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Biggest SEO Myths & Misconceptions

May 8, 2018
Chris Baker
Chief Strategy Officer

SEO / Content, Digital Marketing, SEO, Digital Marketing

There's a seemingly endless amount of SEO guidelines to follow, and the fact that many of these guidelines are constantly changing can make it pretty hard to keep up with. To make matters worse, many of the SEO practices that were once tolerated are now actively penalized by search engines.

Here, you’ll find a helpful overview of today’s top SEO myths and misconceptions, as well as some advice on how to avoid the most common SEO mistakes while improving your ranking. It’s everything you need to know about SEO in one convenient place!

SEO MYTH #1: YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR SEO BY BUYING LINKS. 

Google’s definition of a paid link involves “exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a ‘free’ product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.”

If any of that sounds shady to you, well, you have good instincts - because it definitely is.

In fact, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines state that buying or selling links is a direct violation of their standards, and you will almost certainly be caught if you’re doing it (and penalized, too). Naturally, this makes the risk-to-reward ratio not-very-worth-it, yet there are still people out there willing to take that chance.

But with Google’s negative stance on paid links being so abundantly clear, why would anyone still do it?

Well, a lot of it comes down to old habits dying hard. In the caveman days of SEO, buying and selling links was considered a normal part of the web economy - a good business practice, even. As time went on, however, Google released more and more algorithm changes designed to down-rank sites whose links were deemed manipulative or unhelpful. It changed the whole game pretty drastically.

Nowadays, if you’re looking to really improve your SEO via links, you’ve got to follow white hat link building strategies. These strategies involve everything from proactive blog commenting on high-quality sites to establishing reciprocal link-sharing relationships with actual people at other company websites. But dishing out cash, products, or services in exchange for low-quality mass links? Leave that in the caveman days.

SEO MYTH #2: FOCUSING ON ONE KEYWORD IS AN EFFECTIVE SEO STRATEGY.

A "focus keyword" is the search term you want your site to rank for when they type it into a search engine. When it comes to an effective keyword strategy, however, it’s important that you target a variety of keywords. In fact, a recent study showed that a single page can rank for hundreds of keywords and show up in dozens of SERPs. Meanwhile, optimizing pages - or entire websites - for only one keyword can lead to a couple of issues.

For example, if a writer is restricted to targeting just one keyword per page, he or she is bound to write up some awkward-sounding sentences that don’t cover the topic in a natural or helpful way. Considering that Google penalizes hard-to-read, keyword-stuffed pages, avoiding the practice of keyword-stuffing all together is definitely a solid piece of SEO advice.

So, when refining your keyword strategy, try starting with one primary keyword, and then branch out from there to identify other words that would share a similar search intent.

SEO MYTH #3: YOUR CONTENT QUANTITY MUST BE HIGH IF YOU WANT TO SUCCEED.

Content oversaturation is very real, and content creators are finding it increasingly difficult to get their stuff noticed even when they're pumping out blog after blog in rapid succession. This year’s B2B Content Marketing Institute report found 76% of brands said they’re only having limited or no success with their content marketing efforts. Yikes!

Indeed, superfluous content creation is a huge misuse of time if you’re spending countless hours throwing blogs together without an actual strategy for them. Meanwhile, successful marketers know that following the steps of a clearly defined content-ideation process is the cornerstone of any practical SEO plan.

With that in mind, here are a few content ideation guidelines that will help you create content with purpose:

  • As early as possible, implement brand guidelines and a comprehensive peer-review process for all your content pieces. This will help you ensure a consistent voice and, more important, consistent quality.
  • Stray away from having a preset number of pieces per week/month as your KPI. Instead, focus your content on outcome-oriented goals, such as visitor engagement, site traffic, or sales revenue. Once you see what’s working and what’s not, it will help you adapt your content ideation process accordingly.
  • Factor content expenditures into your long-term SEO plan. Even if you have an internal team creating regular in-house content, their hours are very valuable. You don’t want to allocate too many resources on your own content while neglecting your clients. Balance is key!

Also, always remember to constantly refine your processes over time and follow realistic content-posting schedules. Focus on quality, not quantity! 

SEO MYTH #4: WITH THE RIGHT STRATEGY IN PLACE, YOU’LL RANK ON THE FIRST PAGE IN NO TIME.

“How long does SEO take to work?”

That’s undoubtedly one of the most common questions that SEO pros are asked, and it’s a tricky one to answer. Why? Because there isn’t an answer...at least not a definitive one, anyway. Everyone has a different definition of success and there are endless variables that can be used to measure it.

So then, how long do these estimates say SEO will take to work? Roughly 4 to 6 months, according to a lot of SEO firmsOther SEO practitioners will argue the effects you see after 4-6 months will pale in comparison to your results after 12 months. In fact, a study by Ahrefs corroborated this when their researchers discovered that the the majority of newly published pages (95%!) didn’t make it to Google’s top 10 within their first year of publication.

That’s all pretty significant evidence that SEO is truly a long-term game!

SEO MYTH #5: IF YOU’VE OPTIMIZED FOR SEARCH ENGINES, THERE’S NO NEED TO DO IT AGAIN.

You can spend months putting in a lot of effort to get results, and once you start seeing them, you might feel like your job is done. But those results won’t last if you want sustainable web traffic and customer engagement.

If there’s one lesson to take away from everything you’ve read so far, it’s that SEO changes…a lot! And not just SEO, but the way that people search, as well; just think about how differently people phrase things when they’re casually searching via voice command versus typing in actual keywords.

To proactively maintain an SEO strategy, we recommend revisiting it at least every few months to make sure you’re not missing out on any big algorithm changes or updates that might render your past efforts obsolete.

SEO MYTH #6: YOUR SOCIAL ACTIVITY DOESN’T AFFECT YOUR SEO. 

False - social media does affect your SEO! But exactly how that correlation works is somewhat complicated. Google’s algorithms related to social media have long been guarded with ninja-like secrecy, so SEO experts can only infer how one affects the other based on observations and the sparse things that Google’s employees have said on the subject over the years.

Social Media flow chart image

It’s suspected that even if social media doesn’t directly impact SERP rankings, a solid social media strategy can still impact a number of ranking factors. In addition, the stronger your social media presence is, the more people will see your company name and recognize it. This can increase the number of media mentions and backlinks you’re receiving. It can also increase the amount of traffic your site gets.

Plus, if your website has been designed to truly engage visitors, then social media can direct people to the site with clear calls to action, which means they come to the site prepared to do something and often stay longer and bounce less.

So, yes, social media does impact your SEO, at least indirectly. It’s just another reason to keep a strong presence on the social media platforms where you brand gets the most attention. At the end of the day, your social media efforts and SEO efforts should be working together and monitoring engagement metrics for future content efforts and ideas.