I’ve heard a lot of rubbish about SEO, and get an awful lot of emails from companies promising me #1 ranking on Google. With so much noise about Search Engine Optimisation, where can you find the truth?
It’s time to bust the popular myths about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The crazy stuff, the ancient stories and the downright lies.
Here are the ten most regular myths I hear about SEO and the facts to prove them wrong. As up to 80% of search traffic can come from Google, many of my tips relate to that search engine, but some apply to all search engines.
1. “It’s best to get as many links as possible.”
This may have been true in the past, but not any more. When Google introduced the algorithm update Penguin 2.0 in May 2013, everything changed.
Today, it is essential to focus on the quality of links you are obtaining, not the quantity. Links are an important part of your website’s authority, but great content is what you really need. Great content builds quality links.
If you don’t have the writing/video skills in-house, hire a marketing or PR agency to do the work for you.
2. “A secure website doesn’t impact SEO.”
You may have noticed that some URLs start with “http://” while others start with “https://”. The ‘s’ tells you the website is secure. This ensures any data transmitted between you and the website is encrypted so hackers can’t intercept any of your sensitive information.
In August 2014, Google declared it had started using HTTPS as a positive in their ranking algorithm. It has stated that if two websites are equal in search scores the one with HTTPS may receive a boost to improve its ranking.
Also, in October 2017, Google released version 62 of their Chrome browser, which warns users if the website is not secure. Another good reason to secure all the pages of your website.
3. “Good ranking earns big money.”
There is a popular misconception that higher ranking means more customers. That’s not necessarily true. Here’s why…
- You may be ranking for keywords that are not related to your product;
- Your meta descriptions don’t encourage users to click; and
- The top result isn’t always an organic listing. Adverts can steal away clicks from organic search results.
Test and discover which search terms your audience is using (you may be surprised), ensure your meta descriptions are persuasive (see Myth #4) and consider advertising on search engines.
4. “Meta descriptions improve your ranking.”
As long ago as 2009, Google announced that meta descriptions did not influence search rankings. That’s not to say that descriptions aren’t important for SEO.
Although meta descriptions may not affect rankings, they do affect click rates. Having a relevant, compelling meta description can be the difference between a user who clicks through to your page and one who clicks on a competitor.
Google is so convinced of their importance that in December 2017 they announced an increase in the length of meta descriptions to allow for more descriptive text.
5. “Cram your web pages with meta keywords.”
In the past, people tended to enter fragmented search terms (such as “recruitment agency London”). Now, it’s more likely they will ask complex questions using full sentences (such as “recruitment agency based in London with REC membership”), particularly as one out of five queries on Google’s mobile app and Android devices are now voice searches.
The roll-out of the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013 was designed to accommodate the change in search behaviour. As a result, meta keywords are not as relevant as before, and you could be punished for excessive use.
6. “Pop-ups will always hurt my ranking in search.”
Let’s be clear, good pop-ups work. The operative word is ‘good’. Misuse of pop-ups has led to user complaints, and some marketers now doubt their value.
Google jumped into the debate in January 2017 when they began to penalise websites that used what they called “intrusive interstitials” (i.e. bad pop-ups).
Google doesn’t penalise all pop-ups — just the ones that get in the way of a user’s ability to easily access the content on the page… especially when they search on mobile.
For example, pop-ups that a mobile user has to remove before accessing your content will get you in trouble with Google. On the other hand, pop-ups that don’t interrupt the user experience are fine. Just make sure the content of your pop-up is helpful, informative and relevant; otherwise, it’s just a disruptive annoyance.
7. “Google doesn’t care about user experience.”
If Google sends you to a webpage, they want to ensure you have a great experience on that page. They are a business too, so they want to delight their customers.
Think about it from the search engine’s point of view: they didn’t create the webpage themselves, but they are endorsing it. If they deliver a bad or irrelevant webpage, you may use a rival search engine next time.
As long as you satisfy the primary goal of creating quality content that people can easily digest and enjoy, your content will naturally satisfy a search engine’s ranking algorithms, helping your content to rise to the top organically.
8. “Local SEO doesn’t matter anymore.”
This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re a local business, optimising for local search not only helps you get found, but it will help you get found by people who are nearby and more likely to buy from you.
In July 2014, Google took a significant step in this direction with the release of its Pigeon algorithm. Pigeon improved the way Google evaluates distance when determining rankings. So local SEO matters more now than ever before.
9. “Images don’t help SEO.”
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 can ‘read’ the image. By not creating this text, you lose a huge opportunity to be as visible as possible online.
It helps Google if the text on the page where the image is located mentions the image. So always try to reference your images in your text, 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.
Describe the image in the file name. So if it is a photo of a Fire Engine, name it fire_engine.jpg rather than IMG3456.jpg.
The image types Google can index include BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP and SVG, so be sure only to use these image file types on your website.
10. “Mobile optimisation is a waste of time.”
In 2015, Google introduced an algorithm update called “Mobilegeddon” which expanded their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. The update rewarded mobile-friendly websites and penalised those that are not.
My experience is that 15-20% of traffic to a B2B website can come from mobile devices. Google can see these volumes and how they are growing and wants to give these users a great experience.
The optimal experience for your visitors and your own performance is to implement responsive design. Responsive design makes your page adapts to the visitor’s device and will display information that is sized and zoomed appropriately. It makes your website easy to read/use whatever device the visitor is using.
That’s my top 10 SEO myths, if you have any more add them to the comments box below.
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