Understanding SEO: Part Four - Myths and Misconceptions
We’ve spent the better part of a five-part blog series discussing the assorted aspects of your search engine optimization. Here, in part four, we explore some of the myths surrounding SEO practices so you can avoid being tripped up by them as you leverage search engine optimization as a part of your marketing strategy.
False SEO Concerns
There are also many considerations that just don’t currently matter all that much when it comes to your SEO. This is due to a focus on value above all when SEO rankings are calculated. For example:
The age of your website -- When it comes down to it, Google pays much more attention to the experience that a website delivers than it does how old that website is. Of course, an established website with high quality content might outrank a one-year-old one which offers a similar user experience because it delivers four more years’ worth of ‘authority.’ However, a one-year-old, high-quality website could also outrank a stagnant five-year-old website, by providing an overall better user experience.
Technology is constantly evolving and so are a user’s expectations; a modern site may be more nimble and able to better take advantage of modern SEO techniques, as they don’t have to contend with the burden of supporting older content and outdated SEO and design practices.
The number of social media shares a web page has -- Again, Google prioritizes demonstrated value. While social media shares suggest that your website has value to your audience, Google doesn’t weigh them has much as how users interact with your site. It is the activity that your audience takes in response to your website, after they like or share your post, that Google really cares about and will separate you from your competition.
Avoid those services that allow you to pay for likes, as they will provide no benefit. In fact, using these services could potentially ding your SEO score or get you in trouble with the social network. Google doesn’t appreciate it when websites try to mislead it, or don’t offer the value that is implied. Other shady activities that could be detrimental to your SEO ranking include buying backlinks or blogs of poor quality. Google looks for authority. Tossing content onto your site for the sake of content doesn’t help. Syndicated content services don’t hurt, as long as the content is good, but we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Keywords -- Over 10 years ago, the concept of keywords was almost half of your SEO strategy. Questions like “am I using the right keywords,” or “what keywords are we focusing on here,” were valid. Today, the keyword is hardly a thing. Keywords stem from the idea that you needed to tell the search engines specifically what they should rank you for - a concept that would make SEO pointless. If I just tell Google I want to rank for “computer support in Oneonta” and they value it, why wouldn’t I also tell Google to rank me for my competitors’ company names?
Many website builders and content management systems have a keywords meta tag, where you plug in your keywords for each page. In 2009, Google officially announced that they don’t look at the keywords meta tag at all. Yahoo didn’t look at it either, and after a while, Bing explained that they only look at it to see if you are being spammy. Either way, it’s not a ranking factor on the top three search engines.
Some content management systems, including WordPress, don’t even offer a meta keywords field anymore. It requires a third-party plugin just to get it back. Some web designers who do SEO are nixing it altogether.
Our stance is this - we generate keywords for the meta keywords as a best practice, but we don’t rely on it for ranking. Keywords are there, and they apply to the content, but we’re not depending on this field to hold up your rank. There may still be older search engines that use the meta keyword, but unless trends drastically change, we’ll never look at it as a critical tool when working on SEO.
The other concept of the keyword involves your content. For this definition, a keyword is just a word or phrase that you enter into your content. If you wanted to rank for “computer support,” the idea was you’d include “computer support” in your content a few times, including the page title, header, and dotted throughout the content for good measure. You’d also stuff it in your meta description, keywords meta tag, alt tags, and URL. While to a certain degree, you should do this - if your page is about computer support, you certainly wouldn’t put non-related terms in your URL. However, the idea that stuffing the terms you want to get ranked for to show up in your content inorganically just doesn’t help anymore. If a piece of content is well-written, makes sense to your audience, has value, and is properly shared and promoted, the search engines will follow. If a piece of content reads funny because it’s stuffed with different variations of your targeted keywords, or the content is an afterthought compared to all the other optimizations mentioned above, then it might not do as well. Other than making sure you are following the best practices, there isn’t anything you can do to trick Google or the other search engines, especially when all Google wants is for you to build content that your audience finds valuable.
Back in 2011, Google shook things up with their Google Panda update, and one major topic was duplicate content. There is a lot of confusion about what Google means by duplicate content, and for good reason; nobody wants to get penalized by Google.
Google’s goal was simple - discredit sites that steal content with the goal of generating clicks, passing authority, or earning ad revenue. Since this happened, a lot of weird speculations became common knowledge. One example of this is that a website’s copy should have a certain percentage of original content. The idea was that you could use content that was elsewhere on the web as long as you changed 20% (or 15%, or 5%, or some other percentage, depending on the source of this rumor). This just isn’t the case. There is no magic number or percentage that Google weighs your content against, or at least there is zero evidence of one, and Google has never admitted to it.
Google understands that there are legitimate reasons to have duplicate content. They understand there are businesses that are franchised out and might have multiple websites in multiple locations, or that businesses might have vendor relationships where content is pulled from the vendor. Google isn’t looking to penalize these sites. They are looking to stop people from cheating the system.
However, taking syndicated content like our MSP Website content or Ultimate MSP Blog service, and adding your insight to it, can add value to your audience. If you primarily work with medical practices and take a blog we wrote about data security, and added a paragraph or two about how this applies to hospitals, then you’ve made a piece that resonates even better with your target audience. This should help keep users on the page longer, and thus increase the value of the content. Remember, there’s no magic number - you can completely rewrite the content or just add your own insight, the difference is whether or not you’ve added value.
Understanding how search engine optimization works (and how it doesn’t) will allow you to develop a web presence that draws more attention, gets your website ranked higher and offers more opportunities to convert your visitors into customers. Check back for the fifth and final part of this series, where we’ll discuss best practices to leverage in your SEO approach, and reach out to us for more assistance.