It seems that everyone and their dog have something to say about optimizing websites to rank highly for search engines. With the emergence of this knowledge over the last ten plus years, a number of myths and misconceptions about the dos and don’ts of SEO have also become commonplace.
Here we try to dispel the myths and explain the real story behind them.
Submitting Forms to Search Engines
In the late 1990’s search engines had ‘submission’ forms, where webmasters would effectively tell the search engine that their site existed. After submitting the form, the engine’s algorithm would then crawl your site for information.
Because of the system’s openness to manipulation and the lack of reliability of webmasters submitting their forms, this process ended in 2001. The forms still exist, however the major search engines have all confirmed that they rarely use the submissions. In its place, search engines now rely on (respected) external sites linking to your website to determine how they should index you.
The only exception to this rule is if your site has been penalized by Google, you can submit a reconsideration request, after you have made the appropriate amendments.
Keyword Meta Tags
Back in the day, meta tags were absolutely key. They could dictate how high your page would appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs). This system was quickly abused by spam sites, and today only Yahoo! indexes from the meta keywords tag.
This does not mean that meta should be abandoned entirely. Although tags are out, the page’s meta descriptions are in. These short paragraphs (between 150 and 160 characters) are not only important for search engines; they are your opening line to your client. Keywords should be used intelligently for search but text should also compel the searcher to click on your site.
One of the persistent myths of SEO is about keyword density. Keyword density is the belief that there is a mathematical formula that divides the number of words on a page by the number of instances of a given keyword. It is believed that this number is used by search engines for relevancy and for calculating the ranking of your site.
This myth has been dispelled many times over the years, but still returns again and again.
Although using the right keywords is important, it is also important to use them intelligently and with the reader/user in mind. The value of earning one good link from a site that thinks you have reputable content far outweighs that of including a keyword ten times in a page.
Paid Search Improves SEO Rankings
One of the most common SEO theories is that spending more on pay per click (PPC) advertising will improve your organic SEO rankings. Each of the major players have denied this, claiming that they have effective information barriers in place to prevent conflict of interest, between the search and advertising teams. In fact, many businesses have complained that even after spending millions on AdWords they still cannot get special consideration for search quality or to be removed from spam lists.
That being said, there is still unconfirmed evidence that if you already rank well for a keyword, PPC can help your click through rate.
While the odd reciprocal link (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) does not hurt, multiple deep site links (like in your blog or case studies) raise alarm bells that agreements or incentives are in place.
The problem arose when search engines considered any incoming links as a ‘vote’ for that site. When webmasters realized that they could simply ‘trade’ votes with each other and improve each other’s standing in the SERPs, reciprocal links became over used and defeated the purpose of the algorithm.
Since then search engine algorithms have become more sophisticated. Incoming links are now judged by the relevancy, quality of the linked site and the anchor text (words to which the link is tagged). It is therefore wise to be careful of directories who promise value back to your site for exchange of a link on your site, as this could harm the rankings of your own site.
There are many myths and misconception out there when it comes to SEO. There are also many companies out there looking to take advantage of these. When looking at improving your website it is important to source advice from a reputable source. Whether that is a family member in the business, a consultant, a course or a book.
Where to Look for Help
Small Business BC holds a regular seminar on Measuring the Success of Your Web Site – Web Analytics and SEO presented by Vik Kumar of Iconic State. This seminar will help you understand more about your customer what keywords your customer’s are using to access your website and the importance of SEO.
If you are interested in a more one-to-one approach to diagnose the specific issues of your site, check out our Ask the Web Expert consultancy. Run quarterly, this service provides you access to a web consultant for 30 minutes to help you optimize your site.