Research has shown that businesses can benefit tremendously from ranking highly in the search results for frequently searched keywords; 91 percent of people use search engines to find information online. As a result many SEO agencies have appeared across the Internet, promising to use various methods to increase a website's ranking for profitable keywords. Google is the main target of these agencies, since they currently hold a 67 percent share of the search market.
Many of these SEO agencies are self proclaimed experts, who claim to have discovered a secret way to game Google's search algorithm and offer enticing promises of incredible returns on investment and overnight success. The very nature of these SEO agencies is questionable, because their main job is to make your website appear to be something that it isn't. Before hiring an SEO company, you or your business should spend time researching their methodology and legitimacy. To help ensure that you or your business does not fall victim to false promises, here are the six biggest perpetuated myths in SEO:
Myth - "We will get your website ranked number one on Google, guaranteed!"
Thousands of SEO websites prominently display a guarantee to make your website rank number one on Google's search results for certain keywords. This myth is incredibly persistent, despite being downright impossible.
Constant changes to Google's search engine algorithm is another significant barrier preventing any agency from being able to follow through on any type of guarantee. Major updates like Penguin and Panda resulted in drastic changes to the way websites were ranked by the algorithm and affected 3.1 and 12 percent of website's rankings respectively.
The updates were targeted at making it harder for SEO companies to manipulate the algorithm through spam, copied content, keyword stuffing and other strategies that were widely used. In fact, a much higher percentage of websites that hired SEO agencies were affected by these updates than those that did not, which resulted in huge losses of traffic and otherwise legitimate websites being penalized. Using an SEO agency puts your website at risk of further updates, especially since you can't control what tactics an SEO company uses after you hire them.
Myth - "We know/do exactly what Google wants to increase your ranking in search engine results."
Unless you've read this on an SEO agency's website that offers to build you an incredible website with unique content that viewers will find useful, keep coming back for and want to share, it's simply not true. Most SEO agencies perpetuate this myth as a sales tactic, claiming to have found a way to trick the search algorithm into ranking your website at the top.
The big secret is usually that the SEO agency is going to spam your website by creating blog networks with spun content to create links to your site, stuff keywords into your content and use automated software to create the impression that your website is popular. While some of these methods worked several years ago, Google's algorithm has evolved to recognize these actions. Instead of helping, it may actually hurt your website's ranking.
Google updates their algorithm frequently, and they are getting better at recognizing SEO agencies' attempts to beat the algorithm. Instead of employing an SEO company to try to beat Google, which is staffed by the best programmers and engineers in the world, a better strategy is to make it beneficial for them to show your website as a top result for your targeted keywords. If you provide useful content that is relevant to the terms you want your website to rank for, then it's in Google's best interest to oblige.
Myth - "A website won't rank in Google without meta keywords and proper keyword density."
This is another widespread SEO myth; it's a visible change that an SEO agency can point to as evidence that they're working on your website. It's also the reason you sometimes see webpages that are written around a certain phrase, which is repeated at least 15 times per 200 words. The truth is that Google has stated several times that meta keywords and keyword density are no longer taken into account by their search algorithm, and even when it was, it was a highly ineffective marketing strategy.
Stuffing content full of a certain keyword is detrimental to the quality of a website's content. Posting content to please Google's search algorithm won't ever result in higher sales, because the search algorithm doesn't buy your products or services; people do.
Myth - "As long as you build a lot of links, content doesn't matter."
This myth is based on the fact that when other websites link to your website, Google's algorithm takes that into account when it ranks search results. It's all based on the premise that if relevant websites are linking to yours, your site has unique, useful and interesting content.
SEO agencies try to take advantage of the algorithm by sending hundreds or thousands of low quality and irrelevant links to a target website to increase its ranking. Google considers it spam and is actively fighting to devalue any website that spams low quality back links.
Some SEO companies are still able to successfully rank websites through spamming links, but it's usually short lived and the website is eventually harshly penalized and removed from the results. Companies seeking long lasting results should legitimately try to get credible websites that are related to their topic to link to their website. These links can make a significant difference, because Google knows that high reputation websites aren't going to risk their credibility by linking to copied or rehashed old content.
Myth - "We only do white hat SEO."
The more clever SEO agencies use the terms black hat and white hate SEO to differentiate between strategies endorsed and condemned by Google. Examples of black hate SEO are manipulative linking, spamming, copying content and keyword stuffing. If your website is built and promoted following the SEO guide that Google released, your website is already doing white hate SEO.
Every SEO agency engages in black hat SEO. Many use networks of their own blogs and pay for links to your website. More recently, SEO agencies have been using social bookmarks from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to their advantage. Using automated software to get or buying fake likes, shares and tweets can give Google's search algorithm the impression that your website is becoming popular. In the short term, some of these strategies are still effective, but it won't be long before Google's algorithm is able to identify illegitimate socials signals and penalize sites that have been taking advantage of them.
Myth - "Your business will automatically be successful once it is ranked highly in Google."
When your website does get ranked highly in Google, whether it is from legitimate or illegitimate methods, it doesn't mean that your website will be successful. Traffic is a necessity for your online properties to be successful, but in no way does traffic guarantee success. Countless businesses have let tunnel vision get the best of them by throwing tons of money into SEO, only to receive a huge amount of traffic and not see any profit.
Don't fall victim to the trap.
Content is much more important to success than receiving high amounts of traffic. Having a good sales copy, proper branding and lots of great information on your website helps users understand the benefit of your website and increases your credibility. In turn, they are more likely to revisit your website, share it with others and become a successful conversion.
To make your website successful, be innovative. Innovation is the key to success for any business. Marketing is important, but great products and services will sell themselves. Informative and engaging content gives viewers a reason to keep coming back and share your website with others.
Becoming successful is the same online as in any other medium; it takes a lot of creativity, hard work, dedication, perseverance and a little luck. An aggressive advertising and Internet marketing campaign can help get the word out about your business, but your focus should be on providing an amazing product or service.
The best way to attract traffic isn't SEO; it's giving viewers a reason to visit your website and keep coming back for more.
Will I Am, 10 January, 2013
"Every SEO agency engages in black hat SEO"
We don't. Never have, never will.