musings,search engine optimization

8 common misconceptions about SEO

  • Christine
  • ON
  • January 4, 2019
Oh, SEO. If you have not dipped your toes into Search Engine Optimization before, it can seem like quite the beast. Especially when the world of SEO is constantly changing with new discoveries and updates. This in itself can be challenging to keep up with. But when you also throw in all the myths that can direct you away from the true facts, that takes learning SEO to a whole new level…
Don’t freak out!
We are going to get you on the right path by setting the record straight on some common SEO misconceptions. So buckle up, Buttercup! We are about to take a cruise down Truth Street.
Questions and answers on SEO

The misconception section

1. SEO is a gimmick

Let me start off by saying that SEO is not a trick, scam or scheme. It’s pretty legit and can get you the results you’ve been dreaming of… with the right SEO strategy, of course. Honest search engine optimization isn’t about trying to swindle Google’s algorithm to get to the top of search results. Instead, we try to construe which website features and content are most important to users as well as search engines and provide it to them.

CAUTION: Although SEO is not a gimmick, there are sketchy practices out there. There are some “marketers” who use what we call in the biz “black hat SEO”. If someone tells you to use tactics such as keyword stuffing, cloaking and/or using private link networks, run away! These unethical practices are against search engine guidelines and don’t solve for the searcher. Often times, black hat techniques end in a penalty from search engines. So do yourself a favor and stick to honorable SEO practices.

2. You’re going to see immediate results

*Facepalm* As an SEO Agency, we come across this misconception all of the time! SEO is a long-term, never-ending process. Think of it more as maintenance than a single task you can check off your list. How long does it take to see results with SEO? The short answer is “it depends”. Lame answer, but a specific timeframe for SEO results simply doesn’t exist. You might begin seeing progress in organic ranking and an increase in traffic for keyword topics with low competition in just a few weeks. On the contrary, moderately competitive topics might take months, while highly competitive phrases could take over a year to see desired results!

Morale of debunking this myth: Patience is an SEO virtue.

3. You have to be #1

The infamous Ricky Bobby summarizes the next SEO misconception right up, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”. There’s still a lot speculation around having to be in the #1 position on the first page of Google to be successful. While it’s true that part of the goal of SEO is to get on the first page for your target keywords, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re number one or not. Just being on the first page alone can cause your organic search traffic to skyrocket!

Search engine optimization is so much more than ranking in the top spot. Ranking fluctuates, but the most important thing is that you’re bringing the right people to your website. So here’s a pro tip, free of charge: Instead of focusing on getting your site to rank #1, redirect your focus on who you’re targeting.

4. Set it and forget it

Wouldn’t it be nice to clean your house one time and NEVER have to do it again? Why yes, but sadly this is not the reality. This is the same case with SEO. Simply put, SEO is never done. It’s a continuous process and you should always be monitoring your progress. Even when the clouds part, a ray of sunshine peeks through and you’ve finally hit your SEO goals, you still need to keep at it. If you don’t, you will lose the top spots to someone else.

So instead of “set it and forget it”, change the SEO mantra to “set it, revisit it and repeat”.

5. Keywords are all that you need

Keywords definitely play a large role in SEO, but they are not the end-all factor. Google uses about 200 various factors to rank a site. That’s a crazy amount of components at play! If you just focus on keywords, you are missing out on loads of opportunities to get better SEO results. So spend a proportional amount of your time making sure multiple elements such as content, website architecture, HTML, trust, and social reputation (just to name a few) are also in good order. Doing this as well as having solid keywords and links will give you the results you are looking for.

Does learning about the importance of keywords tickle your fancy? If so, you should check out our “Are Keywords Still Important for SEO?” blog. It’s pretty rad if I do say so myself. 😉

6. Content marketing is the “new” SEO

Word on the street is content marketing is replacing SEO… if you’ve heard this, please ignore! The people saying this are obviously SEO n00bs. Let me break it down for you: engaging content does indeed keep users on your page, but it’s SEO that brings them to your page in the first place.

The meat and potatoes: Content and SEO go hand in hand and need each other to be effective.

7. SEO is too complex

There’s a lot that goes into SEO, but you don’t have to be an expert to give it a go on your own. With the right sources, SEO is quite learnable. Below are a few amazing resources we recommend to help get you started on your journey to understanding and practicing SEO:

Don’t have the time for DIY SEO? Try working with an agency! They should be able to break it down for you in a way that makes sense. If this is not the case, this is not the search marketing agency for you and you should definitely check our What to look for in a search marketing agency blog to aid you in your search.

