SEO: Separating Search Engine Optimization Fact from Fiction
Understatement of the decade: SEO has changed a lot in the past few years.
Google changes their algorithm (and SEO/ranking rules) several times a year. People have moved toward mobile and voice search. Mobile device use for email, social media, streaming video, shopping, etc. has increased. The list of changes could go on.
It’s difficult for marketers to stay on top of so many changes – learning about them, adjusting their strategies, tracking and measuring the results, etc.
Keeping reading as we debunk some of the SEO myths floating around. (Except the one that SEO is dead. We address that crazy-wrong myth here.)
Having an https encrypted site isn’t necessary
The extra “s” in an “https://” URL means a visitor’s connection to that website is encrypted so hackers can’t steal their data – so you might think you don’t need it if you don’t collect stuff like credit card information.
But that’s not true. As of August 2014, Google uses https in their ranking algorithms and has publicly stated that among two otherwise equal websites, the secure site will rank higher.
Meta descriptions have a significant effect on search rankings
Meta descriptions concisely explain a web page’s contents and are often used as preview snippets … but Google’s algorithm doesn’t take meta descriptions into account for search rankings.
Don’t give up on them, though, because they still affect click-through rates – a well-written meta description convinces searchers your page is worth visiting.
Pop-ups will always hurt search rankings
Pop-ups work … but so many people misuse them that Google started penalizing websites with “intrusive” pop-ups in January 2017. Google defines “intrusive pop-ups” as those that impede a site visitor’s ability to access page content when they search on mobile. So pop-ups visitors must dismiss before accessing the main content are a no-no, but banners and slide-ins that don’t disrupt the mobile user experience are acceptable.
Keywords must be an exact match
DO NOT repeat keywords verbatim throughout a piece of content – it makes your writing sound stilted, awkward, and repetitive. Instead, make keywords (or key phrases) fit so naturally into your content that your readers aren’t even sure what they are. (This works because of Google’s increasing mastery of semantic search, which allows the search engine to understand – in their words – “real-world entities and their relationships to one another.”)
Good user experience is a bonus, not a requirement
When Google sends you to a website, they want you to have a good experience on that page – they want to delight their customers, too – so you continue to use Google as your search engine. (They didn’t create the website, but they’re endorsing it.) Improve your website’s user experience by reducing page load time, ensuring easy-to-use navigation, balancing text, images, and white space, and creating quality content visitors find useful.
Images don’t require optimization
Search engines can’t see images, so you need alt text and relevant file names to ensure search engines can “read” the image. Google can index BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP, and SVG files, so only use those file types, and name them something indicative of the image but also with your keywords in mind.
Having a better understanding of what is and isn’t true about search engine optimization is the first step in improving your strategy. It’s a challenge, yes, but also a necessity. Contact us if you’d like help!