Debunking 5 myths about SEO
Search engine optimisation, aka SEO, can have a significant impact on how visible your business is in Google search results, and ultimately, how many new customers it brings you.
However, there’s a huge amount of information out there about the dos and don’ts of SEO, and not all of it is well informed. The reality is that SEO is constantly shifting in line with search engine algorithm updates, changing user behaviours and more.
With that in mind, here are some common SEO myths and outdated principles you might come across, and why you should ignore them.
1. Keywords are all you need
Back in the formative days of SEO, it was common for businesses to include as many keywords as possible on their websites in the hope of ranking for as many search terms as possible. These days, that practice is known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and it’s a big no-no. In fact, Google penalises websites with spammy or repetitive content, and that includes keyword stuffing.
Now, this isn’t to say keyword research and targeting have no place in SEO anymore. It’s still a key component of optimising a website; however, the focus should be on placing keywords throughout headings and content where they fit naturally. This means using keyword research to inform genuinely valuable content creation, and selectively using the right keywords that your audience is using to search online. This involves the following:
- Putting yourself in your audiences’ shoes and thinking about the type of words they would use to search for a business like yours.
- Looking at keywords your competitors are ranking for.
- Using an online tool to research the keywords you’ve come up with, to see if they’re actually ranking well on Google.
2. Meta descriptions don’t matter
Meta tags are HTML tags that appear in between the opening and closing <head> tags of a webpage, and are used to show the title and description of a page in search results. There are three main meta tag elements:
- The meta description – under 160 characters including spaces
- The title tag – under 60 characters including spaces
- Meta keyword or phrases
Google no longer uses meta descriptions to rank webpages, which means they don’t have a direct impact on how high up a webpage appears in search results. However, meta descriptions help tell search engines and people what the page is about, so they’re still important. Using a clear and engaging meta description can attract more users to click on your page, which is ultimately what you’re trying to achieve through SEO efforts.
3. Link building is dead
Link building refers to any activities you undertake to encourage other websites to link back to your site. These links are known as backlinks. Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller, said in the past that link building is something he’d “try to avoid” in reference to trying to gain backlinks if they’re irrelevant or spammy.
Many misinterpreted this to mean that link building as a whole is bad. In fact, search engines still use link authority heavily in their search ranking algorithms. This means that building up legitimate and relevant backlinks to your site is crucial for improving your search engine rankings.
4. Paid search ads improve organic rankings
Despite perceived wisdom in some SEO circles, there’s no clear correlation between organic rankings (the results on a search page that sit under the first 3 or 4 paid ads) and paid rankings. Organic search results come from an index database, while sponsored links are based on a paid investment.
Paid ads are useful for targeting certain keywords, testing different campaigns and delivering fast results. So, while paid advertising has a number of advantages, boosting your organic search rankings isn’t one of them.
5. Longer content is always better
Long-form content can improve search engine rankings, but only if it provides value to the user. Google uses metrics like the amount of time spent on a page (time on site) and whether or not users navigate to other pages on a site or leave (bounce rate), in addition to quality links back to that page, to determine the ‘value’ of a piece of content and rank that page accordingly.
In other words, you can create a lengthy content piece, but if people aren’t sticking around to read it or are quickly navigating away from your site, it won’t provide any more SEO value than a shorter piece of content like a 500-word blog.