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Myths, lies and half-truths of SEO

Monday, June 9th, 2014 by Lee Wilson

story, myth, legendThere are many areas in SEO open to interpretation. This is on top of vagueness caused by Google updates and feedback (or a lack thereof), through to SERP testing and more. My hope is that this post will help any marketing managers – and some SEO folk too – determine truth from rumour with my ‘Myths, lies and half-truths of SEO’.

“Links no longer have SEO value”

With so many updates from Matt Cutts over the years on devaluing certain link types, I can completely understand why some people may feel that links no longer add value. But I can 100% say that links do add value!

This has been reinforced by Matt Cutts over the past several months. He noted that the quality of search engine results pages simply cannot function to an acceptable level without link signals included (although they have run tests on this, demonstrating potential intent to remove the value to link signals).

From Matt Cutts:

“We don’t have a version like that that is exposed to the public, but we have run experiments like that internally, and the quality looks much, much worse. It turns out that backlinks, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really really big win in terms of quality of search results. So we’ve played around with the idea of turning off backlink relevance and, at least for now, backlink relevance still really helps in terms of making sure that we return the best, most relevant, most topical search results.”

“My industry only has a few search terms that matter”

Sad nerdy guy

I have seen and worked on some of the most niche industries imaginable, as well as the most expansive and highly competitive. From this I know for sure that the industry in which you function – however niche – will have opportunities to broaden your visibility in relevant and associated search topics.

Many SEO success stories stem from opportunity identification and visibility growth. The worst thing you can do with any campaign is restrict growth based on assumptions. Restricting growth is very different to maximising relevancy.

“Only big brands succeed online”

For sale

This statement completely undermines one of the key principals of organic search, that the online arena is ‘scale neutral’ (ok, scale and brand can help, but it really isn’t the whole picture).

If you apply expertise, an aligned strategy, meaningful value and a lot of (informed) hard work into a website you can compete successfully online with almost anyone. Whilst there are probably challenges in this statement but I’m happy to receive and reply to them.

Where people often fail against big brands (and make rash decisions that ‘SEO doesn’t work’) come from single focus strategies and limited SEO knowledge. If you base success or failure of SEO on a single metric i.e. a Google UK ranking for a single term, your SEO will always fail.

Even if you achieve the desired rank (most likely number 1) for a specific term (in most cases something very generic) the value from that result, correlated to the effort made to achieve the result, will in most cases be disappointing.

The reason for this is simple – if you put the same time, energy and resources into expanding visibility, maximising potential traffic and increasing the value from every session, your returns would be substantially greater.

Another common pitfall that prevents SEO success over bigger brands is that people try to compete on their terms. To beat the big brands online you need to start with your business, your niche and your unique proposition. Only then can you leverage your value over and above your competition. Looking at the strengths of the largest competition and attempting to emulate them will never lead to overtaking them (and logically there is no reason why this strategy should work).

“Search engines will always find great content”

Sadly this is not correct either.

There are many reasons why this is not the case, which include technical barriers preventing (or restricting) crawling and indexation of content. This is on top of social inhibitors and much more. The idea of ‘write the content and it will get read’ is far from accurate in most instances.

If you have a well-established audience full of engaged people who like to share what you write, then you can probably achieve quiet a lot of content success with little or any effort. For the majority of websites, though, results from content can be correlated to successful marketing and promotion, supported by great SEO.

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About the author

Lee Wilson

Lee Wilson

Lee joined Vertical Leap as an SEO Campaign Delivery Manager in 2010 and heads up the SEO team after successfully managing the online and direct marketing development of a financial services company for over seven years. Lee is a certified web applications developer (Cert WAD) and a regular LinkedIn user. Follow me on Google Plus