Whether you’re a hot shot marketer at a mega business or just a savvy, local business owner, everyone needs and wants to carve out a foothold in the digital realm. It is, after all, where the future is headed.
But with so much competition in this space, you need every advantage to maximize your efforts and avoid getting lost in the shuffle.
The ticket to getting seen lies with search engine optimization (SEO).
According to the official definition, SEO is the art and science of persuading search engines to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem. In order to be recommended, these engines need to understand who you are, what you bring to the table and that it aligns with the needs of their users. The better the match, the higher you appear in search results.
The problem is that SEO is not a static entity but constantly evolving. With continual updates to the search engine algorithms and other subtle refinements, what mattered a few months ago can quickly become irrelevant.
All these changes can quickly add up. At last count, there are at least 10,000 signals that can influence search results!
If you don’t keep track of everything or just don’t have access to all the necessary details, you can easily be led astray with nebulous information about SEO. Make enough blunders and you’ll find yourself stuck in the deep end, sinking under your mistakes.
So, what makes for good SEO? To help you filter you the truths from the untruths and develop a strong digital marketing strategy in 2021, the team at the Mike Agency is debunking ten of the most common misconceptions about SEO.
Does search engine optimization really matter?
In a word, yes. As of last year, SEO had grown into a $80 billion industry.
The reality is that SEO still matters in 2021, although many of the practices and methods have changed from years past. If you want to get the most bang for your efforts, you’ll need to keep up with these changes and evolve alongside it.
For example, in 2019, Google’s BERT update forced SEO professionals to recalibrate their approach, shifting the focus of content optimization away from keywords towards search intent. More complicated queries are not better understood by search engines, which allows them to provide end users with more helpful results.
It’s important to note, there are no shortcuts to good SEO, especially if you want to see long-term success. You will need to invest a lot of time, technical expertise and technology to rank well in search engine result pages (SERPs) for high-value, organic (not paid) traffic.
Why are there so many myths surrounding SEO?
The reasons for the existence of so many SEO myths are varied. Sometimes it’s inadvertent. As we mentioned before, SEO is an ever-changing process. This means that once sound advice, quickly becomes irrelevant. If you’re not keeping track of the changes to the algorithm and such, you’re bound to be misled by outdated guidelines and sabotage your campaigns.
Why does this happen? Often it boils down to limited time or resources for a proper SEO strategy, especially in a larger corporate setting when the pressure for results is high. Here are five of the most common challenges a SEO professional might face:
- Being overwhelmed by complex technical challenges.
- Not getting buy-in from superiors.
- SEO is not a priority for the business.
- Limited tracking effectiveness.
- Not enough budget for tools/help.
In other circumstances, SEO myths have more nefarious origins. It may be difficult to fathom, but some people create companies for the express purpose of impersonating Google and spreading false SEO tactics. These scams are often very convincing and sensational, stimulating people’s emotions and causing them to overreact.
SEO strategy: Understanding how search engines work
The best way to avoid being penalized for your digital efforts is to understand how search engines work and develop a SEO campaign accordingly.
We’ll get into the nitty gritty of these things below, but as a general rule of thumb, you can’t just have a well-optimized website and expect to rank high in searches. That’s just not how search engines are designed to work.
They take the whole picture into account – you need to provide the best possible page experience that doesn’t deter users from your site and your brand. Don’t forget to focus on building links and optimizing your business for Google My Business, so that you can be found in local searches.
Keywords are still important but they have to be used judiciously. Google’s algorithm uses something called TF-IDF (Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency) to cull your pages. It analyzes the density of your keywords compared to what’s actually normal to the rest of the internet. If you go overboard and start “keyword stuffing,” your content is not seen as more relevant but manipulative.
To create an effective SEO strategy, your focus should be to provide the end-user with something that is coherent, easy-to-read and addresses their problem.
Debunking common SEO myths
Now that you have a basic understanding of SEO, here are ten of the most common misconceptions as well as advice on how to correct them:
#1: SEO is one and done
Some people believe that you can optimize your content, site and so on for SEO one time, before forgetting about it and never touching it again.
Unfortunately, this is incorrect. This kind of thinking can damage your business in the long run, stunting the number of leads and potential customers that you receive. While you may see some initial gains, you won’t be able to sustain it.
This is a continuous, ongoing process. A marathon, not a sprint. You should monitor and optimize your website continuously for the best results. Unless you’re in first position, there is always something more you could be doing to improve your standing with Google.
#2: All I need is the keywords
Another common misconception with SEO is that it is all about the keywords and that you can just stuff your content with the ones that you want to rank for and get results.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. More keywords aren’t necessarily better.
For one, if you are keyword stuffing, chances are it won’t make any logical sense and is undermining the user’s reading experience. If your audience doesn’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll leave your page and increase your bounce rate, which will get you penalized by Google.
Secondly, not all keywords are created equally. If you are inputting keywords that you want to rank for, without doing the necessary research to see if people are actually searching for them, you’re setting yourself up for SEO failure.
