Being able to determine what is fact and what is fiction in SEO is quite challenging. Unfortunately, there are a lot of claims out there that you may be tempted to believe. Getting to know the truth is vital if you want to achieve success with your SEO efforts.

For 17 years, I have followed Google's trends and changes with the goal of staying on top of what's going on. Even for seasoned experts like me, maintaining this level of knowledge is beneficial. Here, I will break down the basics of the latest rumors related to search and help you understand what changes you should make to keep ahead of your competition. Remember, when it comes to SEO and marketing, knowledge is power.

Rumor: Mobile Indexing Will Change Everything

What shows up on a desktop isn't the single source of truth when it comes to Google indexing.

An example of this would be a business's desktop search results showing the same "jump marks" (links to subheads within the content) as are seen on mobile search. The trouble is, there isn't anything related to these subheads on the desktop version of the website, which might be confusing to the company (not to mention visitors). In this situation, Google was only indexing the mobile site--with the links present--and showing it on the desktop version, too.

What this means is that you must act accordingly. Many SEO teams are still running tests on desktops, but if Google is going to crawl your mobile version, you have to run everything--all your SEO health checks and tests--through mobile, as well. It's best to do this on a smartphone, so you get the full story.

Some of the specific things to check include:

  • Site speed (Google offers a free speed testing tool to help)
  • Does the mobile site show off your brand (i.e., colors, logo, etc.)?
  • Pages that appear above the fold
  • Clear navigation
  • Do the links work?

Each of these factors play a huge role in how Google "sees" your site, so checking them frequently is highly recommended.

Rumor: Ranking Factors Are No Longer Relevant

It is easy to come to the wrong conclusion when you are analyzing SEO best practices. One example is the average length of your articles. For articles that showed up in the top 10 of Google results, the average length was 1,692 words. The question is, does this mean that writing almost 1,700 words is a "best practice"?

The answer is no. When things are split up by industry, the length that ranks best varies from 700 words for the camping industry to more than 2,500 words for financial planning.

The same point applies to all types of ranking factors. There are some searches and industries where the ranking factor directly impacts search position and others where it doesn't make much of an impact at all. Google "gets" this, which means there are different factors that you have to pay attention to depending on search intent.

Rumor: BERT Is Changing Everything

BERT, the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is the Natural Language Processing alternative from Google. It was introduced in September 2019. Put simply, this tool is designed to help Google better understand the searcher's intent.

There have been several rumors about BERT, the worst being that it is related to schema and that the URLs will get a BERT score, which is going to influence how they are ranked in Google. Both of these are not true. If you check with third-party tools, you won't see much search engine results pages (SERP) fluctuation, which highlights algorithm activity that may be affecting the search engine rank of sites being managed, when BERT was released.

This is because BERT is focused on recognizing words and looking at how they relate to the search. This information is then used to showcase the right search results.

Understanding the truth about search and the latest changes will help you alter your site or make specific changes that put you on a trajectory for ongoing growth and success.