SEO confuses a lot of website owners. But in their defense, there are good reasons. First, the ranking algorithms at Google, Yahoo, and Bing keep changing, making it hard to know what works. Tactics that produce good results one week can seem to have the opposite effect the following week.
Another cause of confusion is the huge volume of conflicting chatter across the blogosphere and on forums. There’s no shortage of people proclaiming the “secrets” to getting your site ranked at the top of the search engines for your target keywords. Everyone seems to know the secret formula. The problem is, everyone disagrees with everyone else.
It’s hardly surprising that several misconceptions about SEO have surfaced over the years. Unfortunately, they’ve caused a lot of heartache for people who base their marketing efforts on them. In today’s post, we’ll debunk three stubborn SEO myths that refuse to go away.
#1 – Meta Tags Influence Your Site’s Rankings
This item begs clarification. Not all meta tags are created equal. In fact, only a few of them matter from a marketing perspective. Examples of tags that matter very little include those designed to host a page’s keywords, author and copyright information, and expiration date.
Making things even more confusing, the tags that matter do so for different reasons. For example, your title tag is an important ranking factor. Your description tag is also important – it encourages people to click – but doesn’t influence your page’s ranking. The robots tag can also be useful if you need to tell the search engines’ crawlers to ignore certain pages on your site.
#2 – Link Farms Will Improve Your Rankings
Link farms are a holdover from another era. A lot of folks would set up sites for the sole purpose of linking to their main sites. This tactic was used to manipulate the search engines’ link popularity signal. By setting up numerous domains and pointing links toward “money sites,” webmasters could make it seem as if their sites were popular.
It took the search engines time to catch on to the trick. But when they did, they tweaked the link popularity signal in their algorithms to remove any ranking value previously given by link farms.
The way to get links is to earn them by contributing valuable content to sites such as through guest blogging, publishing original content on 3rd party sites, creating link-worthy content on your site, commenting on blogs, publishing press releases, and through creating strong relationships with bloggers and website owners — which can open the door to all kinds of opportunities.
#3 – Incoming Links Can Only Help Your Site
For years, it was assumed that links could only help your site rank in the search engines. They could do no damage. Over time, as Google and others refined their algorithms, it became clear that some links have zero effect. But even then, it was believed that links couldn’t hurt your site. After all, if they could, what would stop competitors from maliciously attacking each other’s rankings?
Enter negative SEO.
It is now a known fact that you can use low-quality links to push a site’s pages down in the organic listings. There are many examples of this occurring, with competitors in high-value niches unleashing tens of thousands of spam links against each other.
It’s safe to say that Google never meant for links to be used in this manner. Instead, they wanted to suppress sites in their index that were likely to be of low quality. Using link profiles was considered a reasonable approach.
Google and the other search engines will likely remove this exploit within the next year or two. In the meantime, tread carefully (and don’t go out of your way to make enemies!).
We had this happen on one of our sites and it was quite frustrating because we didn’t place the links or ask for the links to our site! One of our websites allows people to submit their own content. Naturally, people want to link to their own content on the site to help promote it. We learned that some of the links coming in to our site were from sites that appeared spammy and it made an impact search-wise. The problem is, you can’t tell people NOT to link to your site. You can ask them to remove the links, but they certainly don’t have to. Hopefully Google comes up with a better solution to this issue quickly.
We’re merely scratching the surface with the five SEO myths above. There are countless others, and a lot of them continue to trip up business owners. What are some other misconceptions you’ve heard other people talking about? Can you give an example of a tactic you once thought was effective, but later learned it wasn’t? And lastly, if you could give one piece of advice to someone learning the ropes of SEO, what would it be?
Photo courtesy of Nils Geylen and Flickr
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