Understanding search engine optimization can be a tricky business. Not because it’s overly complicated (though sometimes it can feel that way) or because there isn’t enough information (in truth, there’s probably too much information).
It’s tricky because there’s no immediate feedback as to whether or not you’re doing something efficiently. Parts of your SEO strategy could be lacking for years and you may firmly believe that you’re doing everything right the entire time.
Below, find five of the most common SEO misconceptions out there, and why not fixing these pain points can hurt your overall SEO strategy.
Misconception #1: It’s all about traffic
One of the most perpetuated notions about SEO is that you can root most of your measures of success in traffic alone. I wish it were so easy!
Why this hurts you: Traffic, by itself, is a misleading metric. If you’re getting millions of visitors to your website every day, those numbers look great, sure. But what percentage of that traffic clicks deeper into your site? How many goals does that amount of traffic reach? How many conversions can you expect from it?
Honestly, I think the traffic metric of Google Analytics gets weighed so heavily by SEO because it’s easy to access. However, there are many, many better analytic measures you can look at to determine the value of a particular campaign, landing page or improvements made to your on-site SEO.
To discuss each of these alternatives in detail would be another blog post entirely, so suffice to say that if you delve into goal completions, event tracking and new versus returning visitor conversions, you’ll be on a better track to understanding the effectiveness of your website than had you only considered traffic.
Misconception #2: The more pages, the better
This point isn’t so much untrue as it is simply incomplete. Sure, a website with 50 pages is likely to outrank a website with only 10 pages, but that’s assuming that the quality of both websites is about the same.
Why this hurts you: If you only focus on the number of pages on your website, you risk putting your time and effort into building out your site in the wrong way. Rather than focusing on how often you add new posts to your site, focus on the quality of the pages you’re adding.
Content length plays a factor in quality copy, too, with many search engines taking note that Google tends to favor longer content now. But you also need to make sure that you aren’t simply posting 3,000-word articles for the sake of doing so. Too much fluff and lack of information will hurt your rapport with readers.
Find your balance between a regular posting schedule and longer, high-quality content in order to build out your site efficiently.
Misconception #3: Targeting multiple keywords per page
What better way to rank in more search engine results pages (SERPs) than to target multiple keywords in a single page, right? Wrong.
Why this hurts you: If you target multiple keyword phrases in a single page, the focus of your page will likely come across as being too broad for you to actually rank well for any of those terms. Even if multiple terms are relevant to a page, it would be wiser to focus on just one head term and variations of that term. When done well (i.e. not keyword stuffing your entire page), this strategy can lead to solid, long-term results.
Misconception #4: Search is first
Another misconception I often see in the industry is the belief that SEO is meant to serve search engines. But, perhaps the title “search engine optimization” is a misnomer. Your work speaks to search crawlers, yes. However, it’s the humans using the search engines that need to benefit from your work.
Why this hurts you: If your focus is first and foremost on how search crawlers will benefit from your SEO, you’re not thinking about the people who make your website all worth it: your customers. SEO is a means to an end, not the end goal itself.
If your work isn’t being used as a tool to benefit your readers and allow them to find your information easier and more accurately, you’re eventually going to lose your audience. At the very least, you’ll be forced to watch from the sidelines as more customer-centric websites rightfully earn more subscribers, customers and social followers than you.
Don’t let that happen. Keep the visitor in mind and use your SEO skills to improve their experience with your website.
Misconception #5: Using meta keywords
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, meta keywords just aren’t worth your time. They don’t actively improve anything about your website and, at best, are nothing more than a waste of your precious energy and mental resources.
Why this hurts you: In addition to not bringing about positive results, meta keywords can actually hurt your website. Depending what search engine is being used, meta keywords either do absolutely nothing or they flag your websites as potential spam.
Be sure to check the meta tags of your pages and, if any content keywords are listed in them, delete them. They simply aren’t worth the risk.
At the end of the day, the only “wrong” way to do SEO is to engage in black hat practices. However, there are many, many inefficient ways to do SEO well, and knowing these misconceptions should help you avoid some of the big ones.
If there are other SEO misconceptions that you want to share, let’s talk about them in the comments section below!