Episode 8: Common SEO Myths, Explained

In our last episode, we examined the fundamentals of SEO. But we also saw how SEO is a constantly-changing game, a world in which rumors, gamification, and outright lies abound. So in this episode, we’ll debunk some of the most common myths about SEO and introduce some best practices to help vault your practice to Page 1 instead.

Episode Transcript

SEO is confusing – it’s a constantly-changing game, one that is subject to gamification, plenty of myths, and some outright lies. Google changes their algorithm over 250 times a year, so it can be hard to keep up. So when it comes to SEO, what is the savvy medical practitioner to believe? 

Hey, what’s up everybody, and welcome to the Medical Marketing Podcast from Messenger – it’s the show where we give you actionable tips and advice to help improve your practice marketing, grow your revenue, and take patient experience to the next level. I’m Crawford Ifland, and today we’re going to be continuing our look at SEO with some of the most common myths and lies people believe. 

Now, let’s be honest: there are tons of lies and myths out there about SEO, mostly because SEO is such a confusing world. Unless you do SEO as your full-time job, it’s hard to keep up with all of the advice and best practices that are out there, and know how to separate the good advice from the bad. That’s why we’re going to look at some of the most common SEO myths in 2019, and tell you what to do instead. 

Some of the most common myths we’ve identified come in three flavors: myths about your website, myths about your content, and myths about SEO in general. Let’s dive in. 

Myths about Your Website

There are three main myths out there about your website and how it relates to SEO.

Number 1? Mobile doesn’t matter.

Google and other search engines now penalize websites who don’t have a mobile version with lower rankings, so it’s really important to make sure that your website looks good and functions well on mobile devices. Over 50% of all internet traffic today comes from mobile phones, so having a mobile-optimized website is essential to both user experience and SEO. 

Fortunately, responsive design makes it easy to ensure your website looks good and is easy to navigate on every device, regardless of size. Refer to Episode #4 on Common Practice Website Mistakes for more information on responsive design, or visit our website at www.messenger.md.

Number 2? I’m not collecting patient information on my website, so security doesn’t really matter.

It seems we can’t go an entire week without seeing another website hack or data leak in the news, we should surely know that website security matters, right? You would think. But too many doctors don’t realize how essential website security is.

If HIPAA compliance isn’t enough to scare you into submission, there’s a real effect on SEO, too (which will have an impact on your revenue): Google now penalizes websites that don’t have an SSL certificate installed with lower rankings. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s cheap and easy to install an SSL certificate – about $100/year. There’s no reason to not have one.

Myth Number 3? My website doesn’t have to be fast.

We’ve already looked at why website speed is important for patient experience in a past episode, but it rings true for SEO as well. Google now penalizes websites that don’t load quickly with lower rankings on their platform, so it’s important to make sure your website and hosting environment are operating at top speed. Using a Content Delivery Network can really help you out here. Our past episode about why speed matters for your website is worth a listen – we’ll have a link in the show notes. 

Myths about Your Website’s Content

Now on to some of the most common myths about the content that’s on your website. 

Up first? The myth that keyword density improves page ranking.

If you listened to our last episode, you’ll know that in the early days Google ranked pages primarily on keywords and perceived authority. In those days, the number of keywords you had on your web page was a good indicator of how well you would rank. The more times you could “stuff” your keywords into the page, the better your rankings would be.

But after a while, Google realized that repeating the same keyword 100 times on a page didn’t actually lead to good user experience, so they changed their algorithm.

As a result, the practice of ranking websites on their keywords has long since been abandoned. Yes, keywords are still important – you’re unlikely to rank for particular keywords if they aren’t present in your website at all – but you don’t need to stuff the pages with keywords in every single sentence.

These days, Google is much more sophisticated, and their algorithms identify content that answers questions and provides value to the user. Google and other search engines are less concerned about the keywords present in a page and more concerned with how useful and meaningful the content on that page is. So while keywords are still important, “stuffing” keywords into a page isn’t going to help you rank any higher. Sorry.

Myth #2: social signals are a major ranking factor.

