As complex as SEO can seem, it basically comes down to a single goal that Google has. To provide the most relevant solution that meets the intent of its user.
The following is a list of 20 SEO myths and/or half-truths, followed by 5 things that have the most impact on your local rankings.
#1 – High bounce rates hurt your rankings
A bounce is when someone visits your website and quickly leaves without visiting any other pages on the site.
There’s no evidence or confirmation from Google that a bounce rate hurts rankings. What Google has confirmed is that dwell time (the time spent on a page) is being used in their machine learning platform to study the correlation between the time spent on a page and then leaving the site. This is not the same thing as them adding it to their ranking algorithms. What it could mean is that Google is evaluating this as a factor for future algorithm updates.
#2 – Keyword density improves rankings
There was a time when repeating the same keyword throughout a page would help you rank high for that keyword. Google has become much more sophisticated these days and now looks for natural language patterns. They can usually tell when the usage of a particular keyword is artificially high.
Overusing a keyword is much more likely to hurt your rankings than to help them.
#3 – The more backlinks you have, the better your site will rank
A backlink is a link from one website to another and is considered one of the most influential factors when it comes to top rankings. However, It’s more about quality than quantity.
#4 – You’ll want to buy backlinks to improve your rankings
The fact is that buying backlinks is one of the worst things that one can do for SEO.
There was a time when the number of backlinks you had (regardless of quality) improved your rankings. This not only no longer works, but is almost certain to get you penalized by Google.
#5 – Social media engagements help rankings
There are no direct benefits to your rankings from user engagement on social media. If there were, someone could simply game the system by artificially inflating the likes on their Facebook page.
With that said, it is believed to indirectly help with rankings. If you publish content that is truly engaging, users will be much more likely to share it with others. This can lead to more websites linking to your website. It’s not so much about the shares that boosted your rankings, but the quality of your content that increased the number of links to your website.
#6 – Agencies are more likely to achieve top rankings than smaller organizations
There are good agencies, and not so good agencies. There are good independent SEO practitioners, and not so good ones. Either way, the size of the organization does not necessarily equal a better outcome. An agency still needs to hire quality SEO practitioners and have a solid methodology in place to be effective. And there’s no guarantee that they will have either.
#7 – Local SEO is a one-time process, or no longer works
This claim typically comes from other business owners who are looking to justify cutting SEO from their marketing budget, or who have been burned in the past by other vendors.
The bulk of good SEO comes on the front end, and the same commitment is not necessarily needed month after month. But this doesn’t mean that it’s a “set it and forget it” type of process. To stay ahead of competition, you’ll need to keep working on what benefits your rankings the most.
One way to prove this claim is to do nothing. It won’t be long before you see others outranking you.
#8 – Local SEO requires X number of dollars to improve your rankings
There is no specific budget that will guarantee better rankings. What you’ll want is a solid SEO strategy, and a budget that provides a return on your investment.
#9 – SEO is a Scam
Sadly, there are many SEO scammers out there that give SEO a bad name. But this doesn’t make SEO itself a scam.
#10 – SEO is about fooling the search engines
There are those that will use tactics designed to trick search engines into achieving top rankings. And I’ll admit, there are some who are very good at pulling this off. The downside to this approach is that it’s typically short lived. Once Google catches onto these schemes, they not only prevent these tactics from working, but will likely penalize the sites that once benefited from it.
Good SEO is about following best practices. This approach will result in more quality traffic in the long run, and will prevent your site from being demoted or outright banned from Google.
#11 – You need a new website to improve your Google rankings
This is one of those claims where there could be some truth to it. Unfortunately, many times it’s just a ploy to get you to spend big dollars on a new website.
The first thing that needs to be determined is what kind of traffic you’re currently getting from search, and whether or not past tactics have been used that have demoted your site in Google.
If it has been, then a new website might be the only way to recover. But if not, you could be trading decent rankings for bad ones, and spending big dollars to find this out.
#12 – You need to update your Title and Description tags on a regular basis
These tags are part of your website’s source code that search engines use in different ways.
The Title tag is a strong ranking factor, where the meta description tag is only used to provide a description of the page in the search results.
What you don’t want to be doing is constantly changing the Title tag. You’ll only need to update this if you’ve done a good job in all other areas but are still struggling to rank for that given page.
#13 – A high Domain Authority (DA) will improve your rankings
If you’ve ever heard this term before, you were likely led to believe that this is a ranking factor. The truth is that DA is not something that is part of Google, but rather a term used by a well known set of commercial SEO tools. There is no evidence that there is any correlation between your DA score and rankings.
There is however such a thing as “domain trust” which Google does use for ranking. But this is not the same thing as the third-party domain authority. And Google does not disclose which domains are high authority, and which ones are not.
#14 – Nofollow links have no value when it comes to SEO
A nofollow link is a link from one website to another that includes an attribute that tells Google that you are not endorsing this link. This is very common on websites where users can leave comments and include links to their own or other websites.
It’s true that a nofollow link is unlikely to have a direct impact on your rankings, but indirectly they can help. This is only true if the link comes from a relevant site that is likely to drive traffic to your site.
#15 – External links will not help your rankings
An external link is when you link from your website to another website.
Some believe that there is no value when it comes to rankings, and you’re just shooting yourself in the foot by directing users off of your site.
This is not the case as long as you are linking to relevant content on authority websites. By providing these resources, you build trust with Google, and in return, your site becomes more trustworthy.
#16 – Your domain name should include important keywords
A domain name is your www.yourbusinesnamehere.com.
Some believe that including keywords in your domain will boost your rankings for that keyword. This assumption usually comes from seeing a competitor that is ranking by using the technique. What you are usually seeing are businesses that have these keywords as part of their own business name. The rankings are the result of the business name itself and not the domain name.
#17 – The more pages you have, the better you will rank in Google
It is true that the more pages you have will increase the chances of some of these pages ranking well in Google. The problem is, which pages and at what cost.
What I mean by that is too many pages for a small business with a local market can actually prevent the more relevant services pages from being indexed, or valued as a high authority page. You also run the risk of diluting the keywords you want to rank for the most.
#18 – Bolding keywords will help you rank for that keyword
This is 100% a myth. You should only bold words that you want to emphasize, and for good reason.
#19 – Having the right keywords in the meta keyword tag will help your rankings
If anyone claims that the keyword meta tag helps with SEO, you should run for the hills as fast as you can. Google has never used the meta keyword tag as a ranking factor. They simply ignore it.
#20 – You need a blog to rank well in Google
My specialty is working with local businesses. And what works for global SEO is not necessarily going to work for local SEO. Blogs are one of these.
The word blog is a combined version of the words “web” and “log”. It’s usually made up of content that is posted on a regular basis, and consists of one’s own experiences, observations, opinions, etc.
What you’ll want instead is content that is relevant to your business, services, and your community that is used to keep your site fresh and relevant. This is not the same thing as a blog.
5 things that have the most impact on your local rankings
#1 – A well optimized Google My Business listing
#2 – Quality external links to your website (backlinks)
#3 – User reviews
#4 – A well optimized website (web copy, title tags, etc.)
#5 – Quality and consistent citations (mentions of your business on other sites)