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SEO Myths and Out Of Date Theories

Andy Williams

by Andy Williams on 11th October 2011

True or FalseSearch Engine Optimisation is now a profession a majority of companies and individuals have heard of. It’s also a profession that a number of people think is easy and they can do themselves by reading a couple of blogs and help files.

Unfortunately this usually leads to out of date methods continuing to do the rounds. With so many self proclaimed experts willing to spread the word on old theories it’s easy to see why so many companies are misled by inaccurate information.

The trouble is this then becomes gospel.

In this profession it’s still a common occurrence to hear myths and inaccurate information being bandied about with such a confident ignorance that you can see why site owners end up believing what they hear or read.

The problem then is trying to explain why a certain myth is completely wrong. Explaining that their mate “who does SEO” is behind the times and in many cases just wrong can be hard work.

How does the saying go; “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”

So in no particular order are some of the questions and beliefs that still continue to pop up in discussions:

Their site looks 10 times worse than ours why are they ranking ahead of us?
Google isn’t an art critic. Unless the design of a site stops search engines from actively crawling the site, reading the content and generally taking away all the information they are looking for they couldn’t care less what the site physically looks like. If its search engine friendly then it’s doing its job. If backed up by a strong link building campaign then why shouldn’t it rank well?

This is something that baffles a lot of people. It almost seems to offend them that a site that is less pleasing to the eye is ranking higher. You would hope that if anything this serves as the wake-up call highlighting just how important it is to optimise your site.

Ugly Design

My competition has more links than us, why aren’t we looking to gain as many? (Yes I know we rank above them).
This one always stumps me yet crops up quite a bit. Some people seem fixated on how many links they receive compared to competing sites. Some even demand how many links they want confirmed by certain dates. Even a better ranking doesn’t seem to deter them from this demand.

At the end of the day a site can receive thousands of links but if they aren’t great quality then a site receiving a lot less can rank higher. It’s all about the quality of the links you create. It’s very rarely about quantity.

I want my Google Toolbar PageRank improved. PageRank means I will rank higher.
No it doesn’t.

This is one of the big myths. Even the score Google present to you on their toolbar is inaccurate.

Toolbar PageRank doesn’t guarantee that your site will out rank one with a lower score.

Google’s Toolbar PageRank has become more and more irrelevant and in my personal opinion too much information isn’t taken into account for this to be a factor worth worrying about. Your toolbar score doesn’t take into account if the links you are receiving are optimised, contain anchor text or whether the sites you receive links from are relevant. These are hugely important factors so any score missing out this type of information shouldn’t be given a huge amount of time.

OK, it shouldn’t be totally ignored and it’s a good indication that the links you are building are good ones, but it doesn’t guarantee anything.

PageRank

I want to rank for terms unrelated to my site.
Why?

A majority of the time you can kind of see the train of thought that goes into this. “Someone who is looking for this may be interested in what we are offering”. Maybe, but optimising for a term, product or service you physically don’t actually offer isn’t the way forward.

If you truly want to target unrelated terms then you are possibly looking at creating new pages to work with these terms. Is this really worthwhile? No.

Concentrate on what you do. Don’t try to capture an audience who isn’t searching for what you offer. If they want your products they will search for them.

Corner your market.

We are a far bigger company, why aren’t we ranking above them.
This one occurs more with local businesses. A call has come in more than once from a company fuming that a rival business round the corner is ranking higher than they are. “Don’t Google know who we are?” No, not really. Google (and other search engines) rank web pages they don’t rank by a company’s status.

Just because you are a bigger company than those above you doesn’t mean that you should rank higher.

You haven’t optimised my Meta Keyword Tags; you need to so we can rank higher.

These are completely useless tags. Google doesn’t acknowledge them any more; they account for nothing and serve only to inform competing sites as to what terms you are working with.

Keyword density has to be around 2% – 3% right?
Yes I do still get asked this one.

Keyword density is a very old theory.

Ignore density and concentrate on your content making sense. Terms you are looking to target should naturally include themselves. Basically if it fits and it makes sense; include it.

If you need some kind of rule to work with try this; anyone coming to your page shouldn’t be able to work out instantly what terms you are trying to target. If they stick out like a sore thumb you’re possibly over using them.

Are there penalties for overuse? No. But if your pages don’t read fluently then chances are that you will lose potential custom as well as rankings. Over optimisation can work against you.

I can hide text and links in CSS
I wouldn’t. Google can quite easily read CSS. Try and hide anything and you will get found out.

It’s a really simple rule: Don’t try and hide anything. If you’re hiding it, you know it’s wrong.

This type of action usually comes about when sites around them are hiding information or using under hand tactics. “If they are getting away with it why aren’t we doing it?”

Sooner or later they will get caught and there will be a reaction. Be it noticeable drop in rankings or a complete disappearance.

No matter how clever your developer thinks they are, they can’t hide anything in CSS.

This includes colouring text in the same colour as your sites background. Yes this still happens.

Hidden Text

Google AdWords influences organic rankings
This is a complete myth. Adwords and SEO are completely unrelated and have no bearing on each other at all.
It’s as simple as that.

There are regular conspiracy theories that the more you pay on your Adwords account the higher your natural rankings will be.

This is total rubbish.

Have you submitted my site to Google, you need to.
No you don’t. You shouldn’t have to submit your site to any search engine.

This myth continues to hang around mainly because of the number of companies that still offer this as a service.

As long as you have links out there leading to your site, the search engines will find you. That is how the internet works.
It’s as simple as that. You certainly shouldn’t be charged for such a service. If this is a paid service you are being offered, leave.

