“Myths are a waste of time. They prevent progression” – Barbra Streisand
Understanding the world of search engine optimization is hard enough, but compound that with the bad advice, myths, and misunderstandings out there and – it’s enough to make you go mad. I never thought I’d be quoting the almighty Barbra in an online marketing post, but she has a point. SEO myths are a waste of time, and they do indeed prevent us from progressing.
Realizing the most out of your own SEO campaign requires a thorough understanding (and debunking) of myths circulating today. Don’t fall victim to these common misunderstandings in SEO.
1. SEO is dead.
This extremely common myth is plain ol’ not true. Optimizing your website to ensure search engines understand what your site is about will always be needed. Manipulating rankings for your own benefit? Well yes, that is indeed dying.
Some SEOs are still finding short-lived success by utilizing tactics like scalable guest posting for links, negative SEO or other manipulative behavior – but trust me, it’s dying. Google and other search engines are increasingly aware of the black market when it comes to SEO. They’re eradicating the “black hat” hidden world that equates SEO to manipulating rankings and forcing us all to think like true marketers. SEO is not dead, but bad tactics are.
2. On-page SEO is all that matters.
Wrong again! Off-page factors are arguably the most important aspect of SEO some experts suggest. Don’t forget that you have to do more than just change some metadata on your web pages to get search traffic. On-page is extremely important but off-page tactics such as social networking, local listings, and video marketing are just a few tactics that can give you added boost.
3. Rankings are the only metric to measure SEO success.
I’m not sure where the trend started but I’d like it to stop: SEO success isn’t measured solely by rankings. A full picture is not seen when you review only rankings as a measurement of success. Optimizing your website for search is about ranking higher, but in the end it’s about traffic and conversions from that traffic. What’s the point of higher rankings if that doesn’t equate to more business for your site?
4. SEO is too hard for small businesses.
Do-it-yourself SEO is quite possible; just ask any SEO professional out there. It’s how we became SEOs in the first place. Those running small businesses have many hats to wear, and SEO can be one of them if you choose to take on the challenge of learning. Attending conferences, reading noteworthy blogs like the Act-On blog, networking with industry professionals, and testing out your SEO theories on a test site are the ways most start out in SEO. It’s not impossible for a small business to undertake their own SEO initiatives, or use marketing automation platforms to help as well. Many solutions exist which debunk this particular myth.
(Are you a small business? Watch this very short video with SEO-meister Arnie Kuenn for a quick take on how SEO can work for you.)
5. Any link is a good link.
Man, do I feel sorry for those who believed this SEO myth. Not every link is a good link! When developing an off-page SEO strategy, far too many business owners get stuck thinking all they need are more links. So they go out and find a vendor that will let them be link counters, only concerned with the sheer volume of inbound links. Inevitably when you scale quality goes down, making not every link is a good link.
The most relevant, user friendly and naturally earned link is the best link. Start thinking about quality over quantity and what makes sense to link to. Natural links are earned when great content is developed.
6. If you spend more in Adwords you get better search rankings.
If you’re interested in SEO you’re probably taking advantage of PPC as well. Good for you! But don’t get caught up thinking your Adwords dollars are helping your organic rankings; they aren’t. Google has been adamant that “Advertising with Google won’t have any effect on your site’s presence in our search results.”
Some SEOs speculate that a large influx of Adwords dollars can artificially inflate organic rankings for large brands. Whether coincidence or truth, this myth has been propagated for years but Google contends that it just isn’t true.
7. SEO is easy and simple, and anyone can do it. Our IT department can just do it for us.
While many of the components of SEO are seemingly simple: add keyword to meta title, ensure keyword is on the page, build links from relevant web pages, etc…. it isn’t that easy. There are so many nuances when it comes to SEO, including tactics that are good ideas today and bad ideas tomorrow – and tactics that can cost your business literally hundreds of thousands of dollars if you aren’t careful. SEO is serious stuff – take it seriously.
Another common myth is that the IT department can just “handle that SEO stuff”. I’ll admit I have had the fortunate circumstance to work with amazing IT folks with vast SEO knowledge, but that is quite rare. An IT professional is taught to understand the technical components of information technology, that doesn’t automatically translate to understanding how search engines work. It’s a completely different industry and requires specialized training or experience to do correctly.
Hopefully all this makes you a bit more aware of the falsehoods in our industry. Be strategic and smart, remember to play the long game, and don’t fall victim to SEO myths as so many have done.
Want to learn more about SEO? Visit the Act-On Center of Excellence to read “SEO 101: The Basics (and Beyond).”
Black hat photo “Gunslinger” by Kenneth Lu, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.