Columbus (Ohio) is the place that we call home, and we absolutely love it around here. It's a pretty dang inspiring place to live and work; a city that is wired, savvy, unique, and industrious. Our work has given us the opportunity to work alongside of some of the best and most innovative minds in the city, and we are a bit addicted to the entrepreneurial heartbeat coursing through Columbus. But we’ve come to notice something alarming:

Columbus is falling behind in the digital marketing world.

It’s not that companies aren’t smart. It’s not that they aren’t talented. It’s not that they don’t care. Every entrepreneur in Columbus loves to talk about digital and SEO and the potential of the web for their business.

The problem is that the questions surrounding SEO and digital marketing are changing

We’ve found that businesses are struggling to get search engine attention because they are asking outdated questions about SEO. Those wrong questions are penalizing their ranking in search results. So, we thought it’d be a great idea to offer some advice to our friends in Columbus (and, beyond).

Here are 4 outdated questions you should stop asking about SEO:

Outdated Question: Which keywords should I use? Ranking in search engines used to be a simple formula of using the right keywords enough times. That’s no longer the case. Today, search engines adamantly discourage, and even penalize, keyword repetition. Rather than focusing on tricks and gimmicks that stuff keywords into your website, it’s better to obsessively create content that has a lot of value for your prospects. Doing so will show search engines that you’re busy communicating to humans, not trying to trick robots.

Ask Instead: How do I make sure my site has a lot of value for my potential customers?

Outdated Question: Should I trade links with this guy? Link trading is old news, and rightfully so. Links still hold enormous value in today’s ranking environment, but Google is forcing it to become a much more sophisticated process. The best way to focus on link building today is to not focus on link building. Instead, focus on relationship building on-line. A great mantra for your link-building efforts: Never link to a site that your visitors will not find valuable.

Ask Instead: Would linking to this site be helpful to my visitors?

Outdated Question: Can I rank #1 on Google for this keyword? We are in a new world of on-line behavior shaped by personalized search. Now, rankings are determined by lots of metrics; different profiles, locations, social conversations, and previous habits are all playing into returned search results. Focus on achieving #1 rankings on a handful of keywords, and you’ll miss your greatest opportunities. Focus instead on increasing your organic traffic and pay attention to what that traffic teaches you.

Ask Instead: How can I get more productive traffic from relevant keywords?

Outdated Question: Do I need a blog? These days, everyone has a blog. The new frontier in SEO is content marketing, and every company (in Columbus, Ohio and beyond) has to include content as a part of their SEO strategy if they want to be competitive in search results. It’s not enough to simply have a blog; you must be producing unique, quality content that your market will find interesting and shareable.

Ask Instead: What is the best way to create great content that people will want to share?

Ask the wrong questions, and you’re guaranteed to get the wrong answers. Simple, right? If you aren’t asking the right questions in the shifting SEO game, you’re sure to fall behind quickly. Notice that the right questions aren’t about tricks and gimmicks at all. The right questions focus on the value you are offering the market.

The best way to win the SEO battle is to be a valuable contributor to your market, plain and simple.

See Also: 5 SEO Strategies We Swear Aren’t Going Anywhere by George Frietag