Holiday Tales: 10 SEO Search-Ranking Myths

seomythsSEO myths become larger every year. Some are based partially in reality, and others have spread because it’s often difficult to prove what particular SEO action caused a resulting search engine reaction.

For example, you might make a change to something on a page of your site, and a few days later notice that your ranking in Google for a particular keyword phrase has changed. You might naturally assume that your page change is what caused the ranking change. But that’s not necessarily so. There are numerous reasons why your ranking may have changed, and in many cases they actually have nothing to do with anything that you did.

Mixing up cause and effect is one of the most common things new SEOs do. If it were affecting only their own work, it wouldn’t be so bad, but unfortunately, the clueless often spread their misinformation to other unsuspecting newbies on forums and blogs, which in turn creates new myths. It’s always interesting to see how people are so willing to believe anything they have read or heard without ever checking it out for themselves.

Myth 1: You should submit your URLs to search engines. This may have helped once upon a time, but it’s been at least 5 or 6 years since that’s been necessary.

Myth 2: You need a Google Sitemap. If your site was built correctly, i.e., it’s crawler-friendly, you certainly don’t need a Google Sitemap. It won’t hurt you to have one, and you may be interested in Google’s other Webmaster Central Tools, but having a Google Sitemap isn’t going to get you ranked better.

Myth 3: You need to update your site frequently. Frequent updates to your pages may increase the search engine crawl rate, but it won’t increase your rankings. If your site doesn’t need to change, don’t change it just because you think the search engines will like it better. They won’t. In fact, some of the highest ranking sites in Google haven’t been touched in years.

Myth 4: PPC ads will help/hurt rankings. This one is funny to me because about half the people who think that running Google AdWords will affect their organic rankings believe that they will bring them down; the other half believe they will bring them up. That alone should tell you that neither is true!

Myth 5: Your site will be banned if you ignore Google’s guidelines. There’s nothing in Google’s webmaster guidelines that isn’t common sense. You can read them if you like, but it’s not mandatory in order to be an SEO. Just don’t do anything strictly for search engines that you wouldn’t do anyway, and you’ll be fine. That said, the Google guidelines are much better than they used to be, and may even provide you with a few good tidbits of advice.

Myth 6: Your site will be banned if you buy links. This one does have some roots in reality, as Google likes to scare people about this. They rightly don’t want to count paid links as votes for a page if they can figure out that they are paid, but they often can’t. Even if they do figure it out, they simply won’t count them. It would be foolish of them to ban entire sites because they buy advertising on other sites.

Myth 7: H1 (or any header tags) must be used for high rankings. There’s very little (if any) evidence to suggest that keywords in H tags actually affect rankings, yet this myth continues to proliferate. My own tests don’t seem to show them making a difference, although it’s difficult to know for sure. Use H tags if it works with your design or content management system, and don’t if it doesn’t. It’s doubtful you’ll find it makes a difference one way or the other.

Myth 8: Words in your meta keyword tag have to be used on the page. I used to spread this silly myth myself many years ago. The truth is that the Meta keyword tag was actually designed to be used for keywords that were NOT already on the page, not the opposite! Since this tag is ignored by Google and used only for uncommon words in Yahoo, it makes little difference at this point anyway.

Myth 9: SEO copy must be 250 words in length. This one is interesting to me because I am actually the one who made up the 250 number back in the late ’90s. However, I never said that 250 was the exact number of words you should use, nor did I say it was an optimal number. It’s simply a good number to be able to write a nice page of marketing copy that can be optimized for 3-5 keyword phrases. Shorter copy ranks just as well, as does longer copy. Use as many or as few words as you need to use to say what you need to say.

Myth 10: You need to optimize for the long tail. No, you don’t. By their very nature, long-tail keyword phrases are uncompetitive; meaning that not many pages are using those words, and not that many people are searching for them in the engines. Because of this, ranking for long-tail keywords is easy – simply include them somewhere in a blog post or an article, and you’ll rank for them. But that’s not optimization.

Learn more juiciness like this at: http://www.dougburson.com/. Tola Ajayi is a writer by trade and he enjoys writing on a wide range of topics.

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Tola Ajayi


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  • Thank you very much for clearing things up about things we don’t really need to do for my website! I have spent many hours trying to accomplish all the things you say are not really needed. Not that it made much difference. Now I can feel that as long as I’ve done the best I can, my site will be found by those that need our services by using common sense and keeping things simple!

  • I agree with all your points, but I am surprised about not needing to update your site frequently. If there’s no point in doing that, how can a business maintain their ranking when new competitors launch websites every day.

  • You know, its not nice to give out misleading/wrong advice.

    Myth 4: PPC ads will help/hurt rankings

    Too many ads or having more ads than content WILL hurt your rankings. Panda doesn’t like sites filled with adverts and little content.

    Myth 5: Your site will be banned if you ignore Google’s guidelines

    Google DO ban sites that breach the guidelines, that kinda the point of them….. Not worth the risk in ignoring them.

    Myth 6: Your site will be banned if you buy links

    You get banned for selling links normally, althrough a few sites who got caught (major ones) have been banned for buying links. You should keep up on the SEO news if you didn’t know this one.

    Myth 7: H1 (or any header tags) must be used for high rankings.

    ‘must be’ no, are helpful, yes. Correct use of header tags have been shown to increase site rankings time and time again and this HAS been confirmed by Google. Putting all your content in H1 tags isn’t going to help however no.

    Myth 8: Words in your meta keyword tag have to be used on the page

    All of the major search engines ignore the keywords tag now, including Yahoo (since its powered by Bing now)

    Please check what you are saying BEFORE posting it like its news….. Wrong advice is just not helpful.

    Also wouldn’t it have been better to get an SEO to write the document on SEO rather than a writer…. Would make sense to have an actual expert write it….

  • As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.


  • @Steven Lockey and Matt Jackson

    I Do agree with your comments, If some one not agreed means they are the new to webmasters.

    @Tola Ajayi Please dont post miths as you want, you have right to share your views but it hurts a lot for new SEO’s, if they follow all these 10..

  • Myth 4: PPC ads will help/hurt rankings
    I have 3 different but similarly constructed plumbing websites. I started pay per click on the one above and it very quickly lost ranking, but only on its key words, the other two stayed the same often on first or second page. It now doesn’t even rank at all.

  • I think some of these myths are just changes that have happen over the years. I also disagree the with PPC myth, I am not sure what is going on with google adwords but I have seen a negative effect on the account that are doing aggressive PPC ads.