Shout director Michael Jenkins is wrapping up the year by sharing his top tips to optimising your business in the search engine industry.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) has the potential to help you drive a lot of targeted traffic to your business and everyone has theories and supposed tricks for boosting your search ranking on Google.
While some of these can be useful tactics, quite a lot of the quick-fix approaches are completely unfounded and can actually hurt your search rankings.
Many of these myths stem from old technical tricks that dodgy SEO operators would use to artificially boost their ranking. While Google has managed to put an end to most of this, it doesn’t stop some from trying.
To help you see through the smoke and mirrors, we’ve busted seven of the biggest SEO myths.
- Set and forget
This might be the most persistent and annoying myth of all time. Far too often we see small business owners who optimise their site once and think it’s set for life. This certainly isn’t the case.
SEO is like running a car; it needs regular services and maintenance to ensure it constantly runs at maximum efficiency. Over time links go bad, website pages get redirected and content can become outdated. On top of this, most sites that have not been updated in a while have a lot of low value pages; pages that contain little or duplicate content, or provide no unique information.
It is vital for you to continually monitor your website’s search engine performance to help you keep it fresh and optimised for your targeted traffic. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Keywords are dead
SEO commentators have been proclaiming the death of keywords for years however, while the Hummingbird update changed how Google measures keywords in their algorithm, they are still an important part of any good SEO.
Keywords account for 15% of the rankings on any website and although they aren’t the largest factor, they are still part of the deciding criteria that Google uses to determine which sites get displayed at the top of a search. It’s important to utilise them.
- Fill your page with keywords
Yes, Google still wants keywords, but that doesn’t mean a page with the word “shoes” repeated 100 times will rank number one when people search “shoes”. In fact, this is what is known as “keyword stuffing” and according to Google’s guidelines could see your site de-indexed from their search engine.
Like many SEO tales, this dates back to the late 1990s when SEO was in its infancy and technically savvy marketers would write keywords in the same colour as the background of a page so they could stuff them in without users noticing. The practice evolved as Google Spam. However, in the past few years with the emergence of Google Panda, the loopholes have finally been closed on this odious and deceptive practice.
- Meta tags are useless
SEO marketers have long debated whether meta tags are valuable in Google’s algorithm. While Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, has stated that meta tags are not used in page rankings, they are still relevant to search engines.
Meta tags are basically the back-end information that Google uses to provide the headline (Title Tags) and description (Meta Description) for search results. The third type of meta tags are Meta Keywords and, while Google might not use these as a ranking signal, using them will help the Google bots read your site. Together they ensure your page information displays correctly when it appears on Google.
- You must rank first for your core keyword
A lot of clients think they need to rank first for their specifically chosen keyword and only care about that particular word. While it may be important to rank highly for a specific term, more often than not potential customers don’t actually search for just that word.
Long-tail keywords are longer phrases that are specific to your product or service. The potential for high-quality traffic is greater with these types of keywords, as consumers using them are typically nearing the end of the purchasing cycle. For example, the Complex Institute of Education rank second for “Security Courses”, however they also rank for the keywords “Security Courses Melbourne” and “Security Guard Training”. With these long-tail keywords they are generating traffic from very targeted prospects interested in purchasing their products.
- Paid ads boost organic results
At this time, both Google and larger advertisers have all stated they do not receive any organic benefit from paid listings. While conspiracy theorists might not believe it, no definitive proof has ever been found to corroborate this idea.
Yes, you do receive a lot of benefits from PPC ads, but improved organic results are not one of them.
- All backlinks are good links
Backlinks or inbound links are simply links from other websites to your page. Links are like a referral. The higher the referral source, the higher quality of the link. Google uses the number of backlinks a site has as a measure of its authority and reliability.
There are a number of link schemes and directories online that will provide links back to your website for a cost but, the trouble is Google ranks these types of backlinks extremely low. In fact, having listings on these sites are likely to have your site penalised. Only very specific directories that are industry or location relevant will provide any sort of value to your website. For example, if you are a Melbourne-based company, featuring in a directory based specifically in Melbourne will provide value, but a directory based in India won’t.
Ultimately, there will always be dodgy tactics that people will use to artificially alter search rankings, however if your site isn’t ranking highly then chances are it’s the content that is the real problem and consumers will see through your tricks.
Google is constantly looking for ways to improve its algorithm and eliminate these technical work-arounds so even if you find a loophole, it won’t be open for long.