When you think of SEO, what comes to mind?

Some people picture an unwanted neighbor. You didn’t sign up for SEO, but it definitely comes with the territory when you move your marketing online. Only hermits avoid the task of getting used to living peaceably with neighbors.

Others might imagine mystical keywords, and how entering the proper combination, in the right order, unlocks droves of traffic to your website. “Hocus, pocus, al-a-magocus.” As my business partner Tom Gaddis, himself a former professional magician, would say: “It’s all an illusion.”

One of the biggest oversimplifications of SEO is about how keywords work. Some people think that SEO means stacking keywords (at the expense of good writing) as possible in order to rank higher. So, a paragraph talking about a digital marketing agency on Maui would look like this:

We know that it can be difficult to find a digital marketing agency on Maui. In order to help your search for a digital marketing agency on Maui, we have compiled a list of the characteristics that a good digital marketing agency on Maui should have. We hope you find the right digital marketing agency on Maui for you!

I’m sure you’ve seen writing online that looks this way, but perhaps a bit more subtle. Now that you’ve read this, you’ll start to see it everywhere.

But the “stacking keywords” tactic is based on a faulty understanding of how SEO works. 

Many “facts” on the topic are either outdated, or were never true in the first place. We’re going to look at some of the biggest misconceptions out there, in order to get you on the right track.

This stuff doesn’t have to be scary. It should serve as a useful tool in your belt, not a boogey-man hiding under your bed.

Why Myths About SEO Are So Common

Have you ever heard the old adage that “A rumor can travel halfway around the world before the truth is done lacing up its boots”? Because SEO is such a large, overarching topic, many people can get the wrong impression of it, and then go running to tell their friends. Or, try to profit off their newfound “knowledge” by selling it to the next person.

Besides rumors, SEO has evolved quite a bit since 1998, when Google began to dominate it. 

Back then, everyone wore tiny sunglasses and overalls on their way to see Titanic open in theaters. Things change, and so does Google.

In fact, they go through regular updates that shake up the system and change rankings for millions of websites. So, something you learned five years ago about SEO, stored in the back of your mind, may be totally irrelevant today.

The Five Biggest Misconceptions About SEO

In the marketing business, we run into misconceptions about SEO from working with local businesses on Maui. Here are the top five that I hear:

  • SEO Is “All That Matters”

Since we started our agency offering only SEO, I’ve had the chance to work with hundreds of businesses looking for optimization. I found too many under the impression SEO was equivalent to a digital marketing strategy.

That’s sort of like a tourist attending a luau and proclaiming themselves a Hawaiian. Yes, SEO is important. Sure, there may be short-term, hypothetical situations where the make-or-break factor is how a business ranks against competitors.

But that’s only true if service, convenience, and product quality help a business win out in the long run. SEO standards shift like sand dunes during a windstorm, but authentic, quality service will elevate any business in its market, regardless of digital trends.

Besides, even if a business performs poorly in searches, they can leverage paid ads to make up the difference. SEO is an important tool, but definitely not the deciding or ultimate factor.

  • SEO “Doesn’t Matter At All”

It’s equally shortsighted to refuse engaging with SEO at all. Some people declined to deal with the “technobabble” or “hocus pocus” part of digital marketing. Though I understand a degree of hesitancy, ignoring SEO purely because you don’t understand it does no one any favors – least of all, you.

For example, when Google performed their latest core update, some websites literally lost 50% of their traffic

Imagine you run a brick-and-mortar shop. Suddenly, the amount of customers walking through your store drops by half, and stays there. How do you think that’s going to affect your bottom line?

We should find a happy medium between treating SEO as “everything” and “nothing,” and figure out how we can make the most of it, consistently.

  • Keywords Are King

People love to make complex things understandable. So we take a sprawling idea like SEO, pull out one component, like keywords, and use it as a stand-in for the whole concept.

It’s easy to think in terms of keywords, because they tend to match Google searches. It feels like a basic way to improve your ranking. And then it becomes everything.

If anything is king in SEO, it’s not keywords. Content is king.

Google is transparent about the philosophy behind updating their algorithm. They want quality, reliable content. The kind of stuff that gets linked to by others, because of how authoritative it is.

You get bonus points for good grammar, without spelling mistakes. Google wants to shift the algorithm away from “cheap tactics,” in order to give the highest places to quality content.

In the past year, have you noticed your top search results becoming more helpful, informative, and interesting? We’ve kept a close eye on it, and heartily concur – Google’s become “better in their old age.” 

  • SEO Is “An Overnight Magic Pill”

This relates to the previous point. Because people think SEO mostly involves plug-and-play with certain keywords, they assume that once the keywords are in, there will be instant results.

The opposite is true. It takes time to learn how you’re ranking, and what you can do to improve. A good SEO push usually takes one to three months. For instance, you could make changes to your landing page copy and find you actually went down a few places for certain searches.

The best SEO strategy involves keeping precise track of everything you change, and how it affects your results for a few days to a week. Here is a good starting resource to understand what changes to make first.

The truth about SEO sets you free – to get better results out of your digital marketing strategy! If you ever want help with your business’s SEO strategy, don’t hesitate to give us a call.


Photos by Austin Distel and Linval Ebanks on Unsplash

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