Search engines are constantly refining the way they determine search ranking and results. In just the past couple of years, Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates have forced a major shift for search engine optimization (SEO) professionals from obsessing over link-building and keywords to a focus on quality content. But this fast-changing environment has also produced a shocking amount of misinformation about SEO best practices.
Here, we debunk 10 common SEO myths, and provide tips to save you valuable time and effort so you can focus on the search marketing tactics that really matter.
Myth 1: I must submit my site to Google.
Truth: While a brand new website can submit its URL to Google directly, a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing, will still find your site without you submitting it.
Myth 2: SEO is all about ranking
Truth: Although there is a strong correlation between search results placement and clickthrough rate, simply ranking does not guarantee business success. Theoretically, a website could rank quite well for a specific term, get tons of traffic, yet still not generate a dime.
Myth 3: SEO is something for IT to handle.
Truth: While there is a technical element to SEO, like setting up 301 redirects and XML sitemaps, with every new algorithm update, search engines are looking for quality content first.
Myth 4: More links are better than more content.
Truth: Getting some link love from other authoritative websites is important, but more links is not necessarily better. Instead of building a large quantity of back links, focus on finding relevant and diverse sources that link to related pages on your site.
Myth 5: Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings.
Truth: The meta description is an HTML attribute that concisely explains the topic of a web page. Although the meta description is commonly used as a preview snippet by search engines, Google announced back in 2009 that they have no bearing on search rankings. However, a compelling meta description can make the difference between a searcher clicking on your listing or someone else’s.
Myth 6: Social media and SEO are not related.
Truth: The intersection of SEO and social media is referred to as “social search,” and it is very real. In social search, search engines give content priority if it is tied to the searcher in some way – this could be through a Facebook friend, Twitter follower or connection on another major social network.
Myth 7: On-page SEO is all I need for a good page rank.
Truth: Putting keywords on a web page is not a silver bullet. On-page SEO on only one part of a holistic SEO strategy that includes on-page optimization, link building, social media and user experience.
Myth 8: Content needs to match my keywords exactly.
Truth: Keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim throughout a piece of content. In a headline in particular, use a keyword or phrase that describes the topic of the page to its intended audience and clearly explains what the page is about. This rule applies not only to headlines. Throughout your website content, the goal should be to inform the reader, not the to inform the search engines.
Myth 9: The H1 tag is the most important on-page element.
Truth: Think of the content structure of your web page as an outline. It’s a tiered approach to presenting information to both readers and to search engines. But the headline HTML that your title is wrapped in (H1, H2, H3, etc.) has little to no influence on your overall SEO. So it really doesn’t matter what header tag you use, as long as you present your most important concepts closer to the top of the page. Remember, you’re optimizing your web pages for users first and foremost, which means you want a clear headline to tell them up front what your page is about.
Myth 10: SEO and inbound marketing don’t mix.
Truth: On the contrary. Inbound marketing and SEO are inexorably linked. Inbound marketing is a philosophy that focuses on efficiently turning strangers into people who want – and should – do business with you. This encompasses an array of tactics and best practices, including content creation, conversion optimization, social media marketing among other channels. SEO, by comparison, is a specific marketing tactic that that focuses on improving a website’s visibility in – and traffic from – search engine results. Clearly, SEO is an important element of an inbound marketing strategy. When we think about the four stages of an inbound marketing methodology – Attract, Convert, Close, Delight – SEO is especially relevant when it comes to the first stage, attracting people to your site.
Understanding these truths will make your organic SEO efforts more effective and more efficient.