Mythbusting SEO: The Top 5 Misconceptions
One difficulty with explaining how SEO activities work to people outside the industry, is navigating the minefield of misconceptions there are regarding SEO.
SEO practices are always changing. Today's activities might well be considered out of date in just a few months time. As a result, it is understandable that most people, unless they work within the industry itself, may have a similarly outdated viewpoint of modern SEO activities.
This can cause inconsistencies between the expectations of clients verses those of agencies, a disparity that could hurt their relationship in the long term.
With that in mind, I felt it was time to put an end to some of the more evergreen misconceptions around SEO practices, in a way that could be easily understood by those who have no experience in the industry whatsoever.
Misconception #1: SEO activities are one-off, and if done right should not have to be repeated.
The way we each use, find and access websites is constantly changing. Therefore, a site that is optimised at one point in time may become out of date pretty fast.
It’s true that there are some SEO activities that are best performed more often than others, however the process of optimising a website is one that should be ongoing, to constantly evolve the site into its best form based on the current user trends.
This is the only way to ensure that visitors to a site are always having an enjoyable user experience, one that they find easy to use and provides them with timely, relevant and helpful information.
Misconception #2: Previous negative SEO practices have not hurt our website, so it will not be affected in the future
This is a common misconception that can lead to bigger problems. In my short time working within the SEO industry, I have already witnessed instances of websites being penalised due to an activity that was undertaken during a previous SEO campaign, perhaps even years earlier.
Search engines frequently update the criteria with which they evaluate the value of websites. This can result in certain characteristics being deemed valuable one day, and then being perceived negatively the next.
The misconception that only current SEO activities can make a difference to organic search performance can result in misunderstandings between agencies and clients if the worst should happen.
To ensure that these misunderstandings are kept to a minimum, SEO agencies and their clients should work closely together to educate each other of their needs and expectations, enabling them to work more effectively and get even greater results.
Misconception #3: SEO is just link building, the more the better
While it is important to have links pointing towards your site, it is by no means the "be all end all" of SEO.
Links are an important way of determining how valuable a website is. A good way of thinking of a link is that of an endorsement or a vote of confidence. A high quality website will only a link to you if they believe that your website is of high quality too, and contains helpful information that is relevant to the needs of their visitors.
For many years search engines have used the number of quality links a site has to evaluate its usefulness. In previous years, the quantity of links took precedence over their quality, leading to black hat SEO practices such as automating the process. It was tactics like these that tarnished the name of SEO professionals for many years and gave birth to many of the misconceptions that this post is designed to dispel.
Today, search engines are more sophisticated, prioritising the quality of the links to a site, rather than the quantity. These days, links must be earned through demonstrating that your site has value, that it has been well built, well maintained, frequently updated, and provides an enjoyable user experience.
Misconception #4: SEO should be undertaken in isolation, without input from other departments/ disciplines
By now you will probably be noticing a pattern here. Each misconception tackled so far has dealt with the belief that SEO activities should be undertaken in isolation, and have no consequences on, or from, any other website activity, past or present. By now it should be clear that this is not the best way.
Working in an integrated digital marketing agency, I have seen firsthand the benefit of working with people from other disciplines and backgrounds. As we have already seen, search engines place a great deal of value on how well built and maintained a website is, along with the quality of the links from sites it has.
Often many of the best links that a site has earned have been won through providing a great user experience. Providing this helpful user experience is the responsibility of several different disciplines, including marketing, design and development, and therefore, assuming that it is best provided by one alone is an outdated concept.
Without cooperation with these outside individuals, our job would be much more difficult.
For many, the arguments made in this post will be obvious and perhaps even appear unnecessary. But this post is designed for those who do not directly engage with SEO activities on a day to day basis, or even those unsure of what SEO is and what it is not. I hope this has clarified a few things about what we do, and maybe helped to make the (at times) hyper-geeky SEO world a little more approachable.
By Jonathan Boyle, SEO Executive