SEO Myths for 2019
Look, SEO is hard. We get it, there’s a plethora of information online and it’s mostly sales-y. Researching SEO strategies and guides is a headache and marketing companies love to promise things they cannot deliver on or things they cannot guarantee. Who can you trust? What’s worth your time? What steps should you take? These are questions I face every time I research SEO for a client. So, I’ve decided to put all my findings in an easy to access post, right here on the Mindshare blog. Hopefully, this will make SEO seem less like gambling and more like professional decision making.
Pro Tip: When you make a search engine search you are not searching the internet, you’re searching that particular engine’s index.
Quick Note: I refer to Google, like, a lot. But this information applies to all search engines.
Important technical factors:
This stuff is relatively low hanging fruit in terms of SEO, it just takes a bit of patience and a competent website developer.
An accessible URL.
Not surprisingly, if a URL is not accessible it cannot be indexed. Secondly, if there is no way of reaching that URL, then Google cannot index it. In other words, some link someplace must be pointing to your page and you must be allowing Google to index it. Use a sitemap to tell Google and other engines where pages are. A sitemap is essentially a list of all the pages on your website and is critical to SEO success. These are usually located at your-url.com/sitemap_index.xml or your-url.com/sitemap.xml. (Mindshare’s is here)
One of Google’s main goals is to make a more enjoyable experience for users, this means a quick internet. If your site is slow, then Google is less likely to recommend it and you’ve failed at SEO. You can test your site here.
More than half of all internet traffic is mobile. This means Google (and other search engines) want to deliver pages that work on mobile devices. In fact, Google will list mobile optimized pages first. Your site must:
- Automatically resize to fit the device.
- Use large fonts that are easy to read on mobile devices.
- Make sure mobile-focused menus and links are easy to click (tap) on.
- Put content above the fold and not hidden by ads.
- Pro Tip: It does not matter if your site gets mostly desktop traffic, or if your audience is mostly desktop users… your website is not being listed in search, so you’re not getting the traffic you should be getting. In other words, current website traffic is not an indicator of SEO quality. Current visitor trends are not indicative of future visitor trends.
Image alt and title tags.
Google and other search engines allow users to specifically search images. Alt and title tags tell those search engines what that image is all about. While google’s image recognition is pretty good, these alt and title tags are gold when it comes to image searches. Make sure to ALWAYS use them, especially if your business relies on product or service images. In fact, Google has an entire article dedicated to image publishing. A few tips:
- Screen readers (for the visually impaired) use image title and alt tags to describe the image.
- Don’t stuff keywords into these tags. It’s no help for screen readers (and is pretty annoying, to be honest).
Bad: puppy pup pupper doggo puppy dog baby dog pup pups puppies doggies pups litter puppies dog retriever labrador wolfhound setter pointer puppy jack russell terrier puppies dog food cheap dogfood puppy food.
Good: jack russell puppies playing in grass.
- Use informational and descriptive text in these tags. The title and alt tags should describe what’s in the image, not the content that surrounds the image. Although, hopefully, they relate.
Domain Age, URL, and Authority.
It’s hard to hear, but the age of your website does play a significant factor in your search rankings and SEO. I imagine this is a result of how Google determines authority on a particular search term. You see, search engines want to provide the most relevant content on any particular search. So their algorithms are tuned to find pages that showcase that authority. In addition to this, your URL also plays a role in your SEO. If your URL matches (or is close to) a search term, then your page could be seen as high quality, relevant and valuable.
Pro tip: If your domain or urls are already established and shared, changing them could cause significant SEO damage. So, don’t change them.
Proper meta tags and schema markup.
While proper meta tags and schema markup don’t play a significant factor in how high your page appears in search results, it does play a role as to whether a user clicks on them. This is true for both search results and sharing on social media.
