user experience & design

4 Major SEO Myths, Debunked

Sean
May 7th, 2018
5 MINUTE READ

No matter the nature of your business, whether you’re a fledgling startup or part of the Fortune 100, we’re all at the mercy of Google and its web crawlers, those virtual catalogers that read your site’s content and determine, via mysterious algorithm, your company’s search ranking.

Search engine optimization is an indispensable part of your marketing strategy. You could have the greatest product in the world—it won’t matter if customers type it into Google and the first ten results are your competitors. Nobody is venturing to the barren wasteland that is the second page of Google search results.

4 Major SEO Myths, Debunked

From xkcd

But despite its importance, SEO is also painfully inscrutable. Google reveals cryptic hints and tips for ranking high in their results, but they don’t release what’s inside the black box, the algorithm that actually calculates it. It’s like trying to win a game where you don’t know the rules and they’re regularly changing.

Because of this, there are all sorts of SEO myths floating around the Internet. Some of them were once true (until Google adjusted their rankings system), some of them are just entirely false. Either way, web development agency Codal has decided to officially debunk some of the most persistent misconceptions you’ve heard about effective SEO.

Myth 1) The Content Needs To Match The Keywords Exactly

What’s the difference between “Chicago interior decorators” and “interior decorator Chicago”? To the search engine crawlers, there isn’t one. The keywords your company is targeting in their SEO strategy do not have to be written verbatim in the content of your site.

The reason this myth has managed to survive is that it used to be factual—early crawlers weren’t advanced enough to discern context and understand synonyms, so content writers were forced to match copy to keyword exactly. But thanks to developments like long tail keywords and latent semantic indexing, you don’t have to awkwardly shoehorn in phrases like “how to design a website 2018”.

Myth 2) Your Meta Description Needs SEO Keywords Too

The meta description refers to the grayed-out excerpt of text beneath the hyperlink in a Google search result.

4 Major SEO Myths, Debunked

Though Google will automatically populate this field with the first few lines of the page’s content, most content management systems allow you to customize this description yourself. Some, like WordPress, even offer tools to help optimize it.

And while that makes it seem like the meta description is a weighty ranking factor, in reality, it hasn’t had any influence on SEO for nearly a decade. This doesn’t mean you should just let Google generate the meta description for you—rather, you should be writing it to entice the reader into clicking your link. The meta description is still important for humans, even if the crawlers ignore it.

Myth 3) Duplicating Content Is A Shady SEO Technique That Google Will Penalize You For

Duplicating content had been a source of ongoing debate among content marketers for some time, until Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, said it “wasn’t something to worry about unless the content itself is spammy or stuffed with keywords.”

So having duplicate content isn’t something that will get you penalized by Google’s algorithm—rather, it’ll just be ignored completely. The reason Google’s crawlers don’t factor duplicate content is to dispel plagiarizers. If you’re lifted all your web content from the original, you’re not going to rank well.

But even if Google doesn’t penalize you outright for duplicating content, many content marketers and SEO experts consider it bad practice. Instead of copying and pasting content, it’s much better to craft original work. Every sentence counts in SEO, which means every sentence is an opportunity to strengthen your ranking.

Myth 4) Mobile-Friendliness Does Not Impact Search Ranking

With more and more users browsing on tablets and smartphones, Google has officially introduced mobile responsiveness as a factor in your website’s search ranking. That means your website needs to deliver a consistent experience across all screen sizes and viewports.

How do the search engine crawlers define ‘mobile-friendly’? Like the rest of their mysterious algorithm, Google doesn’t reveal the exact calculation. Instead, they offer what they call a ‘multi-screen overview’ guide to serve as a sort of handy checklist. Tick these boxes, and you’re mobile friendly enough to earn points in the rankings.

4 Major SEO Myths, Debunked

This goes beyond just search engine optimization—mobile browsing has been steadily increasing for years, especially in the eCommerce sector. By 2020, experts predict nearly half of online shopping will be conducted via smartphone.

Separate The Signal From The Noise

There’s no shortage of SEO myths and misconceptions floating around the Internet, and it’s important to be able to discern the real from the fake when crafting your company’s broader content strategy.

These falsehoods exist due to Google regularly updating and tweaking their algorithm, in order to provide the most relevant search results to their users. But despite the alterations, it’s important to remember a pillar of SEO that will never change: the importance of high-quality content.

That means well-captioned images, appropriate links to credible outside sources, and grammatically sound sentences. It means ensuring your content is aligned with the page’s title, and that your website remains compliant with HTML standards.

That’s the secret to true search engine optimization—not some sort of snake oil cure-all or shortcut to number one, but long-term, sound content strategy. That’s what Google’s algorithm prizes above all else because that’s what the users prize above all else.

Sean McGowan
AUTHOR

Sean

Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest and greatest in digital design, Sean can be found baking, watching movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.

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