Google is an off page search engine.
To believe this is almost like committing online suicide.

It is true that there are many off page factors that need to be addressed, but ignoring what needs to be done on page is insane. OK, you can get a site to rank by carrying out off page work but if you are working with a competitive term you had better have your on page elements in place.

You see Google is more than happy to take on board the anchor text is reads but it really would like to see some continued relevance on the page it has been lead to. If you can’t make this minimal marriage work then more often than not you’re not going to be able to compete.

Image Source

True Or False With Red Marker via BigStock

Andy Williams

Andy Williams

Andy Williams, our DADI award winning Digital Marketing Manager will be giving you useful insights into local search and the overall SEO landscape. Andy has over 9 years experience in the SEO industry including 2 years as the in-house SEO consultant with a leading Web Design company.

10 Comments

  • Sammy C 11th October 2011

    Hi Andy,

    I think there are definitely some good ones in here (some that really baffle me that people still ask or believe the, but still!). However, I think there are some that are a bit more ambiguous:

    Yes, I agree that the quality of the design is somewhat secondary to SEO but it does have a direct impact. First, I feel the Panda situation and the questions Google suggested you run through (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-guidance-on-building-high-quality.html) I do think design and layout are important to a good site.

    I’m not trying to say that the better looking site will always look better BUT I do think a good looking site, all other things being equal will outperform the ugly site no only in terms of conversions, lower bounce rates, etc. but also for the secondary impact of the fact that people will be more likely to link to it.

    My favourite question Google asks is:
    “Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?”

    For me, this has a lot to do with design – perhaps as much as anything else and if I see one site that is loaded with advertisements and looks horrible I’d prefer give my business to the other site with the same price, same product, etc.

    I do understand your point and think it’s something that people often worry too much about, but I think the propensity to get natural links AND to have a higher conversion rate would suggest to me that design does matter and will have an impact on ranking even if it is not in and of itself a ranking factor.

    I do really like the post though and it’s a good resource to show to clients!

    Sincerely,
    A dude who has worked on some hideous sites that do still rank ok but could make a lot more money

    Reply to this comment

  • Andy Williams

    Andy 11th October 2011

    Hi Sammy,

    Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you liked the post.

    I do totally agree with your points regarding design. Given the choice I would always choose the site that was better presented and (at least) looked trustworthy.

    And of course the design of the site does have a knock on effect to other areas such as bounce rate, usibility etc…

    My take on the design point was more inspired by those who haven’t really carried out any SEO work and don’t really think they should as their site is simply better looking. Unfortunately they can’t get their heads around why a ropey site that has actually done some SEO and link building can rank higher than their all singing and dancing site with no incoming links, on page optimisation and so on.

    As you say all things being equal then you are more likely to see the better designs performing better.

    Reply to this comment

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  • Andy Morley 11th October 2011

    Great post guys.

    I would add “NoFollow” links to the list.

    There is the understanding that “NoFollow” links are totally useless in SEO. I don’t agree with this, I have found them to be quite the opposite for some of the sites i have worked on.

    In my experience “NoFollow” can help with two things:

    1) Act as a signal to the search engines that your site is being spoken about, often the NoFollow links are found on higher quality sites. Which do appear in my Google WebMaster Tools reports.

    2) They help you create a more “natural” looking link profile. After all if a website was to grow links naturally, there would be little concern with if the links are nofollow or not!

    I think some people (generally new SEO’s) for get that the act of link building is to try and appear as “natural” as possible. “NoFollow” links could be seen as helping create this natural profile.

    Of course a natural link profile would also be made up of Forum Posts, Blog Comments (link this one), Directories, One way links etc…

    Thanks – Andy.

    Reply to this comment

  • Jim Seward 11th October 2011

    I’m running a series of similar posts on SEO Myths and Legends on my blog here:

    http://www.seward.org.uk/about-the-myths-legends/

    Reply to this comment

  • Steve 12th October 2011

    Great post, Andy. Agree with your points and find it baffling that even some big people in big brands still cling onto the myths you’ve described above. The PageRank one especially.

    The funniest one I heard from a prospective client recently:

    “If I talk about non-professional things on my Twitter profile (e.g. if I swear, talk about going to the pub, etc.), will it affect my main website’s Google rankings?”

    Perhaps the strangest SEO myth ever? I wonder where some people come up with them sometimes…!

    Reply to this comment

  • michle 28th September 2012

    Seo technology are changing and new updates are coming up so we can not follow single seo myths or rule .This world is changing day by day, lets keep an eye every thing and do better seo.

    Reply to this comment

    • Andy Williams

      Andy Williams 28th September 2012

      Hi Michle,

      You are right.
      I wrote this post a year ago now so it might be interesting to revisit it and see what still holds true and whether there are now some new things to add to the list.

      Reply to this comment

  • vivek 30th November 2012

    some people say that seo is dead now and content is main thing that drives traffic to your site , not seo . should i hire content writers and fire my seo team ?

    Reply to this comment

  • Andy Williams

    Andy Williams 3rd December 2012

    Hi Vivek,

    You will find that every month someone will write an “SEO Is Dead” article. SEO isn’t dead, it’s a long way from being dead.

    SEO constantly evolves and will continue to do so. Some would even argue that SEO’s are no longer SEO’s and more digital marketers these days.

    Whatever is the opinion no one can deny that content is very valuable but firing your SEO team would be a huge mistake.

    If your SEO team are up to date and on top of their game they will already be implementing a killer content strategy to work hand in hand with your SEO strategy.

    Reply to this comment

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