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May 5, 2010

8 SEO Myths Debunked

One of my favorite pastimes is debunking SEO myths – and there are many! I could probably come up with 100 SEO-related ideas or actions that people think are helpful, but which in reality won’t provide them with more targeted traffic to their websites.

Here are some of the more prevalent myths I hear and see bandied about in SEO articles, at SEO conferences, in SEO blogs and on SEO forums:

SEO Myth #1: You Need Special Search Engine Pages.

While it’s not as prevalent as it used to be, we still get calls from companies who want us to create some sort of “SEO landing pages.” While landing pages often make sense for paid search campaigns such as Google AdWords, they’re unnecessary for organic SEO campaigns. Well, I shouldn’t say that they’re unnecessary – it’s just that your SEO landing pages shouldn’t be something outside of your site. They should already exist as an integral part of it. If those aren’t currently bringing you search engine traffic, it doesn’t mean you need to add new pages, it means you have to optimize your existing ones better.

SEO Myth #2: You Need to Optimize for Just One Keyword Phrase Per Page.

Many, many SEOs and businesses believe that you should optimize each page of your site for just one keyword phrase. Their thinking is that you will keep a strong focus on that one keyword phrase. The problem with this is, first, it’s very difficult if not impossible to write a page in a natural manner while you’re trying to focus on just one keyword phrase. And second, it’s a waste of a good page!

Why optimize for just one keyword phrase when you can optimize it for 3 or even 5 keyword phrases? The more keyword phrases you optimize a page for (within reason), the more targeted search engine traffic you will receive. If you look at your web analytics right now, you’ll typically see that each page of your site is already bringing in traffic from various forms of numerous keyword phrases. It’s not only okay to optimize for more than one phrase, but in my opinion it’s critical to your website and to search engine success.

SEO Myth #3: You Can’t Use Tables in Your HTML Code.

This one makes me want to scream. HTML tables have been easily spiderable by search engines since the search engines were newly hatched. As far as I know, table code has never been anything that choked the search engines. I think this myth was propagated by website developers who advocate tableless designs to make you think you’ll somehow get better rankings out of their designs. You won’t.

SEO Myth #4: You Must Use Text Links, not Image Links.

Nope. Like tables, the search engines have been able to follow and index image links since their very early days. You certainly don’t have to ruin a beautiful website design that uses images for the primary navigation because you think it’s better for SEO. Just be sure to use the same words you’d use in your anchor text links in your image alt attribute text (alt tags), and you’ll be good to go for the search engines.

SEO Myth #5: You Can’t Use Flash on Your Website.

Yes, you can! While I don’t recommend that you create your entire website in Flash, using bits of Flash here and there for some cool effects will not bother or choke the search engines in the least. They don’t punish, penalize or otherwise nuke into oblivion sites that have Flash on them. You should of course avoid putting important content into your Flash elements, and also remember that some mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad don’t support Flash. But if you add alternative text for non-Flash-enabled browsers, all should be well.

SEO Myth #6: Google’s Link: Operator Tells You All the Links that Google Knows About.

No, no, and double no! Typing into Google’s search box often won’t even show you any links, let alone all of your links. And when it does show you some, they’re usually not the best ones. Don’t even bother to use this command because it is useless at best. While there are some helpful tools that can find some backward links, there is no foolproof method for finding out about all the links that point to your site or to your competitors’ sites. The good news is, just because you can’t find them all doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Keep making a great site and getting the word out about it, and you’ll keep building up your link profile, whether or not you can generate an accurate list of them.

SEO Myth #7: Toolbar PageRank = Real PageRank.

Most people who’ve learned a bit about SEO have seen Google’s PageRank toolbar graph at one point or another. It supposedly shows the importance in Google’s eyes of any given URL. Unfortunately, it’s not even close to an accurate representation of any page’s importance to Google.

That said, don’t let that fact lull you into thinking that PageRank – that is, the real PageRank that Google, Inc. knows about your website – is not important. It’s extremely important in how your site will perform in the search results for your targeted keyword phrases; there’s just no way for you to truly know exactly what it is.

SEO Myth #8: Google or other organizations can certify SEO companies or declare them the Best/Top SEO in the world.

Despite what some SEO companies would like you to believe, there is no such thing as an SEO certification. No organization currently exists that can certify that any company is qualified to perform search engine optimization services. There are no definitive tests that an SEO company can take to prove that they are qualified, and there are no courses that, when passed, will prove that a company can do SEO. Yes, there are courses people can take that will provide them with a certificate of completion for that course, but don’t ever believe that a certificate of that sort has any real meaning beyond the completion of the course.

There are also lists and directories of SEO companies who pay a fee for the honor of being labeled the “#1 SEO company!” If you are ever in the market for SEO services, don’t let those fake paid-for awards trick you into thinking that the SEO company must be good or the best. While it’s possible they may be a perfectly fine company, they may not be. Paying for a “best” label doesn’t magically make a company any good. It just means they are willing to spend the money it takes to purchase the label. Much to the surprise of unwitting SEO clients, award sites are not actual rating or ranking SEO
companies based on any skill sets.

Have you fallen for any of these SEO myths before?

Jill Whalen, CEO  of High Rankings and co-founder of SEMNE, has been performing SEO services since 1995. Jill is the host of the High Rankings Advisor newsletter and the High Rankings SEO forum.