Home >Blog >Google Myth-Busting: False Flag Search Factors
Your next SERP strategy has several new avenues of opportunity. At the same time, some of today's most popular digital marketing strategies deserve a revisit.

Google Myth-Busting: False Flag Search Factors

David Bosley

Digital marketing can be fairly obscure, sometimes. Digital marketers, themselves, frequently double-down on strategies backed by any discernable evidence as a result—mistaking their own successful initiatives as further proof of technically unverified ‘cornerstone approaches’ throughout the industry. Because the world of consumers is always changing—and at seemingly faster paces, year to year—it’s important to double-check the tools we’ve relied on for half a decade.

Even long-term strategies, like boosting page dwell times, for example, can get rusty. More important, however, is the fact that this particular tool—and others like it—might’ve had an unconditional spot in your top-three toolkit. The fact of the matter is, many of us rely on tools we’ve only heard is absolute—rather than knowing they are: A marketer who keeps social media comments, likes and clickthrough rates prioritized certainly isn’t wrong for doing so. In fact, doing otherwise is often unadvisable.

And yet: Google has explicitly said it doesn’t factor in social media Likes when ranking businesses. Sure—no strategy is an assured hit, across the board—but this is surprising! Among Google’s most-weighted ranking factors are the longevity of top-level domains, HTML loading speeds, and image optimization. You know the type—those highly visible, primary avenues of consumer engagement. Even still: Social media Likes aren’t part of the equation, despite their astounding potential as singular, identifiable factors capable of launching, and perpetuating, entire strategies.

And Google doesn’t consider bounce rates, either.

Getting Down to Business: Google SERP Misconceptions

Google constantly updates its search algorithms, but some commonly considered factors are unlikely to ever be implemented.

When it comes to online brand promotion, most fact-versus-fiction situations arise within the realm of SERPs. Understandable, at first glance, as Google is notoriously tight-lipped about its various quality measurement algorithms. What’s tough to catch, though, are the discernable ‘no’ answers to one of the most-asked questions by digital marketers: “Does Google rank ‘xyz’ as a website-ranking factor?”

The reason these answers aren’t readily identified is that Google has a tendency of clarifying the importance of such factors at large—rather than simply saying, “Nope—it’s not in scope.” This isn’t necessarily in defense of perceived goodwill, either, as the information to be gleaned in these instances can be really valuable.

We doubt you’ll experience a total campaign crash because of your unwavering beliefs about landing page dwell times, of course. The real value in spotting Google’s assertions is just that: Value. There’s quite a bit of it, too, as Google’s decision-makers also seemingly have our best intentions in mind—helping the business world at large dispel even the most notorious misconceptions. Indeed, a digital world that puts sincere marketing first is simply better for everyone. It’s entirely possible to make the user’s experience consistently better, too, especially for top-level impactors like Google, itself.

For example, Google has stated that domain names featuring keywords don’t hold more algorithmic weight than others. In and of itself, this may not seem like valuable advice: Using an industry-relevant term as part of a domain name, for most of us, has very little cost. And, well, most of us will probably keep doing it. Why not, right? It probably holds weight, in one way or another—right?

This is where the true value is hidden. Or, rather, where the true value tends to slip right by us.

It’s Not About Myths—But Alternatives

A lot of digital marketers have left the proverbial treasure at the door in these events—as Google’s following explanations often summon news that isn’t new. After stating that domain-name keywords aren’t factored in, Google’s John Mueller stated that marketers should focus on building sites they can ‘continue to use for the long run.”

It sounds a little ‘blah,’ off the bat—and a little like generalist’s advice, as opposed to tangible strategic information. He went on to explain, however, just how valuable long-lasting, top-level domain names actually are. The takeaway—or one, at least—is that the best keywords are simply valuable because they explain something well. This correlates with a domain that’s made a name for itself, so to speak, but isn’t causal for the domain’s growth in any substantial way.

The tangible value of building a long-lasting top-level domain name presence, then, becomes a lot easier to see. And it becomes much easier to prioritize in one’s next strategy, changing entire inbound approaches to the way potential and existing consumers alike identify our brands.

