There has been monumental change in how search engines respond to what people search for in 2014, that is to say how search engines crawl, rank and index the pages of your website. Many website owners are still working with SEO myths and outdated information and believe there are still ‘quick fixes’ out there. So I hope to clear up the SEO myths in this article and hopefully steer you on the right path to SEO and Digital Marketing success for 2014.
We all know that Google changes things on a regular basis. Their Panda and Penguin algorithm update has caused more than a few headaches and erased many years of dedicated SEO work. SEO agencies have changed their focus from keywords and linking to creating quality content.
So what is now wasted SEO effort and what actually works in 2014?
What are the SEO myths?
SEO Myth No. 1 – You need to submit your website to Google
Google scans the world wide web daily so there’s no need to submit your website to Google. If you have a new website, it won’t take long for Google to find it and depending on your SEO efforts, rank your website for your keywords.
You should really pay more attention to what you don’t want Google to find. That is, block content via your robots.txt file. This should include all content that is not necessary for Google to index and thereby keeping your website’s content clear and focused.
SEO Myth No. 2 – SEO is all about rankings
Although there is still a correlation between search results and whether visitors click on your website, it is not the ultimate goal in 2014. What is important now is for your website to appear in the top three results on a page, and not necessarily on just page 1. It’s been shown that people click on the top 3 listings on page 2 and 3 of search results.
What is also important is ensuring your listing has rich text/snippets and author tags to encourage people to click on your listing.
Do you still get those ‘Guarantee to get you No. 1 on Google’ email, ads and what not? The trouble with these services is that they’re never clear about ‘what’ they will get you No. 1 for. It’s now much more important to focus on providing consumers with useful information rather than ranking for keywords in your digital marketing strategy.
SEO Myth No. 3 – SEO is something I can give to my web designer or IT department
There is a misperception that SEO is something that a competent web designer or IT geek can easily handle. While IT experts are adept at handling the technical details of website functionality, SEO is much more involved that just sticking keywords in your website here and there. It is a strategy that involves your website, content creation and social media. Yes, keywords are important but not as important as you think. SEO is now part of a complete digital marketing strategy for your business and not just your website.
Focus on creating good quality content (articles, videos, photos, info graphics, e-books), make sure it reads well, then work with your web designer and IT department to make sure it scores well technically.
SEO Myth No.4 – More links are better than more content
Link building is so 2013! That is link building in terms of quantity. Links are an important part of your digital marketing strategy but I always recommend to my clients to focus on writing good quality content. Then promote that content. Having relevant and diverse sources that link to your content is far more important.
SEO Myth No. 5 – Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings
Meta description tags are the HTML attributes on your web pages that explains the content of that page. It’s also what Google uses in their search engine results pages (SERPs) and commonly used as preview snippets. More simply, it’s the text that appears underneath the title of the listing. Google announced back in 2009 that it no longer uses meta descriptions to rank web pages.
What meta descriptions are useful for is to allow your listing to stand out from others on the page. What you put here has a massive impact on why people click on your listing.
SEO Myth No. 6 – SEO and Social Media are not related
Social Media and your ‘activity’ on social media networks and SEO are now referred to as ‘social search’ and is very much a real thing. It is becoming increasingly important to combine your search and social media efforts. Google is proving the importance of this with Google+ and Author profiles.
In social search, content is king particularly if it’s connected to you in some way, whether that’s through Facebook, Twitter or any of the major social networks. If social media influencers share your content, then you have succeeded with social search.
It’s now vital to have a social media strategy and combine it with your overall optimisation efforts.
SEO Myth No. 7 – On-page SEO is all I need to rank
There is no magic bullet to make your website rank well on Google. I repeat, there is no magic bullet and just putting keywords on your page’s title and throughout your content isn’t going to do it either. That is just one small part of the total SEO equation.
Your SEO strategy should take a holistic approach and focuses on on-page optimisation, off-page optimisation, user experience and conversions.
SEO Myth No. 8 – Keywords need to be an exact match
No longer do you need to repeat, excessively your keywords throughout your content. It’s much better to use keywords in a way that makes sense to your audience. Write a good and strong headline somewhere between 4 to 9 words and clearly explains what your content is about.
