One of the most effective ways to bring traffic to your website is, and has always been, SEO. If you truly want to grow your blog traffic the sustainable way, you need to be use a strong, effective SEO strategy that will bring results. Unfortunately, we are bombarded every day with SEO myths that are not effective and, at worst, a complete waste of time.
And time is not something we have as professional jugglers attempting to balance writing, editing, image creation, increasing followers, maintaining engagement, keyword research and implementation, networking for backlinks, occasional sleeping. Sometimes that drowning feeling makes you forget how important SEO is, hence why we are here to cut through the noise for you by highlighting the top 13 SEO time wasters circulating over the past year. These are the techniques and practices that we know, based on information Google has given, are false.
SEO Myths to Leave Behind for 2017
It’s perhaps a little disheartening, but still very true that SEO is an ever-evolving beast. What works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. For the same reason, you need to stay on top of what SEO practices are no longer helpful or useful, so you don’t end up wasting time on techniques that won’t gain you an increase in search rankings. You also need to know what practices are outdated in order to avoid possible Google penalties or devaluation of your content in the rankings.
1. Keywords Don’t Matter
There’s been a lot of information floating around that keywords don’t matter for SEO anymore. That’s absolutely untrue. While meta keywords and meta descriptions (in fact, Google often ignoring what you want and chooses its own anyway) don’t hold much weight anymore, keywords within your content still matter a great deal. We’re not talking about keyword stuffing. Adding random keywords multiple times throughout your text can have a negative affect on your SEO efforts, for sure. That’s because Google’s methods for determining the meaning and context of your writing has gotten so much more sophisticated. You don’t need to overstate the obvious by crowding your text with keywords.
Keywords actually have a completely different relevance now. If you want people to read your content, you first have to make sure it is content people are actually searching for. If it’s not, then it doesn’t matter one bit how many times you use the keyword in your post, still no one will be reading it – because there is no demand for what you’ve written. By choosing keywords that have a high search volume first, you know you are writing content that is in demand. In this way, you are using keywords to ensure the content you write matches what the user is searching for.
2. The Ideal Content Length is 2,400 Words
It has been proven in many studies that the most successful posts – the ones that rank at the top of the search engines – are on average between 2,350 and 2,425 words. It may then appear that the ideal length for all content is around 2,400 words. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Content length DOES matter, but according to Google, it’s not based on an ideal word count. What Google says is that the ideal length is based on user satisfaction.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidlines says that “The amount of content necessary for the page to be satisfying depends on the topic and purpose of the page. A high quality page on a broad topic with a lot of available information will have more content than a high quality page on a narrower topic.”
It’s unlikely that you can satisfy the reader with 500 words or less on any topic, but at the same time, 3,500 words may be equally dissatisfying on a narrow topic that could have been kept more succinct.
3. Writing for SEO is Bad
A lot of people will say that you can’t write a good post if you are writing for SEO. But there are two ways that “writing for SEO” can be understood. Unfortunately, SEO has a negative connotation, as much as a positive one. It’s all about how you approach it. If you’re using negative, or black-hat SEO strategies, then yes, it is bad to write for SEO. That includes things like keyword stuffing, spinning content, and gaining spammy links all for the purpose of tricking the search engines into sending you traffic. We don’t do black hat here. And you shouldn’t either.
White hat SEO is a completely legitimate way to ensure that your site gets the traffic it deserves. Writing for SEO is not bad when you use white-hat practices, such as matching your content to user intent, making your content discoverable for search engines by using relevant, well-researched keywords, structuring your content well, gaining solid backlinks and optimizing your site for speed.
4. Do Follow is the Devil
I’ve heard so many times that you should never give a do follow link, because it’s bad for your SEO. So many websites have even automatically set their site to no follow every single link on their site. This is a big fat myth. In fact, do follow links can be beneficial to your SEO. They help improve your website trust score, as long as you are linking to authoritative websites.
In 2005, Google introduced the no follow html attribution tag as a way to cut down on the indexing of spam. Adding this attribution to a link tells crawlers not to follow the links. You should use it when you aren’t sure of the quality of the site you’re linking to, or if you have a vested interest in the link – like it’s a link to another site you personally own, or it’s an affiliate or sponsored link which you will receive compensation through. Those are the only two situations that you should be using no-follow for. All other links should be follow links. You shouldn’t be including links to sites you don’t trust!
