As an organic SEO consultant I spend a great amount of time educating clients and debunking the myths around SEO. I have seen them all since I spend a great deal of my time on the web and it is my business to be updated.
Some of these myths about SEO are based on partial truths, some do not and the main reason why we are so mystified is simply they can go either way meaning most of them cant be proven wrong nor can they be proven a fact so they become a myth. Like all great legends the root is based on some partial truth but as the legend gets passed down they become great myths like Sasquatch. They might exist at least I think so but nobody has proven it as of yet!
What we do know and is not an SEO myth, is there are clear guidelines to help you succeed in getting found and it isn’t even magic sorcery or trickery. Its all stated in Google’s steps how to create a search engine friendly website. So how do we know what works and what doesn’t, what is an SEO myth and what is an SEO fact? Well for one always follow Google’s best practices but let us dive in and you can save the in-depth reading for later.
Let me start by saying SEO is a durational and cumulative effect. There is no magic pill, it takes many things in the right place and time to get it right. You may think that if you optimize your site towards targeted key words and start seeing results that did the trick but in truth, it could be a few factors that made the difference because SEO isn’t like it used to be it is more complex these days and one single technique doesn’t work anymore…well actually it does and that is to give visitors what they searching for quality information!
You need to think of SEO as a beach and it takes many grains of sand to make a beautiful landscape like I said its a cumulative effect, so to separate fact from myth lets go over the top ten myths in no particular order that I have chosen about Organic SEO and the things I hear that drive me to frustration often.
SEO is something you do for a couple months then your rich!
SEO takes time! how long? well, how long is a string? every website is unique, the competition unique, keywords can be universal but you are competing for traffic share for given search terms, right? I could write a whole post on this subject but to be brief you need to understand there are three mains goals when it comes to SEO professionals when we work on websites. Establishing relevancy, Organic traffic generation, and creating the right environment where search engines can crawl and index your website technical SEO or “on page SEO”. Google just doesn’t figure it out, natural link building takes time, quality content takes time, and there are many factors that search engines look at such as the age of your domain, trust authority, and domain authority to allocate crawl budgets meaning how often and how much they crawl your site to search for relevancy and updates and a natural progression that leads you to the path of success and not to mention how far the competition has come since you started.
I get it not every business has the budget for expensive SEO services but at the same time, you shouldn’t go for the cheap ones either just because they make promises within your budget. A good conservative approach is to give SEO about 4 to 6 months depending to start showing improvement in traffic, time on site and conversions. You should understand that sales and conversions are highly dependent on a mix of traffic and great user experience so to be conservative budget about how much 10 new customers a month will benefit you and plan on a few months where you are in the investment stage. Return on investment happens only around 8 months to a year so if you cannot comfortably hold a reasonable budget to do an SEO campaign right….wait and save and plan a budget that you can sustain. That’s exactly how the competition does it no matter what business you are in. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint and if getting rich online was so easy…I’d be writing this blog from my private Island right now.
You need to rank #1 for a magical keyword
If you ever hear a promise of page one rankings run for the hills, you are about to get robbed. Getting ranked number one for the keyword “SEO” you would think is my main goal for my business, but in fact, the majority of my traffic comes from keywords groups or long tail keywords and content marketing with the word “SEO” in it. Most of them are not even ranked in any position higher than 3 or 4! Its all about long tail keywords that match a users intent and to quote MOZ “The magic happens when visits reach your site because the content matched thier needs, but not necessarily when you matched the right keywords.”
SEO is a scam a swindle I’ll tell ya!
No, it isn’t but there are some seedy providers out there, natural SEO works! The screenshot to the right is real natural SEO results over time from an 100 percent organic SEO client.
The thing is to sort out the swindlers from the professionals.
So here are some tips often a small SEO campaign takes about 20 hours plus per month and even just your average provider with experience knows what their time is worth. If you are paying 50 bucks a month for SEO chances are you getting scammed sadly that’s not SEO and many business owners get swindled into promises that deliver nothing. Thier are no quick wins or gains or cheap ways to get real results without a ton of effort and time. So if you want to know what real SEO costs you can read a bit more about it here in this article by the pros at search engine land titled-How much does SEO cost
Organic SEO is smoke and mirrors Google will figure it out anyway
Nope again another myth busted! search engines won’t do SEO for you and neither will just be configuring a free plugin for that matter. Google wants what your site visitors want most, relevant data that matches a query accurately, search engines are getting smarter and smarter and using AI but they aren’t perfect. Throwing tons of content out there and hoping something sticks just adds clutter to the web and duplicate information. What you need is quality information that is structured correctly for site visitors that contains the right technical SEO elements communicates to search engines technically how to flow through your site, what you do, and what is your sites most relevant topical information about, so that they too can deliver the highest quality and relevant result in a SERP result.
