As pay per click has become a more and more competitive marketplace and companies have cottoned on to the fact that it’s worth investing in SEO as a longer-term marketing strategy, a lot of companies have been making a lot of money out of SEO. But as search engines algorithms change so frequently – especially Google’s – you need to make sure your SEO company’s not giving you out of date, or bogus advice that will waste your money and your time.
Forewarned is forearmed, so here are a few lies and inaccuracies that SEO companies might tell you.
“Add keywords in meta tags”
Many companies will come up with a list of keywords that you will have to add into the meta tags for each page. As we’ve said before it’s important to add a concise paragraph into your meta description, but adding meta tags won’t improve your website’s ranking in Google one bit. Google stopped doing this several years ago, and other search engines followed soon after.
“Submit your website to search engines and directories”
It’s true that Google will look at the amount of incoming links to your site and use this as part of its algorithm of where to rank your site, but the truth is that it only counts quality links. Often a SEO company might tell you that they’re going to “submit your site to 400 search engines and web directories”. This isn’t very effective and could actually damage your chances. That’s because if they add links on websites called ‘link farms’ – which are designed to cheat Google’s rankings – you could actually be penalised by search engines.
“A high amount of traffic is good for SEO”
Your SEO company might show you a Powerpoint presentation with a graph showing the traffic to your website sky rocketing. Great, you’re famous! But be sceptical. Where is all this traffic coming from and is it the right kind of traffic?
It’s possible to get high levels of traffic to your site by using directories (see above) or placing links on popular websites. The increased traffic might look good on a graph, but also remember to look at your bounce rate. If it’s high, these people are leaving straight away because your site isn’t what they were looking for, and so they’re low quality visitors. High amounts of traffic won’t improve your SEO at all.The best kind of traffic is from people who actually want to see your site, and if they like what they see, they’ll start linkbuilding for you.
“We can guarantee number 1 result in Google”
Sometimes an SEO company will make a bold statement to get you to the number 1 spot on Google. Definitely be suspicious if they can claim this before they even know what your keywords are! If your keyword is something really popular there’s no chance they can guarantee you’re going to be number 1. What they really mean is they’ll get your website ranking number 1 for some obscure keyword phrase, but if this isn’t the phrase that your prospective customers are using to search, then it’s useless.
And what does number 1 in Google mean these days anyway? After all, everyone’s search results are different on Google now, depending on location, search history and social factors.
“It’s a high-tech process”
Okay I admit, getting your website ranking highly in search engines can be a complicated process, but don’t let them blind you with science and technical jargon.
True there are a lot of mathematical aspects to SEO, but getting people to your site requires a lot of good old fashioned marketing skills – considering who your audience is and where they spend their time online, knowing what content would benefit or interest them, speaking to potential customers using the language they would use not just an understanding of the latest technology.
“SEO is all about building links”
We know that incoming links are very important to your ranking success, but if your SEO company claims it can improve your rank in Google by link building alone, they’re only doing half a job.
Your website has to be optimised for your keywords, and built in a way that allows search engines to spider them easily. There are so many other factors that Google looks at other than links, including your website’s location and page download speed. Don’t forget about these as they’re just as important!
“Higher pagerank will get you a better ranking”
Pagerank is a calculation based on the amount of websites that link to you, and the importance of each link, depending on how many sites link to them, and so on.
This is one of the many factors search engines look at when considering how to rank your site, but it’s certainly not the only factor. Also it’s important to note that the pagerank calculated by toolbars isn’t the real-time value used by Google. It’s only an approximation so take it with a pinch of salt.
“Great content will rank you highly”
It’s true that Google will reward fresh unique content with a high placement, but the depressing truth is that content alone won’t get you up to the top spot.
You could have the best content in the world but if the site is badly built and hard for search engines to spider your pages, you’ll find it difficult to get the attention from Google that your content deserves. It’s a bit like building a fantastic theme park in the middle of countryside and forgetting to build a road up to it. Unique content is essential, but you also need to optimise your site otherwise your great content will go unnoticed.
So remember to take the advice you’re given about SEO with a pinch of salt, or you might find you’re wasting your time making changes that have very little effect. There are many good things you can do to improve your site’s optimisation – The SEOmoz blog usually has some good up-to-date information about SEO. Our advice would be to:
- Be clear on your audience, what they’re looking for and the keywords they use.
- Ask companies to carefully measure the results of any SEO activity they do – ask to see bounce rates and conversion rates as well as the volume of traffic.
- Don’t focus on one area of SEO, like linkbuilding, to the detriment of others – you need a good, all round SEO strategy to be successful, including on-site and off-site optimisation.
What results have you seen from SEO? Or can you recommend SEO companies that you’ve been impressed with? Share your thoughts.