3 Persistent SEO Misconceptions [Summary of Search]

SEO has had many changes over the years. As marketers and small business owners have worked to understand its many complexities, several misconceptions have remained.

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Misconception #1: SEO is “free traffic”

Many small businesses are interested in SEO — they see it as “free traffic”. Tired of the ever-increasing click costs of PPC, they are drawn to the siren call of a tactic that will bring free traffic — forever. But this is a giant misconception. Search engine optimization was once a simple process of using the keywords your audience is searching for. And that worked fine  until 2001 or so. But now, competitors are a bit savvier, and ranking in search engines is more like a horse race requiring effort: server configuration, mobile responsiveness, image optimization, tagging, schema, AMP, plenty of content, and — oh yeah — the content should be interesting.

Misconception #2: SEO is one time (rules, competitors)

In the old days of websites and SEO, getting your site “SEO-ed” could be a one-time process. While the web has changed substantially, this view of Search Engine Optimization has persisted. Modern SEO is indeed a horse race, in which competitors must constantly be bettered by:

  • constantly adding awesome content 
  • earning and seeking inbound links

and we think probably:

  • social sharing
  • usability metrics

Misconception #3: High-traffic keywords are the best ranking targets

High traffic keywords can sometimes sound like the best keyword targets, but they are often the worst! High converting keywords are best in every case. Consider this example: Several years ago we received a call from a prospective client that wanted to rank #1 for “Travel”. Wow, I thought: This could be Expedia or Travelocity on the line. But actually it was a Breckenridge Condominium property.

Competing for rankings for the term “Travel” is a really bad idea for (at least) 4 reasons:

  1. People searching for “Travel” do not yet know where they want to go — they aren’t necessary looking for Breckenridge — and we don’t know if they would want a condo.
  2. In a best-case scenario, the site could get to page eight — and that still doesn’t mean any prospects would book a condo. Even page two is a ghost town, with page eight as quiet as deep space.
  3. They are competing at a huge level, way beyond what is necessary to rank number one for “Breckenridge Condo.” It’s crazy inefficient,  like investing in a triple-crown champion horse when you just need a healthy horse to win the race.
  4. In a fantasy universe, a Breckenridge Condo would get to number one in Google — and receive an overwhelming amount of bad leads a day. Keyword targets are also a prequalifying process when done right.

A better approach is for the condo company to first compete for exactly what they are:

  • “Breckenridge Condo”
  • “Breckenridge Condominium”

(These are the keywords with a 100% chance of conversion)

Only then should they look at broader terms likely to have some prospects:

  • “Breckenridge Hotel”
  • “Breckenridge Motel”
  • “Summit County Condo”

This phenomenon isn’t just among condo owners — we all have daydreams of ranking for something that delivers huge traffic. Instead, focus on what your best customers are typing into search engines — just make sure it does have some search volume.

SEO has changed much over the years, and has evolved from a one-time process of using high-search-volume keywords to using targeted keywords with a high search volume and high conversion rate.