SEO? Top 40 Myths Everyone Should Know About
Myth #1: Only the first rank matters
Many SEO informational ebooks and other resources that business owners use will place an important emphasis on the need to be at the top of search results, whether that be on Google Search, other engines, or even in places like social media. But surveys have shown that people quite often will look at other results and they will scroll down through the page. Being on top of a second page, for example, can be quite beneficial for traffic. Also, search ranking is only one part of the puzzle. Now Google places other results on the page like social recommendations and local results as well, which means there are many more avenues open to you, and being 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 that web users will go to your site. It is true that anybody can learn these techniques, and if you are a web site owner and you want to do your own SEO then you can spend the time to learn and apply those techniques. But SEO can be complex and touches many areas such as online marketing, coding, technical aspects along with PR skills. Most business owners simply do not have everything required to do a great job at SEO, and that is why so many agencies exist that offer help. A simple IT worker or online marker is often not enough if you want truly good results.
Myth #3: META tags are very important
It used to be that every page on your site needed META tags in order to rank well. Those are small pieces of code that would give Google a list of keywords and a description. The search engine would base itself on those to find out what your web site was about. Now however, those do not affect your ranking at all. Both Google and Bing stopped caring about META tags in order 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 the URL you used was very important. Google placed a lot of importance on the 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 have to worry about submitting your site is if for some reason 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, then 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 traffic from an organic way. But now, social media is everywhere, and the line is quickly blurring between the two. While some marketers still consider SEO and social media to be different beasts, the truth is that they are very closely linked. For example, Google now places their own social network, Google Plus, 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 does. 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. So the two domains are closely linked, and they are becoming closer all the time.
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 updating their home page content all the time they will rank higher, or by not updating it their ranking will drop. In most cases that is not 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, and Google expects that.
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 very 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 in order 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, which is not the case.
Myth #12: Using automated SEO methods is always spam
Many people use automated SEO methods that do not fall into the spam 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 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 Plus. This proves that not only PageRank 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 #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 and get people to stay on your site so they can be entertained or buy your products and services. As such, SEO very much goes hand in hand with usability, because this is what will make a difference in whether or not someone stays 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 your 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. However, this is just a byproduct of how they are maintain, it is no guarantee. 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 as how much authority that site has. You gain nothing by the fact that it is an educational or government site. 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 factor. 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 to anyone, 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 much at all, and the ranking you may get from them will not last long as those sites 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 more over the long run.
Myth #20: Paid links will get you banned from Google
There are many ways to get links, and some of them includes some type of payment. But not all paid links are always bad, it depends on how that payment occurs. For example, many sites, including Google, offer advertising services. You can buy an ad on Adword, you could go to another ad network, and 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 that there are methods that will. Buying low quality links in bulk is one of the best way 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 that they will want to visit your site and stay there for a long time. However, simply building it does not make it known. Even a very good site has to do some SEO in order to bring traffic. Branding is incredibly important for any site, and getting your brand out there through SEO is the only way you will get those eyes onto that content. Your articles and posts have to be paired with good incoming signals, and that includes doing a lot of the typical SEO methods which can get you ranked in search engines so that people can find your content.
Myth #22: Google actively penalizes certain sites
Myth #23: Google AdWords will give you preferential treatment
AdWords is a very useful program by Google where you can 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, then they will give them 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 in any way.
Myth #24: SEO is something done once only
A lot of sites do this mistake. When the site is new and it has just been created, the owners will invest in doing some SEO, and then think that everything is done. But just like marketing in the real world, SEO is not something you can do once and then forget. Instead, it is a continual process which has to 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 opportunity for marketing appear, and links that used to be good can become stale and not that important anymore. By constantly keeping an eye on your SEO efforts you ensure that your ranking does not drop, and you can keep focusing on new techniques that may prove to work better.
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 that 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.
Myth #26: Placing too many links per page can penalize you
Some people have been told that a certain amount of links on a page can be bad for your rankings. For example, placing more than a hundred links on your landing page will be bad for Google and you will get penalized in some way. While it is true that spamming links on a page is something you should not do, and the Google bot has ways to detect when a page is a link bait one, you should not be afraid to create pages with lots of links. As long as they are relevant and part of the normal navigation of your site, then there will be no penalty. The worse that could happen in these cases is that Google may decide to ignore links part a hundred, but that’s all.
Myth #27: Internal links don’t matter for SEO
Many people think of linking only as far as backlinks go, and only focus on having other sites link to their own pages. But internal linking is also important, just like your site layout is important, because the search crawlers try to act as much like a normal web viewer as they can. If your site has bad internal navigation, Google will be able to detect that, and this could penalize you. Take the time needed to create good internal links and an easy to use navigation system for your site. This is something that is easy to do and you should not skip this step.
Myth #28: Facebook likes or tweets are the number one factor in SEO
Social media has taken a central role in how people find information on the web today, and the signals sent by these sites are fed into search engines in real time. No modern business should ignore social media, simply because of the amount of time people spend on Facebook or Twitter. However, no one social site is the holy grail of SEO. Even if getting Facebook likes can be important, is is not any more so than the many other techniques that can be used. Also, there are arguments that point to the fact that while many people spend a lot of time on social networking sites, they do so to talk to friends, not to buy products, so the benefit of a like is still not as understood as the benefit of ranking well on Google. You should not ignore the traditional SEO and focus solely on social media.
