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SEO Myths Demythified

Many of the tightly held beliefs people have about SEO are rooted in what used to be true, sometimes last week, sometimes years ago. An ever-changing popularity map, the rules of search engine cool have to be revisited frequently. While I could unravel literally hundreds of SEO myths, I thought it best to start with fifteen.

1. Only the number 1 rank matters. – Actually, studies show that users often skip right over number one. The more serious searchers tend to be more persistent as they look for exactly what they want, not just who happens to be first on the list. Still, page 1 remains ideal.

2. It takes no special skills to do SEO. – The art of SEO draws on a variety of skills, rarely present in someone outside of the industry. It is not likely that a lawyer, while certainly intelligent enough, is going to also know marketing, coding, PR, and all the latest in algorithm news. Plus, we are talking about a serious time commitment.

3. Linking to other highly ranked sites helps. – Actually, Google wants to know who thinks YOU are cool. Links back to your site matter a lot, while your links to them…not so much.

4. Usability does not affect SEO. – Whether it is a user trying to navigate through your site or search engine spider attempting to crawl through it, the layout and structure must be solid. If not, it will absolutely affect you rank.

5. The site with the largest quantity of links wins. – Each new algorithm makes this less and less true. Google has made it their mission to make sure relevant links from high quality sites that relate to your business provide the most ranking push. That’s quality, not quantity.

6. Links are more important than content. – Conversely, good content brings in the best links. You should seek to be an authority in your area of expertise so that you are “link-worthy”. Even if you have tons of links today, sites will eventually flush their sites of irrelevant links. You should make sure yours matter.

7. Good content is all you need. – Content may be the cornerstone, but a brand is difficult to build without getting the word out. An army of links is the perfect complement to good content.

8. AdWords customers get preferential treatment in organic results. – This is simply not true, as the two are not related. It may appear that way, however, since Google remembers your search history and serves results accordingly.

9. SEO is something only done once. – SEO something that should be done over the lifetime of a site. Competitors change, algorithms change, link values change, and you must change with them if you don’t want to fall behind.

10. You can manipulate search rankings. – There is no special knowledge or search engine relationships that allow this to happen. SEO firms that make ranking promises, and there are many, employ what are called “black hat” techniques to speed up the ranking process. The typical result is good, then horrible, right before your site is banned.

11. Keywords don’t matter anymore. – Keyword stuffing is out; but, keywords as they occur naturally in you content are what tell search engines what your site is about. So yes, they matter.

12. Buying links, likes or tweets can help you rank better. – Irrelevant links from poor quality sites do more harm than good, as they can get you penalized or even banned. In the social arena, 15,000 likes from fake profiles will do nothing to grow your business. Think about it.

13. Nofollow links are worthless. – It’s all about the natural. Google has determined that it is unnatural to only have Dofollow links in your SEO arsenal. Plus, a Nofollow link could provide you a direct “link” to customers. Don’t forget about them!

14. A long domain name will rank better. – There was a day, long ago, when keyword-packed URLs helped your rank. Today, branding is much more important.

15. SEO is dead. – That’s funny.