SEO Guide for Storage Operators

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Internet marketing is a huge part of any small business. Though it is vital, many self storage owners have little time and/or knowledge on how to market their storage facilities correctly. Good internet marketers understand how, when and why searchers visit their website and how much profit they are making on those visitors. An integral part of the internet marketing process is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it is a beast. Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing, time consuming affair which can send your website to new heights or sink it completely. Getting it right means more traffic, reservations and profit for your storage facility while getting it wrong could be detrimental. How do you know what is right or wrong, white hat or black hat or if any of your internet marketing efforts are even working?

This tutorial is meant to be a comprehensive guide for self storage owners and operators who are new to Search Engine Optimization and want to learn more than “just the basics”. We hope that by using this tutorial, an owner/operator who has limited SEO knowledge will be able to start their own SEO campaign and make knowledgeable decisions on what is right and wrong.

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

What is SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of attaining traffic from the “free”, organic/editorial/natural listings on the search engines. SEO can be divided into two integral working parts - On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.

On-page SEO is considered any changes on your website which you implement in order to increase your rankings on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). The SERP is simply the screen and results you see once you do a search on the Search Engine.

Search Engine Result Page (SERP)

Off-page SEO is any work done separate from your website, not on your website, which will hopefully increase your rankings within the SERPs. This includes link building, Social Networking, blogging, writing reviews, PR, etc.

Why is SEO needed?

Search Engine Optimization is the only way to get noticed in the search engines without paying to be there. It is an integral part of internet marketing and a driving force in many businesses. If your website ranks in the 10th spot for “Kansas City self storage” but you want more traffic and you want to be #1….you need to invest in SEO.

Can I do it?

Anyone can perform Search Engine Optimization on a website. There are a few issues with doing it yourself though. SEO is very time consuming, in depth and needs to be performed on a daily basis. The initial steps and basics are easy and can be completed fairly quickly but you will need access to your html code in order to perform the On-Page SEO. The Off-Page SEO is simply time consuming and somewhat difficult work.

The best way to go about SEO is to optimize your self storage website for Google because if you can rank on Google, you will most likely rank for the other SEs (BingYahoo!AskDuckDuckGo etc). Google is the most important because it gets the most traffic and is the biggest Search Engine by far.

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

People and SE’s See WebPages Differently

An important aspect of Search Engine Optimization is making your website easy for users and the Search Engines indexing robots to read and understand. The overall process of SEO helps the Search Engines figure out what each webpage is about.
In the early days of SEO, Search Engines saw people stuffing Meta Tags with keywords and then Keyword Stuffing the content on pages as well. This technique worked with great effect for several years. The Search Engines then began to adapt and saw what many webmasters were doing to highly rank their websites and the Search Engines made changes to the algorithm.

Today, Meta Tag and Keyword Stuffing is a recipe for disaster for your website. The Search Engines will see your website as being lazy and thus you will not rank for that particular page. It will also have an effect on the rest of your website, possibly marking it as spammy. In the age of Panda and Penguin, two Google Algorithm Updates which are supposed to rid the Search Results of spam, you do not want to be seen as spammy. The Search Engine algorithm is an ever changing landscape which is why your website and SEO efforts need to be worked on almost daily. Contrary to some popular belief, SEO is not dead and most likely will never be. There is always room for internet marketing and the need will always persist.

People understand and view websites/webpages differently than the Search Engines do. The Search Engines read the HTML code, Java, Javascript, images, videos and text much differently than what humans do. For instance, search engines don’t parse the content of most videos and images (the rare exception being videos with closed captioning on YouTube). As another example, some Javascript or Flash that could render easy-to-read text in a browser might just look like jumbled code to Google.. The Search Engines can also crawl and index pages at an incredible rate but they have no idea if the website is popular or the article is noteworthy. People decide whether a website or article is popular by sharing with friends, linking, commenting etc.

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

SEO Website Design

The code used to write your website and create the web pages is called HTML code. Your website should use HTML code over any Java, Flash, Images etc because HTML is more easily crawled and indexed by the Search Engine Spiders. The other programs are fine to use in addition to HTML but you shouldn’t overuse them. They are harder to index and thus, they don’t allow your webpages to rank as well either.

