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The Greatest SEO Myths of Our Century Exposed – Part 1

Keller Hawthorne | November 17, 2009 | 25 Comments
Search Engine Optimization
The Greatest SEO Myths of Our Century Exposed – Part 1
This post is part 1 of 2 in the series...
SEO Myths Exposed

Ok, SEO didn’t exist way back when. It’s a modern day concept that only exists due to the existence of computers. But, it is widely misunderstood, even though it’s very much a part of this century.

SEO is definitely one of my favorite topics to discuss. Actually, discussing it makes up much of what we Internet marketers know about it – talking with others, learning from experience and debating specific issues. Since Google and other Search Engines can’t fill us in with all the details, we, as a community, must learn together.

After almost 5 years of learning about and applying Search Engine Optimization to various websites, I’ve come across lots of myths and theories regarding SEO, which makes sense due to the Search Engines’ secrecy policies. From my experience, I’ve found some of these myths to be true while others seem to come from left field.

Before you dive into optimizing your website, why don’t we take a look at the misconceptions and facts surrounding search engine optimization. Hopefully, this will arm you with the knowledge you need to truly dominate the search engines!

WARNING: Some of these topics are still up for debate. This post centers on my own experience.

SEO is Risky Business

I’m astonished by the amount of people who are honestly scared of optimizing their websites. For some reason, many people consider SEO to be a “tactic” that was created by spammers or black hat artists. The idea is that it goes against Search Engines’ policies and is a way of dodging the system. So, is this true? Do you risk being banned by Search Engines if you use SEO?

TRUTH: SEO is NOT risky. Black Hat SEO tactics ARE.

Yes, Search Engines will ban websites if they appear to be utilizing tactics that go against their policies. But, you should have NO FEAR of such a punishment if you conduct SEO appropriately (the way it is supposed to be used).

Without SEO, search engines would be empty – or at least the search results would be completely irrelevant to the user. Search Engines actually RELY on SEO to explain to them what a website is about. Whether it’s through the keywords found in the content of your website, the title and Meta Tags used or the inbound links you receive, Search Engines view this data and rank you based on how relevant your website is to a particular search term.

So, the actual risk here is losing rankings by NOT optimizing your website!

All SEO is Black Hat

Is every SEO technique against Search Engines’ policies? If you conduct SEO, will you be a Black Hat artist?

TRUTH: SEO is made up of both White Hat and Black Hat techniques.

So, what are Black Hat and White Hat techniques?

Black Hat SEO: Tactics that go against Search Engines’ policies.

White Hat SEO (or just SEO): Optimization methods that help Search Engines understand what your website is about.

Did you know Google offers its own report on SEO? It’s called “Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” and it’s filled with useful information about how to optimize your website.

Some of the topics discussed within their report include:

  • Creating Title Tags
  • Using the Description Meta Tag
  • Using Words in Your URLs
  • Using Relevant Keywords in Your Content

Do these topics look familiar? They should as they’re the fundamentals of SEO. As long as you follow the rules that are literally OUTLINED for you by the Search Engines, you will avoid ever appearing to be a black hat artist.

SEO Has Nothing to Do With Content

So many people consider SEO to be a technical process, one that is focused on website code, Meta Tags and Inbound Links and has nothing to do with content. Is this true?

TRUTH: SEO is ALL ABOUT content.

What are Meta Tags and Inbound Links made up of? CONTENT! What is a website made up of? CONTENT! Content is the key to optimizing a website. Whether it be through the text used in Inbound Links or Meta Tags, or the keywords found sprinkled throughout your website, content is what Search Engines analyze to determine what your site is relevant to. Without content, you’re unlikely to gain any search rankings.

Your Content Should Focus on Search Engines, Not Visitors

It’s easy to think that your content should be filled to the max with your keywords, or that your website should cater to the all-powerful Search Engines. After all, that’s how they will rank you, right?

TRUTH: If you write for visitors, your content will be “naturally optimized” for search engine rankings.

Never write for Search Engines! I could write an entire post about this one topic, but let me try to summarize it here…

  1. Who uses search engines? Your potential visitors.
  2. How will they find you? By typing in a keyword (search term).
  3. What will the results be? Websites Search Engines feel are relevant to the USER’S search term.

