In the early 1990s, the first websites contained very basic information and functionality. As the number of consumers using the internet grew, so did the number of websites that populated the web. The growing number of websites gave rise to the need to create a searchable catalogue for consumers to find the information they sought, so along came the search engine and the need for search engine optimisation (SEO).
The founding principle of Google’s search engine algorithm was PageRank. The underlying assumption was that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.
Myth 1 - Link building is dead
Recent changes to Google's algorithm coupled with a misleading statement by Google’s webmaster trend analyst John Mueller that said link building can harm SEO efforts have led to many SEO professionals abandoning link building. However, link building isn’t dead, it’s bigger than ever.
The truth is, Google still values links, just not poor quality links, or links that are not clearly architected. This means that SEO’s need to think of link building as an outcome of other activities, such as PR and content marketing, not as a discrete tactic.
The key to good link building is to think about what you’re trying to achieve and the factors that the algorithm looks at. Broadly speaking, these are citations, website structure, and context.
Then when thinking about link building, consider how each element of the algorithm can help you achieve your goal. For example, for a new brand driving traffic to the website is key, previously, one of the best ways to achieve this would be to buy links. Today, maximising the volume of citations, (almost) regardless of whether you get a link is a better tactic to improve visibility in the search results.
Myth 2 - Keywords rule
Many websites have been built around the belief that you need to have a dedicated page for each keyword you want to rank for and that this page should be optimised for that keyword and that keyword only.
Keyword optimisation is one of the most important SEO tactics but it will only get you so far. In order to out-rank the competition, brands need to combine a number of creative strategies.
Today, search algorithms incorporate contextual and semantic understanding when evaluating web pages, so brands need to think of keywords in categories, not as single entities and build multiple pages that focus on the keywords within each category.
Another thing that impacts how the search engines think of your website semantically is the content you write that is featured elsewhere, e.g. PR, making it important to share your SEO keyword category strategy with all those involved in online content creation.
voice search is the biggest evolution to search in recent years and has made a huge impact on SEO. Voice searches are longer than web searches, hence why keyword categories become even more important as it would be impossible to build pages for every potential voice search. One of the best ways to get ahead in the voice search race is to gather data from other voice interactions, e.g. call centres and physical stores.
Myth 3 - Technical SEO is boring
The stereotypical SEO specialist is often depicted as a somewhat geeky, awkward person, often confined to a dark corner of the office, having little to do with other teams, all of which know very little about what the SEO person does other than that it involves computers and coding.
People who know a little bit about SEO think that SEO people update websites when Google changes the algorithm. However, there is so much more to technical SEO, and there are new developments outside of Google updates all the time.
As website architecture becomes more complex and content management systems evolve, SEO’s are developing many new ways to categorise content to improve SEO performance. Two examples would be hreflang tags and schema.org.
Hreflang tagging helps search engines understand the relationship between translated pages on international websites – how a piece of content in one language is matched to the same content in another language. Schema.org was founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex, however, Schema.org vocabularies are developed by an open community process. A shared vocabulary makes it easier for webmasters and developers to decide on what markup to use in an effort to better help search engines around the world understand the structure and relation of your content.
Optimising for the new searches in say app stores, LinkedIn or Facebook offers new avenues to explore. Google's move away from its top ten search results page structure towards services like shopping, travel, and voice search means that SEO professionals will become holistic marketers and data curators while still operating in a technical way to ensure that these tactics are received positively by the algorithms.