Search engines have existed as long as the Internet, and with these search engines came search engine optimization with an entire industry behind it. Brands like Moz and Portent rose up to become prominent in this SEO industry, and millions of people follow SEO consultants, hanging on their every word and following instructions to the t.
Neil Patel, for example, has over 278,000 followers on Twitter, where he doles out SEO advice to the masses.
While these experts certainly know what they’re talking about, the information is often misinterpreted or taken as an end-all solution. It’s a narrow focus that can lead to generic websites that do more harm than good for your ranking efforts. Adding to the problem, not all SEO consultants are legitimate like Patel is. The SEO industry is full of snake-oil salesmen claiming to provide unrealistic results.
This guide was created to help alleviate this issue by laying out four deadly myths that aren’t helping you pull in online customers.
1. SEO is the only way to be discovered online
Organic search traffic is considered by many to be the holy grail of online marketing, but it’s not the only traffic source there is. Here’s a breakdown of the incoming traffic for my website:
Although organic search traffic is a major part of my traffic, one third of it comes from other sources, including social media links, referral traffic from other websites, and people directly typing in my web address. These channels can’t be ignored.
They represent other forms of marketing, which are just as important as SEO, even in today’s digital world. Think about it – you didn’t hear about McDonald’s, Sony, or Pepsi for the first time online. Search engines aren’t the end-all method of being discovered, even online.
StumbleUpon, for example, is a web discovery engine that doesn’t rely on the same SEO algorithms of search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo. It’s possible to gain huge volumes of traffic without using search engines at all, which brings me to the next important myth.
2. Social Media doesn’t help SEO
Social media is one of the hot-button issues debated in SEO circles, and a great example to illustrate why search engines aren’t the only way to be discovered. According to research from Hootsuite and We Are Social, there are 2.789 billion social media users.
A large majority use these social media platforms daily, often more than once a day. Here’s a chart from Globalwebindex showing the breakdown from the most popular social media platforms.
Of course, none of these statistics necessarily mean that social media affects page ranking in search engines, but there is a correlation. This has been verified multiple times by Google’s own employees, who explain links on platforms like Facebook and Twitter are treated like any other website links. But pull away from the facts on paper and think about the real-world scenarios. The Internet is made by people.
If I read something relevant, I’m likely to share it on my social channels. Many of friends and followers are bloggers, and they’re audiences you want to reach. They may be inspired to reference this content on their blogging platforms, and it’ll gain backlinks beyond even social media.
This provides a double benefit and greatly increases visibility online. In fact, calling it a double benefit is underselling the benefit, as Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey points out friend and family recommendations are the most trusted advertising format.
3. Google is the only search engine
Google is almost exclusively mentioned nearly everywhere you read about SEO. I even mention the search giant often in this post. That’s because Google is the market leader in search, accounting for 80.6 percent of online searches, according to Net Market Share.
However, Google is not the only search engine online. Bing, Yahoo, AOL, Excite, Ask, and DuckDuckGo are just a few competitors in traditional online search. And traditional search is quickly losing ground to virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, especially among younger generations.
In fact, eMarketer found Amazon’s Echo accounts for 70.6% of the voice-enabled speaker market as of April 2017, and massive Black Friday/Cyber Monday discounts have only increased that margin. Navigating the Internet through these digital assistants is becoming more commonplace, and in a mobile-first, IoT world, it’s more important than traditional search.
On top of this, people browse Internet content through mobile apps, smart TVs, video game consoles, and more. Catering to Google is great for the time being, but it’s going to become less and less relevant as time moves forward.
Consider the possible repeal of net neutrality rules by the FCC, which would allow ISPs to throttle competitors and give preferential treatment to their own assets. Yahoo is owned by Comcast. With over 25 million Internet subscribers, Comcast is the largest broadband company in the U.S. The repeal of net neutrality could force its customer base to use Yahoo’s search engine instead of Google. It could happen as soon as next year, making Google-centric SEO efforts much less effective.
4. Tell users to “click here”
One of my biggest pet peeves while browsing the Internet is the term “click here.”
A Google search of the term provides over 50 million results, and the top two are articles explaining why you should never use this anchor text for links.
There are several reasons not to do this. The most important of which is contextual linking is an important ranking factor search algorithms consider. If all your inbound and outbound links simply say, “click here,” then it’s very difficult for search engines to know what value you’re providing.
Search Engine Journal recently performed a study that found the most useful anchor text to use for link-building is the actual title of the page you’re linking to. Everyone tells you to avoid referencing Wikipedia, but it’s the top search result for nearly any conceivable subject, so clearly people aren’t practicing what they preach.
Let’s look at how Wikipedia does this with anchor text in its Online Advertising article.
As you can see, hovering over the link for search engine optimization shows an alternate text of “Search engine optimization” that leads to the page for search engine optimization. Both search algorithms and Internet users know that by clicking that link, you’ll be directed to a page about, you guessed it, search engine optimization.
That’s really all there is to SEO and linking. It’s supposed to help navigate both your site and the Internet as a whole, and you’re not helping anyone out by telling them to “click here.” Everyone wants you to click on their page, and what we all need to know is why we should, not just that we should.
SEO isn’t just some black magic. There’s a real method to the madness, and there are ways to make your site more visible to both search engines and visitors. That doesn’t mean these tips and tricks can be used on their own to create an Internet buzz and fill your site with organic search traffic.
What always has and always will drive customers to your website is providing value. Whether it’s information, products, services, or just entertaining ways to kill time, if you build a website that provides legitimate value, it’ll be found by the people that need it. Focus on providing that value first, and make SEO a secondary priority.
And the biggest mistake you’ll ever make is to spend so much time worrying about these SEO semantics that you don’t ever get a website up. Striving for perfection at the expense of actually getting something up where people can see it will cripple your chances. A real website with no SEO will always outperform a perfectly planned site that’s not even online.