By Jon Clark, managing partner at Moving Traffic Media, a New York digital agency offering PPC and SEO services.
Digital marketing is constantly changing and evolving. Trends are hot one minute and cold the next. When people forget that particular trends went cold but continue to practice them like they're hot, you end up with SEO myths.
So, let's take a minute to debunk five of the most common SEO myths. That way, you're not putting time into something that's not worth the effort, and you're focusing your attention where it really needs to go.
Myth: Links outweigh content.
Some say that links are the most important factor in SEO. That's not true.
Links fuel your ranking power. They also validate and add trustworthiness to your site, but only if they're reputable and relevant to your page. You need to consider what happens when that traffic gets to your site. What if you've put all your effort into link building, like some experts suggest, but not much into creating quality content? Users bounce.
It's a classic case of quality over quantity, and it applies to both backlinks and content. Fewer quality links will generate more traffic than an abundance of mediocre ones, and quality content that engages visitors will keep them there.
Myth: Mobile optimization isn't that important.
Google isn't interested in pages that aren't optimized for mobile. It's that simple. According to Pew Research, 81 percent of Americans own smartphones as of 2019. A good portion of them reach for their mobile devices first thing in the morning. What do you think they're doing as they groggily roll over and reach for their phone?
I'm guessing they're not calling their grandmothers. They're online, and we know where they're going to end up eventually. Google. What happens if you're not optimized for mobile? Nothing, and that's the problem.
Your site won't come up in local search, you won't get traffic, and you certainly won't get business unless your site is optimized for mobile.
Myth: Ranking should be your No. 1 goal.
We know people prefer the first three listings on page one of Google, and nobody's paying attention to page four results. But at the end of the day, there are just other things to consider.
As of September 2019, Smart Insights reported that 34.85 percent of desktop searches and 65.10 percent of mobile searches don't end with a click. According to RadiumOne, in 2016, 84 percent of social sharing happened via dark social channels such as email and text as opposed to public social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Dark social is digital word of mouth, and the same thing that compels people to share something directly is what compels people to actually click on a search result: content and services that are relevant to your audience.
A top-three ranking simply doesn't guarantee more revenue or traffic. That's potentially a lot of work to achieve something that might not produce results for your business. So, if getting into the top three meant you sacrificed something in terms of what your audience needs from you, then you haven't won anything at all.
Myth: Meta descriptions affect Google rankings.
Meta descriptions make it easier for your market to find you at the exact moment that they need to find you. But meta descriptions don't affect rankings directly.
Search engines don't care about your meta descriptions. They care about user experience and how long someone stays on your page. You might have a meta description that generates a ton of traffic, but if it's irrelevant or misdirected in some way, then don't expect to see much in terms of leads and conversions. Expect bounce.
On the other hand, if your meta descriptions drive the right traffic, search engines will notice, and that will boost your rank. It's about relevance and value to your market, not powerful keywords.
Myth: You need to get keywords exactly right.
Keywords are crucial, but you don't need to worry about using keyword phrases verbatim because search engines can anticipate what someone's search really means. Let's say that a high-ranking keyword phrase for your businesses is "tire rotation free." That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
Instead, consider how your market might ask the question and change it up a little. Google will make the association between your keywords and the high-ranking keywords and connect the two.
So rather than focusing on exact keywords, create quality content with keywords that are close enough to create a natural connection.
SEO isn't just about generating traffic -- it's about providing a quality user experience. So push aside outdated myths about SEO, and focus on what your audience needs to get the results you want.