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Fact or Fiction: 6 Things About SEO That You Should Probably Be Aware Of

Posted on October 18, 2015 by in Tips & Tricks | 26 comments

Fact or Fiction: 6 Things About SEO That You Should Probably Be Aware Of

For at least as long as WordPress has been around, search engine optimization has been taking heat from the masses. With claims of snake oil, sorcery and witchcraft being tossed around, if your business card had those three ominous letters on it, you had best be looking over your shoulder.

But how much of what is said about SEO is fact and how much is fiction? How much of the criticisms are coming from people who don’t really understand SEO to begin with? Is it really dead? Can the people selling SEO services be trusted or are they looking to scam unwary business owners? Is it even worth paying for SEO services?

As you can see, there are plenty of questions and even more opinions surrounding the validity of SEO. So many in fact that it becomes difficult to know which ones you should listen to and which ones you should ignore.

In this post, we’re going to try to dispel some of the myths surrounding SEO. We’ll figure out what, if any, SEO practices you should consider following as well as which advice and whose opinions we should really be listening to.

Fact: SEO Deserves Its Reputation

A large part of the reason that SEO is so highly criticized is because it’s often associated with activities that have a high probability of landing your website in Google’s bad books. To make matters even worse is the fact that SEO services were and are sold to companies who unknowingly risk having their website de-indexed or demoted in the SERPs because of shady practices.

Link building, thin, duplicate or spun content and keyword stuffing have all been popular tactics at one time or another – and rightly so. For a long time, they worked – until one day, they didn’t. And when Google updated an algorithm or performed a manual action, businesses with good websites were left wondering what the heck just happened. In some cases, businesses were removed from the SERPs completely.

Even in its most benign form, SEO needs to have more than just good intentions behind it. Guest blogging is great – it still is – but if you’re doing it simply with the intent of earning a backlink, it’s the wrong choice. SEO for 2015 needs to be honest, transparent and genuine. Especially if you’re planning to be in business for the long-haul.

Fiction: SEO Is Dead

Let’s start with what SEO isn’t: Dead. Nope, not by a long shot. Sure, you’ll hear lots of people who don’t practice SEO telling you differently but that doesn’t make it true. In fact, SEO is alive and well – although it might be time to replace that horribly tainted acronym. Even Google itself publishes an SEO Starter Guide.

When SEOMOZ.com changed their name to simply Moz.com, it was a signal that it might be time to consider a more holistic approach to your SEO practices. Moz has always been about white hat activities and their decision to remove SEO from their name was a sign of the times. They saw a shift in the market coming before many others did.

Gaming the system in any way is no longer going to be an acceptable practice. It’s just not worth the risk or penalties that can be imposed by the major search engines. But that’s very different than making the assumption that SEO is dead. As long as search engines exist, so too will optimization.

At its core, SEO still involves the process of building and optimizing your website so that it is easily crawled, indexed and ranked by search engines. Writing for people is great, and important, but if your content isn’t understood by search engines, don’t expect to find it in their results pages anytime soon.

For anyone who owns or maintains a website that means staying on top of the requirements and recommendations imposed by the major search engines. How accurately does your website comply with the Google Webmaster Guidelines? Many small business websites, despite doing nothing inherently wrong (ie. gray or black hat SEO), are poorly optimized for SEO. More often than not, it’s because of the belief that “SEO is dead”.

This belief is costing them in terms of total indexed pages, rankings in the SERPs, and ultimately lost conversions, sales, and customers. Even a beautiful website with amazing content needs SEO.

Fact: On-Page SEO Is Still Important

There is nothing fancy about on-page SEO, but that doesn’t mean you can overlook it or write it off as unnecessary. Proper on-page SEO isn’t about gaming or trying to trick the search engines. It’s about making sure that the content on the page or post can be easily interpreted. That means:

  • Using a URL that includes a keyword
  • Including your primary keyword in the title
  • Naturally using your keyword within the first few hundred words
  • Not overusing your keyword in the remaining text
  • Keeping your content relevant, on-topic and easy to read
  • Linking to relevant off-site content
  • Including relevant and optimized images & videos
  • Checking your grammar and spelling
  • Filling out a relevant and interesting meta description
  • Making sure your page is mobile friendly
  • Checking your site speed – if your page or site are slow, fix it

These are just a few of the on-page SEO factors you should be considering every time you click publish. Consider creating yourself a checklist that can be used anytime you publish new content.

Fiction: Google Wants You to Avoid SEO

SEO-Google-search-console

The Google Search Console

Google doesn’t want you to avoid SEO. They just want you to avoid shady practices that could be interpreted as cheating. If you interpret that as a need to abandon any and all SEO practices, your website will probably suffer.

