Common (and Dangerous) Misconceptions About SEO That All Business Owners Must Know
SEO is an ever-changing field and the best practices go obsolete over time. But that doesn’t mean one must follow every fad. Every now and then, myths arise and webmasters and business owners get to learn the hard way.
Many of these misconceptions arise out of a lack of understanding of how search engines work and update their algorithms. In order not to harm your site, it is important to adhere to relevant information rather than unfounded rumors. Often, these rumors become popular quickly. But popularity doesn’t make anything true.
I have compiled six (6) most common misconceptions about SEO that you should be wary of.
- “Anyone can do SEO”
This is a myth shared by business owners who don’t understand what it takes to boost site rankings and traffic. They often prefer to do it themselves and eventually rely on obsolete ideas and methods that yield no positive results.
Contrary to what many think, SEO is a highly technical field and requires specialized skill sets. Besides, the SEO field constantly changes, sometimes overnight. Therefore, only a person trained and highly skilled can handle it. People who think they don’t need to acquire skills to do SEO often end up practicing unethical SEO methods such as link buying, link farming, etc. that get them penalized by Google.
As a business owner, if you have not trained in SEO, then it is better to hire competent and professional SEO experts. Trying to implement strategies you just thought up can harm your site. How do search engines work? What is link building? How do you carry out keyword research? What makes good content, from the SEO perspective? These and many more are questions you must answer and that make SEO an exclusive field. Hire a professional.
Can anyone do SEO? Anyone (who has trained and who keeps up with SEO trends) can do SEO.
- “Algorithm Updates Devaluations are Penalties”
Google is notorious for not announcing most of their algorithm updates, even the major ones. If they did, at least, SEO practitioners would understand what the changes mean and how they would affect their strategies.
Since Google doesn’t, it is not uncommon to wake up and see your traffic dropped, ranking decreased, hopes dashed. When this happens, inexperienced SEO practitioners wonder what they had done to have incurred Google’s wrath.
But the experts know better. Site rankings and traffic fluctuate based on algorithm changes and, considering that thousands of updates occur per year, it is only normal to anticipate such variations. It doesn’t mean that your strategies are not working. If you have violated none of the Webmaster Guidelines, then you are safe from penalties.
Fluctuations only confirm that SEO is not a one-off task but an ongoing process. Whenever you notice a sudden decrease in your site’s rankings and traffic, the wise thing to do is to keep your ear to the ground and listen to gossip on SEO blogs and forums. By observing the behavior of a wide variety of websites, experts can suggest what has changed about the algorithm and what webmasters should do to fix up.
- “PPC Campaigns Boost Organic Rankings”
Google itself debunked this myth way back, in 2014, so it is only ridiculous that many believe that PPC ads would influence their rankings in some way. In any case, Google has not come out to counter that, so far.
To be clear, buying ads is a digital marketing strategy but is not SEO. I must make that distinction because, since SEO falls under digital marketing, you can’t categorize all methods of the latter as SEO. That said. The proof of the success of any marketing campaign (including PPC) is visibility and conversions.
And since with more visibility and brand mentions come more traffic, an AdWords campaign can have an indirect impact on your organic rankings. Contradicting? No. The point is that Google evaluates paid ads and organic traffic in different ways. Therefore, simply buying an ad is no guarantee that your rankings would soar.
Marketing campaigns are specific and short-time, but SEO is forever. Paid ads can boost your visibility and, subsequently, traffic, but if your goal is to increase your organic rankings, which is an ongoing process, then you need proper SEO methods. PPC should complement, not replace your SEO strategy.
- “Internal Links are Bad for SEO”
Internal linking is the practice of linking to other pages on your website. Some people believe that this method is bad and results in penalties by Google. If that were so, Wikipedia (the master of internal linking) would have been long dead.
On the contrary, internal links are great for SEO, when you consider how search engines crawl the web. Google’s crawler bot finds new pages by following links and figuring out the relationship between pages on a website. Then it distributes link value (juice) based on this hierarchy.
That’s why the homepage of any website has the most value: it contains more backlinks. The longer it takes for Google to find your new pages, the lower their value. So, webmasters put links to new posts on the homepage, so that the bot can find it more quickly.
Use internal links within individual posts as well, but don’t overdo it. Ensure that the anchor text appears naturally in the post and that the link is relevant. If you’re unable to fit the links naturally, you can include a ‘related posts’ section. Internal links are not bad for SEO when done right.
- “Keywords are all that Matter”
Just research the most popular keywords and stuff them in your article and you would rank higher. Another SEO lie. It is only proof that a person has little knowledge of what SEO entails. Use all the keywords you want, if your content is of low quality or not informative enough, your site’s rankings would remain the same, or even become lower.
SEO is not as straightforward as many believe. In fact, overusing keywords (called keyword stuffing) in your content is a way to get penalized. Also, for instance, sometimes you might be better off using little-known keywords, instead of the popular ones. SEO is all strategy.
Besides, there are many more important aspects of SEO such as link building and technical SEO, among others. Google has over 200 (known, because no one really knows all) ranking factors. So, it would be ridiculous to think keywords alone (even when used right) would get you ahead.
Keywords are important in SEO, but success depends on multiple factors. If you have only focused on keyword optimization, keep it up but now expand your scope.
- “SEO is Dead”
Perhaps the most popular misconception about SEO, and also the most ignorant. SEO is only dead if you don’t know its value. Back in 2016, Borrell Associates predicted that US businesses would spend $80 billion on SEO-related expenses in 2020, up from $65 billion, when they made the prediction. Apparently, an industry that is growing at such a rate can only be said to be far from dying.
However, there is a sentiment that seems reasonable, but just on the surface. It is that SEO is getting so complex and with several algorithm updates, it is just impossible to keep up. The mantra of some people now is to simply post quality content and leave Google to do the rest. Also, Google’s People Also Ask boxes and the fact that Google now answers queries directly (weather, exchange rates, etc.), seem to have driven down organic search traffic. But that’s false as well.
Yet, SEO is not dead yet; it is only evolving. According to Rand Fishkin, “The bad news is that classic, earn-the-organic-click SEO is shrinking in opportunity. The good news is that search continues to grow and create new, different kinds of opportunities.” This means that most of the popular approaches are getting obsolete as Google is redirecting its focus.
For instance, factors like Artificial Intelligence, search intent, mobile indexing, personalization are becoming more prominent. In a Best SEO Companies’ survey, the majority of respondents (26.6%) believe that AI would be more important to SEO in the next five years. Google is using AI, via the RankBrain algorithm, to return relevant results for never-seen-before queries. The Google algorithm also tries to figure out a user’s search intent for more personalized results.
What all these mean is that SEO isn’t dead, and it is not dying soon, but it is undergoing changes, to which SEO specialists must adapt, for success.
To avoid falling for unfounded information and misconceptions, you should only follow verified information from Google and reputable SEO blogs and websites. And remember not to depend on the popularity of a method as proof that it works.