5. Building Backlinks is Black Hat
One of the most important ranking factors for Google is backlinks. Backlinks to your site shows Google your site is popular and worthy of ranking higher in the search results. Each backlink counts as a positive vote for your site – though some backlinks carry more weight than others. The point is that you cannot rank well in Google without backlinks. You can wait for organic links, or you can nudge the process along a little.
Many people believe that purposefully building backlinks to your site is a black hat technique that should be avoided at all costs. I don’t believe that, and neither do the vast majority of content marketing experts out there. The key is to make sure you’re not building spammy links, and you’re not just trying to “game the system”. If you build links with the intention to increase the usefulness of the content on your blog and others’, you will reap the benefits of the backlink, without being spammy or disingenuous.
The way we prefer to build backlinks is by guest posting on blogs with a higher authority than our own, and by approaching other bloggers to exchange relevant and useful content between our similar blogs. These backlinks, only obtained on highly-relevant, trusted blogs with content that is useful to our audience, are not spammy. Learn more about link-building strategies for 2018.
6. All Backlinks are Created Equal
Since we’re already talking about backlinks and no follow links, we should also discuss the myth that all backlinks are equal. They most certainly are not. In fact, there are many differences you should know about. Here are a few things that differentiate backlinks:
- A backlink from a unique domain (one that hasn’t already linked to you) holds more weight than additional links from the same site.
- A backlink from a high authority site is better than from one equal to your own or lower.
- A backlink near the top of the content is worth more than at the bottom.
- A backlink that stands alone in a post is worth more than when your link is just one of many inside a post.
- A backlink from a social network means virtually nothing, except when weighed by Google as part of the total social proof pointing to your site.
- A no follow link does not pass link juice to your site.
7. My Site is Too Small/New to Rank
It is a major misconception that if your site is too small or too new, you cannot rank in the search results. In fact, I often rank on the first page for specific keywords from a site I have only had for a few months. Your size or age is less important to Google than the relevancy and quality of your content. Of course, if you aim to rank for keywords that are impossibly difficult, then you’re right, you won’t be able to rank. But if you choose your keywords wisely and write incredible content, you absolutely can rank well with a brand new or small site.
8. I Can Rank Without SEO
There are more than 440 million blogs on the internet today. Do you really think you can compete with all of those blogs without SEO? I’m here to tell you that you can’t. Getting traffic is not magic. It’s based on a strategy and technique. You will never get anywhere significant with your blog without a solid, well-developed SEO strategy. Believe me, I struggled with this for many years before I realized I was ignoring the most important thing that would make my blog successful – SEO. I thought that once I published a really well-written post, that would be enough. But it wasn’t.
Once I implemented my current strategy, I saw an immediate increase of 162% in my organic traffic. Now that we regularly implement this SEO strategy, over the course of a typical year, we see anywhere from 180-380% increase in organic traffic. The strategy includes 5 parts – writing great content, keyword research, on page, off pages, and technical factors. If you think you can get results like this without addressing all five parts, you may have to come to grips with the fact that your blog will never grow. If you aren’t satisfied with that, start with these 14 tasks that will help you achieve success faster than we did!
9. I Already Rank So I’m Good
Have you been watching your stats to monitor your rankings? If not, you should. Just because you ranked in the top 10 at one point, or even in the #1 position, doesn’t mean you’ll always stay there. You need to watch out for competitors who may rise up and swipe your spot. You need to be sure to update your posts regularly to ensure they stay in that top spot. As we’ve already mentioned, Google is always changing and updating their algorithm. If something suddenly changes, your post might lose momentum in the search rankings.
At the very least, to maintain your ranking, you should be updating your post on an regular basis to get rid of any outdated content, to add additional or new developments, to make sure you continue to provide a better user experience than competitors.
Another SEO myth about ranking is that as long as you rank on the first page of Google for your keyword that you’ll be getting a lot of traffic to your site. Ranking for a keyword is fantastic, but if there’s no search volume behind that keyword, you still won’t get getting any traffic for it. This is why finding a high search volume keyword is so important. No one wants to write content no one is reading. Why put all that effort into ranking well for a keyword no one searches for?
10. Social Media Doesn’t Affect SEO
It is true that social media doesn’t have a direct impact on the search results because it’s not one of Google’s many ranking factors. But that doesn’t mean social media has no impact on SEO, though it may be an indirect one. The total sum of your social proof is relevant to Google. So let’s say you post on Facebook and a few people click into your site from there. Or, alternatively, 3,000 people click into your site from there. The first scenario will have little effect on your rankings, but the latter can have a major effect. Click through rate is a major ranking signal, and the more people who click into your site, and are engaged with your brand, the better. The larger, and more engaged, your social networks are, and the more traffic your social media accounts are sending to your site, the better. This is why we spend so much time as bloggers building up our social media.
