It's time to clear up some misinformation about SEO
We love SEO. And we think it's hugely important for succeeding in the modern business world.
But there's a lot of SEO misinformation out there. Sometimes it's good information that's old. Sometimes it's misleading. And sometimes it's an outright lie from an SEO "expert."
These nine SEO lies might catch you, but don't be fooled.
1. "I can guarantee you the No. 1 spot."
This is a big one. Everyone wants to be ranked No. 1. Research has shown that the first link on a results page can get around 30 percent of the traffic for a given search, and that's massive. Moving from No. 2 to No. 1 could mean a significant increase in visitors.
Similarly, getting onto the first page of Google results can mean a big improvement in how much traffic your site gets via search. The first page gets over 90 percent of clicks. Page two gets a dismal 5 percent.
So getting on the first page is crucial. And a No. 1 spot is extremely valuable.
In their excitement to be ranked No. 1, many people will be taken in by this lie. The reason it's a lie is simple: because no one can guarantee a No. 1 spot. There are millions of websites out there competing for billions of keywords. New websites are founded every day. Companies change their SEO strategies. Google changes its search algorithms.
There are just too many factors to be able to guarantee the first spot on a results page. Especially on short-tail keywords that have a huge amount of competition. A guarantee of improving your rankings? Sure, that's fine.
A guarantee of the first page? Maybe. But if someone guarantees you the No. 1 spot, you should run the other way.
There's a chance that they're right, especially with long-tail keywords. But there's also a chance that they'll either be using black-hat techniques that will get you penalized or they're overselling their services. Both of which you want to avoid.
2. "SEO is really complicated."
You might be surprised that this is the second lie on our list. Why would our company exist, and why would a professional SEO be such a huge industry if it wasn't highly complex? The answer is two-fold.
First, improving your search rankings is – at least in general – pretty simple. There are certain things that Google places a lot of weight on when it's determining search rankings. Things like usefulness, backlink profile and authority.
Getting all of those things figured out and prioritized isn't always easy. It takes a lot of experience to understand how to go about the process efficiently.
But if you focus on making your website as useful, easy-to-use and authoritative as possible, you've already done a lot of the hard work.
Second, effective SEO takes a lot of time. And not just over the course of a few months or a year. It needs a lot of work over the lifetime of your website. You need to keep track of constant updates, your own content, technical improvements, backlink outreach, your competition and a host of other things.
So as you might imagine, SEO is hard. It's not super complicated (at least until you get into the extremely fine details), but it takes a lot of work. And if you don't know how to best apportion your time and effort, you'll end up wasting both.
That's where a good SEO expert comes in. They'll tell you where your efforts are going to get the most return, because they've done it before and they stay up on the latest trends.
In short, SEO isn't complicated. But that doesn't mean it's easy.
3. "Social isn't important for SEO."
The role of social media in SEO is disputed. Back in 2014, Matt Cutts stated that social signals don't factor into Google's rankings. But many SEO experts maintain that those signals do, in fact, affect rankings. There's been a lot of back and forth.
Let's consider it from two angles.
Let's say that social signals, like your follower count and social authority, don't affect your SEO. If that's the case, should you still be investing in social media marketing and spending time connecting to people on Twitter and Facebook?
Because it's not just the effect of links and shares that you're after. It's about people and sharing your content with the people who need it. The more people you can help out with the information you provide, the better your site will perform. People will share your content, link to your pages, revisit your site and turn into leads.
Okay, now let's look at the other possible side of the coin: Let's say that social signals and links do factor into the Google algorithms. In that case, it's obvious that you should be spending time promoting your work on social networks.
Links, comments, follows, shares, and every other metric that you usually use to measure your social efficacy will then become directly related to SEO.
Either way, you win.
4. "Having tons of links improves your rank."
Whether someone's talking about inbound or outbound links, external or internal, this statement isn't flat-out wrong, it's misleading. The number of links you get to your page is important (which is why Brian Dean says that link building is the most important skill in SEO).
What's more important, however, is where those links are coming from. A link from a high-authority site like Mashable, Moz, AdAge or Wired is going to be very valuable to your SEO efforts for that particular page.
Similarly, linking from your page to high-quality external websites will show Google that your page contains good information and help it figure out exactly what your page is about.
One link from a high-authority domain to your page could provide a big boost, whereas lots of links from low-quality sites might not do anything. In fact, it could even hurt your rankings.
If an SEO firm tells you that you need tons of links, be wary. They may engage in link buying or other nefarious means to get lots of links to your site. And that can result in penalties.
Having many links is good. But only if you have the right kind of links.
