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What does and doesn’t Google actually care about (Debunking common myths)

When it comes to search engine optimisation, and earned Google results, there are more myths and misconceptions about what works, than there is clear guidance based on fact, expertise and experience. In this post I share practical examples and insights on what works, to debunk some of the common myths that have become synonymous with fact.

Myth 1 – If you build it they will come

I quite like the idea that you build an awesome website, and because of all the hard work you have put into creating an amazing design, the page layout, and content, plus all the images you have created from scratch, that the website will be discovered, indexed, ranked, and appear for all the right things, however, sadly this is not the case.

“The Google Search index contains hundreds of billions of web pages and is well over 100,000,000 gigabytes in size. It’s like the index in the back of a book — with an entry for every word seen on every web page we index. When we index a web page, we add it to the entries for all of the words it contains.”

Source: https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/crawling-indexing/.

Fact

The same way that a library needs to have a book included in its itinerary, Google needs to be notified of the existence of a new site before a clear majority of websites would ever stand a chance of being naturally discovered.

Google facilitate this with free webmaster tools (Google Search Console), plus lots of supporting tips, advice, and practical steps to enable new site discovery and understanding.

Google cares about…

Easy to crawl and index websites, that have a clear and easy to use navigation. Websites should have all indexable content accessible through internal linking. Added to this you should use Google Webmaster Tools / Search Console, to make indexing easier for Google, as well as to notify them of new and important content you create.

Some tips for this include creating and maintaining an XML sitemap, ensuring your site has a robtos.txt file in place, and that you maximise the websites technical health, including limiting broken content and keeping on top of general site operability.

Myth 2 – The more backlinks the better

SEO has many grey areas fuelled by; hundreds of changing ranking factors, numerous tactics and approaches that work that differ in almost every application, some evidence of things that shouldn’t work still succeeding, plus huge amounts of best practice interpretation in the industry. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that people look for black and white actions they can hold as true, and build a strategy around – backlinks are one of these factors.

Fact

There is no dispute that backlinks are an important factor for SEO.

Backlinks provide:

Having stated this, backlinks are not a numbers game – the core backlink measurements are; quality, relevancy, and authority.

Having a thousand backlinks from one domain will not pass the same value as one hundred backlinks from one hundred quality, relevant, authority domains (plus volume based followed linking approaches may get you a penalty too).

Google cares about…

Avoiding link schemes, and creating natural links based on quality content.

“The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356.

Quality content is something that reflects expertise, authority, and trust (EAT), and can be something ranging from websites providing trusted daily economic updates, through to engaging and interactive content.

Myth 3 – It’s the number of words that matter

Like many myths, there is solid experience and practical examples to support the fact that more words are better. In fact numerous studies show that this can be the case (example below), but it’s not about the word count!

“Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”

Source: https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking.

Fact

There are many factors that come into play when Google assesses one piece of content over another (in fact over millions of others) and decides what, where, when, and how high to rank the content.

Longer form content will naturally tick more of these Google criteria boxes, than very thin, limited value comparisons, but let me reaffirm, that this it is not the number of words that matter.

Google cares about…

Unique, value and audience driven content that showcases your expertise and authority on the topic. High ranking content is often:

More myths debunked

There are more myths than facts about Google and SEO, so it seemed logical to list some of the most common, and look to dispel them at the same time. Some of the most frequent myths that I come across are below.

More Google myths debunked:

CONCLUSION

This post has explored some of the more common myths and shared the Google preferred approaches as a means to practically dispel them.

You will find that the more you delve into search engine optimisation and broader Google marketing, that there are many new and well-established myths (some of which will still work in certain niches fuelling the myth further still), but, as a practical tip, always look to long-term, reliable sources of information when optimising for Google.

Some of my most used reference points include; Google Webmasters Forum and up to date news and insight sites like SEW and SEJ.

Image credits:

Images included in this post are commercially free licenses at https://www.pexels.com/.

Screenshots were taken by the author at the date of creating the post (November 2017).

I’ve been leading digital marketing teams since the early 2000’s, and headed up the SEO department for a top 10 leading search and digital agency (VerticalLeap) from 2010 to present. In 2016, I had my first solely authored industry book published (Tactical SEO – the theory and practice of search marketing).

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