We seem to always jump to number three in this list and assume that our content needs to be focused on the search engine in this scenario when in fact the USER (potential visitor) is our key to SEO. The user is the one who thinks up a keyword to search for. The user is the one who will analyze the results and click on a website they feel is relevant. The user is the person we are trying to connect with. Therefore, the user is KING.

This is why we conduct keyword research, right? To figure out what users are searching for? Once we create a list of good keywords, we write blog posts about these topics or offer products related to those search terms.

The only time Search Engines come into play here is when we need to let them know that our website is relevant to this user’s search term. If we’ve written our content specifically for the user and their needs (search terms), our content will be naturally optimized for rankings. It’s as simple as that.

If, however, we write our content for search engines, users will gain little value from it. It comes down to this – do you want traffic or do you want targeted traffic? Do you want visitors or do you want customers?

If you’re writing for the user, your content or products should naturally contain keywords they’re searching for.

You Can Over-Optimize

Speaking of content, is it possible to actually over-optimize a website? Can we take SEO too far?

TRUTH: Yes, you CAN over-optimize.

The best example of over-optimization is what’s called “keyword stuffing.” Let’s take a look at over-optimized content versus natural content…

A. Over-Optimized:

“Welcome to our Home Décor Store! Home décor is what we sell. If you’re looking for home décor, you will find it here in our home décor store. Enjoy shopping for home décor!”

  • Number of Times Keyword is Used: 5
  • Ratio of Keyword to Other Text: 18%

B. Naturally Optimized:

“Welcome to Keller’s Home Décor Online Shop! Whether you’re interested in adding a few new pieces to your exiting décor, or starting fresh with a brand new home décor collection, we’re here to help.”

  • Number of Times Keyword is Used: 3
  • Ratio of Keyword to Other Text: 11%

Problems with Keyword Stuffing:

  • A Search Engine can tell when “keyword stuffing” has occurred in content and will usually penalize a site for such practices. There are many theories on what percentage of your content should be made up of keywords, but the best practice seems to be keeping it low (5-10%).
  • Is a potential customer more likely to buy from website A or B? Probably B as it speaks to them, not to Search Engines.
Tip!If you write your content the way you speak to people, you won’t need to worry about keyword stuffing. Write as if you’re talking to someone.

Other Forms of Over-Optimization Include:

  • Building tons of inbound links, each containing the exact same anchor text.
  • Stuffing keywords into Meta Tags.
  • Writing hidden text for Search Engines (making certain content white on a white background).
  • Listing keywords over and over again on a page.
  • Writing in a way that your content provides no value to your visitors.

Set It and Forget It

This is probably the biggest misperception website owners have about SEO. When you’re new to this world, you may think SEO is a one-time activity – set it and forget it.

TRUTH: SEO is an ONGOING process.

SEO will be a key activity for a website for as long as that website exists. Though some activities may only need to be performed annually, others are needed daily. For example, you may want to update your keywords and Meta Tags annually or semi-annually to ensure you’re targeting current searches. However, writing fresh and optimized content is a weekly (or better yet, daily) activity.

If you truly want to optimize your website and continue to maintain or obtain search rankings, you’re in this for the long haul.

Next: Part 2

In part 2, we’ll take a look at the myths that surround specific optimization techniques including On-Page Optimization and Link Exchanges.

Can You Add Any Myths to This List? Do Any of These Surprise You?

You’re Viewing a Post Series!

This post is only one part of our discussion. Check out the other parts below:

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  • http://whatawebsite.org/ whatawebsite

    Keller, another good read – it's now been 5 months of part-time blogging here in Hamburg – and I've learned so much from the 5 years of experience that you so freely share. Very grateful – and I know a lot of others are. Looking forward to part 2 here soon. Best wishes , Will

  • http://www.fresheventure.com Keller Hawthorne

    Thanks Will! This is the first big post I've written in a while and it feels good. Hope to keep it up now that I've replaced my computer (oh, don't think I mentioned that I lost my hard drive this month). It's been one thing after another and my stores are in the middle of the holiday season. But, blogging is still my favorite work activity!

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/about Ryan Hanley

    Keller, this is great stuff. SEO is such a daunting topic to understand. The way you write makes the topic a littler easier to understand. Thank you.
    Ryan

  • http://bradleyaharmon.com Brad Harmon

    Keller,

    Thanks again on the tips you gave me earlier this week. Making that one simple step increased my SERP by 3 to 5 pages on several keywords overnight – literally overnight. Can't wait to read part 2.

