On-site SEO and typical SEO myths debunked 

WhitePress research: On-site SEO and typical SEO myths debunked 

This article takes a deep dive into the European on-site SEO efforts: what does on-site SEO looks like? What are the four most typical SEO myths out there? Who creates the content? Use the exact match or partial match for internal links? This article is part of the international report SEO & Content Marketing 2023 by WhitePress and is used with explicit permission. Download the full report for NL with expert comments here 

In recent years, internal website optimization has undergone a real revolution. The once-popular “stuffing” of rigid key phrases on a page neither helps to gain a high position in search results nor does it inspire confidence in users. And this is becoming increasingly difficult to do anyway. 

As Steve Jobs once said: “First and foremost, you have to ensure a positive user experience, and only then adapt the technology to it.” This motto applies perfectly to modern SEO, which must focus primarily on the audience. 

The importance of on-page SEO is huge: it’s the first and essential step in the SEO industry. It is necessary to optimize the website, fix technical issues, optimize content for the audience, and effectively target keywords. 

On-site SEO in Europe in 2023 

All of this means that On-site SEO techniques must be applied skillfully, and this requires additional time and resources. What amounts are we talking about? This is one of the things that you can learn from the WhitePress report, which also reveals a number of other surprising facts concerning search engine optimization in 2023: 

  • Most SEO specialists still mainly analyze key phrases, and pay less attention to trends. 
  • The longer the content, the better? Respondents disagree: half say 
  • yes, 25% say no, and 25% have no opinion. 
  • A company blog in a directory, subdomain, or on a new page? 
  • 83% of SEO specialists would choose a directory. 
  • Photos, tables, infographics? Most industry professionals believe that 
  • they have an impact on their position in the rankings, either directly or 
  • indirectly. 
  • Anchor texts exact match: According to the researchers, it is safe to 
  • use exact match content on the website. 

Debunking SEO myths: Phrase positioning or following trends? 

SEO Myth: Key phrases are less important than they used to be. Following trends is what counts. 

SEO specialists like specifics, so let’s focus on them. A study by WhitePress® concerning SEO in 22 European countries was a good opportunity to dispel some popular industry myths. The first concerns the use of key phrases. It has been debated for some time whether focusing on sole keywords really makes sense (since algorithms change so often). Or is it perhaps better to focus on trends? 

According to research by WhitePress®, there is currently a clear majority of opinion among industry professionals that it is primarily worthwhile to rely on analyzing key phrases.  

The research reveals that 20% rely on them alone, completely ignoring industry news or trends. 52.5% of people sometimes draw conclusions for themselves from current trends, but first they base them on keyword analysis. Others mainly observe the latest market trends, but supplement this with knowledge concerning phrase analysis. Whereas, no one admitted to completely ignoring keywords in their work, giving a clear verdict: 

Phrase analysis still constitutes the first and most important tool in the arsenal of a good SEO specialist, and this is true regardless of the country. 

Still, the comments from the experts highlight the importance of staying updated with industry changes and connecting with peers to exchange insights. This ensures that SEO professionals are prepared for big changes and can effectively track and focus on relevant strategies. While trends may be important, analyzing key phrases remains a significant aspect of SEO. 

Google’s algorithm updates have become more frequent in recent years (for example, 18 updates in 2022, 11 in 2016, and 8 in 2010). A single update can sometimes turn an elaborate SEO strategy upside down. The means of expression are changing: letters are being replaced by video, and searching by text alone may soon become less popular than by voice or image. What doesn’t get old is still interesting and valuable content—of course, enhanced with the right phrases. 

Debunking SEO myths: Does the length of content matter?  

SEO Myth: The longer the content, the better the ranking chances on Google. 

This myth is debunked even by Google on its official channel in the series “SEO mythbusting” Nevertheless, such a view is still quite popular, as exactly half of the industry professionals say that the more content, the better. 

One in four people asked believes that it all depends on the type of website and what the competition is writing on theirs. The others don’t treat the length of content as a significant factor for positioning, which may suggest that what counts for them the most is the factual content. 

Web users are more and more sensitive to pages “bloated” with thousands of unnecessary characters. They appreciate it when content specialists reach out to them, producing factual answers to specific questions. That’s why half of the respondents determine the length of the content, depending on the complexity of the topic. However, 38% of SEO specialists still take advantage of analyzing the competitors’ content length as their main guideline before writing a text for a handled website. This is a tactic that is less tailored to the reader but more effective from an SEO point of view. It also allows for avoiding the unnecessary multiplication of content because it is created long enough to outrank competitors. 

In third place in terms of popularity is a rather simple but highly effective technique: checking the competition for selected phrases by typing them into Google or a different search engine. If, as indicated by our surveyed parties, proper AI tools are used for this, one can learn a lot this way. 

Only one in ten respondents always uses content of similar length in their work. Perhaps these are people who handle, for example, websites of one type, one industry, or simply one domain. In such a case, a certain schematic approach in action may indeed constitute the most rational strategy (e.g., all product descriptions in a building shop may be of one length). An interesting fact is that Ukrainians are leading the way in this approach. 96.85% of SEO specialists there always write or commission content of equal length, whereas almost all Spanish specialists (91%) are most likely to choose SERP results analysis when they want to find out what article length would be optimal. 

The verdict: common sense and experience dictate that this should be refuted, but a large proportion of European SEO specialists continue to see the sense in this and carry out their SEO activities in this way. 

