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February 9, 2011
SEO Q&A: Search Rankings, Title Tags, and Keyword Targets
Between my SEO newsletter and my SEO forum, I answer a lot of questions from site visitors and I wanted to share some of them with my TalentZoo readers. Be aware, though—because every website has different needs, the answers are rarely black and white. With that said, here are some frequently asked SEO questions, along with some variable factors to take into consideration, and my “basic answer.”
Q. How quickly will Google re-index my pages after I’ve SEOd them?
Factors to consider: how popular your site is, how often Google’s spiders typically come around, how deep in the site the changes have been made, and more.
The basic answer: Anywhere from a few minutes after you update to six weeks or longer.
Q. What should I do if my rankings drop by 10 pages in Google?
Factors to consider: how long you had your previous rankings, how competitive they were, if you’ve done anything to purposely deceive the search engines, how long the rankings drop has existed, whether you’re seeing personalized or localized results, and if you made any server or website changes recently.
The basic answer: Check for technical issues that might be impeding the search engines from finding, crawling, and indexing your pages. If those check out okay, then do nothing and give it a few weeks to see if your rankings come back. In most cases, it’s a technical search engine glitch and your rankings will come back when it’s fixed.
Q. To what extent is SEO effective?
Factors to consider: who’s performing the SEO and their knowledge and skill level, as well as the types of keyword phrases being targeted.
The basic answer: SEO done correctly by a knowledgeable and skilled SEO consultant can be highly effective in increasing the targeted traffic to your website. But SEO performed by someone who’s just read about it is likely to be ineffective.
Q. Should my title tag exactly match the main headline on my page?
Factors to consider: whether your content management system (CMS) already does this as the default (making it difficult to change), or whether you have enough time to create separate titles and headlines.
The basic answer: Typically it’s best to make your title tag and your main headline different because they serve different purposes. But if it’s a major undertaking to separate the two, it’s not a deal breaker as far as SEO is concerned, assuming you have some control over the content of each tag.
Q. Should I change my URLs to have keywords within them?
Factors to consider: whether your current URLs are getting indexed and found, whether you’re currently in the midst of a redesign, how awful your URLs currently look, how easy it is to implement new URLs within your CMS, and whether you can easily 301-redirect the old URLs to the new ones.
The basic answer: If you have to change all URLs anyway because of a website redesign and CMS change, it’s probably a good idea to make clean, keyword-rich URLs that look nice in the search results at the same time. But if your current (ugly non-keyword) URLs are being indexed without problems, it’s probably not worth the hassle that goes with such a major change to the structure of your website.
Q. How many keyword phrases should I target?
Factors to consider: how many keywords phrases people would type into the search engines to seek out what your company provides, and how many pages your site has.
The basic answer: If everything else is in place, you can typically target anywhere from two to five keyword phrases on any one page of your website. Multiply that by the number of unique, optimizable pages on your site and you should have a rough estimate of how many potential keyword phrases you could target.
Q. Should I put my blog in a sub-directory, a subdomain, or on its own domain?
Factors to consider: whether you want to brand the blog as part of your main website or brand it as a separate entity, and whether you want people to be able to easily remember the URL.
The basic answer: Whether it’s in a sub-directory or subdomain doesn’t make a difference to search engines. On the other hand, the average person doesn’t think to type in subdomains if they’re trying to go directly to your site. They are more likely to remember something like yourdomain.com/blog than blog.yourdomain.com, which makes this more of a branding/business decision than an SEO one.
Q. How many words should my pages be?
Factors to consider: how many words it takes to say what you need to say.
The basic answer: There is no specific number of words should be on a page for SEO purposes. Write as many or as few as necessary to market your products or services.

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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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