Your website content should be varied enough to meet a range of search criteria but stick to one overall keyword theme for your site.
SEO Myth No. 9 – There’s an ideal keyword density
No there isn’t, not any more at least. Focus on getting your keywords in your page titles and included in a headline on your page, your URL and at least once throughout your content. That’s for each page of your website. Then focus on making the rest of the page content make sense to your audience and not the search engines.
SEO Myth No. 10 – The H1 rage is the most important
The H1 tage (or H2, H3, H4, etc for that matter) has no influence on your overall SEO results. These tags are used for styling purposes only. My recommendation is to present your most important concepts upfront and closer to the top of the page. Including your keywords in your first header rage is useful but not essential.
The concept to keep in mind when writing your content is to tell people what your page is about as quickly as possible and towards the top of the page.
SEO Myth No. 11 – The homepage needs a lot of content
Your home page of your website is the ‘gateway’ to your business and first impressions count. The content should be long enough to clarify who you are, what you do, where you’re located, your value proposition or USP and what your website visitors should do next. Clarity not confusion. Communicate with your customers and keep it simple.
SEO Myth No. 12 – The more pages the better
You would think so, wouldn’t you? Not true! Google doesn’t index everything so it’s important to focus on the quality of your content and structure your website properly and gain quality inbound links. Although the number of pages you have on your website increases the chances of showing up for searches, quality really is the name of the game now.
SEO Myth No. 13 – Local SEO, just list your company’s city, county and country
Yes, having your company’s city and county is important on your Local business listing, if you’re a UK business targeting only UK consumers, then you don’t need United Kingdom on your listing. Search engines are clever enough to know where you are located and also where searchers are located. They have been tailoring search for quite some time now as we’ve all experienced first hand.
Consistency is key also. Ensure that your address, phone number and web address is consistent throughout the web and in content that links to you.
SEO Myth No. 14 – Other domains or micro sites that link to your site will help SEO
This is one of my pet hates nowadays. It astonishes me how many clients still think this is a good idea and want to create website after website and link it back to their main site. Search engines are clever enough now to know who has registered each domain and can link it back to a person or company.
Diluting your content is never a good idea and my advice to anyone considering this is to focus on one site, your main website and make that as good as it possibly can be for your business but first and foremost, for your customers.
The only time to consider another website is if your content will be different enough from your main business to warrant a separate site. Clarity – would a separate website enhance the perception of what you do? Remember, you need to commit resources (both time and money) to promoting each website you have. Gone are the days where “if you build it, they will come”.
SEO Myth No. 15 – Google won’t know if there are bad sites linking to your site
Yes, they will! And they know more than you realise. There’s nothing Google doesn’t know, only what they choose to do anything about. Don’t try and fool them. The results can be devastating for your business and get your website penalised and banned.
SEO Myth No. 16 – SEO is not a usability issue
Forget about anything technical when it comes to SEO. Optimise your website for users first and foremost. Make your site engaging and provide valuable information to your visitors, so that once they get to your site they stay there, or come back.
Also, make your website intuitive and easy-to-use, provide clear calls-to-action and you’ll convert your visitors into customers in no time. Focus your site’s content for humans first, search engines second.
SEO Myth No. 17 – SEO and inbound marketing don’t mix
Inbound marketing is a concept that focuses on converting visitors into customers – simple really. SEO, in comparison, is the tactic of focusing on improving a business’s visibility and getting traffic from search engines. SEO can be a tremendous help with inbound marketing and as such, is essentially for your whole digital marketing strategy.
The four stages of inbound marketing are; Attract, Convert, Close and Rinse/Repeat. SEO is important for the first stage, that is, attracting the right people to your site.
So, now that we’ve cleared up the myths, what are you going to do to improve your business’s digital marketing strategy? Understanding what doesn’t work with SEO frees you up to focus on what will be most effective and efficient for your business.
SEO is the overall experience of a web user from first search right through to converting that searcher into a customer. Make your site the best it can be, focus it on one topic and your business will grow.