It’s one of the holy grails of marketing—trying to crack the algorithm that search engines like Google use to rank your site. Getting ranked highly matters. For Google, the top organically ranked position can get an average 36.4% click-through rate (CTR), whereas the next position gets a 12.5% CTR, and the third gets 9.5%. By the time you get to the tenth position (at the bottom of the page), you’re looking at a 2.2% CTR. You want to stay at the top. But algorithms change all the time, and Google, who handles 92% of searches, won’t always tell you how they determine the rankings.

The searchiverse, however, does have plenty of ideas on how it’s done. So how do you sniff out fact from fiction? We’ve been tracking down the truth, and here are the top five Search Engine Optimization (SEO) myths we’ve ferreted out—and the moves you can make to truly improve where your site ranks:

Myth #1: You Can Set Your SEO and Forget It

Don’t believe this common refrain! One of the primary tenets of SEO is keeping your content new and updating it often. Since the search engines’ main goals are to provide relevant, useful, and timely information to users, fresh is always best. So leaving your website static and stale by not updating the copy or images can land you in the land of lower rankings! And in the meantime, competitors that constantly update their site might jump ahead in rankings, your backlinks (other sites linking to yours) can start disappearing due to “link rot,” and your site might be deemed irrelevant.

Luckily, this is an easy fix. Google Search Console lets you check your backlinks (called “external links” here) to see if they are no longer pointing to your site, so you can remedy them. You can also set a schedule with your team to renew your content on a regular basis. Refresh pages where people would expect to have new information, such as in your seasonal services. But if it ain’t broke, don’t refresh it – pages that talk about timeless information like “4 Types of Book Binding” don’t require constant updates.

Myth #2: Go Longer Format for Higher Rankings

Many people think that longer content will always help your rankings, but this isn’t necessarily true, as noted by John Mueller of Google. While some studies have shown that pages containing a higher number of words can rank higher, there is no substantiation of any correlation.

The most important metric is that your content is relevant, not that it is a certain number of words. It’s just like in school – remember when you asked your teacher how long your paper should be? The answer is “as long as it needs to be.” Just make sure it answers the users’ questions, needs, and wants. So if you’re taking note/s, focus on the quality of your words and not the quantity.

Myth #3: Don’t Worry About Keyword Research

We disagree. When it comes to keyword research, you should worry about it! Or at least be strategic about it. Keywords are still an effective way to boost rankings. Even though the top ranked page typically gets the most total search traffic only 49% of the time, and the second page gets it 22% of the time, each site can rank high for hundreds (or even thousands) of keywords. Studies show that a keyword’s popularity translates directly into your site’s organic traffic, and that overall traffic still matters. Studying and using keywords can also help you design your page to be more relevant for your users, since you’re using their words and ideas to optimize it.

How do you find the right keywords? We can help! We have the tools to see where your customers are searching, and we can build them into your site.

Related: Ironmark’s SEO Services

Myth #4: Search Engines Don’t Take Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Into Account

This is a tricky one. It’s true that there is no direct correlation between paying for ads on Google and receiving higher rankings. However, an indirect way to beef up your rankings would be to beef up your backlinks—and one way to do this is by running a PPC campaign. Since these campaigns effectively boost your rankings to the top positions, you’re receiving prime real estate. More people are likely to visit your site, and if they like what they see, more sites are also likely to link to your site. This sets you up for higher rankings.

Bottom line? Paid media can help you organically rank higher, since you’ll attract the backlinks that boost your ranking.

Related: Measuring ROI on Your SEO

Myth #5: Google Relies on Google Analytics Data to Drive Rankings

Nope! Thankfully, Google has said no to this one. Sometimes, site owners pore over their data, worried that higher bounce rates or lower time on page will cause their rankings to tank. Not the case. Since a site owner could filter the information to make the site appear to be performing better than it was actually performing, there’s no good way for Google to use this information. Plus, it’s all relative—a lower time on page may be just fine for a page with succinct information that people get before going and finding what they need. There are also far too many analytic variables to build a cohesive picture here.

The takeaway? Use Google Analytics to get a handle on your site metrics, but don’t sweat its role in your rankings. Myths about SEO will continue to proliferate as long as we don’t have a clear window into the black box that is the search engine algorithm. While the recent page experience update from Google gave some much-appreciated insight into ways to improve rankings, it’s important to stay away from the myths that have little or no bearing on rankings.

Don’t waste your time on those. In fact, If all of this talk about SEO is making you think “I don’t have the time for this,” we get it. Our team of SEO experts stands ready to help you. Want to know how to get to the top of the rankings? Call us. We’ve been there before and we continue to work hard to stay there. In the meantime, you can learn more about myths that don’t work and what DOES work in our on-demand Google Ranking Webinar. Watch it today and see your ranks climb!

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