Post by Annabel Hodges, SEO Associate Director and Harpreet Chahal, SEO Executive
Although Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has been around since the mid-90s, it is still a largely poorly recognised and understood ‘art’, particularly within the wider media world. To try to combat this, Annabel and Harpreet are sharing a few things they feel everyone should know about SEO – combating common myths from different points of view.
SEO never stands still
The digital sphere is ever expanding and changing at a rather alarming rate. Search engines (whether that be Google, Bing, YouTube or even Facebook) are at the forefront of these constantly evolving technologies. This means that SEO practitioners must keep up with them.
In the case of Google for example, the much fabled algorithm is tweaked regularly. We therefore need to stay abreast of what is considered more or less important from a relevancy and rankings perspective. I’m often told by clients, designers and developers alike that SEO is a simply case of ‘putting the keywords that you want to rank for on the page’. If only it were that easy! Everything from how the way the title of a page is shown in the search results, to the impact of various social sites on ranking changes on an on-going basis.
There is no such thing as a one-off SEO fix
In the same way that SEO never stands still, a common misconception is that SEO can work in a project/campaign style like most other forms of marketing. Unlike display or paid search activity, for example, SEO cannot be switched on and off on-the-fly. It takes a combination of on and off-site work, that gradually builds up, to really impact rankings. Competitors meanwhile will also be working on gaining that search engine results page territory.
Therefore SEO needs dedicated, on-going resource in order to maintain sustained improvements in rankings. There are so many short-tail and long-tail  potential keywords to target that a list is nearly always endless, meaning SEO ‘campaigns’ are never really finished. The aim to generate ever-increasing amounts of high-quality relevant traffic and this is a very long piece of string.
SEO is a great brand promotion tool
Short-tail and long-tail: it’s something not enough people stop to think about, particularly in relation to brand. As a rule, most SEO work focuses on ranking for non-brand keywords. This is because most sites should generally appear for their own brand naturally (there are of course exceptions to this rule depending on the name of the brand).
Many companies see that they are ranking organically for their brand and are satisfied without looking at the wider possibilities. In fact, it is often very difficult to convince a brand to look beyond the obvious and consider the benefits long-tail and non-brand organic rankings could actually have on a brand name. In the same way that we nearly always call correction fluid by its brand name Tipp-ex, SEO can help to promote awareness of a brand through ranking on non-brand terms. This can also help support above the line marketing and wider advertising campaigns.
We need to be looking beyond the obvious brand or common two-word ranking targets and consider the broader possibilities of strong positioning within the search engines.
It’s simply online marketing
SEO is simply a form of online marketing. Similar to traditional marketing, the main focus is on growth and getting your product/brand/service in front of your target audience; SEO is focused on getting websites/pages in front of the people that are searching for it, to grow web traffic.
SEO is known for being a bit of a “dark art” as some people have historically used tactics such as link farms, automated content, buying and selling links and key-phrase stuffed pages. However, this isn’t true for everyone – most SEOs are simply marketers like you would find utilising any other media or advertising platform.
SEO is actually about using different techniques such as link building, content creation and creating various strategies to improve the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “organic” search results. It is an on-going project just like any other marketing campaign. Even after you get to the top of the search results, there is still a lot of work to do to stay there. SEO is one of the most important factors in online sales conversion, as it drives traffic to a website and it’s surprising how many website owners have absolutely no clue what SEO is or why they should use it.
SEO Isn’t as technical as you might think
Many people falsely imagine an SEO expert as someone hunched over their laptop in a dark basement altering HTML and modifying metadata all night long. Though there are of course technical elements to the job, but it’s not as large of a proportion of the work as people think.
The majority of the work lies in the fundamentals such as link building, keyword research and content creation. This involves understanding the language used by current and potential customers to find a brand’s website, producing great content that people will engage with, that will potentially go viral, and generating inbound links through blogging, infographics and social media, for example.
SEO is not dead
There has been a lot of debate around the future of SEO with many believing SEO to be dead. However, this is far from the truth with 57% of companies planning to increase spend on SEO  and annual spend expected to reach €2bn in 2016, up from €1bn in 2012 . So as long as there are search engines and people searching for content online, there will be search engine optimisation. SEO is constantly evolving and adapts with the changes that technology brings year after year, so how we do SEO will change but SEO is here to stay.
 For more on this see: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/illustrating-the-long-tail