Common Myths About SEO
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Even though Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been around for more than 25 years, there are still a lot of people trying to sell things on the Internet who don't understand how it really works. There's nothing wrong with that, after all, that's how people like me get jobs as SEO experts to advise and guide companies.
Over the course of my career, I've noticed there are certain misconceptions that seem to persist. I think these myths make it harder for companies to get the SEO support they need, so in this post, I'm going to clear up the most common myths about SEO:
Myth #1 – SEO is Fast
Anyone considering investing in SEO should know that it is a long-term strategy. Let me say that again – SEO takes time.
When I was working as an independent consultant, I would talk with different companies every month. Time and again, I saw that they were too focused on short-term gains and KPIs. When companies are focused on the short-term, they are often afraid to invest in things like content and partnership-building.
The three pillars of SEO are infrastructure, content, and partnerships/link acquisition. Typically I can review the infrastructure of a site and make recommendations in a finite period of time. Content and partnerships are where your long-term strategy comes into play. Yes, it takes time and money to see results in these areas. But I strongly believe that any SEO strategy that doesn't include all three pillars is incomplete and likely to fail.
Myth #2 – SEO is Cheap
A lot of people think you can hire an SEO manager through Fiverr or Upwork and be done with it. You are welcome to try it, but in my experience, it doesn't work well. With SEO, you get what you pay for. So if you are looking for a bargain, you will likely get a low level of service, and/or poor results. There have even been cases of poor SEOs causing your site to get penalized by Google, and then you have to pay someone like me to fix what they messed up.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of fake SEO "experts" located in places like India. Their rates are very cheap, but the quality is not there. This route won't get you the same level of personalization. A real SEO expert does cost more, but they can step in and create a robust strategy for your website that is tailored to your actual business goals.
So how much will effective SEO consulting set you back? I would expect to pay at least $5,000 U.S. per month for a consultant who is dedicating 70-100% of their time to your business. If that's out of your budget, you can usually find a consultant who is willing to go lower on the monthly retainer for a smaller time commitment. For example, you may be able to set up a contract where you are paying $3,000 U.S. per month for 40 hours of consulting spread out over the month.
Of course, all this depends on where you are located, the nature of your business, and the level of expertise you require. I'm including these numbers as a guideline, but it's important to find and vet candidates and then ask their individual rates. For more on this, check out my guide to Hiring A Badass SEO.
Myth #3 – "I don't really need to hire an expert."
This myth isn't really specific to SEO. A lot of people believe they can train the right person to do a job, even if they don't necessarily have lots of experience. This is certainly true in some cases – but not for SEO.
When it comes to bringing in SEO support, there is definitely a hierarchy. It is great to have someone in-house, who is 100% dedicated to your team and mission. But you will likely get the best quality from a consultant, as they typically have the most experience handling a variety of complex situations. (Agencies will claim to have this level of experience, too. But it's an open secret that agencies usually just hire consultants. Hiring a consultant directly saves you a bunch of money.)
OK, yes I admit I am biased because I have worked as a consultant. I actually recently went in-house with PieSync, so they have the benefit of my deep experience across SaaS platforms and global markets and they get my full attention.
With SEO, there are so many variables. The market for your product, the competitive landscape, the amount you are investing in content, the infrastructure of your site – these are just a few of the variables that come into play when creating and executing an SEO strategy. When you work with a consultant, you are working with someone who has deep experience across all these variables and more. They can tweak and manipulate all these factors to create a strategy that's unique to your site, and your business goals.
Myth #4 – You Do It Once and You’re Done
For some reason, people tend to think SEO is a one-time push that will give your website a boost forever. This belief is especially common among startups. SEO strategy is based on the market, Google's algorithms, and keyword rankings. These things are always changing! Investing in SEO one time is not enough – you need to have an ongoing strategy. And when you work with an expert or consultant, they can step in and make adjustments as necessary.
What does change after the initial push is that you can often switch from hiring an outside consultant to having someone in-house. Often an in-house SEO consultant will be more junior, so even paying them as a full-time employee you will likely not spend as much as you would on a consultant. Ideally, hire this person so their time overlaps with the contract of the initial consultant. That way the expert can train the more junior SEO, and help them to plan execution of your long-term strategy.
Myth #5 – Results are Guaranteed
There are two types of SEOs – one who will guarantee everything and one will not offer you any guarantees at all. I fall into the latter category.
I know what I'm doing when it comes to SEO. I identify and track KPIs and diligently follow data on traffic and revenue. There is a lot of knowledge, planning and understanding that goes into building a good SEO strategy. But even with all that training and meticulous effort that goes into it, there is never a guarantee. As I mentioned before, there are just too many variables that impact search results. If someone guarantees certain results when pitching their SEO services, it's probably a scam.
I have always been up-front with my clients about this as well. I have great stats to back up my capabilities – when I worked for Monster.com our organic search traffic increased 116%. At Zapier, they saw a 150% increase after bringing me on as their first dedicated SEO. And not just any traffic. Qualified and highly converting kind of traffic.
Basically, I tell people that in the short-term they should not expect to see any ROI. It can really take a full year of investing in good content, website infrastructure and business development to get the results you want. But if you stick with it and focus on the long-term, the benefits to your organic search traffic can be huge.
Myth #6 – Guest Blogging is Bad for Search
Guest blogging is the practice of having a high-profile writer or thought leader contribute something to the blog section of your website. If you do this right, it's absolutely good for your SEO. Any search of your guest blogger's name can lead users to your site, and (ideally) the guest will link to the content from their site – providing you with a valuable link that builds your site's credibility in Google's eyes.
I think this myth started because some guest bloggers have inserted sneaky links into the content that show up as red flags for Google. For example, let's say you have brought in a guest to write about marketing automation for your company blog. If this post inserts links to health supplements, Google will flag this content as irrelevant to the key topic and you could be flagged. So avoid working with guest bloggers who are out to make a quick buck off of health supplement promotion.
There are some simple steps you can take to vet your guest blogger content to make sure it's doing a good job of boosting your search ranking. As with any content you invest in, guest content should be high quality and give value to your users. Look for topics that provide a solution to a real problem. As far as Google is concerned, good content is good content. It doesn't matter whether the person writing it is a guest or someone within your marketing team. You can proactively avoid any problems by creating guidelines for guest bloggers, doing your own keyword research, and do a quick review of the content for publishing to make sure all the links they've included are relevant to the topic at hand.
There you have it, those are the top six myths I see in the world of SEO – dispelled! Did any of these surprise you? Are there other myths you know of, either in SEO or other areas of digital marketing? Please share your thoughts in the comments!