SEO has always been one of those online marketing channels with a reputation for being as much witchcraft as technical wizardry and it can therefore be very difficult to decipher what is and isn’t true. The shifting considerations of Google, and subsequent algorithm updates which hit the headlines, do nothing to help clear up this confusion and therefore it’s worth looking more closely and dispelling some of most commonly held myths which still remain persistent in the SEO business:
01. It's all about the rankings
Traditionally both clients and SEOs have been obsessed with rankings. Many customers still think that their website has a specific position in Google for a particular keyword. In reality this is not the case and this assumption can cloud the perception as to the effectiveness of an SEO campaign.
The reality is that given the degree of sophistication that Google has nowadays, it is no longer appropriate to talk about rankings but rather, average rankings. Google shows different results depending on multiple factors that are beyond the control of the webmaster: user’s geographic location, user’s search history, suggested contacts in G+, etc. In reality, websites can be optimised to "oscillate" around certain positions but will be subject to fluctuations depending on the searcher. Rather than considering Google rankings as the main KPI of your SEO campaign, these days it is far more appropriate to focus on traffic and conversion increases.
02. It's all about the links
This is another one of those myths that, although it has a basis in truth, is still very commonly misunderstood. As noted above, Google uses numerous factors to determine which position a page should rank for a search query. It is commonly held that backlinks are a key component of demonstrating influence which in turn positively affects a website ranking. However, not all links are created equal.
The best way to think of a link is as a comment on a website. To be considered of value, it must be genuine, truthful, well considered and informative to be considered as true to the final user - which in the case is Google. Forget link directories, press releases, etc. If a link is easy to get, it’s probably not worth it and might even have a negative effect.
03. Black hat SEO works, it's automated and cheap
Good SEO cannot be automated and neither is it cheap. In what is affectionately referred to as black hat SEO, historically, SEOs would try to find flaws in the Google algorithm and exploit them to get good rankings in Google. It is true that until a few years ago, these techniques could still be effective and function with a relatively high degree of automation. However, since Google began more severely penalising websites for these kind of practices - and particularly within their latest updates –black hat SEO is neither effective, nor cheap.
05. If you invest in Adwords it will improve your SEO performance
This statement has been mentioned for quite some time now and it wouldn’t be surprising to still be thought of by many SEOs. Some believe that Google 'helps' those who make a significant spend in web advertising via Adwords.
It is best to believe Google’s official stance in regards to this statement. Officially the Organic Search team are independent and isolated from the teams working in advertising. It makes no sense that Adwords modifies the organic search results. It isn’t good for the user or Google, and the truth is that Adwords doesn’t need any more incentives to retain customers.
Ultimately SEO has evolved massively in recent years and those who work in the sector should try to distinguish fact from fiction. In a world where Social Media, Digital PR and SEO are converging, we have to forget old misconceptions and start doing accurate marketing if we want to succeed in SEO.
Words: Luis Navarrete
Luis Navarrete is head of SEO and software development with London-based digital marketing agency Barracuda Digital. He has over eight years experience in the SEO industry, with cross-functional expertise in business and online marketing strategy.