When businesses are looking to turn their website into a lead generation tool, we always recommend a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Why? Because you can’t generate new leads with a website if prospects can’t find it when they are searching online. However, we’ve found that a lot of people have a bad taste in their mouth about SEO and are concerned it’s going to turn-off potential visitors to the website.
The Trouble With SEO
In some ways, this is understandable and very true. There are a lot of inexperienced developers and digital marketers out there who don’t know how to properly implement SEO so that it improves the user experience. Additionally, there are folks out there who still think that the short-term gains of black hat SEO are worth the long-term consequences. It never is. Google and Bing black-list websites that regularly engage in black hat SEO.
Understandably, marketers can have a negative view of search engine optimization, so we are happy to explain the real value of SEO, how to implement it properly, and dispel any of the myths surrounding SEO. Below are five common myths that we hear.
1. You Can Only Optimize a Page for One Keyword
This myth may have been true about five years ago, but it’s not necessarily the case anymore. The search engines have fine-tuned and expanded their algorithms so now they understand that related keywords will naturally appear on the same page of a website. As such, a particular webpage or blog can rank for several different, related terms.
For example, if a business offers software design and development, when they discuss software design, development-related terms will often naturally appear in the text because they are so closely related. Similarly, a firm that offers “regulatory compliance consulting” and “state filings” services will typically create webpages or blogs that have both key terms on the page and search engines will understand the terms are naturally related and can rank the same page for two different terms.
The caveat here is that it’s typically ideal to focus on one main keyword and then have one or two secondary, related keywords. The keywords must be related in order to potentially rank in search engine results pages (SERPs).
2. Keyword Stuffing Still Works
The powers that be at major search engines, like Google and Bing, have said repeatedly when they roll out new algorithm updates that they are focusing on the user experience and improving search for users. It’s important that they said for users and not for businesses. For this very reason, keyword stuffing (the practice of jamming one keyword into a blog post or webpage as many times as possible to the point of making the content tough to read) will work temporarily and then will tank the rankings. Why? Because it creates an awful user experience.
You’ve likely experienced a website that stuffs the heck out of keywords to the point that it’s annoying. It makes the content tough to read and the website begins to look spammy or untrustworthy. Most users will bounce off a site with keyword stuffing and won’t return. It doesn’t take the search engines long to identify this user behavior and ding the website’s rankings.
3. Site Visitors Will Be Turned Off by SEO Efforts
We’d like to bust this myth right now. When SEO is done properly, it should enhance the user experience, not detract from it. This is one of the main reasons it is so important to work with a reputable SEO firm. Reputable firms understand that the goal of SEO is to get the right content in front of the right user at the right time. This does not mean driving a ton of useless traffic to a website by capitalizing on the top search terms. It means that a website or blog should be optimized for relevant search terms that ideal clients or prospects are searching.
When it comes to lead generation on a website, the focus should always be quality over quantity. For this reason, proper search engine optimization efforts will focus on the right traffic, not the highest volume of traffic. SEO efforts should be fairly transparent to site visitors because it will help direct them to the right content without yelling at them (ahem, keyword stuffing).
4. SEO Takes Too Long to Work
Again, this myth may have been true five years ago but is basically false today. Yes, SEO can take about three to six months to start showing significant results, but it can also start showing gains within a month of implementation. It all depends on expectations. Nothing great was built in one day. And nothing with staying power was launched overnight.
If three months is “too long” for a business to wait to start seeing significant results, then it’s crucial to implement a SEM strategy as well. Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on platforms like Google AdWords or Bing Ads are a great companion to SEO since they tend to get results quickly, depending on the budget allocated.
5. The Longer the Text, the Better
This one is tricky, but we still say it’s a myth because it doesn’t work in all situations. There are reports that say longer text is better for rankings, while other reports say that pages with 500 or so words are ideal. There isn’t any real consensus. Ultimately, it depends on the business, the industry, and you may have guessed, the end user. Does the end user have time to read 1,000-words blog posts? Is the content so technical that it needs at least 2,000 words? Can you cover the basics in 500 words? What works for one company may not work for another. It’s best to follow a standard of about 500 or so words and expand/shorten as necessary. As long as the text is long enough to provide the right amount of information for the end user, you can’t go wrong.
SEO: The Right Way
When it comes to SEO, there are some absolutes that firms should do and should not do. Then there is a more fluid area of best practices that are recommended, but are somewhat flexible to accommodate and improve the user experience. We always recommend that companies work with a vetted, reputable SEO firm that can show proven results. We also warn companies to be skeptical when a firm promises big results that seem too good to be true. Focusing on the needs of the end user and their experience is always a winning solution.
Jeremy Durant is business principal and co-founder of Bop Design, a B2B marketing agency with headquarters in San Diego, CA. Prior to Bop Design, Jeremy developed tailored solutions for Fortune 500 companies in operating in the wireless, biotech, electronics, and food and beverage industries.