Backlinks, Backlinks we need tons of backlinks
Yes, backlinks matter and I can go on and on about this but here’s the thing backlinks are like a bicycle cog and chain it only takes a few cogs to spin the wheel you don’t need thousands to move forward. Backlinks basically tell search engines that this page is talking about this subject and here is some great info on that no different than the hyperlinks I have used in this post. If you are an authority on some subject, have an amazing service or product, have great content people will link to you naturally. It is about quality over quantity the age of page rank where this myth is rooted from is gone. Today search engines are smarter than the old strategies of the SEO past. Manipulating links are dead, but link building is still alive and well and a big part of establishing trust and authority of a website, it’s just harder to do these days if you want to do it naturally and a big reason why you should always put quality content out there over quantity. Attracting links and link outreach is the basic bread and butter the essential survival kit for SEO pros in any campaign and it only takes a few to make a big difference and boost not only organic and direct traffic but also to increase the crawl budget you are allocated by search engine spiders.
Organic SEO is something you do once, just set it and forget it!
You maintain your home, right? you maintain your car? so why wouldn’t you constantly maintain your online marketing and SEO efforts? Technical SEO will tune the inner workings of your site so that search engines get the right technical signals, but that only goes so far; things change, technology changes, SEO changes constantly and that’s why I love it. Once you think you know everything you quickly learn how little you know. In time traffic will depreciate, links can depreciate, algorithms change frequently, content gets outdated, and the competition isn’t resting a bit! SEO is an ongoing effort to constantly stay on top of professional information, algorithm changes, new search result features to jump on, and content to engage audiences with. No “Ron Popeil” magic oven here to set it and forget it. Again this comes back to Myth #1 set aside a budget you can sustain and if your natural SEO provider is making headway stick with them for at least 6 months to a year to see ROI and if not move on but don’t simply expect for your SEO to pay for itself within the first few months and move on to another provider by price or guaranteed promises.
Google doesn’t use any visit/engagement/traffic data in any way in their search quality systems
This one is from Rand Fishkin from MOZ a leader in the SEO business providing the software we SEO pros use daily for our clients for tracking, optimization, and reporting.
This one hits my professional soul to the core, time and time again I see websites built so poorly not only do visitors get confused search engines cant figure it out either. This isn’t usually the fault of the website owner it falls on the developers who build websites by design and budget alone adding tons of content with zero structure or reason just to appease the search engine gods. Web sites are built first and foremost for your visitor, then search engines then a website owner. Most website owners aren’t objective when it comes to how their site looks or behaves, the opt for the wow factor and forget some people just don’t understand their business as well as they do and throw the user experience down the toilet with fancy animations and oversized images and confusing navigation bars and tons of popups because they read somewhere this is what works.
This is where visit/engagement/traffic data lives!
Let us follow the flow: You enter a search term in Google, then you get results and you see a result that catches your eye seems relevant enough and visit that site. That’s the visit.
Now let us say your site is soo slow people just bounce out, or your site is cluttered with too much information because you read the myth you need to have 3000 words in your content to rank, or you keywords stuffed the heck out of your content and reads inorganically, every page has a popup and social share because you heard the myth that this works for conversion, you added tons of interactive features like video backgrounds and bland generic stock images (women working on computer with coffee in a relaxed office station) or bolded your keywords just for SEO….I can go on and on about this! this is where you will lose engagement.
I call this “ADWD” attention website disorder, people these days surf the web obsessively and have little patience or the attention span to deal with these annoyances and will leave just as quickly as they came. This signals to google a low engagement rate from the search to the impression to the click to the time on site and yes this data is used by search engine algorithms to gauge the quality of your site.
Last but not least traffic whether its direct (when someone enters your exact URL in the address bar or a link) or Organic is an essential metric search engines look at to see how popular and relevant you are for content.
So yes visits, traffic, and engagement mean something to search engines and is part of their quality scoring and how they position you in search results and allocate crawl budgets simply it boils down to how relevant you are and how great your end-user experience is. This is why “If you think like a visitor then you think like a search engine,” trumps all.
Always structure and build your site for the best user experience, create quality and engaging content and drive relevant traffic to your site, your rankings and traffic will be rewarded. Keep it simple, clean, and drive relevant traffic are the main takeways here.
The Wrap Up And Final Thoughts
Knowing fact from fiction from those in the trenches of the online world can really benefit you. Just because you read it somewhere doesn’t make a myth a truth, yes SEO is highly opinionated with a diverse amount of answers out there some are based on truth and statistical data, some are speculation and some are predictions and the reason why nobody is 100% right or 100% wrong is it takes time and experimentation to prove what works best for your online presence and every website is unique. The best winning advice I can give you to debunk these myths about natural and organic SEO is to focus on the quality of experience of your site visitor, know how to hire an SEO professional and here’s how from Google themselves!