SEO is one of those disciplines which people love to say is dying. It’s been the same for many years and no matter what happens within the industry, its demise is predicted or given as a certainty over and over again.
Generally, this is because many people don’t understand the nuts and bolts of SEO. It’s worth pointing out though that SEO is a discipline that due to its nature and that of the web, is constantly changing. What may have worked back in 2004 certainly won’t work now as the web and the way we use it is constantly shifting.
Any discipline that generates the level of discussion that SEO does is bound to attract misinformation. So today, let’s have a look at some of the most common SEO myths and why they’re simply not true.
#1: SEO is All About Keywords
In years gone by keywords were an important part of the SEO mix and to a large extent, they still are. However, SEO has never been all about keywords and in fact, overusing keywords is likely to get you a manual penalty these days.
It’s still common to speak to clients who have something of an unnatural obsession with keywords. This is because such a focus was put on them that they became the be all and end all to unskilled SEOs, who would stuff a site full of the same word in order to rank better for it. Keyword stuffing is now commonly known as a black hat technique, but you wouldn’t think so to speak to some people.
Keywords should make up a part of your overall SEO strategy. They should be researched to discover who is ranking for them, how high the competition and monthly search volumes are and used appropriately alongside similar phrases and similes to give search engines more context.
They should not be used so many times that text doesn’t read well however and those people that believe there’s still some worth in keyword density are wrong.
Keywords should still be used in:
- Site and content titles and descriptions
- One subheader
- Minimally throughout the text
- Anchor text
As discussed, you should use related words and phrases too throughout the text in order to give more overall context to the piece.
So if your client insists that you must squeeze the word Sydney into copy at 10% density, talk them round – it won’t help the search engines and will harm the site. Text should be above all useful to the reader and keywords should appear naturally scattered throughout without any weight given to keyword density.
You should also consider keyword intent when carrying out your keyword research. So think about how the user will be using Google, what they will be typing into that search box to find what they need.
#2: We Can Get You to the Top of Google
Usually for the all-inclusive price of just $199! It seems like I receive around 30 of these claims every day at the moment – and aside from being very irritating, it’s nothing more than an out and out scam.
Only Google has the power to get any site to the top of the rankings – nobody else.
Not only is it annoying, but it also has the unfortunate side-effect of reducing trust in SEO for the rest of us true professionals. With that in mind, if you’re working in the SEO or digital marketing space, then it’s worth getting some material together that prove that this kind of offer is nothing more than a con.
It’s also worth producing documentation that allows clients to have a little insight into what’s involved in SEO. Let’s face it, SEO is time-consuming, often tedious and at times, pretty technical. The client who understands this, and its worth when it’s done properly, will be the one that chooses you and your services over another that’s worthless.
#3: Search Engine Submission
Years ago, when the web was young, when you created a website you then carried out the relevant SEO and submitted the site to the various search engines using their online submission forms.
These days, the sheer scale of the net means that it would be a mammoth task for search engines to employ people to manually go through submissions and approve them. So it’s all done by the search engine crawlers instead. Search engines have not required submission since around 2001 and yet it’s still relatively common to see search engine submission feature in a (generally unsolicited) quote as if it has some kind of value.
It doesn’t. These days when your site goes live you just have to sit back and wait for the short interval of time to pass until a robot crawls the site for you and includes it in the search engine index.
#4: Meta Tags Are Not Important
This particular myth seems to have come about since it was recognised that meta keywords are not paid any attention to by Google, thanks to spammy practices that attempted to stuff as many keywords as possible into the meta area.
However, meta information is very important to every website as it tells the search engines what the site and the content is all about. Meta information is the text that we don’t see – it’s included in the <head> area of the HTML that makes up a web page.
Meta titles deal with the individual titles of each and every page, whilst meta descriptions do the same thing. It’s also worth noting that if you do include meta keywords, then so long as you don’t stuff too many in, or use the same or similar terms over and over, then you won’t be penalised for their use. Google ignores them now, but some of the other search engines don’t, so it’s worth including them in order to optimise for all of the search engines (gasp – yes, there are others aside from the omniscient Google).
The meta descriptions are not necessary, but they are useful as these are generally displayed as snippets in search results.
