For those familiar with search engine optimisation (SEO) you will be fully aware of the changes that have occurred over the past ten years (and more).
It was once much easier to get websites ranking at the top of Google search results. With the continuous improvements to search engine algorithms, the practice of SEO has become much more complex.
This complexity has often brought just as much clarity as it has confusion resulting in many myths about SEO, that we are going to bust.
SEO and Google
As the world’s largest search engine, Google has a sophisticated algorithm that takes more than 200 factors into account when ranking a website.
The need to provide quality information to those who need it, is summarised in Google’s mission statement:
“To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. [Google mission statement]
Continuous changes can result in confusion as to which SEO tactics work, which no longer work and what aspects of a website are more important – all resulting in myths becoming all too common within SEO.
Why SEO myths exist
With so many ranking factors and that fact that people outside of Google’s offices are unable to know for certain what the actual signals are (and their actual importance over one another) – SEO myths circulate the industry.
According to Helen Pollitt from Search Engine Journal there are four reasons why these SEO myths exist:
- Untested knowledge – people are passing on SEO tactics without having any proof that they work. They have one result with one tactic but don’t realise there are many other factors involved. When something works for you, make sure to repeatedly test it before claiming it as gospel.
- Minor facts blown out of proportion – an example of this might be that social media helps rank your website, without knowing that it only indirectly helps your organic position.
- Outdated advice – advice that used to be good for SEO that no longer is. Using meta tags is a good example of an outdated tactic within SEO.
- Misunderstanding Google – advice from Google on their official documentation can be misunderstood and interpreted wrong. An example may be that social media has no impact on organic ranking – when in fact it has an indirect ranking.
Helen Pollitt from Search Engine Journal:
The biggest myths in SEO
Sometimes implementing something on a website that you’ve been advised on by someone else does not give you the same results as them, and therefore it can seem that their advice is an SEO myth. Even if you have completely replicated the same tactics, results can differ. Each website is different and exists within a different industry.
There are many SEO myths, the following are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are the ones that matter the most. There are of course many SEO best practices that should be used – simply avoiding the myths of SEO is no clear strategy to implement.
- Meta tags don’t matter
While meta tags are no longer counted as a ranking factor, they still have a lot of importance because they provide information.
Keywords used in the meta tags are still helpful for a search engine to understand what the page is about and its context.
Meta descriptions are also helpful from a searcher’s perspective. The meta description helps users understand what the website or landing page is about.
When written correctly, a meta description will increase conversions in that the number of people being persuaded to click onto your website increases because of the copy used.
Link building causes a lot of confusion within the SEO industry. Whilst links no longer carry the same weight as they once did, the quality of the link does.
For instance, a website getting a link from a well-respected high authority website will boost its SEO efforts.
On the other hand, if that same website got a link from a low domain authority website, then that would not make much if any difference to its SEO efforts.
Outbound links (from your website to another) are also important.
Link building, both internally and externally, still work when done correctly and is an important pillar of SEO.
- Google ranks new content higher
Just because content is new does not mean to say it is better quality than what is already out there on the internet.
As we previously mentioned, Google wants to serve quality information and if a piece of content is good quality (and follows good SEO practices) then it has a good chance of ranking well.
A google search can often show older blog posts rank higher on the results pages than newer ones, demonstrating that quality is the key factor.
There are so many ranking factors and new content is not the critical factor that’s going to make a difference on its own.
- Page speed is not important
If only this were true – it would make SEO a little bit simpler.
Page speed is important because it directly affects the user experience when they are on your website.
It is common for people to leave a website if it takes too long to load and Google sees users leaving quickly after landing on your website as a poor experience.
In their quest to continuously improve the user experience via the information it serves, they reward websites that are optimised for page speed and performance.
This has further been confirmed with the core web vitals update to the Google algorithm in 2020 and 2021.
- SEO is a one-time thing
The biggest myth has been left until last. This is by far the most common myth surrounding the whole of the SEO industry.
Many business owners believe that SEO is a one time activity – build a website, put some good images on, add some text and that’s it.
SEO is rather a continuous development of your website.
It can take months, if not years of continuous effort to get a website ranking higher.
Probably the biggest SEO mistake people make is that they don’t have a clear SEO strategy.
This is one common reason behind why a business makes slow gains in their SEO efforts.
Avoiding the myths and sticking to the best practices will get your so far – but a clear strategic direction will take your organic growth to the next level.