5. "It's all about keywords."
In the past, keywords were the main focus of SEO. You had to have the right keywords on the right pages, and that was about it. But search engines have become significantly more complex over the past decade or so.
Google now takes around 200 factors into account to determine rankings. And while keywords are still important, there's a lot more that goes into it (though Search Engine Journal posits that four of those factors stand out above the rest).
Domain age, titles and H1 tags, semantically related keywords, page-loading speed, recency of updates, outbound links, reading level, bullets and lists and even the fact that you have a contact page may affect your rankings.
So while keywords will certainly be an important part of your SEO strategy, there are tons of other factors you need to take into account. And an SEO firm or consultant that's up to date on how SEO works today will know that.
Be sure to ask about the different tactics that your SEO provider will use to help you improve your rankings. If they place a strong emphasis on keyword density, latent semantic indexing and other keyword-related practices, be a bit wary.
6. "You need a lot of content."
Let's get one thing straight right away: Having a lot of content is a good thing. And it will absolutely help your SEO. But it's not the only way to use content to improve your search engine rankings.
Brian Dean at Backlinko, for example, has less than 40 blog posts on his site. But he's one of the foremost SEO experts in the world, and his site is insanely popular. How is he able to get this much visibility and SEO with what amounts to a handful of posts?
By writing really great stuff.
Each of Dean's posts is several thousand words long, contains extremely useful advice and is full of images that help make the content clear to the reader. They're focused on topics that people want to read about, they're highly actionable, and they're very easy to read. Dean also writes in a style that makes it almost impossible to stop reading.
This type of valuable content has gotten Dean a tremendous number of backlinks, guest posts, social shares, comments and other things that boost his SEO.
There's a key lesson here: Don't write content to improve your SEO. Write content that's going to help people. If you're helping people solve their problems, you're going to rank well.
It's that simple.
7. "Our strategy is the best."
This is only a half-lie. Your provider might believe that their approach to SEO is the best that there is. But this should make you a bit skeptical. First of all, search algorithms are changing constantly, and one of the best qualities an SEO provider can have is that they read a lot and adapt quickly.
Second, the best strategy for SEO largely depends on your industry. Some industries are amenable to Brian-Dean-style 5,000-word posts. Other industries are more interested in 500-word quick tips or company updates.
Your own customers might be more or less interested in a specific type of content, and your SEO provider needs to be open to that possibility as well.
And because there are so many different parts of successful SEO, it's possible that one company may focus on one thing – link building, say –while a different company focuses on another, like keyword optimization or social.
Every company has a strategy, and most will likely have a slightly different focus from others. That doesn't mean that one is better than another. It just means that they prioritize different methods of SEO.
Of course, providers are likely to think that their method is the best one. But if they're brash about it and aren't open to the possibility of adapting their tactics to your niche, you should be worried.
8. "You should be concerned about Google updates."
SEO changes all the time. All of the major search engines update their algorithms on a regular basis, and this can have big effects on your rankings. Most updates are very small and we don't even hear about them.
But some updates are significant and can put a big dent in your traffic (or, if your content is deemed good by the new standards, gives it a boost). If you see a big drop in your search traffic, you should probably take steps to rectify whatever you've been penalized for.
Usually, these penalties are from low-quality content. Lots of suspicious-looking links, too many ads, unhelpful articles and so on. In short, they're things you probably shouldn't have done in the first place. And you'll need to take care of that.
But Google updates shouldn't be a primary concern of your SEO. If you're engaging in practices that could get you penalized by a future update, you're doing it wrong. You should be focused on providing maximum value to your visitors, and that's it.
If you do that, you won't need to worry about updates, because that's what Google has always put above everything else: content that's informative, authoritative, and helpful to readers.
9. "SEO is all you need."
It's understandable that an SEO provider might feel this way. And yes, SEO is a big deal; it can make or break your site. But as I've mentioned a number of times before, useful content is the core of SEO. And if you're providing value, you're going to need a wider focus.
Again, this may depend on your niche. Many companies are able to provide a lot of value to their readers by establishing a solid social media presence. Others curate content in a newsletter. Still others create veritable knowledge databases on their blogs. The way you provide value to your readers will depend on your field.
And that means you'll need to adapt both your SEO and online non-SEO activities. Maybe you need to focus on content creation. Or up your promotion game. You might need to focus on public relations, or social engagement, or even door-to-door sales.
Almost every business is going to need to use a wide range of tactics to get the customers and sales they need to survive in a competitive market. SEO should definitely be a part of that.
But don't let anyone tell you that it's the be-all-and-end-all of business success.