Find data on traffic volume and buyer intent for your keywords, so that you can maximize your exposure. Pinpoint why a keyword is being searched for and then include it as naturally as possible.
There is no indication of how many times you should use it, but it is a good idea to keep your keyword density under three per cent. Calculate your keyword density by taking your keyword total and dividing it by the number of words on your page and multiplying that number by 100.
#3: Meta tags are not important
It’s true that title tags and meta descriptions do not necessarily help you rank. But according to SEO best practices, you should fill them out, as they improve the user experience and allow searchers to find what they are looking for at a glance.
Limit your title tag to 50 characters and your meta descriptions to 160, while including your core keyword.
#4: Ranking above all else
Did you know that most studies show that the first position in organic rankings receives 35 per cent of all clicks?
That being said, ranking high is not the be all and end all of good SEO. Don’t take it as a sign of failure if you don’t get the first position for your targeted keywords. Your end goal is always to get more visitors, leads and potential buyers to your site. To do that you need to meet your target audience’s search intent and give them what they need.
If you want to move up SEO rankings, you’ll have to do some tinkering and reoptimize your content with more relevant information and links.
#5: You can create content sporadically
Many companies are under the impression that you can create content here and there, and still receive results. Not true.
Content creation is at the heart of SEO; you need to keep feeding the machine consistently with high quality material. 60 per cent of marketers create at least one new piece of new content every day.
It provides the best measure to search engines that what your business provides is relevant to the user’s search queries. Every new piece you publish gives your leads and potential buyers yet another avenue to find your website and drive traffic.
You can use a content calendar to keep track of things and make sure that you’re maintaining a consistent schedule.
#6: You can buy your way to the top of search rankings
Despite claims saying otherwise, paid advertising such as pay-per-click (PPC) or Google Ads cannot affect your organic search results. According to Google itself, search engines deliberately keep these two separate. You will need to do things legitimately with your SEO is you want to rank higher.
Moreover, you shouldn’t consider buying backlinks to bolster SEO either, as you’ll give yourself a lot of extra work. They can very easily link to untrustworthy or low authority sites, which lowers your own site’s credibility. Not to mention, Google will eventually find out and penalize you.
#7: Links don’t matter
The opposite is true. Links matter. Just like the content itself, links are important. It’s just about having the right ones.
For the purposes of SEO, there are two types: backlinks and internal links. Both are important. The former links from other sites that direct people back to your pages. The latter links to other pages on your site, navigating prospects to more relevant content and increases the time they’re on there – a positive indicator for Google.
Backlinks in particular serve as an indicator to search engines of your authority and trustworthiness. Why? They are difficult to manipulate and are the best input that Google has for understanding how popular something is on the web.
However, more isn’t always better. When it comes to SEO, you want to focus on quality over quantity – link to high authority websites with a diverse portfolio of domains. Make sure all your links work too, because if they are broken, Google will consider your site neglected or poorly maintained.
#8: You’re penalized for duplicate content
One of the most common SEO myths. The truth is slightly more complicated – there is no duplicate content penalty per se but only a filter. If you have published more than one copy of the same content, Google chooses the most authoritative version and filters out the rest.
If you’re trying to improve on existing content, you can do so by including more quality links and optimizing it further for the user experience. Use smaller paragraphs, incorporate visuals where appropriate and avoid any sort of jargon.
#9: Optimizing for mobile isn’t important
By not optimizing your site and content for mobile, you risk alienating potential business. Did you know that 76 per cent of consumers shop on a smartphone or mobile device?
Google recognizes the increasing dominance of mobile and uses that version of your site to rank you in search results. If portions of your content don’t render properly or at all on a mobile device, you will rank lower in search results for your keywords.
#10: Social media impacts your ranking
Social signals have no direct bearing on the success of your SEO. If you have a strong social presence and share links to your content and website, it can increase their visibility, how often it’s clicked on and viewed. Those are links from such authoritative sites as Facebook and Twitter, so that is important. But it doesn’t go further than shares and engagement.
Why? Google cannot access the content of your social networks and tie it back to your website.
Search engine optimization is an essential part of a good digital marketing strategy and it takes time to get it right. There are so many aspects to the whole process that it’s nearly impossible to cover everything in one place. Even then, it’s only one pillar of a strong, integrated marketing plan.
You should always be experimenting, trying out new things for your SEO and measuring the success of each endeavour. We’ve said it before, but unless you’re ranking in the first position for all your relevant keywords, there is always room for improvement.
If you are ever in doubt about something SEO-related, it is a good idea to go directly to Google and read about their latest updates. If you’re short on time, you can always reach out to a digital marketing agency and consult with their team of experts for further insights.
Need more help avoiding misconceptions about SEO and fully optimizing your digital marketing strategy? It can feel like a lot, but you don’t have to do it on your own. Contact the Mike Agency today to speak to our team of qualified experts and schedule a free consultation!