We talk about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) a lot with our clients, and we’re often surprised by the outdated and incorrect views many have about SEO and how it works.
To be fair, SEO has gone through a real shake-up over the last 5 or so years, and if you’re not actively keeping up to date with how it all works, it’s easy for your understanding to become outdated very quickly.
We don’t expect our clients to have a thorough understanding of how it all works, otherwise we’d have nothing to do, and would probably go out of business. However, there are a number of misconceptions that we’ve come across that, if put into practise, could actually have a severe negative impact on your site.
Here are the 5 most common SEO myths and misconceptions that we’ve come across that really need to be debunked.
Myth 1: The more links to your site, the better
Links are an important part of your SEO ranking. Google sees a link from one site to another as a vote of confidence for the website receiving the link. After all, if another site is linking to yours, your site must offer something of value.
So many people make the assumption that the more links your site has, the better it will rank. The more votes of confidence your website has, the higher it will rank.
But that’s not the way it works, and this is a great example of assuming quantity over quality. Google doesn’t just want to see links to your website – it wants to see links that offer value.
Not all websites are created equal, so some links are going to be better than others. For example, if you’re a plumber, and your website gets a link from the website of a large plumbing supplies company, Google is going to recognise that link as being highly valuable. However, if you were to receive a link from the website of a pet food company, or someone who teaches yoga, that link isn’t going to be as valuable, because Google sees it as unlikely that someone visiting a pet food or yoga website is also going to be interested in your local plumbing company.
So when trying to build links to your website, always focus on the links that are going to be valuable… it’s all about quality.
Myth 2: The more people that visit your site, the higher you’ll rank
This is possibly the most common misconception we hear – that if you get lots of traffic to your site, Google will rank your site higher than your competitors.
In reality, Google doesn’t take into account how many visits your site gets when determining where to rank you, simply because that number is too easy to manipulate, and actually says little about the quality of your website.
This is a misunderstanding of cause & effect. What actually happens is that websites that are ranked higher in Google, will get more traffic than those ranked lower. People are more likely to click the top sites, and not scroll down the page. So a higher ranking means more traffic, and not the other way round.
Myth 3: Meta tags are vital for a good ranking.
The meta tags are a chunks of information that your site sends to search engines. The two most common tags are the description tag and the keywords tag.
The description is a short paragraph that outlines what your site is about, and what visitors can expect when they visit your site. Each page can have its own description, and this is generally the content displayed in a Google search below your page title.
The keywords tag is a series of keywords that also sum up what information is contained on your site, or that particular page.
These tags used to have an impact on how your site would rank, until Google discovered that many people were stuffing these with keywords that weren’t valuable, making the results to easy to manipulate. So in 2009 Google announced that they weren’t going to pay any attention to the description and keyword tag for determining how to rank websites.
Google still reads and displays your meta description, because that’s an important bit of information to show to potential visitors. But the keyword tag is now completely ignored.
Myth 4: You need to submit your site to Google
When you search on Google, you’re not actually searching the internet, but Google’s index of the internet. Google has small software programs called spiders that will “crawl” a website, identify links to other sites, and then go explore those too, all the while recording the information that’s on each page, and sending that back to HQ to be stored.
There are huge chunks of the internet that’s not on Google, mainly because it hasn’t been crawled yet by the spiders. This means many people are under the idea that you need to tell Google about your site before it can be ranked or found in Google.
In reality, your site will be found by Google regardless of whether you submit it to the search engine. And even if you do submit the site to Google, that doesn’t guarantee you anything.
Myth 5: Good SEO is far more important than user experience
Google’s goal is to provide the best possible results to its users. Up until recently this was exclusive to SEO. However, as Google has improved its ranking algorithm, it has started taking into account a range of other features too, particularly user experience (UX).
It’s a good idea too – after all, if Google is ranking you well and sending lots of traffic to your site, they want to make sure that visitors are going to have a good experience on your site. They don’t want people to visit, get frustrated and then leave without actually doing anything. That offers no value to the user, to Google, or to you.
So user experience is now essential for maintaining a good ranking – and it should be your priority too. Otherwise what’s the point in ranking well if no one is staying on your site?
One such change Google recently made to their algorithm is taking into account whether a site is mobile friendly. If it’s not, your site is unlikely to rank for someone making a search from their mobile device. Other factors that will give you an understanding of the quality of your site’s UX are page load time, bounce rate, time on page, page views per visit, and how far a person scrolls down the page.