11. I Use Yoast, So I’m Covered
I like the Yoast plugin for WordPress. I use it myself. But if the Yoast plugin is your only SEO strategy, I’m sorry to say, it’s not enough. It’s just one part of a successful SEO strategy. Yes, it will help you identify ways to improve the SEO factors in your blog post, but it cannot be the only thing you do. Even Yoast will tell you that it’s one piece of many factors that should go into creating an SEO-friendly post. Thinking that getting the green light from Yoast is enough SEO effort for you to put in will only lead to disappointment. It’s like putting on your socks, but forgetting your shoes.
The best practice for SEO in 2018 is to stick with the top 3 factors that Google has made clear are the most important to them. These are the things that will help you gain more traffic and provide reliable results. While there are many other factors that go into Google’s rankings (a whopping 200+), these top 3 carry more weight than all the others, and should be focused on first and foremost. You can read bout them below.
12. I Can’t Outrank a High Authority Site Even With Good SEO
Perhaps you’ve never actually tried, because this is definitely a myth. Anyone has a chance to outrank a higher authority site by using good SEO. I don’t mean just adding a few keywords to the post, or getting the green light on the Yoast plugin. I mean really dedicating yourself to creating the most best piece of content that can be found on the subject. If you write significantly better content, include a ton of useful information, make an incredible user experience, get lots of high-quality backlinks, build up a really good click through rate and time on page (all factors in Google’s ranking algorythm), you absolutely have a chance to outrank higher authority sites, or sites that have already ranked in the top 10 for ages.
Unfortunately, aside from doing everything in your control to make your content the best, only Google can decide where to rank you. So while it’s entirely possible, keep in mind that it’s not guaranteed. The opposite issue can also arise, where you’ve put your all into a post – you’ve done everything you can to make it the best (you’ve gotten tons of backlinks, your authority is higher, you’ve got an amazing click through rate, etc.) – yet your post continues not to rank in the top 10. In the end, it’s all up to Google and you have no control, whatsoever.
13. Domain Authority is Everything / Worthless
No matter which side of the argument you’re on with this subject, it’s all a myth as far as SEO is concerned. That’s because domain authority is a measure of the power of your domain to perform well in the search engine rankings, based on a set of factors created by a separate entity than Google (or any search engine). While we often use domain authority as a measure of our site’s authority within blogging circles, it is only because this is the only measurement we have to go on. The DA score has absolutely no affect on your Google rankings, cannot determine where you will rank with any real accuracy. It is, however, a useful metric by which to gauge the quality of a site, as it takes into account around 40 different factors in order to calculate your score, including things like backlinks and overall link profile, size, speed and age of a site.
What are Google’s most important ranking factors?
Now that you know the most common myths in SEO, and what things to avoid in 2018 in order to increase your traffic without wasting time, we want to make sure you also know what the most important ranking factors are, so you can even further concentrate your efforts. These are the three things that Google has clearly stated are their three most important ranking factors going into 2018. Keep in mind, these can change, but for now, it seems fairly unlikely that they will any time soon.
- Content – While content has always been a major ranking factor, it is now more so than ever. Google’s main objective is to provide the very best content available to its users. If you don’t have the very best content, how will you compete with the other 440 million blogs (plus millions of other businesses)? You have to stay laser-focused on providing the best, most comprehensive and user-satisfying content you possibly can.
- Backlinks – Backlinks are what show Google that your site is popular and deserves to be features. The more you have the better. Just keep in mind, as discussed earlier, not all backlinks are created equal. And Google is very much against obtaining spammy links.
- Google’s RankBrain – Do you know what RankBrain is? It is a component of Google’s algorithm that uses machine learning to determine the most relevant results to search engine queries. In general, it’s a way they assess content to make sure they are accurately matching the user’s intent with the content. This is one reason why keyword stuffing, or using many variations of a keyword, is less relevant and useful today. RankBrain can accurately assess the meaning of the content and how it matches with a keyword thanks to machine learning. The main impact this has on SEO is that we no longer need to include every variation of a keyword in order to rank for that keyword. We now need to make sure our content is 100% targeted to the user intent of the keyword.
While SEO remains one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your website, you can now see just how important it is not to believe everything you hear. And not to waste your time on SEO practices that are not true, or are outdated. We hope you’ll use our free resources and helpful SEO tips to better understand and use SEO on your own site.
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