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by Alec Sharratt on 1st June 2011
This article is in many ways a follow up to my recent post the explored why a little bit of SEO knowledge can be a bad thing. The primary difference being that rather than just a little knowledge, I am referring to wholly incorrect knowledge. When I first got started in SEO, I had no-one to ask questions; instead I had to try and filter the credible sources from the unreliable ones. The problem with this is that without prior knowledge you just don’t know what is right and what is wrong.
Millions of people can be wrong!
The only way I found to verify information was through online consensus, go with what the majority agree with. This is better than believing everything on the internet but is far from perfect; just because a lot of people say something is true doesn’t mean it is… a quick glance at Scientology will confirm the flaws in that logic (and also confirm that millions of people will actually follow a sci-fi author!).
“In my opinion…”
One of the problems with SEO, in general, is that almost every statement is prefixed with the immortal words “In My Opinion” or “From My Experience”; and when enough people believe something it transcends to myth or SEO legend. Examples of this include SEO red flags which spread like wildfire among the online community. As recently as last week I saw a group question on LinkedIn asking “what the most important factor is SEO is”. I thought, clearly a rookie asked this and they will be set straight by the community in no time at all… No. When I looked at the thread of hundreds of responses I saw (roughly) a 1 to 10 ratio of sensible answer to ‘window licking & buttering a telephone’ madness!
The most important SEO factor?
People were actually arguing over whether it was the title tag or Meta data, links or anchor text! It’s like arguing about what part of a car is the most essential, the wheels or the pistons, the lights or the exhaust system. They all serve a specific purpose and are equally essential components of a much larger picture. What this lead me to realise was that there is a massive amount of SEO misinformation out there, what is not clear is whether this is deliberate or unintentional. I’m not sure what is worse!
My PageRank hasn’t gone up in six months!
How many times have you either had a conversation with a client who is in the middle of a crisis because their PageRank hasn’t updated in six months? Or maybe you are on the other end of this call and are worried your PageRank is ‘too low’? The importance of PageRank is commonly misunderstood. There are so many factors to look at in order to gauge the success of a campaign and PageRank is not one of them. It is a red herring; the PageRank you can see is a rough approximation and is out of date. Granted it’s a good indicator of a website’s authority improving or worsening but it’s not, by a long way, the ‘be all’ or ‘end all’ of anything.
If you own a website at some point you may have had the classic phone call or email from one of the plethora of scurrilous SEO “consultants” calling to see if you have heard of Google. These creatures often require peanuts as payment and provide the services of a monkey in return. A colleague recently had a call from someone which could have been a Phonejacker style wind up… Saying “A space has become available at position four in Google, if you are interested in buying this…”!!! It would be funny if it wasn’t designed to scam the uninformed.
Another trick (lie) often employed by the cowboy-hat wearing peanut paid SEO monkeys is to guarantee someone a position within the SERPs. Anyone who knows anything about how SEO works knows that you cannot guarantee a position, anymore than you can guarantee the weather. This often leads to potential clients being poached by unscrupulous individuals.
Matt Cutts himself actually says in this video about SEO Misinformation that Google does not look at the Meta Keywords tag on websites. This section of code is often stuffed with hundreds of characters worth of keywords, at best this is ignored, but at worst your competitors will use it to see what you are targeting. If you have more than one keyword in this tag I would suggest that your strategy is flawed anyway, aside from the obvious use of a redundant tag.
Google’s advice on setting up PPC
Google would have you believe that it is easy to set up a PPC account and start reeling in the business. Granted setting up a campaign is easy, just the way pulling a trigger is easy, but being accurate and not shooting yourself in the foot comes with skill and experience. The fact is that setting 50 keywords to broad match will not deliver the same quality of results or return on investment that a well constructed account can.
It is in Google’s interest to advise this, because they get paid for every click, but you get paid for each conversion and converting traffic is a craft that requires mastering.
I think the biggest myth of all though is that SEO consultants and agencies have a magic (probably big red and magic) button under the desk that connects directly to Google that we press once the cheque clears. This is far from the truth, the reality is that hard work, diligence, and expertise are what elevates a website through the SERPs.
This is why it is so important to set expectations properly in the initial stages, to curb ideas of becoming the next Facebook or Twitter or getting to No. 1 within the first month. In this vein it is also important to be realistic about the website being promoted; a three page website full of HTML errors and a 24 second load time will always suffer problems no matter what work is done to promote it.