Businesses are becoming increasingly competitive as the Internet makes it increasingly easy to find the best services, deals, and products. So, it’s safe to say that your marketing strategy is directly proportional to how well you stack up against the competition. Whether through search engine optimization (SEO), social media outreach, thought leadership, paid advertising, or face-to-face networking, those efforts are what lead new people to find and select your business above others.

In virtually any industry, a big part of the shopping process is validating a company online. While pay-per-click advertising can shoot your website to the top of the search engine results page (SERP), organic search engine rankings are still an important focus of a business’s marketing efforts, so your audience sees your business first.

But the times, they are changing (and changing, and changing). Staying on top of the latest SEO best practices – and knowing what to avoid – is key. Below, we debunk four big myths about SEO that can actually hurt a company’s marketing efforts.

Myth #1: SEO is a one-size-fits-all approach.

As every company is unique, their marketing strategy should be custom to their needs and business goals. Instead of getting on board with what another business is doing and assuming it will be equally effective, every company should first ask the following: Will improving my authority online improve my placement in search engines?

Spoiler: Unless you have done a marketing overhaul lately, the answer is yes. We delve more into authority in the next section.

Myth #2: A new or redesigned website needs six months of SEO before it is successful.

While it does take time for a search engine to properly crawl and rank a website, six months is by no means the magic number to start seeing success in the SERP. There are actually ways to accelerate the process and help get organic traffic to your website way sooner.

Coming up with a plan and sticking to it from day one is key. Focusing on the three pillars of good SEO is a helpful start.

  • Relevance: Use relevant terms to lead the appropriate audience to the right pages. Creating audience profiles can help identify your customers or clients and what they need to convert. Then, find out the exact words people commonly use when searching online for businesses like yours. Google offers tools to find these relevant terms, and software can help aggregate the information and analyze which terms are best to have in mind when writing the content for your website.
  • Authority: Establish credibility for your company. This effort has many branches, such as good online content, thought leadership on third-party sites, excellent client reviews, and more. It’s all about showing how you’re the best among your competitors.
  • Proximity: Optimize your website to help people nearby find your business. Using location-specific terms can help your website appear in SERPs for your local audience.

Employing these three steps will allow you to better target your audience over time.

But there’s more. While the three pillars we’ve named should be part of your long-term marketing efforts, there are other tasks that need to happen immediately. Overlooking them can seriously hurt your SEO. Mobile optimization is how your site looks good and works well on a smart phone or tablet. It is key to encouraging people to follow the buying funnel to conversion. And no matter the device, your site should be fast; no one has patience for loading time. Optimizing images with alt tags is a simple and effective way to improve SEO.

Finally, the conversion funnel is a can’t-miss park of any business’s marketing checklist. Once people have reached your website, they should know how to find what they need. In other words, your audience should have a clear path for conversion on your website. Sure, page views and social media shares and reactions show that you are a popular business, but it’s the conversions that inform your return on investment.

All the above efforts can also work for those who are redesigning their website – with one very important addition: proper redirects. One of the most costly mistakes is having incorrect redirects (or none at all) when redesigning a website. This simple technical fix can help a newly-redesigned site long before the six-month mark.

Myth #3: What used to work for SEO will still work today.

Many businesses still put their trust in outdated marketing tactics, which can hurt their rankings in the SERP. Years ago, building many backlinks was a surefire way to improve a website’s rankings in search engines – regardless of where those links came from. Today, having too many links can now be harmful for SEO. Businesses should now employ the “less is more” tactic and focus on getting a few links from credible sites. It’s far more powerful than many links from anywhere on the Internet.

Stuffing exact-match keywords onto a site was another way to boost its rankings. But now, search engines frown upon pages with an unnatural number of keywords. (We’ll go out on a limb and say that readers also frown upon it. Not only does it look like a sneaky SEO tactic, but it also makes web content difficult to read.) Writing naturally and answering your audience’s questions is a more effective approach.

There is also a misconception that constant freshness is still important. There was a time that blogging every day was a big factor in where a website landed in the SERP. Those days are gone now. Blogging every day on a website is no longer necessary to help it rank well in search results. Focusing on those long-form, high quality pages that answer your audience’s questions and help them convert is key.

Myth #4: Online reviews are nice, but they are not important for SEO.

Too many businesses are not proactive about online reviews. But your online reputation score (yes, there is a score) is a critical piece to the SEO puzzle nowadays. Whether it’s Google, Yelp, Facebook, a directory website, or a combination of all of them, reviews are often the first thing a potential customer or client sees about you. That’s why your reputation score can affect your click-through and conversion rates. Likewise, good reviews can give you a competitive advantage.

But what about the not-so-good reviews that are hurting your score? You may actually be able to have some (or all) of them removed. Many reviews violate a website’s or search engine’s terms of service for one reason or another. If you can identify reviews that violate the rules, you can have them removed to protect your brand and improve your rating. The same thing goes for competitors’ reviews – you can request to remove fake reviews that are only there to positively boost their ratings – which is a simple way to level the playing field.

Every business should frequently audit whether they are still employing valid marketing approaches. But when you’ve got a company to run, this task can go to the wayside. Our professional, experienced team is here to help. To get started with an audit, give us a call today.