10 Common SEO Myths Debunked

6/17/2008

- Khrysti Nazarro, Director of Optimized Services

Daily discussions with clients and prospects remind me that not everyone lives and breathes Search and there’s still, in mid-2008, a lot of false information out there. Chances are, if you read our newsletter regularly, that I am preaching to the converted with this article. But I have to say that there seems to be no end in sight to some of these common SEO myths and missteps, and it stands to reason that I at least attempt to take a wrecking ball to them. So, without further ado, here are 10 Common SEO Myths Debunked….

  1. SEO is all about meta data. This one is so antiquated Shakespeare actually devoted a sonnet to it. While the practice of over-optimizing and even “spamming” via your meta keyword or description tags may have once worked, it hasn’t since the turn of the century, so don’t even think about trying it.
  2. SEO is so easy you don’t need help. Okay, this sounds like one that is not so common. Many, many people feel like SEO is h-a-r-d. So, who’s going to misconstrue that it's easy? Truth be told – a lot of site owners. On average, many say, "Oh, I can look up best practices online" or "Information on SEO is so widely available, why consult with an expert?" Here are just a few reasons to do so:
    • There is so much misinformation, fallacy, and black hat nonsense online, that without guidance you could get your site into a lot of trouble – or, at the least, waste time and effort on work that won’t help you at all.
    • SEO is always changing, experts are keeping up on the changes so you don’t have to.
    • SEO doesn’t just happen – it takes problem identification, planning and preparation, prioritization, assignment of tasks, review, and assessment.
    • SEO strategies should be based on your site’s unique priorities, goals, and business model (see Myth #8).
    • SEO requires you to take the long view – it’s not just what will you do for your site now, but also how well you make your site scalable for future strategies.
    • SEO doesn’t stop at traffic – making sure the site will convert effectively is the ultimate goal.
  3. SEO is something you do to your site. Well, technically, that may be true, but the point here is that it isn’t finite. It’s not something you do once, set, and forget. SEO is an ongoing, cumulative process. The engines and the industry are dynamic, as your site should be – this means your SEO strategy needs to evolve as well.
  4. SEO can wait. This one actually is especially irritating. SEO shouldn’t wait until after …. (you fill in the blank with a reason). SEO strategies should be considered as soon as possible. I can’t tell you how many times people say to me they’re going to wait to craft their SEO strategy until after they finish building a new site or completing a redesign (incidentally, these are usually the same people who think SEO is a one-shot deal). The time to start formulating your SEO strategy is now. If you are planning a new site, rebuilding an existing one, giving your site a facelift, or not planning on changing much at all, start thinking about SEO for the site. The sooner you lay the foundation, the better off you will be. Don’t wait to have to retrofit or reverse-engineer later or you will be wasting time and money.
  5. SEO is about keeping up with the Joneses. Everything in business is competitive. SEO is competitive – when you’re positioning in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) you are inevitably positioning among your competitors. But just because another site is outranking you doesn’t mean their SEO strategy is sound or enviable. Focus your energy on your own site. You may be able to learn from your competitors, but do so with some professional advisement – don’t just assume that because something is working for your competitors, that you should mimic it. Murphy’s Law says that you will be the one who gets banned for the “spammy” technique you copied from them and inadvertently applied to your own site.
  6. SEO is free. You should already know the answer to this one – nothing is free. In life and in business, if it looks free, there is a catch. With SEO you may not need to pay for every click/visitor that comes to your site, but you will need to invest time and money into the process of strategizing and implementing changes to the site. And, since it’s an ongoing process, that investment will be a long-term one – it will last for the entire lifecycle of the site. The greatest cost/effort is likely to be at the beginning of the process, but it will be ongoing. However, the benefits should be long-term, too. An SEO-friendly site is, by design, good for both the engines and the users (which means more sales/conversions for you), so it makes sense to make the investment now and in the future.
  7. SEO is a job for the IT Department. Optimizing your site is not just about technology or programming – though those are two important aspects. The IT Department needs to be involved, but if they’re managing your SEO strategy, then your branding, marketing, sales strategy, etc., will not necessarily be taken into account during the planning and execution. Just like your website’s design and development, its SEO should be a cross-departmental exercise in how to present and articulate your business model online; meaning it’s a multi-team approach. In an ideal world you would assemble a “dream-team” for your SEO efforts that features representatives who can articulate the goals and needs of each department and be sure they’re articulated in the SEO decisions you make. At the least, make sure that the right hand is always talking to the left. Too many times, SEO decisions are made in a bubble by lone programmers or marketers without consideration for the overarching goals of the company. These kinds of disconnects lead to flaws in the site that can have far-reaching consequences.
  8. SEO is one-size fits all. As SEO has become more and more commonplace in our daily discourse, too many people have begun to believe that the root of SEO is the same set of basic best practices and that by following those a site will be well on its way to success in the SERPs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While sites should follow and implement tried-and-true best practices, there is rarely just one way to do something SEO-positive for your site. Instead, there are options that are born out of compromises between the overlaps of SEO and Design, SEO and Usability, SEO and Site Functionality, etc. Many times, though not all, where there’s a need, there’s a workaround to make something SEO friendly. It’s a matter of setting forth priorities for the site and knowing where your team is willing to give/take based on them. Again, planning and strategy are key.
  9. SEO is the main focus of a top online strategy. Natural Search results are important, but not at the expense of a well-rounded interactive marketing strategy that includes avenues and channels that mesh with your business and target market(s). It’s critical to get your brand and products in front of as many qualified eyes as possible, so you shouldn’t rely solely on Natural Search, but rather cover as much online real estate as possible via paid advertising, social media marketing, link building, etc.
  10. SEO is about the Search Engines. Simply put, anything you do to your site should be for your users (and, subsequently, your conversions) first and the Engines second. Content has to be readable for human beings, presentation and layout of the site has to be clear and organized and funnel visitors where you want them to go, etc. The only twist is that more often than not, site elements that are good for humans are good for robots, as well. So, thankfully, you can often kill two birds – Usability and SEO – with one stone.

As summer fast approaches there is no time like the present to devote renewed (or new) energy and vigor toward your online marketing strategies and establish a deeper business presence online. So, forget about the quick-fix solutions or fly-by-night answers and develop an SEO strategy with longevity. It’s sure to be time and money well spent.

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