Throughout the course of an average day, we get asked a lot of questions about SEO. Over the past year or so, we’ve jotted down some of the most common questions we get asked, and recorded some of our answers. The basic concept of SEO is very simple, the tactics used to make it happen are a little more complex.

Below you’ll find what we believe to me the most frequently asked questions regarding search engine optimization. If you have more questions you can always feel free to reach out to us via our contact page or give us a call.


  • What does SEO stand for?
  • What exactly is SEO?
  • Explain like I’m 5 years old, what is SEO?
  • How do you do SEO?
  • Isn’t that cheating?
  • What is a SERP?
  • What is blackhat SEO?
  • What is a Google Penalty?
  • Can you see if I’m at risk for a Google Penalty?
  • OK, but what is the secret?
  • How long does SEO take?
  • What’s up with SEO packages for $29 or $99?
  • Why won’t my website rank?
  • My competitor is using blackhat, what should I do?
  • Why do my Google rankings fluctuate?
  • How do you find the right keywords to rank for?
  • Should I start SEO before or after my website is built?
  • I have more questions, where do I ask?

What does SEO stand for?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO is an industry that was created out of necessity, and was really made popular as a result of Google’s search engine although people were doing SEO long before Google. In this context a search engine can mean anything from Google, Yahoo, Bing or even other search engines such as Amazon search or even Facebook search. The majority of the time the search engine we refer to is Google.

The definition of optimization is “an act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.” Within the SEO context, that is exactly what happens, we try to make your website as perfect and functional as possible.

What exactly is SEO?

In general, most people will “Google” a question they have and choose one of the top listings, or maybe go to the second page.The goal of SEO is to help your website rank on the first page of Google for those keywords or keyphrases so that customers will find your website before your competitors.

To keep things really simple, SEO is the process of optimizing a website so that search engines will aptly categorize and score your website and place it well within the rankings. When you first start doing SEO, you might be ranked on the 15th or 8th page of Google. After doing SEO for a period of time, you’ll start to see your website move closer and closer to page 1 for a number of keywords.

Keep in mind, most of your competitors also have hired SEO companies or may even have someone within their company dedicated to doing this so not only are you up against Google, you are up against your competitors as well.

By doing SEO, it will not guarantee that you will rank on Google but it will greatly increase your odds of doing so.

Explain like I’m 5 years old, what is SEO?

When you search for “blue jeans” on Google search, Google will display around 10 of the top listings on the first page. Those 10 websites usually have the best SEO methods, and are ranked accordingly.

The better the website, the more likely it is that Google will choose it to be ranked within the top search results.

Bad and unhelpful websites will generally be placed on the later pages of Google.

It takes time, effort, money, and knowledge to do SEO.

How do you do SEO?

There are two main aspects of SEO: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing elements on your website for search engines. This includes but isn’t limited to content on your websites, images on your website, blogs, and HTML. On-page SEO encompasses many different disciplines such as website speed, blogging, content, user experience and so much more. Any area of your website that Google “sees” is subject to on-page optimization.

Off-page SEO is the practice of optimizing elements off of your website for search engines. Probably the biggest example of off-page SEO are backlinks, however there are lots of other elements such as social media, external blogs and many other factors that might come into play.

When we “do” SEO on a website, we simply improve the on-page and off-page factors of your website so that Google will see your website in a more favorable position.

The cool thing about us is that we actually document exactly how we do SEO on our SEO services page. From the moment we speak to you on the phone to the 3rd month in, we are fully transparent with all of our services.

Isn’t that cheating?

No, not at all. As a matter of fact Google has not only written guidelines just for SEO’s, they employ SEO’s in-house as well. Google also does SEO on their own companies and products as well, so they will be more visible in the search engines. Practically every major company in the world that has a website does SEO to some degree, some more than others. For instance both and have huge departments of people dedicated to making sure they show up in the search engine results pages.

Some SEO’s attempt to foil the search engines by doing blackhat SEO which some people do consider cheating, but this is not a tactic that most SEO’s employ. SEO is all about making your website, your content and your connections better.

What is a SERP?

