On the panel this time:


So, let's start - if we were to do a bit of myth-busting, what are the most common misconceptions about SEO? And what are the 'truths'?

Here's a few SEO myths that we hear a lot. Hearing these things from businesses who have been told these things by 'SEO Experts' just goes to show how much mis-information there is in the industry, it seems every person and their dog is an SEO expert these days, with very little actual expertise and case studies to backup their claims. As you can imagine, as I imagine all people in this group also feel, these (and many more) myths that are spread around do nothing to help the businesses investing in real SEO and also do nothing to help the SEO industry. 

A myth that comes to mind: that "SEO is complicated". A lot of people assume that SEO is very complex because it involves some technical aspects and it’s constantly changing. While I believe it’s worth hiring an expert, it’s not impossible to do yourself.

The one 'truth' I've always come across is that those who cater for SEO but don't really worry about it too much tend to rank well. By that I mean instead of those worrying about stuffing their pages with keywords, those who focus on regular creative content that makes interesting use of their data, trends, is well-researched, and connects with audiences in a natural way is probably the best thing you can do.

One of the biggest myths we hear is that SEO is a 'shady' and 'dark art', and that what is done for SEO purposes is as big a secret as the Coca Cola recipe, when we all know that it is more of a science than magic. Additionally, many people believe that there should be no delay whatsoever between SEO work being carried out and rankings' improvements fully taking effect. Again, not true as Google takes anywhere from one to six months to actually register many results.

The truth is: 1) if you write good content and really think about what your target market is searching for, you’ll get the quality organic traffic you’re looking for.  2) When it comes to SEO-optimized content, long and high-quality is what you should always shoot for. That’s the strategy I’ve seen success with dozens of times. And 3) Improving your Google Speed Test score can pretty much guarantee a bump on search rankings. If you’re looking for one thing to massively improve your SEO, I'd recommend getting your Google Speed Test score up to an 80 at the very minimum.

Something arising through talking to a few of you very briefly is that some people peddle SEO around as a service in itself, when really it's part of a much larger 'eco system' of digital marketing. Thoughts?

It's all a chain of events really. No right-minded SEO practitioner would take on a job/task without highlighting the other areas that need focusing on. For example, I'll take on a company's Adword account, only to point out that the landing pages they send visitors to have been poorly constructed, and therefore, even with an increase in click-throughs, they're basically p***ing money down the drain...

Yeah I agree, it's part of a wider thing, hence it slotting in nicely with inbound theory within a lot of agencies. I say the same with content; producing it's great but it really needs to be combined with social a lot of the time to find the right audience and light the fire of conversation/build an audience.

I think standalone SEO's pretty annoying when sold as a service because your essentially paying a lot of money to specifically throw all your eggs in the Google basket. Google will be around for a long time to come but it's not the be-all and end-all; it's pretty loathsome in a lot of respects.

I think that can be a problem - clients / non-marketing colleagues not understanding that SEO isn't an isolated thing where you just push a few buttons and suddenly you're at the top of the search results until the end of time...

"The one 'truth' I've always come across is that those who cater for SEO but don't really worry about it too much tend to rank well."

I can totally echo this. Our most popular blog was written by one of our devs who has never written another blog since. He simply wrote useful content with the aim to just help out other devs. As a competitive blogger in our agency this is quite a bugbear :)

I think that statement only holds true for people who are really clear about what it is they do. You'd be surprised at the number of people we come across who never say clearly what their product does, or who say it in so many different ways that they have no chance of ranking for the actual term people search for. Just swapping one phrase for another in a few places can kickstart a rapid growth in organic traffic, even in competitive markets.

On your last question, Fi, the other problem with SEO being offered as a standalone service is that often that there's no actual deliverable other than recommendations. Where technical changes are required there's not always a budget or inclination to commission that work. Where it's content related there might be a tidy up but weaving those requirements into peoples day to day doesn't always happen. As with many digital channels, I still see a trend from some companies to just get larger online audiences with no measurement plan in place. So yeah, you might rank higher for some stuff but if those folk don't buy/book/attend anything, then whats the point?!

Agree with that last para there. I got a press release the other day and it was really interesting; had been commissioned by a company and the agency had done a great job of producing a creative story angle on the data available to them.

I visited the website and had to wash my eyes with bleach - it was easily one of the worst I've ever seen in my life from a design and usability point of view. No matter how much they pump into PR for exposure and traffic there's no way their site will do much work for them to convert unless it has a serious overhaul.

Going back to the myths of SEO, there's: #1 "Paid links are bad" and #2 "Too many outgoing links are bad". With #1, they're only bad when they're spammy and content has nothing in common. With #2, again, the only time they're bad is when the links serve no purpose other than to temporally boost a sites ranking..

If you consider every step of your SEO efforts to help the user have a better experience then irrespective of what Google does in the future, you'll have a better site, better results, etc.

Ok, my final question on SEO for this evening - do digital marketers really need to employ the use of lots of different online tools (many paid) to get the best results, or is this a bit of a falsehood?

For research? There are ways around it.

Yep research, monitoring, helping you 'optimise' etc

The paid SEO tools are useful for SEO specialists but for most digital marketers they are overkill. A lot of people don't pay enough attention to Google Search Console - start by making full use of that before you consider paid SEO tools. Possible exception - a good site crawler e.g. Screaming Frog can be very valuable.

Speaking with my Content hat on, if I'm looking for questions people are asking (to write a blog that answers it, for example), I'll search on forums related to my topic, see what questions people are asking. I also enjoy going on social and searching for "anyone know", plus my broad keyword to see what questions are being asked in real time. It's very dependent on your industry niche, but I've always found success with it.

Heh and of course the free keyword tools in Adwords are pretty helpful for natural search!

I can also echo that there is gold in Google Search Console. If your blog or page is ranking for a keyword you didn't expect, then amend the page to reflect that more "powerful" keyword for a boost.

I think it's a misconception that you need to use millions of tools to be successful. While there are helpful tools out there, the best way to really see improvement in your SEO is to use common sense. You really need to get inside the minds of your target market.

I really like for research - it has a bored looking dude with glasses on it.

I know a couple of agencies who are incredibly tool-heavy. It's helping them grow really fast, their clients are seeing some great results, too. It's fantastic to see, but the creative side of things can leave a lot to be desired at times. Then again, they're probably not that bothered if they're all seeing a huge leap in ROI across the board.

I suppose it comes down to their goals and their definitions of success, really.

I know Answer the Public well :)   I love that old dude.

In my opinion, most of SEO tools are overkill for many people/companies. They are aimed at the enterprise level whereby they can buy a tool that solves all their problems. In reality, tools can help, but there are a lot of free tools available and often you are absolutely fine with those.

That's it for now. Thanks all!  :-)