Every digital marketer understands the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Achieving a consistent flow of organic traffic to your website for your targeted keywords and phrases is vital to your marketing strategy’s long-term success.
The question is, how do you secure that coveted first place? SEO has evolved since its early beginnings and staying up-to-date with SEO methods, technologies and strategies can be tricky. Because of the endless changes, there are long-held beliefs about SEO that simply aren’t true.
Different methodologies and strategies have come and gone, leaving people with conflicting ideas and opinions about how to achieve results. We’ve debunked some myths and misconceptions to give you the best chance of avoiding common SEO pitfalls, and provided advice on how to manage your SEO strategy for success!
1. SEO is about getting as many of my keywords on the page as many times as possible.
In the early days, when Google was still young, SEOs would place their focus keyword on the page as often as possible. Pages with strange, unnatural language would sit at the top of the search rankings and some people would even put white words on a white background to trick the search engine spiders into thinking the page was more relevant than it was.
Unfortunately for the companies that used these keyword stuffing and cloaking techniques, Google has a vested interest in giving its users a good experience. That means that they’ve put years of research into developing techniques to uncover these dodgy practices and punish them accordingly.
These days, what’s more important than stuffing your content full of keywords is making your content super relevant to your audience. Google’s website crawlers are now smart enough to understand context, so it’s more important to cover your topic comprehensively and answer any possible questions that your audience might be asking. Google will then think to itself, “this is the best possible answer to the users question” and will offer your page as the best match in the results area.
2. I’ve set up my website using SEO best practice, so now I can focus on other parts of my business.
Granted, meta data, mobile responsiveness and website performance are massive factors in how your website will perform in search results. Getting these elements right is key in convincing Google your website is a high quality authority on your topics, but SEO is a constantly evolving specialisation. It’s an ongoing process, not a once-off quick fix.
The best practice is to focus on creating something that gives the visitor a great overall experience, but keeping up-to-date with Google’s algorithm changes is a must. Creating new content regularly, building link relationships, and crawling your website for errors are all factors that the Google website crawlers will take into account when judging the quality of your website. Performing ongoing updates and optimisations will help you retain those great rankings from your early SEO work.
3. Committing to a content marketing strategy takes care of SEO.
One of the biggest marketing trends of the past few years is content marketing. The idea is that by creating content that focuses on your audience’s questions and promoting that content to the right people, you’ll generate qualified leads. There are a lot of people who think that creating new content takes care of their SEO. Actually, content marketing is just one element that helps your SEO efforts, and isn’t a complete strategy all on its own.
The technical side of SEO is just as important. If your website isn’t mobile responsive, if it takes a long time to load, or if the crawlers can’t pick up on the context due to poor structure, Google isn’t going to offer your website as the best solution to their user’s question. Content marketing can certainly help with your SEO efforts, but the page performance and off-site optimisation strategies are just as important. And speaking of off-site strategies…
4. The more links I have, the better my search ranking will be.
Backlinking is one the main off-site SEO strategies used in the digital world today. It involves getting other authoritative websites to link to your content, effectively signalling to Google that your website is also an authoritative and trusted resource.
As we just mentioned, SEO is essentially an umbrella term that encompasses a number of ongoing strategies, including content, backlinks and technical performance. You might have a large amount of great backlinks, but if your content is lacking, the first page is likely to stay out of your grasp. Likewise, you could be creating great blogs and content that perfectly answer your audiences queries, but if no-one else is linking to your content or worse, if untrustworthy websites are linking back to your website, Google will overlook you.
The important thing to remember when building links is that it’s quality over quantity. Before building a link relationship with another website, look into their domain authority and whether their website visitors are likely to be a good match for your business. It’s much better to have one great link on a high authority, highly relevant website than five links on untrustworthy, low authority websites.
5. Now that search terms are encrypted, SEO is too hard.
If you’ve been working with SEO for a while, you’ll remember the good old days when Google Analytics would show you exactly which search terms resulted in people visiting your website. You could see that searches such as “balloon animal artist” were some of the biggest traffic drawcards for your children’s party business, and could optimise with that knowledge in mind. With the advent of encrypted searches, this data abruptly disappeared.
While it’s true that we can’t easily access this data anymore, it’s not true that SEO is now a guessing game. You just need to put your investigating hat on. Take a look at your most popular pages and entrance points. If you’ve recently posted about the different types of balloon animals you can do and it’s taking a large chunk of your traffic, it’s a good sign that this is a topic you should cover more often.
You can also review more information about your search results in Google Search Console. Analysing your clickthrough rate and impressions for certain keywords can give you a good idea of what you need to work on and tools like SEMrush are great for seeing how you stack up against your main competitors.
6. I have AdWords, so I don’t need to worry about SEO.
A persistent myth in SEO land is that AdWords and SEO are somehow linked. Google has come out again and again to say that your AdWords spend has no bearing on your page ranking, which is great news for SEO specialists. We’re purists – it’s all about quality, not spend!
Some people also think that because AdWords ads appear above the organic search results, spending money to get high performing ads is more important than putting the time and effort into getting to the top of the page organically.
The AdWords algorithm for ad quality score has a lot of similarities with the search engine algorithm, so it’s not just as easy as throwing money at the ad and assuming you will be number one. You need to make sure your page quality and relevance are high. The main difference that SEO has to offer is its longevity and compounding returns. When you invest in SEO, it continues to positively impact your business for the future. Turning off AdWords immediately stops that traffic source, leaving you with no earned benefits. Thirdly, Moz reports that Paid Ads get just 2-3% of clicks for all searches.
Don’t get me wrong, AdWords is an important part of business promotion, especially when you’re nurturing your organic performance in the early days of a website. But businesses should see it as one aspect of an overall promotion strategy, rather than the only way to direct new visitors to your site.
7. Spending all my time on SEO will bring people to my website, and business growth will happen organically from there.
After all this, you might be thinking, “Wow, SEO is so important! I’m going to start investing in these techniques, sit back, and watch the visitors and sales come rolling in!”. And you’d be right about the first half. Investing in SEO is a critical part of a successful digital strategy. However, it’s just one element.
SEO helps to attract your target audience and get them to your website, but what do they do once they’re there? Do they read your content and leave straight away? Do they sign up for more information? Download an offer? Request a call-back? A successful digital strategy needs to work out how to nurture your visitor to the next stage in the journey.
Spend some time looking at your sales process and customer journeys to get a better understanding of the touchpoints your visitor needs to reach to become a valued customer.