SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, has been around for a while, but it is still one of the least-well-understood areas of online marketing. In fact, there are probably more misconceptions about SEO than any other online marketing practice, so here is a list of our top 14, and why they are not quite correct.
- SEO Is Dead
The number one misconception came into being around the same time Google started making major search engine changes. SEO has not died, and as mentioned on Forbes (@Forbes) it will never die. What it will do, however, is evolve and adapt alongside search engine changes.
- Search Engine Submissions Are Necessary
Once upon a time, when the internet was young and search engines were just starting out, search engine submissions were a real requirement. These days, however, as noted in this article on Marketteer, search engines crawl websites on their own, and manual search engine submission is a waste of time and money.
- Keyword Stuffing Works
A few years ago, before search engines upgraded their algorithms, you were likely to hear the term ‘keyword density’ when discussing site content. The theory was that having 2-4% of a piece of content made up of exact match keywords would make your site rank higher for that search term. It might have worked then, but these days, key word stuffing is one of the fastest ways to lose ranking. Today, you want to focus your content strategies on semantic search, according Search Engine Journal (@SEJblog). Forget the percentages and the exact matching, and focus on answering common questions.
- Meta Data Matters
Google has publicly announced that meta data is not a factor in page ranking (and of course, page rank is no longer a thing either.) Of course, as they mention on the Google Webmaster (@google) blog, while meta keywords and descriptions don’t count in terms of ranking, Google still uses the descriptions you write here to describe your page in search results, so it is still worth having a well-written one. They might not matter to search engines, but they can still encourage human visitors to click through, and that’s the ultimate goal of all online marketing!
- Link Quantity Matters
Google’s Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) may be on hiatus now, but he has been the voice of reason regarding links for a very long time. In fact, since at least as early as 2009, he has been telling people that link quality matters more than quantity, and that building links for the sake of links can hurt your site. When the person responsible for Google’s spam policies says that, it’s probably a good idea to listen!
- Traffic Equals Ranking
Too often, website owners are hung up on traffic. They chase visitor numbers, but they ignore visitor quality and user experience. However, as Kissmetrics (@Kissmetrics) tells us, traffic without conversions means nothing. There is no point in generating tons of traffic if it is not influencing your bottom line. So if your SEO company is promising traffic instead of conversions, take their promises with a pinch of salt, and pay attention to conversion and bounce rates, and value return visitors more than unique visitors.
- SEO Is a One Time Thing
One of the biggest misconceptions about SEO is that it is an event. That it is something you do once, and then forget about. Unfortunately, because search engines are changing all the time, search engine optimization will also change frequently. If you want to stay visible and keep ranking high, you are going to need to commit to tweaking and perfecting your SEO long term.
- SEO Companies Can Guarantee Results
This is one of the most dangerous myths out there, and one that is still perpetuated by certain unscrupulous companies. Way back in 2008, MOZ (@Moz) posted an article stating that reputable SEO companies do not guarantee ranking results. Nothing much has changed since then.
The simple fact remains that no one can promise that your site will rank first on a particular search engine for a particular keyword or search term within a certain timeframe. The only people who still make promises like that are likely to be using black hat techniques, and they are more likely to get your site penalized by search engines than to the top of the rankings.
If you ever hear a ranking guarantee from an SEO company, find another company.
- SEO Is the Single Most Important Thing for Your Website
One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make in online marketing is thinking that there’s a magic bullet they can use to beat the search engines and get to the top of the rankings. The truth is that while SEO is important, sites have been known to rank without any optimization at all. As Neil Patel (@neilpatel) mentioned on his blog a while ago, there are several reasons why websites rank high on Google without SEO, but most of them can’t be faked or rushed. If you are not already there, the best strategy is a combination of killer content and smart SEO. Rinse and repeat, and you’ll see results.
- You Need an Exact Match Domain to Rank
This is another lingering misconception that may have been true in the past. Exact match domains like ‘www.vancouverusedcars.com’ may have helped sites to rank in the distant past, but when this was used as a tactic to fool search engines, it quickly fell off the best practices list. Exact match domains won’t help your ranking these days.
John Mueller (@JohnMu), Google’s webmaster trends analyst, recently confirmed that Google does not take keywords in your domain name into account at all. So if you have one with keywords included, great. If you don’t, don’t bother spending a fortune to get one. It really doesn’t matter either way.
- SEO Is Mysterious
Many people think that SEO is some sort of mysterious “search engine wizardry” that only highly trained engineers can understand. They often distrust it for this very reason – not because SEO doesn’t work, but because they don’t understand how it works.
Whether you hire an SEO agency or plan to tackle your own SEO, you can learn the tricks, tips and best practices. There is a fairly steep learning curve, but there’s no big mystery involved. Do yourself a favor and educate yourself in SEO best practices. It will set your mind at ease and improve your online marketing.
- Guest Blogging Is Dead
In January of 2014, Matt Cutts sent the world of SEO and online marketing into a tailspin all over again when he announced that marketers who were using guest blogging to get links should stop. However, while he was very clear that guest blogging solely to get links was likely to incur the wrath of Google, he was equally clear that guest blogging on quality, related platforms or respected online publications wasn’t.
The key here is quality. You only ever want to guest blog on sites that you would personally read or recommend or that you would be happy to link to yourself, and if it’s easy to be included on their blog, they might not be the type of site you want to be featured on.
- PPC Improves Organic Search Results
Many people believe that spending on PPC will have an effect on organic search results. They assume that because Google is involved in both, they are somehow connected. However, as Search Engine Watch (@sewatch) told us way back in 2007, PPC has no direct impact on organic search results.
That’s still true today, too. If you think that PPC alone will have a long term influence your organic search results, and you do nothing else to improve your site or your online visibility, as soon as you stop spending, your site will go back to its former level of visibility. Or lack thereof.
However, while that hasn’t changed over the years, neither has the fact that PPC can give you a temporary boost while you improve your SEO and site content. You can use paid ads as a short-term method of increasing visibility while you work on solutions that are more permanent.
- You Can Game the System
If there is even one misconception that you forget after reading this, it should be that there is any way that SEO can ‘game the system’ and magically get you to the top of the rankings without putting in the work to have valuable content and build online relationships.
There may have been loopholes that black hat SEOs used in the past to fool search engines for a while, but as soon as they got wise to them (and they always do), they changed how search worked, and those sites dropped like stones. That will keep happening as search evolves, and that is why good SEO practices will remain so important. If you are going to do it, you need to be sure you are doing it right.
SEO is not a magic bullet. It won’t elevate sites that don’t offer quality information and useful resources to the top of the search rankings, and it can’t deliver results overnight. What it is, however, is a system of improving the visibility of your website, so that it’s easier for search engines and visitors to find your content. It’s a tool, not a one-size-fits-all recipe for online marketing success. All the same, if you understand that SEO is just one part of a great inbound marketing strategy, you can use it to excellent effect.
Do you have any SEO questions or comments? Feel free to share them below.