In a web landscape that is increasing becoming more diverse and difficult to master, it's easy to fall for false claims about how to get your website to the #1 position on the search results page. As more and more SEO "experts" try to get your wallet, you may have heard claims such as...
Myth #1: The more keywords the better.
Many SEO marketers will tell you that your search results ranking is a direct result of how many keywords you can stuff into a webpage. In the distant internet past (10 years ago), this may have been true. But as the web evolved, so did search engine algorithms. As a result, "Keyword stuffing" is no longer a beneficial approach to SEO.
In fact, Google states that they now penalize sites that abuse keywords. They give the following examples of keyword abuse:
- "Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value."
- "Blocks of text that list cities and states that a webpage is trying to rank for."
- "Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural."
While at a basic level, using the above methods will create a negative user experience, at its worst, it will harm your site's rankings.
Instead of stuff keywords into your pages, Google recommends that you...
Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.
Rather than trying to trick web crawlers into ranking you highly, divert that energy into creating content that naturally draws-in users. The Google Search Central Youtube channel provides great insight for how to avoid "thin content" and provide real value to visitors.
Myth #2: A social media following is essential to SEO
Throughout the 2010s, a large segment of SEO bloggers started to spread the rumor that social media presence directly correlated with search rankings. In short, the rumor claimed that Google and other search engines were using "authorship" of social media pages and links to rank web pages higher. Thus, the number of your followers or number of likes could determine your website's SEO.
Though Google hinted that this might be a factor, they later withdrew that statement. Regardless, the rumor has continued to gain traction, leading many to invest countless hours into their social media accounts without any evidence of direct correlation.
Even without direct correlation, increasing social media presence is still a key SEO strategy. Though follower count doesn't guarantee #1 search results position, your social media accounts can funnel traffic to your website via backlinks (external links to your site) and internal links (back to your social media accounts).
If you've never considered social media as a key SEO strategy, here are some small first steps you can try:
- Post something simple once a week. It doesn't have to be fancy! Start small and have little victories first.
- Follow and like 3 new accounts and posts within your industry each week. Not only will this start to create your social network, but it will also help to inspire you with new ideas for future posts.
- Add links to your main site in your social media accounts (e.g. within your Instagram bio and Facebook page). If you don't do this, users won't know where to turn for more of your great content!
- Embed your social media feeds into your website. Though not as valuable as linking to your website, search engines still use internal links to determine content rankings.
Myth #3: Content is all that matters
We're all about good content here. But while content may be the lure that draws users to your website, user experience, page performance, and metadata are still essential tools for maximizing traffic and avoiding SEO penalties.
Search engines will always be expecting some basic requirements to make sure your website is beneficial to visit. Google refers to these as Core Web Vitals, and (nerd alert!) they can get rather jargon-y pretty fast. Let's break down a few of them into layman's terms:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) - How long does it take until the most important content on your website has loaded? While Google recommends a maximum loading time of a generous 2.5 seconds, most users nowadays will expect your site to load in less than half a second.
- First Input Delay (FID) - How quickly does your website react when user's interact with it? Do buttons take several seconds to respond when clicked? Google suggests that less than 100ms of response time (1/10 of a second) is ideal.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) - How often does the layout of your website change? Does content shift around dramatically and frequently? Do buttons move after they've been clicked? While we won't go into detail as to how Google calculates this numerical value, let's just say you want to keep it as low as possible.
For all these metrics and more, we recommend using this tool from the Google team to quickly diagnose and improve your site's performance. If you've got these down pat, check out this video for additional tips!
Regardless of your industry or technical background, SEO doesn't have to feel like a mystery. Yes, there are plenty of "SEO specialists" out there that will make outrageous claims to get your wallet, but with a little self-education you can quickly see through their smoke and mirrors and make smart SEO decisions for yourself. In the end, as long as you write more, and cheat less you'll be well on your way to better rankings and increased site traffic!