In the battle to get found online there are few things more important than a solid, well-thought-out Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy. The internet is rife with “how-to” blogs, white-papers, and e-books on the subject. Do a quick Google search and it doesn’t take long to become overwhelmed by a deluge of inbound marketing advice disseminated by virtual armies of “experts” in the field of SEO. Due to the sheer volume of writing available on the subject, misinformation abounds as to what a sound SEO strategy really looks like. The wash of incorrect guidance flooding the web presents an enormous problem for digital marketers, considering total retail e-commerce sales were calculated at " >$225.5 billion for fiscal year 2012 in the U.S. alone. At a time when more people than ever are researching and purchasing goods and services on the web, following the wrong optimization advice for your website could put you far behind your competitors, and even damage your credibility online. It’s noisy out there in search engine land; to help you cut through some of the clutter, I’ve listed two SEO myths that you should avoid when building your on and off page optimization plan.
Keyword Density as a Ranking Factor: Busted
Google uses over 200 ranking factors to determine your website’s placement on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), and it’s a safe bet that all of the major search engines use similar ranking metrics. One of the most persistent myths in search marketing is that “keyword density” is one of those factors—it isn’t. While keywords are an important part of the overall content strategy for your website, trying to meet a strict set of keyword percentages per page is an absolute waste of your time. Squeezing too many keywords into a body of text will make your copy read in an unnatural way, which will be confusing to information seekers, and may set off Google’s spam filter. Instead of worrying about stuffing your web-pages with as many keywords as possible, focus on producing quality content with a clear purpose. If you’re doing it right, your content should have a natural dispersion of keywords throughout the body of the text. Speak to your audience’s informational needs and keyword patterns will begin to present themselves organically. You may not have the resources to produce the content necessary to drive the right kind of traffic to your site—in that case, it’s time to outsource. By hiring an agency to focus on the essentials for you (customer intent, intent of the content, and frequency of contact), you’ll build value for searchers, which strengthens your search relevance and linking potential.
The Do’s and Don’ts
Include keywords in the opening paragraph of your text that tell your audience immediately what your article or page is about.
Focus on the quality of your content, which will do much to encourage sharing and build your website’s authority.
Research keywords specific to your content, and use them sparingly if it can be achieved naturally within your copy.
Force as many keywords onto the page as you can in an attempt to meet some imaginary density threshold. This is called “keyword stuffing.” Keyword stuffing is considered a black-hat SEO method, and it will do a lot more harm to your SERP ranking than good.
Place unrelated keywords on pages to artificially drive traffic to irrelevant areas on your site. This is also considered keyword stuffing—steer clear.
Deliberately hide irrelevant keywords on the page (white on white text, etc.) to try and fool search engines into ranking your page for bogus keywords. This is super black-hat and it will probably result in a ban.
Buying Links Will Build Your Authority Quickly: Busted
A successful backlinking strategy can mean the difference between your website getting found, and languishing in obscurity in the no-traffic-zone. Links are all about contextual relationships, which is why it’s important for your link-building strategy to be centered around creating super high quality content (read useful) that compels others to share it. There are tons of link schemes out there designed to artificially build enormous link directories to your site in as little time as possible, regardless of relevance. That’s where your site’s “get found juice” can get sour pretty quick, and search engines, like Google, hate sour juice! Buying links to manipulate your PageRank produces a particularly bitter vintage and is generally a terrible idea. As an avid internet researcher this strategy is especially offensive to me. It often produces links of the absolute lowest quality, because they’re usually hosted on sites of questionable repute, or anchored within text that is misleading or useless to information seekers. Link buying may be effective at temporarily getting you more traffic in the short-term, but the kind and quality of traffic being directed to your site won’t result in leads, only frustrated people. Googlebot is smart! Don’t try to trick it by buying tons of links with similar anchor-text pointing to the same page over and over across a ton of web properties—it’s a sure way to get de-indexed in a hurry. The short-term boost in traffic is not worth the long term hassle of disavowing all those links, and getting back into the SERPs once you’ve been kicked off. Take the time to build relationships with your audience, bloggers, and non-competitors in your field. You’ll build valid, contextually relevant link directories that are useful to searchers, and the quality of the traffic you receive will result in more leads. If you’re having trouble building valid backlinks to your site, it probably means you’re producing poor content, and you may want look at outsourcing the bulk of your digital marketing to a group of experienced professionals.
The Do’s and Don’ts
Work to make your site a valuable resource to information seekers that builds trust and encourages linking.
Establish relationships with bloggers and non-competitors to generate contextually relevant linking opportunities.
Disseminate your content across social media platforms. It won’t help your placement in the SERPs, but it will make your content infinitely more sharable (we’ll cover that in more detail another time).
Purchase hundreds of links to the same page on your site. This is spam-y and search engines’ spam-detectors will punish it accordingly.
Rely on link farms to drive traffic to your site. All of the major search engines know who these link farms are, and your site’s reputation will be tarnished by its association with them. You could even be de-indexed.
Engage in comment spam. Comment sections are not the place for you to promote your latest blog, your newest product, or your awesome new website. They are a place for communities of searches to engage with, and exchange ideas with, content creators and one another.
Have you run into any wonky SEO practices over the years? Tell us about them in the comments below—we'd love to hear your stories.