Have you ever overheard something at a conference, or read something on an industry blog and thought to yourself, that can't possibly be true? Or do you keep hearing something inaccurate being repeated over and over even though you know it's definitely not true?
Well, Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts also keeps hearing some of those SEO myths getting repeated and addressed them in a recent webmaster help video.
1. Paying For Google AdWords = Higher Organic Rankings
Not surprisingly, the first one he mentions is regarding advertising. The myth: if you pay for Google AdWords, then you'll rank higher in the organic search. Then, there's the exact opposite conspiracy theory: that you'll rank better in organic search results if you don't buy ads.
"We sort of feel like we should get those two conspiracy camps together and let them fight it all out," Cutts said. "And whoever emerges from one room we can just debunk that one conspiracy theory."
2. Google Changes Its Algorithm to Force People to Buy Ads
Another common one is that Google exchanges to the algorithm in order to drive sites traffic down so that they’re forced to buy ads to compensate for the traffic.
"There's a related conspiracy theory, or myth, which is Google makes its changes to try to drive people to buy ads. And having worked in the search-quality group, and working at Google for over 13 years, I can say, here's the mental model you need to understand why Google does what it does in the search results.
"We want to return really good search results to users, so that they're happy, so that they'll keep coming back. That's basically it. Happy users are loyal users, right? And so if we give them a good experience on one search, they'll think about using us the next time they have an information need.
"And then, along the way, if somebody clicks on ads, that's great. But we're not going to make an algorithmic change to try to drive people to buy ads," he said. "If you buy ads it's not going to algorithmically help your ranking in any way, and likewise, it's not going to hurt your ranking if you buy ads."
3. Black Hat Tricks: The Best Way to Rank No. 1
Cutts also says that he wishes webmasters would think for themselves more, rather than relying on things they read in the black hat forums or as part of a “group think”, and thinking whatever the latest ranking fad is, that it’s the one that going to make them rank number one.
"Never be afraid to think for yourself," Cutts said. "It's often the case that I'll see people get into kind of a group think."
Cutts gave the examples of article directories, guest blogging, and link wheels as some "fads" people believed would help you to rank number one.
"And if you think about it, if somebody had a foolproof way to make money online, they would probably use that way to make money, rather than packaging it up into an ebook and selling it to people, or patching it up into a tool and selling that to people," Cutts said.
4. SEO Tools Will Solve All Your Problems
He also cautions about various SEO tools and how people should be a little bit wary about buying the software packages that market themselves as the ultimate and only way to rank number one.
There are plenty of automated tools and SEO software packages sold on various webmaster and black hat forums, but despite assurances, many of them leave footprints that can eventually get tracked down and penalized.
"And so the idea that you're going to be able to buy some software package and solve every single problem you've ever had, is probably a little bit of a bad idea," he said. "I read an article recently where someone was talking about using some automated software package, and trying to do white hat SEO with it, which to me sounds like buying a gun and trying to use it as a hammer.
Cutts warns that you can potentially dig yourself into a hole.
"Just because somebody says they made a lot of money online doesn't mean they really made a lot of money online," Cutts said. "If they really made a lot of money online, they'd normally keep doing it, rather than tell you about it. So just approach some of the tools and services and products that you see on the various boards with a little bit of caution."
Not a Myth: Give Searchers What They Want
It’s a great idea to think about the way Google wants to rank pages, and think about how your site can meet those goals, rather than tricking Google into thinking your site is the one to be serving up as number one.
"And if you keep the mental model of, what is Google trying to do – we're trying to return great search results for users – then that helps you figure out how to align yourself with those goals, because if you're aligned with those goals, then we're going to want return the high-quality pages that you're making.
"If you're not aligned with those goals, if you're trying to do fly by night, churn and burn, black hat, spam, stuff that only lasts for a couple of weeks before we catch it, you're always going to be working in opposition to the algorithms, and you're always going to be working in opposition to regular users and what they want to see," Cutts said. "So they're going to be kind of angry when they run across your stuff if they're at all tech savvy."
He also reminded webmasters that Google isn’t thinking about money when it comes to how they present their organic search results. They are just thinking about how to give the searcher the best search results.
"It's kind of interesting how a lot of people just assume Google's thinking about nothing but the money, as far as our search quality. And truthfully, we're just thinking about, how do we make our search results better? And that's served us pretty well for a long time, and I expect us to keep doing that for a long time to come," he said.
It was great to see a webmaster help video dealing with some of the search myths and conspiracy theories. Many of us hear them repeated so often, especially by those who have just been penalized in some way.
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you'll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.