The Answer To All Your SEO Questions!

I recently appeared on Vanessa Fox’s new Webmaster Radio show, “Office Hours” where we discussed some of the simple things business owners can do to increase search traffic to their website, but which are often neglected. During the show, Vanessa answered a bunch of frequently asked questions, and her answers often started out with something like, “People don’t like it when I say this, but there are no specific numbers or formulas for that, because it depends on a variety of factors to determine relevancy.”

I know exactly what she’s talking about and was glad to hear her answer the questions that way, because “it depends” is often the only way you can answer SEO questions. In fact, it’s so common that “it depends” has been said 357 times on various High Rankings Forum threads!

To show you what I mean, here’s a list of SEO questions that I get asked all the time, along with what the answer depends upon, and then a quick answer based on the various factors that might be involved:

Q. How quickly will Google re-index my pages after I’ve SEO’d them?

It depends on: 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 quick answer: Anywhere from 1 day to 6 weeks.

Q. What should I do if my rankings drop by 10 pages in the SERPs?

It depends on: how long you had your previous rankings, how competitive they were, if you’ve done anything to purposely deceive the search engines, how long rankings drop has existed, etc.

The quick answer: Do nothing and give it a few weeks to see if your rankings come back. In most cases, they will.

Q. To what extent is SEO effective?

It depends on: who’s doing it, their knowledge and skill levels, as well as the types of keyword phrases you’re targeting.

The quick 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 done by someone who’s just read about it…well…not so much!

Q. Should my Title tag exactly match the main headline on my page?

It depends on: whether your content management system (CMS) does this as the default and it would be difficult to change, or how much time you have to create separate Titles and headlines.

The quick answer: Typically you’d want your Title tag and your main headline to be different because they serve different purposes. But if it’s a major undertaking to ensure this doesn’t happen, it’s not a deal breaker as far as SEO is concerned, assuming you have some control over what they say.

Q. Should I change my URLs to have keywords within them?

It depends on: 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 within your CMS, and whether you can easily 301-redirect the old versions to the new ones.

The quick answer: If you have to change all URLs anyway because of a website redesign and CMS change, then sure, make clean, keyword-rich URLs that look nice in the search results. But if there’s nothing really wrong with your current ones other than you don’t like the way they look or you think you need to add keywords to them, 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?

It depends on: 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 quick answer: If everything else is in place, you can typically target anywhere from 2-5 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?

It depends on: 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 quick answer: Whether it’s in a sub-directory or subdomain doesn’t make too much difference, although if it’s in a subdomain you may have more chance of it showing up in the search results at the same time that your main domain also shows up, than if it’s in a sub-directory. On the other hand, the average person doesn’t think to type in subdomains if they’re trying to go directly to your site and are more likely to remember something like than For SEO purposes, none of these things really matter, so it’s more of a business/branding decision.

Q. How many words should my pages be?

It depends on: how many words it takes to say what you need to say.

The quick answer: There is no specific number of words a page should be for SEO purposes.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


About The Author: is a pioneer in SEO, beginning in the field in the early 1990s and founding High Rankings in 1995. If you enjoy Jill's articles at Search Engine Land, be sure to subscribe to her High Rankings Advisor Search Marketing Newsletter for SEO articles, SEM advice and discounts on industry events and products.

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  • divinewrite

    Thanks for the handy Q&A, Jill! Good to see someone talking sense about the number of keyword phrases you can effectively target on a single page. I’d like to add that it also depends on the number of words in each keyword phrase. The wordier your phrases, the fewer you’ll be able to target.

    Here’s a practical example.

    Let’s say you want your tennis clothing page to rank well when a customer searches for the following 4 phrases.

    • “blue tennis shorts California”
    • “green sports skirts West Coast”
    • “purple sun hats”
    • “fastest running shoes world”

    Let’s also assume 400 words per page. Now, if you try to optimize your web copy for all of these phrases, you’ll find that it becomes very difficult to read. Assuming you’re aiming for a keyword density of 3%, you’d need to include all of the words from each of the above phrases more than 10 times. That would mean approx half of the copy on your page would be keywords! Doesn’t leave much for meaningful, engaging, compelling copy…

    Even if you weren’t trying to include all the above phrases as EXACT phrases on your page (e.g. you talk about GREEN grass, GREEN eyes, inspirational SPORTS people, etc.), it’d still be pretty tough.

    Disclaimers: Yeah, yeah, I know the examples aren’t too realistic, as it’s unlikely you’d wanna target ‘em at all, much less on the same page. But you get the picture! Also, I refer to keyword density only as a benchmark: just as a measure to ensure that your keywords appear more often than any other individual words or phrases on the page. Google doesn’t measure keyword density like that.

    Cheers, Glenn (@divinewrite on twitter)

  • SEO Manchester

    Great post Jill and oh so true.

  • bradsmith14


    I just wanted to compliment you on this post. I deal with a lot of these same questions day in and day out. Your answers are short, conscise, insightful and stated in layman’s terms that make it simple for someone with no previous SEO knowledge to understand. Very well put!


  • fletchgqc

    Blog subdomain – was just wondering about this Jill, good to read your info but surely it does have some SEO importance since a subdomain is a separate domain? If you have a lot of links coming into your blog posts, wouldn’t that give authority to your domain as a whole and therefore vouch for having your blog as a sub-folder? Alternatively if you have heaps of outgoing links from your blog and not much coming in it might be better to have it as a subdomain. That was running through my head recently but I don’t really know the answers so please feel free to enlighten me.

  • jcrasco

    Jill, true to form, hits another one out of the park. Wryly funny and spot on…thx!

    Just have to mention Glenn’s post in passing: he’s explained, in an arduous way, why percentage formulae for keyword density on a page are so much junk. Google understands related terms and evaluates your page in a very elegant way. Why do people fixate on math when the search engines are looking for content and relationships?

    I would just add that multiple long keyword phrases won’t fit in your title tag, so your page isn’t going to be “optimized” in that top-down way the spiders like.

    John (jcrasco on twitter)

  • Arnie K

    Jill – you forgot…
    How much does SEO cost?
    Do you guarantee your work?
    Do plurals matter?
    What will it take to get me to #1?

    … and there must be 100 more!

  • Jill Whalen

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    I honestly don’t think there are very many SEO questions that can be answered any other way than “it depends.”

  • Nevil Gandhi

    Nice and impressive post. I have also some query so can you please update me where you will be live next time so i can ask some query related to SEO.

  • Nila Eslit

    Thank you for these very helpful tips.  I encounter so many similar questions about SEO.  Now, I’m going to bookmark your article for easy reference.

    Search Engine Optimization


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