7 SEO FAQs That Can Save Your Business from Disaster


Are you confused about what SEO is and how it works?

Are you tired of paying for SEO services that don’t seem to make any real difference in how many customers you have or sales you make?

One more question:

Are you beginning to suspect you’re getting taken for a ride by the “experts”?

I talk to small business owners all the time who answered a phone call or email from someone who promised to get their site listed on the first page of Google Search.

Many paid hundreds or thousands of dollars — some were even sure the caller was actually a Google employee — but they ended up with little or nothing to show for their money. Some even ended up seeing their sites disappear from search engine results altogether.

There are plenty of scammers out there, and it’s tough knowing who to trust. There is something you can do about that, though:

Read this and learn seven essential facts about search engine optimization.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is SEO anyway?
  • Paid versus organic search results
  • Why smart business owners don’t give up on SEO
  • How to smell a scammer right off the bat
  • What are “keywords” and why should you care?
  • The difference between black hat and white hat SEO
  • Which is best: onsite or offsite SEO?


So, what is SEO anyway?

SEO is short for “search engine optimization.” It’s an acronym – a word formed from the first letters of a series of other words. As a practice, SEO is a toolbox of tactics aimed at getting a website to rank higher on something known by another acronym – the “SERP” or search engine results page.

One more thing you should know:

Search results can be “paid” or “organic.”

Paid versus organic search results

You have to invest in advertising to get found in paid results. Pay enough, and you can get to the top of the heap.

But you have to earn the right to gain a commanding spot in organic results. That’s where SEO comes in. The theory is that SEO work takes time and (probably) money, but it delivers search results that you don’t have to keep paying for.

If you stop paying the advertiser, you’ll lose your paid results. That’s the way paid results work. If you want them, you have to keep ponying up the cash.

If you stop paying for SEO, you can keep reaping the benefits for a long time thereafter.

Why smart business owners don’t give up on SEO

Paid search often requires you to pay for every click (PPC) or for every 1,000 displays of your ad (PPM). Organic search results aren’t subject to the bean counter. The number of clicks you get is regulated by your SEO skills, not by how much you bid on clicks or placements.

Does SEO sound like a pretty good deal? All the visitors you can handle – relatively FREE?

That’s why smart business owners don’t get put off by scams and incompetency. They know organic search results are worth fighting for.

How to smell a scammer right off the bat

A friend in Sarasota, Florida called me with some exciting news: Google called her to say they wanted to help get her flower shop listed on the first page of search results. All they needed was $1,200 down and $600 per month for a year.

What a deal!

I calmly explained that Google didn’t call people with offers like that. The only way Google would help you show up in search was by running paid ads with them.

She was sure, though, that Google actually was enrolling her in a pilot program. The person on the phone was so friendly and helpful.

A couple of thousand dollars later, she called me to ask how she could get out of her agreement with “Google.”

Unbelievable, right?

It happens to small businesses every day.

Here’s are two sure signs the person calling or emailing you is a scammer:

  • Google doesn’t call people to help them rank in organic search. Write that down. Put a sticky note on your computer. If you get a call from someone using Google’s name to get your attention … hang up and block the number.
  • Nobody can guarantee you page one organic search results. Pay enough money and you can very likely make it to the top of paid results, but not organic. If they promise page one, they’re either scammers or idiots. Hang up and block the number.

If the person calling say they’re from Google and they want to make sure your business gets the placement it deserves on the first page of the SERP, hang up doubly fast.

What are “keywords” and why should you care?

Keywords are the individual words and phrases people use when talking about or searching for information on a certain topic.

If you’re a dentist, for instance, the keywords of most interest to you are things like “root canal,” “braces,” and “wisdom teeth,” and “invisalign.”

Those keywords get tens of thousands of searches each month. If someone needs a root canal and your practice is on the top of organic search results for that term (and assuming you’re in the right locality), chances are high you’ll get a website visit and (depending on how well that page is designed) a phone call to set the appointment.

Some say keyword don’t matter anymore – that search engines are now “semantic.” The idea is that the search engine algorithms are so smart they can determine the intent of the search and will return the best results whether the searcher uses your keyword or not.

That’s partially true – which means it’s a dangerous concept.

If you’re a dentist, but you never use the word “root canal” on your website (even though you perform root canals) because some supposed SEO guru told you not to worry about it … fire that idiot.

The search engine algorithms are also smart enough to know people who do root canals talk about root canals. You don’t want to overdo your use of the term (that’s called “keyword stuffing,” but you definitely should use it – even devote a full page to talking about it.

Keywords still matter.

If your SEO tells you they don’t, find someone else to do the work.

The difference between black hat and white hat SEO

SEO was born when early ecommerce website owners realized they could quickly get on the first page of search results by making sure the search term they wanted to rank for (aka the “keyword”) was used abundantly on the site.

Our dentist friend, then, might have copy (words meant to sell something) on a page that went something like this:

Root canals aren’t fun, but root canals are often necessary. We do root canals daily. We love root canals. If you need a root canal, come see our root canal dentist for the best root canal in town. Get an affordable root canal and even get money back when you tell friends who need root canals about our root canal specials. Cheap root canals, fast root canals, painless root canals, why to get a root canal – call our root canal dentist today!

