If you’ve done any sort of research into how to market your website better, you’ve probably stumbled across at least one article about how to optimize your site for search engines. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a popular service among digital marketers and has been for years, thanks to its powerful ability to put your company in front of new customers and build traction with your target audience.
But because SEO is such a hot topic, there’s also a lot of misinformation floating around out there. Myths and misconceptions about SEO best practices abound, and we encounter them nearly every day in our business.
So if improving your search engine ranking is one of your goals for 2019, you’ll want to keep reading as we bust some of the top SEO myths we’ve heard.
Note: In this piece, we’ll focus exclusively on optimizing your website for Google because it currently holds 90.28% of total search engine market share, with their closest competitor, Bing, commanding only 3.82%.
The most common myth surrounding search engine optimization that we’ve seen in recent years is that it’s all a bunch of nonsense. But the reality is that when done correctly, SEO can make all the difference between new customers actually finding your website online or not.
The myth that SEO doesn’t work stems from countless SEO amateurs and scammers promising too-good-to-be-true results — like a guaranteed spot on page 1 — or basing their strategies on outdated algorithms and “secret sauce.” We’ve seen too many companies burned by these underhanded tactics, and we’re here to set the record straight.
Good SEO is based on a working knowledge of Google’s current algorithm — not an outdated one or guessing games or hocus pocus. It’s not a magic pill and it won’t bring overnight success.
It’s a long-term strategy that will yield results over time if performed by a professional who knows what they’re doing. And because SEO best practices change frequently to keep up with Google’s algorithm updates, it’s important that whoever you work with to optimize your site keeps up with those changes too.
Another myth we see all the time in the web design field is the belief that your website’s security has no bearing on its search rankings.
Site security has been a factor in Google rankings since 2014, with Google prioritizing URLs that SSL-encrypted — i.e., they start with HTTPS:// rather than HTTP://. And while security carries less weight than other ranking signals, marketers suspect that it may soon become a bigger factor.
That’s because the list of major companies that have suffered data and privacy breaches over the past few years — like Equifax, Uber, and Facebook — keeps growing, and as it does, consumers are becoming more and more protective of their data. 95% of Americans say they’re concerned about how companies use their data, and more than 50% are looking for new ways to safeguard their personal information.
Unfortunately for businesses who haven’t taken the proper steps to secure their website, that could translate to a huge drop in web traffic. According to Hubspot, 85% of people will not continue browsing if a site is not secure. So we recommend securing your website as soon as possible.
If you’ve talked to anyone recently about SEO best practices, you may have heard that Google’s algorithm no longer places as great an emphasis on keyword frequency as it once did. The problem is that when people hear that, they often end up thinking that Google no longer cares about keywords at all.
That simply isn’t true.
Think of keywords as a type of online filing system. If you want your web page to show up in the list of results for a certain search, that search term needs to be on the page, and it needs to be there enough times that Google can tell the page is really about what the user searched for. If you don’t include keywords strategically, your site won’t appear for relevant searches.
Choose keywords that pertain to your industry, your audience, and your page content. For instance, if you’re a dentist in Atlanta, your list of keywords might include:
Remember that because each page on your website is about a different topic — like different services or products that you offer — they probably won’t all have the same keyword as their focus. Choose the keywords that are most relevant to each page for best results.
You now know that keywords are still an important part of any good SEO strategy. But don’t err too far in the other direction and fall into the habit of keyword stuffing, or cramming your webpage so full of keywords that it doesn’t read naturally. This outdated tactic used to be common among SEO professionals, but hasn’t been a best practice for years.
Instead, Google’s most recent few algorithm changes have placed a greater emphasis on readability. When reading your website copy, your visitors should feel as though it was written for them, not for a search engine. Keywords should mesh seamlessly with the rest of your content and should read naturally … unlike this example of keyword stuffing from Google:
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So how often should you use keywords on your website? Yoast recommends a keyword (or keyphrase) density somewhere between 0.5% and 2.5%. That translates to anywhere from 2-8 times on a 300-word webpage, or 5-25 times throughout a 1,000-word blog post.
Written content has long been touted as the best way to boost SEO rankings. In fact, 72% of online marketers describe content creation as their most effective SEO tactic, due in part to the fact that featuring a blog as a key part of your website gives you a 434% better chance of being ranked highly on search engines.
Content may very well be king, as the saying goes. But just as a king doesn’t constitute an entire government, producing content can’t be all there is to your SEO strategy.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s the quality of your content, not quantity, that helps you gain traction with Google. Quality content answers your visitors’ questions and keeps them engaged on your site so that they don’t need to return to the search results page immediately. The longer they stay on your site, the more relevant Google thinks your page is to the query in question, and the more likely they are to prioritize your page in future searches.
So rather than churning out new blog posts as quickly as you can in the hopes of landing on page 1 of Google, focus on producing content that’s informative and accessible to the type of customer you want to attract.
If you’ve been told that sitemaps are simply a nice extra to have on your website, then brace yourself: Sitemaps are actually a must-have feature if you want to improve your search engine rankings.
A sitemap is essentially a list of all of your website’s URLs and is designed to help Google’s crawlers find all of the important information on your site, even if it’s not easily discoverable to the average user. This way, your site is more likely to show up for the content on those hard-to-find pages. And the more pages your website includes, the more important it is to have a sitemap.
Finally, a common misconception we hear about SEO is that you only need to optimize your website once and then it will be optimized forever.
The fact is that other companies in your field are constantly jockeying for the top spot on the search results page — or at least, as close to the top as they can get. Just because you land a top spot doesn’t mean you’ll stay there forever.
To complicate matters, Google’s algorithm prioritizes pages that have been updated recently … which means that stagnant pages get pushed to a lower spot in search results. That’s bad news when you consider that 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search engines.
If you want to stay toward the top of the list — as we assume you do since you’re reading this article — then you need to treat SEO optimization as a regular, recurring marketing task, just like posting to your social media profiles or nurturing your email list. Create a regular blogging schedule and stick to it. Once or twice a month, revisit your older pages and updated them with new keywords, stats, or links to your other content.
This kind of consistent and focused optimization pays off far better than the set-and-forget method you may be used to. Don’t believe us? Try it and see.
Are you pining for that coveted page 1 position but just can’t figure out what’s stopping your site from showing up? We can help. Our team of experts here at Trajectory Web Design will work with you to get you where you need to be, whether it’s as simple as helping with your blog or as complex as a website redesign. Contact us to tell us about your project.
Ready for a slick new website, increased traffic and more converting customers? Tell us a little about your business and we’ll reach out to get your project underway.