SEO is an Internet marketing discipline that’s often difficult for business owners to get their heads around. Not only is SEO extremely complicated, its best practices also change rapidly because Google is continuously tweaking the rules of the game. Making matters worse, many SEO companies don’t really understand SEO, don’t want business owners to understand it, or are unable to explain SEO to business owners in plain English.
As a result, misconceptions about SEO are always floating around. These misconceptions can drive you away from SEO unnecessarily, or cause you to invest in SEO campaigns designed for mediocrity or outright failure. Be sure to steer clear of these common misconceptions.
Misconception: SEO Should Focus on Rankings Rankings were very important years ago, but today they matter very little. In the past, where a Web page ranked in Google’s organic search results was more or less constant: If your Web page ranked #7 to a Google user in San Francisco, it was also ranked #7 to a user in Miami Beach.
Today, rankings are personalized. What a Google user sees in his or her search results depends on the user’s geographic location, search history, type of device being used, and many other factors.
Universal search has also diminished the importance of rankings. Many Google searches display multiple types of results on a single page – standard organic links, news, videos, local results, etc. Even if a Web page ranks highly, it may be pushed down the page by local or other results.
Finally, Google no longer gives us the ability to see which keywords drive organic users to a Web page. Thus, even if you have a highly ranked page, you cannot really determine if it is generating any traffic.
Rather than rankings, the focus of SEO should be on lead generation or e-commerce revenue generation.
Misconception: SEO on a Shoestring Budget Works SEO companies that promise immediate results with a pre-packaged campaign at a bargain price almost never deliver, but attract clients in droves because the concepts of “fast,” “easy” and “cheap” are naturally appealing.
The problem is, nothing about SEO is fast, easy or cheap. SEO campaigns involve a lot of activity: conducting keyword research, making changes to the company website, publishing new content onsite and offsite, setting up lead-tracking systems, and acquiring relevant links, to name a few. Unless a company is willing to invest a significant amount of money for a significant amount of time, SEO is probably the wrong choice. The good news is, if the company is willing, and if the campaign is executed properly, SEO becomes a rich source of leads and revenue, and thus generates a terrific return on investment.
Misconception: All We Have to Do Is Write Stuff Content marketing has become all the rage. Companies are cranking out articles, infographics and white papers left and right, and getting them published all over the Internet. If these companies believe this activity enhances their SEO, they are sadly mistaken.
Content marketing is indeed useful for SEO, but it must be executed skillfully in every respect. The content itself must be high quality, because Google is getting better and better at identifying (and rewarding) quality. Furthermore, content must be published in the right places. Google wants to see a company’s content published on websites that are relevant to and authoritative in its niche. If Google sees a company’s content on irrelevant and non-authoritative websites, it will do the same thing humans do – raise an eyebrow.
Rather than cranking out content to pile up links, companies should take a less-is-more approach. Concentrate on creating a manageable number of truly useful and engaging items, and then seek out relevant publishers with solid reputations.
Beyond that, successful SEO is never a one-trick pony. Content can and should be part of a best-of-class campaign – but it is only one part. Onsite optimization, keyword research, developing new keyword groups to optimize, non-content link acquisition (e.g., directory listings) and other activities must also be pursued.
Keep Current to Avoid Misconceptions If you are reading this article today, I’m confident it is quite helpful. On the other hand, if you read it two years from today, I’m not sure it will be helpful at all.
As I said at the outset, SEO changes rapidly. A lot of SEO misconceptions arise from companies chasing yesterday’s best practices. To maintain clarity, every year review your SEO campaign with one or two SEO companies -- companies you have vetted very carefully. This exercise validates what you are doing, or exposes the misconceptions that underpin your campaign.
In addition, make sure your in-house SEO and Internet marketing personnel attend seminars, network with SEO professionals in social media, and otherwise stay current with evolving best practices. A wide and future-facing knowledge base keeps your SEO campaign fresh and productive.
Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, an Internet marketing firm offering professional SEO services. Brad writes frequently on B2B marketing topics with articles that have appeared Moz and Fox Small Business.