Misconceptions About SEO + Taking a Holistic Approach
Lately when I’ve been explaining SEO to clients I’ve been throwing around the phrase “holistic SEO,”
which I’m pretty sure I made up I just did a Google search and apparently I did not make it up, but I’m sticking to it, and in fact, I’m building my whole brand around it.
It’s not because I have woo-woo tendencies or because I’m a vegetarian or because I only wash my face with coconut oil and use vinegar as my primary housecleaning agent rather than chemicals or bleach (though all of those things are true), but because I truly believe you cannot separate SEO from the rest of your website/marketing efforts. In the similar mindset of holistic medicine, SEO needs to be applied as you’re looking at every piece of the puzzle in order to have a healthy website.
I was on the phone with a client recently, explaining what types of steps we can take to boost her search engine rankings and drive more traffic to her website. Midway through my explanation of one suggestion, she interrupted me.
“Wait wait wait…I heard that that doesn’t matter anymore for search engine rankings. I heard that what’s more important is my content.”
Here’s the thing: It’s all important.
Everything matters from meta tags, to social media, to clear calls to action on your website, and especially to quality content. All factors are considered in your website ranking, and you better believe that Google is constantly adjusting its algorithm to weigh everything as a whole.
Common Myths About SEO
Myth: SEO will get me to the first page of Google search results
Oh sweet summer child, first of all let’s dissect what you mean by “first page of Google search results.” The first page of search results are results 1-10 for a given search query. So yeah, okay, maybe you’ll rank on the first page for one search query (or at least the name of your website), but how do you know that’s the best one for you to rank for? Ranking highly is competitive and while it’s easy to get caught up in the competitive mindset of slashing other websites on your way to the top, it’s much better to think of your human visitors for anything related to your website.
Let’s say you’re a photographer in Portland. You may feel the need to rank #1 for “photographer Portland” in Google search results. Yes, that would be totally bomb, BUT first of all, that’s a very competitive keyword to try to rank for, and second of all, is that really what your clients are searching for? Wouldn’t you rather rank for “wedding photographer Portland” or “family photographer Portland”? If I’m searching for a photographer, I have a reason I want that photographer, so I’m going to start with a more narrow search because I know it’s 2015 and I don’t want to have to dig through a bunch of crap before I finally get to what I’m actually searching for—ya dig?
Nobody can guarantee that you’ll be on the first page of search results
Now, even if we can narrow your keyword focus, nobody—and I mean nobody—can guarantee that you’re going to rank on the first page of Google search results. Everything you’ve ever heard about how to boost Search Engine Optimization? It’s all speculation. Well, okay, Google has admitted things that they look for in a high-ranking website, and the numbers don’t lie for those of us who track Google Analytics, but if anyone tells you that anything is a sure bet to get you to THE NUMBER ONE SEARCH RESULT RANKING is straight up lying to your face and potentially running a scam.
I often refer to SEO as “appeasing the Google Gods” for a reason. Very much like sacrificing a goat so that the gods will bless your crop with rain, SEO techniques are based on limited information. Okay maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. The point is, Google has an extremely advanced algorithm for indexing and ranking websites, and they’re constantly changing this algorithm. They don’t want anyone to know their secrets and once people get to privy about “hacking the system,” they’re going to change things up so that those “hacks” get penalized.
What we do know is that the Google Gods are loving gods and want their algorithm to be best for the people. So this means they are going to favor websites that actually provide valuable, enriching information to their readers, are attractive and easy to read/navigate, and don’t try to spam anybody. In short, good SEO is facilitating the quality of your information. If your content is shit, your design totally sucks, and you’re constantly just sharing a bunch of spammy links to get more views, no amount of SEO is going to help you.
Myth: SEO is dead
Just because old practice, spammy, sleazy SEO (keyword stuffing, spammy link exchanges, paid links, etc.) is finally being penalized by Google, doesn’t mean that SEO can’t help you.
- A thorough SEO audit can help detect problem areas and things that might be broken on your site that maybe you don’t notice, but that might be making it difficult for the Google bots to crawl and index your site.
- Some effective meta titles, meta descriptions, and alt text can help Google pinpoint what your focus is so that your site can be categorized and ranked more effectively.
- A solid content strategy around some keyword research can help you establish your expertise, help you focus on problems/questions/topics in your niche, and naturally give you more opportunities for getting in front of ideal clients/readers.
There is good and evil in every line of exposure marketing, so while crap SEO might be dead, the good stuff still lives on!
Myth: If my keywords are good and I’ve got a lot of backlinks, I’m set on SEO
Those things can definitely help and are one of the first things I look at when considering a site’s SEO health, but again we’re thinking holistically here. Good SEO also means that your website is mobile-responsive, that you’re making it easy for your visitors to determine what your site is about within seconds of visiting you page, and that the structure of your website makes sense in terms of navigation and even structure of topics. It all matters.
Even something you might not classify as “SEO” is probably actually part of good SEO practice: web design, content layout, image size, calls to action, etc.
So those are some of the main misconceptions I’ve had to explain lately. What are some of the bold/probably misconceived SEO claims you’ve been hearing around the internets lately?