On 16 February 2022, Matt Bailey hosted a Simplilearn webinar, giving advice on how to avoid falling for SEO myths, and on which SEO skills will never go out of style.
Matt is the Digital Marketing Instructor for the Direct Marketing Association in NYC, a member of the Digital Marketing Faculty for Simplilearn, and an instructor for the OMCP (Online Marketing Certified Professional) Program.
The Truth About SEO
Don’t you wish you knew the truth? With all the information out there about SEO, it’s hard to know what’s true, and what is simply part of a marketing ploy. Whether you’re learning SEO for yourself, or whether you just want to understand the field better when employing someone else, you should understand that not everything you’ve heard about SEO is true.
You should also be aware of the skills that keep proving essential to the field. Read on and learn more about the myths of SEO practice, and to learn what skills are going to stay essential to SEO now and in the future.
What Are the SEO Myths?
If you’re unsure about what you hear, you’re not alone. With many SEO services claiming to be authorities on Google ranking, it’s hard to know what you’re in for. The information doesn’t always reflect reality, and in fact, you may have encountered SEO frustrations of your own. There’s a reason for that: myth versus fact.
But you can start getting more in touch with your SEO needs by clearing up what’s untrue. Here are the myths that plague people learning SEO today, according to Bailey.
Myth #1: Bounce Rates Hurt Rankings
There’s no reason to believe that a bounce is a problem. When bounces happen on multiple results on a search engine result page, though, that might be a problem. Seeing high bounce rates on result after result is called pogo-sticking, and that usually indicates one of two things: either people aren’t finding what they’re looking for, or they are quickly gathering information.
One example of the latter involves someone retrieving information from a cooking conversion chart. This visit might be a quick bounce, but the user had a positive experience by getting exactly what they needed. When you recognize this as an opportunity to provide more useful information, you can capitalize on what was first thought of as a problem: that high bounce rate.
Myth #2: Changing Publish Dates Boosts Rankings
The thinking here is simple: since Google likes fresh content, many people assume changing the publish dates of old content boosts its relevance. That’s an integrity problem, first and foremost. If you change or amend the content, updating the date makes sense.
However, this is also a problem based on faulty understanding of the search engine and how it works. When search engines find content, they make a copy of it. A search engine will compare a newly dated copy to previous copies to see how it changed.
Therefore, changing the publish date is a complete waste of time — it won’t affect your ranking whatsoever. You’re better off updating the content and adding new value to it, or curating it into new content, rather than just changing the date.
By thinking about what’s best for the visitor instead of what’s best for the search engine, you’ll find far more success in creating relevant search results.
Myth #3: Core Web Vitals Determine Rankings
People put a lot of hours into improving Core Web Vitals, thinking that by fixing the user experience on these minute factors, they will receive better rankings. This is a fallacy. Core Web Vitals (CWV) is not a major factor on its own for such ranking. It is an important factor, but it does not affect content or relevance, so when it’s the only thing improved, it doesn’t do anything.
Faster page loads, contentful paint, and more help because it helps make users happy, but also because file sizes are easier to handle. Data storage costs money, so the lighter your website is, Google benefits and is able to profit more from storing your site’s information.
But CWV will not replace relevance, though. In fact, more than half the Top 100 sites fail CWV checks. These major fundamental changes are important, but don’t mistake them as a major point for search rankings.
Myth #4: Automated SEO Recommendations Are All You Need to Succeed
You may have an SEO software you prefer, and this tool might give you recommendations. These are not necessarily rooted in your own brand’s success. Any automated process is based on a tool’s own imposed rules. Each software tries to guess what Google’s ranking factors and rules are, but none are going to be spot-on. Google changes their algorithms daily, sometimes 20 times a day, so there’s no way to keep up perfectly.
The recommendations can be good, and an automated audit from this tool might say you have many changes to make. The key to success is knowing what of those factors is important, and which of those changes will impact your visitor’s experience.