Check out the short 2012 video below from the then head of Google’s spam team, Matt Cutts on how much time you should spend on meta tags.
#4: You Can Fake Domain History by Buying an Expired Domain
The age of your site’s domain is relevant to SEO as it adds to PageRank and Domain Authority scores and overall trust in the domain, which allows it to rank slightly higher. Some people believe that in order to get the site ranked well quickly, they should buy up an expired domain which has been around for a good few years.
An old domain is likely to come with its own baggage and you will have no idea what that is until you build your site and watch it start to creep up the rankings once it’s indexed. And that’s assuming that the URL will be indexed – it could be that the site was given a penalty due to spamming – it could have been a hate site – you just don’t know.
The only reason to buy any specific domain is because it’s in some way related to your business activity.
However, the reasons for buying an expired domain are generally quite valid, even if it is a way of taking shortcuts (but could be seen as being grey or black hat SEO, all the same). If you’re set on buying up a certain name, or if you strongly believe that an expired domain can give you the boost your brand needs, then you should take care and go through as many metrics as you can.
Bear in mind though that metrics such as Page Rank can be manipulated, so before you begin do make sure that you carry out thorough research. Check out this extensive advice from Quicksprout to help you get started.
#5: Social Media Doesn’t Affect SEO
Yes it does and there’s research out there that proves it. Social signals such as shares and comments tell the search engines that a site is getting interaction from its users. A study carried out by Moz a couple of years ago also found that there’s a strong correlation between G+ +1s and better rankings too.
Add to this that Google has just begun to show tweets in search results (it couldn’t show tweets or Facebook posts in search before recently) and social media is set to become even more relevant to search and SEO.
Further to this, it’s thought that content which has seen a lot of retweets can cut search engine indexation time by a huge 50%, meaning that search bots will take less time to crawl and index the content, which of course makes it discoverable in search.
Whilst Google’s official position on social and SEO has been that search isn’t affected by social, Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines state that social media does contribute to higher rankings over time.
Social media should make up a part of every brand’s search and content strategy. The days where you could just build a site, work in a little SEO and set up a little PPC are gone now. SEO and digital marketing should be considered holistically for best results.
#6: Low Bounces Rates Mean High Rankings
If your site has a low bounce rate, this is a good thing as it indicates that your visitors are engaging with the site and your content. However, a low bounce rate doesn’t indicate a site that will rank better just because of that fact. Further to this, bounce rates vary for different kinds of site quite widely, and are not a very accurate metric all round.
According to Google, the average bounce rates per type of site are as follows:
- Content sites: 40-60%
- Lead generation: 30-50%
- Blogs: 70-98%
- Retail sites: 20-40%
- Service sites: 10-30%
- Landing pages: 70-90%
As you can see, the bounce rate for a blog and for a retail site are wildly different. This is due to the way that visits are measured; as blogs tend to have readers that pop onto the site to read one page before leaving again, Google Analytics records this as a bounce, regardless of the amount of time that the visitor has stayed on that one page.
According to SEO Theory, the idea that the bounce rate affects ranking positively “came out of the desperation people experienced in the wake of the 2011 Google Panda Algorithm.”
The site goes on to say that Matt Cutts has said repeatedly that Google don’t include any Google Analytics data in its ranking algorithms, including bounce rates – which it has to be said would be a very bad idea due to the way that they’re calculated. A low bounce rate is an indicator that people are engaging with your site – they don’t guarantee a good user experience.
Myths, Myths, Everywhere
This is not by any means an extensive list of myths as SEO appears to be one of those disciplines that attracts LOTS. This is most likely down to the fact that the profession is made up of great SEOs, but also those who don’t really know what they’re doing (the ones that promise to get you to the top of Google).
SEO has seen a lot of changes take place over the course of the past decade and it is a completely different job than it was back in the 90s when the web was young. Back then we were all somewhat feeling our way, but lots has changed in the meantime and now, SEO is a skilled job which takes a lot of work and expertise.
It’s not all about keywords, but they remain relevant, it’s not all about link building, but it remains important. SEO is a sum of many parts, all of which should be considered if a campaign is going to be successful. These days, that includes social media and content strategy and as I discussed earlier, in order to be really successful, it’s necessary to look at all of your marketing and SEO activity as a whole and consider the impact that each part has on another.