by Daniel Threlfall, Search Engine Journal
It’s not easy being an SEO. There’s a ton of mythbusting that has to happen in order to coax your clients to success. Whether you’re educating customers or trying enhance your own site’s SEO, you need to be aware of several persistent beliefs that can lead to SEO disaster. What follows are three SEO lies that people still think are true about SEO.
“I should optimize my anchor text.”
Even in the ravaged landscape of a post-Penguin 2.0 world, there are survivors who think that optimizing anchor text will boost them higher on the SERPs. While recently talking with an online business owner, I was nonplussed at his insistence that optimized anchor text was the way to go. “It might work,” he argued, if he optimized every single anchor text both for both onsite and offsite SEO.
Actually, no. No, it won’t.
The misdirected concept goes like this — “If I optimize my anchor texts, I’ll get better SEO.” For sake of example, let’s say you want to rank for “cheap Nokia phones.” If you believe the optimized anchor myth, you would use the keyword “cheap Nokia phones” and link to a page on your site, probably containing the words “cheap Nokia phones” somewhere on it.
The myth may be more nuanced, however. Since many web professionals realize that such blatant anchor optimization is a no-no, they’ve taken to trying a diversity of anchors. Instead of hammering a single optimized keyword, they use a lot of differing (yet still optimized) anchors, thinking that perhaps the diversity will improve their link profile. They might use
- nokia phones for cheap
- cheap nokia smartphone
- buy nokia smartphone cheap
- nokia phone cheap
- get nokia phone online
- new cheap nokia phones
Each of these are different anchor texts. Thus, the eager business owner imagines that such diversity will somehow get him on the first page for anyone who’s looking for a Nokia phone on the cheap.
In spite of the different keywords used, this is still a risky tactic. Why is it risky? Do you remember Penguin 2.0? Google unleashed this update in part to target overoptimized anchors. Every single link to your site is stored in a data set called a “link profile.” This profile, which is critical to your site’s SEO, signals how many links your site has for certain keyword. The greater your concentration of optimized anchors, the more danger you are in of having a compromised link profile that will signal spam triggers and penalize your site.
SEO best practices guard against optimized anchors. Instead, use anchors that contain sentence fragments, branded anchors, or even naked URLs. A site that contains optimized anchors is a site that is in risk of being penalized.
“Throw enough mud on the wall; some of it will stick.”
Another common belief is that SEO is a haphazard free-for-all attempt to do anything and everything that might help. ”Let’s do SEO!” someone in upper management shouts. So, a team of lackeys scamper off to do social media, onsite optimization, directory listing, Tumblr blogs, article submissions, viral videos, backlinks, blogging, and whatever else they can dream up.
This is not a strategy. This is a careless and ultimately harmful practice. Haphazard SEO attempts yield hazardous SEO results. SEO is not about doing everything you can and hoping that something, somewhere, somehow might actually help. SEO is not a mystery; SEO is a strategy. Many of those ideas above — onsite optimization, social media, etc. — are great ideas. However, they need to be rolled into a streamlined strategy.
The alternative is to develop an SEO approach that provides real ROI and ensures that you will gain ranking. Such strategy involves three main areas.
- Onsite optimization. The only way for SEO to be successful is to make sure that the site itself is healthy and optimized. Use the right keywords, optimize your metadata, and improve your content. Ensure that your SEO strategy includes a blog hosted on the same domain, regularly updated, and full of rock-solid material. Onsite SEO is the core of any successful online presence. But onsite perfection alone won’t cut it.
- Social signals. There’s got to be some sort of social activity on your site in order to truly gain rank. A page with zero links to social accounts or zero presence on those social accounts is a page that won’t ultimately succeed. Create an engaging social presence among your followers, and keep it connected to your website.
- Backlinks. The final and indispensable component of an SEO strategy is backlinks. Whether you use the services of an SEO company or launch your own guest-posting campaign, it is absolutely crucial that your site have a strong link profile. No site will gain rankings without gaining backlinks.
These three focused practices do not constitute mud-on-the-wall efforts. You can do better than that. Organize, streamline, focus, and ultimately dominate SEO without a single splatter of mud on your clothes.
“We’ll get first-page rankings in a few weeks.”
“How long will it take?” I’ve heard this question a million times. And I get it. We all want to see skyrocketing rankings right away — a nice line graph that goes every higher. We want first-page search results in record time. We want the first position on Google by the weekend or at least before the end of Q3. We all want results, and we want them yesterday.
Unfortunately, SEO doesn’t work that way.
This wait-a-long-time-for-results thing is a huge cause of discouragement with SEO. “SEO is not working” is code complaint for, “I don’t have the patience for SEO.”
Here’s the truth about SEO: It’s a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race deal. I was on the phone with someone last week, and I used this very phrase — “slow and steady wins the race” regarding SEO. The person retorted, “I disagree with you; as long as you’re doing it right, you’ll rank immediately.”
I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. In spite of the rapidly changing nature of the industry, SEO requires a longview for longterm success.
So, let’s go back to that question — “how long will it take?” As you probably anticipated, there is no easy answer, let alone a single answer. The speed at which one attains SEO results depends on the quality of the SEO, the health of the site, the DA level of the linkbacks, the quality of the link profile, the competition level of the niche, the status of current rankings, and about a million other factors.
I typically warn clients that even the healthiest SEO effort will require at least three months before they will see a measurable increase. If someone is looking for instant results, SEO is not for them.
It’s not easy to disabuse ourselves of such misguided SEO notions. Besides, the industry changes constantly. Today’s best-practice may become tomorrow’s myth. As of this right now, however, you can go ahead and bid adieu to these three myths.