As Web marketers or online business owners are inundated daily with information about search engine optimization (SEO). One expert says one thing, another expert offers completely different facts. This leads to confusion about what really is going on in the SEO industry.
We have conducted comprehensive research to determine what really works and what does not. Read thoroughly these 50 SEO myths and stop being fooled by so-called “SEO experts” that simply create empty buzz. SEO was, is, and will continue to be a vital part of online marketing strategy, no matter what.
Myth 1: Only the No. 1 rank matters
There continues to be a strong emphasis placed on topping search results, whether on Google Search, other engines, or even in social media. But surveys have shown people quite often will scroll down through the page. Being on top of a second page, for example, can still generate traffic. Also, search ranking is only one part of the puzzle. Google now places other results on the page such as social recommendations and local results, which means there are many more avenues open to you. Being in first place is no longer as crucial as it once was.
Myth 2: You can do SEO with no outside help
Doing SEO simply means that you follow a set of techniques and procedures to increase the chance Web users will go to your site. While it is true that anybody can learn these techniques, SEO can be complex — it touches many areas such as online marketing, coding, technical aspects and PR skills. Most business owners simply do not have all the skills required to do a great job at SEO. That is why so many agencies exist that offer help. IT workers and online marketers need professional aid to get great results.
Myth 3: META tags are very important
It used to be that every page on your site needed META tags to rank well. Those are small pieces of code that gave Google a list of keywords and a description. The search engine used the tags to find out what your website is about. Now, however, those do not affect your ranking at all. Google and Bing no longer use META tags to index sites. However, they are not useless. For example, your description tag will be the text that often appears next to the link that shows up on the search result, so it’s still a useful piece of the action.
Myth 4: Keyword-rich domain names are ranked higher
Back in the dotcom days, it used to be that Google placed a lot of importance on domain name and, if you could get a name that had your keyword in it, you would gain a big advantage over other sites. This is why a lot of companies in the late ’90s bought domain names for a lot of money. But now, the indexing process only looks at the actual content of your pages, and not the domain name. That name is still important, because people still get to see it, but it will not make you rank higher.
Myth 5: You have to submit your site to Google or other search engines
All search engines used to have URL submission forms where you could send your site to Google and others. In fact, they still do, but that process is unnecessary. The crawlers that these engines use now are sophisticated enough that any new site will be found in a matter of days, if not hours. The only time you would need to submit your site is if it was not indexed automatically after a couple of days.
Myth 6: Submitting a sitemap will boost your rankings
Google offers a webmasters interface and, from there, you can submit a sitemap, which is an XML file containing links to every page on your site. Some site owners take the time to submit such a file every time they make a change, but that is not necessary. Submitting a sitemap does not change your rankings, all it does is add pages which may not have been indexed already. If your site is typical and has links to all of the pages, it will not be needed.
Myth 7: SEO has nothing to do with social media
Before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, SEO was the one and only technique to get organic traffic. Now that social media is everywhere, the line is quickly blurring between the two. While some marketers still consider SEO and social media to be different beasts, the truth is, they are very closely linked. For example, Google now places its own social network, Google+, into its search results. If you can get enough influential people to talk about your product and link to your site, then their recommendations will show up in any Google search result that their friends do. This clearly affects SEO. On the reverse side, Facebook has started going after search as well, by recently introducing their Open Graph engine, which searches based on friends and interests.
Myth 8: Google does not read CSS files
Myth 9: You need to update your home page all the time
Some people think that by consistently updating their home page content they will rank higher, or, by not updating it, their ranking will drop. That is rarely the case, because if you have a sales page that offers a product, then there would be no reason to update that page unless something about the product changes.
Myth 10: The H1 header has greater value than the rest of your text
The structure of your page is seen by Google and other engines, but you have to realize that many sites are structured differently. As such, no one specific tag has more value than another. An H1 tag is simply a header that corresponds to a CSS entry in order for the user to see your page a certain way. It does not make Google rank your page any differently if you use H2 tags instead, or if your keywords are mostly in the text and not in a specific CSS tag.
Myth 11: Linking to other highly ranked sites helps your ranking
Some sites try to link to many other high authority sites to help their rankings, but that does not help at all. Google uses PageRank to decide how your site will rank, and that algorithm is based on how useful your site is to others and, as such, it will only look at how many other people link to you. Whether you link back to them is of no importance. Otherwise, any site could raise to the top simply by linking to millions of sites.
Myth 12: Using automated SEO methods is always black-hat or spam
Many people use automated SEO methods that do not fall into the black-hat area. Many companies have very big sites and they use automated scripts to do a lot of the grunt work of SEO. Whether or not a method is black hat or spammy is based on what the result is, not on how automated it is.
Myth 13: PageRank is the only factor that matters
The algorithm that Google uses to rank sites is PageRank, which determines how useful a site is to others. But the result also takes indications from hundreds of other inputs as well, according to what Google says. Some of these inputs are easy to see, like having your site being recommended by others on Google+. This proves that PageRank is not all that matters. The company is staying tight-lipped on how many inputs there are, and how important each gets weighed, but it is clear that there is more going on than just PageRank. With that said, however, it is still widely believed that PageRank is the most important factor, and a PR1 page is always better than a PR3 one.
Myth 14: SEO is spam
Many people who don’t deal directly with SEO think it is spam. The truth is, SEO is used by every large company and brand out there. This term includes a large array of methods and techniques, and those techniques have to be done in order to rank well online. Some methods, however, can be spam —this is black-hat SEO. The problem is, many marketers resort to black-hat SEO and, as such, it has given a bad reputation to the word itself. To avoid bad SEO, follow the terms of services that Google, Bing and other search engines publish.
