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What’s The Biggest SEO Myth?

15 Jan 2009, Posted by admin in Featured,Whitehat, 39 Comments

What’s The Biggest SEO Myth?


SEO as an industry is still technically in it’s infancy. It’s a young area to work in, quite a lot of people are getting into it and the technology changes incredibly quickly. So quickly, in fact, that SEO techniques that used to work no longer do. There’s a lot of miscommunication about what does and doesn’t work with SEO, the search engines themselves are quite often guarded about what factors are taken into account, as you can expect with their billion dollar children, and it’s led to some pretty big myths. I got in contact with some of the biggest and brightest SEOs and asked them to dispell some SEO myths.

Rand Fishkin (SEOMoz)

I don’t know about top one, but top 3 (for the completely uninitiated) are:

1. Meta Keywords are still useful (they’re definitely not). See Meta Keywords Tag 101.
2. Keyword Density is a factor in rankings (it’s definitely not). See Keyword Usage.
3. Submitting your site to search engines is a critical part of SEO. It hasn’t been since the 1990′s, but like meta keywords, this one just won’t die.

For those who are generally smart about SEO, the ones I find most persistent are:

Click-through rate is a major part of search engine rankings. The engines have said publicly that CTR is a very noisy and un-useful signal, and not something they’d rely on.
2. The search engines penalize you if you do active/obvious SEO (they don’t). The engines themselves promote SEO best practices, and Google’s gone as far as to endorse and promote SEO events, a guide and an SEO toolset.
3. Participating in PPC campaigns (and spending more) will help you rank better in the engines (it doesn’t). The engines have very real Chinese walls between their business divisions and never let paid campaign spending affect organic rankings directly.

Rand Fishkin is the CEO of SEOMoz, a Seattle based SEO company.

Danny Sullivan (Calafia & Search Engine Land)

It’s not quite a myth, but I’d say one of the biggest problems SEOs struggle with is that it is all about rankings and traffic, rather than conversions. It’s easy to keep focusing on trying to work the extremes to bring in more visitors when the time might be better spent on ensuring you’re doing better to convert your existing visitors. If you want a real myth, though, it’s that the meta keywords tag matters. It makes so little difference. Only Yahoo takes any real look at it, and even there, it’s virtually useless. Yet still, some newbie SEOs still focus on it.

Danny Sullivan heads up Internet Consulting firm Calafia and is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land.

Dave Naylor (Bronco & DavidNaylor.co.uk)

Wow so many to choose from..

“£500 one off SEO fix and your website is good forever” – SEO and search engines move forward all the time, so should you website.

“Nothing that a competitor can’t do to harm you” – There are people that make a living destroying other peoples websites

“Link Bait won’t get you penalised” – Maybe not today ;)

Dave Naylor is a UK SEO, he runs the web design and SEO agency Bronco.

Aaron Wall (SEOBook)

The biggest SEO myth is probably that of “quality content,” especially for new webmasters creating new sites. Some believe markets are won and lost based exclusively on quality of content and quality of service, but advertisers spend $100′s of billions advertising each year to influence consumers. As search incorporates more usage data that advertising keeps seeping its way into influencing the “organic” search results. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said that the web is fast becoming a cesspool and that brands are the solution. It is hard to create a brand without an ad budget. And most markets have cliques and are dominated by nepotism and little white lies. If you want to gain marketshare you have to be a push marketer until you are near the top and have momentum pushing you along. Re-invest heavily until you run out of things to invest in.

Aaron Wall offers SEO training and is the author of SEOBook.

Patrick Altoft (Blogstorm, Branded3)

The biggest is the duplicate content penalty. People think that just because you publish the same content as somebody else you are going to get some kind of penalty, not the case at all.

Patrick Altoft writes the popular Blogstorm SEO Blog and is Director of Search for Branded3.

Michael Gray (Graywolf)

The biggest myth of SEO is that everyone is treated equally by the search engines. Small, nimble, and aggressive publishers were able to build web properties extremely quickly, and as a result they were able to pollute Google with nonsense and garbage websites. As a result Google has made it more difficult to obtain the required trust for popular and commercial keywords. This higher trust prerequisite made it much harder for people to pollute Google with garbage. However smaller business, mom & pop shops, or people who don’t have the resources to compete with big brands have become collateral damage in Google’s war on spam. The irony of the whole situation is Google is responsible for much of the spam web pollution which is
monetized with Google’s adsense product.

Michael Gray is an SEO Consultant who can always be relied on to create (sharklarking) controversy.

Big thanks to the guys that contributed, and if you know of a myth in SEO  feel free to share it in the comments.

