SEO: Myths & Misinformation

How it all started.

SEO started in the mid ‘90s, and much like The Kardashians, it’s power and influence continues to grow to this day. Although it is one of the most important factors of running a successful online business, it’s also the most misunderstood. One of the reasons for all the puzzlement surrounding SEO is Google’s proprietary algorithm. While Google has openly shared a few of its ranking factors with the public, such as speed and mobile optimization, there is still a lot we do not know.

Google is not the only cause of confusion surrounding SEO. Due to misinformation spread by so called “SEO Professionals” getting clear information about SEO is a daunting task. The sad truth is that the more complex a field is the more susceptible it is to this type of exploitation.

The reason shady SEO pros have continued to deceive business owners into paying ridiculous amounts of money is due to lack of oversight and information. There is not much that can be done about the lack of oversight, but you can arm yourself with basic SEO knowledge.

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Common SEO Questions & No Bullshit Answers.

WHAT IS SEO?

Most business owners know SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but what does that mean? Simply put, search engine optimization is a long-term relationship you are building with search engines with the end goal of achieving a higher ranking and increase website traffic, sales, etc.

HOW DOES SEO WORK?

SEO breaks into two primary categories, “On-Site” & “Off-Site” SEO. On-Site SEO consists of the things done on your website to improve your ranking. Off-Site SEO is everything done on other websites to increase your website’s search ranking.

On-site SEO takes time and should be done with an exceedingly high level of precision and care, but it only needs to be done once. Unless there is a large shift in your industry or business, your on-site SEO should not require an update. In fact, changing your on-site SEO without good reason is typically detrimental to you’re websites ranking.

Off-site SEO however, can require monthly upkeep. Things like running paid advertisements on other platforms, building quality links to your website, promoting your business through organic social media strategies. That is just a short list of the many things you can do off-site that can help your ranking.

The most common scam in the SEO industry is to charge a monthly fee for SEO. 95% of the time a business is paying a monthly SEO fee, they are getting almost nothing for their money. Most of the time a small amount of on-site SEO is done and nothing else, they continue to collect a fee from their clients while providing no results or data to show progress.

If you are going to pay a company monthly for SEO services, it should include advertisements, blogging, social media posting or real, quality backlinks. Not sure what a quality backlink is, see What Is A Quality Backlink?

If you are not getting at least one of those four services, you’re probably being scammed.

HOW MUCH SHOULD SEO COST?

It depends on the business and the goal, the same way the cost of rebuilding an engine changes based on the year/make/model.

The cost of your SEO project will be determined by a few factors:

  • The quality and experience of the professional / business performing the work.
  • The size of your website.
  • The current state of your on-site SEO.
  • The level of competition within your industry.
  • How ambitious your SEO goals are.
  • Your timeframe.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR / ASK BEFORE HIRING AN SEO COMPANY?

SEO is not just another service for your business like internet or phones. It is the relationship you are building with Google (lets be honest, no one cares about Yahoo or Bing). That relationship is bound to have its ups and downs, but a well planned and executed SEO strategy should keep your business trending up.

Things to look for:
  • A Well-Built Website – The quality of your website has a large impact on your ranking. If they are not optimizing their SEO, there’s a strong chance they won’t optimize yours either. Would you get a haircut from someone with a mullet? Probably not, and if you do, your also getting a mullet.
  • A Comprehensive Pricing Structure – If they have a “one size fits all” approach to their pricing, it means they are doing the same things with every client, or worse, doing nothing at all. Regardless, there is no such thing as an effective one size fits all SEO strategy. There should be a process of getting to know you and your businesses needs before presenting exact pricing.
  • Off-site Reviews – Any company that has no off-site reviews should not be trusted. Reviews on a business’s own website are as reliable as your spouse’s opinion of your cooking. A reputable SEO company will have reviews on at least one of the following sites, Google, YELP, Facebook or BBB.
Things to ask:
  • What things will you do to improve my SEO? – It seems like an obvious question, but most people are either to uncomfortable or do not think to ask it. If they are good at what they do, they should be able to tell you what they will be doing in a way that is easy to understand. If they are unable or worse unwilling to articulate their SEO strategy, treat them the same way you would a toothless banjo player, run away.
  • Will I receive any documentation of your work / progress? – SEO does not happen overnight, success requires a long-term strategy, patience, and no small amount of luck. However, a legitimate SEO service should be providing documentation on what they are doing and if you are willing to pay for it, progress reports over time.
  • Can you show me a website you have helped rank in the top three? – This one is another obvious question most business owners do not ask. If you are hiring a good SEO company, they should have no problem providing you with a website they have helped to rank in the top three results for at least one keyword.

