We‘d like to share the gist of Hubspot‘s recent eBook „17 SEO Myths you should leave behind in 2013“ with our readers. The e-book aims to point out all of the most common myths and assumptions about how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works and debunk them for you, so you’re not wasting a single moment on things that simply don’t matter for SEO in 2013.
To say SEO has “changed a lot” would be the understatement of the decade. Just take a look at how Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates shook the world of SEO professionals. In fact, SEO has changed so much in the past several years that many marketers aren’t sure what’s outdated, what’s important, what will actually move the needle - and what’s simply wasted effort.
MYTH #1: I must submit my site to Google
While a brand new site can submit their URL to Google directly, a search engine like Google can still find your site without you submitting it. And remember, a submission does not guarantee anything. Crawlers will find your site and index it in due time, so don’t worry about this idea of needing “tell” Google about your site.
MYTH #2: SEO is all about ranking
While there’s a strong correlation between search results placement and click-through rates, ranking is not the all mighty end goal that it used to be. Now with search results being appended with rich text/snippets and author tags, results that appear below the top three sought after slots are getting much higher click-through rates. And even before all of that was applied, rankings did not guarantee success. You could theoretically rank quite well for a term and get tons of traffic, and not make a dime from it. Is that what you really want? I don’t think so. So it’s time to shift your goals, and rethink what SEO is all about, because “ranking” is not it.
MYTH #3: We must rank number one
Studies of click-through rates and user behavior have shown that searchers favor the top search results -- particularly the top 3 listings. However, it’s also been shown that on subsequent pages, being listed toward the top of the page shows similar click behavior. Now with search results also being appended with author profiles and rich snippets, click-through rates are proving to be higher on those listings even if they do not appear within the top results. The takeaway here is that relevant information and user-friendly listings are more valuable than just rank. So, no, you do not need to rank in first place anymore to see success.
MYTH #4: SEO is something I can hand off to IT
There seems to be a perception that SEO requires some technical expertise (right!), and since it is technical, they can just do the work (wrong!) SEO requires way more than just technical chops; I’d think hard before handing an entire project to IT or a web designer. While you may need some of those individuals to assist you during the course of optimizing your website, don’t hand the entire thing off and expect best practices to be adhered to.
MYTH #5: More links are better than more content
Links are an important part of your website’s authority, however, if you have budget to invest in your website, I would say “hire someone to write for you.” Too often, when businesses hire someone to do link building, they focus on quantity rather than quality of links -- but linking is not a numbers game anymore. Focus on having relevant and diverse sources that link to relevant pages. When you invest in content, it can be used as website pages, blog posts, lead generation offers, and guest posts on other sites -- all things that will bring more links with it over time.
MYTH #6: Content trumps SEO
Good content will take you a long way, but it can’t be the only tool in your SEO tool chest. Years ago, when HubSpot first started teaching people about search engine optimization, one rule was essential: Above all else, create good, useful content. But now you need to ask yourself more of the following: Are you writing with a purpose? Who is your target audience? Have you analyzed your traffic sources and top performing posts? What keywords are you targeting? If all of that sounds foreign to you, then you’re missing the mark and content alone will only get you so far.
MYTH #7: Social media and SEO aren’t related at all
The intersection of SEO and social media is referred to as “social search.” Social Search is very much a real thing –an increasingly formal relationship between search and social has been evolving for years and Google is working hard to prove this with Google+ and Author profiles. It’s a natural extension of what has always been true: Content that’s relevant and can be trusted as authoritative will continue to drive both your search and social media marketing. The lesson is to make sure you have a social media strategy and think of it as part of your search optimization efforts – the two should not be working as silos.
MYTH #8: On-page SEO is all I need to rank
Putting keywords on a page isn’t a magic bullet. You can have flawless on-page SEO, but that only equals one part of the entire SEO equation. SEO efforts should be a holistic composite that focuses on quality throughout on-page optimization, off-page optimization, user experience, and conversions. So be prepared to do more than just on-page SEO!
MYTH #9: Keywords need to be an exact match
Keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim through a piece of content. In a title in particular, you want to use a keyword or keywords the way that it makes the most sense. Write a stellar headline (somewhere between 4-9 words) that focuses on clearly explaining what a piece of content is about. Nothing is more of a buzz kill than having a headline that’s awkwardly framed around one keyword phrase or, worse, forcibly repeats a keyword phrase. Note: this rule applies to both headlines and content on the page, too.
MYTH #10: There’s an ideal keyword density for my page
There is no magic number. You should, however, have your keyword(s) included in your page title; how else will people know what your page is about? The keyword (or a variation of it) should also be included in a headline on the page, ideally in the URL, and at least once throughout the content.
MYTH #11: The H1 is the most important on-page element
Think of the content structure on your website page as an outline. It’s a tiered approach to presenting information to a user, and to search engines. What title tag your headline is wrapped in has little to no influence on your overall SEO -- that title tag (whether H1, H2, H3, etc.) is only used for styling purposes.
MYTH #12: My home page needs a lot of content
Think of your home page as the gateway to your business. Visualize it! This is your chance to make a first impression and convey what you’re all about. Maybe your value proposition is simplicity -- in that case, just a single login makes sense (if your name is Dropbox). For most, however, there is a need for a bit more content and context than that. Your content should be enough to clarify who you are, what you do, where you’re location (if you’re local), your value proposition, and what to do next. Users should leave satisfied, not over- or underwhelmed, and certainly not confused.
MYTH #13 The more indexed pages I have, the better
Logically you would think that the larger the footprint of your website, the better you would do -- but it’s not true. First, not everything you publish gets indexed (rightfully so). Second, sometimes pages get indexed, but don’t remain in the index. Third, just because you have pages indexed does not mean that they will drive qualified traffic and leads. Unfortunately, those who strive to have lots of pages on their website also tend to overlook the quality of that content; and realistically, it’s difficult to strive for both. The aim should be to publish what is most relevant. Have your content be at its best.
MYTH #14: For local SEO, I only need to worry about having city and state, or country on my pages
Alright, this is kind of a half-truth. You definitely need city, state, and/or country on your pages if you’re a geo-targeted business. But remember that search engines know where users are located, and they make an effort to more prominently show results that are specific to their location. That said, title tags, links, reviews, on-page citations, and social media (particularly Google+ local) should all still clearly state where you are located, and be included as part of your local SEO.
MYTH #15: Microsites and other domains I own that link or redirect back to my site will help my SEO
The chances of this doing much for you are slim to none. It’s like having an election in which you vote for yourself a thousand times – that still counts as one vote. Search engines are smart enough to know who the registrants are for a domain, and see that it’s the same person as your primary domain.
MYTH #16: Google will never know if I have bad sites linking to me
Yes, they will! The point is Google knows (everything). Don’t try to fool them – especially post-Panda and Penguin – or you will be penalized.
MYTH #17: SEO is not a usability issue
SEO has evolved from simply getting found to improving how users engage with your content. SEO is so much more than optimizing for search engines. You need to optimize for users first and foremost, so they actually click through your listing to your website, and once they click through, they stay there.
To keep visitors on your site, ensure you’re publishing content that’s personalized and relevant. You should also make your website intuitive and easy to browse through (accessible by crawlers and users). Don’t make visitors look for what they need. Have clear calls-to-action, and you’ll also convert those users.
That’s what SEO is all about – Search Experience Optimization. (Source: hubspot.com)