Some popular SEO misconceptions explained.

22nd July 2013

Online marketing – SEO (search engine optimisation) in particular – is a very dynamic industry and, at times, difficult to navigate.

A friend who knows about websites will tell you something different to what you read online, which is totally contradictory to something you’re told by a professional SEO company!

In the face of such wildly differing advice, SEO can seem like a challenging enterprise.

For most SMEs, the best approach is to seek the help of experienced professionals who can guide you through the technical elements, demystify the jargon, make you more comfortable running your website and see to it that it brings you the volume of business you expect.

Alongside that, it’s always a good idea to keep on top of industry changes by keeping an eye on reputable blogs. Unfortunately, however, not all SEO blogs are reputable.

An all-too common pattern among poor quality SEO blogs is for them to disseminate controversial ideas in a malicious effort to generate some fast traffic, instead of providing good quality, well-researched, reliable information in an honest effort to generate sustained, long-term traffic and growth.

The former sort of blogs quickly fall by the wayside amongst industry professionals, but it can be easy for SEO newbies to absorb and digest – mistaking them for genuine.

To help you understand SEO better here are seven of the most common and persistent ‘myths’ explained.

1. At some point, your website is ‘finished’.

Small web development companies are anxious to finish off projects, wash their hands of the website and move to the next client as soon as possible. And as an SME you’re keen to get the site up and running.

But that doesn’t mean that when the design and build of your website is complete, you stop working on it. Your website should always be a work-in-progress and you should try to add content as often as possible. Google in particular responds very well to dynamic websites with a lot of activity.

Put yourself in Google’s shoes… If you were comparing two similar websites, one that’s dynamic with a lot of updates and new content, while the other was static, gathering dust, with very little activity, which one would you display more prominently?

2. Rankings are the ultimate goal of online marketing.

As satisfying as seeing your website at the top of page one of Google is, it’s not the be all and end all of online marketing. It certainly might generate a lot of traffic if the ranking is for a relevant, popularly searched keyword.

But the goal of online marketing is to generate more business via your website. This can mean increasing its search engine ranking, but it’s important to note that website traffic can come from lots of different sources NOT just Google.

3. To achieve high search engine rankings, maximise keyword density.

In order for a search engine like Google to be confident giving your website a prominent SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking for any given search query, it has to be able to identify signals from your website that tell it what the website is about.

For this reason, it’s important your website includes keywords in the right place throughout its content and structure. However, it’s very easy to overdo this, and there is an important balance to be struck. Keyword density should not be increased at the expense of the user experience. A website can’t be search engine friendly without being user friendly; the two go hand-in-hand.

Aside from damaging the ranking by compromising the user experience, the rankings are also at risk based on Google’s detection of any keyword stuffing, as well as their analysis of the quality of the text on your website – three pretty important reasons not to overdo your keyword density!

4. A good SEO firm should be able to guarantee results.

If you are approaching a company for help with SEO, you might think about asking them if they are prepared to guarantee results.

You might, understandably, want peace of mind that there will be a ROI (return on investment). The reality though is that SEO companies are able to skilfully influence search engine results, but they can’t control them.

Any SEO company that claims to be able to control search engine rankings, or guarantee results, isn’t worthy of your time. Instead, it would be better to ask them for examples of work they’ve done in the past, to demonstrate a strong track-record or ask for testimonials from their previous clients.

Even think about doing some research, ask them some specific SEO-related questions, put them on the spot and test their knowledge!

5. Duplicating a website is a good way to target different geographic areas.

If you’re a plumber and want to target customers in Swansea as well as Cardiff, it might occur to you to duplicate your website, and just change any references to the location.

The main problem with this approach is duplicate content. If Google identifies two websites with almost identical or largely similar text content, they view this as a breach of their quality guidelines, and neither site will perform well in terms of rankings.

Google imposes harsh penalties for this kind of approach. However, if you distinguish the content of the second website to a significant degree, and treat the two target markets like different businesses, this would be considered a much more legitimate strategy.

Both sites would be capable and ready to give you the search presence you probably have in mind.

6. Reciprocal linking is an effective and efficient way to build PageRank.

PageRank (named after Google’s co-founder and CEO, Larry Page) is Google’s way of analysing the quality and popularity of a website based on the number and quality of its inbound links.

Generally, if a website or web page is of high quality, other websites will tend to have links to it, for their users. Therefore, generally, it is advisable to engage in activity that will ultimately result in inbound links for your website.

However, there are right and wrong ways to do this, and if you pursue the wrong approaches, your website will be penalised, having been flagged by Google’s anti-spam algorithm – Penguin.

One such approach is reciprocal linking. This means two websites linking to one another for no other reason than to build links to score points with PageRank. The reason this doesn’t work is because there is no benefit of such links to the user. Google only ever values any link that serves a genuine function to the user. Anything else is quite rightly flagged as spam.

The best approach is to try to take legitimate steps to spread the word about your website online, but only if you have something that’s genuinely worthy of a link.

Content should be priority one.

7. SEO is about outsmarting the search engines.

As long as there have been search engines, there have been people trying to outsmart them.

While short-term gains can occasionally be had through overly aggressive on-page optimisation (keyword stuffing) and duplicating websites along with most of their content, it will be just that – short-term.

The success will be short-lived, and in the long run, your website(s) will be heavily penalised by Google and it will take a lot of time and effort to re-gain their trust.

The best long-term success comes from spending your time developing genuinely high quality, relevant text content for your website, expand its structure, show off your knowledge and establish yourself as an authority in your field online.

That's what your website is for – so use it!
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