Marketing Efforts Commonly Mistaken for SEO


Though SEO is not as unheard of as it was in years past, misconceptions about this type of digital marketing continue. One of the most pervasive misconceptions is simply what qualifies as SEO. In many cases, online users will conflate various other types of online marketing strategies with SEO. 

This may be a particularly common misunderstanding among independent, self-promoting users who may consider any effort to get their content in front of eyes to be SEO. While SEO is an incredibly valuable element in many marketing efforts, it often works in conjunction with other types of marketing strategies. 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)


SEO and SEM are sometimes referred to interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Rather, SEO is a subcategory of SEM. Search engine marketing (SEM) is an umbrella term for any efforts to strategically interact with search engines to meet your marketing objectives. Meanwhile, search engine optimization (SEO) is focused on optimizing search engine visibility related to organic search, specifically. 

Paid Search

What-Is-Not-SEO-2Paid search is another element of SEM along with SEO. While SEO is focused on optimizing for search engine visibility based on organic search, paid search is a more direct approach that involves paying for visibility related to certain keywords. Typically, this is accomplished through services such as Google Ads. Both approaches are valuable in terms of building visibility. 


However, organic search strategies often take longer to cultivate successfully while being more cost-effective in the long run. Additionally, organic search can provide more benefits in terms of boosting far-reaching keyword and authority signals throughout a website. This is in contrast to paid search, where increased visibility is more specifically concentrated on the visibility of the specific keywords indicated in your paid search efforts. 

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

What-Is-Not-SEO-3While SEO and SMM can support each other in a digital marketing strategy, they are very distinct aspects of digital marketing. SMM involves the strategic development of and interactions with a social media following. This involves efforts such as choosing the right social media platform, determining the interests of your audience, and regularly interacting with your audience.


SEO can support SMM through efforts such as optimizing text and tags. Meanwhile, social media marketing can support SEO through efforts such as building a reliable audience that may draw valuable backlinks to your associated web pages. However, by and large, these two elements of digital marketing are separate in their strategy and scope. 

Direct Outreach


Direct outreach is a marketing effort that involves reaching out directly to individuals or entities that you think may be interested in your product or service. Cold calls and emails are an example of direct outreach. While these efforts can build visibility and brand awareness, these results are achieved through different means than those used by organic search. 


However, direct outreach can be used to benefit SEO objectives within a very narrow set of circumstances. For example, an SEO professional may reach out to a webmaster to request a backlink to a target webpage. They may also ask a webmaster to post content that is built to draw backlinks to the target webpage. 

Affiliate Marketing

What-Is-Not-SEO-5Affiliate marketing is a process where a separate individual or entity promotes another’s product or service with the understanding that they will receive a commission related to the clicks or sales they prompt. This may be approached in a variety of ways. For example, the affiliate partner may make a promotional post on their social media platform, or they may place a link on their own website. 


Affiliate marketing efforts can drastically increase the visibility of a product or service on a platform. It is, however, largely accomplished through different means than SEO, although SEO can be used to further boost the reach of the message. For example, the strategic use of tags and keyphrases can further improve the reach of posts on various social media platforms. 

Outdated Tricks


Another common misunderstanding related to SEO has to do with the strategies involved. There are many outdated “tricks” that are commonly thought to represent key SEO strategies, which are no longer best practices. In fact, some of these strategies may have never been effective strategies in the first place. 

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the practice of forcing as many relevant keywords into content as possible. Search engines increasingly identify this content as featuring unnatural language and demote it. It is important to note, however, that keyword optimization is still a valuable strategy. Keyword-optimized articles should, instead, strive to use natural language to appeal to human readers.

Writing for Robots

Your content should be written with a human audience in mind. This seems obvious, but outdated SEO strategies would often be more concerned with optimizing content according to the assumed interests of the search engine algorithm and its supporting technology. However, these tools have become more sophisticated when it comes to identifying natural language that is useful to human readers. This leads to search engines often promoting such content. Despite this, however, technical SEO audits can still be used to optimize content for robots without compromising usability for humans. 


As in the case of keyword stuffing and content geared toward robots, over-optimized content can result in unnatural language patterns. Unnatural language patterns are language patterns that seem unusual or awkward to human readers. Since search engines are prioritizing helpful content more and more as time goes on, this may result in the demotion of over-optimized content in the search results. 

Articles for Every Keyword Variation

In the past, some search engine optimizers would create separate articles for every variation of a keyword. This is no longer considered a best practice as this typically results in content cannibalization. Content cannibalization is the practice of rehashing content in multiple articles, potentially diverting traffic away from the more valuable piece.

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