Frequently Asked Questions about Search Engine Optimisation

Thanks to the users of #SEO @ EFnet for providing the questions.

  1. Is example.com and www.example.com treated as the same page by search engines?
    • No, search engines view them as two separate sites.
    • Consider this: .com is a domain, example.com is a domain, exa.explain.com is a domain, exa.exa.example.com is a domain, etc. Therefore they are treated as separate entities.
    • It is recommended to focus on one domain, see: What’s a preferred domain?
  2. Does CSS effect SEO?
    • No, it doesn’t CSS is purely visual for users, search engines have no interest in your site’s style.
    • However, using CSS generally forces you to use correct markup, which makes the site better for indexing.
    • Remember though, search engines are build to be backwards compatible, from when we used tables for layouts.
    • Common sense tells us that search engines have no interest in style.
    • Although, this does NOT mean you won’t get reported if you use CSS to try and trick the crawler.
  3. When is the next Google PageRank update?
    • The true answer is “We don’t know”.
    • Nobody notable attempts to guess when the next update is.
  4. Do unique visitors in your web stats include things like hits from people on google image search?
    • Of course they do. You should check with the webstat software vendor to be certain.
    • Common sense tells us that if it’s in the logs, it’s in the stats.
  5. How do search engines work out what country my site is in?
    • Where the IP address of your domain hosting is located.
    • The ccTLD (ie: .uk).
    • Backlinks from sites with the above.
  6. When should I use rel=”nofollow” on anchor links?
  7. Should I use dashes (-) or underscores (_) in my URLs?
    • The short answer is dashes (-).
    • In most search engines if you type in two words separated by an underscore (_), it treats the whole thing as you see it. (ie: mobile_phone is read as mobile_phone)
    • In most search engines if you type in two words separated by a dash (-), it detects it as one whole word or even two separate words. (ie: mobile-phone could be mobilephone or mobile phone)
    • Common sense tells us that if google sees a dash (-) as a space we should use that.
  8. Do aged domains rank higher on search engines than newer domains?
    • Short answer is no.
    • Search engines do not care how old your domain is.
    • They do however care about the backlinks.
    • Common sense begs us to ask why should they?
    • However, they do care about aged websites.
    • Even Matt Cutts agrees.
  9. How can I find keywords relating to “keyword”?
  10. Where can I find a list of web directories?
  11. I have two domains, one is a .com the other is a .co.uk, which should I use?
    • If you are focusing on a UK market, use the “.co.uk” domain.
    • If you are focusing on the global market use the “.com” domain.
    • If you are focusing on both, try making geo targetted urls. (eg: www.example.com/uk/)
    • This is just classic common sense.
  12. Is PageRank important?
    • Short answer is no.
    • Do not focus on trying to increase your PageRank
    • Focus on marketing and SEO and PageRank should follow
    • Common sense says: it’s just a number, it doesn’t make money.
  13. Is cloaking a good idea?
  14. How important are the description and keyword meta tags?
  15. Are static URLs better than dynamic URLs?
    • Static URLs look nicer, and are friendly for your end users.
    • Google suggests that many search engine crawlers do not like dynamic URLs as much as static URLs.
    • In a recent article from Google dynamic URLs vs. static URLs, the conclusion is that it simply doesn’t matter.
  16. Should my URLs have a trailing slash?
    • The short answer is mostly yes, unless it’s a file.
    • Including a trailing slash when creating anchors (links) can reduce load, as it means the web server won’t have to redirect you there.
  17. What is that list of links found on the first result on Google?
  18. How do I check how many backlinks my site has?
  19. Should I register my domain for more than one 1 year at at time?
    • Yes, but it probably won’t help with SEO.
    • Domain name “whois” records are slow to lookup, often limited and cumbersome to parse, so using this wouldn’t be logical.
    • Matt Cutts suggests that the domain expiry date is mentioned in the patent, but isn’t used by the Google search algorithm.
    • Domain registrars would have you believe that registering domains for 10 years helps improve SEO, but the reality is, it’s just a marketing ploy.
  20. If I get secure hosting and make http://whatever redirect to https://whatever, will it hurt my rankings?
  21. Matt Cutts answers: Can switching to HTTPS harm ranking?

Where to get further help: Try #SEO on EFnet (IRC), you can also try the SEO Help Forums.

Note: Answers are provided using via the general consensus and common sense theory, I do not believe in third party articles due to the speculation and Chinese whispers factors, any sources provided are first hand.