You know the expression “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing”? Never has it been more applicable than in the world of SEO. I can’t count the number of times I worked with a new client and one of the first things they say to me is some variation of the following:
‘I know SEO, how come we’re not focusing on Meta data?’
‘I did SEO back in the day but I forgot what my Keyword Density should be.’
or, the worst one yet:
‘Look, I know my business name is ‘House o’ Top Hats’ but I don’t want to rank for Top Hats and instead I really want to rank for tap shoes. Let’s make that happen!’
Yes, friends, a bit of old school SEO knowledge is a dangerous thing. With this type of thinking you can either destroy your online presence, get your site penalized or give you some seriously twisted expectations that will lead to a lot of sadness down the road. This week, we’re going to take a look at the top five SEO techniques that you may think still work but don’t, are completely wrong or ideas that will waste everyone’s time. Read carefully, your business and your SEO or DM team will thank you.
#5. But My Keywords, Though
This should really be higher on my list but I’m in such a fury to get this out of the way now, I’m just going to go ahead and do it.
Anyone who reads anything I write already knows how I feel about keywords but I’ll say it again because I don’t think anyone is listening. I’ll say it again:
STOP. THINKING. KEYWORD. OPTIMIZATION. WILL. HELP. YOU. IT. WONT. ITS. NOT. A. THING.
I really hope everyone heard me this time. Just stop that line of thinking because it’s not a thing anymore, ok? It’s really not. Keyword Optimization isn’t a thing that will help you. There, you made me say it again.
Your Keyword Ranking reports are vanity metrics that have no actual meaning and there is no ‘Page One’ of Google anymore, so you can stop chasing that ghost. Exact Match keywords are a joke, keyword density isn’t a thing no matter how many ‘free tools’ or companies that make their money off of ‘keyword optimization’ say it is and meta keywords, which we’ll cover later, haven’t been in a thing in almost a decade. Deal with it.
Now, it’s all about Searcher Intent – I feel like I say that every single week in some form or another but it’s really that important.
If you want to rank, you need to be relevant. How do you become relevant? By writing things people actually want to read and answer questions people actually ask. Shocking, I know.
If you want to read more about how to write relevant, Rankbrain friendly and user-centric content, just go back to the main page of Smokehouse SEO and click literally any other article. I cover this in one way or another all the time.
Moving on to the next…
#4. Let’s Just Optimize our Meta Data!
This is the great fallback of the lazy, the people with no dev hours, the ‘drop shipper’ and the eCommerce site owner.
I get it. You don’t want to write quality on page content, you don’t have a blogger, you don’t have dev hours to do actual work so what’s quick, cheap and easy? Meta Data!
Well, you know what kind of returns you get on quick, cheap and easy work? Exactly. Nothing.
I’ll break down the four types of meta tags and why they aren’t going to help you:
Meta Keywords: These used to be a thing back like ten years ago then everyone started just cramming them all in there to the point where it was just a bunch of drivel. Search engines don’t look at these for anything. At all. Ever. I mean, I guess having some things in there might not hurt you but it definitely is not going to help you in any way.
Meta Title Tags: These are still pretty good to have done correctly but it’s not like it used to be. Back in the day, people used to just cram those keywords into a title tag but since the shift to relevancy search in Google, that’s pretty much not a thing anymore. Google’s smart enough to know what the page is about without you needing to cram the keywords in the title. Just use these to write good, short copy to let searchers know what to expect on the page and maybe you’ll drive a click but don’t expect any actual ‘SEO magic’ from even the best title tag.
Meta Descriptions: As with the Title tags, this used to be a thing Search Engines really looked at and now not so much. Again, just write good, solid marketing copy here about what your page is about to drive a click from a searcher but don’t expect Search Engines to actually care. In fact, sometimes Google will even replace your meta descriptions with its own pulled from your page if it thinks other content on the page is more relevant to the query.
Header Tags: These are your H tags like your H1, H2, etc. These are actually still pretty relevant to SEO, so make sure you’re using them properly as part of your overall technical SEO strategy but I’ll tell you right now, if you don’t have any good, quality on page content, even the best H tag strategy won’t help you rank or show up in the SERP. Make sure you have good content to mark up with these tags.
