SEO can be a confusing effort. With all this hearsay and updates to Google’s Algorithm, it’s hard to know the right thing to do to increase rankings. In the digital marketing community, some of this hearsay becomes trends the market avoids. Instead of following the pack, let’s take a look at some of these SEO myths beyond face value.
Before we begin
Google’s updates can appear cumbersome, especially because they are all named after members of the animal kingdom. So let’s take a quick look at the aforementioned changes to Google’s Algorithm to get a better understanding of how to avoid misconceptions and benefit search engines and people alike.
Panda is the search engine’s most robust update that crawls the web for low quality content. It’s Google’s solution to almost having a real person read every page on the web. Panda originated in 2011 and had a main purpose of eliminating spammy content farms from SERPs (search engine results pages) like this one. Many-a-web-user would be searching Google for links related to his or her query and end up on sites with content created by bots and little to no value. Now that Google has cleared away many of these low-quality sites from SERPs, users can breathe easy and actually find what they were looking for all along. You don’t have to worry about your site getting penalized so long as you keep your content fresh and original to your visitors (which shouldn’t be too hard because you’re you).
Before this update, and otherwise stylish bird, websites were able to hack SERPs by getting to the top through having thousands of low quality links on any given web page. Since April 2012 this practice has been crushed because of the search engines’ ability to discover this black-hat technique. In order to find out if your site could potentially be using bad links, use Google’s Disavow Tool and other backlink checkers like Ahrefs.
This bird not only frequents metropolitan areas but also checks up on Local SEO efforts. Coined by Search Engine Land, this July 2014 update impacts what the Average Joe sees in his or her search results. You will not anger this update if you utilize the invaluable Google My Business, which gives your web results beautiful knowledge graphs and a Google Maps listing. Besides using this Google tool at your disposal, including your location on every page of your site and having listings on credible sites like Foursquare and Yelp will help increase your local SEO game.
Now that we’ve covered the bases, let’s get into the myths, shall we?
Myth: The death of guest blogging
We all know that Google’s Matt Cutts wants guest blogging to die (insert Psycho shower scene music here), but if used the right way it can help your visibility. Some digital marketers are transitioning away from guest blogging because it is hard to find guest posters who don’t use spammy links and anchor text. But if you can control the links yourself and don’t use it solely for SEO purposes, guest blogging can be beneficial to your brand.
Truth: Guest blogging is best for brand identity
When I say to not use guest blogging for SEO, I mean to use it to increase your brand’s online presence instead. If other sites are linking to you and featuring content by your writers, people who would otherwise not visit your site can get a glimpse at the work you’re doing. Sites like MarketingProfs and YouMoz maintain user generated content well because they have penalties and standards to maintain high quality resources and relevant links in articles. Reach out to sites that promote great sites like yours and see how many untapped leads you can get.
Myth: Social media has DIRECT causation to better SERP rankings
In the past year, there has been a debate about whether Facebook likes, Tweets, Google +1s, etc., help in organic search rankings. Although they help with inbound links, they do not directly increase your SEO. It can give your blog content a chance to shine if there are more eye balls on it, but the tangible likes do not put your site higher in the search engine.
Truth: Use social media for gaining an audience
Even if social media does not directly impact SEO, it can help build your audience. This is a helpful resource because it is the only medium that can directly show you how users enjoy your content. You can then tweak your content based on the execution of posts and how they fared in the social universe. Social is the easiest way to get your message out there, so have fun with it and see how you can further connect to future customers.
Myth: Google is the end-all be-all of everything forever
Although we are always following Google’s every move to better our SEO efforts, they are not the only resource or search engine out there. For example, when Google defines something like page rank, it isn’t a key indicator of a site’s success. Page rank rates how frequently a site is referenced by other sites but doesn’t affect its search results or value. A site could have a low page rank but a high conversion rate because it is targeting the consumers it needs to sell its product. That isn’t something Google can label.
Truth: Other engines have value, too
Google counts as 67% of the market share, but other search engines like Yahoo, Ask, and Bing are valuable to users in the U.S. and rest of the world. Bing has an advantage because it uses Graph Search on Facebook and has a less complicated algorithm than Google. Tapping into this less used resource could help your search ranking against those who don’t consider it. Also, Yahoo is powered by Bing, so what better way to reach out to the consumer than to optimize your site for every user?
Myth: Stuff your pages with keywords to get views
The old school of thought was that search engines weren’t able to categorize your site for a certain keyword unless it was repeated throughout the page. If searchers were looking for specific keywords it would make sense to include those same words multiple times on a page, right? Wrong. Now that users have found this to be disruptive to reading text, Google has penalized sites for overusing the same keywords and anchor text.
Truth: Use keywords and their variations naturally
Now that search engines don’t utilize the repetition of keywords for search queries, how is your site going to be found? This is where Panda comes in. This algorithm wants you to use keywords naturally and these things called synonyms like how you normally would speak about a topic. So now that solves the keyword issue, what about anchor text? Instead of using the same keywords to link to other parts of your site, use variations of the word and things like “click here for something interesting.”
Myth: Ranking nationally for a keyword is all that matters
For those who do not study search engines regularly, the common misconception is that in order to be important you have to be on the first page of Google for a vague search term. The thing is, when people are searching for a product or service, they are focused on results that relate to them. This means the queries are specific and targeted to a user’s location. So instead of focusing on high competition/highly priced keywords, gear your strategy on low competition keywords that target your customers.
Truth: Local is where it’s at!
Just like in your business model, finding your keyword niche is essential. You normally do not want to cater to the masses with your product. You want to find specific customers in a certain area who will not only benefit from your product but actually pay for it. So for example, a bakery in San Francisco would benefit from honing in on the search term “bakeries in San Francisco” rather than “baked goods.”
With changing SEO rumors and trends every day, you can rest easy knowing the truth about search engines. While others are worrying about what the rest of the market is doing, you can finally focus on how to make your site better. Debunking these myths can not only give you insight, but also open your eyes to a new world of SEO you have yet to discover.