Last night I heard one of my favorite SEO speakers, Rand Fishkin speak (he has a personal blog!). I love his insights because it’s not the same tired or outdated advice about SEO. He likes to bust SEO myths. I admit to buying into every myth he talked about at some point in my learning. I’m still wondering about a few.
The premise of Rand’s tips are that giving up your misconceptions can free you to meet your goals (sometimes the solution is easier than you might think). This applies in life too.
Here are 5 myths which are my notes from the evening.
Myth #1: It’s always best to rank first on Google for your keyword phrases.
People used to click on the top result in Google first. We’ve gotten more sophisticated. Now we look at many elements before clicking. Things like: what the text (snippet) says, the source (PDFs usually kill the click), if there are reviews/ratings next to the listing, and images. That means we have started looking for the best result, not necessarily the first or easiest one.
This is good news! You can outplay the competition you can’t outrank by making your listings look more attractive to searchers. Poor quality listings can cost you trust, which translates into less clicks and traffic.
Myth #2: Testing is the best way to increase your conversion rates.
Conventional wisdom says to test elements of your website to see what converts best. You might test your buttons, your text, word or image placement, or your call to action. Rand says another approach is to make your site faster. This is esp. true for ecommerce sites like REI (the link gives suggestions on how to improve your site’s speed) who saw double digits increases in sales by making their shopping cart and product pages 1.5 seconds faster.
You can also create higher quality content – because no one will convert if they’re unimpressed with your site. One way SEOmoz applied this is they interviewed segments of their audience to find out what motivates them to purchase and what objections they had to overcome. Then they redesigned their sales page to reflect what they learned. They addressed the common questions and motivations from their potential and current customers. The changes translated into an extra million bucks in sales in a year.
And last, be sure to fix errors on your site. They create friction with people, therefore with Google. This includes fixing things like 404 errors.
Myth #3: Google’s Keyword Tool is the best tool for doing keyword research.
Rand made a great point that Google Keyword tool isn’t always useful because it shows historic data not what’s hot now. Google Search Suggest is more current (start typing a search into Google and it fills in suggestions of words to add to your search, based on what others are searching for).
My suggestion is to build your site around solid historical keywords in your niche. Use trending keywords to create content such as press releases, blog posts, or video, Google+ updates, Facebook posts, and tweets.
Other tools that help: Topsy and PopURLs. These tools can help you predict search demand before or as it happens based on social media shares.
Need more inspiration for current content? Search Google News by topic and look at the recent headlines in your industry. Create content around those themes. Then you can take advantage of Google’s reward for fresh, new content. This is what I call “riding the wave” (and not trying to create your own wave, which is much harder).
Myth #4: You should publish your best content on your own website.
Sites such as Slideshare or YouTube have instant trust and recognition with searchers. Sometimes it’s more effective to put your content on a more powerful or known domain than your own. That’s another reason it’s a good idea to actively communicate on several social media sites.
I learned this lesson when I let Mashable publish our Pinterest infographic first, and not putting it on our Pinterest marketing blog. It essentially launched our site which was new with almost no traffic.
Myth #5: When you post content doesn’t matter.
When you post something matters too, because there’s a better chance of people seeing it if it’s posted when most of your audience is awake and online. SEOmoz bought FollowerWonk a tool that shows you when your Twitter followers are online. (I love to use FollowerWonk to search Twitter bios for media contacts.) Since it’s unlikely people are online all day, you can post your tweets more than once, at peak times.
Favorite thought of the evening: Don’t build a website, build a brand. Later when I asked how affiliates can compete in search. He looked at my name tag and said they have to build their own brand too — like Newspapergrl.
Google is constantly tweaking how they rank websites. What are they trying to do? Rand says Google’s goal: to show brands that people will love and that reflect positively on the niche. Yep, it’s less about keywords and more about being known and liked. Just like in life (read the book The Likeability Factor for more on how important it is to be likeable).
That’s why hiring an SEO firm can sometimes hurt you. Many tend to buy into these myths. Or they really can’t know your brand well enough to create high quality content that will get shared. Most focus only on keywords and rankings. That leads to cheap work like writing poor quality articles with keyword phrases peppered in them. Or neglecting to look at site speed or other factors that affect rankings. Many never even discuss these factors. Having someone on staff who knows your brand and works for it exclusively is a huge benefit.
Do you have any SEO myths you’d like to bust?