If you have tackled search engine optimization (SEO) on your own, you are likely overwhelmed by how complicated it seems. Your online research probably turned up useful but often contradictory information.

How can you be sure you’re on the right track?

Evolving trends make SEO challenging, but there are simple principles you can use to clarify your goals and strategy. Implementing SEO takes time and maintaining it is critical to increasing your website traffic.

Here are some common SEO myths and facts to help you feel more confident when building your SEO strategy.

Understanding SEO

Search engine optimization is how you work within specific parameters to increase traffic volume and quality through organic search results. Organic search means people find you through their search queries in search engines, rather than through ads or paid search engine marketing (SEM).

Why does SEO seem confusing?

Implementing SEO demands in-depth knowledge of both on-page and off-page factors that can help or hurt your ranking on search engine results pages (SERP).

You’ll need at least a working knowledge of keyword research, Google Analytics and Google Search Console, link building, website design, content strategy, and content marketing. It would also be helpful to have a basic understanding of technical and programming languages like Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

Exact parameters are hard to pin down. Google keeps the details secret to avoid people gaming the system. The algorithms change often. Hubspot’s 2019 Guide to Google Ranking Factors says about 200 ranking signals influence Google’s  search results. It can change its algorithms without notice and has been tweaking them for years. How can you keep up?

Complicated as it may seem, the basic principles are clear. Google wants to reward sites that offer relevant and popular solutions to its users’ problems.

Why are there so many myths about SEO?

Google hasn’t created an SEO playbook because it doesn’t want people to abuse its system to obtain undeserved higher rankings. As a result, online misinformation is rampant.

SEO myths you may have heard:

  1. Someone can guarantee you results.

Unfortunately, no one can guarantee you top ranking or immediate results. Best practices and transparent reporting aren’t magic, but they will give you steady gains.

  1. There’s no such thing as using too many keywords.

Keywords help users find content that matches their search query but using a keyword too often can hurt you. Keywords should make up less than two per cent of your total word count.

  1. Longer articles will get top rankings.

The quality of the content, the number of people searching and how your site competes with other content on the topic are all more relevant than the number of words.

  1. You know what keywords to use because you know your industry.

Keyword research is crucial to your SEO strategy. That data can protect you from trying to rank for keywords that are too competitive. Keyword research can help you compare traffic volume to choose the best keywords for your site.

  1. It’s all about links and backlinks.

Credible sites linking to you is beneficial, but spammy links and sites linking to you will hurt your rankings. And if Google thinks you’re buying links, you could be penalized.

  1. Having a sitemap increases your ranking.

A sitemap just helps ensure Google can find, review, store and organize all the pages on your site in a process called crawling and indexing.

  1. Once you’ve optimized for SEO you’re done.

While you can always check specific tasks off your list, SEO is an ongoing and necessary process to build your website traffic steadily over time.

What do we know about SEO?

There are practical steps to improve your SEO and ways to measure your progress. Transparency and metrics exist even for this seemingly elusive area of marketing.

Look at your analytics to measure web traffic changes and conversion rates, and keep track of your return on investment (ROI). These are more relevant to gains for your business than trying to be in the top search results for a few popular industry terms.

Set realistic goals for your SEO and search results. It’s easy to look at the top two or three search results and decide you want to compete, but you have no idea how much time and money another company has invested in getting there.

Instead, be willing to test your data to measure improvements and bring on trusted help to ensure you are making the most of your investment. Generous amounts of traffic go to a wide range of keywords and websites. The right strategy will help you capitalize on the ideal mix of keyword research, content planning and ongoing upkeep.

SEO facts you need to know:

  1. User experience matters.

Maintain your site’s functionality and make sure pages load smoothly. Fix broken links. Make the text easy to read and the headings helpful for people scanning for answers.

  1. High-quality content is essential.

Write valuable content that helps readers. Is it better than other content out there that’s already ranking? Is it offering useful information someone will want to read?

  1. Content creation is an ongoing process.

Create new content often to target more keywords and create more opportunities for your audience to discover you. This shows Google your site has up-to-date content.

  1. Make it mobile-friendly.

Your site needs to load quickly on mobile devices. Google announced a mobile-friendly update in 2015 that ranks these pages higher in search results.

  1. Use keywords naturally and focus on user intent.

Why is someone searching for what you offer? What do they want to know? Offer content that helps answer their questions and provides relevant solutions to their problems.

  1. Title tags and meta descriptions are important.

These are back-end SEO elements you need to use to help search engines and users determine your page’s relevancy to their search.

  1. Internal links help readers find what they need.

Use internal links and proper anchor text when creating these links in your content to help Google find, crawl and index pages on your site and help users find what they need.

  1. External links help you build authority.

Link to authoritative sites that help your readers understand or validate your content.

  1. Long-tail keywords represent 70 per cent of search volume.

Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases people type into search engines when they are looking for a specific solution. These words can draw targeted search traffic to your site.

Stay On Top of SEO

Once you compare some of the common myths and facts about SEO, it gets easier to see how to move forward.

To stay on top of SEO, you’ll need to optimize your website to offer the best user experience possible, offer content that matches what your readers are searching for and maintain a high-quality site. You’ll also need to be aware of changes to Google’s algorithms.

The good news is that you don’t have to master SEO to reap the benefits. With a good understanding of the principles, you can feel confident in partnering with an agency to execute it for you.

Our experts are up to date on trends and improvements. We have experience, follow the best practices and use the latest tools to get the job done. We’ll ensure you have the robust support and detailed reporting you need to understand how SEO is working for you.