SERP is an acronym that stands for “search engine results page.” Essentially this means any list of Google (or Bing) results that displays a list of websites.

Just Google any search term you like, and you will see a SERP or search engine results page. For a visual representation of what a SERP is, you can view this image.

What is blackhat SEO?

Simply put, blackhat SEO or sometimes referred to as “webspam” is the practice of using tactics outside of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Much like email spam violates a number of laws by sending unwanted emails to people, blackhat SEO’s will place thousands of shoddy links on 3rd party websites, hide keywords within your website and other methods to make Google think you are more authoritative than you actually are.

Whitehat SEO or what we like to call “SEO” is simply the process of doing SEO within Google’s guidelines. There is a very fine line between blackhat and white-hat and there can be many grey areas.

For example, if you ask your friend who owns a website to give you a link to your business, did you know that that is actually against Google’s guidelines?

Through constant research and understanding, we are able to navigate this complex system of rules and regulations Google has put into place and help your website rank better.

What is a Google Penalty?

A Google penalty or “action” is put into place when Google has caught your website violating its guidelines. This might come as a result of you placing too many links, too many advertisements or a number of different reasons. A penalty can be handed out automatically via Google’s algorithm, or manually via a Google employee who has deemed your website spammy.

There are a few popular penalties that people talk about within the SEO community that you might have heard of. One of them is Penguin, the other is Panda. Penguin deals with spammy backlinks, and Panda deals with on-page factors such as low-quality content.

If you do get a penalty, there are ways to get them lifted, but they are not easy. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to remove.

Can you see if I’m at risk for a Google Penalty?

In short, there is no quick way to see if you are at risk for a Google penalty. We employ a number of people, tactics, and tools that can create a “risk profile” to see if your website is at risk for a penalty.

Being that there are many different types of violations of Google penalties, there are also a number of different types of penalties you can receive.

If you do think you are at risk for a Google penalty the best thing to do is give us a call. We’ll dive in and see what your situation is and give you an honest opinion based on our experience.

OK, but what is the secret?

I swear to you, there are no secrets, only best practices. SEO is not just a job, it is a way of life. We’ve found that the best SEO’s and SEO companies are the ones that stay the most informed.

There are no shortcuts. Anyone claiming that they can rank your website in 30 days or offer immediate results is selling a scam. At our company, we are completely transparent with our process. We begin by doing a full analysis on your website, then begin the SEO process by triaging your website in order of importance: high, medium, or low.

At the same time, some SEO companies are better than others. Some SEO companies will take your money and simply offer a cookie cutter process and see what happens. More professional SEO companies will treat your website as a custom contract, paying attention to every minute detail in order to rank your website on Google.

How long does SEO take?

This is a loaded question but we’d like to start with a simple analogy.

Think about taking violin lessons: within a few lessons I am sure you might be able to play a few notes and maybe even a short song. However after many years of practice, you can perform in front of people and captivate an audience with your skill. If you stop taking lessons, you will gradually lose your skill set.

SEO is very similar, within a few days of doing SEO you might see some initial results. Maybe you will rank on Google for some very obscure keywords. After a month, you will see even more and a few months after that even more.

Remember, SEO is a process, not an event.

If you are interested in immediate results you may be interested in advertising or PPC marketing. If you want to build your business and gain exposure over a long period of time for your brand, SEO is the way to go.

How much does SEO cost?

The cost of SEO comes down to two main factors factors:

  • The industry you would like to compete in e.g. the roofing industry in Nashville or Skinny Jeans nationally
  • The size and quality of your website. e.g. 9 page service company vs a 2000 page eCommerce website

There also may be a number of other factors into consideration as well such as previous SEO done to your website. There are times when other SEO companies did some good work to help us, and other times when other SEO companies did so much bad work we are going to have to spend time and money to remove that work.

At most SEO agencies the cost is generally broken down into a down payment and a monthly retainer. The down payment is generally more expensive because it is the most laborious part. The monthly retainer is put into place because work must be done on the website on a consistent basis to remain competitive in your industry.

