Spend five minutes googling any marketing term and you’ll doubtless come across the topic of search engine optimization (SEO). When done well, it’s likely one of the best long-term marketing tools you can use to increase your brand awareness, while also generating high-quality traffic. Unfortunately, SEO is also one of the most misunderstood areas of marketing, and is rife with misconceptions and outright lies that are peddled by well-meaning amateurs and fraudsters.
Following bad SEO advice wastes your time and drains your hard-earned money. Even if you don’t dive into the minutia of SEO, it’s worth your time to know which popular SEO beliefs are actually true. This will keep you from hiring frauds or engaging in worthless busy work.
Myth #1: More content equals a higher rank
This is one of the biggest lies in SEO and it’s killing the art of blogging. Writing a blog used to be about conveying valuable or interesting information in a way that engaged readers. Now, writers on Fiverr are getting paid pennies-per-word to churn out 2,000 to 3,000 words of repetitive rubbish, all to increase word count and contend for the coveted first spot in search results. There’s nothing wrong with writing long articles with thousands of words, but word count alone can’t break the Google algorithm code. Instead, you should produce content that is concise, engaging, and aligned with your readers’ interests.
Here are some tips:
- Stay aligned with your readers: People should never wonder what you’ll be talking about in your podcast, blog, or YouTube channel. Your content should be aligned with a single topic, theme, or set of topics, and consistently deliver information about it to your audience. This builds your credibility.
- Be clear and concise: Instead of worrying about reaching 2,000 words or another metric, focus on explaining your topic as clearly as possible for your readers. If it takes 2,000 words, fine. But if it takes 200 words, don’t think you’ve done your readers a disservice.
- Create engaging and interesting content: Producing SEO content is about more than just writing words: it’s also about embedding videos, inserting images, and using wordplay devices such as puns in your articles to keep people engaged. Most people don’t want to read a wall of text. They want to be educated and entertained. If you can do both, you’ll have a loyal audience.
Myth #2: There’s a separation between business and SEO
Many professionals believe that SEO is a bandage they can slap on poor business practices to boost leads by hitting page 1 in 3 days or less. But Google isn’t interested in promoting businesses with bad practices or horrible customer service. This is why reviews are one of the biggest SEO ranking factors, according to BrightLocal’s 2021 report. Sure, people can fake reviews. But Google’s intent is to reward businesses that attract a lot of positive customer sentiment, assumably because of good service and products.
One of the biggest SEO mistakes people make is treating SEO as the destination rather than the doorway. People won’t choose you because you showed up first. They’ll choose you because of your offer. Before you start engaging in SEO, make sure you have an offer that will win people over. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of visitors who never become clients.
Myth #3: Cater to the algorithm rather than first principles
If you want to find the pros, scour SEO forums in the days and weeks following a Google algorithm update. Veteran SEO professionals who engage in holistic SEO practices may see declines, but are never too worried because they’re operating on solid theory, and always trending upward. On the other hand, those who try every “rank in 3 days” trick will have a website history that looks like a downward trending mountain scape. The takeaway is to base your SEO on principles, not tricks.
Here are some sound principles to follow so you build a solid foundation for your SEO efforts:
- Organize your website around topics, not just keywords.
- Design your website to load fast (page speed, clean code, few plugins).
- Make your website as accessible as possible (alt text, contrasting colors).
- Write content that is specific, clear, concise, and valuable for your audience.
Myth #4: Google can take down your website
This is a myth that most people start to believe after meeting a dramatic SEO professional who tells them to optimize their website so Google doesn’t take it down. Here’s a news flash: Google can’t take your website down! Sure, your website may rank lower and, as a result, fewer people will see and visit your website. But Google cannot take down your website. What most people are referring to when they talk about Google taking their website down is a manual action.
This is a myth that most people start to believe after meeting a dramatic SEO professional who tells them to optimize their website so Google doesn’t take it down. Here’s a news flash: Google can’t take your website down!
On its website, Google states that it issues manual actions against websites that are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. When you have a manual action applied against your website, it’s not the end of the world. Using the Manual Actions report, you can learn why a manual action was applied and take corrective action.
Myth #5: Paid ads increase organic rank
This is an interesting one that I’ve heard inferred by clients and amateur SEO professionals. The logic behind goes something like this: “Since we’re paying Google for ads, Google will rank us higher over others who aren’t paying for ads.”
Fortunately, this is not true. Otherwise, search engine results would be dominated by companies with big budgets, while smaller companies with great content would forever be invisible and undiscovered. There’s only one way to increase your organic rank: Create amazing content and put it on a well-built website.
Myth #6: SEO is a one-and-done activity
SEO is kind of like brushing your teeth. The fact that you did it yesterday or two years ago doesn’t mean you don’t need to do it today or tomorrow. Too often, I see SEO professionals promise clients they’ll only need a one-time SEO fix and they’ll be set forever. But it’s best to treat your SEO efforts like a car. Without ongoing maintenance and attention, your website will start to rank lower and lower in Google and other search engines. If you are having trouble justifying the cost of ongoing SEO, I’d recommend investing in an SEO audit first. A good SEO audit will give you a plan of action so you aren’t just shooting in the dark. Ask your website provider for referrals for an audit or check with your colleagues.
Myth #7: SEO content is just blog posts
When most clients hear “SEO content,” their mind usually jumps to blog posts. But modern SEO content can include many other types of content, including landing pages, videos, tools, templates, infographics, webinars, social media posts, and much more. But because of accessibility concerns, all social media platforms allow you to add alternative text to your images, which can allow you to show up in image searches for brand-related terms. At MBS Accountancy, for example, we routinely add alt text to our social media post images so we show up for critical search terms such as “Cassidy Jakovickas” and “MBS Accountancy.”
If you use videos in your social posts instead of images, you can still optimize your content for SEO. In fact, Google prefers to show short videos in search results because they offer concise answers to people’s questions, according to Search Engine Journal writer Matt G. Southern. If you’re already creating videos and want to ensure they’ll get maximum visibility in search results, you can check out Brian Dean’s YouTube SEO guide.
Knowing is half the battle
Okay, so I stole that from G.I. Joe, but the same principle applies to your SEO efforts. When you have a proper understanding of SEO, your efforts will be well-placed and targeted. You’ll avoid wasting money and time on endless rabbit trails and cheap ranking tricks that only offer short-term results. Play the SEO game for the long haul; your results will be better and last longer.