SEO is a vastly misunderstood concept. For example, most people understand Search Engine Optimization to mean getting top ranking on SERP. Is the organic traffic to your site proportionate to your ranking assuming you actually managed to rank? And is the traffic also converting? Let’s try and understand the concept of SEO from the point of view of the numerous myths perpetuated both by so called SEO Experts (read, companies) as well as by amateurs who may have managed to rank for insignificant keywords with very little work.
1. SEO takes months to show results
True, but how many months? And how important a factor is time? When an expert tells you that it will take time, it is time for you to ask questions, because SEO is not really about time. What you are doing is competing against sites that are ranking already, and probably updating themselves constantly. Without an effective analysis of your competitors, you are not likely to get anywhere in any number of months. This is not only important when you are paying someone to do your SEO for you, but also when you are doing it on your own. Time, therefore, is mostly irrelevant.
There is another problem for new sites: they are not crawled too frequently. But you can make the crawl rate higher by posting new content constantly. A new blog that updates itself everyday and pings the search engines after every post is likely to draw more attention than one that does not.
Do not settle for vague answers – even your brand new site will rank very fast, in rare cases even in a month after being indexed, if you are able to show yourself as a promising upstart that delivers good content, consistently.
2. Guaranteed SEO
Having said what we did in the previous point, it is also necessary to point out that there simply cannot be any guarantees. There are too many factors at work, and not all of them are ever made public by the search engine companies. If an SEO company has a top ranking guarantee, be very, very wary. There are blackhat techniques to propel your site to the top, true, but you will plummet just as fast, and in the worst case, may never regain indexing. Similarly, when you are doing your own SEO, be patient and realistic.
3. No-follow links don’t count
Google as well as other major search engines prefer naturalness. They are also suspicious about unnaturalness, and a site with only do-follow backlinks is likely to look suspicious. Just find relevant sites and blogs and leave your mark where you can.
Here’s an interesting fact: all outbound links on Wikipedia are no-follow by default. Yet, Google counts Wikipedia links to other sites as (valuable) backlinks.
4. Backlinks: more the merrier
Um.. not anymore, not really. Check the ‘Disavow’ feature in the Google Webmaster Tools and you will know instantly that thousands of backlinks from all over the web are not only ineffective, but can be downright harmful to ranking. Relevance is what you should be looking for.
5. Meta keywords count
No, they don’t. Not unless you are still living in the ’90s. They overdid the stuff to such an extent that search engines completely ignore meta keywords today. Meta descriptions, on the other hand, can make or break your site, and it is worth every cent to get an expert copywriter to write them for you if you are not too confident.
6. Only content matters, you don’t need images
Oh yes, you do. Just think of a site with equally good content that has images too. Which one would YOU rank first? Apart from search engines, your visitor retention will show an upward curve and your bounce rate reduce drastically if you can use correctly optimized and relevant images with your content.
7. Use as many tags as you can and always install a tag cloud widget
This one’s tricky. Tags are not keywords. They are meant to help visitors find the exact kind of content they wish to view (kind of like search without typing a keyword). Tags also create an extra indexed link by the search bots. However, consider this: you have a category widget, a tag cloud, a recent posts widget, and your content with keywords, plus your site header (surely with your main keyword in it) all sitting pretty on one page at all times. If your tags are too frequently the same as your keywords, it could look like you are keyword stuffing. If there are too many different tags, it looks to the bots like a chunk of text with different keywords (and duplicate links) put together randomly. Again, not good.
Keep your tags limited by choosing from most frequently used tags after a few posts. Likewise, keep your categories few in number and try to create them for your readers, not the bots.
Conclusion: a small tag cloud is a good tag cloud, other things remaining constant.
8. Google rewards AdWords publishers with higher organic rankings
This is a myth created by the fact that often, AdWords and good rankings go hand in hand. But that is not because Google is rewarding you for spending money on it. When you get visitors that spend time on your site, your site is deemed important and worth a top ranking. If you are getting customers from properly done AdWords campaign, a better organic ranking can always result, provided you did your SEO right.
9. You should optimize the perfect landing page
There is no perfect landing page from an SEO point of view: all your pages must be optimized equally. You have no way of knowing who will land where!
10. You can pay search engines for top rankings
Nope. Some, like Yahoo!, do have a payment option for faster indexing, but that does not guarantee top ranking.
11. Higher page-rank equals higher ranking
Simply put: it never did. The two are completely different things. Check any SERP for almost any keyword and you’ll know what we mean.
12. SEO and SMM are entirely different
Not since Facebook pages began to be indexed! You will find many instances where an FB page of an article ranks among the top 5 while the original article-link is not even on the first page. Diversify, or sink into oblivion – if you do not include Social Media in your SEO strategy, you site’s death could be fast and painful (for you).
13. ‘But I did my SEO!’
Now that, has to be the silliest myth of all, and probably also the most popular. Your SEO is never ‘done’. If you are not monitoring closely and updating your content consistently, others that are doing it will take your place. And then, you should be working constantly on SEO because at no point of time are you getting ALL the traffic, right? You probably can’t get all the traffic, ever, but if you are happy with your SEO because the percentage of your visitors has remained constant, you are definitely losing out. Work constantly at it, or you are sure to lose the crown, and it could (and will) dawn upon you one fine morning when you decide to check on yourself over a cup of coffee!
Jason Smith is an online manager for High Concrete. He likes blogging about online strategies that are related to SEO, Content, PPC & Lead generation.