SEO myths get crazier every year. Some are based partially in reality, and others have spread because it’s often difficult to prove what particular SEO action caused a resulting search engine reaction.
For example, you might make a change to something on a page of your site, and a few days later notice that your ranking in Google for a particular keyword phrase has changed. You might naturally assume that your page change is what caused the ranking change. But that’s not necessarily so. There are numerous reasons why your ranking may have changed, and in many cases they actually have nothing to do with anything that you did.
Mixing up cause and effect is one of the most common things new SEOs do. If it were affecting only their own work, it wouldn’t be so bad, but unfortunately, the clueless often spread their misinformation to other unsuspecting newbies on forums and blogs, which in turn creates new myths. It’s always interesting to see how people are so willing to believe anything they have read or heard without ever checking it out for themselves.
Here are 10 of the most common organic-SEO myths:
Myth 1: You should submit your URLs to search engines. This may have helped once upon a time, but it’s been at least 5 or 6 years since that’s been necessary.
Myth 2: You need a Google Sitemap. If your site was built correctly, i.e., it’s crawler-friendly, you certainly don’t need a Google Sitemap. It won’t hurt you to have one, and you may be interested in Google’s other Webmaster Central Tools, but having a Google Sitemap isn’t going to get you ranked better.
Myth 3: You need to update your site frequently. Frequent updates to your pages may increase the search engine crawl rate, but it won’t increase your rankings. If your site doesn’t need to change, don’t change it just because you think the search engines will like it better. They won’t. In fact, some of the highest ranking sites in Google haven’t been touched in years.
Myth 4: PPC ads will help/hurt rankings. This one is funny to me because about half the people who think that running Google AdWords will affect their organic rankings believe that they will bring them down; the other half believe they will bring them up. That alone should tell you that neither is true!
Myth 5: Your site will be banned if you ignore Google’s guidelines. There’s nothing in Google’s webmaster guidelines that isn’t common sense. You can read them if you’d like, but it’s not mandatory in order to be an SEO. Just don’t do anything strictly for search engines that you wouldn’t do anyway, and you’ll be fine. That said, the Google guidelines are much better than they used to be, and may even provide you with a few good tidbits of advice.
Myth 6: Your site will be banned if you buy links. This one does have some roots in reality, as Google (specifically Matt Cutts) likes to scare people about this. They rightly don’t want to count paid links as votes for a page if they can figure out that they are paid, but they often can’t. Even if they do figure it out, they simply won’t count them. It would be foolish of them to ban entire sites because they buy advertising on other sites.
Myth 7: H1 (or any header tags) must be used for high rankings. There’s very little (if any) evidence to suggest that keywords in H tags actually affect rankings, yet this myth continues to proliferate. My own tests don’t seem to show them making a difference, although it’s difficult to know for sure. Use H tags if it works with your design or content management system, and don’t if it doesn’t. It’s doubtful you’ll find it makes a difference one way or the other.
Myth 8: Words in your meta keyword tag have to be used on the page. I used to spread this silly myth myself many years ago. The truth is that the Meta keyword tag was actually designed to be used for keywords that were NOT already on the page, not the opposite! Since this tag is ignored by Google and used only for uncommon words in Yahoo, it makes little difference at this point anyway.
Myth 9: SEO copy must be 250 words in length. This one is interesting to me because I am actually the one who made up the 250 number back in the late ’90s. However, I never said that 250 was the exact number of words you should use, nor did I say it was an optimal number. It’s simply a good amount to be able to write a nice page of marketing copy that can be optimized for 3-5 keyword phrases. Shorter copy ranks just as well, as does longer copy. Use as many or as few words as you need to use to say what you need to say.
Myth 10: You need to optimize for the long tail. No, you don’t. By their very nature, long-tail keyword phrases are uncompetitive; meaning that not many pages are using those words, and not that many people are searching for them in the engines. Because of this, ranking for long-tail keywords is easy…simply include them somewhere in a blog post or an article, and you’ll rank for them. But that’s not optimization.
Before you go spreading these myths or any other SEO info that you believe is true, test it many times on many sites. Even if it appears to work, keep in mind that it may not always work, or that there could be other factors involved.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.