Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Myths Debunked 2009

The world of Organic SEO is unfortunately littered with fly-by-night companies, self-proclaimed “SEO Experts” with no qualifications, and enough myths and urban legends to make your head spin!

SEO is an inexact science primarily because of the secrecy of the algorithms the major search engines utilize to determine where your site “ranks” for specific search terms. The SE algorithms are not simple mathematical formulas, but actually take into account hundreds of factors, some you can control – others you cannot, which will ultimately determine where your website will appear in the search engine results (SERPS) The rules can change weekly or sometimes daily!

I have assisted several clients already this year who are being deceived or mislead by “SEO Experts”, and wanted to write what I feel are the most prevalent myths and out-dated practices still being promoted by companies you should be avoiding.

Myth #1, The Keyword Meta Tag:
In the early days of optimization (pre-Google) search engines used this hidden tag to determine what the topic of your website was. Because of rampant abuse, this tag has been all but ignored by the major search engines for years now. Only Yahoo gives it some (minor) weight, but Google has never put any value on the information in this tag. While it generally has not been shown to hurt your rankings, wasting time and money on this tag will not help you in any way.

Myth #2, Keyword Density
Some SEO companies will market their expertise at calculating the proper “density” for each of your keywords to obtain top rankings. Keyword density refers to the ratio of text-to-keywords in the content of a page.

In my opinion is this is nothing but a marketing ploy, and many industry experts agree. In the last 4 years, nothing new has changed this, but some companies continue to try and impress clients with this nonsense.

While your content should include your most important keywords and phrases, there is absolutely no evidence that any search engine gives preference to a certain ratio. If this was the case, sites with only 1-2 paragraphs of content on their home page would never rank well, but I can show you examples of such sites with #1 rankings.

Myth #3 Hidden Text Keyword Stuffing
Some website owners and SEO companies will place keywords inside a hidden “comment tag” in order to improve rankings for those keywords. No search engine has ever been known to consider comment tags when crawling a site. In fact, comment tags are intended to be invisible to all but the site developer and are invisible to search bots. If you are dealing with a company using this tactic, run!

Myth #4, Google Partners and Guaranteed Rankings
Avoid companies claiming to have a special partnership with Google. There is no such thing as a “preferred” relationship with Google and they state in their SEO consumers guide “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submission” to Google.”

Also be wary of companies claiming to be Google SEO Certified. There are several certifications offered by Google, including the GAQI (Google Analytics Qualification Individual) and GAAC (Google Analytics Authorized Consultant). There are similar certifications for Google AdWords, but there is no Google training or certification specific to SEO.

Myth #5, Doorway Pages
Some SEO companies will sell the idea of increasing your ranking by creating hundreds of single-page websites containing only keywords and linking them to your site from numerous other domains. An even older practice is to create hundreds of pages on your own domain loaded with keywords and clearly intended only for search engine crawlers.

Both of these practices are considered spamming by all major search engines and a sure way to get either penalized or banned completely from their listings. Pages containing properly written and optimized content intended for human readers will get listed and increase your search engine visibility much quicker than doorway pages ever could.

These are only my Top 5 myths or misleading practices that you should be aware of, and may encounter when shopping for an Optimization Company. There are countless more and next week I will publish numbers 5-10, which will ‘bust’ SEO Myths surrounding Flash, duplicate content, highlighted text and more.
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