There’s little doubt that search engine optimization (SEO) has fundamentally changed the Internet and how we view it. By promoting the visibility of certain websites over others during search results and establishing “rankings” based on such visibility, a web designer or developer can virtually guarantee strong and steady traffic to a site. What people search for, what terms and keywords are most effective, which search engines are preferred by certain target audiences—all these concepts and more figure prominently into why SEO has become of overriding importance in any web-based marketing strategy.
That said, like all things in the virtual world SEO has evolved over the years, and as such many of the old rules regarding the process no longer apply. There are even been a good number of outright myths that many in the industry insist on perpetuating, myths which waste time and are of little use to either the marketer or the end user.
Among the most common claims is that it’s necessary to submit a site to Google for effective ranking. In reality Google is a powerful and speedy entity, and it will find your site and get it indexed, in short order and all own its own. And when it comes to ranking, the old thinking is that if you’re not in the top four search results you won’t get any clicks: in reality click-through rates are stronger for more and more sites thanks to those handy snippets that appear during results. Likewise meta descriptions that give a sneak peek of a website’s content aren’t as important as once thought—many search engines don’t pay them any attention when it comes to compiling rankings. But it’s still a good idea to craft high-quality and concise meta descriptions to ensure solid click-through numbers.
When it comes to keyword usage in a site’s content, more myths abound. There was a time when developers put a high premium on loads of content on a homepage and lots of text teeming with keywords. This led to some very awkward and truly awful writing based on the goal of repeating the same keyword or keyword phrase over and over. In truth search engines no longer thrive on keyword matching, and therefore they don’t need to be overused or repeated verbatim. Experts agree that it’s still important to have a keyword within a short, well-crafted headline, but inundating a site with them or clogging up your homepage with text in order to repeat said keywords does nothing for SEO rankings. Likewise having too many pages on a site—once believed to be vital to getting a good ranking—is an outdated concept, as not every page on a site gets indexed. Taken together, all these practices too often make a site unattractive, unreadable and, therefore, quickly ignored by visitors regardless of whether it has a high ranking or not.
Much like the overuse of keywords, many people still believe that crowding a site with loads of links gives it more respectability. But quite often the opposite is true, and too many page designers sacrifice solid, quality writing for a site littered with link after link. As a result of this practice, the perception of the readers is that the site isn’t legitimate enough to stand out on its own, and therefore relies on the authority of other sites.
Lastly, one stubborn myth revolves around the belief that keeping a local element to your SEO strategy isn’t important. Quite the contrary, as studies have shown that local businesses rely more on the patronage of local consumers than on those who aren’t nearby. Essentially, search engines such as Google are putting more emphasis on displaying relevant content in a regional framework rather than a global one, which means someone searching for a product or service will first be presented with search results based on their location and distance from that product or service.