6 Newbie SEO Questions

Someone emailed me with a list of quick questions about some SEO terminology they didn't understand. I figured if one person was looking for these answers, many of you would be, too.

1. What is .htaccess?

.htaccess is a configuration file that is uploaded to your Apache web server (it doesn't work with Windows servers). It's a text file that allows you to change the way your web pages work. For instance, you can put some commands in the .htaccess file that password-protect certain areas of your site. You can also use it to create a custom 404-error page or change which page of your site will be the default home page.

For SEO purposes, you'll often hear of it being used for redirects. For instance, if you are redesigning your website and absolutely have to change your URLs (because you're putting a new content management system in, for example), then you could use your .htaccess file to set up permanent 301-redirects from the old URLs to the new. I use mine most often to turn long URLs (like those of affiliate links) into short, easy-to-remember URLs.

Just be careful when you use the .htaccess file for your site. One small mistake can make your entire site stop working! Be sure to always back up your old .htaccess file before you upload a new one in case this happens to you (and if you work with one often, most likely it will!).

2. What is KEI?

KEI stands for Keyword Effectiveness Index, which is something that was invented for users of Wordtracker's keyword research software. It is supposed to help you measure the competitiveness of your keyword phrases, but it's never been a good way to do this. I suggest ignoring KEI altogether and looking at other ways to measure keyword competition. I wrote about this in a recent newsletter article, "Why Use Keyword Research Tools?".

3. What are supplemental results?

If a page is shown that is in the supplemental results, Google indicates this in their search results pages (SERPs). It doesn't mean that your page or site is banned or penalized. More often than not, pages that are similar to other pages (or complete duplicates) are the ones that show up in the supplemental results. It's generally not something to worry about unless tons of the pages on your site start showing up there. When that happens you'll need to figure out why and fix whatever might be causing the problem.

4. What is a link farm?

There are many definitions of a link farm, but I like to go with the traditional one. That is, a link farm is a set of websites that have all decided to link to each other. It's basically done through a links page that every site from the link farm is required to upload to their site. Every time a new site is added to the farm, it would get added to the links page for everyone to re-upload. There have been hundreds of variations on this basic idea through the years.

Suffice it to say that you want to stay as far away as possible from any kind of linking scheme whatsoever. Especially one that requires you to link to sites that you might not really recommend to your target audience.

5. When does PageRank update?

I believe that real PageRank — the one that only Google knows about – updates all the time. Toolbar PageRank, on the other hand, updates only about once a quarter. This is why it's important never to use what you see in the green graph of your toolbar as any true measurement of anything. But it's fine to look at it as long as you take the information it provides with a grain of salt.

6. What is a 3-way link?

A 3-way link is just another crazy linking scheme that some spammers dreamed up when they thought that the typical "you link to me and I'll link back” scheme wasn't working anymore. With the 3-way link, you link to someone, and they link to someone else, and that someone else links back to you. It's silly, and nothing you need to do. If you want a really *good* linking scheme, the best is the Trapezoidal Linking Matriflux technique. (I even have the t-shirt!)

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

April 5, 2007

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

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