Myth #29: Keywords are no longer relevant
Sites used to be created with a paragraph at the bottom filled with keywords in order to attract more traffic using something called keyword stuffing. In recent years, knowledgable marketers have realized that this is no longer needed, in fact it is a practice that is heavily discouraged by search engines. However, this does not mean that keywords are not still very important. While you should not do keyword stuffing on a page, getting a good percentage of your keywords in your actual text is still crucial. When someone looks for a specific term on Google, the amount of time this keyword comes up on your page is still heavily weighed in.
Myth #30: Using bigger headers will improve your ranking
Header tags such as H1 or H2 do matter because search engines look at the layout of your site, so you need to have headers that make sense and that contain your keywords so that the search engine knows what the content is about. However, the size or style of these headers, such as which CSS arguments you use, do not matter since Google and other search engines are interested in the content and usability, not the artistic style.
Myth #31: Keywords have to be exact matches
It’s true that words have to match what people type into a search engine, however there are arguments for using words other than your selected keywords. For example, most words have a lot of synonyms, and people type in those synonyms all the time. By using a larger selection of keywords, you can be sure to catch those searches as well. Also, while keywords will bring your site up in the results, whether or not someone will click on your link depends on what the title of that link says. By having a clever title, something that people would want to click on, you gain more than by simply repeating a list of keywords.
Myth #32: PageRank does not matter anymore
When Google first started to be the top search engine and everyone focused on ranking well, PageRank became the number one criteria every marketer would go after. It used to be, and may still be, the input metric that affects a ranking the most, but the company has been clear many times that sites are ranked on hundreds of different metrics, not just PageRank. As a result, some have stopped caring so much about the PR ranking. However, that is not to say PageRank has no relevance at all anymore. While it is true you should focus on other things, you need to keep an eye on your PageRank as well.
Myth #33: Google Analytics can spy on people
Google Analytics is the most popular analytics software used by sites around the web, and as a result some people think that they are being spied on. But the company has said many times that no personal data is being transmitted using Google Analytics. Indeed, if you actually use this service on your own site, you can see that the data you have access to are all anonymized, and you only see numbers, not individuals.
Myth #34: You should finish your site before starting to worry about SEO
SEO can be thought of as a form of marketing, and most marketing efforts are made after a site is completed, but there are steps that you should take before. For example, you should make sure you have a good layout, good navigation, META tags, titles, and so on. All of these are part of SEO and should be done while you are building the site. Also remember that search engines can find your site as soon as it is live, so you want your SEO to be ready whenever Google first crawls it.
Myth #35: Buying links, likes or tweets will help your site rank better
There are a lot of sites selling Facebook likes, followers, and so on. Often, those services seem quite cheap, such as 10,000 likes for $10. However, in most cases these are not worth the money. First, they are usually fake accounts, bots that simply mass follow for a price. They are not real people, which means no one will see those social signals, and as a result they will not increase your ranking. Worse, many sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google forbid these types of acts, and if you get discovered, you could be delisted.
Myth #36: Paid links always come from shady sites
In the case of bulk services, it is true that a lot of those paid links will come from shady sources, including bots or proxies. However, many reputable sites sell links as well, in the form of advertising or even preferential treatment. In those cases, you may have very legitimate links on high authority sites, and those can help your site rank better on search engines.
Myth #37: Google won’t find bad or spammy links
Some of the people who buy bulk links or who use automated methods to spam blog posts think that Google will not find them, and that they will gain from their unethical practices. In many cases, that may actually be true, since Google and other search engines are not part of the secret police. But while individual bad links may not be discovered, the bigger risk is that the sites on which your links have been placed will be found and removed from the index, or that the actual algorithm will be modified to make those backlinks irrelevant. When that happens you may find a drastic change in your ranking.
Myth #38: You should not place too many outbound links
Some people think that they should only link to a small number of outbound sites. There is only one case where linking to other sites can hurt you, and that is if you become part of a backlinks network for the sole purpose of raising your ranking. In that case, when one site is discovered, all of them may be hit. But in any other case, Google and other search engines do not care at all how many outbound link you have, and there is no limit to how often you can link to other sites.
Myth #39: With good SEO you do not need PPC marketing
Some sites will spend a lot of time doing SEO and get great organic results, but even then PPC campaigns can be useful. Surveys should that it often is not the same people who click on ads versus those who click on organic links, so it can be worthwhile to do both, if you have the money for it. Also, PPC links are guaranteed to cost you only when someone clicks, and do not suffer from changes in algorithms like the Panda update.
Myth #40: You can manipulate search rankings
This is a myth many marketing sites attempt to promote, the fact that they can somehow manipulate search rankings in a way that is outside traditional SEO. The whole point of SEO is to try and rank your site better. If there was another method that actually worked, then by definition it would be part of SEO. The truth is that there is no magical way to manipulate search rankings, and usually when someone says that they can, what they mean is that they will use unethical ways to speed up your ranking. But using spam and other spammy strategies mean your site is put at risk. You may have a boost now but pay for it later on.
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Credit: Mikhail Tuknov