The world of search engine optimization is an evolving science where each new day seems to bring a new thought-leader with a new 'game-changing' theory for search success. Amid the cut and thrust of SEO discourse, some theories stand the test of time while others wilt and die under scrutiny.
As you try to make sense of the many SEO insights in circulation, you're likely to encounter some contentious topics. The following ten issues are among the most debated SEO questions of all time.
1. "Link Building is Dead"
This phrase gets thrown around a lot. Link building is the process of earning inbound links on other websites. Naturally earned links improve a website's reputation and where it ranks in search engines. In recent years, the naysayers have argued that 'link building is dead' but, in truth, building authentic links from trusted sources still has a significant positive impact on Google rankings. Quality content is a better link-building driver than any paid shortcut tactic so the best way to build links is to adopt a long-term strategy of publishing valuable content - watch the links multiply.
2. "SEO is So Easy, I Don't Need Expert Guidance"
As digital literacy improves on an international scale, we occasionally hear people say that SEO is a no-brainer that anyone can handle. While individual aspects of SEO may seem simple enough, getting the whole thing right is a different story.
It's a bit like cooking - having fresh ingredients is just one part of the recipe, you need to combine those elements in a way that delivers optimum flavor, texture and satisfaction. If you burn the garlic or add too much oil, the whole dish can be ruined.
Businesses should certainly embrace the general principles of SEO as they roll out their ongoing marketing and communications strategies. But you should still call in the SEO experts for lasting optimum performance in search results.
3. Should You Create a Dedicated Page for Every Keyword to Rank Higher?
As with much SEO wizardry, this tactic can produce results but should only be used in very specific cases. The repetition of any word in a block of text is generally a turnoff for readers. Unless a word is artfully repeated for literary effect, the repeated word soon becomes stale and the reader loses interest. In the digital age, Internet users have a very sensitive radar for keyword-stuffing. Only repeat keywords where it seems natural and necessary to do so. A keyword-jammed page might convince Google to temporarily elevate your site's ranking, but winning traffic is only half the battle. Once users land on your page, you need to persuade them to stay - and excessive use of keywords tends to have a repelling effect.
4. How Can we Keep Up With Google's Frequent Updates?
The Google team knows that we're following them. Just as we get close enough to glimpse their gait and direction, they switch things up and throw us for a loop. While it's important to keep a constant watch on Google's new tactics and algorithms, the best way to stay near (if not ahead of) the curve is to remain dedicated to some of the lasting, fundamental principles of SEO. For example, always keep your website architecture and content fresh, clean and compelling. The provision of a smooth, engaging user experience will never work against you, regardless of what Google does or doesn't do.
Half of the trouble with 'keeping up' with Google is that SEO pundits are trying to outsmart the search gods or find sneaky shortcuts to developmental journeys that we benefit, and learn much more from, when we go the full course.
5. More Links Are Better Than More Content
Like keyword stuffing, link stuffing is a foolish shortcut to SERP success. When cultivating links, focus on organic, authentic, high-quality links. This is one of those times when less is more. It's better to establish a handful of genuine, meaningful links than to buy off a bucket-load of meaningless links. Google is onto the link-fiends who cram gratuitous links into their content at every opportunity. Not only is over-zealous linking a turnoff for visitors to your page, it can actually attract search engine penalties.
6. Having a Secure (HTTPS encrypted) Site Isn't Important for SEO
Google's made it clear that secure websites will rank marginally higher - basically, websites that have "https://" are favored in SERPs over sites with "http://". But the difference is fairy miniscule. The search giant's explained that encryption is only a very lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content.
At the same time, that's not to say that webmasters should discount the factor as insignificant to SEO outcomes. Eventually, Google's likely to accord more weight to encryption as a ranking determinant because, quite simply, they want to make the Internet a safer place for users.
7. Keyword Optimization is THE Key to SEO
This is another topic that always seems to be in the middle of an SEO tug-of-war. No one SEO tactic is a magic cure-all or key to search success. Keyword optimization is certainly a consistently important factor for webmasters to bear in mind as they express their brand online. But without support from other SEO tactics, such as quality content, link building and social media engagement, even the most skillfully applied keywords will fall flat.
8. Owning Microsites and Domains That Redirect Back to My Site Will Help My SEO
This much-debated topic basically boils down to a question of quality versus quantity. It is indeed possible to boost search performance by bulking up on microsites and other domains and using them as a platform for redirecting links back to my main website - but beware. If the only purpose these sites serve is to bolster your real site, it won't take Google long to cotton on to your game. And not only are you likely to ruffle feathers at Camp Google - visitors, too, are unlikely to appreciate the digital ping pong effect of being bounced around from one site to the next without context or logic.
9. Good User Experience and Engagement Plays No Role in SEO
If your SEO consultant tells you this, it's probably time to do business with a new SEO consultant. User experience and engagement may not be directly linked to your search results in a finite, quantifiable way, but they certainly have a lasting impact on long-term search success. Some strategists focus on delivering visible, overnight SEO gains, to the detriment of the kind of organic, 'slow burn' results that are actually worth much more in the long run. A smooth user experience and authentic engagement both work to reinforce your SEO tactical mix.
10. What Does Social Media Have to Do With SEO?
Social Media is not an alternative to SEO. Nor is SEO an alternative to social. The two should work hand in hand to deliver solid search performance. Google does not directly use metrics such as Facebook shares or Twitter Following to calculate search rankings BUT effective social activity can have a significant secondary effect on your SEO efforts. Social activity helps address two major SEO challenges: search engine discovery and indexation, and content distribution, which encourages links and shares. If anyone tells you that social has nothing to do with SEO, they are not looking at the bigger picture.
These are just ten of the debates that we often hear disputed in SEO circles. Is there a burning SEO topic that we have missed? Share your thoughts on the controversial world of search in the comments below.