Don’t believe everything you read about SEO

There’s lots of good SEO advice about. Trouble is there’s lots of bad advice as well. Here are a few of the many myths that abound:

1. The aim of SEO is to get to number 1 in the search engines.

False – SEO is a marketing tool that can:

  • Increase the number of visitors to web site (with the aim of improving conversions).
  • Improve brand awareness.
  • Target specific products or services.

In doing so, an SEO campaign may improve the ranking of the website but getting the number 1 slot doesn’t mean you will convert any more visitors than you did before . The rank of the website is a consequence of SEO not the aim.

2. SEO is all about inserting keywords into your copy.

False – You should write for your visitors not the search engines. Suppose you have a page that discusses or sells plugs. If you write about plugs then the keywords will appear naturally on the page – no need to insert anything. The sentence:

Plugs at plugs.com are great plugs.

looks unnatural and may well be dismissed by your visitors and the search engines. If however you wrote:

The plugs.com online store stocks thousands of electrical plugs and rubber bungs.

then you have told your visitors exactly what you do without inserting extra keywords.

3. Keyword density is important.

False – All you need is a single occurrence of the keyword to get listed. If the phrase is highly competitive then you will have to do a lot more than just put the keyword in a few strategic places. But intelligent keyword placement will help.

4. You should place content above menus to have it crawled first.

False – Putting your menu list above the content will make no difference whatsoever to the spiders. However, filling the head of the document with great swathes of JavaScript and developing complex navigation systems might. It’s also worth noting that there are different types of robots, some of which look at the page and some follow the links – they don’t do the whole page in one pass. robotstxt.org has more information.

5. Meta tags are the key to high rankings.

False – Metatags are largely ignored by the spiders. The only one you really need to include is the ‘description’ as this is what the search engines often display in their results pages. The keywords metatag is a complete waste of time, as is all those “index after” tags, the robots will visit when they want to, not when you want them to.

6. The more links the better.

False – Thousands of links from low ranking and irrelevant sites may well incur penalties from the search engines. Some warnings and cautionsĀ on linkbuilding.

7. You need a high pagerank to get listed.

False – PageRank is purely a measure of the number and quality of your inbound links. The Toolbar PageRank (TBPR) you see in the google toolbar is a summary of one of the many factors google uses to rank a webpage and is irrelevant to all the other search engines. And even if you have a high page rank (5 and above) you won’t increase your conversion rate.

8. There is a no duplicate content penalty.

False – if you publish a page that already appears elsewhere or is very similar to a page published elsewhere then the search engines will only index the most relevant. The penalty therefore is a loss of ranking or exclusion from the results page.

9. There are thousands of search engines.

False – There aren’t thousands of search engines, there are half a dozen. All the rest are low quality directories that receive very few visitors and consequently won’t help you in the slightest. Assume you are a position 21 in the SERPs and link to a directory that is position 250 for the same keyword – the directory will benefit more than you.

10. You need to submit your site to the major search engines.

False – you don’t need to submit to any search engines. All you need is one inbound link from a high quality site and the spiders will do the rest. You can submit your site, you can even pay yahoo to look at the site but this doesn’t mean you are going to get listed, all you have asked them to do is look at the site. Which is pretty much a waste of time since they would have found the site in any case.

11. Appearing in DMOZ is essential to high rankings.

False – Google used to use DMOZ to discover new sites but now doesn’t even mention DMOZ in the Webmaster Help Center. And because it can take months or even years to get a DMOZ listing, you will probably be indexed by the search engines long before the DMOZ editor gets round to considering your submission.

12. High ranking sites should be left alone.

False – The search engines constantly review the rank of websites. And whilst the longevity of a websites can help ranking, a new site with fresh and constantly updated content may well gain top spot because the search engines like what they see.

13. Hidden links or text in a page can get your page ranked higher.

False – Hidden links or text, cloaking, doorway pages and any other tricks will result in penalization and maybe even an outright ban. So don’t do it.

14. Software which compares your keywords with high ranking competitors can help you rank highly for those phrases.

False – All you are doing is duplicating what already ranks highly. You need to do something more than tweak your keywords to rank above what are certainly well established sites.

15. W3C Validation is necessary to rank high.

False – W3C validation will help the browser resolve the page but since the spiders ignore all the markup, validation doesn’t make any difference. However, if the markup is so bad the spiders can’t work out what’s what then you can lose out.

16. SEO is easy and can be done after reading a 50$ junk Ebook.

False – All your get with the junk book is the same tired old advice that has been around for ages. The search engines are getting smarter so you need to change your tactics to keep up. Have you even considered the increasing use of social bookmarking, local search, specialist directories?

The above list is not comprehensive. A simple search for ‘seo myths’ will generate an impressive set of results.

This list was generated after reading the excellent topic at the cre8asiteforum.

Other Resources:

Web Optimization Myths from improvetheweb.com

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