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  /  Design   /  20 Things People Get Wrong About SEO in 2020

Most companies know the meaning of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). People understand that this is something you have to do to get your business’ website to appear on top of search engines, but not many truly understand what goes into achieving that. Not just that, the process has evolved tremendously in a short time-span, and keeps on constantly advancing, so what worked just a year or so ago is not necessarily still effective. 

Even some of Dubai’s excellent website design & development agencies get things wrong when it comes to this field of digital marketing, which can be an issue since a SEO compliant website should ideally be built in a way that is mindful to the subsequent efforts the digital marketing agency will have to take to ensure the website comes on top of Google. 

Due to this, the businesses often have a very hard time understanding how to evaluate the digital marketing progress (you were probably told it’s an ongoing effort – true, but not very insightful) and don’t always know what to expect.

The reason why there are so many misconceptions lies within the search engine of interest – the mighty Google itself. There are no exact guidelines given about how their algorithm works when it comes to ranking sites in search results (although Google does give advice on specific issues), so a lot of findings are a result of trial & error, research and experience. Not to mention Google’s constant updates to the algorithm that demand web developers and digital marketers to constantly be on top of things.  

This is why we always advise contacting a professional digital marketing company in Dubai to help you out. You can’t improvise this. 

So let’s dispel a few common myths:

Myth #1: Picking the right keywords is common-sense, and what SEO is all about

A lot of people think that coming up with relevant keywords isn’t a big deal – you know what your company is about, so just go with the obvious. Well, no. To find effective keywords you need research. 

The research will provide you with some really useful data like the volume of traffic, uniqueness etc that will help you make an informed decision. Not just that, it will provide you with some additional, related keywords that can help you rank for supplementary searches. 

Keywords alone are not enough. Google’s new search algorithm has changed – it analyses phrases rather than relying on keywords alone. Using keywords that will match a user’s search is not the main ranking factor anymore, it is now more about the intent behind the keyword and how your content solves this intent. Top digital marketing agencies today explore a topic cluster strategy instead, a content creation approach that is completely reader-focused and helps the user find the content they intended to search for regardless of the exact keyword they used. 

Don’t neglect low-volume keywords either. They might not bring much traffic but they can offer more intent, which will result in more qualified traffic and conversions. 

Balance your keywords – include the broad, high-volume ones that will reach a large user-base but pick a few niche ones that will fit in well with your specific offer.

Myth #2: The page will rank higher the more keywords you use on it

This one is really common, so much so that even people with moderate SEO experience believe it. The idea is that if you use the keywords as much as possible within your content, you will demonstrate to Google that your page is relevant to the same user search. But Google has advanced beyond this, and it penalizes “keyword stuffing”.

If the keyword is overused then Google assumes this to be a type of cheat, also known as “black hat SEO / digital marketing” – these practices violate the search engine’s terms of use (aside from keyword stuffing, they include hidden text, buying links and more).

Be very careful when picking your digital marketing agency – these practices are not uncommon as they can be effective short-term, and they will severely damage your website ranking in the long run. 

Myth #3: Just focus on the SEO, content doesn’t matter

It matters. 

Unfortunately, sometimes companies make the error to assume that as long as keywords are in place, content is irrelevant. What they end up with is not only the keyword stuffing issue but also really tedious content that will make your visitors think poorly of your website, no matter how nice your web design is. Believe it or not, people do read – maybe not large blocks of text but enough to see if your website (and by that, your brand) has any substance to offer.

Not only that, but Google itself is constantly optimizing its algorithm to approach your web content like a user would.

Instead of spouting out keywords, focus on producing high-quality content. Be informative, say things that have meaning, provide content that has relevance to the user, make sure your grammar and spelling is on point (people often butcher the grammar to accommodate the exact keyword phrasing into the text even when it’s not suitable – this is silly), be factually correct, technically optimize your content (formatting, style, links etc) and include visuals (images and videos that are relevant).

