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Common SEO Myths Dispelled

Posted on 10.31.2013

via Website Magazine's Mastering Search channel ::

Despite the increasing maturity of the SEO industry, there are still many unfounded beliefs, practices and tactics that website owners adhere to in an effort to top the search engine result pages (SERPs) and oust their competition.

Regardless of how many times these myths, half-truths and lies are repeated, they will never help an enterprise optimize its digital efforts. Let’s debunk four of these fallacies.

MYTH #1: Organic & Paid Search Cannot Play Nice

Many website owners fall into two types: those who choose between SEO and paid search advertising/ marketing and those looking for the “right” balance of the two.

Digital marketing technology company Kenshoo and digital marketing agency Resolution Media explored this topic in a Sept. 2013 white paper, The Search Sandbox: Paid Plays Well with Organic. When analyzing the relationship between paid and organic search marketing for a major retail division of Hewlett Packard (HP), Kenshoo found definitive evidence that running paid search alongside organic results provided positive value.

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“This research puts to rest the controversy over running paid search advertising for brands that have strong organic coverage,” said Aaron Goldman, chief marketing officer at Kenshoo in a company statement. “Our study shows that visitors arriving from paid search are more profitable than those arriving from organic search, even when you take into account traffic acquisition costs.”

The report found that paid search drives higher net revenue per visit (NRPV, which is paid search revenue minus the direct media costs from those clicks) than organic search. Plus, even with an organic result at first position, consumers still click and convert on paid listings 39.6 percent of the time. Perhaps even more importantly, Kenshoo reports that paid search is the only viable option when organic results fall off the first page, garnering 93.1 percent of a keyword’s click share (percentage of total clicks achieved when both a paid search and organic listing appear together).

Even if NRPV was equal, having an extra (paid) link on the SERP is more valuable than having just the organic link, according to the search marketing company. By leveraging a paid listing, for example, it takes up space where a competitor’s ad may appear. There is also value in the data that marketers can collect from paid search, such as the originating query or keyword that initiated the ad. Kenshoo recommends companies figure out where the gaps are in their organic search presences and use paid search to fill in those holes.

Kenshoo, and other well-informed agencies, subscribe to the truth that smart marketers are those embracing holistic approaches to search engine marketing. They are also likely the ones getting the most out of their investments.

MYTH #2: SEO is for Search Engines, Not Users

Search engines are evolving; and the richer, more dynamic experience they want to provide users is also changing the way companies need to approach on-site optimization today.

“SEO is not about gaming the system; it’s about making great content and great sites that provide value, are structurally sound and easily navigable by user and search engines alike, as well as demonstrate viable authority. It’s not easy, but it is absolutely worthwhile,” said Smarter Searches Internet Marketing Director Courtney Herda.

The recent Hummingbird update is the perfect example of Google’s affinity toward user-centric search — providing quicker, more relevant information to users. This algorithm change also marks the beginning of a new formal, broader use of semantic markup in the digital age.

By using markup, for example, websites are essentially providing additional layers of data to enable search engines to associate their sites with user queries. More specifically, since the Hummingbird update addresses how “conversational” or “voice” search queries (that take into account context, location and more) can be more useful for a searcher, site owners must provide an immense amount of information to be included in their results and semantic markup provides the optimal way to do that.

Hummingbird Feeder: Discover five semantic markup use-cases to implement today at

MYTH #3: Social is not the New SEO

SEO and social is becoming one of the most effective marketing combinations. The only surefire way to leverage the new social-SEO is to create relevant, rich content that consumers want to consume and, of course, share, like, retweet, +1, etc.

“There’s a saying that says ‘Correlation does not imply causation’ and this applies to SEO,” said Smarter Searches’ Herda. “If you create great content, people will share it. If your content gets shared, it must be great.”

While there might not be an absolute direct correlation, it’s not difficult to see that share-worthy content can benefit your total digital presence (

MYTH #4: SEOs Are Scammers

This industry is closing in on two decades and SEO still doesn’t have a governing body. Companies rely on forprofit companies to tell them what they can and can’t do on their websites — at least if they want to appear atop the SERPs. Over the years, many black and gray hat agencies, consultants, link builders and more have polluted the industry, leading to the common misconception that SEO is a dark art and an industry made up of liars, cheaters, scammers and spammers. Even to this day, according to Herda, it is the most common concern that SMBs have about the practice.

The fact is, according to Herda, that legitimate SEO agencies can do great work. Similarly, many of the agencies that have stood the test of time have evolved into integrated marketing agencies, taking holistic and white hat approaches to Web success.

“The spirit of SEO is to improve your website so that it ranks better,” said Herda. “When done correctly, this means the user engaging in search is getting a better experience when visiting your site because your site is more relevant to their queries.”

The Truth Will Set SEO Free

In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting your business higher in the search rankings, but by leveraging a 360-degree strategy to SEO and looking at content creation, social signals, marketing mix and user experience, you’ll be living, working and optimizing in SEO truth.


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