The 5 myths of Search Engine Optimisation

SEO and SEM is a extremely competitive industry - and there are lots of people out there and many more agencies who promise you the earth when it comes to web site placement in search engines and deliver nothing if you're not careful. We have seen it, we see what they say and we don't like it, it makes us all look bad!

Here's a list of five most common myths and false promises that might not deliver the results promised.

1. Overnight Results

No-one, and we mean absolutely no-one, can guarantee good organic search results within 24 hours for agreed keywords. It's the staple sales message of so many poor SEO agencies out there.

The reality is that Google is pretty slow when it comes to understanding and showing results for new sites - a new site will struggle to rank properly for weeks. In most cases, to achieve anywhere close to a site's full potential will take months of work building good quality links and/or an extremely loyal customer base.

Most of the time, these guys just pick a random (but related) phrase that isn't currently indexed well on Google and get you indexed on that. To show you how simple it is, check out Google for "fuzzyalarmzip"! 

Yay, look at me, not only are we number 1 on Google, but I do not have any other competition either - OK it's true that no-one will ever search for me by using that term, but a poor SEO agency will claim that they have done what they said they would do and demand to be paid!

If they don't use these techniques then they might send your URL to link farms (even Google's own guidelines suggest you do not do this), or they might just SPAM blogs and other social media sites. These two approaches might get you a spike of visitors, but it will not bring you customers; also the Yahoo! and Google algorithms are so advanced that they can spot this activity and are likely to get you banned or delited quickly.

In short, if you want to get traffic to your site (and who deosn't!) - don't look for the quick and dirty fix, there is no instant gratification. Work with an agency that will play the long game instead; take your time and reap the rewards. 

2. Placement Can Be Guaranteed

The same guys that guarantee you overnight listing can also guarantee particular placements - regardless of the competition out there or indeed the quality of your web site. Oh yes they guarantee that you too can take your place on the front page of results.

Again, this is ridicuous, as I hope we now know, it takes time to improve search engine rankings, there is never any guarantee of placement on the first page. It is what we all strive for, and often we do get first page results for many of our clients, but even we can't guarantee it!

You have already seen with our "fuzzyalarmzip" example, easy number 1 positions in Google can be easy for keywords that aren't competitive, but if they don't bring in traffic, what's the point!

Good organic traffic starts slowly and grows with the site.


3. Meta Tags

Even now, nearly a decade after the likes of Altavista, Lycos etc were all the search engines we needed, some SEO consultants still cling to the myth that <meta> tags to boost site rankings.

It has been demonstrated often that the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and MSN etc) will largely ignore the content placed there, and instead rely on the actual content of the page, and the quality of the sites that link to yours.

Whilst they are still of use for search engines, and it is usually worthwhile adding them to your pages, laboring over them as though your site's existence depended upon it is really misguided.

Keyword Stuffing (stuffing lots of keywords into your <meta> tags) will hurt your rankings badly, our advice is to simply list a few of your main keywords and write a short and well-written description, and use those on the <meta> tags.

One place where care should be taken is the <title> tag - this is used very extensively by all the major search engines, and it will prove critical to SEO success. Increasingly, though, the <meta> tags are being left behind, and will most likely lose all meaning in the near future.

In summary, if a real visitor can't see it, then as a general rule of thumb, search engines aren't interested in it!


4. Submitting to Search Engines

'We will submit your site to over 8,000+ search engines'. Does this type of pitch sound familiar to you? Of course it does - site submissions to search engines and directories is bread and butter for your average SEO.

The trouble is, that the search engine market is very much focused on one principal player - Google - and a few subsidiary search markets (MSN, Yahoo are the foremost). These big 3 will probably account for about 99% of all searches to your site - the other 7,997 will barely get a mention in your referrer logs.

I have tried their services, keen to see if they work. It was £100 wasted, and our server logs showed us that all the traffic just came from Google anyway! The other sites never sent us any other visitors!

A good SEO agency will take the time to understand your web site and the behaviours of your potential customers, and then recommend the very best search engines and directories, and then hand submit them - taking time, effort and care in ensuring that the job is done properly.


5. More Links > Good Links

When I first started in SEO, many moon ago, I knew all I need to do was get lots of links from lots of different web sites and I would rank well!

How things have changed. Major players in the maket (like Google) really understand (as we do) that it's not just about getting links, it's about the quality of those links. We know that the importance of ranking well if to provide the web site visitor with a good journey.

Someone looking to buy a car, wouldn't expect to find a link on a care sales web site for computer memory! Neither would we, and neither would the top search engines, so they pretty much ignore these type of links.

The term 'relevancy' in linking is thrown around often and it is sometimes misunderstood, but it essentially means that it is quality links in the relevant sector that contribute far more to search engine rankings than broad quantities of unrelated links. Having bad links will negatively effect your ranking.


Conclusion

SEO is very rarely quick fix, sometimes it is possible to do exactly the right thing in the right way and it's rewarded with a good listing very early, but most of the time it can take months to see really tangible results.

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