(Flickr image from Der_Flo ☮)

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39 Comments

January 15, 2009 9:52 pm

Alhan Keser

Another one: The meta revisit tag does something.

January 15, 2009 9:55 pm

Simon Wharton

So if you some up the comments, nothing works?

January 15, 2009 10:06 pm

mark

I work with lots of small companies around e-marketing and SEO in the UK for a funded project at the University of Warwick. Most times I meet with a company the meta keywords just keeps on cropping up by the companies who think that’s all there is to SEO.

Lots of bad advice out there in the UK at the moment.

January 15, 2009 10:19 pm

SEO Myths

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January 15, 2009 10:21 pm

Shailesh Ghimire

Too often I see supposed SEO providers in local markets repeating these myths. Especially the ones cited by Rand. Many in marketing don’t realize that SEO is an evolving place, just like anything else. Rules in 1999 are by no means true in 2009.

January 15, 2009 11:53 pm

Michael Shearer

While I agree with these, I think Danny Sullivan’s point is the most relevant. SEO is not just the optimizing to get high ranks and more traffic, but to generate leads and customers.

SEO needs to be redefined and renamed, the term can be buzz kill and there are is collection of necessary practices to make “SEO” work:

-landing page optimization (good copywriting, usability, visual and path analysis…)
-web analytics (another infant industry)
-focused search (filters like local and vertical by industry or content type)
-reputation/brand management (keeping close eye on what people are saying about you and your company)

Quite frankly it’s a daunting task b/c in order for “SEO” experts to be really successful, our ability to synthesis all of these practices (either individually, in a firm or subcontracting) and explain them to our clients very simply is a serious challenge..especially when the rules are constantly changing.

January 16, 2009 1:08 am

CVOS man

One myth I frequently see on SEO websites is ALT tag abuse. Inexperienced marketers still think that search engines love keywords stuffed here.

The ALT element on an image is useful, but only of the image is linked.

January 16, 2009 1:48 am

Bruce Stone

Michael hit the nail on the head with this

“mom & pop shops, or people who don’t have the resources to compete with big brands have become collateral damage in Google’s war on spam”

Very well said!!

January 16, 2009 1:56 am

Bill Sebald

That Google doesn’t hand edit, that Yahoo’s PI doesn’t help rankings, that paid linking is ineffective…

January 16, 2009 3:31 am

Jonatas Leonel

Excellent post! The idea to interview some of the most top SEO´s in the world about the importance to help google rank the net is really good!!!

We understand the importance that Google gives to the White Hat SEO and great content, because that´s totally natural and should run by this way!!!

That´s the basis.

Thanks by the post

January 16, 2009 10:05 am

xentech

The ‘myth’ about keyword density isn’t a myth, it’s just misleading the way people talk about it. Obviously the more times the keyword is on the page the more relevance Google will attribute to it, but there is no ‘golden percentage’ which makes you rank higher.

January 16, 2009 12:11 pm

Cassiano Travareli

The major myth is: “Submit your website in 3.000 directories to help in your pagerank”

Bulshit, just some directories have a good quality and can help you, like Dmoz, Business.com, Yahoo Directory, BOTW and Joeant.

January 16, 2009 3:41 pm

Nick Stamoulis

There are many myths on what works and what doesn’t. A multi angled approach is where you will see best results.

January 16, 2009 3:44 pm

swags2804

Talk about mixed signals.

January 16, 2009 4:52 pm

Tall_Geek

Good read, bookmarked! you managed to interview most of the gods of SEO. Accomplishing that feat, should get you ranked at #1 in 7 minutes or less. ;)

January 16, 2009 5:52 pm

Eryck

The myth that Google don’t filter some sites or, as write Bill Sebald, hand edit.

January 16, 2009 5:57 pm

mathew

@patrick altoft – good point about duplicate content – not only are people misled about publishing the same content that is on other sites – lots of people get confused about the definition of duplicate content – the distinction between 2 urls on the same domain with duplicate content vs. republishing content from another domain .

-mathew

January 16, 2009 8:20 pm

Ryan Kelly

I thought this was an interesting read, and I laughed when I saw Simon Wharton’s comment above – “so if you sum up the comments, nothing works?” – it did kind of seem that way.

I’m not sure I totally agree with keyword density being a total non-factor. I have had some success with targeting pages for certain key phrases, and making sure they are in the title tag, page description, and yes, even the meta keywords (what the hell, why not). I believe that the SE’s are looking for relevancy, so if your search terms are in the content several times, in the titles, descriptions, etc., it must be a “relevant” page.

