Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a hugely important element of any digital marketing strategy. But it has become a bit of a victim of its own success. That’s because it incorporates so many different principles and concepts that many people simply don’t know as much as they’d like to about it.
As a result, a number of misconceptions have appeared of late, many of which contradict a lot of what you think you know, and they are just plain wrong.
Here is my list of top SEO misconceptions to look out for:
1. SEO is not as relevant as it used to be.
First and foremost, despite what you may read online, SEO is still very relevant, and is in no way becoming obsolete. Search is the primary way people navigate the Internet. Google, Microsoft, et al. know this and they want it to stay this way. So it’s always going to be relevant as long as these guys pull the strings. In fact, SEO is more relevant today than it’s ever been!
The main reason SEO goes through phases where its relevance and importance are called into question is because of the constant updates made to search engine algorithms. Each time Google and the other big search engines change their algorithms, it has a negative impact on a specific SEO tactic, the cries of “SEO is dead” can be heard online. Knee-jerk reactions are common at times like this.
The truth, however, is that the majority of algorithm changes are designed to counter black hat SEO techniques. That is, tactics that try to manipulate how the search engine has been programmed, to fraudulently gain a rankings boost of some significant kind.
So, just because Google has taken measures to tackle black hat SEO tactics – like keyword stuffing, hidden text, and cloaking – it doesn’t mean white hat SEO (the one you want to be focus on) is no longer applicable.
If anything, many of the algorithm changes we see actually reward good SEO practice and provide us with a really good reason to sharpen our efforts.
At the end of the day, the search engines of the world are all about improving user experience. That’s why they’ve directly targeted black hat SEO, which didn’t care about the user experience and was solely focused on boosting rankings.
2. SEO is all smoke and mirrors.
Again, this is a popular misconception and one that should only be associated with black hat SEO – which definitely involves a lot of smoke and mirrors!
White hat SEO, on the other hand, doesn’t.
Tangible SEO success comes from giving Internet users what they want, i.e. providing them with information that satisfies their search queries. As a result, businesses are rewarded by the search engines with a higher ranking in the SERPs.
While it takes a lot of practice and requires some in-depth knowledge, SEO is simply about telling the search engines that what you’ve got to offer is exactly what the user is looking for.
For example, let’s say someone searches for ‘how to restore a HP server.’ You’d like to think that the top result would be some kind of useful guide on how to do just that: repair a broken HP server. However, when black hat SEO was in its prime, the top result might have been for something totally irrelevant, but it was there because it had targeted those specific keywords in an attempt to get traffic. So, instead of diagnosing and fixing a HP server they could have seen a page of results such as ‘what is a HP server’, ‘where can I buy a HP server’, ‘pros and cons of buying a HP server…’ This did nothing for user intent, providing a horrid search experience.
Today, a company that manages and maintains HP servers might write an informative blog post on the subject, detailing steps to take and providing tangible advice. Obviously, that’s a much better read for the searcher than something totally irrelevant, and that’s why Google ranks it higher.
Also, there’s a good chance that said searcher might not be able to fix their server, even with the helpful advice in the post, which means the company has a good chance of making a direct sale from having the individual visit their website.
3. SEO should be one-time, big-time.
There’s a huge misconception among business leaders and even some marketing professionals that SEO is a one-time, big time tactic; something which you do and then forget about while it reaps all sorts of online rewards for you in the background. It’s not – far from it.
SEO is, in fact, a discipline that should be continuous. After all, the world of SEO is constantly changing, so it makes sense that your steps to boost it should be, too.
That’s why it is not enough to hire an SEO professional or digital marketing agency to come in and “fix” your SEO so you don’t need to worry about it going forward. Having said that, it is obviously good to get your SEO heading in the right direction, just don’t expect it to return results on autopilot.
For example, a killer piece of content or web page that ranks highly in the SERPs because it is informative, factual, and gets linked to/shared in abundance might not stand the test of time if it is not updated. This is especially true when it contains links to other websites. If any of these links become broken (no longer work) or the basic premise of the piece is no longer factual (maybe due to a change in the law or best practice), its SERPs ranking will slide over time.