Just take a look at all the information Google provides in Google Webmaster Tools (now Google Search Console). Most of the data is designed to help you optimize your website for search. Reviewing that data is something that should be on your list of priorities. In case you’re wondering what kind of information can be found in GWT, let’s take a closer look.

One of the first things you should look at is your index status. How well is Google indexing your site and are the number of pages indexed increasing along with the number of pages published? As your site grows in size and complexity, maintaining a good internal linking structure is a critical part of the SEO process. If the number of indexed pages is dropping or is failing to keep pace with published pages, it’s time to either improve your linking or look for a more serious problem. You’ll notice we do that here on Elegant Themes quite a bit. Almost every post links internally to other relevant posts. This serves two purposes:

  1. It makes is easier for you, the reader to find similar or relevant content.
  2. It makes it easier for search engines to crawl the site.

GWT also displays information about the queries that people are using to find your website. Even if they don’t click through to your content, you can see which queries the search engines feel are relevant to your site. If certain queries are not performing as well as expected, take note. The pages related to those queries may be in need of improved optimization in the form of on-page SEO, more engaging content or even a meta description that entices people to click through from the SERPs

We haven’t even touched on structured data, fixing crawl errors, submitting sitemaps or submitting new pages to the index. All of these factors play a key role in your overall SEO and they are all in line with what Google expects from a well optimized and search-friendly website.

Fiction: Link Building is Dead

It’s absolutely true that link-building in its most commonly known form is dead. But make no mistake, links are still important. But the only way you can safely build a link profile is by producing creative, engaging, well written or controversial content. It can be written content, video, infographics or a combination of the three. Creating this kind of content should be part of your overall SEO strategy and is more appropriately referred to as earning links.

Fiction: You Should Not Be Paying for SEO Services

Saying you shouldn’t hire someone to help with SEO for your website is like saying you shouldn’t hire someone to help with design, development, copywriting or content. SEO plays a role in all of those independent elements to a certain degree. SEO is a process that invades every facet of your website.

While you might be able to work your way through the process of search engine optimization on your own, hiring an expert or someone who works with SEO on a regular basis will save you time, money and mistakes. Hiring someone to perform SEO is no different that hiring someone to design or develop your website. You want an individual or company that is honest, transparent, knowledgeable and has a great track record.

Conclusion

The objective of this article was to put to bed the notion that SEO is dead – to clarify what is fact and what is fiction. While best-practices have changed and penalties for breaching the rules have become more serious, SEO still plays a vital role in the visibility of your website.

We only touched on a few of the bigger, more obvious factors involved in SEO for this article. We haven’t approached the topics of keyword or competitive research, local SEO, or the value of social networks.

The bottom line is we have a choice to either embrace SEO in it’s current state or pretend it’s dead and avoid the best practices that are outlined by Google. One thing is for sure, if you’re trying to rank for competitive search terms, it’s going to require more than a well-designed website and interesting content.

What do you think of the current status of SEO? Do you embrace any particular strategies or best practices? If so, please share in the comments below.

Article thumbnail image by Bloomua / shutterstock.com

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26 Comments

  1. This is a very helpful tips. Thank you very much.

  2. Hej and thank you for this informative feature about SEO.

    I use the Yoast SEO Tool to optimize every single page of my website.
    But what’s about the SEO feature in the E-Panel of the fantastic Themes from elegantthemes. Is it necessary to use both functions, Yoast SEO and E-Panel SEO? Or is the one overwriting the other?

    Do I have to fill in the same title/description in the Yoast-Plugin and in the Homepage SEO in E-Panel?

    Sorry about my english … hope you understand what I mean.

    Regards from cold Germany to sunny California

    • I would say, since you’re using Yoast SEO, you don’t need to use the e-panel SEO functions

  3. true and valid points.. thanks for the post.

  4. Working mainly with social signals so far, link building is not my cup of tea.

  5. Haha, love the first paragraph– and yes, SEO will not be dead as long as search engines are around and businesses want to rank well on them, the techniques will just continue to change, like you said, and to me, that’s actually part of the fun!

  6. VERY VERY useful post – I think when you are doing SEO day to day it’s easy to become resentful when clients don’t understand exactly what is involved. This post will go a long way to demistiying a lot of grey areas for clients…..Thank you.

  7. Great article – thanks for sharing! Link-building has to be the hardest for me, I have to admit. I optimize pages using Yoast SEO plugin as well as. Appreciate all the tips!

  8. It is good to see a balanced appraisal of SEO, which is one of the most misunderstood areas of online marketing. Of course it makes absolute sense to optimize your on-page presentations, and build your web properties with crawlers in-mind; but people are the most crucial objective, if you make your content appealing and useful to people all else falls into place.
    The use of video, and ‘meta’ optimizing methods will greatly enhance your online presence.
    I recently published a genuine case study of a brand new local business which I built a website for based on Divi – and I also produced a promotional video uploaded to YouTube. The client did not purchase any ‘SEO’ services, but i included some basic optimization as a prt of the build, and gained the site top of page 2 ranking within a few weeks for a set of relevant business-area keywords. SEO is very much alive, and legitimate!