The correct website structure and HTML/CSS can aid your SEO, while doing it wrong can crush your website. Again, HTML is the code and main markup language for displaying web pages and information on the browser. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is a style sheet language used for describing presentation, the look and formatting, of a document written in HTML. The main purpose for using CSS is to make the web pages load faster in order to give users a quick experience and for Google to be able to crawl your website faster. CSS is commonly used nowadays because it makes your website more appealing to users, is easy to code and allows Search Engines to crawl pages faster.

Search Engines “crawl” the web at an incredible rate and essentially make copies of your web pages which then get stored in a web index. In order for your website to be found and placed in the web index, it has to get crawled by the Search Engines. If your website is not crawlable, meaning you have errors in your HTML or CSS structure, none of your SEO efforts will matter.

Most Search Engine crawling issues are minor and are easily fixable. If you think you may have crawling issues or are simply worried your website might be faulty there are some tools you can use to check it for free. You don’t want any errors which would cause the Search Engines to devalue your website so luckily you can easily check crawl errors on Google Webmaster Tools or other websites for free.

It is imperative that your website is easily crawlable. This is the first step in a long process of SEO. If your website isnt crawlable, you are already fighting a losing battle in all of your other SEO efforts. Search Engines think it is easy if you have crawlable link structure so the Search Engines can browse all of the pages/sections and links on your website. Be sure to not make the mistake of improper linking which doesnt allow the Search Engines to crawl all of your websites pages. Be sure you have internal links (links from one page on your website to other pages on your website) on all of the pages of your website in order for the Search Engines to reach them and know those pages exist. Again, if the Search Engines cannot see your pages, you will not see them in the Search Engine Result Pages. It is basically a worthless page on your website no matter how much SEO time you put into it.

internallinks1

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

Keywords

Keywords are the lifeblood to the Search Engines as they tend to lay the groundwork and are the core of search. The way the Search Engines bring back relevant content in the Search Engine Result Pages on search queries is based on keywords. Other factors are obviously in play but keywords are the core and where it begins.

Your website has to have the keyword you want to rank for in the indexable content – the basic content on your webpage. Be sure the Search Engines can see your text/content on the pages and have your keyword in the content a few times. There used to be a percentage your website needed to fill based on the amount of keywords on the page. This percentage of keywords to content is no longer relevant. Simply be sure to have your keywords in the content several times and the Search Engines will be able to figure out what your page is about.

Be sure to also place your keywords in the Title Tags and in your Meta Description. (Title Tags will be explained more in Part 6, while Meta Description will be explained in Part 7.)  Title Tags are used to define the title of a webpage and is the main text which describes what the webpage is about. A Meta Description is an HTML attribute which provides a concise explanation of the text on that particular webpage. It is commonly used by Search Engines to display snippets for a given page. Just be careful to not overuse or spam the Search Engines with all of your keywords as this is a recipe to get a Search Engine penalty.

Your keywords should be as specific as possible. The more specific the keyword, the better your chances of ranking because there is less competition for that keyword. The term “storage” could mean several things to different people. For some it could mean self storage, others it means storage for CD’s, cloud storage for computers etc. If your keyword is “storage” and you highly rank for it, you may see a lot of unqualified traffic and tire kickers because the keyword is too generic. Anyone searching forChicago self storageknows what they are looking for and practically have their wallets out.

Don’t abuse the Search Engines by Keyword Stuffing – loading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a website’s rankings in the Search Engines. Keyword stuffing can also be placing your keywords in content, the URL, Meta Tags and Links. It does more harm than good nowadays though it used to work well. The Search Engines caught on to the webmasters again and now this practice is considered spammy and can result in a Google penalty on your website. To avoid Keyword Stuffing, simply create content so users can read and understand your message. Do not create content for the Search Engines with keywords loaded in the content. The Search Engines will not rank you higher because you have more keywords on your page. Here is an example of some of our old content which we changed because it was too spammy:

Selfstoragefinders.com provides a simple, quick solution to finding Chicago self storage, Chicago mobile storage, Chicago public storage and Chicago mini storage. Why search any other websites to find a Chicago storage unit when all of your Chicago storage rental needs are on one website? Selfstoragefinders.com displays information for many Chicago self storage units. Easily compare Chicago storage facilities with the click of your mouse! Find Chicago self storage facility addresses, phone numbers and even visit the storage website directly from Selfstoragefinders.com.

 

Be sure to create readable content while still adding some keywords because they are needed for targeting and SEO. For best practices, here are some tips on how to use keywords in your website code:

  • Use the Keyword once in the Title Tag
  • Use the Keyword once in the first paragraph of your text
  • Use the Keyword a few times in the body of the text
  • Use the Keyword once in the Meta Description Tag - the Meta Tag is not a ranking signal anymore but this will help the people who are searching for your keyword.

