The 9 Biggest SEO Myths Busted

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SEO is truly a mystical, magical land. Nobody knows what exactly is going on behind its closed borders. Naturally, a lot of people start dreaming up the wildest things, including Fairies and Orcs singing and dancing “Kumbaya” together.

Besides a few chosen ones working at Google an its little cousins Yahoo and Bing, nobody knows exactly how search engines rank their results. Through years of experience, watching search engines and rigorous testing, SEO experts have uncovered most of the search engines’ ranking factors.

Unfortunately, there are too many experts out there that still believe the Fairies and Orcs are dancing Kumbaya. This post debunks some of the most common SEO myths and gives applicable advice on what to do with these findings.

1. Nofollow means that search engines ignore your link

You’ve probably heard of the infamous rel=”nofollow” hyperlink tag. Back in 2005, blog comments and forum signatures were getting spammed for backlinks. The Google webspam team introduced the nofollow tag to tell search engines to ignore a link for ranking purposes. The theory was that it will discourage backlink spammers from polluting said blogs and forums.

While Google, Yahoo and Bing don’t use nofollow links for ranking, all of them actually do follow the links and might even index that page. There’s also some speculation that nofollow links might even pass on a small amount of link juice.

2. Social Media Marketing doesn’t help with SEO

Everybody loves Twitter and Faccebook, but most bloggers think that these  social networks don’t improve their rankings because they use nofollow links. Good news to everyone with huge social media influence out there: both Bing and Google confirmed that Twitter & Facebook mentions play a role in organic search results (source: Search Engine Land).

Both the number of Retweets and the number of Facebook shares will help a site’s rankings.  Not only the number of social mentions, but also who tweets your link is important. Is it @tferriss or some user with 5 followers?

I expect that the search engines will continue to focus more and more on what’s hot in social networks. Keep the goal of search engines in mind: to deliver content that many people approve of. What this means for every blogger and online marketer is that you now have even more reasons to spend time on your social media marketing efforts.

3. Google Analytics is bad for SEO

There are online marketers out there that refrain from using Google Analytics because they fear that Google will use the collected data against them in search engine rankings. For example, an affiliate site might have a very high bounce rate (high bounce rate = “I came, I puked, I left”).

Although only a few people at Google know what’s really going on, Google states that Google Analytics data is not used in SERPs (search engine result pages).

I wouldn’t worry about using Google Analytics on your site.

4. Meta Keywords are important for your rankings

As you read lots of information on niche marketing and SEO, you will surely stumble upon the ominous meta keyword tag. Several years ago, this tag helped some search engines to rank pages.

No modern search engine uses this tag anymore. Don’t worry about it.

5. All links are created equal

Many people think that the position of a backlink on a page doesn’t matter. This is not true as a SEOmoz experiment showed.

For example, the higher on top of a page a link is, the more value it passes on. A link from within the page-content carries more value than a sidebar link.

If you are building backlinks and you can choose your link-placement, try to place the link as high as possible.

6. Hyphenated domain names rock

You will commonly hear that hyphenated domain names such as “how-to-get-a-sixpack.com” are good for SEO because the hyphens separate each words, thus making it easier for the search engines to identify your keywords. Maybe that worked 10 years ago, but there’s no way that search engines are still that stupid.

Hyphenated domains carry the big disadvantage that they are hard to remember, hard to spell and look cheap & spammy from the end user. Don’t use them.

7. Your site’s content has to be high quality

“Post high quality and you will rank well” is a common myth. I think it’s very unlikely that search engines can differentiate between an ok-quality and a high-quality article. As long as the article doesn’t look spammy and is grammatically decent, you will be fine.

However, there’s a reason you hear this advice so often. If you create high quality content (and promote it, so people also see it), there’s a decent chance that people will start linking to you. Linklove = better search results.

Practical application: don’t worry about crafting perfect articles for your cheap and dirty niche site.

8. Keyword spam is a great idea

When browsing  the web, you will likely find many sites that practice keyword spam. It is great for your onsite SEO when you mention your keyword a couple of times, but don’t overdo it.

It’s 2011 and search engines are smart. If you spam your keyword all over your site, Google & Friends will penalize you. Make sure to only mention your keyword in sentences that make sense.

Furthermore, don’t spam your title tag. As you probably know, the title tag is one of the most important onsite SEO factors. Decide on one or 2 keywords. That’s enough. Don’t cram 10 keywords into your title.

9. Domain and Site Age matters

When you analyze your competition while doing keyword research, you will probably notice a pattern: most of the top ranking results are sites established a couple of years ago. Many people draw the conclusion that Google favors old sites from this phenomena.

The reason for this pattern is not that Google trusts older sites more. These sites simply had a couple of years to establish authority, develop their brand, create a buzz and get linked to. If you are able to accomplish the same, you will have similar rankings.

What does this mean for you? This means that you shouldn’t throw the towel just because your keywords’ entire competition on page one is five years old.

For an in-depth discussion on this myth, refer to this SEOmoz post.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob March 6, 2011 at 7:31 am

You busted a number of myths for me here. You have such a concise style of writing.
Thanks, I look forward to being back often.

Reply

David March 7, 2011 at 4:48 am

Thanks for your comment, Rob.

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Justin M. March 7, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I got to say I disagree with #9 🙂 But everything else is spot on, especially #1!

Reply

David March 8, 2011 at 7:30 am

Thanks for the reply. No one (besides Google) can say for sure what’s going on with 9). The SEOMoz discussion is pretty interesting though.
I guess the bottom line should be that you shouldn’t give up just because your competition is older than you.

Reply

Steven March 8, 2011 at 11:39 am

I agree with your last comment, never give up just because the competition has more domain age, just work harder! Domain age is a factor, in my opinion, but a factor that can be overcome.

Reply

Christopher March 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Great list. So many webmasters won’t use G.A. because they are afraid of what Google will do with the data, but I wonder what the problem is since Google crawls all your pages eventually.

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