There’s no mistaking SEO’s value, especially if you’re a cash-strapped startup with limited marketing budget. SEO has the power to put your business on the map and to expand your brand’s reach beyond physical barriers.
At the same time, there are tons of misconceptions about SEO—mostly due to the fact that SEO is constantly changing. In this blog, we’ll address the most common misconceptions we hear about the “right” way to do SEO or the importance of certain ranking factors. Keep reading for a list of bad habits to leave behind, as well as best practices to follow this year.
1. Position #1 should be your north star
Let us begin by saying that many business owners become disillusioned by SEO because they have unrealistic or unhealthy expectations for it. While you should be striving for first-page status on strategic keywords, you’ll want to avoid putting undue weight on snagging the number one position for the one or two keywords that you have in mind.
“Position one” can quickly become a vanity metric and isn’t always worth agonizing over, especially if you’re targeting a broad keyword that isn’t likely to yield the conversions that you may be expecting.
Think of it this way: when you compete on Google, you’re not just going toe-to-toe with your direct competitors. You’re playing in the sandbox with bloggers, journalists, scholars, and dozens of other people who are interested in your topic. Likewise, your audience is full of people outside of your target customers. When you pursue position one for broad keywords that bring in lots of traffic, you may be sacrificing the quality of that traffic and the likelihood of converting a sale.
Other considerations: one webpage will often rank for multiple keywords, and a lot more goes into calculating the ROI of SEO than mere SERP status.
2. Keywords with less than 1,000 monthly pageviews are worthless
Founders are sometimes quick to dismiss the value of lower volume keywords (aka, long-tail keywords) when, in actuality, they can yield the best returns.
In general, the broader your keyword, the wider your net. For example, say that you’re selling a CRM platform. While you might be getting lots of top-funnel traffic from a term like “crm system,” which gets over 14,800 searches each month, few visitors may actually convert into customers. Some visitors may just be looking to understand what “CRM” stands for or what a CRM system does, rather than shop for their own platform.
When it comes to keyword research, you’ll want to analyze much more than search volume. Important factors include search intent, audience makeup, relevance, and organic competition.
3. SEO is all about content creation
This myth is exacerbated by the plethora of articles, YouTube videos, and agencies that solely focus on content creation. While content is at the heart of SEO, technical and off-page SEO are also important components of any strategy.
Neither of these get the attention they deserve, partially because they’re more obscure and often harder to master. Technical SEO involves the infrastructure of your site; this is when you’ll look under the hood of your website and make sure that page speed, schema, URL structure, and more are up to par with Google’s standards.
Meanwhile, off-page SEO involves the backlinks and social signals from outside of your site that reflect your brand’s authority. Due to Google’s strict rules regarding appropriate off-site behaviors, some people are quick to de-prioritize off-page activities. However, the best strategists will make it a point to proactively build backlinks as well as other connections that build up Google’s (and your customer’s) trust in your site.
4. Social media doesn’t affect SEO
Social media has long been a source of hot debate among SEOs. At this point, it’s safe to assume that social media shares and likes don’t directly contribute to your rankings. However, social media is an important vehicle for distributing your content and bringing more traffic or backlinks to your page—factors that Google does care about.
In the same vein, you never want to be a sitting duck, waiting for Google to one day take notice of you and reward you with first-page status. Instead, be proactive. Regularly share your content with people in your network, and aim to create content that people have a genuine interest in.
Through a combination of solid content and strong distribution channels, you can much more easily build momentum in your organic rankings.
Worth noting: social profiles—like Twitter or LinkedIn profiles—rank on SERPs and are often the top results for Google searches of brand names. You’ll therefore want to make sure your profiles are up-to-date and engaging in case visitors stumble upon them.
5. Only blogs with 2,500+ words will rank
SEOs and marketers alike like to flaunt a magic post length. This stems from the idea that longer posts will typically rank higher because length is an indication of content relevance, depth, and quality (which Google does care about).
However, it’s misleading to say that you need to hit a particular word count every single time you post a new article. In fact, if you fire up ContentEdge’s Content Insights report, you’ll find that the top-ranking posts vary in average length depending on your keyword.
While a post around “how to train a dog” may warrant an article that’s around 1,700 words, an article for a “shirley temple recipe” may only need to be around 1,000 words.
6. You need to blog every single day
Similar to the above, there’s no blanket number for how often you should be posting in order to win Google’s favor. However, some teams falsely believe that Google’s focus on content freshness means creating new content…Every. Single. Day.
These teams wind up exhausting themselves and chasing an output target, rather than a goal adjusted for content quality and other important levers (like content distribution and conversion rate) of organic marketing.
Requirements around content freshness also vary by search term and search intent. For example, articles targeting terms like the “president of the United States” require much more frequent updates than ones targeting something like “what is SEO,” which doesn’t become outdated as quickly.
7. Domain age matters to ranking
As a startup founder, it’s easy to become discouraged and assume that your site doesn’t stand a chance at ranking against older, incumbent sites.
You’ll be happy to know that Google’s John Mueller has gone on the record to say that “domain age helps nothing.”
No, domain age helps nothing.
— 🐄 John 🐄 (@JohnMu) July 5, 2019
Rather, it can appear this way because older sites have had time to build out their content, gain authority, and earn backlinks. While you’ll realistically need several months (at least) from the time that you created a domain to establish a presence online, domain age alone doesn’t impede on your ability to rank.
8. Meta tags don’t matter
This rumor isn’t necessarily helped by the fact that Google has been spotted overwriting title tags and meta descriptions in recent months.
But certain meta tags undoubtedly play a big role in SEO. While Google retains the rights to replace your custom tags when necessary, your custom title tags are shown 87% of the time on SERPs (according to Google) and provide crawlers with additional context about the purpose of your page.
Not to mention, in a recent SEO split test that we performed with Coderwall—a collaborative learning platform for software developers—Coderwall’s site traffic grew 59% from a small tweak to the title tag.
9. The more backlinks, the better
It’s a well-known fact that the highest ranking pages and the sites with high domain authority have backlinks from external sites.
As important as backlinks are, it’s not enough to have a high number of them. The quality of your backlinks matter. In fact, there’s such things as toxic backlinks that can hurt your chances of ranking.
Make sure that if you’re building your backlink profile, you target sites that are trustworthy and relevant to your brand. Don’t simply pursue backlinks from anywhere; it’s better to have a handful of high-quality backlinks than hundreds of low-quality ones.
In addition to this, make sure that your content is worthy of being linked to. It’s counterintuitive to have dozens of backlinks funneling traffic to your page if visitors aren’t compelled to stick around or if your site is hard to navigate.
10. If I reach page one, my job is done
False. Just because you’re ranking high for a keyword one day doesn’t mean you’ll have it the next. You could easily lose your first-page rankings if a competitor emerges with a more up-to-date, in-depth article or if your content starts to deteriorate in relevancy.
That’s why it’s critical to audit and refresh your content regularly. Revisit your blogs that are over a year old and update ones that are still strategic for your business. Keep an eye out for changes in your rankings or any large algorithm updates, too.
Algorithm updates could strike at any time, and while not all changes are worth alarm, you’ll want to know if/when an algorithm results in a permanent change of your rankings.
Read Also: How to Perform an Ecommerce SEO Site Audit
Need a hand with your SEO?
Guard yourself from SEO myths and pitfalls with two of the best mechanisms of defense: A/B testing and SEO expertise. RankScience’s team of SEO strategists can help you to build a strong playbook. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.