The same applies to all the SEO tactics you choose to focus on. If you implement them and forget about them, you’ll quickly lose steam over time. But if you implement them and constantly tweak them, you’ll find your efforts are rewarded exponentially.
4. It’s SEO vs. PPC.
No it’s not!
You’ll find a lot of talk online about SEO vs. PPC and which one you should be using for your business. The bottom line is that they both complement each other, even though they are very different in approach and nature.
PPC can be a great strategy to give your SEO the initial lift it needs to get off the ground. For example, some well thought out PPC ads can give businesses a great SERPs boost while they are still figuring out their SEO approach.
However, with PPC, most of the benefits stop as soon as your campaign is over. Whereas, with SEO, you can keep reaping the rewards of your investment long into the future. It is an evergreen approach to digital marketing.
A great analogy that Michele came up with is to think of SEO and PPC in terms of stocks – buying short vs. buying long. You can make a lot of money buying or selling short, and have access to it right away, but it can also blow up in your face.
Taking the long position is more likely to give a better ROI, but it’s a long-term strategy, i.e. more likely to get results. It just takes longer to build up.
5. Keywords no longer matter.
Keyword stuffing in an attempt to fool search engines is a big no-no. Not only is it unethical, but it will now get you penalized because it’s considered a black hat SEO tactic. However, that doesn’t mean keywords themselves no longer matter.
Your SEO efforts should still definitely include keyword research and your website content and blog posts should reflect that. Otherwise, you’ll never rank for the search terms you want to rank for.
If your business specializes in fitted kitchens, then the term “fitted kitchens” is absolutely going to want to appear on your website and in your content marketing, blogs, social media posts, etc.
Just be careful not to go overboard and never write your content focusing solely on the keywords. There’s a good chance you’ll end up with something that either doesn’t read particularly well or a post that looks as though it’s been written to satisfy a search engine, not a human being.
6. Great content is the be all and end all.
Being in the industry for over 15 years, this one comes from deep within.
It has been drummed into us from every source for over a decade that ‘content is king’, and even though I am a big advocate of producing wonderful content, it is not the be all and end all of SEO.
In other words, don’t just focus on producing awesome content and neglect all the other areas of SEO that make all your hard work producing it pay off. You have an awesome website, an amazing piece of content, and you want it seen, shared, read across the globe.
Search engine optimization is not a lone wolf. It actually requires a number of different factors to work together to produce the best results. Competitor analysis, content and social media marketing, quick to load webpages, are all areas that work hand-in-hand with SEO.
The key is to achieve the perfect mix, and have all your digital marketing efforts complementing one another – a reality that will naturally boost your SEO.
7. SEO doesn’t need social.
Whether the big search engines take social signals into account (that is how many likes, comments and shares something has had on social media) when ranking websites and content, has been the subject of much debate.
Regardless of what’s been said on the topic, viral content ranks highly in the SERPs. Blog posts that generate a huge amount of likes, comments and shares tend to appear high.
A comprehensive study conducted last year by CognitiveSEO found that a link does exist between a higher presence on social media and a higher ranking in the SERPs. However, they were quick to acknowledge that correlation does not necessarily imply causation.
In their own words: “we’re just not sure whether it’s the shares that lead to a better position, or sites with a higher position naturally get more shares.”
I guess the bottom line is that being active on social media, and encouraging shares and likes, isn’t going to hurt your SEO efforts, but it might just give them a nice boost.
SEO is a bigger part of the marketing mix than anyone would think. It actually is one half (or possibly even more) of ANY digital strategy. When you think about it, how do people find things online? They either visit your website using a direct referral; find it through social shares; or use a search engine.
SEO is a major digital marketing function because search is the platform the vast majority of people use to navigate online.
As long as people are using search engines, SEO is going to be needed.