30 second summary:
- SEO is full of myths and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.
- SEO and SEM, while complementary, are not the same and cannot be approached in the same way.
- SEO is not a temporary or one-time adjustment – far from it.
- Your SEO agency while rock stars are not superhuman. They can't do anything for you.
- SEO results are not instant.
Myths, what are they? For Joseph Campbell, “Myths are the dreams of the world. They are archetypal dreams and deal with great human problems. “Ultimately, they serve as a channel for understanding. While this is true for most myths, this definition falls apart with the concept of SEO myths.
If you've been in digital marketing for a long time, you come across the fact that it is a broken room. Between full-service agencies, vertically-specific boutiques, independent consultants, and much more, separating the myth from the reality is a significant hurdle when it comes to SEO consulting.
While there are tons of SEO myths out there, I'll nail down the four that I come across the most.
SEO Myth # 1: SEO and SEM can be approached in the same way
"If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
While there are many useful concepts that can be taken from SEM and applied to SEO, it is a mistake to think of every channel as the same. First of all, keep this in mind: A powerful concept in managing Google Ads is to optimize your use of negative keywords – keywords that you don't want to appear for.
Because of the immediate transactional and visibility of SEM – you set a budget, create an ad, and hit go – that attitude is often carried over to SEO. Rather than thinking about which keywords are feasible, those who come in with a SEM bias may bring in a perspective that largely focuses on what is not feasible. This comes along with the belief that as long as you keep building what doesn't work, what works will come out on top.
Unfortunately, this can hinder the conversation about a campaign's keyword research – the launch pad for all other SEO activities. As you'll see below, you don't need to contextualize your keyword research within what doesn't work as long as it doesn't work. Do this research from a solid SEO framework.
Keyword variations and match types
It's not uncommon for Google Ads campaigns to target thousands of keyword variations in a handful of match types. This way, you ensure that despite slight variations in how you enter and search for a particular query, you can connect to your target audience.
While this is a necessary exercise in SEM, it is not needed in SEO. Even though we've tracked the rankings of thousands of keywords, we've seen that our customers make it difficult to find and optimize the keywords that matter most to you.
If you've got it right, your keyword research should be broken down into "topics" for SEO purposes. This process, known as thematic keyword research, allows you to break a semantic grouping down into a handful of related keywords. That way, you can focus your optimization efforts and, in theory, show all the keywords that you would otherwise be targeting directly in Google Ads.
Frequent changes to landing pages to improve ad quality metrics
Another habit people transfer from SEM to SEO is the frequency with which landing pages are changed, says Jenni Bojanin, Victorious SEO strategist. In SEM, especially in ad platforms like Google Ads, these changes help improve ad quality metrics like Quality Score and landing page experience, resulting in lower cost per click (CPC).
That said, frequently changing pages that are central to your SEO campaigns can cause problems. At best, depending on how often search engine spiders crawl your website, you can make changes that will never be seen when looking for metrics that apply to SEO. In the worst case scenario, you can make changes to a clip that is frequent enough to confuse search engine spiders and negatively affect the indexing and categorization of the page itself.
SEO Myth # 2: SEO is a temporary solution
“You shouldn't drive over 80 km / h or more than 80 km / h with a Donut spare wheel. Driving long distances with a spare wheel can damage other auto parts, including the transmission. "- American Automobile Association
Viewing SEO as a temporary solution to your digital marketing problems is like riding a spare tire at speeds and distances greater than recommended. It will work in the short term, but after a while you can do more damage than if you approached the problem with a long term perspective of fixing the problem, i.e. getting a new tire.
SEO is not a channel, but the basis of all other digital marketing activities. Because of this, we often have conversations with prospects about the importance of seeing SEO not as something you do once to "clean up" a website, but as something that will last for the long term.
To better contextualize this, I'll cover two scenarios.
The first is a company with a large site where many people are responsible for maintaining that site. As a website grows, the number of people you need to manage it grows at the same time. And as you add more people, the risk of things going wrong and negatively affecting the website's SEO also increases.
Let's say you have a smaller website. Maybe you're a solo preneur or a smaller mom and pop shop. It's reasonable to believe that with a website this small, the number of things that can go wrong must be very few. That's true, but only from the perspective of what's happening on the ground.
In search engine optimization, the saying "when you stand still, you move backwards" is a very real thing. Just because the likelihood of your website having tremendous problems locally is comparatively small, it doesn't mean that your competition isn't building their website further, both locally and remotely.
In both scenarios, investing time and resources regularly in search engine optimization of your website would ideally prevent the two negative consequences of fast search engine optimization over the life of the website: the absence of tremendous problems in the absence of someone reviewing the website and becoming complacent while your competition efforts are concentrated off-site.
SEO Myth # 3: Your SEO Agency will do it all for you
In my Victorious agency, we consider our collaboration with our customers to be partnerships. There are many things that a partnership can mean, but the idea that one partner should do everything for you isn't one of them.
