Search Engine Optimization

3 Myths About Search Engine Optimization

I hear so many mis-conceptions and perceptions about search engine optimization, that I decided to put them down in a blog post to save everyone time and headaches.

Many business owners don’t have the time to study SEO and what it means for their website, so they have to rely on the opinions of their people or sales people for SEO companies. Both of those types have a vested interest in telling you what you want to hear or making themselves sound more valuable…
No offense, but I don’t really care if you listen to my advice or not, so here is the truth as I see it right now. The internet changes daily, but I will try to keep an eye on this post and keep it updated.

Here is what every business owner needs to know about Search Engine Optimization – Hint: Also know as, SEO.

search-engine-optimizationMyth #1 – SEO will get you ranked on the first page of Google.

Everyone wants to tell you that you need to spend $1,500 a month on SEO and that magic SEO wizards will tweak your site, then magically it will rise in the search engine rankings until they hit #1. Well, guess what, they are all full of crap.
It is true that you probably can’t get to #1 for a competitive keyword without doing some SEO. However, just stuffing some keywords in the page isn’t going to make it happen. There are way too many ranking factors for it to make much of a difference. Search engines like Google take into account 100’s of factors when selecting #1 and the stuff on the page is only part of it.
Back in the 90’s, keywords were the deciding factor. If you had more keywords in the right places than other sites, you would rocket up the charts. The search engines didn’t have much else to go on. The porn industry and other spammers knew this, so they stuff pages with keywords that had nothing to do with what they actually did just to get traffic. Google and others quickly figured out that they couldn’t take your word for it.
A few years ago, Google even admitted in a legal case that they don’t even use the keyword tag at all any more. They still take into account some other SEO factors like: title of the page, address, header tags, image tags, and a little content, but they know better than to trust the person who built the site. People lie to get ahead.
In fact, they started penalizing sites that did too much keyword stuffing on their page, so don’t screw that up or you can actually go down in the search rankings!
So in conclusion, it does help to let Google know what you are trying to rank for by having the key phrases in the right places, but that alone will not get you to where you want to go.

Web Design ProcessMyth #2 – Search Engine Optimization uses key words to improve your ranking.

This one is a little confusing, but I will try to explain. Originally, in the 90’s is was “key words” that helped you. As the search engines improved and millions more websites were built, it became necessary to use “key phrases” instead.

Sure it would be nice to rank for the keyword “tires” if you sell tires, but in all reality, unless you are at Goodyear, that is probably not going to happen. If you own a local tire store, you are going to have to focus on 3-5 word key phrases.

Key phases are also know as “long-tail keywords.” It has been hard to eliminate the word “keywords” from our Internet culture, so some people added the long-tail to more accurate describe what we are doing in SEO these days.

When you think about what you would like to be ranked for, finding a few good key phrases is very important. Most people just take the single keyword and add their location for local searches, for example, “tires kansas city.”

That may work depending on the amount of competition in your local marketing, but it usually helps to focus a little narrower. Something like “buy new tires kansas city” or “tire store in kansas city” or “tires on sale kansas city” will typically do much better.

My advice is to get hyper focused on your products. If you focus your efforts on “Goodyear 18 inch all purpose radials kansas city,” you should find it very easy to rank on the first page. There is also an added benefit. It cuts out all the people who are just looking around, and it only sends you people who are ready to buy!

Some people get frustrated and tell me that no one is searching for “Goodyear 18 inch all purpose radials kansas city” and there are thousands of people searching for “tires” or “tires kansas city.” While that may be true, I need you to think about how you search for things for a moment. Most people will do 2-3 searches before they actually find what they need and they get longer and more targeted each time, plus searches for generic keywords comes with a lot of researchers, image searchers, and unqualified buyers.

It is OK to miss out on someone searching for a picture of a tire. It is not OK to miss out on someone looking to buy “Goodyear 18 inch all purpose radials in kansas city” today.

Google-Search-EngineMyth #3 – Google is a search engine.

Sure, Google calls itself a search engine and most people go to Google to search for stuff, but that is not what is important to Google. They take this stuff very seriously!

Google is a “referral” engine.

This is the easiest way I know to explain what Google does to a business owner. Google is in the business of referring people to the best place to get what they are looking for. Search engine implies some kind of impartial list of results, and that the search is in charge. When in fact, Google has said point blank, they do not treat all websites and searches the same, and they want to protect the user experience by getting them to answers as soon as possible.

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is Google doesn’t care about you or your website at all. They are in the business of referring people to the best sites as quickly as possible, wherever that may be. The good news is they don’t care about your competitor either, so let’s talk about what that means for you.

If you want to get qualified referrals from Google, there are things you can do to make yourself more credible to them. That is really what they want to know from any website they are trying to rank. Can they trust you?

Here are some things they look at:

  • How long have you been around?
  • How many other sites link to yours? (Other referrals)
  • How trustworthy are the sites you link to and that link to you?
  • How professional is your website?
  • How quickly does it load?
  • Do you differentiate each page to help them tell which page is best for each search?
  • How far out did you buy your domain name, or do you think you might be gone next year?
  • Do you have social media accounts and other online profiles?
  • How many pages are in your site?
  • How educational is your content?
  • How do you label pictures and how many do you have?
  • How many positive reviews do you have?
  • Where is your physical location?
  • How many comments and subscribers do you have?
The key is to treat Google like a real-life referral partner. You have to build trust over time, and develop the relationship. You have to monitor your online reputation and doing this in each one of those categories to improve your standing in the online community. Google needs to know, like, and trust you just like any other referral partner.
If you take that approach, you will consistently move up in the rankings, and never down. Some people try to mislead Google by buying a bunch of links from other sites, over-stuffing keywords, and partnering with other sites that do things to push the envelope. Those people will eventually be penalized as Google gets better at refining their criteria, and improving the results. Just like in real life, if you hang out with a bunch of crooks, eventually people will see you as one, regardless of whether you actually do anything wrong.

Conclusion – Take the time to build a strong online reputation, and forget about magic keywords.

Just like building a brick-and-mortar business in real life, there are no shortcuts or magic bullets. It takes time, energy, and resources. Fortunately, it takes a lot less money online than it does in the real world. All of the things I mentioned above are free if you take the time to learn how to do them. If you hire an Internet marketing professional, they cost money but with the right professional you can make Google and the other search engines your number one referral partner, and build a strong online business.

Search engine optimization has the highest return on investment of any type of marketing activity!

If you need help understanding anything on this post, please comment or email me and we can talk it out. I love helping business owners figure out how to do it right, since so many seem to be doing it wrong.