The Internet is littered with misinformation and terrible, terrible advice about investing your money, cooking, raising children, losing weight, playing sports, and of course, digital marketing.
In my experience, some of the worst advice you can find online is related to the topic of search engine optimization (SEO).
Unless you’ve been very careful in your own research, you likely believe in a few of the SEO myths outlined below, which can severely stunt your digital marketing efforts.
Have you been lead to believe any of these myths?
Myth #1: The Goal of SEO Is To Rank #1 for “your keyword”
This is the #1 myth about SEO. In fact, most people I talk to believe the goal of SEO is to rank for “your keyword.” Simply replace “your keyword” with the most relevant search phrase for your business. For example, “dentist,” “chiropractor,” and “attorney” might come to mind if you run one of those businesses.
Wait a minute, how could ranking #1 for your keyword not be the goal of SEO?
Well, first of all, rankings alone don’t help your business. The goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website and then convert the traffic into leads and sales.
With that in mind, consider the difference between someone searching for “attorney” versus someone searching for “workers compensation attorney in nyc.” Clearly, the person searching the longer phrase has more intent to hire a worker’s comp attorney located in New York City.
So what have we learned about this myth?
First, the goal of SEO is to drive traffic and conversions. Second, the keywords you think are most important may not be as valuable to your business as other longer-phrase keywords (aka long-tail keywords). The key is to consider the search intent, not just the relevance, of the keyword.
Myth #2: SEO Is All About Editing HTML Meta Tags
Again, there are a couple of problems with this myth.
First, this grossly over-simplifies SEO. If you believe this to be true, then you likely also believe your SEO is “done” because your web developer “took care of it” using some keywords in the webpage meta tags.
Unfortunately, SEO is not quite that simple, and the days of stuffing keywords on your webpages in order to rank high have been over for a long time now. Search engines are more sophisticated now and they look at more than just the meta tags on your webpages. They look at many webpage factors like your title, headers, usability, internal linking structure, site speed, and the length and quality of the content.
Second, this myth ignores all of the SEO factors that are outside of your own website (aka off-page SEO). For example, one of the most important SEO factors is the quantity and quality of links from other websites. Sure, you need to focus on your own website, but you can’t ignore all the off-page SEO factors if you want to succeed with SEO.
Myth #3: You Can Set It and Forget It
Sorry Ron Popeil, with SEO you cannot “set it and forget it!” But SEO sure would be a whole lot easier if you could!
This myth is similar to myth #2 above. If you believe SEO is just a matter of editing your own website, then you would logically also think that SEO is something that only needs to be done once. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
Editing your webpages so they are relevant for your target keywords is only half the battle. The other half is building up what’s called your website’s domain authority.
Think of domain authority like your own personal reputation. If you have a strong reputation, then people tend to listen to you and trust you. If you have a bad reputation, then people steer clear of you.
That same behavior plays out on the Internet.
Websites with strong reputations for publishing high-quality, accurate information that people want to read are given preference in Google versus other websites. One indicator of a strong reputation is the quantity and quality of the websites linking to your website. When lots of other websites with high domain authority link to your website, it is a signal to Google that your website should also be trusted.
Now that you’re familiar with domain authority and the role links play in SEO, it should be obvious that you can’t just “set it and forget it.” You need a long-term strategy for attracting links from other reputable websites.
Myth #4: SEO Is All About Tricking Google
In my experience, many businesses think that they need to trick Google in order to rank their website high in the search results.
While it’s true that some businesses do in fact trick Google using spammy SEO tactics, that’s not a sustainable long term strategy. Eventually, Google figures out how to weed out the businesses using spammy tactics, so it’s not worth the risk.
To understand why this is a myth, you must put yourself in Google’s shoes.
Google’s goal is to rank the best webpages for any given search. What is the best webpage? That depends on the keyword searched! If the searcher is looking for a nearby dentist, then Google’s goal is to rank the best local dentist websites. If the searcher is looking for advice to overcome a running injury, then Google’s goal is to rank the best, up-to-date, accurate information about that topic.
With that in mind, then SEO is not about tricking Google; SEO is about partnering with Google to provide and help the search engine find the information it needs. That’s how you need to approach SEO if you want to have long term success.
Myth #5: Google Ads Give An SEO Boost
The 5th myth I hear frequently is that advertising in Google gives your website an SEO boost.
I’m sorry to say that’s simply not true. It doesn’t matter how much you spend with Google Ads, it will not directly help your website rankings in the organic, non-paid, results.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise in Google. In fact, I recommend most businesses test Google Ads because it’s one of the best marketing tactics available to small businesses.
However, advertising is separate from search engine optimization and you should not expect to suddenly start ranking high in Google just because you’re using Google Ads.
While we’re on the topic of other marketing channels impacting SEO, I’ll give one more bonus myth…
Bonus Myth: Social Media Has No Impact on SEO
Over the years, there’s been a debate in the digital marketing community about whether or not Google uses social media signals in their algorithm.
My stance is simple – it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter if search engines factor in social media signals when ranking websites.
What matters is whether or not social media marketing has a positive impact on your SEO. The answer to that question is yes. By using social media marketing, you will naturally improve your search engine rankings. To learn more, read my article about the 3 ways social media can boost your SEO.