This myth sees less traffic today than it did a few years ago, but it’s still fairly common. This myth states that social signals from your social media platforms (think the number of followers you have and that sort of thing) will influence how highly you rank. In reality, the only way that social media can be helpful to your SEO is that it provides links to the content you’re posting – and links are important – but lots of links from social media aren’t as important as you’d think. Google and other search engines have had a complicated relationship with the social media giants, so links from social platforms don’t carry as much SEO weight as links from other sources around the Internet. 

As one article from BigCommerce puts it, “We know that backlinks are a ranking factor. We know that social media can have a positive impact, directly and indirectly, on links. But that’s it. Social media popularity correlates with link popularity, but so does being Kylie Jenner. And being Kylie Jenner is not a ranking factor.”

Myth #3: Using Google Ads is the Only Way to Get to #1

It’s easy to understand why people believe this, but it’s a myth nonetheless. Google does not reward advertisers who spend money on Google Ads with higher organic rankings. There’s absolutely zero relationship here. 

We hear this myth all the time, but it’s not true. Google even explicitly addresses this myth on their website, where they say in no uncertain terms that search and advertising are two entirely different products, and one does not affect the other.

Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t advertise on Google – we believe Pay per Click advertising is a crucial part of any successful practice’s marketing plan – but being on one platform doesn’t mean you’ll see more positive results on the other. So if the only reason you’re spending money on PPC is to see higher organic results, you may want to spend it elsewhere.

Myths about SEO as a Whole

Myth #1: SEO Doesn’t Matter

Now, you can call me biased because I run an SEO agency, but perhaps the biggest myth about SEO as a whole is that it doesn’t matter. But organic search engine rankings deliver an incredible amount of traffic and commerce to websites and businesses of all types, so it’s important to rank highly and be found.

It’s not just us: SEO is estimated to be an $80 billion per year industry by 2020, so clearly it’s working for people. Plenty of suspect advice is still out there, but SEO wouldn’t be so big of an industry if it wasn’t leading to real results. So SEO being irrelevant? Definitely a myth.

Myth #2: SEO is a one-time activity. 

This is another prevalent myth about SEO: the belief that you can do a one-time SEO optimization, or “set it and forget it,” so to speak.

Now, doing an occasional audit of your SEO activities isn’t a bad idea, but you shouldn’t stop there. The most successful physicians and businesses see SEO as an ongoing activity, a marketing channel that they’re constantly trying to optimize. And Google’s own data bears this out: they make an average of 250 tweaks and optimizations to their core algorithm each and every year, so just “setting it and forgetting it” is a great way to fall behind the curve very quickly If you want to get the most out of your SEO efforts, you’ve got to put in ongoing effort to optimize your organic rankings as a marketing channel. 

Myth #3: Black Hat SEO Works

In the SEO world, “black hat” SEO refers to those not-quite kosher practices that aren’t very reputable, such as buying links, or anyone who tells you they can get you to spot #1 on Google in 6 weeks for 5 easy payments of $19.99. If anyone guarantees results like that on Google, they’re usually engaging in paid link schemes, private blogging networks, or other “black hat” tactics…and you should run far, far away.

While the short-term perceived payoff of these strategies can seem worth it at first, these black hat techniques can hurt your SEO in the long run, and are therefore best avoided. It’s what we like to call “short-term smart, long-term stupid.” 

In the early days of the internet, black hat techniques were a quick way to get to that coveted #1 spot, but today, Google’s algorithms are far too advanced and sophisticated to allow black hat techniques to work. It’s best to view SEO as a long-term strategy – it takes a lot of work, effort, and time, but it can pay off in a way that no “quick fix” ever could. 

Well, that’s all for today’s episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast – thanks for joining us. Hope to see you again on next week’s episode, when we’ll discuss the proper role that SEO should play in your practice marketing plan.

As always, we’ll have a link to the show notes in the description, and be sure to check out www.messenger.md for more resources on how to improve your practice marketing, grow revenue, and take your patient experience to the next level. For Messenger, I’m Crawford Ifland – see you next week!

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