There are a lot of idiots charlatans still out there promoting meta tag optimization services, so I decided I'd write a short list of questions to quickly weed them out.  Any decent search engine marketer should be able to answer all of these questions at least partially correctly.  I may need this list rather soon, so why not give it away in exchange for some user-feedback — and perhaps a little of something enumerated in question #4?

1. What significance do the meta keywords & description tags have?
Answer: The meta keyword tag is almost entirely useless, as search engines ignore it — except perhaps for totally non-competitive keywords or misspellings.  The meta description tag is mostly moot as a ranking factor, but may affect CTR, as it is often displayed in search engine results pages if the description contains copy that pertains to the query.

2. In general, are visible on-page factors or invisible factors more important ranking factors? Why?
Answer: Visible on-page factors are more influential.  This is because search engines are more likely to trust content that humans will actually see.

3. What is PageRank? Describe its importance.
Answer: PageRank is Google's mathematical representation of the likelihood of a visitor randomly arriving on a given page.  It is an indicator of page importance, and Google uses this as a factor in search engine rankings.  Any link theoretically increases PageRank, but Google assesses the relevancy of the said links as well.  The Google toolbar should not be worshiped, however, as it shows outdated and/or irrelevant data — but the concept itself is useful.  Some SEOs also consider a high PageRank as a trust-building element.

4. What are a few ways to gain links?
Answer: Soliciting links from non-competitors, social engineering (donations, "Paris Hilton SEO," etc.), link baiting.

5. What is black hat SEO, and what are a few black hat techniques?
Answer: Black hat SEO refers to techniques outside the TOS of a search engine.  A few examples are HTML insertion, referrer spam, cloaking (if you're not the NY times), blog/guestbook spam, and using links from link farms.

6.
What is duplicate content?  What is a spider trap?
Answer: Duplicate content is any content that appears elsewhere within your web site or perhaps somewhere else on the internet.  A spider trap is a gross manifestation of duplicate content where a spider spends hours on a site indexing useless or redundant content.

These are the questions I'd ask.

Feel free to leave a comment to suggest other questions you'd ask.  I want to improve this list.

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