The “Science” of SEO is one of the biggest mysteries of Internet Marketing, and it’s voodoo that few master and many desire. It’s not a science at all, but a collection of theories that you test out and wait for results. You don’t get the final word on most of these theories from Google until years later. So who can really blame someone for believing “wrong information” when for all we know it’s all wrong? I can tell you after years of doing this that certain ideas are completely bunk, but I still hear about them. This is a collection of completely false ideas about SEO that people are still throwing around.
1. Toolbar PageRank matters.
More specifically your PageRank rating doesn’t matter. PageRank is an algorithm named after Larry Page that measures the importance of a webpage or website in relation to other sites on the web. It’s actually a huge collection of algorithms that determine rankings, that’s without a doubt Google’s “secret sauce” that they built the company on.
That little number next to the green bar on your Google Toolbar? It means nothing. If your SEO efforts revolve around that number you’ll likely be disappointed. You’ll also be confused when you see small PR sites outranking big ones.
The Truth: Ignore your PR rating because it doesn’t matter. Use something like MozRank to gauge your success, it’s far more accurate.
2. SEO is a very technical process.
If you still picture an SEO expert as some guy or girl hunched over in a dark basement tweaking HTML and renaming images all night long, you haven’t seen a great SEO expert at work. No doubt there are technical elements of the job but it’s not as large of a percentage of the work as people think.
You want the spiders to crawl your site without errors, and index the information it contains. You want to structure your site to try to enable and influence that as much as possible. But the real meat of SEO has a lot more to do with producing great content that people will spread around. A great SEO is one that gets to know your company, industry and culture and shapes your message around that. They may not even really know how to build webpages all that well. Great marketing leads to great SEO, every time.
The Truth: As long as the crawler can access your pages properly, the majority of your time should not be spent tweaking keywords and inserting alt tags, it should be focusing on better content.
3. Meta tags make a difference.
Loading keywords into meta tags is probably the oldest SEO technique out there. “Hey let’s fill up the keywords tag with a bunch of Britney Spears keywords so people searching for her will come to our site instead!”. I still hear people suggesting this stuff, and I worry that too many people out there are actually getting paid to do this. All the large search engines and most of the small ones ignore most of the meta tags people use. The meta description tag is the only thing you should alter your SERP copy but even that isn’t very reliable, you certainly can’t count on it. Even if this did work, do you really think people looking for Britney Spears photos are going to land on your “shower heads” website and buy something? The whole idea is silly.
The Truth: Meta tag manipulation hasn’t worked since Britney Spears was actually hot.
4. SEO is a one time process that will make you rich.
Stories about SEO, gambling and fishing should all be given equal weight. Someone always tells you about a giant fish they caught or almost caught, they talk about winning 1000 bucks in Vegas off a nickel and they also know a guy who tweaked his meta tags and works an hour day and makes 500k a year.
It’s not that these stories are outright lies, they just get exaggerated and manipulated as they’re passed around and end up becoming much larger than life. Sure there have been some overnight sensations in the SEO world, but it’s not frequent and it doesn’t last forever. Just like you shouldn’t take your life savings down to Vegas based on a story you also shouldn’t waste money on SEO services for the same reason.
SEO is not something you do to your page before making it live. You don’t just set up a page for SEO and abandon it. It’s a long term process that involves constant attention and the ability to change when needed, and adapt well. The chances of your site hitting a number one spot overnight and you waking up to an inbox full of sales are pretty slim, so prepare yourself for that reality. It could be months or years before your investments start paying back, so stick it out.
The Truth: SEO is an ongoing process that requires hard work and doesn’t always pay off fast.
5. Buying paid links is the best way to the top.
This one is the worst, and I see even otherwise smart SEOs falling for this one. You can buy backlinks just about anywhere, some for very cheap. You can also buy software like Xrumer to automate the process and give you tons of backlinks fast. Does it work? Yes, most certainly. Purchasing thousands of backlinks and using automated bots will get you some good SERPs, and lots of traffic. Here’s the problem: It’s always detectable and your site will eventually be penalized for doing it.
Most of those links are forum posts, forum profiles, blog comments, and things like that. The latest Google “Panda” updates are taking a swipe at these exact types of links again. Not only can you get your site individually penalized for being linked in bad neighborhoods, but you have to fear every large algorithm update as well, because Google is figuring this out, and they are cracking down. If you buy links towards your main company’s domain and it gets de-indexed that’s it for the site. You will either have to find a new domain name and lose your equity or live with a site that doesn’t get search engine traffic.
The real big players on the front page of search results are people who get linked to naturally. By producing great content and spreading it around, people naturally want to link there. Google won’t penalize you for this, that’s what they actually want. You’re reading an SEO blog, but why do sites like SEOMoz and wolf-howl.com on the front page when you search for SEO blog? Hint: it’s not because they buy more links than me! It’s because they work (harder than I do) to produce great content frequently, and people link to it like crazy.
People have frequently built powerhouse industry leading websites simply by consistently giving people what they want. Ever heard of Perez Hilton? Love him or hate him his site is a success through nothing more than hard work and effort in the beginning. Many large websites started out as free blogs, take advantage of the fact that we live in an age with so much opportunity.
The Truth: Money isn’t a deciding factor for SEO success and buying backlinks is a short term strategy at best.
There’s a lot of bad info out there. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I’ll provide more myths in the near future.