Myth 15: The title tag is hidden from search engines
Most of what Google sees on your site is the text that is visible to users, such as what appears on the screen and is rendered in a web browser. As such, it would be easy to think that the title is not picked up. However, your title is very important for SEO, because that is the text that appears on the link people will click on. Not only is Google using it to help your ranking, but people will see it as well when they go to click on your site.
Myth 16: Usability does not affect SEO
The whole point of SEO is to gain traffic. As such, SEO goes hand-in-hand with usability, because this is what will make a difference in if someone is on your site for long. If your site is hard to use or navigate, it is very easy for people to go to the next search result. Also, the search engines themselves will look at layout and usability. If your site is hard to navigate for viewers, it will be hard for the crawler as well, and having a bad usability can definitely affect your rankings.
Myth 17: The .edu and .gov backlinks are the best
It is true that most .edu and .gov sites are well ranked and have a high authority, because those are typically official sites that are well maintained and contain no spam. The simple fact that they have a domain, which ends with .gov or .edu does not help your ranking at all. If you have a backlink on one of these sites, it will only be as good if the site is authoritative. Posting a backlink on an obscure .edu site will not help you any more than posting it on an obscure blog.
Myth 18: SEO is based on the quantity of links a site has
Believing that the success of a SEO campaign is to have the most possible backlinks is misunderstanding how ranking works. Any ranking algorithm, whether it is Google, Bing, Facebook, etc will rank sites based on many different factors. To do successful SEO, you have to address all of these factors, and having a lot of links is just one small piece of the puzzle. Also, each link has its own quality value. Often, a single link from a popular news site talking about your product will be much more valuable than spamming hundreds of links to unknown blog sites.
Myth 19: Backlinks are more important than content
SEO usually costs time and money and, as such, it is unrealistic to think you can do everything possible in every facet of online marketing. So often you have to make choices, and some may be tempted to focus on link building instead of content. However, the goal of SEO is to bring good traffic to your site. Quality is very important, not only quantity. Not having good content means your site has no value and, as such, it will quickly lose any benefit that the extra links gave you. In fact, the most useful backlinks are usually not those you have direct access to. They are reviews from celebrities in your niche, news sites, and anyone who already is an authority talking about your product. By having good content, those links can actually come by themselves, simply through PR or word of mouth. But a bunch of backlinks on low authority blogs will not help you and the ranking you may get from them will not last long because those sites will clean up those links. Instead, focus on your audience and try to know who you are writing for. By producing good content you are helping your site long-term.
Myth 20: Paid links will get you banned from Google
There are many ways to get links, and some of them include some type of payment. Not all paid links are bad — it depends on how the payment occurs. For example, many sites, including Google, offer advertising services. You can buy an AdWords ad with Google or go to another ad network — many sites offer their own ad services. While some of them will not give you any ranking, others might, and those are completely legitimate. Paying a site that focuses on your niche to have a link in a strategic location will likely not get you banned, however, you have to remember there are methods that will. Buying low quality links in bulk is one of the best ways to get your site removed from the index.
Myth 21: Good content is all you need
Just like building an army of links will not help you keep traffic for very long, having good content and nothing else is also not enough. Most people agree that good content is the cornerstone of having a successful site. By having engaging, useful posts for your visitors, you can ensure they will want to visit your site often. However, even a very good site has to do some SEO to get traffic. Branding is incredibly important for any site, and getting your brand out there through SEO is the only way you will get eyes onto your content. Your articles and posts have to be paired with good incoming signals, and that includes doing a lot of the typical SEO methods that will give you a good rank in the search engines.
Myth 22: Google actively penalizes certain sites
Myth 23: Google AdWords will give you preferential treatment
AdWords is a very useful program by Google that allows you to place an ad on other sites to advertise your own. It should be part of any online marketing campaign. However, AdWords by itself does not help boost your rankings. Some think that because a company pays Google, it will receive preferential treatment in organic search, but that is not the case. On any typical search page, you can easily see that organic results are separated from paid advertisements. A PPC ad campaign will give you a ranking in the sense that it will allow you to be seen on the ads side of the page, but it does not affect your ranking on the organic side.
Myth 24: SEO is something done once only
A lot of sites make this mistake. When the site is new and it has just been created, the owners will invest in SEO, and then think the job is done for good. But, just like marketing in the real world, SEO is not something you can do only once — it is a continual process that must be done over a long period of time, often the entire life of the site. This is because the Web is not a written encyclopedia, it is a medium that changes constantly. New competitors appear, search engines change their algorithms, new opportunities for marketing appear, and links that used to be good can become stale and unimportant. By constantly keeping an eye on your SEO efforts, you can ensure your ranking does not dip.
Myth 25: SEO companies can get guaranteed results
This is a very common yet completely bogus claim which some marketing firms like to use. They claim that by using their methods, your results will be guaranteed. But the truth is, no one can claim a certain method is foolproof for the same reason that SEO is not something you do once then forget. Everything changes online and you never know when something that used to work well will stop working. Some tactics are clearly better than others, but none is guaranteed. Also, if there was a magical way to get a high ranking, you can be sure that it would leak out at some point, and then everyone would be using that same tactic, making it worthless.
About the author: Mikhail Tuknov is a president and founder of Internet marketing company Infatex.com, focused on helping businesses increase online sales, strengthening their overall brand and dramatically boosting website traffic through proven online marketing concepts, such as viral marketing, SEO, PPC and social media.