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Popular SEO Myths
Search for the phrase “SEO myths” in Google (without quotes) and you’ll get 243,000 hits. With all the major search engines keeping their algorithms under lock and key, and making modifications without notice, it’s no wonder that false beliefs get perpetuated. It’s time to clear the air.
We published an article here on SEO Chat back in June 2007 about SEO myths. These things don’t seem to go away no matter how much you try to educate people. In fact, the search engines themselves contribute to their perpetuation in a sense. After all, they’re constantly tweaking their algorithms so the things that used to work simply don’t anymore – which leads to more myths when people stubbornly cling to old practices, or when a particular change makes it look like one thing is happening (i.e. a Google 30 penalty) when the actual cause is something completely different.
Many myths come from wishful thinking. My favorite along those lines is a variation of “if I just do X, I’ll score high in the search engines.” And “X” can be anything from get enough links, submit your site to enough directories, get the magic amount of keyword density – you name it. The truth is that SEO is a process with no real shortcuts, and no ONE thing will guarantee you a top position in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Another form of “wishful thinking” myth states that “X is all-important,” where “X” can be PageRank, meta tags, or what have you. I won’t say that PageRank doesn’t matter; that’s another myth. But for most purposes it doesn’t. It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. You can have a popular site and not have a PR of 10.
I expect this won’t be the last time we visit this topic. I’m including myths that are popular not only among practicing SEOs, but among some of the clients you might encounter. As you educate yourselves, you may also find that you need to educate your clients about actual SEO practices. The Ranked Hard comic strip that inspired this article makes that point very clearly. So without further ado, let’s bust some myths!
SEO is Smoke and Mirrors
Like the client in the Ranked Hard cartoon, you might encounter a prospective customer who tried to work with another SEO company that was secretive about its practices. Maybe they were told “our tactics are proprietary” or “what we do is far too complicated to explain.” Your prospect might even have been burned by this other company, so they may be leery about dealing with you.
Real SEO is not smoke and mirrors; it’s not a scam, and it’s not merely “a collection of tricks to fool search engines,” as Lee Odden points out in another article which debunked several SEO myths. But it’s easy to see why some people would believe that. There really are a lot of scammers out there who make incredible promises but use devious methods and care only about getting their victims’ money.
Speaking of incredible promises, let’s talk about another classic SEO myth inspired by scammers: an SEO can guarantee your placement at the top of the SERPs, thus eliminating the risk to your business. That’s hogwash; I’d use stronger language, but my boss would disapprove (especially if we start ranking for the term!). A firm that offers that kind of guarantee on your SEO is probably approaching it in a way that will harm your company.
Some companies that offer guarantees to get to the top of the SERPs will use keywords that no one else is using. So your site ends up ranking for less competitive keywords. In and of itself, this is not a bad thing, but if searchers aren’t using those keywords to find the kinds of products and services you offer, it’s pointless. If you sell raincoats in the US market, what good is it to hold a top-ranked position for “mackintosh” – unless you’re specifically selling to British expatriates living in the US?
Such firms may also use a limited selection of keywords for your website. That might work for a time, but using a greater diversity of keywords will put you in a better position the next time the search engines tweak their algorithm. Think of it as evolution in action.
Finally, another common trick for SEO companies that offer top placement guarantees shows up in the fine print of their contracts. Does it specifically say that they will use SEO to get there, or will they use pay-per-click? Just about anyone can get a top ad placement in Google if they’re willing to pay enough. But that’s probably not what you hired that SEO company for.
Next time, Popular SEO Myths "SEO is All About Links, or Keywords"
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