Understanding and implementing an effective SEO strategy is one of the cornerstones of success in online retail. But the guidelines and advice that is offered can all too often be clouded by misconceptions and untruths.
It doesn’t help of course that SEO guidelines and techniques have changed over the years. Just look at the effect that Google’s infamous Panda and Penguin updates had on social media experts everywhere – ripping up their rule books and running for the hills.
So we thought we’d bust some of these myths and clear up some misconceptions so you can sleep easier at night with the help of some SEO pros.
Here’s our top seven and the truth behind them:
1. SEO is a dark art
We aren’t living in an age of witches and wizardry but just as fear of the unknown caused people to cry ‘witch’ centuries ago – the same is applying now with SEO. It doesn’t have to be clouded in mystery.
“I had this said to me yesterday for the millionth time and it makes me cringe,” says Caragh McKenna, director of SEO at The Search Agency.
“It is very straight-forward and transparent. All of the information is available to you across a range of sites including Google and if you’re working with a good agency, they will be sharing all of the information with you and how you can assist from internal and external points of view. All of the things that are done should be done in a transparent way.”
2. SEO doesn’t matter any more
SEO has certainly changed and emphasises have moved, but this hasn’t eradicated the importance of an SEO strategy. Yes good content has become a more important factor than ever, but it isn’t the be all and end all.
“The biggest myth I’ve heard recently is that SEO isn’t important any more,” says Tim Prichard, SEO expert at ecommerce software suppliers SellerDeck.
“Search has changed, becoming more personalised and includes geographical factors as well. That has changed its impact for a number of businesses. However, the fact still remains that if you build web sites with Google – friendly content; have a great online reputation; and research your search terms well, you will rank higher and generate more traffic.
3. You must rank for your top keyword
Most ecommerce sites have a keyword that they would ideally like to rank first for. If you sell books online then you’re dream scenario would maybe be to rank number 1 for ‘books’. But actually investing in this keyword wouldn’t necessarily reap rewards. Your efforts are probably better placed elsewhere.
“There are reasons that high profile keyword phrases may not be the best to target in your SEO campaign,” says Cheryl Luzet director of SEO and usability agency Wagada.
“These high profile/high traffic keywords only represent 30% of all searches on the web. 70% of searches lie in the long-tail. Long-tail keywords are much more targeted and specific phrases, and tend to be made up of several words.
These phrases are searched for less often, and may be questions related to your field. Your blog is a great place to target the long-tail, as you can write articles around the phrases or questions that your audience is searching for.”
4. Linking is bad
The Penguin updates by Google scared the bejesus out of link builders and left many scaremongers saying that all linking is bad and will lead to penalties. This simply isn’t the case.
“I have notices a basic misconception brought the the fore recently that linking is bad,” says McKenna.
“There are people speaking about shutting down linking activity completely. The fact still remains that sites being linked is the basis of how search engines crawl the web. It’s true that linking in a spammy way without relevant content will not score you points but genuine linking and promotion of your site in other places is still a necessity.”
5. Social media and SEO aren’t linked
There are many people out there who still view SEO and social media as two very separate entities which should be run by independently of each other. This certainly isn’t the case – there is a clear link between SEO and social and it should be leveraged by ecommerce sites.
The relationship between social and search has been getting closer and which Google’s foray into the social media ring, we can now be certain that social linking can have a positive effect on your SEO.
6. You must use as many keywords as possible
Finding and properly utilising your keywords is an essential part of the SEO journey but that doesn’t mean that you should cram as many keywords onto a page as possible – known as keyword stuffing.
Not only will this make your content harder to read for the user (and remember usability is the goal and your customers are king) but Google will also penalise you if you have a high keyword density. It’s algorithms can spot a keyword cheater a mile off.
7. More links equals better SEO
While some are afraid of linking out following the Google updates, others are still of the mind that you should just get as many links as possible. As with many things in this world, it really is a case of quality over quantity.
“Link building is no longer a numbers game,” says Simon Yeoman – General Manager, Fasthosts.
“Search engines now look at the quality of content on a website rather than the quantity of links. When a business undertakes inbound marketing in the form of link generation, it is much more effective to focus on making sure the content being produced is unique, relevant and most importantly, useful.
If a user gains insight by visiting your site and finds the information worthwhile, then they are much more likely to engage; thereby increasing your click-through rate.”