I'm excited to have my friend Jennifer Bourn as a guest blogger for me this week. Jennifer's one of the experts I count on for accurate “technical” information (I'm no techie). I asked her to review an article for me about SEO, and here's her advice.
Earlier this week, Sue shared the article 6 Big Myths About SEO with me, and it sparked some further discussion on breaking down the sometimes complicated world of SEO into basic actionable steps and best practices. In the article, author Michael Mothner presents us with 6 search engine optimization (SEO) myths, including:
- Myth 1: Metatag Descriptions Help Your Rankings
- Myth 2: The More Inbound Links, the Better
- Myth 3: PageRank Still Matters
- Myth 4: Google Prefers Keyword-Rich Domains
- Myth 5: Websites Must Be ‘Submitted' to Search Engines
- Myth 6: Good SEO Is Basically About Trickery
Michael offers some great insights on each of these and I recommend you do check out the article. But let's breakdown his answers even further. If SEO is still confusing and frustrating for you, don't worry. We're not delving into complicated strategies here, we're skipping right to the bottom line…
Myth 1: Metatag Descriptions Help Your Rankings. Some in the SEO world believe meta descriptions do help your ranking, some believe they don't, and others believe and write about the current hype. So what should you believe? Meta descriptions are still a very important, valid tool. Often (but not always) the meta description you define is the one used beneath your link on search engine results pages (the two lines of black text). So, the meta description is the perfect place to write a compelling description of the web page or blog post that will help convince searchers to click your link.
The Thing to Remember: Better safe than sorry. You should define a unique meta description for every web page and blog post (160 characters or less) to help increase click-throughs to your site from the search engine results pages. And if it also helps your site in other ways, that's a bonus!
Myth 2: The More Inbound Links, the Better. Inbound links are still one of the best ways to improve your site's authority and credibility with search engines, including Google. Each quality link to your website is like a vote to include your site in the search results. When it comes to links, search engine are looking for a natural online existence. Blanketing the web with links, submitting your site to hundred of directories, and link spamming, as well as having too many links with the exact same keywords, too many “dofollow” links in proportion to “nofollow” links, and irrelevant links are all frowned upon by search engines — especially Google. Here's what that means for you. Search engines, Google in particular, will not reward you with good rankings if it looks like you're trying to “game the system”. You should aim for:
- A healthy mix of relevant links using different keywords and key phrases. Think of it this way, when several people talk about the same topic, they all use different language. They may say the same thing, but they say it in a different way. But if everyone used the exact same words, it would sound unnatural and forced.
- Mentions and citations (not links) that make sense and appear natural — If your name only appeared online in links, it would look like SEO trickery, but if you show up in a variety of mentions, links, and citations, your presence appears more holistic and natural.
The Thing to Remember: Don't stress or obsess about link building! Google's recent changes punished aggressive link builders and rewarded the natural, normal sites. So keep posting great content, keep sharing on social media sites and keep getting your content out there. Build your online presence naturally without trying to game the system and you'll be rewarded.
Myth 3: PageRank Still Matters. PageRank is a joke. All serious SEO companies and consultants laugh at the SEO newbies and consultants that promote PageRank as being something important that you as a website owner should track and pay attention to. Your PageRank doesn't matter. What matters is that the people who need what you have to offer can find you, and that they CONVERT to a client, customer, or subscriber once they reach your website.
The Thing to Remember: PageRank should never trump relevance. Focusing on your PageRank and trying to game the system to improve it is a recipe for the Google smackdown! Instead, focus on consistently publishing great content. Every time you publish a blog post, you add one more searchable URL to your site, which means one more opportunity to get found online.
Myth 4: Google Prefers Keyword-Rich Domains. Google says keywords in domains names don't matter. But several SEO companies have reported that they have seen a difference — to a point. Search engines may not factor the URL into their algorithm, but users factor it into their decision on which link to click. For example, a domain name with exact match keywords is a great asset. If someone is searching for “Nashville Business Coach,” and your site appeared in the search results with the URL nashvillebusinesscoach.com, there is a high likelihood that the user will click that link.
The Thing to Remember: Your content and activity matter more than your domain name. A site with great content, consistently updated will fare much better than a site with crappy content but with a keyword rich domain name.
Myth 5: Websites Must Be ‘Submitted' to Search Engines. Submitting a site to search engines is the old school way of doing things, but some newbie consultants still promote this action because that's what consumers want to hear. The new school, or the most current approach is to:
- Add an XML site map plugin to your WordPress site, to automatically generate the XML site map search engines look for when crawling your site
- Claim the site and verify it with Google's Webmaster tools
- Start blogging right away to attract the search engines. Each time you add new content (like a post) to your site, your XML site map will be rebuilt and resubmitted to the search engines, telling them to come back and crawl your site again.
- Let the search engines come to you naturally
The Thing to Remember: There is no special trick in the book that will get your site listed in the search engines or on the first page of Google. Don't stress about submitting your site to search engines, and don't try it multiple times if you're not getting indexed fast enough. Create great content regularly and let your search presence build naturally.
Myth 6: Good SEO Is Basically About Trickery. Anything that looks unnatural, suspicious, or could possibly be considered an attempt to game the system is big time BAD! Those who got hit hard by the Panda and Penguin updates are those who had “over-optimized” their sites. Too many links, too much keyword spam, too many identical backlinks, etc.
The Thing to Remember: Smart, organic search engine optimization isn't difficult. It's not about tricks and complicated ways to manipulate search engines. It's about creating killer content consistently, optimizing the content you create, showing you're an active part of the online community, and building a valuable, vertical presence online
REMEMBER: Google's goal is make search natural and relevant. When you are searching for something, their goal to to have the best search results for you show up. All of their recent algorithm changes — the Panda and Penguin updates — are all designed to eliminate opportunities to “game the system.” If you approach your content naturally, write for the user not the search engines, optimize your content in a way that makes sense, and appear throughout the web in a variety of relevant ways, you should be good to go, and you'll be one of the sites rewarded by Google.
More About The Author: Jennifer Bourn is the award-winning founder, creative director, and lead designer for Bourn Creative, an international design company that focuses on custom WordPress web design and the Genesis Framework. In charge of all things creative, Jennifer specializes in custom WordPress theme design, brand design, and graphic design. She consults with clients around the world on branding, website planning, and brand/website marketing strategies. For more information, free resources, and tools on web design, WordPress, branding, and online marketing — and to sign up for her free email SEO Course, please visit www.bourncreative.com