9 SEO Myths
Stop Falling for These Common SEO Myths
It is inevitable that the world of SEO or search engine optimisation can be a little confusing at times. For some people SEO is trying to create the best user experience possible, and for others it is trying to ‘game’ a large and complex algorithm that is not only top secret, but a very closely guarded commercial asset.
The history of SEO has seen hundreds of changes to search engine algorithms: they have become more sophisticated, more focused on the user experience and have taken into account changes in the way that people spend their time online, e.g. social media, mobile, etc. And that’s not even mentioning trying to keep ahead of people who are trying to trick the search engines and artificially improve the position of their websites.
So it’s no surprise that the odd myth has developed over the years. With the constant changes to Google’s algorithms, it can be tough to keep up with the latest changes to SEO. To keep ahead of the crowd, make sure that you keep checking back here (of course!) and take note of the 9 SEO myths below so you don’t fall for them anymore.
Keywords, keywords, keywords:
It might not seem like that long ago, but there was a time when people thought that to ensure that a web page ranks well against a search term, all you had to do was fill your web page copy with the search term keywords and there you go – page 1 here we come!
But this has an obvious flaw: web pages which did this were virtually unreadable, the keyword was stuffed so much into the copy that it made for a miserable user experience. If search engines were to direct their users to pages like this, then it wouldn’t take too long before the users started looking for a new search engine! So the search engines became smarter about the use of keywords and started to punish pages which ‘stuffed’.
In fact, in Google’s reporting tool Google Analytics, the number of times that you can see which keyword sent organic traffic to your site is getting smaller and smaller. According to Google, the rise of keyword ‘not provided’ was there to protect people who were searching while signed into their Google account: but it could also be interpreted as a warning to SEO specialists to worry less about keywords and more about a quality experience.
Our SEO plan is finished:
The search engines need to change their algorithms to keep up with the changing way that people search for and consume content. So if you think you have reached the best position on Google then it’s not time to stop – it’s time to defend your position! Your competition will be working to try to take your rankings, that’s aside from the fact that the algorithms are shifting all my time.
SEO is a journey, not a destination!
Black Hat and White Hat are distinct:
In theory, the lines between White Hat SEO (i.e. obeying the rules and doing the right thing by the user, not necessarily the search engine) and Black Hat SEO (i.e. trying to ‘game’ the search engines and use underhanded tactics to beat the search engines with little or no regard for the user) were pretty clear. If you were buying thousands of links at a time and not knowing the websites where the links are coming from, this is clearly trying to pull the wool over the search engine’s eyes.
But as search engine algorithms become more complicated, the lines between black and white are blurred – SEO is getting more grey! For example, sending product to specialist bloggers has long been a practice that certain brands have employed to gain a wide presence on the web and even gain the odd link. No problem, right? Just ask Interflora: they were hit with a penalty in 2013 for doing exactly this. This led to a lot of questions about guest blogging and the complexities of how it can effect site authority. Even two years later, the lines between white hat blogging and black hat blogging are still not clear.
It’s all about Google:
OK, so maybe this one is a little unfair – Google is a major player in the global search engine market. But its dominance varies quite dramatically by country.
In Belgium, Google has a 98% share of all search engine traffic, in the UK a 92% share and in Canada 88%. But in the USA, Google’s share is 67% with Bing holding a share of around 1 in 5 searches. But there are countries where optimising for Google is not a good idea: in Japan Yahoo has over 50% share, in Russia the leading search engine is Yandex and in China, home to the world’s largest online audience, the leading search engine is Baidu.
So if you are an international business, you may need to look a little further than optimising for one search engine – sorry to add to your workload!
Penguin, Panda, Pigeon, confusion:
When Google name their major algorithm changes, this seems to add a lot of confusion – I mean, what has a penguin got to do with search engine optimisation? While the names of the changes are designed to simplify, they can seem like code words for masters of the dark art. Well, the algorithm changes are pretty simple if only someone could just explain them simply…
Penguin – When someone starts getting lots of links from black hat sources, then they are taking the risk of being bitten by the Penguin!
Panda – If you have a website which has poor quality content (Google calls them ‘thin sites’), or even worse has content which is duplicated from another website, then the Panda is coming for you.
Pigeon – This is an algorithm change which aims to deliver local results to people who are looking for them. This is a change being driven by the rise of searching on mobile devices.
It’s all about links:
You cannot deny that links are important. Search engines use them to understand a site’s authority. For example, if a website has links from very popular and clearly authoritative websites, then it is fair to assume that the site being linked to is also authoritative. The original website is effectively endorsing the other website with the link.
But SEO is more complex than just links. Thousands of random links suggest that a website has purchased links from link farms, and what has that got to do with good quality content which search engines are looking for?
Natural, good quality links are what you should be looking for. And there is a wider spectrum of factors which will affect your search rankings, so links do play a role, but it’s not all about them.
SEO is a standalone discipline:
Marketing campaigns work best when they are integrated – a combination of online marketing and offline marketing will deliver the best results. The reason for this is that you have more chances to engage with your audience if you use more tools.
SEO works the same. Search engines are not going to limit themselves to just looking at your website to see if your page is the most relevant for a particular search query. They will also look at social media: millions of people use it every day, so it’s a good measure with lots of data. If you write an article and someone shares it, they are endorsing that article, so surely that is a good way of understanding the quality of a piece of content? Search engines seem to think so, and Twitter and Google have recently agreed to display tweets in search engine results.
Meta data is irrelevant:
It used to be that the meta title and meta description of a web page was used by search engines to understand what content is on that page. But with the growing sophistication of their algorithms, search engines are now able to crawl the content to understand the content and context of the page.
But that doesn’t mean that meta data is irrelevant. In search engine results, the two lines that are displayed to the user are the meta title and meta description, so they are still important. They will encourage (or discourage!) a user to click on your link, which will drive your click through rate, and assuming that the user likes what they see, will help your site authority.
It’s a dark art and a scam:
There is a perception in some corners of marketing which suggests that SEO is a dark art, a secretive scam. But hopefully posts like this will persuade you that while SEO is not easy, it is just a branch of digital marketing where you need to understand the principles.
However, as in all walks of life, SEO does contain scammers. If you come across a business that guarantees page one on Google or can offer thousands of links for a small amount of money, then you should question that – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Do you have a favourite SEO myth that you want to put to rest once and for all?