Search Engine Optimization has become an increasingly large part of online marketing over the past several years. Since the late 90’s, businesses of all sizes have worked to get their pages to the top of Google and Yahoo searches, with varying degrees of success.

Much has changed since the early days of SEO: websites are designed differently, search engine algorithms are smarter, and most importantly, the average internet user is much savvier than before. Despite all these changes, there still seem to be myths about search engine rankings some business and website owners stubbornly hold on to. Let’s get to the bottom of these myths, and give you the skinny on what’s important for your online presence.

MYTH: Improving Your Ranking is the End Goal

It may be hard to swallow, but showing up on page 1 of Google is not the end-all goal. Equally important as your search engine performance is the user experience. Making sure your landing page is great, your users can easily navigate your site and the keywords you’re aiming for are relevant to your website’s offerings can make the difference between a closed tab and a conversion.

What makes the user experience on your site even more important is the rise in users who don’t stray from their own networks. An increasing number of people will stay in a huge social network such as Facebook, and search for and receive all their information through that closed system. Increasing the breadth of your online presence ensures that you aren’t wasting time digging too deep while your treasure is elsewhere. Assemble your SEO efforts, your blog, email newsletter and social media presence to complete the puzzle of your online marketing campaign.

MYTH: SEO can be “Done”

All too often I hear from a client, “We did SEO on our site a while back.” This shows a fundamental misunderstanding about how SEO works today. The algorithms that determine which pages see the higher tiers of a results page are constantly evolving, and thus the efforts to effectively use them must as well. Search engines will usually prioritize pages with newer content, richer linking content and higher rated user experience. Failing to maintain a grip on your SEO can lead to your competition getting a large lead ahead of you.

MYTH: The More Keywords, The Better

Once upon a time, when search engines were much more primitive than today, this myth may have had a bit more truth to it. Though  the best option may seem to be casting a wide net of keywords and hope that a few have success, that type of keyword-stuffing will usually do more harm than good. The first problem it presents is that you’ll increase how many other sites you compete with, and you may be spread to thin against more focused campaigns. The second is that it can prevent you from focusing on the keywords that are working – you won’t have the time to tweak and experiment with keywords when you have a library full of them. Lastly, search engines are always looking to weed out keyword spammers, and stuffing keywords in heedlessly is a great way to find yourself suspected of spam.

MYTH: You Can Get to the Top

Getting to the top of a search engine not only shouldn’t be your number one goal, but in many cases it just isn’t possible. Go ahead, type your industry into Google. There’re a few things you’ll almost always see at the top:

Paid advertisements

Review or Aggregate Sources

Google Answers or Maps

Before organic search results even appear, the user has multiple options to click on, and some will always click on whatever is at the top of the page, organic result or not. Paid ads are off the table for most businesses, unless they really want to give money to Google. This is where the other arms of your online marketing campaign can come in. Encourage your newsletter recipients to rate your business on Yelp or Angie’s List, create posts on Facebook and LinkedIn that your followers will want to share, publish great blog content that frames you as an industry expert.

You may not always be able to compete on the superhighway that is Google, Yahoo or Bing. But for most businesses, your users don’t need to be on the highway to get where they need to go, all they need is a single trail. So let go of those old SEO beliefs and start building your trails now.

Taylor Daine is a content marketing strategist at Roundpeg.

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