Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

Three Common Misconceptions about SEO

The following post is from Sean O’Neill MBA’18, founder of Toast! The Toast! tablet helps alcohol drinkers maintain a healthy liver and healthy body, while avoiding a hangover in the morning.

Sean O’Neill MBA’18, Founder of Toast!

As a former inbound marketing consultant, I have run across my fair share of puzzling misconceptions about SEO. But there are three main misconceptions that I have run into time and time again, not just as a consultant, but also in listening to entrepreneurs. So before you decide that you’re going to rely on SEO for your next marketing project, make sure you’re not making one of these mistakes.

Misconception #1: How long does it take for SEO to work?
There is probably no misconception about SEO I encounter more regularly than how quickly people expect it to work. From clients hoping to launch new pages to capitalize on a seasonal opportunity a month away, to entrepreneurs hoping to use SEO to drive traffic to their crowdfunding campaign, many expect that SEO can take effect almost immediately. Maybe not overnight, but at least within a few weeks. Well change “weeks” to “months”, and you’re starting to get into the right ballpark. In general, good SEO will start to take effect after about 4 to 6 months. Of course, even that can be optimistic. New domain? Competitive industry? You might have to wait a year or more to really start seeing the results you want.

Misconception #2: Cheating the system
Facing such an uphill battle, the temptation to cheat can be a hard one to resist, and there is no shortage of unscrupulous “consultants” out there willing to cheat for you. At the end of the day, search engines are just an algorithm, and algorithms can be manipulated. Unfortunately for you, the companies behind the algorithms know this too…and when they figure out how they’ve been manipulated, they come down hard. The history of SEO is ripe with examples, yet some people continue to try (or get scammed into trying) these same tactics, including:

Keyword Stuffing: Cheap, fast oil changes in Boston are best done by oil change specialists at Toby’s who work cheap and fast. Need a cheap, fast oil change in Boston? Toby’s is the place for fast, cheap oil changes in Boston. That will totally rank well for the keyword “cheap, fast oil changes in Boston”, right? No, that will not. While it may have been true 20 years ago, keyword stuffing like the above is now actively penalized (and has been for years). Even keyword density, the percentage of the time your keyword appears in your text, can be a misleading to outright counterproductive metric.

Hidden Text: Call this the natural evolution of the keyword stuffing idea. Google will penalize you if you cram your keyword everywhere? Alright, so you write up some new text, and find yourself stuck because you only have limited space, you’ve used all of it…and you only got to half of your keywords in your new text! So why not just hide some extra text? Make it invisible, set the size to zero, put it behind a picture, etc. Unfortunately, this is another strategy that the search engines are well aware of, and they penalize it heavily.

I need links: If you haven’t caught the theme yet, this should clear it up: more is not better. Just like cramming keywords, trying to build up the value of your site by putting links everywhere (as comments on other articles, in forums, in directories, etc), is something the search engines have learned to see right through. While it may have worked even into the late 2000s and early 2010s, “unnatural” links can deal serious damage to your site’s rankings today. While link building can be a legitimate strategy in some cases (particularly in conjunction with something like, say, blog posts), the focus should always be on reputable, trustworthy, and relevant sources.

Misconception #3: SEO is a one time thing
A lot of the time when entrepreneurs think about SEO, they think of it as a once-off. You research the keywords, you do all your on-page optimization, get yourself links from some strong, reputable sources, etc., and then you’re done. Well, that might send you in the right direction, and might even keep you high in the rankings for a stretch…but if your competitors are more vigilant, they will pass you by. New content, new or better links, site or url restructuring, no matter how good a job you have done, if you rest on your laurels you can always be beaten. If SEO is going to be a fundamental part of your marketing strategy, you need to accept that SEO is not a task, it’s an ongoing process, and you need an ongoing SEO strategy to keep your hard won position in the rankings.

SEO takes time, you cannot cheat it (or at least, you can’t cheat it forever), and even if you do it exactly right, you can’t just sit on your laurels afterwards. But if you’re willing to put in the time and to stick with it consistently, SEO can be one of your most powerful marketing tools. The decision is yours.