Search engines such as Google update their algorithm hundreds of times each year. For SEOs, it is a never ending task staying ahead of the curve. With every change to Google’s algorithm, there exists the potential for a massive shift in what constitutes best practice.
If you’re not involved in SEO day-to-day, then keeping up-to-date can be a nightmare, and ensuring that you’re reading and understanding the most recent developments can be even tougher with misinformation and misunderstanding commonplace, even on major SEO news platforms. If you don’t know what is good for your website, you can find your traffic, enquiries and very quickly, your bottom line, declining – and it can be expensive to hire the professional help needed to recover.
To make sure you stand the best chance of increasing your online traffic and enquiries, I’ve compiled some of the most common SEO myths that I continue to come across.
1. SEO is Dead
How many times have you heard the phrase ’SEO is dead’? Search Engine Optimisation has evolved over the years but it certainly hasn’t died.
Recently, SEO has become much more complex than it was a couple of years ago. Link building, conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and A/B variant testing are just some of the niche industry areas that have developed into SEO fundamentals in recent times. SEO is almost unrecognisable from when I started out, more than ten years ago.
For example, Google’s Panda update (first released in 2011) made having quality content even more important, actively penalising sites that don’t curate their content effectively, or churn out thousands of pieces of ’thin’ content, each aimed at ranking for a single keyword. You need to ask yourself, ’what value does my content add to the end user?’ and if the answer is none, then you need to rethink your content strategy before you get ’Panda’d’.
Following this, Google has done a good job of clamping down on link spam. High volume, low quality backlinks and over-optimising exact match anchor text links have been on the receiving end of Penguin, which like Panda, will see your site penalised, and will cause your rankings to drop rapidly. If your SEO strategy is reliant on high volume, but low quality links, or you’ve been deliberately aggressive with your anchor text choices, then it might be time to call in an expert to audit your links before the next Penguin update rolls out.
Search engines are constantly looking to evolve and, whilst penalties are the normal punishment for breaking the rules, search engines do reward websites that play the game fairly.
Challenges for the modern day SEO today include CRO, link building and content optimisation – not just standard search engine optimisation work. It is a more skilled job than it ever has been previously.
By investing in legitimate, best practice, online marketing, your site can make rapid gains as those who’ve taken shortcuts (two, three, four years ago, or even today) will be penalised and drop as a result. The below is an example of improving a keywords position in Google SERPs:
(Graph showing positioning of keyword moving from position 36 to #1 in Google organic results in just a few months following Google updates)
2. Content is King
Great content is a foundation for a successful online marketing campaign. However, just producing it is not going to create success. Applying your SEO skillset to your website will help make your content more visible in search, but when coupled with a great marketing or PR campaign, you can make your content work harder to generate more links, traffic, enquiries and sales.
Content is not king – great content needs great marketing behind it.
Don’t think that producing article after article will automatically win you visitors. It’s the promotion of that content that is so important.
3. Only Links Matter
Until the aforementioned Penguin update, links were all you really needed to rank well in Google. Ever since SEOs discovered the tangible benefits of building links to their pages, they have been looking for ways to build more links, more easily.
It’s 2016 and search engines have come a long way since the early basic days of link building. It’s no longer about volume of links – it’s now about the quality of the links.
On top of this, site structure, page load speed, usability, visitor engagement and bounce rates all play a part in the mix. Who knows, eventually social media signals might carry some SEO weighting too.
Links still play an important role, but to work well, they require solid foundations in other areas.
4. Keyword Exact Match Anchor Text
Before Google’s Penguin algorithm update, building a large quantity of exact match anchor text links often worked to get your website to the top of the search engine results pages. It’s still an obsession for many website owners and SEOs to build exact match anchor text links in bulk. This is one sure fire way to get your website penalised.
By tracking my clients’ competitors’ rankings and backlinks, I’ve been able to gain valuable insight into their strategies. Where they usually always go wrong is in having a reliance on a combination of heavy exact match anchor text links and low quality, unrelated links.