8. You don’t really need it

Psshhhhhhh… you absolutely do! Especially if you want to be competitive and successful online. Just look at the facts!

Organic search is a great source of traffic and brings in leads. The first page of organic search results has a 71% click-through rate (CTR), while pages two and three have a combined CTR of only 6%! If your not on page 1 you’re missing out on a hell of a lot of opportunities.

This is also a biggy: SEO builds trust and credibility. With SEO, your brand will become harder, better, faster, stronger (just had to through in some Daft Punk for you!). The end goal should be that, when customers search for relevant keywords and phrases, they should find your site at the top of the search results.

Ultimately, SEO should be considered an investment as opposed to a cost.  With a high ROI nonetheless! Lifting your rank to the first page of search results is where most of the clicks go. Be where the people are and the returns can be truly mind-boggling (in a good way)!

Black and white mehaphone

The moment of truth…

If you have fallen for any of these 8 misconceptions, I can’t blame you. With all the information buzzing around the internet, it is easy to have a distorted view of how SEO really works. Even when you think you have it down pat… WHAMMY… here comes something new to learn!

Just be sure to keep these lessons in mind when you are practicing SEO. Also, don’t believe what every Joe Shmoe has to say. Do your research and use reputable SEO sites/experts.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article! Feel free to comment below with any questions/comments.

Need help with SEO? We got you!

Brain Bytes Creative is an Atlanta-based digital marketing agency with a passion for search engine marketing. Want to learn more? Get in touch.

search engine optimization

Are keywords still important for SEO?

  • Christine
  • ON
  • December 11, 2018

TLDR: Yes indeed, keywords are still very important for SEO!

Just not in the same way as they used to be. Purely focusing on keywords alone is an outdated practice, but it’s a lot more complex than that. Let’s start at the beginning…
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Keywords’ humble beginning

In the early days, SEO was like the Wild West. It was a lawless and untamed frontier where Marketers were able to roam freely and do as they please. Methods such as keyword stuffing, excessive tagging, and spammy backlinks were often used to generate high search rankings.

Why you may ask? Because it worked! This was due to low competition and the simplicity of early search engine formulas. All you had to do was match specific keywords and your site would end up on the first page of the search results. Botta bing botta boom, it was that easy! These now shady tactics used to fly because it was okay to focus on using the same exact keyword over and over to rank well for it.

Another distinguishing attribute of this period was that there was absolutely no emphasis on content quality. It was common to come across heavily keyword stuffed pages with hardly any valuable information. A lot of the time, these pages didn’t even answer the searcher’s question or inquiry and when it comes down to it, that’s the whole point of search engines! Because of this, changes had to be made…

Search engine ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Simply put, Google got smarter. They saw the opportunities in connecting searchers to more valuable content and were leaders in the effort to develop a more level playing field for marketers to earn rankings. During this period (2003 – 2005), many updates were made to penalize unethical optimization practices which, in turn, improved indexing.

The keystone changes…

Google Panda update

The year was 2011 when Panda was first introduced. It was a cold day in February and content farms were snuggled up and stuffing keyword after keyword onto their web pages. Their world was then rocked when they found out that Panda was developed specifically to reduce this very practice. With the arrival of Panda, marketers now needed to care more about the quality of the content, not just keywords. Poor and thin content received limited visibility while rich and compelling content valued.

Google Penguin update

Just one year after the great Panda update, another major algorithm update arose: Penguin. Google Penguin waddled into our hearts by continuing the effort to reward high-quality content sites. All the while laying down the hammer on those still using black-hat SEO practices such as keyword stuffing and manipulative link schemes.

Google Hummingbird algorithm

What’s better than an updated search algorithm? An entirely NEW search algorithm! The Hummingbird algorithm… it’s was kind of a big deal when it was announced in 2013. Google’s main objective for this new algorithm was to better understand a searcher’s query. So Hummingbird focuses on matching context to search results. The algorithm no longer looked at just specific keywords, but the context of the content as a whole. Thin and duplicated content became discredited. Ultimately, It’s all about returning better results and satisfy the user’s intent.

RankBrain

Now the big daddy: RankBrain. RankBrain was introduced to the internet in 2015 and is an expansion of Hummingbird. It’s a machine-learning Artificial Intelligence system that is used to sort live search results to help give users the best fit to their search query. RankBrain takes pieces of keywords and truncates them down. So if you have a keyword like Ohio School Systems, RankBrain will use the keyword as a matrix to find every possible variation of that keyword to give the best, most relevant results. It starts with the longest version of your term and keeps shrinking it down (Example: Ohio School Systems > Ohio School System > Ohio School). Major Takeaway, RankBrain has two major duties: understanding keywords and measuring user satisfaction.

