As the CEO of a leading internet marketing agency and active participant in the web marketing industry, I get to talk, email, IM, DM, ping, Tweet, Plurk and share information with a broad range of people. Some are prospective clients, some are potential business partners and many others are simply like minded individuals at conferences and events, on blogs, discussion threads, forums and real world networking events.
Out of these discussions, many of which involve search engine optimization, it’s amazing the variety of perspectives on what is true about SEO. True, the industry changes as often as consumers change their information search and consumption habits. But the misinformation that persists doesn’t help anyone.
Below I’ll outline 5 common myths about search engine optimization that will help small business web site owners make better decisions in their internet marketing.
1. “SEO is a collection of tricks“.
If you’re “fooling” the search engines, then you’re probably fooling users too. Guess how well that kind of activity converts? “Real” SEO involves a lot more than optimizing content, getting links and using disposable marketing “tricks”. Tricks and tactics may be a matter of semantics depending on who you talk to, but many of the tactics reputable search marketing firms associate with productive and long term SEO include:
- Search Marketing Strategy
- Competitive Analysis
- Keyword Analysis
- Creative Copy Writing
- Web Design & User Experience
- Information Architecture
- Server Side Issues
- Code Optimization
- Digital Asset Optimization
- Other channel marketing that affects SEO (social media, news search, blog search, etc)
- Ongoing Content Development & Promotion
- Ongoing Link Building
- Web Analytics
- Conversion Analysis
2. “Our prospects aren’t influenced by search engines”
I actually used to keep my laughter to myself when people would say this. You don’t have to do too much research to find out if a market is viable for marketing via search engines.
According to a recent release by comScore, there are 11.5 billion internet searches on the 5 major search engines in June 2008. Those numbers have actually gone up a bit since the report.
A quick way to start investigating a market is to search and find out if how much relevant content is out there. If your market is brand new, then you may have an easier time dominating it on search engines by becoming an authority on the topic earlier than your competition.
3. “SEO is a one time event”
This one is still pervasive and indicative of what search engine optimization used to be. Sort of like “SEO circa 1999” when all you had to do was update Meta tags, add keywords to web pages and submit. Those are the Model T days of SEO.
Search engines like Google look at over 200 “signals” to determine relevancy and to decide how to sort search results. Add in the increasing numbers of competing documents from various media, blogs and web site along with more savvy search marketers and it’s easy to realize that effective SEO requires ongoing attention to more than just web pages. Optimizing digital assets such as images, video, pdfs, MS Offics docs and RSS require ongoing attention and monitoring. Creative link building, creation and promotion of new content, integration with other online/offline marketing, social media, analytics and optimization refinements are also necessary.
4. “SEO is a function of IT”
Search engine optimization started out in the cubicles of IT, but has moved it’s way into the executive offices for many companies. I believe the most recent SEMPO state of the search industry research shows that companies are no longer borrowing from other cost centers to fund their search marketing initiatives. It’s a business decision line item like any other marketing expenditure.
However, IT and Web Design/Development “buy-in” are critical for proper implementation and it’s important to understand that in larger organizations, SEO is multi-departmental. Marketing, IT, Public Relations, Legal, Creative and possibly operations might all be involved in some way with a strategic initiative to help reach business goals through improved organic search performance.
Regardless of the size of the company, SEO initiatives should be managed strategically by the business like any other major marketing effort.
5. “Our site doesn’t get a lot of visitors, so SEO wouldn’t work for us.”
With comments like this are the classic “chicken before the egg” type of thinking. You would be surprised how many intelligent, accomplished corporate marketers have said the above.