User experience (UX) is a huge element in website design & development. It is also incredibly important for SEO and digital marketing purposes.

Myth #4: SEO is not needed for images and videos

Google understands images though their URLs and file names, therefore if you want to be discovered you need to optimize them. 

First, make sure to use the right image format: JPEG, PNG, WebP, SVG, BMP or GIF.

Be mindful of the alt text. It makes your images accessible even to those who can’t see them and helps the search engine understand the image. You need to provide a descriptive filename that directly explains what is shown on the image (for example “a blue glass bottle half-filled with water on a white background” as opposed to “a bottle”).

You can also use an image sitemap to provide Google with more information on your website images, which will make you more discoverable. 

Use semantic HTML markup insetad of CSS.

Make sure your image size isn’t slowing down your website, as Google rewards fast-loading pages. Use compression if needed without sacrificing image quality. 

When it comes to the idea that videos have no SEO benefits, all we can say is – YouTube would beg to differ. 

Videos ranked based on many different factors but the key is that the title, description and content match the viewer’s search intent. 

Your SEO agency should make sure to optimize the following elements: titles & descriptions, categories & tags, thumbnails and SRT files.

Myth #5: You have to submit your website to Google

Wrong. Google is perfectly capable of finding content on its own with help of “web crawlers”, bots which are constantly searching the web for the content which they then index. 

If you’re making a significant change to your website pages or adding new ones, you can submit an updated sitemap to help Google find your content faster. But look, sitemap alone is not going to directly improve your SEO ranking. 

Any good website designer & developer will know that a sitemap is crucial to your website and yes, it will help Google find you faster. Just don’t expect a rating boost.

Myth #6: Use as many links as possible, it comes before content

This used to be a thing. A lot of digital agencies learned that building as many links as possible boosted the SEO, and it worked.

It still matters today. Being linked to from another website instils confidence, provides you with a type of a recommendation as a trusted source.

However quality matters more than the quantity and “less is more” now applies. Some strategic thought has to be put towards earning backlinks, but the best way to get quality ones is by creating good content. So stop thinking about these as either/or strategies, they go hand in hand. A backlink from an untrustworthy site makes your website seem less credible as well and can even damage your ranking. By all means, avoid spammy links and link-buying (one of the mentioned black hat techniques). 

Internal links that lead from one page on your website are also useful, as they keep the users engaged. The more time users spend on your website, the more Google believes that your website is indeed relevant to the search results. 

Myth #7: Don’t link to other websites

Like we said when discussing content, provide something meaningful and of value to the users. Website content should be created with the intent to inform, educate, convince and inspire. 

Look at it this way, linking to other websites is not that much different than citing references in your professional paper – it adds context and provides additional value to the reader. It is also intellectually honest. 

But be mindful, if you are doing this just for a quid pro quo, you can often lose contextual value. If that is the case, look into using the  rel=”nofollow” link attribute.

Myth #8: Site security is not connected to SEO

By security, we mean https encrypted website. You probably noticed the URL difference between “http://” and “https://” websites. That one little extra “s” means your website is encrypted so the hackers can’t intercept any of the data, and the technology behind it is called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

For years now, Google has been using HTTPS as one of the signals in its algorithm, which means if you just had an HTTP site, your rankings took a blow. 

Then it increased the penalty and included a “not secure” label alongside the URL of all the HTTP websites. Google even officially confirmed that the SSL enabled websites will receive a rank boost even if they’re otherwise equal in search results with the HTTP one. Plus, over 80% of the users claim they would not browse websites that aren’t secure, based on HubSpot research.

Myth #9: Once you create your content, you don’t have to touch it again

The fact is that if you want to come on top and stay on top, you need to create content often. By posting regularly you will build new pathways for leads to find you and bring more traffic to your website. Plus, it will provide context for you to target your keywords without being obnoxious (see points 2 & 3).

This is why having a blog page is great. The more often you can update it the better. 

