The truth is that SEO is a very confusing industry. The experts all seem to contradict each other. New algorithms and updates happen multiple times a year, changing the way Google rewards and penalizes websites. And everybody has a different method for succeeding. All this information is floating around the Internet, along with strategies that are outdated and conjecture that was never proven true. So how can a business separate the dross?
Well, here are a few pointers to help you get started. We’ve debunked a few of the myths we’ve seen businesses perpetuate so that you can find the best strategy for your company.
- “Your position in Google search results is an accurate way to measure your SEO success.” While getting to the top of a Google search results page is helpful to your website, it’s not the only way, or even the best way, to figure out if your SEO strategy is working. The point of having a high placement is to attract more visitors that will turn into customers. However, if you have lots of traffic with a low conversion rate, your placement isn’t doing you any good. Instead of focusing on your position, measure your success through your conversion rate.
- “Having a good pagerank will increase your traffic.” Pagerank refers to the number of websites that link back to your website. The quality of those links would enter into the pagerank algorithm, which would then affect your ranking in the Google search results. Backlinks were an important part of any business’s SEO strategy up until recently: now, the method has become so inundated with spam that Google has stopped factoring pagerank into search rankings. In fact, Google hasn’t updated their pagerank meter for almost a year. Having a quality website link back to your website can still help your traffic, but only minimally: users can choose to click on the link to be directed to your website. This traffic will factor into your rank, but the link itself will not.
- “It is important to focus on keywords.” When you focus on keywords, you’re trying to rank for specific words and phrases. Unfortunately, this strategy is as problematic as using your Google search results place
sment to measure your SEO success: it’s simply inaccurate and unhelpful. Your page can be at the top of a search query but still fail to convert customers. Trying too hard to rank for keywords could lead to keyword stuffing, a black hat SEO practice [http://www.nethosting.com/buzz/blog/white-hat-versus-black-hat-in-seo/] that Google will penalize. Use keywords to optimize your homepage and product pages without straying into stuffing territory, then concentrate on publishing useful information on your business blog.
- “My small or local business cannot compete with large corporations in SEO.” There’s some truth to that statement. If you attempt to rank for keywords that are global, the likelihood of you beating multi-billion dollar corporations is slim to none. But small and local business should not even bother with global keywords. Instead, you need to focus on local keywords. In fact, regional ranking should make up 90% of your efforts. Google’s latest algorithm changes have improved the way users look for local businesses. The carousel function is one of the ways that local businesses can attract more attention. How do you get on that carousel? By creating a Google Places account and asking your customers to write positive reviews for you on it. Having reviews of your company on any online review site will help, such as Yelp or UrbanSpoon, but Google reviews are the main one that will affect your placement in Google search results. If you have a business blog, write posts about your local area.
- “The more traffic we have, the better.” Technically, yes. The more exposure people have to your brand, the more likely they are to buy. And statistically, some amount of your traffic is bound to convert. However, the ideal amount of traffic depends on the type of website you own and how you make a profit from it. A website or blog that sells adspace will earn revenue from people seeing their website – therefore, profit automatically increases at the same rate your traffic increases. An ecommerce website has to sell a product before they earn revenue. For an ecommerce site, traffic is only worthwhile if it converts into customers. Your ecommerce site will have more success if you concentrate more on conversion methods than increasing traffic.
- “SEO is all about tricks that manipulate the algorithm.” The main purpose of SEO is to deliver valuable content to the user, not to help the marketer get ahead. For this reason, the very best thing you can do is make your website attractive and helpful for individuals. Fixing your broken links can dramatically improve your SEO weight, as well as your conversion rate. Google Webmaster Tools should help you find any pages that have 404 errors so that you can redirect them to a working page. Put your contact information above the fold on your homepage. Write blog posts that are informative and answer questions.
- “Sharing our backlinks in comments on other blogs and websites will help improve our SEO.” This method used to be a solid backlink strategy, but has fallen out of favor of late. Anyone can comment on a website – that does not make your link valuable. In fact, many commenting systems automatically make your link “nofollow.” However, this method does have some merit to it still: web surfers who read through the comments might click through to your website. That traffic does factor into the SEO algorithm.
- “Guest blogging is dead.” Matt Cutts, the leader of the webspam team at Google, declared guest blogging dead earlier this year. Later, he ate some of his words. Guest blogging is not dead, not yet. However, guest blogging for the sake of SEO is. If you guest blog for authentic reasons, such as sharing valuable content or trying to reach a new audience, your posts will not be penalized. Just keep in mind that spammy guest blogging will be punished. If you write over 300 words, focus on a topic that relates to the website the post is being published on, and create a relationship with your guest or host, you should be fine. And again, don’t focus on keywords.
The best way to debunk any other myths that you might come across is to do lots of research from reliable sources. Keep in mind that any information older than 6 months may be outdated and harmful to your SEO strategy. Going straight to the source, such as information provided by Google and Matt Cutts, will never steer you in a wrong direction.
But the ultimate source that you should trust is your own website and results. If something works well for you and does not violate any of Google’s rules, then keep doing it.
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Hall, John. “4 Changes Google Is Making And How They Affect Content Creation.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2014/01/05/4-changes-google-is-making-and-how-they-affect-content-creation/. (6 Feb. 2014).