Search engine optimization responds to a search engine’s algorithm. Each time an algorithm changes, SEO techniques must change, too. Unfortunately, search engines often only release enough information about these changes to keep the SEO industry somewhat informed yet ultimately in the dark. Look at any of Google’s recent algorithm changes for evidence of this phenomenon. Google announces a change, but they do not expand upon what exactly changed,creating a guessing game for search engine optimizers.
And it is exactly the volatile nature of that guessing game which creates a breeding ground for SEO myths and rumors. One optimizer claims to find evidence for an SEO technique, passes it off as fact without further testing, and that technique spreads like wildfire through the whole industry until it’s impossible for anyone to quell its existence.
However, at Zeus Design, we believe it’s our responsibility to inform both clients and colleagues about the dangers of certain rumors currently floating about the SEO industry. After all, what so many perceive as positive SEO techniques could, in fact, be quite the opposite, and it’s time for us to stand up against their existence.
Let’s get to it:
1. Adwords boosts organic search results.
For whatever reason, some within the SEO world believe Google gives special treatment to websites buying into Google’s Adwords service. This is absolutely false. Websites using Adwords will only see an increase in non-organic traffic.
2. Google uses bounce rate and Analytics to rank sites.
Again, this is absolutely false. How do I know? Well, Matt Cutts said so himself. Cutts later made a comment on the forum Sphinn, where he said, “…I’ll just say that [tracking] bounce rates would be not only spammable but noisy. A search industry person recently sent me some questions about how bounce rate is done at Google and I was like ‘Dude, I have no idea about any things like bounce rate. Why don’t you talk to this nice Google Analytics evangelist who knows about things like bounce rate?’”
3. Multiple websites on the same server/IP address decreases rankings.
I could answer this question, but I’ll let Craig Silverstein, Google Director of Technology, answer it for me: “Actually, Google handled virtually hosted domains and their links just the same as domains on unique IP addresses. If your ISP does virtual hosting correctly, you’ll never see a difference between the two cases. We do see a small percentage of ISPs every month that misconfigure their virtual hosting, which might account for this persistent misperception—thanks for giving me the chance to dispel a myth!”
4. Pages accessible only by a site’s form will not be indexed by Google.
Even though Google announced in 2008 that the Googlebot can now fill out forms, this myth continues to kick around the SEO industry. Please kill this myth.
5. SEO projects have a completion date.
The first sentence of this article negates this myth: search engine optimization responds to search engine algorithm changes. If Google releases a new search engine update, you have to respond with a new SEO strategy. That’s just how it goes. Thinking SEO has a start and end date is an archaic mentality in need of a digital awakening.
6. Personalization ruined Google’s rankings.
Everyone take a deep breath. Calm down. Relax. Google’s rankings have not been destroyed since they introduced personalization into their search results. In fact, personalization changed little of the search query results. If you don’t believe me, check it for yourself: run the same search query twice, the second time adding &pws=0 to the end of the URL. Voila!
7. High page rank = high search ranking
Nope, nope, nope. Absolutely wrong. Download a browser addon like SEO for Firefox or SearchStatus, and then blast out a bunch of search queries. Check the page ranks of each front-page result. I guarantee you’ll find a lower ranking search result with a higher page rank than those above it.
8. Google uses Analytics to spy on your site.
Analytics is one of Google’s many services, yes, but Google openly states that they do not use Analytics to spy on your website.
9. An XML Sitemap increases a site’s rankings.
Honestly, many myths begin somewhere within the realm of realty and become warped later. This one was most likely birthed out of the fact that search engines use sitemaps to discover pages, thus increasing the rate in which a page is initially crawled. However, having a sitemap definitely doesn’t increase a site’s overall ranking.
(Note: Some argue sitemaps can increase search rankings by helping Google discover previously undiscovered pages. While it’s true a sitemap can help Google discover pages, I present a counterargument: two identical websites, one with a sitemap and one without, with all their pages indexed by Google, would rank the same.)
10. All URLs should end with .html.
Doesn’t matter whether the URL ends with .html or nothing at all.
11. Hiding links in footers can help rank pages deep within the site.
This myth comes straight out of the black hat SEO tips and tricks book, meaning you shouldn’t do it. Search engines see this as spammy.
12. Click-through rates contribute to rankings.
If this were the case, SEO would be so much easier. All you’d have to do is spend hours each day clicking on the page(s) you want to rank for. Unfortunately, SEO doesn’t work that way. Click-through rates are for you, not the search engines.
13. H1 tags are useless for SEO.
I actually found this myth on a reputable SEO site claiming to be debunking SEO myths. Their claim was that H1 tags are useless, and then they linked to this SEOmoz article as proof. But the article states that SEOmoz surveyed “37 influential thought leaders in the SEO industry on search engine ranking factors. In that survey, 35 of the 37 participants said that keyword usage in the title tag was the most important place to use keywords to achieve high rankings.” That doesn’t sound useless, does it? Nope. Not useless at all.
14. Quality content guarantees high rankings.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, and even the best content can be passed over by the masses. It happens all the time to books and movies, and you better believe it happens online, too.
15. Search engines ignore CSS.
In 2005, Matt Cutts released an article in which he said, “I don’t recommend that people use CSS to hide text, and I don’t recommend that they document it, either.” That was seven years ago, yet the myth lives on…
16. Outbound links don’t help rankings.
Again, this is a common myth in the SEO industry, and again we turn to Matt Cutts for the official answer: “In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.” It’s all about quality over quantity, basically.
Once again Cutts comes in for the killing blow of another SEO myth: on November 1, 2011, Cutts Tweeted, “Googlebot keeps getting smarter. Now has the ability to execuse AJAX/JS to index some dynamic comments.” Quite simply, it’s becoming harder to hide from Google’s prying eyes.
18. Cloaking sites is purely a black hat strategy.
Before the advent of mobile devices, cloaking was a black hat SEO technique used to show Googlebot an alternative version of a website, which was built specifically for Googlebot’s robotic brain. These days, however, people use cloaking to create legitimate website alternatives for mobile device users or users from other countries, and Google is wise enough to know the difference between ‘bad cloaking’ and ‘good cloaking.’ Use this SEO technique to optimize for incoming users, not trick the Googlebot into believing a site is more than what meets the eye.
As a parting note, feel free to call us out on any of these myths. We care more about promoting worthwhile information than popularized misinformation. Either comment below or drop us an email.