Keep in mind, while you are doing this to boost your SEO, the same quality content principles should still be applied. Make the most out of your blog by communicating genuine and relevant information to your user base. 

This can benefit you on many levels, from creating brand recall by allowing the visitors to get to know your brand personality better, to positioning your brand as professionals who can meaningfully elaborate on various topics within their field. It is also a great way for your team to stay up-to-date with the latest research. 

We advise getting a good content writer within a digital agency who can maintain a content calendar and create regular blog entries that both further your SEO goals and provide excellent content to your website visitors. 

Myth #10: Don’t stress too much about title tags and meta descriptions

There’s no way around it, meta descriptions have a tremendous impact on your website’s search rankings. 

What are meta descriptions? They are the short page descriptions you might notice under title tags that pop up in search results. Now, they don’t directly serve as ranking factors but they greatly influence whether or not users will click on your page once they see it. Same with your title tags.

What is the point of coming on top of the search engine if the user then proceeds to scroll down to find something more relevant because your meta description isn’t appealing? Further, if your page doest drive traffic then the search engines won’t find it relevant to the search results. This is why these elements need to be optimized. 

Meta descriptions can also be used on social media when sharing your content and bring in more clickthroughs from there as well.

Keep your meta description under 160 characters (Google allows up to 220, while mobile devices cut them off to 120) and your title tag under 60. Both should include your entire keyword phrase.

Myth #11: The homepage should be packed with content

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now how some homepages are swarming with the copy. And then some are void of content. 

Less experienced digital marketers might suggest that without blocks of text jam-packed with keywords your home page won’t come in search results, while web designers might long for a clean, sleek style. You might find yourself in-between thinking you need to compromise one or the other. 

A good UX designer (as well as a digital marketer) thinks functionality. Yes, you need content and context. Your home page is the first one a user sees when clicking on your website, they should understand who you are, what you do, and why they should be interested in you. But you don’t need to overwhelm them with blocks of text, and you can certainly use visuals and interactive elements to create an attractive and engaging digital experience.

Myth #12: Have as many pages possible

This is a common myth as many believe that the more pages you have the more traffic you’ll get. But think about the user experience. Sure, having a lot of pages with meaningful content can be good and keep the user engaged, but it again requires quality over quantity. 

Too many random pages for the sake of it can just seem confusing and exhausting to the user. If they give up and leave, Google might assume that your page isn’t relevant to the search and you get the opposite of what you intended. 

Think about how the pages can benefit the user. Create them with purpose. Lay them out in an intuitive way and use internal links to make navigation even easier. If your content is great and the reader is engaged to find out more, then your strategy was effective. 

Note that all pages won’t even get indexed by Google, or don’t remain in the index – if almost identical content is already indexed then Google will omit it. Plus, even if you do have indexed pages, they won’t necessarily drive relevant traffic and leads.

Myth #13: Pop-ups will damage your search ranking

There is a constant dilemma between prioritizing excellent, joyful user experience and generating leads quickly. The two are naturally connected, but the latter often calls for some shortcuts that that annoy the visitors – for example, the infamous pop-ups.

Pop-up forms work, otherwise they wouldn’t be so obnoxiously overused. But they are intrusive, and Google itself rolled out some penalties towards so-called “intrusive interstitials”, aka irritating pop-ups. 

Some took this to mean that pop-ups need to be dropped. No. Google doesn’t penalize all of them, it makes a distinction depending on how much they get in the way of user’s ability to access page content through mobile search (see point 12). If they block user’s access to the page content that is an issue. If they simply take up some of the screen space and don’t disrupt the mobile UX, you’re fine. 

Don’t forget, a good ad should read like relevant content, so the more relevant your pop-ups are to your users, the less annoying they will be and you will provide an enjoyable user experience.

Myth #14: Mobile-friendliness is not relevant

Any respectable website design & development agency will create mobile-friendly websites, in fact, this is considered one of the basics. It is well known that more and more users browse content through their phones, and over 75% use their smartphones to shop on e-commerce websites. Yet not much thought is given to this from the digital marketing point of view.

