June 1, 2015
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is one of the most important tools for attracting traffic to a website. But it is also one of the least well understood. Google takes about 200 different factors into account to determine page rankings, and the algorithm it uses is in a constant state of evolution. Because of this, there are many misconceptions out there about what good SEO really entails.
Here are five SEO myths you need to stop believing if you want to drive more traffic to your site.
Myth 1. Meta descriptions aren’t important.
This myth stems from the idea that the entire purpose of SEO is to make your page attractive to search engines. Of course, that is true, but the ultimate goal is to make your page attractive to searchers, the people using the search engines. When people visit your website and like what they see (indicated by metrics such as longer time on-site and lower bounce rates), your domain gains authority, which will boost your search engine rankings.
Meta descriptions are the snippets you see on search results pages. They aren’t actually on your website page, which is why they don’t count as part of on-site SEO. But they do impact your click-through rate, and the more people who go to your site and like what they see (see the metrics above), the higher you will rise in the search results.
Myth 2. H1 tags are very important.
Many people think H1 header tags are so important that they should use as many as possible. But the important thing about header tags isn’t that you use them, it’s how you use them.
Header tags in general are less important for pure SEO than most people think they are. What they are important for is guiding readers through your content — making it easy for them to understand what the page is about. Header tags give your content structure, which in turn makes it more readable, which in turn means more people will spend time reading it and possibly visit other pages on your site — you see where this is going.
The key is to use header tags meaningfully. Your title should be enclosed in an H1 tag, and you should never, ever, have more than one H1 on a page. And while it is a good idea to include keywords in your headers, they need to be meaningful, relevant keywords that help your readers, not just because you think that’s what search engines want (they don’t).
Myth 3. More is always better.
More is not always better. Better is always better. This applies to pretty much every aspect of SEO. For example, contrary to what some people have said, link building is still a powerful tactic, but what is important is the quality of the links, rather than how many you have. The same is true of using keywords in your anchor text — it is still a good practice, as long as you don’t overdo it. These practices are akin to keyword stuffing, which may have worked in the beginning but is now one of the quickest ways to ensure your site a quick trip down the ranks.
In everything you do, keep in mind that quality is better than quantity. If you use too many keywords in your anchor text or too much internal linking to top-level pages (here are eight best practices for internal linking) or too many keywords in your URLs, you will be guilty of over-optimization and could incur a penalty that will cause your site to fall complete off the Google radar.
Myth 4. There are an optimal number of words for content.
This is a myth that is trotted out frequently — posts need to be at least 300 words or 500 words; the ideal length is 1,600 words or 2,450 words. There are statistics to support these numbers, but, as Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
The optimal number of words for a blog post is however many words it takes to provide valuable information about your topic to your readers. A few weeks ago, Seth Godin published a post called “A hierarchy of organizational needs.” It consists of 55 words and as of this writing has been shared almost 1,400 times on Twitter.
Myth 5. SEO is easy.
The biggest SEO myth, and the one that perhaps encompasses all of the items above is that good SEO is easy, that there is a set of five or 10 or 20 things that you can do for every Web page and get the results you want. This is simply not true. Good SEO is not a playbook you can follow — it’s a strategy that involves using the right tools for the right page at the right time. That’s why everyone has different advice about how to do it: different things work for different sites that target different audiences.
So, how do you make sure your SEO is tops? Follow the best practices, measure your results to find what’s working and what’s not for your site and your audience, and then adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.
Kamy Anderson is an ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of corporate training and education. He is an expert in learning management system & eLearning authoring tools - currently associated with ProProfs Training Maker.