I read this article by Vanessa Fox today and it provides some nice reminders on SEO. We all tend to get hung up on these details and sometimes forget the big picture. Enjoy!
You know it’s important for your business’s website to show up in a search engine’s results, since that’s where your customers are looking for what you have to offer. But how do you make that happen? Well, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential for getting your business noticed by the right people on the Web.
Whether you take on improving your SEO yourself or hire an agency, it’s easy to get caught up in misinformation. Here are some of the biggest SEO myths out there:
Myth 1: SEO is spam and is ruining the Internet
Because some people think SEO is about “tricking” search engines and readers, many associate it with unsolicited e-mail for erectile dysfunction medicine, blog commenters who proclaim “Great blog!” and then link to their make-money-now.info site, or those annoying websites that scrape content from other sites and then fill the pages with ads. Even Fox News called SEO a job that would “leave you alone and friendless.”
In my book, “Marketing in the Age of Google,” I lament that SEO is often associated with BuyCheapViagraWhileYouPlayPokerOnlineandFileaMesotheliomaClassActionLawsuit.info rather than customer engagement, usability, product strategy and sales.
In reality, SEO is understanding how to operate your business in an online environment. Think of search as a customer acquisition component.
Myth 2: SEO is all about PageRank
PageRank was one of the early ways Google calculated what was valuable and important on the Web. (Bing has a different way of calculating link value, called static rank.) At a high level, links from one site to another are like votes that all search engines can use to learn what sites are the most popular and useful.
The Google Toolbar includes a PageRank number (1-10). This is a rough approximation of the actual number used internally to rank websites, but it’s not the actual number used and isn’t granular enough to provide meaningful data.
In addition, the toolbar version is updated only every few months (the number used internally is updated continually). And as PageRank is only one of hundreds of signals, a site with a low PageRank will outrank a site with a high PageRank any time the content is more relevant for a particular search query.
Many site owners obsess over this number, rejoicing when it goes up and despairing when it goes down. It’s tempting to use a single number to monitor your SEO efforts, but a much better gauge is how much traffic your website receives over time from searches relevant to your business.
Myth 3: You must focus on keyword density
I came across an SEO report the other day that scored pages based on “keyword density.” The idea here is that if 12 percent of the text on a page is the word “duck,” it’s more likely to rank well for duck-related searches than if the word “duck” is only mentioned once. This is where “keyword stuffing” comes from, which is pages that repeat the same word over and over in every possible combination.
The reality is that keyword density doesn’t really matter. Search engines do a lot of work to figure out what a page is about versus just noticing a word that is mentioned in passing. They look at such things as how other sites describe the page when linking to it and how the page is titled. It’s the same stuff readers use to figure out what a page is about. Use words that your readers would use.
Myth 4: Since links are important, trading links helps you rank better
You’ve probably seen the e-mails. People write to you and say they’ve added a link to your site from theirs — and won’t you provide a link back? It will help boost both sites in search engines! Only, it won’t. In fact, it could get your site banned. Search engines value links that are natural, not those that are intended to manipulate their algorithms. Build a site that people want to link to, make people aware of it, and let the links come naturally.
Myth 5: Ranking No. 1 is the goal of SEO
Focusing on ranking No. 1 can cause you to lose sight of why you’re trying to rank in the first place. You don’t want to miss the bigger picture:
- Many site owners make the mistake of tracking rankings for what they think people are searching for, without doing the research to make sure those are really the words people are using. For example, are your customers searching “real estate” or “buying a house”? This will affect your SEO strategy.
- What does your search result look like? Searchers evaluate results in clusters of three or four, not merely the first listing. If another listing in the cluster has a more compelling title and description, yours might be skipped over.
- How do searchers behave once they reach your site? Do they abandon it right away or do they stay on the site and buy things?
Monitor your Web analytics to find out what queries bring searchers to your site, if those searches are boosting your Web traffic, and what searchers do after they reach your site. If your search-to-sale conversion rates are going up, then you’re doing things right.
This article was posted by Sarah Schwitters, Chief Marketing Officer at lodestar marketing group. If you need help with your search engine marketing, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.