Sounds a little forced, right?

Here’s the cool thing: back in the “old days,” you could get away with crappy copy like that by not showing it (at least not plainly) to your website visitors. You could have it tucked away out of site or even written in a font color that wouldn’t show up on the screen.

Can you see the problem there?

Search results were hit and miss from the searcher’s side. As more and more site owners caught on to how to manipulate the search engines, you could search on “root canal” and end up with top of page search results trying to hook you into a Ponzi scheme.

Google led the pack to clean up Dodge and get rid of the riff-raff. Keyword stuffing, link wheels, sneaky redirects, and other “black hat SEO” tactics began to lose steam. Fast forward a decade and Google was on a rampage. Many sites enjoying first-page SERP standing disappeared completely from search results overnight. The Google sheriff, Matt Cutts, was kicking ass and taking names. The jig was up.

Here’s the difference between white hat SEO and black hat SEO:

White hat SEO tactics play by the rules. They don’t try to deceive or manipulate the search engines. White hat SEO earns the results it gets – fair and square.

Some marketers claim, though, that there’s no way to win against the black hats (yes, they’re still trying to game the system) without employing some of the hair of the dog that bit you. They use “gray hat SEO” tactics – borderline techniques like private blog networks (PBNs), negative SEO (shoving sticks in the wheels of competitors), and article spinning.

Here’s all I can say about that: Beware.

Black hat and gray hat SEO techniques will eventually turn on you. You can run, but you can’t hide forever.

Which is best: onsite or offsite SEO?

In a nutshell: you need both.

Onsite SEO addresses the steps you can take to make sure your website is capable of ranking in organic search.

Here are some examples of onsite SEO concerns:

  • Make sure your website pages load in three seconds or less. Use a tool like the (free) Pingdom Website Speed Test to check load time.
  • Use keywords and effective copywriting skills to create page descriptions, image descriptions, markup languages, and other types of “metadata.”
  • Use internal linking to tie your content together.
  • Use LSI keywords (latent semantic indexing) to help the search engines make the desired connections. Try the LSI Graph tool (free).
  • Optimize your URLs for SEO.

Offsite SEO is concerned about the things you can do in places other than your website to boost search engine results.

If the entire SEO thing is beginning to sound way too involved – I hear you. That’s why there’s such potential here. Your competitors are facing the same slow sinking feeling. They don’t want to take the time or invest the money to get SEO done right either.

Here’s a secret:

The difference between mediocre and excellent is about ten percent more effort. Make sure you’re the one putting in the effort, and the competition will be eating your dust.

Here are some of the typical offsite SEO considerations:

  • Make sure your brand and website are represented appropriately and wisely on the social media platforms most important to your best prospects.
  • Know your audience and the topics of most value to them. Write about those topics and get the articles posted on sites popular in your niche. This tactic (guest posting) can be a huge traffic driver – if you approach it with your white hat on and publish only on non-spammy sites relative to your business.
  • Make sure you’re represented accurately and adequately in the directories that matter to your niche.
  • Know where your business is picking up reviews and monitor those places. Respond to reviewers. If something’s wrong, fix it.
  • Build connections with influencers in your niche. Talk about them on your site, and chances are good they’ll talk about you on yours. If they’ll link to your website with a “dofollow” attribute value, you’ve struck gold.

Onsite or offsite SEO – which is more important?


Wrapping it up: 7 crucial SEO FAQs

The SEO scammers want you to keep you in the dark. They’re still going to be calling and emailing you daily.

But now you’re armed and dangerous.

When they call, just hang up and block the number.

When they send an email, delete it and mark it as spam.

Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. They’re crooks and should be prosecuted for the untold harm they’ve done to business and to people.

SEO, done right, will move your site up in the search results and reduce your dependence on advertising.

That’s one business worry you can cross off your list.



Cathy Hutchison Reply

I love it that you broke this down in the comprehensive way that you did. I even know (a few) things about SEO, but was unaware what the term “black hat” SEO was (though I’ve heard it).

Most of all, I appreciated the practical advice. This doesn’t have to be that big scary task that I ignore.

    Don Sturgill Reply

    Thank you, Cathy. You can do it.

Ann Smarty Reply

Don, thanks so much for this handy breakdown! There’s still so much confusion as to what is SEO and what reputable SEO agencies are supposed to promise and deliver. I am sure it will help many businesses to figure things out!

    Don Sturgill Reply

    Thank you, Ann. My aim here is to clear the fog a bit. Your kindness is very much appreciated.

Matthew Woodward Reply

Hey Don, I enjoyed seeing the basics broken down. Very handy for anyone new in this field!

    Don Sturgill Reply

    Thank you, Matt. More topics on the way.

Dustin W. Stout Reply

Hey, Don! I love the simple way you broke everything down. Very easily digestible. Love your writing style, my friend. 😀

    Don Sturgill Reply

    Thank you, Dustin. You’re the man.

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