Search engine optimization (SEO) is a great way to tell search engines that your small business’s website exists and that it’s trustworthy enough to visit and use regularly. However, there is a lot of misinformation online about SEO that people are exposed to. Not understanding SEO or its purpose can damage your chances of getting any notice from new and would-be customers online.

These are the most harmful misunderstandings about SEO that may actually be hurting your small business.

1: “I’m not #1 on Google, so SEO is pointless”

Getting to be the #1 spot on Google is not only impossible, it’s unlikely to ever happen. Unless you have a big enough budget to pay Google for the number one spot, you will not ever technically reach #1 given that the most widely used keywords (words or phrases people enter into Google to search for) are also the most severely competitive keywords.

You can improve your rank online by optimizing your website and also registering your business with Google and the other search engines. Any agency who is telling you “Oh yes, we can get you #1 on Google in a day” is basically a scammer.

The truth about SEO is, it’s a long-term process. It’s not a magic trick. It is hard work, and it is a commitment. You need to be testing constantly, analyzing all the time, and performing keyword research more than once; after all, the rules that apply to SEO this year will likely change in the next, and the rules right now are certainly not the same as they were last year! Google is always changing its guidelines so that the customers, not the search engine itself, are pleased.

2: “I need money fast, so I’ll use SEO to do it”

This way of thinking has resulted in what we refer to as black hat SEO, i.e. tactics that are used for the sake of get rich quick schemes rather than producing a professional and trustworthy website. This is when a website is created to please the search engine, not the actual customer. On that note, it’s important to know the difference between these three forms of tactics:

Black hat: aggressive and intrusive tactics that do not obey search engine rules and are designed to cater to search engines, not humans

Grey hat: defined as “ill-defined” tactics according to Google’s published guidelines and remain to be disagreeable, e.g. click bait (articles with an enticing headline that’s simply made for the sake of getting clicks while offering nothing else of value to visitors).

White hat: any practice used to improve a website’s performance on search engines while following the search engine’s rules and guidelines.

We only use white hat SEO practices at KIAI. That means the tactics we use may take more time to take effect online than you may like. However, the long-term effect would be a trustworthy and credible website that encourages visitors to return.

For more information as to how we perform tasks, you can check out our page about SEO.

3: “The more links I have, the better my website will be”

While it is important to have links connecting back to your website, it is the quality of these links that matters, not the quantity. One link from an authoritative website such as SEMRush is going to be more trustworthy and have a better click-through rate than over 1,000 links from a website with less authority.

Ten years ago, it was common practice to buy links in bulk and then redistribute them all over the Internet. It was not until 2012 when Google decided enough was enough and they introduced the Google Panda algorithm. This change enabled Google to crack down on websites that did nothing but send out links that had no value to their visitors. Nowadays, such a practice is no longer recommended as it makes a website spammy and untrustworthy instead of the opposite (plus it will make Google REALLY mad at you!).

A single link is not the key to improving a website’s SERP (search engine page result) if it’s struggling. It is actually many parts of a whole that contribute to such an improvement, including keywords, content, meta tags, social signals, context, and links of a higher quality. Producing tons of links will not improve your SERPs if there is no useful content, good web design, or mobile responsiveness.

4: “I need to write my website’s content for Google!”

This is actually the worst way to optimize a website. Search engines are not reading your blog posts—people are! So write your website’s content as you would for people. Imagine you’re having a conversation with one of your customers face to face—they’d think you were weird for talking as if you’re trying to communicate with a robot! That’s basically what’s happening when you’re writing for search engines…and Google is aware of this. They will knock your site’s rank lower down past 50 plus if you wrote content like this, for example:

“Come on down to see us at our dentist office in Burnaby! We have the best dentist office in Burnaby. Our dentist office in Burnaby is open from 9am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday. Call our dentist office in Burnaby today to make an appointment!”

Man, that hurt to just write it down…seriously, don’t create content like the above example!

5: “I’ve added SEO to my website, so now I’m done!”

Wrong again. Search engine optimization is not a task you can perform once for your website and then call it quits. It is an ongoing process that requires commitment and patience. Google constantly changes its algorithm so any tactics you’ve used in the previous year no longer apply.

You have to continuously measure and test the results from any changes you make in terms of SEO or to any changes you make on your website. You can do this by analyzing traffic using software such as Google Analytics. If you’re getting a high bounce rate from the home page or not enough sales follow-through from your website, it’s a sign something—probably the SEO, or the content on the page—needs to change, pronto.

Things You Can Do To Improve SEO

  • Conduct keyword research and conduct it regularly. Like we said, the tactics used for last year are probably out of date, and the same can apply to the keywords you’re trying to target. The best kinds of keywords to use are the ones that people are looking for online and they are relevant to the content you’ve written. Try to go for long-tail keywords (keywords longer than 1-3 words, more like 4-6 words or more). Following this rule of thumb can help your website out tremendously!
  • Be sure your NAP (name, address, and phone number) are exactly the same on your social media, your website, and your business profile on search engines and review websites like Yelp. This will help your website be considered as trustworthy online.
  • Focus less on link building and more on creating content that engages with your audience and improves their visiting experience. Be sure to publish this content to more than just your website; send out email newsletters with the links included. You can also post the links on social media with a little description about why you posted it.
  • Be communicative! If not, your customers will feel ignored and then leave to find the information they need somewhere else.
  • Make sure your website is properly designed: responsive across many devices including mobile, simple design, easy navigation, not too many clicks to pages, and engaging content with incentives.
  • Make your website mobile-friendly. Our article goes further into this and how it can help your business.
  • Make the content unique, engaging, and user-friendly. You can do this by writing and using page title tags, meta description tags, and subheadings.

If there is too much work to be done for your website’s SEO, there’s nothing wrong with hiring an agency for help. Ask questions about their services such as whether they only use white hat SEO or not, and take their claims with a grain of salt. Chances are if they’re claiming they can get your site to #1 on Google in a single day and are asking for a lot of money from you, they’re not worth your time and money.

Angela Hovestad

Angela Hovestad graduated with a Bachelor of Arts at Vancouver Island University, and joined KIAI Agency in early 2017 as a Content Manager, after working in other agencies for the past 5 years. She is responsible for managing our writers and editing their content, and she also creates blog posts and web page content for both KIAI and our clients, as well as helping with the text-based part of SEO. Angie is a writer in her spare time. She likes to write about video games and loves to read books, play video games, bake, and spend quality time with her friends and family.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to KIAI Agency Inc. and a clickable link back to this page.