Back in the late 1990s, webmasters joined link farms and saturated meta tags with keywords in an effort to reach the top of search engine results. Those were the early days of search engine optimization (SEO), and such days are history.
But to the great detriment of companies, some SEO myths still persist, based on outdated knowledge or institutional lethargy. When crafting a modern SEO strategy, continued belief in those myths is counterproductive and wasteful, both in terms of time and cash. Before you implement your strategy, check out our list of SEO myths to see if they sound familiar.
1. SEO Is All About Keyword Density
Despite the steady shift towards building content around concepts instead of keywords, there’s still the persistent myth that populating webpages repeatedly with specific keywords improves search engine rankings. However, recent advances in search engine algorithms decreased the importance of keyword optimization while raising the importance of varied, shareable and updated content.
If you try to use certain keywords over and over again, search engines may penalize your website as spam, and if your keywords hold no relevance to the content shown to the user, the punishment may be even worse. Moreover, the notion that keywords must be an exact match or that a certain combination of keywords must be used repeatedly across your site to achieve higher rankings is, according to search experts like Moz, generally false. Whether you’re writing a headline or body content, the goal should be to clearly explain what the subject is about and to use your set of keywords so that it’s logical to your readers.
To accomplish this goal, create webpages for your audience, not search engines. By creating relevant, high-quality content for users, search engines will recognize that quality and naturally find your site. Furthermore, generating engaging content on your corporate website or blog could make industry stakeholders want to reach out to you.
2. Submitting Your Site to a Search Engine Improves Ranking
In the olden days of search engine marketing, websites submitted their optimized sites and pages via “submission” forms (here’s an example from Bing). Back then, search bots would crawl these submitted sites and index the content.
The logic was that once search bots crawled the submitted site, a company’s webpage would begin to slowly climb up the rankings based on how well those pages were optimized with keywords. The problem was that many of the submissions were spam.
Since 2001, search submissions have steadily lost their importance, as Google, Yahoo! and other major search engines gave increasing importance to earning links from trusted sources and authoritative sites. For example, the more inbound links and anchor text a site has, the higher the likelihood that search engines will determine these link signals as an indication of trustworthy content (Wikipedia is a prime example, as there are thousands of diverse sites linking to it).
3. Optimizing Meta Tags Is Essential to SEO
Like search engine submissions, meta tags were once a crucial component of SEO back in the early days of the internet. Including keyword meta tags into your webpages wielded a lot of influence on your search rankings.
But like many SEO practices of old, this tactic eventually suffered the same fate as search engine submissions due to excessive spamming. As a result, major search engines no longer view meta tags as an important factor in rankings. The exception, however, is Bing, which does look at meta tags to detect spam, according to Search Engine Watch.
But despite this, ensuring your meta tags and title tags feature descriptive, readable text is considered an important SEO best practice. They’re particularly helpful for improving click-through rates to your site, since oftentimes the title and description are the first things users see on search engine results pages (SERPs). On top of that, optimizing your meta robots tag—an open standard designed to enable web authors to prevent the indexing of specific webpages—is an important SEO tool for controlling spider access to your website.
4. PPC Advertising Boosts Your Ranking on SERPs
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a practice in which advertisers pay website owners a fee every time an ad is clicked. Thus, whenever a web user searches for a keyword that matches the advertiser’s keyword list, a PPC ad will display alongside that user’s SERPs.
Although the PPC model has been vulnerable to click fraud and other abuses, this susceptibility isn’t why industry experts point to its nonexistent role in bolstering organic search results. In fact, the reason is that major search engines have put in place processes that prevent PPC advertisers from getting special preference when ranking on SERPs.
While search engine marketing can be a complementary tool in your arsenal of SEO tactics, it should remain just that. PPC is a way to improve your visibility, not a strategy to boost your website’s ranking on search engines. Instead, focus on developing content that people will want to read and share on your site, blog and other social channels.
5. SEO Is a One-Time Project
Like the content on your website, your SEO should be a continuous process that evolves with your web presence and its audience’s needs. Stephan Spencer, author of Google Power Search, wrote that “The ‘set it and forget it’ misconception is particularly prevalent among IT workers—they tend to treat everything like a project so that they can get through assignments, close the ‘ticket’ and move on, and thus maintain their sanity.”
With that being said, you also don’t want to hand off your entire SEO strategy to your IT department. Although SEO requires some technical expertise (e.g. establishing redirects, ensuring your website is indexed by search engine crawlers, etc.), you’ll also need content producers and other marketing specialists involved in SEO as well. Your marketing team will play a crucial role in helping your company maintain a long-term and sustainable SEO strategy, especially when it comes to creating rich and relevant content, as well as measuring the performance of that content online.
There are a variety of resources available on the web that can help you improve your SEO and search rankings. In addition to Moz’s guide to learning SEO, we have a handy guide on five simple ways to improve your SEO.