So basically, as you can see, in 2017, Meta Tags are basically just either useless, useless without good on-page content to back it up or just an opportunity to test out your Conversion Rate Optimization click-driving super short form content writing skills. For more information about everything and anything you could ever possibly want to know about meta tags, check out Hobo SEO’s guide to meta tags. It’s the most in depth explanation I’ve come across yet.
#3. Bolding and Italicizing My Keywords! That’s the Ticket!
I’m not even gonna dignify this with a long response about why this is dumb and doesn’t work anymore (if it ever did) and the only reason I mention it now is that apparently people seem to think this is still a thing.
It’s not a thing.
And it makes your page look like hot garbage and spam from a customer/UX point of view.
#2. I’m Just Way Too Important to Worry About Local Search! That’s for you Mom N’ Pop Plebs!
Of all the things in this list that get under my skin, this is by far the one I hate the most. It’s usually said by smaller businesses that have a local store but since they have an eCommerce website, all the sudden they want to be big shots and think they should be competing against Amazon.
Look, if you have a physical location, you need to be doing local search. The end.
If you’re worried about only appearing in search for your local area, just skip the Google My Business step (even though if you have a physical location, you really should have one) and instead create a good, high quality location landing page on your site that you can customize with unique and helpful local area content such as driving directions, local landmarks and other information that will help direct local and mobile searchers to your page.
Real talk: If you’re a guy selling T Shirts or Dryer Parts in Muskogee that has a physical store and an eCommerce website, you’re probably going to get the most bang for your buck with local search anyway. There’s simply far too many other people out there selling exactly what it is you sell and they’ve been doing it way longer than you and they have probably a ton more backlinks, domain and topical authority and other factors. Can you compete and beat them? Yes. Realistically, though, unless you want to do almost nothing else with your day but SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing and Link building, you’re not going to compete. The end.
Get off your high horse and make your local store rank instead of trying to be Mr. Big Shot off the bat because if you don’t, you’re going to have a really bad time.
#1. I Want to Rank for Things that Literally Have Nothing to Do with My Business!
This is so stupid, I really don’t know where to begin with this but this happens. It happens a lot.
I didn’t understand this at all the first time it hit me so I bet that you don’t either. I’ll explain:
Let’s say you’re a happy SEO going about your daily life and you get a message from your sales team saying you have a new client called “Only Swimsuits Ltd.”
You get on your first call with the contact from there, and the first thing your client says is “I know we’re called ‘Only Swimsuits’ but we actually don’t want to rank for swimsuits. Can you make us rank for shirts and ties? What about Baseball uniforms? We started selling Golf Clubs last week, too, how about some of that?”
Yeah. This has happened SO MANY TIMES I’VE LOST COUNT.
I’ve even had one client actually get mad at me when we increased their traffic and ranking around keywords and topics for an industry niche THAT WAS IN THEIR ACTUAL BUSINESS NAME AND DOMAIN. Why? Because they really wanted to increase their ‘keyword ranking’ for things that were the complete opposite of what they actually did.
OK, first of all. WHY?
Why would you do this? You don’t want to rank for what you already have the name, URL, topical trust and probably other high quality signals being sent to Google? You want to just throw that away on something that you don’t specialize in, don’t have any authority on and compete with businesses that probably only focus on this niche?
Look, just don’t do this.
YES, it can be done and it isn’t that hard to do, it’s just going to take far more work writing quality content and effort focusing on SEO and other multichannel campaigns than I’ve seen nearly any eCommerce client willing to put in to do it.
That being said, if you must do this, only do this after you’ve gotten the rest of your site (eg: the stuff your business was actually built to DO) done first. Get your quick and easy wins before you go trying to give yourself an ‘SEO DOESN’T WORK!!!!!! ITS ALL A SCAM!!!’ headache.
The Bottom Line
So now you know what doesn’t work so let’s focus on what does. Google’s said it. I’ve said it. Everyone’s said it. It’s all about Content, Links and Rankbrain. Yes, there are tons of other things that go into how your site gets ranked and shown for queries but those are the big three and it isn’t like its that hard to do. At the end of the day, its not what do YOU think your business should rank for, it’s what GOOGLE thinks your business should rank for and if you don’t like what they think about you, there are ways to change it – though as we’ve discussed above, some are much harder to do than others.
Be relevant, build your backlinks in a natural way (yeah, good luck with that, though), and have a great user experience and you’ll see positive changes.