Again, it is probably wise to stay away from the broad keyword terms for several reasons. Broad keyword terms, such as “storage” or “self storage”, are more difficult to rank for because the competition is fierce and most of the websites who currently rank for those broad terms have been generating content and links for those keywords for several years. The terms will not convert as well because they are too broad and not as specific as Longtail Keywords such as “Austin climate controlled storage”.

Longtail Keywords are more specific and are what you should be striving to rank for. The amount of people searching using Longtail Keywords is less than the amount of people searching using broad keywords but Longtail Keywords are more qualified and thus will lead to more sales. People who find your website using the Longtail Keywords you have targeted already know what they want to purchase are ready to buy once they find it. They practically have their credit card in hand already. Longtail Keywords are easier to rank for, bring in highly targeted traffic but the number of visitors is lower.

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

Title Tag

The Title Tag is the first and most important part of your On-Page SEO.
The Title of your website page is supposed to be a short, yet accurate description of that page’s content. The Titles are the most important signal the Search Engines use to understand what your page is about and relay to searchers. The Title Tags are important for SEO but they don’t necessarily help your rankings. They are basically used by the Search Engines in order to distinguish between pages which may look similar and have similar content.

For best practices, here are some tips on how to use Title Tags on your website:

  • Use a 65-70 character description to describe what your page is about. The Search Engines will typically use around 65 characters before leading into “……” and cutting you off.
  • Use your Keywords near the beginning of your Title Tag.
  • Put your brand/company name in the Title Tag if possible
  • Make sure your Title Tags are readable and make sense to users who are searching for self storage in your particular area.

Short, Descriptive Title Tag

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

Meta Description Tag

The Meta Description is also an important part of your On-Page SEO. It is similar to the Title Tags in that the Search Engines do not use any of the information for ranking purposes but it does aid searchers and potential renters looking at the SERPs. The Meta Description is a short description of your pages content and how you want the searcher to see your content in the Search Engine. The Description allows you to suggest how you would like the Search Engines to describe your pages in the Search Engine listings. (Google has begun adding descriptions themselves in some cases. As far as I know, it is done randomly and there isn’t anything you can do about what they show.)

The Meta Description is important to the Search Engines and end users as the description is (mostly) used as the text display beneath the listings results and under the Title Tag in the SERPs. A good Meta Description can draw readers into your website and a bad Description, one that is rambling, not descriptive and clear, can lead them to your competitor’s website.

If your Meta Description fails to properly or adequately tell potential visitors what your page is about, the it is likely they will click on another result which they do comprehend.

For best practices, here are some tips on how to use the Meta Description on your website:

  • Use roughly a 155-165 character description to describe what your particular page is about. The Search Engines will typically use around 165 characters before leading into “….” and cutting you off.
  • Use your keywords early in your Meta Description.
  • Use your brand/company name is possible.
  • Make sure the Meta Description is readable and is easy to understand to users who are searching for self storage in your particular area.

Short, Descriptive Meta Description Tag

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

Keyword Research

Keyword Research is a fundamental part of online marketing and it goes way beyond SEO methods. It is a practice used to find and research actual search terms people enter into the Search Engines when conducting a search. In order to be on point and achieve better rankings, you need the correct keywords.

Keywords are the blueprints from which all of your self storage marketing efforts are built on. Keyword Research is a fairly extensive, difficult task to perform but it must be done in order to rank highly on the Search Engines and drive targeted traffic to your website. Luckily, there are several great Keyword Research tools which provide valuable insight into what words people are searching for on the Search Engines. Keyword Research is the most important and high return action you can get in Search Engine Optimization.

The goal of your storage website is not to attain traffic, the goal should be to target and attain the right traffic – highly targeted, qualified traffic - which will result in rentals. The only way to get qualified traffic is through Keyword Research. Analyzing your traffic and being able to decipher whether searchers are entering your website for terms like “storage unit”, “storage facility”, “Chicago self storage” or something else entirely irrelevant is priceless information to have. From this information, it is easy to tell why people are or are not renting once they enter your website. Chances are, if customers are entering your website through highly targeted keywords (Los Angeles self storage) they are staying on your page for extended lengths of time, looking around your website and renting storage units from you. If searchers are entering from irrelevant terms (boxes or moving supplies) they are bouncing away from your page quickly and you are not seeing rentals.