Exact match anchors aren’t as necessary as they once were. Brand anchors feature more prominently in the profiles of top ranking websites.
If you’re intent on getting exact match anchor text links please go easy on it. Amazon has a great backlink profile and they rank competitively for a large number of keywords:
(Majestic report showing Amazon.co.uk’s 10 most popular anchor texts)
5. SEO is Expensive
When paying for SEO, you’re hiring the expertise of a person or agency who not only provide you with solutions to a number of complex issues, but also takes the time to understand your business objectives in the online space. For this reason, SEO is not cheap. The notion that SEO is expensive has permeated people’s consciousness because far too many agencies charge for work that can’t or won’t generate a return on investment (ROI) for their clients.
The starting point for any SEO campaign should be an analysis of the market and the potential for a return versus your investment. If your agency isn’t able to show you the money they’re making for you then perhaps they’re the wrong agency for you.
SEO should be perceived as an investment, with the returns you get back in 6-12 months more than making up for the investment.
6. SEO Can Be Automated
A search for SEO software returns 2,380,000 results in Google. This is no surprise as SEO software is big business and there are a number of very powerful tools that will aid you with your SEO programme. Receptional have helped test and develop a number of commercial SEO tools and software and use many more on a daily basis.
Automated SEO through paid software packages is certainly not the same, although I can guarantee that within the first ten pages of Google’s results for the example above, I’d find plenty of examples of software that promise to rank my client first at the click of a button. Automated SEO is visibly spammy, traceable and ineffective – it will not deliver you results. Leaving footprints that show you’ve taken shortcuts is a warning light to Google. Furthermore, the money you will need to re-invest to recover from the penalty it will trigger, would have been better spent hiring a competent SEO agency from the start.
The best SEOs know how to interpret the data generated by professional SEO software, in order to make informed decisions which will benefit your business. These same SEOs avoid automation at all costs.
7. PPC is Better
Yes, Pay-per-click (PPC) when done correctly will bring in immediate results. You can get a stream of visitors into your website within moments of launching your paid search campaign.
But fastest isn’t always best – PPC traffic comes at a premium that eats into your profit margins and properly streamlining a PPC account to avoid wasted spend can take a number of weeks.
SEO requires more time – time to improve your site, time to build links to get your site ranking and then time to increase your conversion rate.
The main benefit of SEO is that the long term costs are much less and the results of investing in SEO are much longer lasting. Once you’re ranking organically and getting traffic and enquiries, this can remain constant whilst you switch your investment to focus on other keywords. With PPC, you can only target as many keywords as you can afford to pay for. Switching focus means you lose visibility in one area, as quickly as you gain it in another. And, if you stop investing altogether, then you lose all the visibility you’ve built over time.
A good SEO or agency will forecast the cost per acquisition for an organic visitor for a particular keyword against the cost per acquisition of a paid visitor and should be able to demonstrate the saving against PPC. The SEM Rush report below shows that investment in just one group of keywords will generate 1,300 visits organically, but that to buy those keywords via PPC would cost in excess of £3,100 each month.
(SEMRush report showing that a website’s estimated 1,300 organic visitors is worth £3,100 in Google AdWords spend)
8. Disavowing All Links Will Recover You From A Google Penalty
I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from many prospective clients about their current SEO agencies downloading lists of all their links and then submitting everything within a Google Disavow file in hope of recovering from a Google penalty.
For this reason, I’ve seen Disavow files that have negated the effects of extremely powerful, natural and hard to obtain links, because no sanity check had been conducted on the file content, or some sort of spam risk tool has been used that failed to properly interpret the value of each individual link.
Recovering from a Google penalty takes time and effort – and whilst you’ve done something shady to receive one, you don’t want to make things worse by continuing to cut corners.
Take the necessary time, or get an agency to take the time for you, so that you might identify and remove as many toxic links as you can. A human is the most reliable tool for working out which of your links are good and which are bad.
If you’re looking for a hand with your websites SEO, or are looking for a hand kick starting a campaign, get in touch with a member of our SEO team today.