Think about this analogy: a billboard in Times Square Manhattan vs a bus bench add in Schenectady, NY. One of them is going to cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, the other one will probably cost $99. The difference is both the location of the ad and the demographic exposure.

What’s up with SEO packages for $29 or $99?

These packages are normally cookie cutter packages that do little to nothing to help your website in the search engines. We’ve even seen these packages hinder SEO in the past, for some of these “SEO packages” actually build shady backlinks or insert scripts or widgets into your website.

The old saying is true: you get what you pay for. Pre-2010 a $99 SEO package might have given you some results. Now, it not only won’t help you but it may cause problems for your website in the short or long term.

Why won’t my website rank?

If you’ve attempted SEO in the past and can’t seem to rank, this could be due to a number of reasons. The first reason could be you have a Google penalty. Sometimes people are working with an active Google penalty and don’t even know it.

Other reasons might be that you just haven’t done SEO correctly or you are in a super competitive niche. Think about the industry “auto insurance.” In Delray Beach alone there are dozens of insurance agencies. Tens of thousands or more nation wide. Some of these such as Progressive and Nationwide have multi-million dollar budgets dedicated to SEO. Now imagine a small mom and pop insurance agency trying to compete with them in any city. These larger companies not only want to rank on Google nationwide, but they want to rank in every major city from Charlotte to Sheboygan.

My competitor is using blackhat, what should I do?

This happens in every niche in every city in the world. There will always be competitors that are only here for the fast / quick buck and don’t care if there website gets penalized. Sadly, some of them are uninformed and don’t realize the type of SEO they are doing will result in a penalty.

There are some options, our primary recommendation is to ignore them. Google tends to sort these things out and will handle them appropriately.

Sometimes people get away with doing blackhat SEO for years. Google is not perfect. Our advice has always been to focus on your website and you’ll be just fine.

Why do my Google rankings fluctuate?

There is no way around it: in 2015, Google rankings are going to fluctuate. On the same token, while it may seem as though Google rankings are fluctuating, it may be that you are the one that is doing the fluctuating. What do we mean by this? Well, for the last few years, Google has been working towards “personalized search results” meaning they try to tailor the results to your liking, rather than showing the same results to everyone.

In addition to personalized search results, there are many other factors at play. If you Google “best web design company Delray Beach” you may get a completely different listing than someone who searches for that exact phrase in another location. Google takes many different factors into account including: your past search history, who you are, what account you are logged in under, your location, your browser history, and many more.

This is one of the reasons why your rankings are fluctuating. Also remember, there are normally 10 results on every SERP (search engine results page). That means there are 10 people fighting for that #1 position. In many cases each website has a dedicated SEO company fighting just as hard as you are, so your rankings might be fluctuating because your competitors might be influencing the SERPs pushing your website up, or down.

How do you find the right keywords to rank for?

There are two schools of thought on this matter. The first one is a very tactical approach that involves utilizing a number of tools to help identify the most important keywords to rank for. This will produce a list of keywords that not only are relevant to your industry but are searched enough times by potential customers on Google. This is the more popular method used in eCommerce, service industries and local SEO ranking.

The second method takes a more theoretical angle. Instead of choosing exact keywords to rank for, you come up with a list of topics, categories and industries you want to rank for. So instead of you choosing what to rank for, you let Google choose for you. This is more useful in blogging type websites.

We use a number of tools to help find the best keywords to rank for. The main tool that most people use is Google’s own “keyword planner.” This tool will not only tell you which keywords have the most search volume, but which ones are the most difficult.

Should I start SEO before or after my website is built?

We highly recommend that SEO is implemented during the creation of your website. It is might easier to build SEO into your website during the creation phase than to build it in after the fact.

Imagine the first time you go on a date with someone. You want to be sure you have the best manners, smell great and look ravishing. Similarly with SEO, the first time Google sees your website you want to make sure it loads fast, has the right keywords implemented, and looks great.

You don’t want Google to see an un-optimized version of your website the first time it crawls your website.

I have more questions, where do I ask?

If you have more questions about SEO you can give us a call during business hours at 561-526-8457 or shoot us an email via our contact form.

If you have general questions you can always give us a shout on Twitter or on Facebook.