Much has changed in the past 10 years when it comes to SEO. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions out there - some of which used to be true - that are still influencing the assumptions and decisions of CEOs.
I speak to a lot of CEO's about their marketing efforts. It's something I really enjoy doing. The majority of c-level executives know their business and run them well but when it comes to some of their online marketing efforts, most are a little outdated.
This post will look at some of the top misconceptions that are still guiding the actions of some CEOs...but shouldn't be.
"Our SEO efforts should produce results relatively quickly"
For business owners who are used to traditional advertising methods, the long game of SEO can be unexpected (and even unwelcome). Unlike some other marketing methods, SEO requires a commitment over the long-term; it's not a quick fix.
Even once work on a particular SEO initiative has been completed, it takes time to see optimal results. Search engines needs to find and index new content; competitors are constantly changing their tactics - meaning you may also need to change yours before you see results; and it often takes time to build traction for new content in the form of inbound links and social shares.
All this said, you should start to see some results within a few weeks of launching an SEO initiative (although likely not optimal results). I've even seen some within a matter of days. If you don't, this is likely an indication that it's time to tweak or change up your strategy. Every company should have a unique SEO strategy as every company is a little bit different.
"Content marketing is the new SEO"
There's no doubt that content marketing is the next "big thing" when it comes to digital marketing and can drive lots of traffic to your website. However, that doesn't mean it has replaced SEO - not by a long shot.
SEO and content marketing can and should work hand in hand to deliver optimal results. In this post-Panda world, strong content is the main driver of search rankings; however sites must still be properly optimized in order to rank in the best way possible.
It would be a huge mistake to assume that SEO is dead. SEO best practices still go a long way towards informing the creation of relevant, useful content. For instance, while keyword research used to be the foundation of all SEO strategies, helping businesses find popular keywords to target, it can still be used to identify a variety of relevant words and phrases in order to create comprehensive content.
I personally guest blog for a lot of publications, I find this one of the best methods to drive traffic and credibility to my site. That being said, I still make sure that every post is optimized and has standard SEO tags. Make sure you are paying attention to the little details in the work that you're company is putting out.
"SEO is a highly technical endeavour"
Even 5-10 years ago, an SEO department was largely made up of "techy" types who took existing content and optimized it in order to rank in search. SEO strategies were largely technical in nature, relying heavily on optimizing meta data, URL structures, anchor text, etc.
However, as content marketing and SEO converge, SEO is becoming far less about technical elements, and far more about creating and promoting high-quality content in both a search friendly and user friendly way. While basic technical best practices should still be followed - for instance having a mobile-friendly site structure - creating excellent content is now a non-negotiable (and far more important) task than perfect adherence to technical guidelines.
"Social media is now more important than SEO"
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the role of social signals when it comes to rankings. It is sometimes assumed that these social signals - links shared on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter - factor into how highly a site ranks.
Some business owners even take this belief to the extreme, forgoing the regular creation of content in order to invest more heavily in social media efforts. This is a dangerous (and ineffective) game to play.
While there are many indirect benefits to using social media for marketing, Google's Matt Cutts has explicitly stated that Facebook and Twitter signals are not part of their ranking algorithm. This means that social shares are not counted as inbound links, and should not replace other forms of link building.
"We need to hire an outside agency to do our SEO"
This was a far more common practice in the past. During the "techy" days of SEO (see above), many companies outsourced their SEO efforts as their staff lacked the necessary skills and expertise to carry out the technical aspects of optimization.
However, as SEO has become more about creating high-quality, long-form content, companies are often better able to handle this process in-house. Having a basic understanding of SEO is necessary, as is having a user-friendly, mobile-optimized site. But with these basics in place, some companies can now forgo hiring an outside agency in favor of doing their own SEO and content marketing.
"The right domain name is extremely important for rankings"
Fortunately, this is a belief I'm seeing less of these days. In the not-so-distant past, a great deal of importance was placed on getting the perfect domain name - usually one that consisted of the keywords the company hoped to rank for. This is no longer a viable strategy, and using your keywords in your domain name now offers no benefits in terms of rankings.
Using a .com domain is likely preferable to using another top-level domain. Beyond this, it's likely more beneficial to focus on branding. What domain makes sense in terms of what people will be searching for, and what they will be most likely to remember?
"We need to rank for the most popular industry keywords"
SEO in the 1990′s and early 2000′s was largely focused on ranking for popular keywords in order to drive the most traffic possible. Rankings for specific keywords were then meticulously tracked in order to monitor and maintain high rankings and improve low ones.
While keyword tracking is still a part of today's SEO, the focus on ranking for shorter, more general keywords is all but gone. Large organizations with huge budgets may still be able to rank for these terms, however most businesses have realized that this strategy is extremely costly - not to mention ineffective.
Businesses today would do better to focus on writing long-form content that naturally ranks for long-tail search queries. For instance, ranking for "windows" may make you feel pretty important in the window installation industry, but likely won't result in high conversion rates. Ranking for "double-hung window installation San Fransisco," on the other hand, is far more likely to result in sales.
Today's SEO is more about user-experience and less about technical optimization. It's far more focused on providing comprehensive coverage of a topic than on keyword tracking or social signals. It's definitely a long game, but one that pays off in spades when done right.
Are there any misconceptions you would add to this list? Share below!