SEO – search engine optimization – has changed so much in the past couple of years that many marketers don’t know what’s outdated, what’s still important, what will actually have a positive impact, and what’s just wasted energy.
This post will point out common myths and assumptions about how SEO – search engine optimization – works in 2016, so you can use your energy and time wisely and productively.
Myth #1 – I must submit my website to Google.
The idea that you have to submit your website to Google directly is nonsense. While a brand new site can submit its URL to Google directly, a search engine like Google will still find your site without you submitting it. Whatever you do, don’t pay someone to do this for you.
Myth #2 – More links are better than more content.
In the past, SEO – search engine optimization – worked by building as many links to your site without analyzing the linking domain. It didn’t matter whether the site linked to your site had anything to do with your site content. Links are still a very important part of SEO, but how you build links is more important than the overall number of links. And if there is a choice between creating good content and building links, then you should spend your time and money creating good content. Why? Because people will naturally link to good content. When you invest in content, that content can be used for web pages, blog posts, lead generation offers, and guest posts on other sites – all content types that will bring more links with them over time.
Myth #3 – Having a secure (HTTPS encrypted) site isn’t important for SEO.
Some URLs start with “http://” and others start with “https://”? Maybe you have noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online. Put simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your data. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.
In August of 2014, Google announced that it had started using HTTPS as a signal in their ranking algorithms, which means if your website still relies on standard HTTP, your rankings could suffer as a result. For now, however, HTTPS remains a small signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries (according to Google). So while it’s clear that Google wants everyone to move over to the more secure HTTPS protocol, don’t worry if you haven’t done it yet. Connect4 Consulting can help you transition to a HTTPS site. Contact us if you want to learn more.
Myth #4 – SEO – Search Engine Optimization – is all about ranking.
While there’s a strong correlation between search results placement and clickthrough rates, ranking is not the supreme end goal that it used to be. There is a big misconception — that higher rankings mean more search traffic. It is true that people will see your listing, but it does not mean you will get more click-throughs. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- You do not have the correct keyword strategy because you are trying to rank for keywords that are unrelated to your field.
- Your meta descriptions are not appealing and inviting for the user.
To solve these problems, try using Google Adwords to create a great keyword advertising strategy relating to your business, and be sure to use enticing meta descriptions to get people to the site. It is a good rule of thumb to think about what would entice you to click a link.
Myth #5 – Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings.
Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that concisely explain the contents of webpages. Google announced, all the way back in 2009, that meta descriptions (and meta keywords) have no bearing on search rankings. That’s not to say, however, that these descriptions aren’t important for SEO. On the contrary: Meta descriptions present a major opportunity to separate yourself from the riff-raff and convince searchers that your page is worth navigating to. So – meta descriptions are critical for clickthrough rates but they don’t impact search ranking.
Myth #6 – Keyword optimization is THE FOUNDATION of Search Engine Optimization.
It used to be important that you write your content with the keyword incorporated exact match, but Google now uses something called latent semantic indexing (LSI), which was conceived in 2004. With this type of indexing, webpage contents are crawled by the search engine and the most common words or phrases are combined and identified as the keywords of that page. Latent Semantic Indexing also looks for synonyms that related to your target keywords.
Today, it’s important to optimize your page entirely for user experience; this means that you do not have to place your keywords word-for-word in the content. Write the content for the user. By using synonyms and related terms, the search engines will still understand what your goal is. It’s important to realize that Google has moved beyond keywords. Google is trying to understand the intent behind the keywords so it can match intent with relevant, authoritative content.
Myth #7 – Keywords need to be an exact match.
Keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim throughout a piece of content. In a headline, in particular, you only want to use a keyword (or keywords) in a way that makes the most sense to your audience. The goal should be to write a great headline (somewhere between 4-9 words) that clearly explains what a piece of content is about.
Myth #8 – The H1 is the most important element on the page.
It really doesn’t matter what header tag you use, as long as you present your most important concepts upfront and closer to the top of the page. Remember, you’re optimizing your page for users first and foremost, which means that you want to tell them ASAP what your page is about through a clear headline.
Myth #9 – My homepage needs a lot of content.
Think of your home page as the gateway to your business. It’s your chance to make a first impression on visitors and tell them what you are all about. Your home page content should be long enough to clarify who you are and what you do, where you’re located, what your value proposition is, and what visitors should do next.
Myth #10 – I need many pages of content.
Some people think that the more pages a site has, the more visitors they will get. Just like link building, creating content for content’s sake won’t get you anywhere. Make sure you focus on content quality and not quantity.
Myth #11 – Good user experience is not a requirement.
If Google sends you to a web page, they want to make sure you have a good experience on that page. They are after all a business too, and thus they want to delight their users. Think about it from the search engine’s point of view: they didn’t create the webpage themselves, but they are endorsing it. They need to ensure that users have a good experience on that page to keep people coming back to Google.
To improve user experience, you will want to focus on:
- page load time
- bounce rate
- time on page
- page views per visit
- how far a person scrolls down a page
Myth #12 – Local Search Engine Optimization doesn’t matter anymore.
If you’re a local business, optimizing for local search won’t only help you get found, but it will help you get found by people who are nearby and more likely to buy from you. The bottom line is that local SEO matters more now than it ever has before.
Myth #13 – Google will never know if I have bad sites linking to me.
Google knows everything. Don’t try to fool them or you will be penalized.
Myth #14 – Images don’t require optimization.
For many years, it was okay to neglect the images on your site and still rank without using alt text and image file names to boost your page relevance. However, on-page SEO is more important than ever, so excluding images will prevent your website’s SEO from being the best it can be.
Search engines cannot see images on websites, so it is important to give the image an alt text and relevant file name to ensure Google knows what the image is about. If you don’t create this text, you lose a huge opportunity to be as visible as possible online.
It also helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image, too, so always try to reference your images in your text, close to where it lives on the page, using keywords similar to the alt text/filename of the image.
Google also recommends providing descriptive titles and captions for your images, so consider adding those when relevant. Name your image files something that is indicative of what the image is itself, rather than something like IMG2394870.jpg. Yes, keywords matter here!
Myth #15 – I don’t need to optimize for a mobile users.
In the spring of 2015, Google had a algorithm update called “Mobilegeddon,” which expanded Google’s use of mobilefriendliness as a ranking signal. The update rewards mobile-friendly websites and penalizes those that aren’t fully optimized for mobile in mobile search results.
If your web presence screams 2009, you should be thinking about a comprehensive strategy to modernize your site and bring it in line with consumer expectations. The optimal experience for your visitors and your own performance is to implement responsive design. Responsive design makes your page adapt to the visitor and will display information that is sized and zoomed appropriately so it’s easy to read on whatever device he or she is using.
Conclusion – Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher.
If you can take one thing away from this blog post, it’s this: More than anything else, Search Engine Optimization is about the overall experience for a searcher, and that experience starts the moment they enter a search query.