Use a Keyword Research tool to aid and determine how much traffic each word attains each month and how difficult it is to rank for each particular term. A Keyword Research tool can tell you:

  • How competitive the Keyword is
  • What Keywords to use
  • What Keywords are relevant
  • If the Keywords will help drive users to your website
  • If users will convert

Keyword head terms, like “storage” and “self storage”, which are not specific, can be great to rank for if you can do it but they tend to make up a smaller part of the pie than Longtail Keywords. Head terms are harder to rank for compared with Longtail Keywords because head terms are:

  • Very Competitive
  • Costly
  • Time Consuming

Longtail Keywords are more specific to your storage service and are thus easier to rank for. The Longtail Keyword term “Austin self storage unit” is much easier and less time consuming to rank for compared with the head term “storage”. Longtail Keywords also convert better than head terms because people are further along in the purchasing cycle, rather than head terms where people are more or less in a “research phase” of purchasing.

Think about if you are searching online for something which you are not completely familiar about – say Touchscreen Tablets. You may search for “touchscreen tablets” on Google and get an array of images for touchsreen tablets, general information about tablets, which one is best and why, reviews, etc…you get the point. Once you get through the research phase, you are more knowledgeable about Touchscreen Tablets and you then hone your search for the one you wish to purchase. Once you do this, you will be searching for “Apple iPad Mini” rather than “Touchscreen Tablets”. In this example, Touchscreen Tablet is your general head term which may or may not lead to a sale, where Apple iPad Mini is the Longtail Keyword term. Once people search using Longtail Keyword terms, they are essentially ready to purchase.

Self storage operators need to understand the demand, the amount of time you will need in order to rank and the competition for each keyword. Determine whether it is worth the time and effort spending hours trying to rank for a keyword which will bring in minimal reservations or traffic. Is it worth spending the time, money and effort trying to outrank the big brands or should you focus on Longtail Keywords and dominate your territory and niche? Most likely, your best bet is focusing your efforts on Longtail Keywords.

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

Content

Website content is the text or visual content on your webpage which creates the user experience on your website. It can be text, images, sound, video or animation. Content is the nuts and bolts of your website and tells the potential renter what your website is about, how they can contact you, how they rent and everything about your company.

Content is king in the land of Google Panda and Penguin. Build your website with great content and the links and Search Engines will find you. By providing great content, you give potential renters a reason to stay on your pages, read and view your information. In order to provide great, linkable content you need to have something of value to say and be different than other self storage companies in your area.

Creating good content begins with good, reliable keyword search. If your keywords are wrong, you will be creating content around the wrong information and will either be misleading potential renters or targeting a completely different customer all together.
Once you have done your keyword research correctly, you can start creating content. Be sure to use the keywords in your content. Don’t create content for the Search Engines by using your keywords over and over and over in your content – Keyword Stuffing. Write your content for the potential renters coming to your website and tell them what they need to know about your company. Try to write content which keeps users engaged and on your webpage because the longer they stay on your webpage, the more likely they are to rent from you and not from a competitor.

When it comes to adding keywords into your content, there are plenty of opportunities to do so with your targeted phrases and Longtail Keywords without actually sounding childish and mucking up your content. Look for opportunities to add keywords but don’t jump on every chance to add a keyword just because you can. Good writing and good content means using keywords smartly and conservatively.

Every paragraph of content is full of keyword opportunities but if you add a keyword in each sentence you could be in danger of Keyword Stuffing. Keyword Stuffing is exactly what it sounds like – loading up your website content with keywords in an attempt to manipulate your website’s rankings within the Search Results. You don’t want your keyword rich content to have too many keywords in it because this could result in a Penalty from Google and thus, rendering your website nearly worthless. Potential renters who come to your website based on the keyword they searched for will have a hard time moving past the keyword stuffed content. Your content and message may be lost in the shuffle of your overuse of particular keywords.

Again, good content is not simply about keywords, it is about giving the searcher what they need and are searching for. There are times when you are unable to give the searcher everything they need on one page or maybe you need to address something else but do not want to stray too far off topic. This is when hyperlinks come in handy. We will get more in depth into links in Part 10 but a hyperlink is a word, group of words or image which you can click on in order to jump to another page.