Why keywords still matter

With all these search engine algorithm changes we’ve seen over the years, the main focus is now on overall content quality, relevance and behavioral factors (like how long someone is on the site) more than just keywords. Because of this shift, some people say that keywords are less important…

Opinion alert:

It’s our stance that keywords are more important than ever! And here are the top 3 reasons why:

  1. RankBrain and the way it interprets keywords
    As we explained above, it is no longer okay to use the same exact keyword over and over in content, this leads to keyword stuffing and penalties. But keywords are still important when used in keyword families. A keyword family is every possible version of one keyword. Pluralized, singular, etc. Since RankBrain understands these variations, it allows us to write more readable (humanized) content using synonyms and still rank well for keywords. The goal is to make sure it sounds normal and not keyword stuffed. You can accomplish this by using keywords in body copy and metadata such as titles, descriptions and headers.
  2. Google and how it ranks pages
    Let’s get real, we now know that we have to think about how we use keywords differently. But you still need them if you want to rank well on Google. And if you think that’s not crucial, let me throw these stats your way: The first position on Google gets 33% of traffic, with the second position getting around 15% and it just gets worse from there. So yeah, you definitely want to get yourself on page one, and you aren’t getting there without keywords.
  3. SEO strategy is built on keyword research
    Keyword research is the cornerstone of SEO. Knowing the search volume and potential value of keywords helps determine your areas of focus, which helps you build your strategy and determine priorities. It’s basically the roadmap for your SEO initiatives and without it, you’ll be lost.

All-in-all…

…it’s just another keyword in the search bar. We should not disregard the importance of keywords just because of the search engine algorithm updates. Instead of focusing on keywords for search engines’ sake, marketers need to focus on keywords for the users’ sake.

Need help with keyword research?

Let the experts help! We recommend Just Keyword Research for all of your keyword research needs. They create customized keyword research for marketers, agencies and customers. AND they do it faster, better and cheaper than you can do yourself. Sounds too good to be true? See for yourself and contact Just Keyword Research today!

Brain Bytes Creative is an Atlanta-based digital marketing agency with a passion for search engine marketing. Want to learn more? Get in touch.

conversion rate optimization

Mobile-first: what does this mean for CRO?

  • Christine
  • ON
  • December 10, 2018

What was the last thing you searched for on Google?

Did you use your phone or tablet for the search? If so, welcome. You are part of the majority.

Or did you happen to use your desktop? In that case, you are the minority… and I’m guessing you’re at work. Good for you for reading this article and using your time productively! 😉

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “mobile-first.” It seems to be one of the latest buzzwords floating around the digital marketing world. So what’s the big deal with mobile?

Let me throw some impressive mobile stats your way:

  • Since late 2015, mobile search has passed desktop search and it’s only continuing to rise.
  • Consumers are now spending more than five hours a day on their smartphones.
  • According to BrightEdge, a whopping 57% of all U.S. online traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets.

We are undergoing a “mobile revolution”. With this ever growing percentage of users accessing sites via mobile devices, it’s more important than ever to design mobile first.

Take Google, for example. Google recognized this majority shift in mobile usage and in July of this past year, they rolled out a major algorithm change. In short, this modification helps measure the ease of site navigation for visitors using tablets and smartphones. Everything from how user-friendly it is to make purchases, submit a form or call for more information will be taken into account.

Before this update, actions of desktop-based users carried more weight than any others. With this change, Google’s goal is to help encourage online business who have yet to upgrade their mobile experience to a responsive or mobile-friendly web design.

Our SEO team already to a look into how Google’s mobile-first indexing will impact SEO. But what does mobile-first mean from a CRO perspective?

The goal for CRO (conversion rate optimization) is to design a website that improves UX (user experience) and structuring it purposely to maximize the amount of customers converting. So specifically for mobile-first, start off by following these key CRO tips:

Tips for mobile-first conversion rate optimization:

  • Stay on top of the trend. Making sure your online business is up-to-date with mobile-first indexing will not only help your conversion rates, but also create a better experience for your future prospects’ current needs. The easier the experience, the more likely they are to return.
  • Don’t lag behind competition. Better to do it now than later! Don’t be the last one to jump on the bandwagon or your customers WILL move to an easier user experience… which, unfortunately, will be your competitors.