  9. I’m worried about my URL it does’t keyword from my niche But I hope to consider my name as a brand for skin care, In this stage of the process how would I change my URL with something about skin care, I would appreciate your comment and email, Every informative SEO, Thank you.

  10. The main contentious issue is Link Builidng, I really think these days the term has a negative impact on the practice. It should be seen more as link growth, as an organic approach to creating worth while content that will be linked naturally from other sites.

    It still shocks me that people are paying for links…

  11. Simply focus on producing quality content and make it easy for search engines (and readers!) to find it.

    • Exactly, you are spot on 🙂

      Websites need to provide answers and the best way to do that is with quality content…
      To keep the search engines happy, make it easy for their spiders to crawl the website.

  12. 90% of spam messages and spam posts on my sites come from self proclaimed “SEO EXPERTS” . Cleary they are a bunch of spamming, scamming, low life excreta that I would not touch with a 3 meter disinfected barge pole.

    If you use Yoast SEO plug in and SEO as many pages as possible and ALL posts to at least Orange then you will not go far wrong.

    I say to at least Orange as it is my experiance that you will never get a 100% Green board without compromising the readability in some cases.

    All my clients that I have taught how to use Yoast SEO in their posts and pages have seen significant increases in organic visitors.

  13. Thanks Joe for a balanced and intelligent article.

    I’ve been having the ‘SEO is dead’ argument with people for three years and still it won’t go away.

    I tell people the key is in the name ‘Search Engine’ optimisation. Whilst we still have search engines there is a need to optimise what you have for them to find.

    In terms of what works, on page is critical as is good link building practice. If you believe the rumours no one should leave comments here, or guest blog, or do lots of other stuff which is perfectly acceptable. Google generally has a problem however with lots and lots of anything so automating this stuff never works in the long-term.

    Oh, and building and optimising website for people. That works. Typically I find that it is people that buy stuff from you, not search engines.

  14. Hi, SEO is not dead, not absolutly! SEO changing, It evolves every year, and it is increasingly connected with the creation, presentation and promotion of good content. And, at this moment, also linkbuilding is not dead…

  15. Hiring someone can be a good thing, but there are many times more snake-oil hustlers to weed out than in any other line of work.

  16. Nice post and thx for the tips. SEO is still alive, it’s just changing

  17. Curious if you could expand on the link building part– would love to hear your thoughts specifically on how a startup website can scale their link building operation in a whitehat, safe fashion by utilizing virtual assistants. What would you recommend their tasks be? Also, any other specific ways you would suggest a website scale their link building?

    • Personalized guest blogging offers can still work.

      As can finding sites that link out to other sites in your niche and then getting in touch and giving them a good reason to also link out to your site.

      Finding broken links on a site in your niche can also present an opportunity. Contacting the site owner and point out they have a broken link and then solve their problem by giving them a similar page on your site they can link to instead.

      These are all tasks that a VA could carry out without spamming and too much guidance.

  18. Hi Joe,

    Quite informative post, but I think you missed the SSL part as Google told in their official webmaster tools blog that it going to be one of ranking signal.

  19. Nice post Joe. Yeah it’s true that link building isn’t dead. Google is just decreasing the value of spammy links. Quality links are still valuable.

    • True, true. Sometimes only 1 great link is powerful.

  20. SEO is dead. Anyone who tries to tell you different is selling you something. All you need is basic preparations that allow any search engine to find you. There are many tools out there that can help you with that. Other than that, leave SEO alone. What you need to focus on is creating amazing content and building followers. Once you achieve that, the search engines will find you. Even if your site sucks at SEO. I emphasize Amazing and Fresh Content. It needs to be the best in the subject. Whether it be about celebrities to boring words, it has to be very attractive to your audience. From that you can build your fan base. Get them to want to know more and keep them involved in your content. The SEs will notice the traffic and list you higher in the results. But don’t get carried away with SEs. Just focus on other ways to get on people’s computer screens and the rest will fall into place. Turn to things like TV interviews, Newspaper interviews (yes there still viable oddly enough), Youtube or other online video servers, and write a book or two. One more thing, invest into some human psychology classes in relation to the Marketing Industry. You’ll be shocked of how easy you can hoodwink busy people into following your planned path for them. If you’ve read this far, one of my tactics has already worked.
    SEO is dead. Its not worth anyone’s time including the scammers. 🙂

  21. But what about Ecommerce products. Should i rewrite the whole products description of the products or simply copy paste and link to the manufacturer links? As most of the product have very few things to write them differently!!!

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