At times, people are afraid to put hyperlinks in their content but it can be resourceful. As with anything, you can go overboard but too few hyperlinks are worse than too many. It is always good to give your visitors an avenue to explore information outside of your website or the current page they are looking at. If you mention something about storage which is explained elsewhere, link to it.

Hyperlinking is a great way to allow people to explore and find other topics they are interested in. If you are linking topics they enjoy and which are interesting, your users and searchers are gaining trust and confidence in you. When searchers and Search Engines trust your website, the more likely people are to view your content more frequently, link your content, the Search Engines may view you as an authority and rank you higher and come to your website and index it more often. All of these are good things and will aid your SEO efforts.

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion

 

Linking

Linking is only one part of the Search Engines algorithm but it might just be the most important signal in Search Engine Optimization. Links can either help or hurt your website in the Search Engine Rankings depending on the types, numbers and authority of the links.

Search Engines use links as a guide to crawl the web. It may be easiest to think of links like a roadmap for the Search Engines. The Search Engines follow links in and around each page of a website (as long as the internal linking structure is correct - see Part 4) and then jump from website to website and follow the links.

Links have always been used as “votes” per say. The more “votes” you have, the more popular your webpage is and the more important the Search Engines view it. The authority of your website/webpage also plays a factor in your popularity on the internet and the Search Engines are actually good in detecting what is or is not an authority page through popularity and importance.

A popular/important/authority webpage will link to other popular and important websites/webpages, while spammy/unpopular websites tend to only get links from other spammy/unpopular websites. Spammy websites tend to get very minimal high quality, high authority links. Think of it this way, why would an important website like Inside Self Storage for example, link to a website about plants and trees? They most likely would not because they are an authority in the self storage industry so obtaining links from any industry not related to storage is considered spam and irrelevant. A website about plants and trees may link to Inside Self Storage but the ISS would not reciprocate the link. Just by linking the Inside Self Storage website above, we helped their SEO efforts (you’re welcome ;) ) because SelfStorageFinders.com is a trusted source in the storage industry as well. Hence high quality websites tend to stick together and link other high quality websites because they do not need links from smaller, spammy websites. It is best to try to attain links from larger, trusted websites than smaller, non trusted websites. This is much easier said than done however.

There are three basic types of links. They are:

  1. Natural Links -  Natural links are links which are obtained naturally, like SSF linking ISS above. We enjoy the content which the ISS, Sparefoot and Extra Space Storage put out so we write about it and link the content. This is a natural link and the most effective, yet difficult to obtain because it relies on good relationships, high quality content and people actually seeing and liking your content.
  2. Manual Links - These links are anything which you can manually submit to – forms, directories like DMOZ and Yahoo! etc. These are minimally effective but have been watered down in recent years.
  3. Spammy Links - These links are mostly considered spam at this point because they are very easy to obtain and can be gamed easily. These consist of blog comments, forum posts, guest signings etc.

One way the Search Engines determine the popularity of a link is through Link Weight. Link weight is essentially the popularity of a webpage and the links within the website. The more links to the page from high powered websites which are trusted, the more trust and authority the link has. The better quality of the link and website you are obtaining the link from, the more weight/authority the link has and the better that link is for your website. For example, obtaining a link from CNN is more valuable than a link from the liquor store down the street. Link Weight is thought to be calculated on several factors including anchor text, contextual relevance, niche specific websites, link neighborhoods, social factors as well as internal linking.

What you want to look for and do with linking is obtain links within content. Links placed in content are better and more effective than links placed on the sidebar or footer. Try to get links from related websites like other storage websites, real estate websites or moving websites. Similar websites and niches are not looked at as spammy or bad linking neighborhoods (see the ISS/plant example above.)

Internal Links in Sidebar and in Content

Anchor text is one of the most important factors in linking. Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink which is often blue or purple and underlined, like this link - Home Page. The anchor text tells the Search Engines and users what the link is about and thus carries a good amount of weight in the Search algorithm. Be sure to use your keywords as anchor text but do not have all of your anchor text saying the same thing all of the time. Again, Google has begun to crack down on this practice and can devalue or penalize your website for this.

Lastly, it is against Google’s guidelines to purchase links from other people/websites. Doing so could result in a massive penalty and even get your website banned from Google.

Intro Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
  What is SEO? Basic Searching WebPage Differences SEO Website Design Keywords Title Tag
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13
Meta Tag Description Keyword Research  Content  Linking Social Media Factors  SEO Myths Conclusion