SEO: Myths Debunked For The Layman

Awhile ago, I came across an article written by the Nick Churick over at ahrefs titled “SEO Mythbusters: Top marketers share the most counter intuitive SEO truths”. I am going to preface this by saying that if you have working knowledge of SEO, you should refer to the article written by Nick instead.

Instead, my intention is to summarise and cover a few key areas for the layman who might own their own small/medium enterprise and is wondering on how SEO can impact their online presence. In addition, while the term search engine may refer to many different sites such as Yahoo! or Bing, I shall stick to Google as an example.

SEO Is Not Magic

Contrary to what some ‘experts’ might tell you, there is no recipe nor secret to success. The only magic that exists is how fast their bank account fills up while yours depletes. SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It basically means that you have to structure your website in a way that is easy for Google to understand (grade). Imagine submitting a handwritten essay in school. A poorly written essay that is laced with sentence structure errors, lacking in paragraphs and punctuations is akin to a website with poor SEO. However, a properly written essay makes it easier for your teacher to understand and grade you. This goes the same for good SEO practices. By following some of the simple guidelines laid out by Google, you are making it easier for their machines to understand your website.

Furthermore, proper SEO practices take time to reflect on the search results. Think of Google as the teacher who has over millions of essays to mark daily. Even if help was enlisted, it would take a while before your essay is marked. Do not listen to anyone who guarantees instant results.

Getting to #1 on Google

Picture yourself in a marathon with nine other runners. As the race progresses, you find out that you are losing ground to all nine runners. The only way for you to catch up to them is if a) you put in more effort to catch up with them or b) if they decide to slow down. However, the issue complicates itself when you realise that the other runners might simply be genetically superior or have had better resources to train for the run. Hence, no matter the effort you put in before or during the race, you might not hit your intended position.

This theory applies to the search results page on Google as well. However, instead of 9 competitors, you might have hundreds and thousands of people competing with you for that coveted first position. Thus, competing for that position requires immense amounts of resources that might not be available to a small enterprise. Business owners should focus on playing to the strengths of their company. What is something that you provide that is better than your competition? Instead of trying to fight for position 1, focus on providing your users with what they really need. This brings us to our next point.

More Content Is Not Necessarily Good

This is a simple one to understand. Many people assume that by starting a blog and writing a ton of articles, it will somehow translate into traffic for their website. In this case, quality is better than quantity. However, this is far from the end of it. The fact is, quality content is only as good as the effort that you take to market it to the masses. Reach out to organisations, bloggers, interest groups who might be willing to promote your content.

If you lack the capabilities to continuously create new and interesting content, check out some ideas on creating evergreen content from Hubspot. Such content does not go out of style in the short run and may continue to provide value to your users in the long run. If you own a furniture company, an example of a piece of evergreen content could be ‘How To Protect Your Wooden Furniture For Years’. On the other hand, a piece of content that might quickly go out of style could read something like ‘Top Furniture Ideas For 2017’. Over time, you could even build on the quality of your evergreen content. Perhaps you discovered a new way to protect wood furniture that happens to be better than an old method that you once posted?

To create quality content, research on the needs and wants of your target users. What are they talking about? What are the pages they are interacting with online? For example, make use of Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to learn more about the interests of your target audience.

Google Is Far Smarter Than You’ll Ever Be

Again, there is no recipe for success. Instead of trying to fool the system to earn rankings on the search results page, focus on providing your users with what they really want. The machines that Google uses to rank websites are learning on a daily basis. It knows which websites are providing quality content and seeks out similar websites that are doing so while removing websites that contain poor content and spam. This happens 24/7 around the clock. Take a second to imagine how much smarter (or less productive) we would all be if we could learn or work 24/7 without burning out or dying.

Be as detailed as possible on your site, provide pictures and videos wherever possible. At the same time, make sure that the content that you are providing is easily viewable from your audience’s standpoint. Take a look at the buttons, forms, and pages on your site. Are they as easily accessible on mobile as they are on the desktop? With a whopping 60 percent of people searching on mobile in 2016, you should pay attention to how your mobile page looks like. Need to build a website but lack the programming chops? Companies such as WiX and Squarespace will offer the solutions you are after.

Ending Thoughts

In this ultra-competitive day and age, content producers are dime a dozen. Many will be willing to charge you for a thousand words, without investing thought nor care into your business. Coupled with intelligent systems from Google, it is much harder to get away with poor websites and lacklustre content. Focus on providing value to your users and reach out to as many people as possible about your offerings. Keep up with web trends and understand what your users are searching for.

I strongly suggest that you check out this video by Google’s Maile Ohye on the things you should look out for when hiring an SEO.

What else did I miss out that you feel would be good for a beginner who is looking to understand more about SEO? Feel free to air your thoughts in the comments section below.

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