Just like a one-on-one relationship, a partnership works best when both partners are committed and determined to find ways to achieve common goals together.
To better expand on this idea, I consulted an article on Oprah Mag entitled "The Best Advice For Relationships According To Experts." In it I found two helpful analogues of how your relationship with your SEO agency should ideally work:
Schedule appointments to talk about your relationship
If you don't put time on the calendar to meet with your SEO agency, you are missing out on the opportunity to better enable them to fully understand your business and its needs. As much as you think the discussions you had with them during your pre-sale and onboarding meetings should be enough, they are not.
Your business is evolving – probably every day. Your priorities will shift and resources will change. If you don't keep your SEO agency regularly informed of these shifts and changes, you can't expect them to properly implement a strategy that will ultimately serve your business well.
Don't expect your partner to be your best friend
Just as you would prepare for failure by expecting your partner to be everything to you in real life – confidant, therapist, etc. – do the same by expecting your SEO agency to deal with it and / or keeps an eye on all aspects of your digital marketing.
When working with an agency, it is important to understand your expectations well and to give the agency space to push back anything that is out of scope. If you are already affiliated with an agency, be prepared to have open and frank discussions about your needs and understand that some of those needs may not be met by the agency.
And that's fine. Let your agency do what it does best. Don't try to stick a square pin into a round hole. Also, most agencies have recommendations or can point you in the right direction to meet the need you want to meet.
SEO Myth # 4: SEO results are instant
Not even instant noodles are instant. Why would you think the results are a marketing channel?
While every website new and old is likely to have low hanging fruit that can result in relatively quick profits, it takes time to produce sustainable and compound SEO results.
Depending on who you ask, the SEO flywheel can take at least three to four months and up to one to two years for a visible “self-propulsion” of the flywheel to take effect.
Why is that? Because of the multitude of variables involved – some within your control and some beyond your control. The three best are:
When entering a competitive area like credit cards with a brand new website, there are two elements of competition to consider. The first is that an area like credit cards automatically lends itself to many online competitions, as they are often geared towards a national rather than a regional audience. That alone means that the number of websites you compete against is growing exponentially.
The second element to consider is the types of companies you are competing with in the field you are in. With credit cards, you compete against some of the largest companies in the United States, such as: B. against companies like Bank of America, Discover and the like. The bigger the business, the more likely it is that they will employ SEO professionals, and the more likely it is that you will face websites that are pretty well optimized.
In case you haven't heard about this lately, links are still a top factor on Google. As proof of this, Andrey Lipattsev, Senior Search Quality Strategist at Google, said years ago in a conversation about the two most important ranking factors outside of RankBrain: “I can tell you what they are. It is satisfied. And they are links that point to your website. "
And that won't change anytime soon.
So how do you know how many links it takes to show up on page 1 of the search engine results page (SERP) of the queries you are targeting? In a previous article I wrote for Search Engine Watch, "Five SEO Tips That Will Grab Vacation Attention and Drive Sales," I discuss how to understand link acquisition requirements.
The steps are briefly summarized here:
- For your target queries, look at the number of Referring Domains (RDs) pointing to the pages that ranked one through five for those queries. You can achieve this through tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and the like.
- Once you have the number of RDs, average them.
- The result is the number of RDs that you realistically need to get into the top 5 of page 1 of the SERPs of your queries.
Victorious Content strategist Ashley Cardell says a handful of things come into play when creating SEO content. These things are the length of the content, the search intent of the primary query that the content is targeting, and the cadence with which you should publish new content.
A good first step in figuring out your content needs is to measure the number of pages your top organic competitors are ranking for. Ahrefs makes it easy. After entering the URL of the competitor you are reviewing, click "Top Pages" in the left pane and find the section with the number of results as shown in the image below:
Based on that number – 8,393 – you now have a loose target as to how many pieces of content you would need to produce to achieve "competitive parity" in terms of content footprint.
Marketing is hard. With so many channels, competing internal interests and shared budgets, a changing landscape, and ever-growing goals, it's understandable that you should be tempted to apply the logic of a channel you know to a channel you don't. I wish it had worked that way too. However, when you use this type of logic, you are prone to falling for the search engine optimization myths.
SEO and SEM are as different as day and night. There is some overlap between them and they are complementary, but they are not the same. Additionally, SEO shouldn't be viewed as a short-term or one-time solution. It should be part of your long-term digital strategy. As part of this strategy, it is important not to expect your agency to do it all, but rather to treat your agency as your valued partner and advisor. Most importantly, always remember that when you implement SEO into your strategy, keep in mind that the results are not instant and will take some time.
With that in mind, I've given you a few things to look out for when turning to SEO with a predominantly SEM background. Ultimately, however, these tips won't help you if you don't see SEO as a fundamental element of your overall marketing mix, rather than a "set and forget" channel. Take the long term perspective with SEO and things will change in the end.
Houston Barnett-Gearhart is the Director of SEO at Victorious.