"Assumption is parent to all failures."
– Politically correct rendition of popular maxim
Some things annoy me and some things amuse me. I seriously wonder about things that leave me unmoved. For example, hidden charges annoy me, and so does poor customer service. A site that is always selling me stuff while pretending that its sales pitch is content annoys me (though I am guilty of doing the same sometimes). Domain name resellers annoy me (growl, gnash, need I say more). Bloggers can be amusing, and forums moreso.
Strangely, people who spread myths about SEO professionals and search engines leave me relatively unmoved. I feel no need to defend myself against anyone who believes that hiring an SEO is totally unnecessary. Still, some myths can be harmful, and those are the ones I hope to address here.
This article deals with "myths," "fallacies" and "pseudo experts" on search engine optimization professionals and search engines themselves. First I will address the popular sentiment that "search engine optimization can be done by anybody," then I will look at varying myths that exist about search engine optimization. You will be surprised at what people believe about SEO to this day. But first, let’s get the heavy stuff out of the way before we start talking about the common myths.
Now I don’t intend to answer the question in detail, but some people do wonder what hocus pocus an SEO professional does when he claims to be optimizing the site, and when they post this question, some "pseudo experts" spring up and say "nothing much, they just add tags and get a bunch of links and take your entire advertising budget." Some SEO professionals don’t help because they get mysterious and go cloak-and-dagger about the whole thing. That’s pretty absurd when everybody over here at SEO Chat is willing to blab SEO state secrets. Obviously some people think if you tell the client what you do, they would do it themselves. I sometimes wish it was that easy.
I addressed this question first because it is the foundation of all SEO myths. It comes from the idea that "SEO is easy, just submit your site to so and so directory and so and so search engine and you are on a roll." Do-it-yourself SEO gets its processes crossed. Now I use the term "professional" loosely, but let’s just say a professional really has the knowledge and skill to get high rankings in specified key words. The idea that an SEO professional is not needed, and that by doing A, B and C you can reduce costs and optimize your site, is the root of SEO myths. We will come back to common myths that exist about SEO professionals (although some have been discussed in previous articles on SEO professionals).
Search Engine Optimization Can Be Done By Anybody
Now the fact is you can optimize your site yourself, and it’s not very hard, depending on your key words and competition, but hopefully with this article you won’t be presumptuous in your efforts to get that top ranking for your site. Yes, "anybody" can do SEO; interestingly enough, stay-at-home moms seem ideally suited for the work since they have time and write great copy. Like everything else in life, however, it’s not as easy as the pros make it look.
Myth One: Just Put Up Meta Tags to Get Your Ranking
I didn’t want to put this one here at first because everybody else mentioned this in their articles, so I thought that it was an open secret. Then I met a businessman who optimizes his blog via writing key word meta tags and doesn’t do much else as far as SEO. I told him to "try and read a bit more about SEO," then I cleaned up his tags for free and offered to help with linking (for a fee).
About Meta tags — please DO write relevant keyword and description Meta tags into your code. It gives spiders something to cache in the database. Without them, you will be left with no description when listed in the search engines. If your key word Meta tags are irrelevant to your content you may get penalized. The search engines do not place any sort of premium on Meta tags for ranking; I have seen and ranked sites with absolutely NO META tags. This said, please add Meta tags, they make your site look neater in the SERPs.
Myth Two: Key Word Density is Everything
The idea that any one thing is everything is probably the most dangerous concept. Google’s PageRank algorithm has over 200 factors it considers and MSN’s Ranknet considers over 600 factors. Onsite factors on their own are just a start to SEO; off page factors are also important.
This said, content must be relevant; if you are optimizing for the right key words your key words appear more important when emboldened and in headers than when all over the place. Avoid key word stuffing and spamming, you will get penalized.