Things like mobile compatibility and accessibility compliance are great factors for automated tools like this and understanding the reasons behind the recommendations is crucial for becoming more familiar with what an improved, Google-friendly site looks like.
Myth #5: SEO Studies Hold “The Real Secrets” to How Search Engine Algorithms Work
Many SEO companies talk about how they’ve cracked Google, doing research to figure out what really affects a site’s relevance.
However, the studies include many problems like confirmation biased or problematically small sample size. Data science has proven that this “research” is usually flawed, and that it’s mainly a ploy to sell the company’s own software or services.
Myth #6: Some Vendors Have a “Special Relationship” With Google
In the same way that some studies claim to know the way Google works, there are vendors that claim to be in an organic partnership with Google. No SEO vendor can guarantee building rankings with such a relationship. No one has the “secret sauce” recipe.
Don’t fall for this, as it’s a blatantly dishonest approach to selling a company’s services to those who want their business to rank highly.
Myth #7: Duplicate Content Will Incur a Penalty in Rankings
This one’s more of a misunderstanding than a myth. Having duplicate content is usually a programming error or a result of the way content is managed and developed. This can cause crawling and rankings to go down as a product of duplicate content.
But this is not a penalty from the search engine. Instead, it’s a byproduct of having duplicate content at multiple addresses, which makes a search engine spider incapable of differentiating as well between pages.
This spider crawls both pages and gives the authority of this content to each of them. When the authority is split between pages, the rankings go down because other relevant content from other sites has higher authority. Helping spiders ignore duplicate content on other pages can help with this, because it’s a simple mistake, rather than a penalty.
Once you’ve corrected your duplicates, the spiders will ignore your extra content and only crawl one page with authority. This helps the page in question regain its ranking and relevance.
Remember, from Robots.txt errors, to canonicalization errors, 99% of ranking issues considered “penalties” are actually just mistakes made by the website developer themselves. Be vigilant to combat these with understanding.
[Please embed the webinar replay here: https://www.linkedin.com/video/live/urn:li:ugcPost:6899736868498599937/]
SEO Skills That Will Never Go Out of Style
Some firms come up with their idea of what SEO trends will dictate in the future. Based on emerging technology, they will recommend skills that SEO specialists should learn to be successful.
However, there are some skills that have stayed on the playing field for much longer than anyone realizes. Proven to be long-standing staples of the practice, these evergreen SEO skills are those that will never go out of style.
SEO is not like it was 15–20 years ago, when all you had to do was optimize for a keyword multiple times. Now, you must add the word in a compelling way. You must add context, integrating the keyword while writing copy that moves people to conversion with clickable titles and intriguing topics.
HTML Mark-Up and Page Design
It’s incredibly helpful to have HTML and a knowledge of page design to inform search engines of the design intent. How does the content build a hierarchy? Through mark-up. HTML is used to do this easily in many cases, even when you’re changing things on a prepackaged site theme. You don’t have to rely on your chosen template if you have access to this skill.
Getting familiar with the numbers, you can measure the impact of a page in search and the behavior of users. This is geared toward the goal of conversion: by learning what people do before and on the site, you can understand what is needed to make them complete the desired action. SEO and analytics are two of the most in-demand skills there are, so learning analytics makes you a powerhouse in the field.
Understanding the factors that move people to conversion through knowledge of user experience. Factors like color, contrast, or even A/B testing skills come from this wheelhouse. By combining this skill with analytics, you can inform the user experience design to focus on the business objective.
Don’t go out on your own after getting certified in SEO skill sets. Get experience in a firm, where you’ll understand different client needs, different client objectives, and so on. You’ll have to “find what works” for each client, and only experience can do that. Make yourself available to an SEO firm before stepping out on your own.
The way you communicate your decisions and your needs, you will become a far more effective SEO specialist. Your recommendations, your bottom line, everything you have to accomplish needs to be presented correctly to the right people. Hold the attention of your clients and other stakeholders in order to get what’s needed for every project you’re on.
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