Debunking SEO myths: Directory or subdomain? 

SEO Myth: There is no one right way to create blogs or advice services on websites – as Google points out, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

Every SEO specialist understands that On-site optimization is not only about the content itself but also about meta titles, images, or website addresses. And it was the latter that we’ve asked our respondents about, on the example of a company blog or the advice section of a website. Directory or subdomain? Or perhaps a completely new page? Such questions are very often asked in groups for people from the industry, and they provoke heated discussions every time. 

Meanwhile, it is a myth that SEO specialists cannot find common ground in this matter! Despite the differences in budgets, mentalities, or realities in the 22 studied countries, respondents everywhere are virtually unanimous: 83% of them choose a directory (i.e., whitepress.co.uk/blog/). 

Only in the second place is there a subdomain (for example, blog.whitepress.pl), and in the last place, in terms of popularity, there is a separate page (like: blogwhitepressa.pl). Only approximately 6% of people choose to do so. Of course, there are cases where it is worth applying these less popular variants. 
Why such results? Directories are part of domains. Subdomains are indexed separately. If a blog is located on a subdomain, it is not taken into account in the overall domain ranking. Therefore, in a certain way, Google “favors” directories. Another obvious reason why SEO specialists are more likely to choose directories is that they are the easiest to set up, even without advanced development knowledge. This is particularly important for freelancers who cannot rely on a staff of IT specialists. 

The verdict: Across the 22 studied countries, respondents basically agree: 83% are most likely to choose a directory. 

Debunking SEO myths: Images are not important for SEO 

SEO Myth: SEO is solely focused on content, disregarding the significance of images, tables, or infographics for search engine positioning. 

One of the questions addressed in the international WhitePress® study delved into the role of infographics, images, and tables in relation to SEO. Does their inclusion on a website influence its positioning? 59.5% of industry professionals believe they have an indirect impact. These visual elements are captivating and engaging, leading to longer user sessions and increased user interaction. 

Nonetheless, Google employees have never confirmed any form of “penalty” for websites lacking images or graphics. Instead, it may be a matter of a simplecorrelation: eachimageorgraphicpresentsanadditionalopportunity for the page to be discovered through Google Images. Moreover, even in traditional search engines, an increasing number of graphical elements are emerging among the top results to attract visitors to the site. 

Only 9% of participants believe that photos hold no relevance in terms of rankings. However, recent Google data reveals that 40% of Generation Z internet users primarily utilize Instagram or TikTok for searching rather than “conventional” search engines. Consequently, visual content made available through such channels will become crucial for companies and the media in the years to come. 

The verdict: According to the majority of experts, visual elements do impact positioning, whether directly or indirectly. 

Who creates the content? 

On-site is statistically much more popular than Off-site because it allows optimizing a website quickly and independently. Meanwhile, Off-site actions require time and commitment, which often involve expenditure, and the end result depends on more than just the SEO specialist himself. 

Respondents confirmed this: content for their own website is created by most of them personally (very often and often; 52% of them).  

Next in line was the help of a professional copywriter, whether employed directly by an agency or company or as a freelancer. Only one in five respondents frequently orders texts via content creation platforms. 

Use the exact match or partial match?  

We saw preparing the SEO report as an opportunity to go a little deeper into industry trends. One of the more interesting questions in this context was the one about anchor texts used in internal linking. 

A topic sometimes overlooked by SEO beginners, who are surprised when they realize how much can be “squeezed” out of a page with proper internal linking. But what types of links will be most effective? 

Our respondents shared their secrets with us. The highest percentage (21%) very often uses exact match linking, so one that perfectly corresponds to a phrase (like here: A report on SEO through the eyes of a woman). 

Slightly less popular were partial match anchors (e.g. here is an interesting report on SEO through the eyes of women). 

In third place were the so-called brand keywords (like: A report by WhitePress® about women in SEO). It was followed by navigation text, “clickable” graphics, and the URL itself, once so popular but today only used (very often or often) by a total of 15% of respondents. 

All the techniques mentioned above are On-site SEO activities. One in three respondents spends between 29 and 50% of their budget on these. 

A relatively small percentage of SEO specialists spend most of their money on On-site activities concerning optimization. This means that the remaining funds are, to a large extent, allocated to Off-site SEO. 

While some may mistakenly believe that On-site SEO is diminishing due to the rise of AI in content creation, the truth is that AI complements the process rather than replacing it entirely. Good content and human expertise are still vital. 

AI, though promising, has its limitations in generating engaging content. It often produces fluff that requires expert editing. This highlights the importance of human input and understanding what works in content creation. On-site SEO, which focuses on optimizing website content and structure, provides the foundation for integrating AI effectively. 

However, it is essential to recognize that Off-site SEO, such as building authoritative backlinks and establishing a strong online presence, is equally crucial. It reinforces the credibility and visibility of the On-site content, contributing to improved search engine rankings. 

By connecting On-site and Off-site SEO strategies, businesses can create a comprehensive and effective optimization approach. The harmonious integration of these two components maximizes the benefits of AI-driven content creation while leveraging the expertise of human editors and maintaining the importance of quality content. This holistic SEO approach allows businesses to establish a strong online presence, attract organic traffic, and enhance their search engine visibility for long-term success. 

This article is part of the international report SEO & Content Marketing 2023 by WhitePress and is used with explicit permission. Download the full report for NL with expert comments here. 

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