1St Edition Written by: Rebecca Churt, Former SEO Manager, HubSpot.
Over the last decade of SEO, we’ve seen remarkable change in how searchers perform queries and interact with results; in how engines crawl, index, and rank pages; and in how marketers effectively influence the engines to send them traffic. But, in spite of these monumental shifts, a shocking amount of misinformation about the practice of SEO persists.
MYTH 6: Meta descriptions have a huge impact on search rankings.
Meta descriptions are HTML attributes that concisely explain the contents of webpages. You’ve seen them before on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), where they’re commonly used as preview snippets. So, it’d make sense that Google’s algorithm would take these meta descriptions into account when determining search rankings … right? Well, not so much.
Google announced back in 2009 that meta descriptions (and meta keywords) have no bearing on search rankings. That’s not to say, however, that these descriptions aren’t important for SEO. On the contrary: Meta descriptions present a major opportunity to separate yourself from the riff-raff and convince searchers that your page is worth navigating to.
Having a relevant, compelling meta description can be the difference between a searcher who clicks through to your page and one who clicks elsewhere.
MYTH 7: SEO is something I can hand off to IT.
There seems to be a perception that SEO requires some technical expertise, and since it is technical, IT can just do the work. While there is a technical component to SEO, it requires way more than just technical chops, so I’d think long and hard before handing an entire project to IT or a web designer.
Though you may need some of those individuals to assist you during the course of optimizing your website, it’s far from ideal to just give SEO duties to IT and expect best practices to be adhered to.
MYTH 8: Keyword optimization is THE key to SEO.
Until search engines are able to enter our brains and read our thoughts, we’ll always need to use written language in order to make search queries. We need to use keywords to communicate.
That being said, it’s important to realize that Google is no longer trying to match the keywords you type into its search engine to the keywords of a web page. Instead, it’s trying to understand the intent behind the keywords you type so it can match that intent to relevant, high-quality content.
The bottom line: search engines of the future aren’t going to punish folks for underusing keywords or failing to have an expertly crafted, keyword-optimized page title … but they will continue to punish folks for overusing keywords.
MYTH 9: Keywords need to be an exact match.
Keywords do not need to be repeated verbatim throughout a piece of content. In a headline, in particular, you want to use a keyword (or keywords) in a way that makes the most sense to your audience. The goal should be to write a stellar headline (somewhere between 4-9 words) that clearly explains what a piece of content is about.
Nothing is more of a buzzkill than having a headline that’s awkwardly framed around one keyword phrase or, worse, that forcibly repeats a keyword phrase.
This rule applies not only to headlines, but also the content on the page: the goal should be to inform the reader, not to inform the search engines.
MYTH 10: The H1 is the most important on-page element.
Think of the content structure on your webpage as an outline. It’s a tiered approach to presenting information to users and search engines. What title tag your headline is wrapped in has little to no influence on your overall SEO — that title tag (whether it’s an H1, H2, H3, etc.) is only used for styling purposes.
The H1 is part of your CSS (custom style sheet) that a designer puts together to reference what font styling and size will be applied to a particular piece of content. This used to be more important, but search engines are smarter these days, and — unfortunately — people spammed this to death.
So, it really doesn’t matter what header tag you use, as long as you present your most important concepts upfront and closer to the top of the page. Remember, you’re optimizing your page for users first and foremost, which means that you want to tell them ASAP what your page is about through a clear headline.