5 Common SEO Myths Debunked (And What You Should Really Do!)

5 SEO myths and what to really do

What common SEO myths could your business fall prey to? As Director of SEO at ReachLocal, it’s my job to stay up to speed on changes to search engine algorithms, search trends, and the latest SEO best practices. But although there is a ton of great advice out there on what search engines are up to and how to get SEO right, I’m often amazed at some of the bad advice and outdated SEO tactics that I still see being shared today. Here are the top five most common SEO myths debunked, and what you should be doing instead.

Myth #1: Ranking highly on search engines means your SEO program is a success.

You probably know by now that search engine optimization can help improve the rank of your website for specific search terms. But if you think that just achieving a prominent rank on the first page of Google for a handful of keywords is the best way to measure success, then think again. There are many more factors that prove the value from your SEO investment than just first-page rank. For example, do you know how many customers you’re getting from that high search engine rank?

The reason this myth persists is that measuring rank is easy, but setting up true success metrics is more complex. But, it is possible to measure true ROI if you set up your program to effectively track contacts, leads, customers, and revenue. By integrating your SEO program with a conversion-optimized website and a lead management or analytics solution that that can provide insight into where your leads and customers are coming from, you can know if the tactics you’re investing in are really working to provide you with customers – and in turn, ROI.

Myth #2: You don’t need a website if you have optimized social and directory pages.

While social media pages can rank well for your business, they can’t stand alone as an SEO strategy, because you do not own nor ultimately control everything social media or directory pages display about your business. Anyone can add a photo to your business page on Google or post a negative review on your Facebook page without your approval. In addition, it’s a poor user experience for a potential customer to have to look across multiple, fragmented versions of your business information across the Web to find what they are looking for, such as the ability to make a reservation or appointment or to find customer testimonials.

But the biggest reason you shouldn’t rely solely on a social or directory listing as your primary business resource is because it’s best to consolidate all your SEO signals from many different places into a centralized hub: your business website. You’re ultimately the owner and controller of your website, and everything on it — its structure, code, and content — which works in your favor from an SEO perspective. Social media and directories should then be used to amplify your brand and content from that central place. At the end of the day, search engines want businesses to provide a great user experience, and that should start with your business website.

Myth #3: You can succeed at SEO by building a lot of backlinks.

Building a ton of backlinks may have worked five years ago, but search engines have changed the way they value links back to your website.

For one, Bing and Yahoo! do not rely on links in the same way that Google does; therefore, link building may have less importance on those search engines. And Google’s recent algorithm releases are proof that just building a lot of poor-quality back links can actually work against you. For example, Google’s Penguin algorithm penalty filter devalues those sites that engage in mass linking, link scams, paid links, and links with over-optimized anchor text (meta tags).

Not only does Google monitor the kind (quality) and amount (quantity) of links that your site gets, but it also monitors the overall link history and link velocity of your site based on its size and business type. For example, if you are a plumber and you all of the sudden get a lot of new links, you better have a news story on a high-quality site. Otherwise, if you’re driving back links from unreliable sources, chances are high that your site will get caught in the penalty algorithm filter(s).

The best way to build quality links to your site is to create fresh, share-worthy content on your site, encourage social signals (likes, shares, etc.), and ensure all your properties (social sites, directories, and more) are optimized with links back to your business site, which can all help search engines determine the quality and relevance of your site.

Myth #4: Photos and videos don’t work for some business types.

Previously, pictures and video were thought of as secondary elements to an SEO or social media campaign, but today they are now front and center. Not only can images influence interest from searchers and drive social engagement, but they’re also a core piece of content you should be including and optimizing on your website itself to influence how search engines value and index your site.

In addition, your images can show up in organic search via rich media-blended search engine results (which can include images, videos, quick info, etc.), Google’s knowledge graph panel and local business carousel, Maps results, and many other local directory listings. Plus, a wealth and variety of images and video on your social pages like Twitter and Facebook (think Vines, GIF animated images, videos that play in stream, and larger profile image sizes) can also help those sites be discovered in organic search.

We’re now living in a visual world, and to compete in SEO, your business must participate. If you think your business isn’t “built” for images, here’re a few image options to consider regardless of your business type:

  • Photos of new products or service offerings, your staff or team, an event you hosted or were involved in (i.e. charity)
  • Before-and-after pictures of your work, happy customers (with their permission, of course)
  • “Snackable” images like quotes, memes, and comics
  • A quick video of how something works or how something is made
  • Infographics about your business or industry.

These are just a few ideas to get you started taking or creating images that you can post to your site and seed across the Web.

Myth #5: Content is king.

I said it: content is no longer king. You know what’s king now? Having a complete and holistic SEO strategy that’s specific to your business type, niche, and local area. To compete effectively in SEO today, you have to consider and incorporate a wide variety of factors and tactics, including many factors such as quality content, mobile, site architecture, user experience, images, local listings and maps, directory sites, social media, reviews, and the list goes on.  The point is you can no longer win with just content alone.

That’s not to say content isn’t still a huge part of your SEO strategy.

For one, Google is starting to penalize sites with low quality, thin, or spammy content. And, search engines are getting smarter about the purpose and intent of the content of your site, and consumers are paying more attention now that they’re relying so heavily on the Web to make purchasing decisions.

So, it’s still absolutely true that you must create quality content to win at SEO, but content should be just one piece of a larger strategy. Now that user engagement signals are more important than ever to search engines, create impressive, helpful content, optimized design, and an intuitive experience so visitors stay on your site, potentially share your content, and ultimately convert. Not only is this good for your business as a whole, but it’s good for your SEO as search engines may look at those activities to ultimately boost your organic visibility.

What SEO advice have you received that is no longer relevant in today’s search best practices? Let us know with a comment below. And to learn how to build a truly modern SEO program, download our ebook: The New Rules for Winning at SEO.

Brian Ledis

Brian Ledis is the Sr. Product Manager, Web Presence and SEO at ReachLocal. He has 7+ years of organic SEO experience, with a concentration in local and maps SEO for local businesses. Brian has worked with clients in various industries, including legal, entertainment, non-profits, and the technology sector. When he’s not working, Brian enjoys water sports, the outdoors, and international travel.

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    Well said – “Having a complete and holistic SEO strategy that’s specific to your business type, niche, and local area.”

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