“[A] website without visitors is like a ship lost in the horizon.”
― Dr. Christopher Dayagdag, CEO of Marketlink Web Solutions Inc.
The Internet is revolutionary because it gives everyone who has access to it an equal voice.
As beautiful as that is, that also means that people can write whatever they want and fake news can spread like wildfire. This is exactly how some of the Web’s biggest myths have been born.
Other myths, however, are not necessarily born out of falsehoods but created from truths that became antiquated. And this is what many small business owners battle within the realm of SEO.
SEO changes so rapidly that it can be hard for anyone other than full-time marketers to remain current on the leading practices. If business owners aren’t diligent in their SEO research, there’s a great chance they will apply outmoded ideas and tactics to their efforts; this can be destructive for a site’s rankings, and for a business as a whole.
To help dispel some of these SEO superstitions, I am shedding light on four of the most prevalent myths haunting the SEO industry.
Myth 1: Content is King
Bill Gates said, “Content is king” a long damn time ago; 21 years to be exact. By and large, the content marketing community has found great satisfaction in cramming this adage down people’s throats at nearly every turn.
But – as with most things on the Internet that are 21 years old – this idea is ancient and not necessarily correct anymore.
Is creating content important? Absolutely.
Is it the panacea that most everyone proclaims? Absolutely not.
Creating high-quality content is certainly a fundamental aspect of topping the SERPs; and Google continues to hammer this notion home as it furthers its crackdown on thin content.
But no matter how useful your materials may be, if you’re not creating SEO-optimized content, then no one is ever going to find it. This is especially true if you are in an overly competitive industry.
Additionally, if you fail to optimize your website as a whole, Google itself might have great difficulty in unearthing your posts.
This means that content is not so much “king” as it is a part of a holistic SEO recipe.
The truth is that a large part of creating great content is ensuring that users don’t have to struggle to find these revelatory insights that you seek to share; mainly because that isn’t a good user experience.
In order for content to be as powerful as the masses like to proclaim, it needs to be top-notch and search optimized.
Myth 2: Keyword Optimization is the Primary SEO Focus
Keyword optimization has long been regarded as a foundational aspect of an impactful SEO campaign. This is a great example of an old best practice sticking around long past its expiration date.
With the advent of Google Hummingbird, semantic search and natural language processing, the focus has dramatically shifted from keywords to user intent.
As machine learning continues to become more intelligent and sophisticated, Google persists in growing increasingly capable of understanding context, topics which relate to each other, and terms that don’t exactly match but mean the same thing.
This has resulted in keywords losing ground to intent. It’s a cause for rejoicing, actually, because this enables content creators to focus more on writing for their audience (i.e. more naturally) than for the robots who index their words.
Myth 3: Images and Video Don’t Impact SEO
This one pops up all over the place.
Whoever is buying this line clearly isn’t paying attention to what is going on right now.
Optimized video and image content can impact a site’s placement in the normal SERPs and through video results and image searches; this is extremely powerful.
Moreover, these content elements impact on-page SEO in a couple of ways.
The first is user experience. No one, and I mean no one, wants to click on a page and be greeted with a wall of text. Nothing about that is sexy.
By integrating and intertwining images, videos, and gifs, infographics, etc. throughout your content, you are making it more digestible for users which significantly helps to boost the appeal of the page, effectively fighting bounce rates and promoting time on page; two of Google’s ranking factors.
Just be sure to keep file sizes down to a minimum to maintain loading speeds.
Additionally, image optimization via alt tags and file names allows you to incorporate your targeted keywords which helps support your efforts.
Myth 4: Meta Descriptions Matter
This is another example of best practices that turned bad over time. But it isn’t that cut and dry, either.
It turns out that this myth is true and false.
Meta descriptions – the little text snippets that appear just below each link in the SERPs – don’t have any bearing over your SEO in any direct way; zilch. But they used to; hence why people still think they do.
If meta descriptions don’t impact SEO, then you may as well let Google generate these for you then, right?
The reason why you don’t want to let Google do this is that the search engine will just take the first few lines of your content and use that as the description.
Those first few lines, while potentially genius in the context of your piece, likely won’t make much sense to the actual search users who read them as a snippet. And this is where meta descriptions matter in a big way.
The people you are trying to drive to your webpages do read these snippets as a way of identifying if your page holds the answers they seek. If you’ve written a compelling description, they will likely click-through and bring traffic to your site; which is something that does impact your SEO.
This means that you need to be writing meta descriptions (similar to content) with people in mind.
There are a myriad of SEO plugins that will enable you to customize (meaning optimize) the meta description and title for maximum traffic.
If you were under the impression these myths were true, don’t feel bad; SEO is hard to keep up with.
The best thing you can do for your site and your business is to discard your previous notions, brush up on 2017’s best practices for SEO, and continue to monitor industry changes. This is the only defense you have against falling victim to 2018’s prevalent SEO myths.