I KEEP HEARING SEO BUZZWORDS, WHAT DO THEY REALLY MEAN?

Buzzwords are a bullshitter’s favorite weapon. Nothing says “I have no idea what I am talking about” like a long unbroken string of buzzwords that ultimately adds up to dick. Below are the definitions of the most popular SEO buzzwords and what they really mean.

#1: KEYWORD / KEYPHRASE

No BS Definition: A word or words that are specifically used in your websites content because they have a lot of monthly searches in an attempt to get your website a higher search ranking.

Example: If you are selling running shoes made of hemp, a keyword or keyphrase for that webpage might be “Hemp Running Shoes” or “Quality Hemp Shoes”.

#2: META DATA

No BS Definition: Information about your business, things like, hours of operation, customer reviews, your logo, tag lines, etc. that you submit to Google in an attempt to get them displayed on Google search and up your ranking profile.

Example: You might see a websites customer review star rating on their search result, that is meta data collected and displayed by Google.

#3: BACKLINKS / LINK BUILDING

No BS Definition: A link on someone else’s website that when clicked opens up a page to your website to increase your websites traffic and standing with Google.

Example: If your website sells ham, you might get linked to from someone’s recipe blog. This is a backlink.

#4: BLACKHAT / WHITEHAT

No BS Definition: Blackhat means you have done or are doing something in a way that is considered illegal, cheating, or misleading. Whitehat means the task was done using the current, approved method.

Example: If you pay or trade for another company to link to your website, this is a Blackhat link. If the link to your website was established organically due to its relevance on the linking site, this is a Whitehat link.

#5: LOCAL SEO

No BS Definition: Focusing your SEO efforts on a particular area, using specific keywords, links, etc. so that your website has a better chance of ranking for the people who search in that area.

Example: A roofing company that focuses on ranking higher in their service area.

#6: CONTENT OPTIMIZATION

No BS Definition: Changing or updating photos, text or code on your website so that it is easier for Google’s algorithm to read and understand.

Example: Highlighting a word or phrase on a webpage with a header tag so that Google knows what the page / website is about.

#7: SERP

No BS Definition: The pages of results that come up when you type a search into Google.

Example: If you search for basketball, you will get thousands of pages of results for different websites. These are the basketball SERP’s.

#8: BOUNCE RATE

No BS Definition: The rate at which people who come to your website leave without clicking anything or looking at any other pages.

Example: If you have 100 website visitors and 50 of them leave without interacting with your website, you have a 50% bounce rate.

#9: ALT TAGS / TEXT

No BS Definition: Alternate text that appears in place of a photo or video if the photo or video cannot display. It also serves as the description of the photo or video for Google’s algorithm.

Example: If you have a photo on your website of a man fishing your alt tag could be “Man on a boat fishing for trout”.

#10: HEADER TAGS / HEADINGS

No BS Definition: A ranking system of one to six, one being the highest. You use this ranking system to tell a search engine what words or phrases are most important and relevant to that webpage to try and rank for those words or phrases.

Example: If your website sells camping gear, you might use a header tag for “Quality outdoor tents” on the page that sells or displays your tents.

The end.

If there is one thing to take away from this article it to do your homework when hiring an SEO company. Trust your gut, the people who exploit the complex nature of this industry use confusion to try and mask empty promises and worthless services, but if you ask the right questions, it will become easy to spot red flags.

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