As 2016 comes to an end, those of us who are doing our best to navigate the Google-driven world have stumbled across several SEO myths that we are going to do our best to debunk. The online marketing industry is a mover and a shaker, and with the constant ebb and flow we must always be on our toes. With phrases like “SEO is dead” being thrown around in an attempt to gain as many clicks as possible, we thought it was time to shed some light on a few online marketing myths and misunderstandings
“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition, and myth frame our response.” -Arthur M. Schlesinger
Let’s take a closer look at 4 SEO myths that are in desperate need of busting:
1- Should you build links for the sake of SEO?
Google wants nothing to do with link building for SEO purposes. Search engine’s have a distaste for “unnatural” links. Your link profile should expand naturally over time, due to the incredible content on your site. These things are all true observably true, so a professional SEO company that actively builds links can’t really help.
Although Google may say that links are becoming less effective in the land of online marketing, they still remain the strongest ranking signal for any given site. For example, sites are seeing a mass amount of traffic from affiliate-footer links.
Whether Google admits it or not, link building should still be an extremely important part of your company's SEO strategy. You will surely fall behind your competitors without it. However, what we can also say is observably true is that the value is only with high-quality links from reputable sources, whose knowledge is respected within your industry.
How do you know if these are good links or not? Because they’re just as likely to send real traffic to your site as they are “SEO juice.” And the right SEO company can help you get these types of links.
2- Clicks do not affect your rankings
Google has been extremely inconsistent about their stance on whether or not SERP click-through rates have an impact on a website's rankings. This leaves the online marketing industry thinking that click data is muddled and spammy.
There are patents that include methods of getting rid of the “muddy water,” which Google sees as a reason for not using clicks for rankings. But, just because there are patents, doesn’t mean a system is in place and currently being used.
Rand Fishkin and others at Moz have done a multitude of tests that show evidence that clicks actually DO have an impact on rankings. Using his Twitter followers, he asked them to run a Google search for a specific term. Each one clicked on the first result then bounced back quickly, then they clicked on a different result and stayed on the page for a much longer amount of time. After only one hour, the second result moved to the number one spot.
However, the increase in rankings was temporary, which makes click-through rates effective in real time, but not necessarily effective long term. Regardless, optimizing your Google snippets for clicks should be an important part of your SEO strategy.
3- Keywords Schmeewords
In 2013 Google announced its Hummingbird update, which seemed to replace the value of keywords with concepts and topics. Hummingbird wasn’t working alone, RankBrain and the Knowledge Graph also seemed geared towards understanding “human-like” queries.
When announcing the Knowledge Graph, Google’s Amit Singhal said:
“Thanks to the Knowledge Graph, your results are more relevant because we understand these entities, and nuances in their meaning, the way you do.”
There are some marketers who have suggested that keywords should be a forgotten part of SEO strategy altogether. So, using keywords is completely obsolete, right?
Wrong, well… sort of. Although Hummingbird most certainly turned Google into a more understanding critter that considers the actual context or the phrase being searched, it doesn’t make keywords any less effective.
For example, say you have a site about baby products. Perhaps it sells clothes, cribs, or just offers advice to anyone looking for baby care tips. Let's say you write an article with quality content about the prams you sell.
Because you are an all-things-baby expert you know what a “pram” is, but a less baby-stuff-savvy person would call it a stroller. There’s a good chance that Google knows that the two words are related, but what if someone uses a very specific phrase that only works with one of those terms? You could be missing some opportunity if you haven’t completely delved into the commonly used long-tail keywords. Keyword research and use is still a very important part of any SEO strategy.
4- There is No SEO Value in Social Signals
Likes, Tweets, Pins, and other social signals have always been controversial factors for SEO strategies. Google’s Matt Cutts mentions in one of his videos from 2014:
“To the best of my knowledge, we don’t currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.”
This is a much different from his 2010 statement telling the marketing world that engagement metrics from social media are used in the ranking algorithms.
To be fair, things change and these “facts” may have been true at the time. But lately, Google has not been denying that social signals have an impact on rankings. Google’s Andrey Lipattsev stated:
“You generated exactly the sort of signals we are looking out for: mentions, links, tweets, and social mentions - which are basically more links to the page.”
Seems like a pretty straightforward way of saying that Google does, in fact, use social signals for rankings. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+... they do make an impact and absolutely should be a part of any SEO strategy.
What You Really Need to Know about SEO
One thing that is most definitely not a myth is that technology is imperfect, including the
almighty Google. Algorithms will inevitably change and Google will continue to shift how they value content and rank pages. Being successful in the online marketing world means that you are always willing to learn and ride the waves that continue to crash upon the beaches of SEO.