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5 common misconceptions about SEO

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Naeem Dollie's avatar
Naeem Dollie

Back in the early Noughties, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO for short) was the term everybody with an online presence was talking about.  Optimising your site’s SEO was the best way to get traffic, and the best way to get sales.  Back then, SEO was relatively simple and there were loads of ways to ‘trick’ search engines in order to get better site rankings.  

Today, search engines like Google and Bing are highly sophisticated and have evolved to weed out these tricks so that only genuine, valuable content ranks.  This evolution means that SEO has also become more complex, and has given rise to many different opinions – and misconceptions – about the best SEO strategies.  

Before we delve into some of those misconceptions, let’s refresh our memories about what SEO actually is.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation is a set of practices designed to improve the positioning of a website in organic search engine results. The goal of SEO is to get your site appearing as close as possible to the top of the list when people search for a relevant term.

Search engines use bots (often called crawlers or spiders) to explore all the content on a site.  The bots look at key words and links to help them understand what the content is about, and they store this information in a huge database.  When a user types in a search term, the search engine then uses a complex algorithm to identify and serve up what it believes to be the most relevant content for that search.

SEO ensures that your site’s content is an accurate reflection of what you actually do, as well as what your potential customers are searching for.  By optimising your site’s content, you can attract good quality, organic traffic – that is, users who are looking for what you have to offer. 

Now let’s look at 5 common misconceptions about SEO:

1. SEO is dead

In recent years, a rumour started in the digital marketing world that ‘SEO is dead’. This statement was fuelled by the rise of paid search engine listings and the decreasing percentage of traffic that Google sends to organic listings. But with 5.6 billion searches every day on Google alone, we can say with confidence that SEO is still very much alive and kicking.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) has been a prominent strategy in marketing plans for over 20 years.

As search engines have changed (and today they make as many as nine algorithm changes per day) SEO has also evolved, and will continue to change. Every day, Google incorporates more data, personalisation and UX considerations into the way it ranks content. Many of the SEO tactics that worked 5 to 10 years ago simply won’t work as well (if at all) today. This doesn’t mean SEO is dead – although your digital growth could be, if you ignore SEO.

2. SEO is a one-off project

As we’ve already mentioned, search engines (specifically Google) make changes to their algorithm on a daily basis. Some algorithm updates are bigger and more impactful than others.

As part of your SEO strategy, there are many tactics that can be used, depending on your business and your goals. This includes things like content, technical fixes, on-page optimisation, local optimisation, and link building. SEO can even include external factors like reviews and social media. Some of these tactics CAN be a one off, but to really reap the benefits of SEO, they’re something you constantly have to review, tweak, adjust, and optimise, based on data analysis and industry changes.

3. SEO is a waste of money

This statement is true – but only when you’ve made a poor judgement call and hired the wrong agency/person to do it for you. When outsourcing your SEO, it’s important to ask the right questions, get referrals, and confirm any case studies. Make sure that you know at least a little bit about SEO before hiring someone.

Many SEO agencies like to brag about and show off vanity metrics, when what really matters is revenue!  SEOs need to be able to show and explain how what they’re doing impacts the client’s revenue.

If you’ve had an SEO agency in the past and they only ever reported on positive ‘results’, then it’s a sign that you hired the wrong agency. Transparency is key! While results improve steadily over time, it’s almost never the case that they improve consistently every single month – there will be bad months, and it’s important for your agency to be open and honest, explaining exactly what the issues are and what they’re going to do about it.

4. SEO doesn’t drive results

Again, to an extent, this can be true – but for the most part, it’s not! If you’re a very niche business and there aren’t many online searches from your target audience, then SEO is probably not going to have a major impact for your business.  

But when we hear businesses saying ‘SEO doesn’t work for us’ it’s normally down to unrealistic expectations, or internal issues such as lack of strategy, outdated SEO practices, or poor IT support. 

Compared to paid advertising and other digital marketing strategies, SEO is a slow burn that requires a clear business strategy, and some patience.  Results take on average 6-12 months to start showing up, and progress isn’t always linear. But if your SEO is done correctly and there’s an online audience looking for your service/product, then it does work – always.

5. SEO is not for small businesses

This is perhaps the biggest lie of all! The beauty of SEO is that it focuses on organic search traffic, so it levels the playing field and enables you to compete with small businesses and large corporations alike.

The cost of engaging an SEO expert is usually relevant to your overall business size and budget, which means that with the right expertise, a solid strategy and a little patience, you can get on good terms with the all-powerful algorithms and see your content served up to users alongside that of the biggest names in your industry. 

In conclusion, the idea that SEO can be overlooked is mostly wishful thinking on the part of those who lack the understanding and expertise needed to really make it work for your business. As search volume continues to increase, and engines like Google focus on helping people find what they love as well as what they need, SEO is a powerful and exciting way to make your business more competitive in the digital landscape.

For more on our digital and SEO expertise, contact us!