Common SEO Myths and Misconceptions

SEO has a bad reputation, lets face it. Shady linkbuilding, key-phrase stuffed doorway pages and secret handshakes are all part and parcel of being a search engine marketing expert. Or are they?

The search marketing industry being shrouded in mystery is a myth fuelled by unethical agencies, bedroom SEOs that don’t educate clients and people taking what they read on every forum as gospel. I’m going to take a little time to de-bunk some of the common myths and misconceptions that I’ve come across in the past and show how SEO at QueryClick isn’t all smoke and mirrors.

SEO is a black art

This conjures up images of secret societies and SEOs meeting in shady back-street locations in the dead of the night to discuss link strategy.

We SEOs don’t have a Matrix like ability to view search engine algorithms. When we audit a site we do it from the perspective of the search engines.

We have an understanding of what search engines look for to rank a website. Technical issues to avoid, how to structure a site to perform / convert users and finally how to build relevant and valuable links.

Resources like Webmaster Guidelines, Google Webmaster Tools and the Inside Search Blog all help understand what is good practice and what isn’t. If your SEO agency has any connection to the word ‘Black’ you should consider inspecting their perhaps less-than-ethical practices.

SEO is a one time activity

Optimising a website is not a one time activity. It’s an ongoing process, you don’t just ‘SEO a website’ and that’s it.

Markets, products and services all change, websites evolve and so too should your SEO strategy. Yes there is an element of understanding technical barriers and implementing best practice up-front but linkbuilding, leveraging PR activity and developing quality content all form part of an overall digital marketing plan.

An SEO strategy is a long term activity that takes time to deliver results. Campaigns are structured over a period of months with the intention of building authority and trust, not the sort of thing that can be achieved over a matter of weeks.

SEO sacrifices design

A designer I worked with used to joke with me that if you SEOs had your way the websites that he designed would look something like Jakob Nielsen’s homepage lots of text, headings and links with minimal design.

This is another myth, websites don’t have to sacrifice design in order to perform within search engines or be usable.

“Good design” takes into account both the structure and delivery of information along with the visual aspect. Given the distinction between HTML structural markup and the CSS markup that controls the look and feel – there’s really no excuse. The only limitation is from a front end developer who isn’t worth his chops.

As long as the website structure is right and the page follows a relevant hierarchy there are any number of ways to include design elements and features. Just don’t build your website in Flash then expect it to own the search results.

Bidding on a keyphrase in paid search will improve organic rankings

There is no truth in this, bidding on keyphrases in paid search has no impact on your organic rankings. Google don’t take into account how much money is spent on a paid search account and apply this to organic rankings. They are in the business of making money too.

Google aim to deliver the most relevant results as quickly as possible. If results were influenced by Pay Per Click (PPC) quality and relevance would soon suffer.

SEO and PPC complement each other and can be used together strategically but spend on AdWords does not influence your organic rankings.

Onsite SEO doesn’t matter

Yes, linkbuilding accounts for a significant portion of every SEO project but please, don’t neglect on-site SEO.

Internal linking, titles, content and site structure all have an impact on search engine exposure. If your website is difficult to use or your content is thin or non existent you are set-up to fail.

Be under no illusion: on-page SEO and conversion optimisation form an important part of engaging and converting users once they arrive at your website.

Meta Data has no impact

This is one myth that really hacks me off and is shrouded in misunderstanding. Most search engines stopped looking at meta keywords a long time ago as they have been so heavily abused in the past.

I get really annoyed at SEOs ignoring meta descriptions. OK they have very little impact with regards to ranking BUT they provide a great opportunity to grab searchers attention. Keyphrases are displayed in bold, you can include a call to action and summarise the page. Why wouldn’t you want to encourage users to click through to your site from the search results?

Also please don’t confuse the outdated meta name =”title” with page title there is a world of difference in terms of importance to search engines.

Google Analytics are spying on you

Another common myth that I’ve come across is that Google Analytics are spying on you and your search marketing efforts. I’ve met developers who removed Google Analytics tracking on pages with high bounce rates so that Google don’t: “Drop the web pages”

Ask yourself why people are bouncing on these pages and then improve them, Analytics data that’s full of holes is no use to anyone.

Analytics is a tool for understanding how your website is performing, not a tool for Google to Spy on your SEO efforts or ditch the pages that don’t cut it.

The number of links is all that counts

I think every business that has a website has received some kind of spam e-mail promising top listings by submitting the website to thousands of web directories.

The number of links to your website does indeed matter but as search engines have evolved and refined their ranking factors, these days it’s more about a combination of quality and quantity of links from a range of different sites.

Not all links are equal. A link from an established domain or page that is related in subject matter to your site is far more valuable than a link from a website directory that has only been around for a few months. Don’t rely on any automated solution to build quality links.

The list goes on and on and we’ll add more SEO Myths in the future but for now, I’m going to finish with some valuable input from one of our technical team. The colour red (#FF3300) is not a negative ranking factor.

Do you have any favourite SEO myths that you care to share with us? Use the comments below.

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