Myth Three: You Never Need to Redesign Your Site
I could summarize the above statement in one word: cheap! If you can’t afford to redesign, say so. Don’t say it’s not necessary. Sometimes a site is just not search engine friendly; for example, you build an AJAX-powered site, and then call an SEO expert who tells you to move the text away from the AJAX windows. If you tell him that "that’s not necessary" you just made his job a lot harder.
If your site is not search engine friendly, you can still optimize, but it makes the whole process just that much more difficult. Your navigation structure must be navigation friendly to spiders. Your copy MUST be changed if it is not relevant to your target audience. If you insist on unfriendly design then you should include a Pay Per Click program; you will need it.
Apart from SEO, redesign is necessary to improve your users’ experience on your site. Forms, layout, interactivity, aesthetics and more all need to be updated as web standards and usability change and improve. You can’t afford to assume it’s all about SEO when your users get to your site and flee at the quickest opportunity.
Now that we have finished with the On Page Myths, let’s look at some Off Page Myths in SEO.
Myth One: Linking is Everything
Despite everything said about link farms, people actually engage in them without being truly aware of it. The fact is, linking IS important. Linking and content alone will probably do more work than rigorous scientific techniques and automated methods. But it can be dangerous to get overly attached to linking and not know that indiscriminately linking (reciprocally) to a link farm can get you grey listed and banished from Google’s SERPs until you come humbly clean (give them a few months before you get relisted).
Link farms won’t come up and tell you "hey, I am a link farm and just have thousands of links to totally unrelated sites." Instead, you’ll get an offer from a third party site or via email. You have a responsibility to check that you are not linking to some link farm; you can’t control who links to you. If you are linking to a banned site, your site may be penalized. Some people even network and set up link farms; a network of full-time housewives once linked to each other and unintentionally created a perfect link farm. Please note: SEO firms check all sites linking to you on a monthly basis; that’s one reason why they collect a maintenance fee.
Myth Two: Multiple Domain Names Pointing to the Same Site Increase Rankings
If you have multiple domain names pointing to the same site, the search engines call them "mirrors" and will penalize you (the mirrors won’t get listed). So if you have multiple domain names and you want to remain in the SERPs, build sites to correspond to each separate domain name.
If the sites look like doorways you can also get penalized. There is, however, an increasingly thin line between "micro sites" and "doorway" pages. If you create a mini-site to funnel traffic, endeavor to get some content on it.
If you insist on tying multiple URLs to a single location despite my educated opinion, strive to keep your multiple domain names to less than ten. You should ideally stay with subdomains to funnel traffic to your targeted pages (the rule on the Internet is that a page is a page is a page). You don’t need multiple domains and they don’t work, unless you have content-rich micro sites. Search engines are run by people, and people don’t enjoy been manipulated.
Myth Three: Resubmitting Your URL Repeatedly to Search Engines
I don’t submit URLs to major search engines; I only submit them to niche sites that would take forever to index a URL if it is not submitted. Sometimes when you submit a URL it takes a very long time before it is listed. It is okay to submit a URL once; resubmitting it does not make sense. In fact, according to some websites, it could even affect the submitted page adversely. That is hearsay; however, submitting a URL multiple times does not affect rankings positively. Submitting your site in itself is also totally useless if the site is not search engine friendly.
Here are a few myths that are truly hilarious (and hopefully are just jokes). I found them on various threads and discussion boards across the net, especially here.
Google hates me.
The only search engine is Google.
There are a million search engines.
AdWords are moving to the left of the screen.
You won’t get caught for spam.
Matt Cutts hates me.
All SEO wear hats.
Matt Cutts is leaving for MSN.
People on SEO forums actually ALL know SEO.
Hidden text works.
Black hat SEO and White hat SEO are easily distinguishable.
SEO guarantees number one ranking.
SEO is rocket science.
SEO doesn’t take time.
My competition hates me (okay, that may not be a myth).
There are a few other myths, especially concerning professionals, the tools they use to optimize, and the search engines themselves. These myths are spread by pseudo experts and some other SEO "experts." Hopefully with time we will cover some more myths that have not been treated on SEO Chat before.