A large part of my job is educating my clientele. There is a lot of good information on the internet about SEO and there is equally as much bad information. On top of that, there are different schools of thought when it comes to optimization of a website for search. Here are some common SEO myths that still make the rounds online.
SEO is A One-Shot Deal
It is not uncommon for people to view SEO as a one-time task. SEO is a process that is ongoing. It never really stops. Google changes its algorithm hundreds of times a year, sites jockey for position in search and things online just change quickly. SEO on a website may have peaks and valleys of activity and stopping completely is like stopping your advertising because you have made some sales.
Of course not all changes in search and online marketing are big. Likewise, not all SEO work will be related to what others are doing and not all of it will be a busy, aggressive push. Campaigns can start as aggressive pushes and then plateau to more of a maintenance mode and then go back again to being aggressive. For example you may add new pages to your site, take old ones out and add new content.
There are also tasks that take a significantly long time to accomplish and because of their nature, the work is seldom ever done. Link building is a prime example. High-quality, long lasting links can take a very long time to acquire. Effective link building campaigns can take 4 or 6 (and sometimes even 12) months or more in some cases. Even high quality links disappear and those have to be replaced by other links or a site will lose the benefit of those links. That requires constant attention, analysis and action.
Check out this screen shot from Ahrefs.com showing the rise and fall of links to a website. You can see that there are times when links get lost and others are gained.
Building Links is bad for Your Site
Google explicitly states that it does not want webmasters manipulating search results by making links. This makes sense because if all people have to do is go out and build a bunch of links then search results for users will not be balanced and relevant.
The truth is that there is a fine line when it comes to link building. Doing it right means good rankings for websites coupled with a good user experience. Doing it wrong means a spammy experience for users and potential penalties from search engines.
The kind of link building that Google hates is the very thing most people think of when it comes to link building (especially if they have had a bad experience already). Posting erroneous links in blog comments, spamming forums that you wouldn’t otherwise frequent, submitting to fly-by-night directories and other shady tactics are the links Google refers to in its quality guidelines.
Building the right links can be very beneficial for your website. Links that enhance a user’s experience of your site and/or that provide some value will help your site rank better. We already know that there is a strong correlation between links and ranking in SERPs. The trick is finding the right balance between user experience and promotion of your website. With that in mind, getting links in the following manner is perfectly acceptable:
- Earning links through collaboration with other firms or businesses
- Being listed in high-quality directories
- Having content shared in social media (especially on sites like Reddit)
- Getting content published on other website’s pages or blogs
Earning links from organizations that you have an affiliation with (for example schools where you have offered scholarships to their students)
Ranking Well Is All About Good Content
This is more of a misunderstanding than a myth and do not be fooled. Good content is still very important. Here is something to consider. It takes more than just hard work to achieve the American dream. You also have to work smart. Earning good links takes more than just producing good content. Yes of course once you reach a certain level, people will know your brand of content and know who you are and you may be able to earn links naturally on a more consistent basis.
Until that happens though, you have to promote your good content. You can have the greatest content in the world but its relevance, its usefulness, and its uniqueness are but some of hundreds of factors Google uses to determine where it should fall for a given keyword query.
Writing well-researched and useful content (or producing other kinds of content) should always be paramount but that does not mean you should ignore the other strategies involved in search marketing. Attorneys should still be active on social (sharing the good content). They should still be actively trying to earn links and collaborating with others, advertising their firms and making their presence known in as many places as possible. All of those things combined (with good content as a foundation) will help a site rank well in search.
Lawyers Must Submit Their Site to Google (and other search engines) To Get Indexed
Despite information refuting this fact, I still see services that charge for submitting your site to Google and Bing. Sometimes the fees are hefty and attorneys may be unaware that it is unnecessary in order to get pages found in search.
Google, Bing and other engines crawl and index the web on a regular basis. Unless you explicitly tell them not to index your site (via a robots file or noindex meta tag), those pages will eventually end up in search.
Submitting to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools does have other benefits though. For one, your site will get indexed sooner if you submit it. Setting up an account on either of these platforms is kind of like a notice saying “hey this site is here, crawl it”. The greater benefit though is all of the information you can get from submitting your site. Attorneys can see data on keywords, average position in search, malware warnings, improvements that could be made to HTML and more. These are great tools to measure your progress in search and catch errors as they come up.
Google Does Not Want You Doing SEO
This is a popular myth and perhaps another one where people are misinformed. Part of it has to do with not fully understanding what SEO is. Real search engine optimization is more than just keyword placement, content and methodical tactics. User experience also plays a huge role in the whole process.
For example Google wants you to write descriptive title tags and meta descriptions that are relevant to the page and contain keyword phrases and synonyms that people are looking for. Otherwise they would not be able to find the information they want.
Google wants you to use enhancements like schema markup because it helps them to understand content better and display it for users. They want you to add useful content to your site and to create a good experience for users by linking out to other content they might find useful.
Search engines hate when people spam search results with useless content in order to make a quick buck. They hate it when people try to manipulate rankings in an effort to get pages to the top that have little or no real value to anyone. In other words, optimizing good websites so they perform well in search is a sensible goal to pursue. It is when something poor ranks well and does not deserve to that Google (and everyone else) hates.
Every Page Needs a Title and Meta Description
A lot of SEO software or people selling SEO services will tell you that there are errors on your site because you are missing title tags and/or meta descriptions. These elements are important to search but let’s think about that for a second. Having a title and meta is important for describing your page so that someone will click on it in search (and to a lesser extent they help with relevancy of the page). The pages you want people clicking on are things like your core practice area pages or pages that you use to “sell” your firm.
The main takeaway here it that you cannot believe everything you read on the internet. All attorneys can do is gather as much information and data as possible, come up with the best strategy they can to market their website in search based on those findings and test, test, test. You may find strategies that have worked well for others do not work for you and vis versa.