Today, a vast majority of businesses—both large and small—have a website. And, with the majority of marketing budgets being spent online, it is getting much more difficult for your content to stand out among the growing online noise.
Search engine optimization (SEO) offers an enticing solution: when you improve your search engine rankings you bring more internet traffic to your site.
Although SEO has existed for over two decades, much debate and misinformation still exist about what SEO can and cannot do for your business. Below, we’ll give a brief definition of SEO and clarify common misconceptions about this important but hard to grasp marketing tactic.
What Exactly Is SEO?
SEO is a multifaceted approach to increasing online visibility and driving traffic to your website. When implemented correctly—with patience and dedication— it can transform your online presence. The SEO process typically includes several components, such as creating content, improving website performance, researching keywords, and implementing backlinks.
An effective SEO strategy can do the following for your business:
Increase organic traffic
Improve search engine
Establish brand Expertise,
Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness
(EAT in SEO parlance)
- Provide an advantage over competitors
While these ideas may seem conceptually simple, applying them can present certain challenges. This is especially true with the constantly evolving search engine algorithms and all-too-common misinformation and misunderstanding about SEO.
SEO vs. SEM
Perhaps the biggest misconception about SEO concerns paid search engine ads and search engine marketing (SEM).
SEM refers to the process of bringing traffic to your website via paid and unpaid methods. Since SEO uses unpaid methods to increase organic traffic, we can classify it as part of SEM.
Paid search engine ads—like pay-per-click (PPC)—are another subcategory of SEM but distinct from SEO. When using PPC, you are paying for website traffic.
What SEO Is Not
Many other misconceptions surround SEO, making it difficult to understand what it can and cannot do for your business. To avoid wasting time and money on ineffective SEO strategies, we’ve compiled a list of what not to expect with SEO.
It Is Not Only About Keywords
When people think of SEO, their minds generally go to keywords—and with good reason. Keywords have played a critical role in SEO since the creation of search engines. However, they are far from the only contributing factor. Simply researching keywords and plugging them into landing pages, blogs, and headings will not boost your rankings.
Consistent high-quality content affects Google rankings the most. The second most influential factor is keywords in meta title tags, aka the headings that appear in search result lists. However, the importance of keywords in title tags decreased by 17% betwe 2021 and 2022.
Placing keywords in header tags, meta descriptions, and URLs hold minimal weight. This rank far below things like backlinks (an external website linking to content on your site) and user engagement (time spent on your site, click- throughs to other content, social media shares, etc.).
An effective SEO strategy considers numerous factors, including keywords. However, putting too much emphasis on keywords can backfire. Remember, the top-ranking factor is consistently creating engaging content. If you focus too much on “stuffing” keywords, your content can sound awkward or unnatural. Overusing keywords can even hurt your rankings.
SEO Offers No Ranking Guarantees
The optimization of your website and content for search engines is a complex and technical process. It can produce extraordinary results but requires the committed use of search engine optimization tools, a dedicated SEO team, and plenty of time.
People can easily get swept up in trying to become a top-ranking website in a few months. While technically possible, SEO offers no promises. Numerous factors affect how websites rank for each user. For example, two people could search for the same term and receive completely different rankings depending on their search history and location.
Try to keep an open mind with your SEO strategy. With a focused approach, realistic goals, and patience, you can see impressive results.
It Is Not a Way to Cheat the System
Many people look at SEO as a way to trick search engines into ranking their web pages higher. They put their efforts into understanding the many nuances of search engine algorithms in hopes of creating content that checks all the metaphorical boxes.
Trying to decipher these algorithms is a futile endeavor. In 2020 alone, Google reported making 4,500 changes to its ranking system. There is no way to cheat a system that is constantly evolving and improving.
Instead, you should focus on beating your top competitors. Review what your competitors do that make them rank high—and then do it better.
It Is Not a Quick Solution
Put simply, SEO never ends.
If you’re looking for quick results and immediate ranking improvements, it’s time to reassess your goals. SEO is a long-term game, and you likely won’t reap significant improvement from your efforts for many months or even years. Ahrefs reports that 78% of Google’s top-ranking pages are at least one year old.
SEO requires constant effort, analysis, and adjustments to accommodate the ever-changing digital environment. As Google algorithms become more precise for users, digital marketers must continually adapt their SEO strategies to ensure site traffic doesn’t suddenly plummet.
This process requires time and financial investment. You must regularly monitor traffic, rankings, and lead generation, noting which pages are doing well and which are not. Then comes content creation. Many companies hire writers and graphic designers to ensure their website consistently features new and engaging content.
Increasing organic traffic and establishing brand credibility on Google and other search engines take time. However, your patience and dedication can produce extraordinary rewards in the long run.
The Next Steps
Although SEO is more of a technical art form, it can seem like a magical transformation if you have the right team to support you and your business.