Important Content factors:
Before diving into writing your content, try to imagine the search term people will use to find this content. Include those potential search terms throughout your content, but not in a weird or hard to read way. (Look at your website analytics to determine these words.) Also, don’t duplicate content. Fresh, original content is always best. In fact, having duplicated content on your site can actually harm your search rankings, unless you properly use canonical URL’s.
- Understand how LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords work. Let’s assume someone searches for the word ‘Sierra’. That word can be associated with a car (made by GMC), a mountain range (The Sierra Nevada mountain range), or a trading post (Sierra Trading Post.) It’s also a name. So, if you’re writing about the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it’s important to include related words like mountain, range, hiking, trails, etc.
- More specific searches happen less often but provide better results. In other words, people are more likely to click on your content if it’s specific to what they searched for (don’t write about how Sierra used a GMC to drive up the maintain range in search for a trading post.)
Content length is hotly debated among content creators and SEO specialists. It very basically comes down to depth and quality of writing. It’s never advisable to stretch out content (leave that to your high-school self the night before an essay is due.) Instead, properly write about it. If the content deserves depth, give it depth. If not, then it might not be worth writing about, or might be better used as a social media post. About 2500 words per page is the right length. Better content also attracts shares and links.
It should go without saying that people online are lazy. 2,500 words is more than most will read (even if it’s what gets you to the top of the search ranking.) In fact, most people would rather watch a video than read your blog. So, include video along with the content! It has more potential to be shared or linked to as well.
Let’s say an art gallery determines that “Santa Fe Art” is a keyword they’d like to rank for. Their content might target people looking to buy art, but if people searching for that term are actually artists then their content will not apply to them. Sometimes it’s very clear what a users search intent is, like if they include the words “buy” or “compare” in their search query. Understanding your audience goes a long way in creating content for SEO.
- Typically searches can be broken down into 4 categories:
- Navigational: Looking for a particular website. Example: “smug mug”
- Informational: Looking for an answer to a question. Example: “how to start a photography business”
- Investigational: To get information for some purpose, like before making a purchase. Example: “Canon compared to Nikon”
- Transactional: To actually make a purchase. Example: “Canon cameras for sale.”
- A well-optimized blog or website should include content for each of those categories (and include links between them.)
- Example: This post falls into the Informational and Investigational categories.
- Use your keywords in page titles and <h1> tags.
- Use proper <header> tags to show content hierarchy.
- Include a meta description that both entices readers and includes your keywords.
- Use image alt tags to show that the image is relevant to the main content. (Plus, Google has an image search which helps people find your content.)
- Use schema markup to help search engines identify what kind of content your producing. This also helps your content appear in rich cards on google searches (i.e. meow wolf events.)
RankBrain is Google’s artificial intelligence ranking your website. It looks at a couple of important factors:
- How many people visited your page after a particular search query. (your site seemed appropriate.)
- How many bounced away after visiting. (they didn’t find the content useful.)
- How many people stayed on your site after a search. (they found something useful and stayed to read/watch)
RankBrain is the reason why it’s so important to have digestible, human-oriented content. Search engines are no longer just measuring the words, they are now looking at how people are digesting the content. This is also why we can no longer pump keywords into pages… they’re not useful for humans.
Obviously, more links to your content will drive more traffic, but the quality of those links are also taken into account.
- Garner high-quality inbound links to your content (this means from other websites that also have authority on the search query.)
- It’s important to have active social media on all main social sites. Not only does this help to drive traffic to your site, but it also helps drive inbound links and shares.
- Internal links can also help drive up authority; If you write a blog post about a product, then link to that product on your purchase page.
Local Business Information.
Make sure your site includes your name, address, and phone number. List this information on a Google business page, a facebook business page and every page of your website, like in the footer or header.
Using this post as a checklist will get you pretty far. But, you might ask; I don’t have time for all of this, what the ONE thing I should be doing? Pay us to do it for you. Just kidding… but really, professional help is worth it. However, small business and new business can often not afford it. So, introducing our 2 step SEO success strategy:
- Ensure all technical factors are taken care of (see above).
- Post to your blog, a lot.