In any field of work there are a number of industry myths or fables that become perpetuated and believed by a large amount of people. These inaccuracies aren’t just harmless matters of opinion but work to promote methodologies that are detrimental to productivity.
The world of SEO and Google search results is no different in this regard as there are plenty of fables being created, sometimes faster than they can be quashed. In fact, the constantly evolving nature of digital marketing means that there’s even more room for inaccuracies to be perpetuated than many other industries.
For these reasons it’s essential that digital marketing practitioners don’t take what they’re told at face value, ensuring that the approaches they adopt are supported by evidence and not conjecture.
Unfortunately there are many SEO and Google myths that seem like they’ll never go away. The following will identify some of the most prevalent of these fables. You might be surprised how much of what you think you know is actually fiction!
Search engine optimisation is a sub-set of information technology
The use of search engine optimisation may share similarities with areas of web development and IT but it is a discipline in digital marketing above all. People who are not familiar with the industry may see some optimisation tactics as falling under the responsibilities of an IT worker.
While it’s true that parts of web development can be used to boost website rankings in the form of on-page optimisation, it takes a marketing approach to actually implement this effectively. This is why most companies will provide budgets and staff for optimisation under the umbrella of marketing and not IT.
IT shouldn’t be the leader for optimisation work but a supporting element, so leave this fable far behind you.
Google will remain the undisputed king of consumer searches
The is no doubt that Google dominates the search engine market, with competitors like Yahoo and Bing only taking up a small slice of the pie. This is why optimisation tactics reference the search giant so routinely, because no one is spending a lot of resources to target Bing or Yahoo in order to generate traffic.
Just because they are king of search engines doesn’t mean that they’ll always be successful. Changing consumer behaviour indicates that people are increasingly using websites like Amazon to carry out product research.
When consumers bypass using a search engines altogether it spells trouble for the market leader in search. While Google search isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, it’s inaccurate to assume that it will remain the king we must appease for the rest of time.
Search engine optimisation is completely free to do
This is a common inaccuracy because so many articles about optimisation reference free tools that provide rudimentary data that can inform strategy. While some basic optimisation is arguably free to implement it is certainly not free on a commercial scale.
Paying staff or hiring consultants to carry out optimisation strategies obviously costs you money. Creating content, tailoring on-page elements and other optimisation tactics all require someone to spend working hours on them.
Trying to limit the costs of SEO can sometimes limit the benefit it can achieve for you. While cheaper than many paid marketing methods like pay-per-click, search engine optimisation will still require costly time and effort to achieve.
Google hates link-building/link-building doesn’t work
This is a tricky area because it’s easy to vindicate this fable depending on how you define link-building. SEO practitioners know that aggressively distributing links to a website is a black-hat tactic and is punished by indexing algorithms.
Link-building however remains a legitimate optimisation strategy for boosting SERP rankings, even if Google tries to tell us that links don’t matter as much. Evidence supports the fact that the relevancy of links depends heavily on the industry and its competitiveness.
This is why it’s important not to think about link-building in black and white terms as it can be more or less effective in different contexts.
Naturally occurring and highly reputable links are always going to perform the best but the definition of reputable or high quality can change from industry to industry. This means that research into the link profiles of leading competitors is essential to informing a successful link-building strategy.
Keywords aren’t effective anymore
Like the fable that link-building is obsolete, the idea that Google now ignores keywords is another damaging idea. Yes, it’s true that indexing algorithms are getting smarter and value semantic search but this is not to the exclusion of keywords.
Many have spread the idea that search engines now value ‘theme’ or ‘topic’ based searches rather than those based on search strings. They are right that indexing algorithms have been further developed to comprehend the human meaning of a search query rather than just particular words used.
However, in computing language processing there is no replacement for what a string is. A keyword is always going to be inherently relevant because it denotes subject matter. Keywords will always be inadvertently used on a website whether they are being specifically targeted or not.
This is why even though indexing algorithms are getting smarter with semantic search, keyword research and implementation will always be a useful part of search engine optimisation.
Search engine optimisation is a one and done affair
A lot of companies that are utilising SEO for the first time and have no prior experience with it can come to consultants expecting to hear a magical, one-off solution that neatly wraps up their problems.
The truth is that optimising for search rankings is a constantly on-going process. Once you start using optimisation tactics you run the risk of losing everything you’ve gained if you stop implementing them.
This is because search engines value websites that are consistently relevant and stay up to date. Also, updates to indexing algorithms can change the way optimisation tactics need to be used or even make some obsolete.
This means that what worked a year ago might need to be changed so it can continue performing.
Google is just a search engine
The search engine provided by Google is its main product and this is unlikely to change anytime soon but it’s inaccurate to believe that this is all they are responsible for. It’s easy for people to dismiss them as just a search engine provider when the name of the company has become a verb for internet research.
Google is a pioneer in the technology industry that has made advances in wearable computers, self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence. While the search engine and its advertising platform is a large source of the company’s revenue it is inaccurate to say that this is all that they are about.
Social media has no value for search engine optimisation
This belief is most likely a natural response to some practitioners overstating the value of social signals in achieving higher SERP rankings. The truth is that there is a place for social media as part of an optimisation strategy.
Social media obviously has value to digital marketing because it allows for engagement with an audience on a platform they habitually use. The question we want to answer is whether or not indexing algorithms use social signals to influence the ranking of websites.
The evidence supports the notion that more social media interactions will positively affect results page rankings. It has been found that websites that appear higher in search results have a higher amount of social media signals than their competitors.
Search engine optimisation is always a slow process
While people might have different levels of patience when it comes to a marketing strategy, many people make the assumption that SEO is always going to take months and months to generate results.
It can definitely be true for some websites that increasing rankings will take a long time but this is not always the case. Depending on the goals of the company and its current place in the industry optimisation tactics can show improvements rather quickly.
The reason that search engine optimisation is commonly referred to as a slow process is because it takes more time and research to implement than pay-per-click digital marketing. It’s also because as indexing algorithms get smarter they place a higher value on the organic growth of a website’s relevancy which is always going to take more time than paying for it.
An SEO practitioner will be careful to disclaim to clients that optimisation tactics take more time than other more immediate marketing strategies. However, to assume that optimisation needs to take months and months of work isn’t always accurate.
Pay-per-click influences search engine optimisation
Using SEO and PPC in conjunction is a great strategy in digital marketing but many people wrongly believe that they have a crossover. In truth, search engines have deliberately built walls so as to separate organic search from paid promotion.
Even organisations that pay large sums for pay-per-click results do not get any special consideration in organic searches. Search engines are interested in maintaining a distinction between organic relevancy and exposure that is paid for.
Without this distinction between paid and organic search results, users would begin to distrust search engines. People want to be served web pages that have earned their spot through their authoritativeness and not their ability to spend.
By all means, use PPC alongside your SEO to generate conversions. However, don’t believe the idea either strategy has an influence of the effectiveness of the other.
While what is mentioned above are some the most popular myths about SEO and Google, there are definitely more out there. The continually changing landscape of search engine optimisation means professional consultancy will remain a highly competitive field as the best practitioners separate fact from fiction.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.