Constantly evolving but forever misunderstood by novice online marketers, there remain many myths about search engine optimisation. Many marketers continue to use spammy tactics in the hopes of artificially improving their standings in the search engine results, and while some of these tactics might work for a while, Google is getting ever more effective at finding them and penalizing the websites that make use of them. Here are 10 of the SEO tactics that you need to leave behind in 2015:
1 – Link Building Is More Important than Content
For years, SEO was very much about quantity rather than quality, but Google’s constant stream of algorithm updates have made the search engine much more sophisticated than it once was. Quality content and relevant links, both of which are useful to human readers, are what you should be aiming for, with an emphasis on the former. Quality content should actually attract links all by itself by way of social media sharing and voluntarily made references in other off-site content.
2 – Meta Descriptions Have a Major Impact on Ranking
Meta descriptions are still important because they exist to provide a brief explanation of what a particular webpage is about in the search results, which is useful for users to help determine whether or not to follow the link. While a compelling description can help to increase traffic to your website, Google has repeatedly announced that they have no bearing on a webpage’s placement in the search results itself. The same applies to the meta keywords tag, which has been obsolete since the late 90s!
3 – Google Authorship Will Help to Increase Visibility
Only a year ago, Google Authorship was being touted as the next big thing in SEO. While it did indeed look promising for a while, you missed the memo if you’re still thinking about using it, because it doesn’t exist at all anymore. The Google Authorship program already appeared to be in for the chop back in June, 2014, when author photos were removed from the search results. Only a couple of months later, on August 28, the program was axed entirely, and its markup declared obsolete.
4 – Content Must Be Keyword-Optimised
While there was a time when on-page SEO was all about the strategic use of carefully chosen keywords, things are quite different in 2015. Google is constantly moving away from matching up keywords in search queries to those on webpages displayed in order to deliver more natural, intention-based results. In keeping with this policy, over-optimised content is actually more likely to get penalised. Instead, keyword phrases should be used sparingly, if at all.
5 – The More Content, the Better
Again, the myth that more content means higher visibility in the search engines is another example of the quantity-over-quality myth. While having a consistent content creation and publication schedule is important for keeping your visitors entertained, the amount of content on a website in itself is not a significant ranking factor. Instead, your content should be kept relevant and useful to its intended audience, and it is also wise to diversify it by making use of visual content too.
6 – H1 Heading Tags Are Important for SEO
Long considered to be an important ranking factor, the H1 tag is steadily fading towards obscurity as far as SEO is concerned. The purpose of a headline is and always was to tell people what a particular webpage is about, and it is analogous to the book titles that you look for when you’re looking for a book in your local library. The header tag will likely be the same or very similar to the page title, and it should not make excessive use of keywords.
7 – Having a Secured Website Isn’t Important for SEO
A secured website is characterised by the suffix ‘HTTPS’ rather than ‘HTTP’, and in Google Chrome, it is accompanied by a small padlock icon beside the address. Although still a relatively minor ranking factor, Google stated in 2014 that it is encouraging websites, particularly those that handle any sensitive information, to make use of the Transport Layer Protocol, and if your website only has a standard HTTP address, its rankings could drop slightly as a result.
8 – Guest Blogging Is Bad
In January, 2014, Google’s head of Web spam Matt Cutts told marketers to stop using guest blogging for link building, because it has become heavily abused with copious amounts of spam. However, guest blogging can still be beneficial if it is done correctly, and this means creating relevant content and posting it on quality blogs rather than content mills, article directories and other websites that tend to specialise in ‘farming’ vast amounts of poor-quality content.
9 – Paid Advertising Will Help Rankings
Some novice marketers still seem to think that paid advertising will help boost search engine rankings. In fact, it is not and it never has been: just imagine how open to abuse such a system would be, since companies with higher advertising budgets would be able to simply bribe their way into the first pages of the search engine results. Marketers need to know the difference between gaining organic traffic by way of SEO and gaining paid traffic by way of paid advertising.
10 – Anchor Text Should Be Keyword-Optimised
Google’s algorithm updates have persistently penalised websites that over-optimise their content with excessive use of keywords, the anchor text displayed in place of links being a prime example. Anchor text exists to be useful to human readers, without breaking up the natural flow of a piece of written content. While branded anchor text can still be useful, blatant use of key words and phrases will likely get your website penalised.