7 SEO phrases you never want to hear

These cringe-worthy utterances signal trouble for your online branding efforts. Learn how to identify and counteract them.

We’ve all been there. You’re in the marketing meeting, and someone brings up search engine optimization (SEO). I don’t know how they’re bringing it up, but they’ve done it one way or another. Maybe they used some of the phrases below. If they did, you need to know why you wish you hadn’t heard what they just said.

“I know a little SEO; we should be fine.”

No, you won’t.

I understand that quite a few folks learn the basics of on-site optimization. I understand that quite a few folks read SEO blogs, or read marketing blogs that talk about SEO in passing. I understand that quite a few folks learn a lot from the SEO expert who used to work at the company.

That is not the same as being a full-time SEO professional.

Knowing a little bit about SEO is a good way to be dangerous to your marketing department. Without thorough SEO knowledge, it is easy to do substantial damage to your Web rankings. Whether you’re optimizing for the wrong keywords, accidentally using some black hat techniques, or spending all your time on spammy link building, you’re doing more harm than good.

“SEO was already done to the old site; we won’t need that for the new one.”

Good point! SEO clearly adheres to the transitive property, so we’re good here. First of all, this isn’t even the transitive property, so you can throw that reference out. Second, huh?

You spent a bunch of money to optimize your current site. You saw results, you improved in the rankings, you increased traffic, etc. Now it’s time to look at rebuilding your site to improve bounce rate, time on site, user interactions, and conversions. Why on Earth are you discontinuing SEO?

This is the time when SEO can be the most crucial part of your marketing strategy. Changing your site means massive changes in the search engine’s indexes. If you get rid of a page, it needs to be redirected and the links to the page throughout the site need to be updated. If you change a URL, the old URL needs to be redirected to the new. Image sources will need to be updated. Page titles need to change. Content will be adjusted or removed—will your keywords and pages still be optimized?

Don’t change horses midstream. SEO leads to daily changes when your site isn’t going through a major overhaul, why would you shut it down when it is?

We got everything SEO’d back in May.”

Oh, right. SEO is a one-time deal. Somehow forgot about that while doing hours of work every day.

SEO is an ongoing process. I like to relate it to an ad campaign: Your site is the ad, and SEO is what delivers your ad to the world. You wouldn’t create a great ad and then never publish it, so don’t do the same with your website.

Leverage your SEO to get your website in front of more people.

“Our metatags are up to date.”

OK, what does that mean?

Pages can have dozens of metatags of various types (description, author, charset, refresh, name, http-equiv, content, robots, googlebot, google, google-site-verification, content-type, keywords). Far too often, “metatags” means stuffing numerous broad single term keywords into the meta name=”keywords” field. Problem is, this technique went the way of buffalo back in the early part of the century.

Do yourself a favor and remove your meta keywords.

“We made a link contest.”

Oy vey. Do you want to be kicked off Google? Do you hate revenue?

Link contests (see also: link schemes, link building plans, reciprocal link abuse, etc.) seem like a surefire way to speed things up, when all they do is slow your site down. The idea here is based around gaming the old PageRank algorithm in order to gain massive amounts of links to your site as fast and painlessly as possible. The problem is, Google doesn’t much care for it. In fact, it outright forbids it in its Webmaster Guidelines.

Want more links? Do it the old-fashioned way—write content that people want to share, sell something people want to have, inform people about something they need.

If all else fails, post pictures of kittens.

“SEO best practices”

This one is near and dear to my bitter, blackened heart. What’s a “best practice?” Who defines “best practices?” To me, this is account-speak.

From what I’ve gathered, it seems like this means all pages have a title tag (not necessarily properly formatted, nor optimized), a meta description, meta keywords (again, not used in SEO), and maybe (if you’re lucky) proper header tags throughout the site. Google measures some 200-odd elements to determine search rankings. If that’s the case, how are four onsite elements the crux of “best practices?”

SEO isn’t this simple. It’s complex and is beyond learning a few “best practices.”

“We’re going to add the SEO after it goes live.”


So much is wrong with this one. Much of what I discussed referring to continuing SEO after updating your site can be applied here as well. However, there are a few differences here. With a new site, you’re preemptively killing its potential by launching it without any attention paid to SEO. The first signals Google gets from your site are going to influence the next few months of your rankings—don’t launch without SEO, even if it is just “best practices.”

Ever heard any of these in your agency? Have any to add?

Josh Patrice has almost 10 years of experience in the field of search engine marketing, as well as experience in UX Design and Information Architecture. A version of this article first appeared on Portent.com.

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