Ever since search engine optimization (SEO) first became a “thing” so many years ago, the practice has been plagued by rumors, myths, and information that is just plain wrong. When people talk about SEO, it sounds like they are talking about forbidden sorcery that only self-proclaimed “SEO experts” can do alone in a darkened room.
Newsflash: Real SEOs wish it was that easy. Double Newsflash: most of these so-called “experts” wouldn’t know a meta tag from a header tag and are actually the people fueling the fire around these unrelenting SEO myths.
So, in an effort to clear things up a bit and dispel some of the uncertainty surrounding the industry, I took it upon myself to debunk these annoying SEO myths once and for all.
Myth #1: SEO is dead
Let’s start by getting one thing straight: SEO is not dead and most likely will not die anytime in our lifetime.
Rand Fishkin SEO expert and Founder of Moz explained it best: As long as websites compete for attention and placement in the search engines, those with the knowledge and experience to improve their website’s ranking will receive the benefits of increased traffic and visibility.
Simply stated, as long as Google ranks websites there will be website owners competing for the top spots with the most visibility.
If we’re being real here: modern-day society wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they couldn’t simply type any question or topic that pops into their head into Google. We live in a society that craves instant gratification, and a large part of it includes access to any sort of information at the push of a button. So, with over 6 billion Google searches per day, I’d say SEO is far from being dead. Mic dropped.
Myth #2: SEO is a scam
As an agency specializing in SEO, we hear it everyday from potential clients: “We tried SEO once. It is too much money for zero results.” The next questions out of my mouth are always: “Who’d you hire?,” “What did they report to you?,” and “How long did you ‘do’ SEO for?” Usually they tell me they hired some cheap company that guaranteed they would be ranking #1 within a month. And yes, that is a scam. But if you hire the right agency, SEO can help you grow your business 5-15% monthly, year after year based on a study conducted by Seattle Organic SEO. It just takes time, effort, and commitment on both ends. SEO success is not impossible for businesses who understand that.
Myth #3: All links are good links
… And more links are better than less links right? Wrong! Your link-building strategy has a huge impact on your SEO success, and if you are falling for these two myths, your website is probably not doing so hot SEO-wise. It is a matter of quality vs. quantity when it comes to building links. Links from other websites pointing to your site are like boats of trust to Google. If you have links from authoritative sites pointing to your site, you just moved up in Google’s circle of trust. One backlink from a trustworthy website is much more powerful than one hundred backlinks from shady sites.
Myth #4: Google hates SEO
I think “hate” is the wrong word here. Think of Google’s relationship with SEO as an “It’s Complicated” status on Facebook – there’s some tension (with Google’s daily changes to its algorithm), but in the end, they always find their way back to each other. The relationship has improved in recent years, believe it or not. Google even provides Webmaster Guidelines for SEO in which it states that SEO can “potentially improve your site and save time”. Google even goes so far as to advise businesses: “If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier, the better.” Still not convinced? Check it out for yourself.
Myth #5: Keywords don’t matter anymore
This is sort of a double-edged sword. Some SEOs swear that keywords don’t matter at all anymore, while others still eat, sleep, and breathe keywords. Here’s what is really happening: while SEO has evolved and there are other things to worry about than just keywords, they still drive valuable traffic through visibility. Just take seoClarity’s CTR study, that outlines the relationship between individual keywords, their search volume, and click through rates (CTRs) on page one of Google. The study found that those sites with higher rankings on page 1 got significantly higher CTRs than those at the bottom of the SERP. Sites ranked #1 on page 1 had an average 19.3% CTR while those ranked #10 had an average 2.2% CTR. That is a pretty drastic difference if you ask me. The graph doesn’t lie, check it out here:
Myth #6: SEO success will happen overnight
This one is so ridiculous it makes me laugh. An SEO strategy is a long-term practice. It’s a red flag if an SEO agency tells you that they can get you ranking on page one within the first week. Google processes over 100 billion searches per month – they can’t even predict tomorrow’s keywords. Therefore, it is next to impossible to guarantee rankings overnight. Usually it takes about four to six months to even start seeing results, regardless of how much money you are investing in it. This is where the water gets a bit muddy between the good SEO companies and the bad ones because every SEO company wants to tell you this. But for different reasons.
The bad SEO company wants to tell you SEO will take 6-12 months for results because they want you locked into a longer contract and do not want to be judged on performance right away.
The good SEO company will tell you 6-12 months for an SEO campaign because Google’s algorithm for ranking websites has time intervals built into it that slowly evaluate website changes over a series of crawls. If it finds the changes to be more valuable over time it will increase your rankings. The obvious reason why this makes sense is because the search engine results do not change immediately after every optimization you make. That would be the equivalent of searching for “hammer” and Home Depot pops up. Then you turn around to show your friend and now Home Depot is nowhere to be found… now it’s all Lowes? Basically, this would cause too much turbulence in the search landscape and make things confusing if results were changing frequently.
When you invest in SEO, expect to be in it for the long-haul. It will pay-off.
Myth #7: SEO is expensive
I’ll be the first to admit it – the upfront costs associated with SEO are usually relatively high. But it gets significantly less expensive the longer you go at it. In fact, SEO has the lowest cost per acquisition than any other channel because people are finding your website virtually free of cost. Today, any business with an online presence knows that SEO is not only important, but necessary for online success. So, the question has evolved from “Should we invest in SEO?” to “How much should we invest in SEO?” The answer is up to you. But for most modern businesses, SEO has provided the highest ROI compared to other marketing channels. While SEO differs based on each company, when you’re doing SEO correctly, it should be a percentage of the cost of your potential ROI.
Myth #8: SEO can be automated
Sure, it seems like everything can be done by robots these days. And I will admit that Tesla’s new self-driving car is nothing less than amazing. But there are still some things that robots cannot do, and one of those things is SEO.
There are a lot of awesome tools out there like seoClarity and AWR Cloud that can collect data and identify what the competition has been doing. Heck, they can even identify possible gaps in their strategies. And while this is all fine and dandy, in the end SEO requires smart people making smart decisions about this data.
SEO is an art and a science. Tools that gather data and perform research are extremely time-saving and useful. But that’s only half of the SEO equation. We still need humans to sift through this data, reach out and relate to editors and influencers for link-building, and eventually make recommendations based on the data gathered. Oh yeah… and to actually implement these recommendations.
Myth #9: Long-form content is better for SEO than short-form content
Disclaimer: This one is partly true, but I’ll get to that in a bit. The idea that long-form content performs better SEO-wise compared to short-form on-page seo content has been considered an SEO best practice for years now, and there is data to back it up.
Back in 2012, serpIQ conducted a study that showed that the average length of content of the top 10 results was more than 2,000 words, with the average for spot #1 being about 2,416 words and the average for spot #10 being about 2,032 words. While these numbers don’t lie, there is a catch: you can’t publish hundreds of pages of sub-par long-form content and expect it to automatically rank on page one.
Google’s crawlers and robots are no dummies. When combing through your content, they have one question on their virtual mind: “Would people think that this content is valuable?” If the answer is no, you might want to invest a little bit more effort into your content marketing strategy. Or else, you might as well kiss your chance to rank on page one goodbye!
Myths – Busted.
Ever heard one of these and thought it was true? Not to worry. We’ve all been there. Sometimes it just takes the right SEO to prove them wrong once and for all. And how about you, SEOs… What are some SEO myths that get you bent out of shape?