The longer an industry survives and the more rapidly it evolves, the more opportunity there is for myths to breed like rabbits.
Many people make their living from those who believe in a myth so it is very much in their interest to keep a particular legend going. I see this a great deal in the link swapping and link building businesses but it is also rife in other areas.
So before we go any further here are a couple of pointers when surfing the net:
- Check article/blog/forum dates - there is so much dated information out there that may have been worth reading in its time. But Google and other search engines have changed so much, even in the last 12 months alone, that anything older than a year may mislead you.
- Who is writing in the forums – before you take advice from a forum look at the rating of the person who is giving out that advice. If the forum doesn't have such a feature then ignore and leave. Again be wary of when comments were posted – months ago or weeks ago?
- What are they selling – a company that creates backlinks will tell you it is the one and only way to SEO heaven, one that writes articles will assure you that is the answer to your ranking woes, and so on.
From my own mail box and the discussions I see and take part in on forums I would say these are the SEO myths that are still alive and well in 2013
You need backlinks to rank
Not necessarily. Our real SEO example was an experiment carried out in early 2012 and showed that you could rank in Google's top 10 for a medium competitive keyword with no backlinks at all.
Links play an ever decreasing part in the decision of a search engine on which pages should rank for which keywords because links can be gamed. They're not dead in the water and to some extent they will always matter but not in the way we have been used to.
Thanks to better data gathering search engines like Google can consider:
- if the website your link is on holds any value in its own right
- if the page your link is on is about the same subject that it's linking to
- if real people follow that link (they do if you post a thoughtful blog comment, they don't when you write things like "Great article, I'll be following this blog regularly")
As a side note there are still quite a few SEO practitioners out there who have built businesses around the whole linking idea and it's all they really know how to do. They will fight the corner that link building is critical until their last breath rather than retrain in modern day SEO!
You can be in Google's top 3
I still receive these emails by the bucket so they must work and enough people must really believe it's possible. Ask any real SEO professional and they'll tell you it's not because of Google's personalized search results.
There's a great deal more detail on the page The Myth of Google #1. Suffice to say, if any SEO company offers you concrete positions in Google's search results make your excuses and leave.
The domain name is important
This worked very well until late 2012 when a Google update meant it no longer took a websites domain name into account when ranking it if the domain name was an exact match of the search being carried out. This was known as EMD (exact match domains) such as www.keyword.com.
The sub myth that sprouted after the Google change was that you would get penalized for using EMD. Not true, you just won't enjoy the benefit.
And there is still mileage in the domain name. EMD starts with 'exact' and that is what it means so if your site is www.franksbikesmytown.com this isn't exact so it will still help you rank for "bikes mytown".
A social media presence makes your site fireproof
Search engines have become increasingly sophisticated in spotting real social media patterns and the ones you buy. If your Facebook fans are as unrealistic as their 'friends' and their profile because you bought them by the thousand that won't help.
There is an argument for making it easier for users to share (on Facebook, Google+, etc) or bookmark (on Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc. ) your site and I do it here. As you have scrolled down the page the links to do just that are moving down with you on the right hand side of this text.
But various pages on this site were shared and bookmarked long before these icons were added. If you have good content then social media will happen naturally. Trying to 'make it happen' any other way is time and money wasted.
There is a piece of software that can do SEO
They have such wonderful names – SEO Nuke, Traffic Blaster, whatever – but if there was a piece of software that could do it and not end up getting your site blacklisted from the search engines that news would be all over the net within hours.
Then everyone would use it, everyone would be equal on that footing, and it would have no worth anymore.
There's a great thread on the SEO Chat forum (My Journey to get 3 websites first page) from a very enthusiastic webmaster who thought he had it sorted. His 'journey' with a piece of magical software is well worth a read.
Still plenty of people out there that think if they buy one domain name for each keyword they want ranked, put some content on there and add some links to their main site, it will help them.
There are two reasons it won't. First Exact Match Domains are no longer a factor (see above) and second search engines can spot a website that seems to have no life of its' own and only links to one other site. A bit too obvious!
SEO is easy
I can't find it now but I came across a website last year run by a wedding photographer somewhere in Australia. He was not only offering to take the snaps on your happy day but he could also SEO your website.
His bold statements set out how easy it had been for him to rank his own site highly on Google without having to hire anyone, that the SEO industry was just feeding on ignorance and laziness, and that he would sort out your site for a fraction of the usual price.
His evidence came from the fact that he was in Google's top ten for "wedding photographer [neighbourhood name]". Now how many wedding photographers can you fit into one neighbourhood? Not many so not that difficult to rank but he hadn't really seen this connection!
So yes, if you have little competition for a particular search then SEO is easy, sometimes you don't need to do any 'optimization', just write sensible content about your company, products and services.
No follow links don't count
I see them on the forums and on Yahoo answers – people scurrying around looking for those elusive 'do follow links'.
Now first off if there is a site that has Do Follow links and it allows you to post things like “This is a great post, I'll be checking out this site more often” then your Do Follow link will be lost on a page full of similar spammy comments and count for nothing anyway.
Secondly search engines don't really honour the whole No Follow thing. Surprised? Think about it.
I manage sites that have links in Wikipedia. Do you think search engines will ignore the fact that these sites have links in Wikipedia just because they are No Follow? In fact in Google Webmaster Tools the Wikipedia links are listed!
When it comes to link building concentrate on quality sites – Do Follow or No Follow. A good comment on a blog that does not allow spam will create a stronger page for that blogger, and that in turn will help your link and bring you real traffic.
If Google, Bing or whoever respects the page then, Do Follow or No Follow, it will recognise that you were allowed to include a comment there. If you were to build a search engine tomorrow wouldn't you do the same?