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Breaking Down the SEO Variables That Should Matter Most to You


Photo: Canva

For any businesses looking to improve their online visibility and bring in additional organic traffic, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is often one of the first strategies they’ll want to execute. However, SEO can be highly complex in nature, with variables changing regularly and organizations struggling to keep up with the latest trends.

The challenge is that there isn’t necessarily one path to planning and executing successful SEO initiatives – it all depends on the organization and the goals it’s looking to achieve. That being said, there are some foundational elements that businesses should consider and, more importantly, some things they should avoid.

Debunking Common SEO Myths

Today, there are many so-called “SEO experts” who claim there are several things you can do to “guarantee” a high ranking in search engines. The truth is, there is no perfect proven strategy for getting a website to rank number one on results pages.

However, while there may not be a miracle SEO formula, there are several common myths that have been proven false, and it’s important to be aware of those:

Keywords Are the Most Important Variable

Although keywords are absolutely an important component of SEO they should be thought of as only a piece of a much larger puzzle. Putting too much focus on keyword percentages (density) in content without considering its impact on using natural language can often backfire.

Search engines have adapted considerably over the years and they put a large priority on serving their users with the best experiences possible. This means that if you have a website that’s simply loaded down with keywords without much consideration into readability and providing actual helpful information, there’s a good chance your website won’t rank at all.

Instead of concentrating too much on exact keyword counts in your content, start thinking about how you can create higher-quality content that actually addresses the specific search intent of an audience. Understanding this intent – whether it’s informational or transactional – will help you to structure content with purpose and bring more value to the reader.

You Should Try to Get the Most Backlinks

While there have been many SEO variables that have changed or have even been removed over the years, domain authority and the importance of obtaining backlinks are still a valuable ranking factor. However, there is often a misunderstanding over the role of backlinks when it comes to executing off-page SEO tactics.

Make no mistake about it, the backlinks a website has (links from other websites pointing back to your own) are still very important. But prioritizing quantity over quality when gaining these links can actually harm your rankings.

Since search engines will view backlinks as a vote of confidence in your website, the credibility of these links is actually very important. If you have too many irrelevant or low-quality, spammy links pointing back to your website, search engines like Google will often view this as a sign of using black-hat SEO tactics, and penalize a website by lowering its ranking capabilities.

Photo: Seo Backlinks by Canva

On-Page Optimization is HIgher Priority Than Off-Page

When most people start their SEO campaigns, they often put the majority of their focus on on-page initiatives. However, while the structure and relevancy of content and simplified navigation are important, assuming these are the “most important” elements of SEO is wrong.

Off-page optimization, including the focus on developing relevant backlinks to the site and improving social media signals, is another critical element of SEO. Still, prioritizing one type of optimization over the other is a shortsighted approach to helping support the rankings of a website.

Instead, having a holistic SEO strategy that successfully balances both on- and off-page factors is a much more viable plan for helping a site increase its organic traffic over time.

Mass-Produce Content Pages

There is another misconception when it comes to being able to rank a website – “more content pages mean higher rankings.” Although it’s true that having more high-quality content on your site opens up more opportunities for search engines to rank a website, this doesn’t apply to mass-produced, low-quality content.

With the introduction of generative AI technology over the last few years, many website owners have leveraged these solutions to put out a large amount of AI-written content in a very short period of time. The result has been plagiarized or false information swarming the internet.

Search engines have adapted to this new norm and have created various algorithms to not only weed out these irrelevant content pieces from search results but also penalize organizations that aren’t providing helpful, original content to their users.

Using Your Keyword Rankings to Dictate Your SEO Focus

With so many different variables that can impact website rankings when going through various SEO initiatives, it can be difficult to know where the best use of your time should be.

One way to make sure you’re working on tactics that give you the best returns on your effort is by adapting your strategies based on what position your pages are in relevant to the keywords you’re trying to rank for.

Your Keywords Are Ranking 50 and Higher

Depending on the age of your website and its content, seeing any movement in your keyword rankings can take some time. However, after you start to see some initial traction on your positioning, you’ll want to spend some time better understanding the search intent that your audience has and how you can speak directly to their needs.

A good approach to identifying this search intent is by looking at the content of competitors that rank the highest for your chosen keywords. Reverse engineering any relevant page-one results can give you a good idea of the type of content or website structure that’s necessary to rank your keywords higher.

Your Keywords Are Ranking Between 11 and 40

Once you start seeing some good results in SERPs – typically when you rank somewhere between the 11th and 40th returned search results – you’ll want to start putting more focus on your off-page SEO efforts. This includes establishing more high-quality backlinks from reputable sites and improving your social media activity.

Gaining reputable backlinks from high-quality websites very rarely happens organically. You’ll usually need to spend some time prospecting potential partnerships and establishing an outreach strategy to help expedite the process. Many times it’s valuable to work with an outside SEO specialist who you can offload this activity since they often will already have pre-established relationships with high authority website and blog owners.

Photo: Keyword Rankings by Canva

Your Keywords Are Ranking Between 1 and 10

In today’s competitive online arena, getting your website to rank for any keywords on first-page search results is a great achievement. However, it’s critical to remember that once you’ve achieved this milestone, your SEO efforts aren’t finished.

You’ll want to put a good amount of focus on fine-tuning the user experience you’ve already established, monitoring important website metrics and making improvements as needed. Monitoring your competitors for any gaps that they have in their own content development strategies and making sure you’re avoiding the same mistakes will increase the likelihood that you can maintain higher rankings long-term.

Start Focusing on the Right SEO Initiatives

Ranking your website well in search engines requires a variety of SEO initiatives that can vary in importance and complexity.

By focusing your efforts in the right areas based on how your content is already ranking online, you’ll ensure that you’re maximizing the value of your time and resources while also avoiding common pitfalls that can negatively impact your rankings.

Author Bio Below:

Jason Khoo started freelancing in SEO in college, sold his first agency, and now is the founder of Zupo, an Orange County-based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long-term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea daily, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.