The Biggest Google Misconceptions

Bounce rates, clickthrough, and dwell time are important considerations of any strategy, but Google’s insights in these matters should always be considered.

Let’s do some more Google myth-busting, as the more prominent myths have similarly important truths to explore. Once more, the Google search engine’s inner workings tend to be shrouded in myths the most. Still, some of today’s expanding myths—even if successfully adhered to—even dive into social media, cross-channel marketing, and even up to the digital checkout line. Let’s take a closer look.

Misconception One: Links Drive Reviews

Whenever a brand begins a review-focused journey within the land of online marketing, backlinks and affiliate posts tend to be considered, first. After all, link-power is really important—and there’s only so much space to use them within a website’s pages responsibly.

Ever in-tune with its growing concern for artificially supplied resource value online, Google has clarified that the quality of affiliate, shopper and B2B reviews greatly outweighs the value of their links. This isn’t necessarily surprising—but the company’s staunch stance on it may be, for some. Where artificial search results, content and brand representation are considered, Google’s recent public statements have been comforting:

Back in January, Google took note of its newest search redesign’s inherent faults: Its seamless search results look blurred the lines between paid advertisements and organic content too much. Despite advertisers achieving a significant rise in clicks, the slippery slope presented to Internet-goers in general outweighed most things money-and-mechanics-based.

In this light, John Mueller’s denial of ratings and reviews impacting Google’s ranking factors is much more believable. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that there’s still a patent for domain-specific sentiment: Google can classify review content based upon perceived intent—or its ‘positivity’ and ‘negativity.’

Misconception Two: Bounce Rates and Dwell Times are Significant Factors

This isn’t so much a misconception as it is a common overinvestment. Google is presumed to take user interaction signals, like CTR, bounce rates and website dwell time, into major consideration when gauging a website’s overall quality. And, as we all know, a website perceived better is a website that ranks better.

There are indeed case studies correlating CTR, bounce rates, and Google rankings. This, too, is a topic that might be best approached with a fine-toothed comb. Google has stated, explicitly so, that these factors are not considered in Google’s algorithms. Truth be told, following assertions that search engine results are a lot simpler than many people think, it stands to reason that Google really does hold by such purely organic standards.

Misconception Three: Structured Data Markup is a Must

In recent years, structured data markup has been considered to be inherent in any website worthy of reaching Google’s upper search result echelons. Schema.org helps today’s search engines identify content intent and purposes—such as ‘business landing page,’ or ‘product listing.’

The efficient use of structured data, and information in general, is undeniably important. But what does Google have to say on the topic? Undoubtedly, Google has the capacity to log, analyze, and implement anew all things related to structured data markup. But do they?

Yet again, Google says no: John Mueller has stated there isn’t a boost reward for SD usage. He did clarify, though, that it’s rightfully correlated with successful websites—as intuitive design and user experience quality go hand-in-hand. At every turn, making the web-user’s journey easier is always a goal. In terms of upholding such standards, however, Google apparently takes the hands-off approach.

Implementing Intuition: The Takeaway

It’s easy enough to stick to one’s organic approaches to SERP strategies. It’s tough, however, following in Google’s own footsteps. Modern marketers need to be competitive—and they can certainly do so with organic approaches to SERP. Most would agree, though, that keeping a healthy skepticism for today’s user engagement algorithms is important.

As we create, employ, and empower our newest strategies, just know that Google really does have the day-to-day user’s wellbeing in mind. As such, they have each brand’s integrity in mind, too. There were certainly Wild Western marketing days, in the Internet’s past. Any machine-based ranking system needs to become conditioned to user behavior—and even the most advanced technologies are, at the end of the day, still technologies.

As for the misconceptions listed above—most could persist without considering them much. Up until now, at least. These days, fully organic experiences are an openly stated Google priority, rather than a supposed priority. As more digital marketers adopt new approaches to old strategies, adapting time-tested-and-true approaches to meet new situations, the online world of business is bound to get more interesting.