In continuation to a relatively popular article I wrote last month on top web analytics myths, I thought I would expand upon the theme of dispelling myths again this month. This time, I turned to some fellow Search Engine Watch contributors to help crowd-sourced a list of favorite SEO myths we've heard over the years. In no particular order, these are our top 10 SEO myths… dispelled.
1. [Insert Fortune 500 Company] does it that way, so it must be right.
If you're looking to the Fortune 500 for SEO tips or reverse engineering their “SEO campaigns”, stop now; F500 doesn’t “get” SEO. Unfortunately, this fact was made famous in several Conductor Research studies over the years, but hit infamy when news hit about bad linking practices at JCPenney earlier this year.
2. Onsite SEO doesn’t matter.
Internal links, title tags, semantic mark-up, and clean code are just some of the onsite SEO factors that will contribute to significant improvements in rankings, usability, and indexing.
3. Paid links are bad or buying links can get you banned in Google.
Paying for links is not always bad. Consider products and services that cost money to use but generate links to your website. These may include directory listings, advertorial content, sponsorships, press releases, etc.
In addition, the relatively recent argument that using paid links will spell doom and gloom for your site should be taken with a grain of salt. Are there ways you can sink your rankings using paid links? Absolutely. Are you going to get banned on Google for strategic placements of paid links? Probably not.
Obviously there is a white hat/black hat/gray hat blur on this point, so please feel free to discuss and comment below.
4. Keyword density doesn’t matter.
This myth is a no-brainer: search engines use algorithms to calculate relevance of content on a page. How would anyone expect search engines not to use keyword density on that page to determine subject matter?
5. Look what I did in [insert non-current year here].
Old SEO tactics are about as useful as worn car tires. Will they work? Maybe, but you’re better off spending time and money to improve your content, fix technical issues, and build links rather than spinning your tires on lame tactics.
6. Matt Cutts [or insert Expert Name or Blog here] said it [insert year here] so it must still be true.
It has never been more obvious that Google’s search algorithm changes significantly several times per year. In addition, hundreds of other signals can influence rankings with varying degrees of weight and decay unevenly over time.
Anything written by Matt Cutts or SEOmoz several years ago should likely be stricken from the record as the game has indeed changed. Google has also changed their tune in terms of public relations with respect to SEO, with Cutts appearing and speaking in greater frequency on expert panels and in videos posted to the official Google Webmaster Help YouTube channel.
7. Content is king.
This mantra has been echoing through the vast conference halls of online marketing for far too long. While content, site architecture, social media and even technical intricacies can contribute to search ranking nirvana, they pale in significance compared to the SEO power of links. Although this argument may be a little “chicken and egg”, it should be noted that we didn’t rule out the possibility for a balance between content and links in the organic search monarchy.
8. Stop paying for keywords that you rank for organically.
There has been a long-standing debate on which is more important – SEO or PPC – but the truth is success in either is mutually beneficial. Rather than turning off paid search completely as organic rankings improve, try to leverage high organic rankings for higher quality score (and therefore lower cost per click).
9. Meta tags have a huge impact.
One might argue that meta descriptions have some impact on search rankings, if Google chooses to utilize them in the search results, but meta keywords died several years ago. Please let them rest in peace.
10. You can’t hurt a site with bad links
In general, bad links scattered across your inbound link profile aren't generally going to hurt your rankings. However, if you're the unwitting recipient of a significant amount of bad links overwhelming the good and you don't do something about it, you could be in for some trouble.
The best protection against spam links or bad links is to be proactive. Measure inbound links on a routine basis, keep an eye on unusual inbound linking, and enact a good link building regimen.
As usual, we're anxious to hear from our community of readers. Heard a doozy of a myth lately? Disagree with one of the above? Let us know!
SES Denver (Oct 16) offers an intense day of learning all the critical aspects of search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC). The mission of SES remains the same as it did from the start - to help you master being found on search engines. Early Bird rates available through Sept 12. Register today!