Optimizing for search engines is a process where it takes a short time to realize the importance but a huge investment of time to master. This field has undergone constant changes since it began at the turn of the millennium, and it will continue to change constantly.
Because the rules are changing and due to the fact that SEO isn’t an exact science, misunderstandings and misapprehensions abound throughout the industry. The following are some SEO myths that have continued to permeate the Web and could actually hurt your efforts.
Myth #1: First Place is the Only Place
The contemporary thinking is that since most people online like to rapidly find what they are searching for, if your site isn’t at the top of the first page you won’t be found. Fortunately, this isn’t strictly true anymore. You can be on the bottom of the first page, on the second page or even elsewhere and still be found with relative ease. Considering the growing importance of social sharing and visibility on social media platforms, your content can still be found in ways other than via search engines.
Myth #2: Meta Tags are Everything
In the past, meta tags were a vital part of being found online. You’d fill them with as many relevant keywords as could possibly fit into the 170 character limit. However, now they’ve fallen into minimal use in terms of how search engines use them. In fact, the primary use of meta tags nowadays is that the tags’ text may appear next to an individual page’s title.
So while meta tags are no longer as important for boosting your page’s search results, the text’s importance has changed. Meta text is now important more from a user standpoint—instead of stuffing it with keywords, the objective is to accurately describe what’s on your page. That way, users can find what they’re looking for more easily.
Myth #3: Your Site is Just for the Search Engines
Seriously think about this for a moment. Search engines don’t buy your products and search engines don’t have an opinion about your site’s content. You’re creating and publishing for human beings, and this has to come through in everything you do. Otherwise people will be unimpressed with your site and will be unlikely to stay around long enough to fulfill your goals.
While you can craft a site designed exclusively to please the search engines, this is a method that’s doomed to backfire on you. Designing an eye-catching and attractive site for the user is your best bet. Having excellent content (that’s designed to convert customers, ideally) is the strongest way to make your site work for you.
Myth #4: Consistently Submitting Your Site is Critical
Search engines aren’t stupid—they catalogue the entire Internet, for goodness sake! While submitting your site may accelerate the process, especially if no other sites have yet linked to yours, sooner or later the search engines will find your site. The search engines’ actual process for finding websites is to send out “spiders” or small programs that crawl through the Internet and seek out anything they can find.
This can happen even if your site has no inbound links, but developing a strong inbound link profile is considerably more important than worrying about submitting your site every time you update. Also, developing social media visibility can pretty much do everything that a site submit will do. Assuming it’s part of your marketing strategy, as some SEO thought leaders have already observed, Google+ is the new submit URL box. Thus, as you create new content and post it to social media, then you’re submitting your site organically anyway.
Myth #5: SEO and Social Media are Unrelated
Whether you are accessing them via computer or smartphones, the impact of both social media and search engine optimization on each other is powerful. Often the search engines even use references, likes and connections through social media to inform their ratings of web properties. This is why so companies spend millions of dollars to ensure that people on Facebook will “like” the company itself or its offerings.
Your social media accounts, in fact, will even appear as extra SERPs when someone does a search for your site. Thus, not only will your site appear in search engine results, but so will your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your LinkedIn profile, your Tumblr page, your Pinterest boards, etc. This can mean extra opportunities to get your message to potential customers, and it can be an incredibly effective tactic for reputation management as well.
Myth #6: Automated SEO Must Be Shady
There’s no reason whatsoever that automating your search engine optimizing activities has to be shady in any way. In fact, automation is generally a tool that helps you to accomplish what would otherwise be an exhausting and tedious process without making the mistakes that a bored or tired human being would.
While there are black hat and otherwise “cheating” methods of using automated SEO, there’s no need to use these if you are above board in your general dealings. In fact, there are plenty of methods for automating SEO while staying white hat.
Myth #7: Your Outbound Links Will Significantly Boost Your PageRank
You can link to anyone you want, but this will not really affect your rankings in any significant way (unless, of course, you’re linking to a bunch of irrelevant sites). While having a solid outbound link profile is part of any solid SEO strategy, your inbound link profile is exponentially more important. What’s far more important is that you have great content that induces others to link to you, either via authority websites or from social media platforms. Backlinks, then, are where the focus of your strategy should lie.
Myth #8: .edu and .gov are Automatically a Better Link Source
Educational and government websites tend to be better run and more trustworthy than other types of sites, but this is no guarantee. In general, you want to have all kinds of well-run, pertinent and legitimate websites linking to you. The extension of the site means next to nothing. Use a tool like SEOquake to determine whether sites’ inbound links can benefit your own, or whether you should use the “NoFollow” attribute.
The world is full of SEO myths. Fortunately, a little common sense and research can sweep away those myths.
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