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 11: My homepage needs a lot of content.
Have you ever come across a homepage littered with copy? Or, on the opposite spectrum, a homepage with barely any content at all? Think of your homepage 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 (especially if your name is Dropbox).
For most marketers, however, there is a need for a bit more content and context than that. Your homepage content should be long enough to clarify who you are, what you do, where you’re located (if you’re local), your value proposition, and what visitors should do next. These visitors should leave satisfied, not overwhelmed or underwhelmed — and certainly not confused.
MYTH 12: The more pages I have, the better.
Logically, you would think that the larger the footprint of your website, the better you would rank — but it’s simply not true.
First, not everything you publish gets indexed (and rightfully so). Second, sometimes, pages get indexed, but don’t remain in the index. And third, just because you have pages indexed doesn’t mean 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 13: Local SEO doesn’t matter anymore.
This myth couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re a local business, optimizing for local search won’t only help you get found, but it will help you get found by people who are nearby and more likely to buy from you.
Looking forward, Google will continue to take steps to bubble the best local content to the surface of search results. Need some proof? In July of 2014, Google took a major step in this direction with the release of its new Pigeon algorithm. The algorithm treats local search rankings more like traditional search rankings, taking hundreds of ranking signals into account. Pigeon also improved the way Google evaluates distance when determining rankings.
The bottom line: local SEO matters, probably more so now than ever before.
MYTH 14: 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 your SEO 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 can see if it’s the same person as your primary domain. (Note: If you are reading this and thinking, “Well, then I’ll just change my registration information,” you are clearly thinking like a spammer. Don’t be that person!)
There is not much value in spreading your SEO thin, which is what you do by setting up domain after domain and optimizing each rather than putting all of that love into your primary domain. Why not just add the content to your primary domain or build a tool as an add-on to your website?
MYTH 15: Google will never know if I have bad sites linking to me.
Yes, they will!
Just like Santa Claus knows if you’ve been good or bad. Just like the Tooth Fairy knows when you’ve lost a tooth. Just like your parents can sense when you’ve missed your curfew.
The point is Google knows (everything). Don’t try to fool them — especially post-Panda, -Penguin, and -Hummingbird, or you will be sent to your room (well, in this case, penalized).
MYTH 16: 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 — stay there.
To keep visitors on your site, ensure you’re publishing content that’s personalized and relevant. You should also make sure your website is intuitive and easy to browse (in other words, accessible by both crawlers and users).
Also, don’t make visitors look for what they need. Provide clear calls-to-action, and you’ll convert those visitors into contacts, leads, and — eventually — customers.
“Search experience optimization” is what SEO should really stand for.
MYTH 17: SEO is not a usability issue.
Au contraire, inbound marketing and SEO are inexorably linked. If you think of the former as a giant wheel, you can think of the latter as a spoke on that wheel.
Inbound is a holistic philosophy that focuses on efficiently turning strangers into people who want to — and should — do business with you. This encompasses a wide array of tactics and best practices, including content creation, conversion optimization, and leveraging social channels, among other facets.
SEO, in comparison, is a specific marketing tactic that focuses on improving a business’s visibility in — and traffic from — search engine results. Clearly, SEO can help you immensely with your inbound marketing. When we think about the four stages of the inbound methodology — Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight — SEO is especially relevant when it comes to that first stage: attracting the right people to your site.
Now that you know what the common SEO myths are, what are you doing that isn’t moving the needle? Or worse, what are you doing that’s making your SEO efforts worse? Understanding these SEO truths will make you both more effective and more efficient with your organic search strategy.
If you can take one thing away from this guide, it’s this: More than anything else, SEO is about the overall experience for a searcher, and that experience starts the moment they enter a search query. The better their experience with you — from your SERP listing, to the quality and relevancy of the content on your site, to the ease with which they can move through your site — the better your SEO will be, too.