I also don’t believe duplicate content is NOT a problem. Even Aaron Wall wrote several blog posts about canonical URLs, and explicitly stated to make sure you don’t have pages with the same content with different URLs – the search engine is confused and does not know which to rank. (I believe that was the point of his Website Health Check tool). Not to mention, we see this all the time on our blogs when we change the slug, and Google indexes the old slug AND the new one (so I installed the Redirect plugin for WordPress).

So in summary, I believe that relevancy, popularity (quality inbound links) and site structure are the 3 main things that can affect your SERP.

Anyone disagree?

Ryan

January 17, 2009 9:16 am

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January 17, 2009 5:36 pm

The Wizard

I like the defeatest comment “nothing works” it is such a controveIrsial industry to be in I doubt there is something called a Bored SEO Consultant

What works what does’t we all have our opinions

How about a what works blog or is that secret :-)

January 17, 2009 10:11 pm

Glenn Abel

What about, Using nofollow will get you penalized for using SEO tactics.

January 18, 2009 7:01 am

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January 18, 2009 2:00 pm

Context

I wouldn’t agree with Patrick Altoft. google could penalisze original content website if duplicator has more trust. It’s not a myth, I guess…

January 20, 2009 1:28 pm

Matt Inertia

Yep… Michaels point strikes a chord with me. Google is not a level playing field as many new webmasters believe. IMO the SMBs have it really hard when it comes to getting some real leverage in the SERPs and I think there is a grey (or gray!) area between small/local business and big international business.

In the UK the small local trader will always do well because the level of competition is very low for the “keyword + location” type phrases which they are targeting. They also have more opportunity with social media which naturally favours the local business. For the SMBs who are national it becomes a lot harder and there is a type of sand boxing which seems to occur for the big, non regional keywords. These companies are then forced to channel funds into PPC until their top SERPs are “earnt”. This can take a long time and we tell clients not to expect much in the first 12 months.

For the large companies with the big budgets its easy… they have the time to develop ad campaigns and promotions (such as all the gimmicky ads we now see [http://www.whoppersacrifice.com/]). This gives them highly targeted traffic which creates viral linking and improved rankings…

m2c

February 2, 2009 8:55 am

Chaunna Brooke

Interesting post. At least this gives us the opportunity to re-assess the SEO strategies that we are using for the past year and to check if these strategies are indeed working or not. And if not, well we would welcome new SEO tips and strategies.

February 26, 2009 12:16 pm

Robert

@ Ryan… okay, I’ll bite. Keyword Density won’t make that much difference unless it’s a relatively low competitive term. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to make sure that you’re keywords are used effectively.

Duplicate content is NOT penalised. However, you suddenly start competing with yourself for rankings with multiple pages of the same content. Subsequently other pages have better link strength as they don’t share it between multiple URL’s. No penalty, but kinda entering a Smart Car into a drag race. On the other hand, if you’re content is the same (read scraped) from another site, why should it rank?

Hey, you asked for it :D

February 28, 2009 11:03 pm

malcolm

SEO friendly URLs – google doesn’t care. But humans do. So still use them ;)

May 8, 2009 3:54 pm

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May 8, 2009 6:41 pm

Alex

I think the biggest myth is that people believe that there’s somebody out there who “has all the answers” about SEO. I don’t even think any one programmer at Google knows everything there is to know about the engine.

Some people know more than others, but certainly nobody knows everything.

November 20, 2009 8:49 pm

SEO Up Here in Toronto

What Graywolf says is not really a myth but it is my personal pet peeve. MFA sites are a terrible burden on the web and Google has profited from them and all the other folks paying inflated adwords prices because of them.

December 13, 2009 9:55 pm

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September 9, 2010 9:46 pm

Patrick

I know, old post, but still.

How come Patrick Altoft says: ‘The biggest is the duplicate content penalty’ while on his blog he wrote the following: http://www.blogstorm.co.uk/googles-duplicate-content-filter-is-broken/

October 13, 2010 1:20 pm

Nabil

One big-ass myth is the one that says that PR affects your ranking. It does not.

December 2, 2010 8:36 pm

Edward @ SEO Philippines

Great Post!

Just to add to the discussion, does anyone know if spinning your content actually works? Thanks.

Edward

http://www.seo-philippines.ph

December 28, 2010 1:05 pm

nitGreen

Hey Admin,

Great information!

I will disagree with Alhan Keser,

revisit-after META Tag is not supported by any major search engines,

April 9, 2011 2:52 pm

seo company philippines | gary

How about the LDA stuff that was once a buzz in the SEO world. Is that a myth too?

July 28, 2011 12:32 am

Markus Jalmerot

Another big myth is that it’s all about links. On-page SEO also matters. If you don’t write about a certain topic, you are unlikely to rank well in Google for it.

January 14, 2012 7:26 am

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