Some SEO assumptions are down right dangerous. Of course there’s a time and place for spooky, scary, and dangerous. It is the Halloween season, after all.
But if want to improve your business’s search visibility, you should steer clear of these four ghostly SEO assumptions.
SEO Assumption #1: I must be laser-focused on keywords, and use them a lot.
Prior to Google’s 2013 Hummingbird algorithm update, there was some truth to this assumption. But post-Hummingbird, Google can pick up on words that are related to your topic instead of just your specific target keywords. This ability is called semantic search.
And semantic search is a win for everybody.
- Google wins because they now have access to a lot more data they can use to understand webpages. This helps them better understand the content on pages and identify spam.
- Searchers call this a win because they get better search results and encounter less spam.
- Content creators also win because they can stop focusing on cramming in target keywords, and instead write content for humans (not Google’s bots).
But keep in mind that even with semantic search, keyword research and planning is still important. You need to understand which keywords your audience is most likely to use and how competitive each one is for your business.
Choosing the right keywords is still important, but be sure you don’t overuse them. Google and your audience want you to create valuable content written for humans, not bots.
Assumption #2: Including a target keyword in my domain name will boost my rankings.
Let’s consider an example. If you own a retail business that sells cookware (pots, pans, and kitchen utensils), maybe you’re considering using the word ‘cookware’ in your domain name. Even if ‘cookware.com’ is taken, there’s more than 1,500 other extensions to choose from – so you’ve got options.
After seeing what’s available, you settle on ‘cookware.cooking’. That’s a double win, right? Not only did you get ‘cookware’ in your URL, but also ‘cooking’ for the extension.
There are two reasons this isn’t a good idea:
- According to research by Moz on ranking factors, Google typically views these exact and partial keyword match domains negatively. So that means a domain name like ‘cookware.cooking’ might actually push you down in search ranking.
- Searcher’s may view your URL as spammy if it looks “stuffed” with keywords or they don’t recognize the domain extension. And ‘cookware.cooking’ fails both tests. It’s just about as “stuffed” as it gets, and it doesn’t have a ‘.com’ extension which is the most recognized and trusted extension.
Now keep in mind there may be special cases where a keyword-focused domain with a less common extension may be fine. But you should proceed with caution, considering how search engines like Google may view the name.
Targeting keywords in your domain name is more likely to harm your rankings than help.
SEO Assumption #3: Link building is a foolproof plan to rank high.
Research by Moz on Google’s 2017 localized organic ranking factors tells us links are still the most important ranking factor, at 29%. But that still leaves the other 71% of the pie on the table.
There are other important factors, beyond links, that you should consider:
- On-page SEO, 24%
- Behavioral, 11%
- Personalization, 9%
- Citations, 8%
- Reviews, 7%
- Social, 4%
Link building, alone, is not enough. Be mindful of all the signals Google considers in their ranking process. And to understand the 3 top SEO ranking factors that continue to stand the test of time (including backlinks), check out our other recent blog post and infographic.
SEO Assumption #4: Social media marketing will get my site ranked higher.
Social media marketing, like SEO, is a key part of most successful digital marketing strategies. Though it seems that Google doesn’t really care how many followers, likes, comments, or shares you get. In fact, social signals only account for only 4% of Google’s local ranking factors (refer back to the ranking factors above).
But don’t write off social just yet. While social media may not have a direct impact on your search position, it still has many benefits.
Being active on social media is a valuable way to build brand awareness and connect with your audience. Plus, there are indirect ways social media marketing can help your rankings.
You can drive people to take action from your social posts like visiting your website, subscribing to your email list, requesting a quote, or buying a product. And that’s good from a business and SEO standpoint. Social media marketing can drive revenue while simultaneously signal to Google that there’s valuable content on your site that other searchers may enjoy.
But you should focus your social efforts on the right channels. For example, maybe more of your customers spend time on Instagram compared to Twitter, or Pinterest vs. LinkedIn. If you’re not sure which sites are best, do some research then use social media demographics to learn where your customers spend time.
Actions speak louder than likes. Social media will not directly improve your search rankings, but it it’s indirect benefits are too good to pass up.
Don’t haunt your search rankings by clinging to harmful SEO assumptions. Use these four examples to remember to make all your content for humans (not bots) and to spread out your SEO efforts to more than just link building.