Top 5 SEO Myths
Search Engine Optimisation - or SEO as it's more commonly known - has evolved just as much as the rest of our digital world over the past 10 years, but we're often surprised by the amount of mis-information and myth that continues to cloud the subject. This month we take an in depth look into the top 5 myths surrounding the world of SEO.
Myth #1 - Keyword stuffing still works
When the concept of optimising your website to improve your search engine rank was new on the scene, many online publishers adopted so-called 'Black Hat' SEO techniques. These techniques were deliberate attempts to deceive the search engines and abuse the way their algorithms work. Almost certainly the most popular of these techniques was known as 'keyword stuffing'. If you've been using the web for long enough, you will mostly likely remember when it was common to find websites with hundreds of keywords (often repeated) about their products/services or relevant locations crammed at the bottom of the page in tiny text. Some websites even went as far as to hide this text by making it the same colour as a background so it didn't interefere with the user experience.
The belief that keyword stuffing still works is perhaps the number one myth still held today. Nowadays, search engines are designed around serving human users with unique, accurate and up-to-date information. Search engines want to be considered good at doing exactly what people need them for - finding the most useful and relevant content when they perform a search. For this reason, keyword stuffing will no longer improve your website ranking, in fact, it will significantly harm it.
Despite this, it's still not hard to find examples of keyword stuffing today, especially from ecommerce websites. Typically, this is attemtpted in a slightly more subtle way by repeating keywords within the actual body of the website copy, e.g. “Do you want superfast internet? We can provide you with superfast internet so your internet is superfast. Contact us to find out more about superfast internet near you, or pop into our store to speak to someone about superfast internet.” Search engines like Google are now easily smart enough to detect this kind of tactic and penalise your website for it - in extreme cases removing you from their listings altogether!
The other factor to bear in mind is that users are now much more savvy and you will likely damage trust and engagement if your content doesn’t read well or appears too 'salesy'. The take home message when it comes to creating content for your website in this day and age is to provide your users with unique, informative, high quality content. This will encourage engagement with users and the search engines will reward you for it. Keywords are still important; just be sure to use them naturally in your content as if you were discussing something face-to-face with a customer.
Myth #2 - Google will downgrade me for duplicate content
This is easily the second biggest SEO myth. Believe it or not Google has never penalised a website for having duplicate content... That's right. The issue of what Google does with duplicate content has drawn a substantial amount of speculation, which led to Sarah Moskwa, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, to write an article about it back in 2008 (see "Demystifying the "duplicate content penalty").
What Google does do though, is to use a filter so it only ranks the content once, not multiple times. However, deliberately repetitive, poor quality or spammy content may still push you down the rankings on Google. In Sarah's own words: "Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results."
Myth #3 - My website doesn't need to be mobile-friendly
More people use their mobile phones to browse the internet than on desktop or laptop computers now. Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly is extremely important, not just for your users, but also for the search engines. Some businesses have been reluctant to offer a mobile-friendly version of their website; in some cases due to the cost of re-development or simply fear of damaging current performance. However, the debate as to whether it's important from an SEO perspective to have a mobile-friendly website or not was put to bed a number of years ago.
Google heavily accelerated the trend towards mobile-friendly websites with its so-called 'mobilegeddon' announcement back in 2015 stating that its ranking algorhytmn would start to factor in whether a website was mobile-friendly or not. Non mobile-friendly websites (you can take the test here: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly), or even mobile-friendly websites that remain slow to load will be penalised by Google in the mobile search results.
Aside from the SEO considerations, operating a non-mobile friendly website is also damaging from a user-experience perspective too. Users that encounter a website where you have to pinch and zoom to read the content will be much more likely to navigate away immediately, resulting in a higher website bounce rate.
Myth #4 - The speed of my website doesn’t matter
You may have seen our previous blog post about why the speed of your website is important. Search engines use the speed at which your website loads as a ranking factor when determining your position in their results. In fact, a slow website will not only suffer from being penalised by search engines, but we know that web users have limited patience for slow loading sites too. Many studies have shown that if a website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, over half of visitors will look for an alternative. This will increase the bounce rate of people leaving your site after viewing just one page, and will push you further down the search engine results.
Myth #5 - Accessibility doesn’t affect SEO
It does! Google will look at how your site is structured behind the scenes and will use this when determining your overall ranking score. Ensuring your website is accessible is about doing the simple things right. For example, using appropriate heading tags will help users with accessibility issues, who may use use screen readers, to understand the flow of a page and what areas of text are being used for what. Search engines also look favourably on this and reward you for it.
Another example would be to ensure your images contain relevant descriptions in their alt tags. If an image doesn’t load properly or a visually impaired user wants to know what an image contains then the alt tag will help them out. Without using alt tags users may only see a potentially useless image name such “20180824_DMC_002384.jpg”, but a descriptive alt tag such as: “A cat asleep on a cat sized sofa" your image will carry meaning both for search engines and users with accessiblity issues.
If you want to look into improving the SEO on your own website, then contact us today to find out how we could help you!Back