Wondering how you can stay on top of the trend and ahead of your competition? We can help with that!

Make sure you’re following mobile best practices for UX

Don’t know where to start? We have outlined some simple ways to get started with UX best practices in our UX (User Experience) Best Practices + Debunking CRO Best Practices Myth blog. Specifically for mobile-first design, make sure your are applying these UX guidelines to your site:

  • Clear CTA. Your call-to-action (CTA) should be simple as well as strategic in placement and design. Make it obvious, keep it above the fold and have a great call-to-action phrase. Doing this will increase the effectiveness of your CTA.
  • Simplest design. Keep your site’s design clean and easy on the eye. Avoid overwhelming your visitors by using too many CTAs.
  • Contact information. Your contact information (i.e., phone number, support, form, etc.) should be easy to find.
  • Trust points. Showcase your trust points (i.e., industry awards, reviews, etc.). Go on and brag about yourself, your users will be impressed.
  • Checkout and form optimization. Be sure to optimize your forms and checkout experience for maximum conversions. Get rid of any unnecessary fields and avoid fields that cause users to think twice before filling them out.
  • Responsiveness. This is a given. Your site needs to function properly. There is nothing more frustrating than a site which requires endless pinching and scrolling to read content or web forms which are difficult to navigate.

Re-think content

Another implication of a mobile-first approach is that content is more important than ever before. We have past the days of stripped back mobile sites and believe it or not, mobile users want the same content-rich experience as desktop users! With this mobile-first shift, we need to re-think content. Keep these pointers in mind when you are focusing on your mobile site’s content:

  • Full content mobile pages. Ensure that the mobile version of your website has all the same beneficial content that exists on your desktop. Give the people what they want!
  • Strategically displayed content. Smaller screens means less screen space (duh!). This will be a challenge for mobile CRO in that the most impactful content needs to be easily accessible on smaller screens for maximum impact.
  • Set image widths. Ensure image sizes fit smaller mobile screen. This will help avoid the awkward pinching and scrolling.
  • Engaging media. Use a variety of media to create a better experience for a larger range of visitors. Audio and visuals in particular perform well on mobile.
  • Shorter paragraphs and collapsable content. Using shorter paragraphs and breaking up text with rich visual media will reduce the likelihood of users becoming overwhelmed. Long and wordy posts may work on desktop, but that is not the case for mobile devices.
  • Crawlable content formats. Since crawlers can’t read visuals, headers should not be designed in an image, but as separate text.
  • CRO and SEO work together. SEO focuses on getting the right traffic to your site and CRO focuses on converting that traffic.

CRO processes must be changed

Aside from UX best practices and an emphasis on content, a mobile first approach to CRO changes the process itself. The very first step to the 10 Point Conversion analysis we use at Brain Bytes Creative is determining what percentage of traffic is mobile vs desktop. This determines how we go about analyzing and optimizing the site. If over half of the traffic is mobile, we analyze our 10 points from a mobile perspective first.

Digging deeper into the BBC Conversion Analysis, we would look at all 10 areas of analysis and ask ourselves the important questions keeping mobile-first in mind. Such as analyzing for Distraction, a more simplistic and easy to digest mobile design might be perfect for viewing on a mobile device, but may come off as too empty for the desktop version.

We also highly recommend mobile-first for your eCommerce site. Of all the things people did on their phones last year, mobile shopping was the fastest growing segment (up 54% year over year). To stay cutting edge in an industry that is so saturated, designing mobile-first is a bare minimum requirement for online businesses.

The proof is in the pudding

As part of a multifaceted CRO strategy, a mobile-first approach can help you stay cutting edge and see major lifts that you are looking for. At Brain Bytes Creative, our CRO program has embraced the mobile-first approach and put the new process and tips into practice. A great CRO success we’ve had was decreasing a client’s bounce rate by 10% for mobile and 15% for tablet by removing an alert bar that detracted from the user experience.

For another example of how the BBC approach to CRO can give your conversions a boost, check out this CRO Case Study and learn how we skyrocketed lead generation by 63.83%!

Agencies will be specialized enough to stay on top of trends like mobile-first. An agency can give you access to a team of experts and help you stay competitive and relevant. Here are some tips for choosing the right CRO agency for you.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new. Looking to give your conversion a lift? Brain Bytes Creative offers specialized conversion rate optimization services using funnel analysis, user flow optimization, heatmapping, session replays, form analytics, and optimization, and of course, A/B testing. Read more about our CRO Services or contact us here!