always remember that if the search engines cannot spider (crawl) your site, your company cannot benefit from any improvements or modifications done to the site. Technology-related problems which could be caused by inefficient HTML coding, sites done using Flash technology or sites that make heavy use of graphics but almost no content must be carefully addressed before writing begins.

Worthy of consideration are reciprocal link exchange programs with other quality sites that are on topic is another powerful complement to increase your Page Rank and priority positioning in the major search engines.

Question number three:

I have been told that if we implement site tracking, measuring and analysis, it would help us. Is that true and if it is, how would it help us achieve better rankings?

Any effective search engine marketing campaign requires search engine-friendly, third party results tracking. Your company or business will instantly get the right information as to how long visitors stay on each page of your site, where they have been and where they are going in terms of their surfing habits, and if they are actual repeat visitors or customers. It is even possible to track all this information through to an eventual sale, effectively making your whole marketing analysis a real closed-loop verifying system.

I have written a lot in the past on how to successfully make a website that will convert well. There will be more SEO articles I will write in the coming few months that will also deal on this important conversion topic.

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Question number four:

I have a pretty good idea of how my prospective customers search to find the products and services that my company offers, so why should I search my company�s keywords and key phrases?

Nobody should ever take chances with a search engine marketing campaign. There are no real benefits to top rankings if your prospects don't search upon that real particular keyword or key phrase. A serious keyword and key phrase research study effectively guarantees that those actual keywords and key phrases your company optimizes for are the actual real-life words your customers really use to find web sites like yours.

Additionally, a good analysis of the right keywords and key phrases used might in fact reveal further profit centre opportunities, which would equal more targeted traffic and increased sales, hence a much improved ROI. Why would your company be number One for just one keyword, when you can achieve top rankings and positioning for a much greater number of targeted terms used everyday?

Question number five:

Our company is already the best and the leading expert in our industry. How can SEO and a search engine marketing campaign improve our position in the search engines?

Today, all search engines are "brand-unaware", which means they have no idea and frankly don�t care how big your company actually is or if it is in fact a leader in its own field. The only way search engines will actually discover your web site and thus position it well in the SERP�s (Search Engine Results Pages) is achieved through SEO and search engine marketing efforts.

If someone disagrees with this, just analyse how many small businesses achieve top rankings in powerful engines such as Google, while their worldwide corporate competitors or conglomerates are nowhere to be seen, even if you go back to number 50 in the results. In such cases, all these small businesses directly engaged in a serious SEO program, while their big brand competitors relied strictly on their offline branding and brand-awareness or recognition for their online results. If brand management is important for your overall marketing success, a strong SEO program should be your very first priority.

Question number six:

Over 7 months ago I registered my domain name and my site has now been online for 5 months and I just can't seem to get into Google or any other major search engine. I have tried to submit it at least 6 times to Google, being always careful as you always say not to re-submit too often, but is it normal that I'm still not listed after more than 5 months?

No, it's not normal. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you have other sites that point to yours. It is called reciprocal link exchanging and you can read all about it by clicking here.

The second thing you need to do is to visit the "Way Back Machine". For those of you that don't know what the Way Back Machine is, its a free website that people can go and verify that there is not an "imposed penalty" on any given domain name. For example, the domain name you have bought 5 months ago, could had a permanent ban on it from any search engine. If the previous site owner abused that domain name with techniques that are forbidden (such as invisible text or similar ill-conceived ideas), it is possible that your new domain name could have had what is called in the industry as the "death penalty".

However, rest assured, all is not lost. Go to and make the test. Just follow the simple easy-to-use on-screen instructions and the way back machine will go back in time a number of years and it will tell you (and you will be able to see it on your screen) if in fact that domain name was abused in the past.

If it was, all you have to do is write a friendly email to Google and the other search engines of your interest, carefully explaining that you are the new registered owner and that you have rightfully bought this new domain name, not ever knowing there could have been any "death penalty" on it. Google will verify that in fact you are the new and rightful owner of that domain and will usually re-instate it in their database on their next major monthly crawl, which, by the way, seem to happen more often now since the month of July 2003.

Question number seven:

Our marketing and sales department invested a lot of resources in writing all the content for our web site but we just can�t seem to be ranking high enough in the engines, while our competition is on top. Do we have to re-write it all over again?

Nine times out of ten, I will answer no. In most cases there are certainly some pages that can be altered or slightly corrected for the right keywords & key phrases instead of having to rewrite them all over. This means adding targeted keywords and key phrases into the existing body text and experience tells me that it is mostly effective for pages with over 350 to 400 words written on them. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ pages similar to this one) and informational or descriptive-type pages are good candidates for good keyword and key phrase copy. Also, don�t forget the �about us� page, as it is also a good place to add significant keywords and key phrases that will rank high.

Maybe the only pages on your site you may have to re-write are what I call the �crucial� pages, both for conversion rates and positioning purposes. Depending on exactly how they were constructed and edited, I might recommend that they be altered in a way to significantly increase the conversion rate on critical pages such as your homepage, your main services or product pages and finally your product complements or �accessory� pages if you have any.

(Updated from my previous February 2001 article).

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Article written by Serge Thibodeau,
President & CEO,
Rank for $ales
Copyright (c) Serge Thibodeau 2001

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