With that in mind, Google introduced mobile-first indexing that considers the quality of your mobile website when raking pages. If the user experience isn’t mobile-friendly, your SEO efforts will suffer. 

Step one – get a great web design agency to build your website using responsive design. Step two – make sure your digital marketing agency reviews the mobile site and suggests any additional modifications to ensure you’re not missing anything. 

Myth #15: Local SEO doesn’t matter anymore

If you are running a local business then you need to optimize for local searches. For example, if you’re Dubai based and operate locally, you don’t need clicks from Europe or Latin America – you want them to come from within the UAE. Even if you operate globally, it is your locals who are more likely to buy from you. 

Over 45% of all Google searches are looking for local information. Almost 90% of potential buyers who do a local search on their phone visit or call your store within a day.

You have to make sure that your company is coming up in local Google search and maps. A serious SEO marketing agency will help you create relevant content and optimize your channels accordingly.

Myth #16: Your traffic comes from Google only

Not only is this wrong, having traffic from places besides Google is essential to your rankings. The websites link to your pages the more relevant and trustworthy Google considers you to be. 

You can benefit from creating content that other websites will want to link to and make posts on other business pages that direct back to your website.

Myth #17: Older domains have an advantage over new ones

From all we know, domain age alone is insignificant once the site has been around for up to 3 months. Brand new websites take time to build up due to lesser content, and indexing requires a valuable resource base that also takes a little time.

For this initial lag, you can request your web developers to purchase the domain while designing your website and launch it under “coming soon”. Even if it takes a few months to finish designing & developing your website, this will help it show up in Google’s index and save you a little time. 

Myth #18: Google penalties can irrevocably burry you

Google might be strict with their rules and use penalties to moderate bad behaviours, but you can recover. A penalty means there is an issue, so when one pops-up you need to resolve it promptly and request reconsideration. 

Google isn’t taking things personally – once the issue is solved, the penalty will be removed. 

Perhaps there will be some lasting damage when it comes to your ranking, but don’t panic. Visibility is changing all the time anyway. As long as you pick up and continue with the SEO efforts (producing good content and building quality backlinks), you will climb back up.

Myth #19: Go with the SEO agency that guarantees fast results

It might be frustrating, but SEO is an ongoing process. Each business faces its unique challenges and there are no shortcuts. 

This often puts off business owners who would like to get results soon, which is understandable but can cause long-term issues. If you go with the company that guarantees quick success, that usually means that they will be using black hat SEO (see point 2). Maybe you will get a quick boost, but it’s not worth the damning consequences this can have for your website. 

It is also not a one-time job. Even when your website is optimized, it needs to be constantly maintained or it will lose its ranking much faster than it took to get it.

What a good SEO company does is focus around keyword research, link building and content creation. This requires a little patience, especially in very competitive industries, but it is very much worth it. A professional digital marketing & website development agency will be honest and transparent about this, even though the truth might not always please the client.

Myth #20: TBC

As we said, Google is constantly perfecting its algorithm. What works today might not work tomorrow. SEO requires constant involvement and research or the once-proven strategies might turn obsolete, or even worse, damaging. 

Conclusion

It’s nearly impossible to expect to come on top for every single keyword you target, and this should not be a reason for you to stop your SEO efforts. Even an effective SEO takes time and constant refinement, not to mention that some keywords might be very competitive. 

You need to focus on your content and keep it up. Quality over quantity. Just like in web design, it’s all about the user experience (UX).

The best way to go about this is to consult with a good full-scope digital marketing agency experienced in everything from web design & development to SEO & other digital marketing methods (social media marketing, GoogleAds…). Make sure they have good content writers too. 

Get in touch now, share your business objectives and listen to their suggestions. We hope this blog helped you understand the process better so that you can make an informed decision that will benefit your business.