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Myths and Misconceptions about SEO

The inner workings of search engines like Google and Bing are closely-guarded trade secrets. Because of that, there's a lot of misinformation (sometimes intentional, sometimes just due to faulty guessing) that exists on the subject of how to work with search engines most effectively. Here are a few of the things we've heard most frequently:


Contributing to SEO efforts requires extensive training and technical expertise.

While it's true that "SEO Specialist" is often a full-time position, a key thing to remember is that the ultimate goal of a search engine is to bring people to great, relevant content. That means that anything that you're doing to provide complete, useful information on awesome pages is — at least on some level — helping with SEO.

University Marketing and Communications subscribes to an online platform, BrightEdge, to aid in LETU's SEO efforts. Features include a weekly scan of the website to suggest general best practices, as well as page-specific update recommendations for search queries that we target. We dedicate time to SEO efforts site-wide on a regular basis, but if you'd like to partner with us on a deeper level for your pages in particular we'd be glad to discuss the role you can play.


There are secret tricks that are guaranteed to get your page to the top of search engine rankings.

Google and the other major search engines devote a huge amount of effort and resources toward making sure that the pages at the top of search results are the highest-quality, most-relevant pages for the user's search. They have a vested interest in making sure that the only "tricks" that work in the long term are the ones that lead to a page that legitimately belongs at the top of those rankings. In fact, as such tricks draw the attention of the search engines, they've been known to penalize those sites in subsequent rankings.

The best long-term strategy is to align your goals with those of the search engines: produce awesome, relevant content. University Marketing and Communications can help you identify topics and assist you in putting your content together in a way that's clear and uses search-engine-friendly practices for structure and underlying code while still presenting an engaging experience for your visitors.


The only thing that matters to my search engine rankings is what's actually on the page (or, once I've finished writing my page, I'm done).

Say you're given two pages on the same topic to compare and rank like a search engine would. You'd obviously begin by reading both of them. But if you then found out that one had been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal, while the other was posted to someone's personal blog, you'd factor that information into your evaluation.

In a similar way, modern search engines look at not just the relevance of a page's content, but also the page's reputation (SEO professionals will usually call this the page's "authority"). A wide variety of factors contribute to that reputation score — for example, your pages on LETU's website likely receive a small boost simply by being on a .edu domain — but the single element that you have most control over is external links. If your page receives links from other pages or shares on social media, modern search engines take that as an endorsement of your content, and adjust your page's overall rank accordingly.


Search engine rankings are the same for everybody who performs a search.

Search engine results take a wide variety of factors into account, and some of those factors are related to the user who's doing the search, such as:

  • Geography - search engines will attempt to highlight businesses, attractions, etc. that are relevant to a user's physical location.
  • Intent - search engines monitor search activity to attempt to understand what a user is trying to accomplish, and present results accordingly.  (So someone who's in the market to purchase a motorcycle and someone who's in looking for a grand piano might see completely different information when searching for "Yamaha.")