Five common misconceptions about SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of ensuring a website can be found by search engines (like Google). While it’s generally recognized as an important factor to consider when building a website, SEO is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of marketing.

One reason for the confusion is that SEO is constantly evolving. Google, which is responsible for 90% of web searches, regularly refines its search algorithm (the complex system it uses to evaluate and serve up web pages).[1] As a result, some of the early strategies that could be used to help improve SEO no longer apply, and new ones have taken their place.

With the rise of digital marketing, understanding which SEO strategies matter (and which don’t) is essential in ensuring your website can be found in today’s competitive landscape.

Here are five common misconceptions about SEO, and the related truths you need to know.

1. SEO is a technical exercise

While there are technical aspects of a website’s structure that can help search engines crawl and index web pages more effectively, SEO has more to do with content than technology. Google wants to serve up useful, relevant content, so the best thing you can do to improve your website’s search ranking is to invest in high-quality, useful content.[2] 

2. It’s all about keywords

Integrating relevant keywords into web page content is essential for Google to be able to correctly recognize and categorize a specific web page. This includes ensuring they are included in the meta title that displays in browser tabs and search results, as well as the meta description that summarizes a page’s content in search results. While it used to be possible to boost a web page’s ranking by stuffing it full of a lot of keywords, Google has evolved to be able to recognize (and even potentially penalize) a website that includes keywords in an artificial manner. In October of 2019, Google released the “BERT” update, which uses natural language processing to understand and rank pages.[3] Using natural language has, therefore, become more important than ever before for SEO.

3. The more links you include the better

When it comes to SEO, it isn’t the links you insert but rather the inbound links back to your site from other websites that do the most to help boost your website’s ranking. Inserting links to other websites can be helpful in indicating to search engines that your content is useful and well researched. But Google tends to trust those websites that it sees reputable, high-traffic websites trust (meaning link back to). Content activation strategies that promote inbound links from trusted partner sites can be an effective way to improve SEO results

4. Social media has replaced SEO

Posting content on social media does not directly boost SEO, as Google does not count social links the same way it does inbound links from other trusted sites.[4] It can, however, indirectly impact SEO by increasing distribution and brand recognition. Rather than thinking of social media as a replacement for SEO, the two should be thought of as essential partners that work hand in hand.

5. SEO is a one-time exercise

SEO is an ongoing process. You can’t set it and forget it. Not only do you need to stay on top of Google’s ever-changing landscape, but you need to ensure your web content remains up to date. Users’ needs are constantly changing. Old content needs to be refreshed. New content needs to be developed. The key is to track site metrics to see how well your content is performing so you can gradually refine and improve your content strategy. 

With Google reported to have over 200 ranking factors,[5] staying on top of SEO may seem like a daunting task. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that useful, well-written, authoritative content trumps all. Without quality content, your site is unlikely to rank highly on Google.

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