    Brad

  • http://whatawebsite.org/ whatawebsite

    Fairly horrible news about the hard drive and the forum etc , sorry to hear that and hope that things stat running totally smoothly again very very soon. These things are sent to try us. As is root canal ( arghhhh!) which is my big problem for the next three Tuesdays. Still, maybe a good time to do some website planning in the dentist's chair ( yeah right!). Keep going Keller!

  • http://www.webuildyourblog.com/ Andrew @ WeBuildYourBlog.com

    Good post that tackles some of the myths, especially about content for visitors.

    re: “Building tons of inbound links, each containing the exact same anchor text”

    If you want to get onto Google page number one for a particular phrase that is the way to do – don't change your anchor text.

    Andrew

  • http://whatawebsite.org/ whatawebsite

    Fairly horrible news about the hard drive and the forum etc , sorry to hear that and hope that things start running totally smoothly again very very soon. These things are sent to try us. As is root canal ( arghhhh!) which is my big problem for the next three Tuesdays. Still, maybe a good time to do some website planning in the dentist's chair ( yeah right!). Keep going Keller!

  • http://www.webuildyourblog.com/ Andrew @ WeBuildYourBlog.com

    Good post that tackles some of the myths, especially about content for visitors.

    re: “Building tons of inbound links, each containing the exact same anchor text”

    If you want to get onto Google page number one for a particular phrase that is the way to do – don't change your anchor text.

    Andrew

  • http://www.blogengage.com/story.php?id=34848 Vote on this article at blogengage.com

    The Greatest SEO Myths of Our Century Exposed – Part 1 …

    Before you dive into optimizing your website, why don’t we take a look at the misconceptions and facts surrounding search engine optimization. Hopefully, this will arm you with the knowledge you need to truly dominate the search engines!…

  • http://www.messageforce.com.au/seo.aspx Alisdair Johnston

    You have to be right on the target. This means that you have to target the right social networking sites, the right communities, participate in the right forums to take benefit of the opportunities of the social web. Blog your way to success with original and educative content which will make you popular on web and induce the readers to visit your website.

  • zxt

    I actually read the whole thing :) Though I practice all of these it it always nice to read it to refresh my knowledge on SEO.

  • http://techfreakstuff.com/ Tech-Freak Stuff

    This is really good stuff! Whenever I start reading an article on SEO, it is always at the back of my mind that I have already read it somewhere else and it was now also. But you are the first one, who gave me some info which I haven't read anywhere before..Thanks a ton.

  • http://www.ronblogger.com/ Blog Tips

    Nice set of SEO tips! Agree with you there, SEO is an ongoing process as search engine algorithm is always changing and updating

  • http://www.ronblogger.com/ Blog Tips

    Nice set of SEO tips! Agree with you there, SEO is an ongoing process as search engine algorithm is always changing and updating

  • http://www.fmsseo.com/ Karl Foxley

    Absolutely spot on! I come across these objections to SEO with 'SEO is Risky' seeming to be the biggest myth.

    Regards,

    Karl

  • http://www.fresheventure.com Keller Hawthorne

    That's amazing Brad! Just goes to show all of us how the little details can produce big results.

  • http://www.fresheventure.com Keller Hawthorne

    The problem with that SEO method is the search engines will eventually not take those incoming links as seriously. Having 1000 incoming links containing the same anchor text is a sure sign that you're doing link exchanges in a search engine's opinion. Though link exchanges aren't against the rules, se's do prefer real links – ones produced from quality content rather than mutual seo methods.

  • http://www.fresheventure.com Keller Hawthorne

    Right on Alisdair!

  • http://www.webuildyourblog.com/ Andrew @ WeBuildYourBlog.com

    Well we are going to have to disagree with each other. I have thousands of backlinks with the same anchor text, none of which are link exchanges and I've been number one in Google for certain phrases for a long time now.

    Andrew

  • http://www.cptawesome.co.za/ Cpt awesome

    Awesome post! SEO put bluntly and simply. Will definitely be a big help to get my site up the page ranks.

  • http://www.fresheventure.com Keller Hawthorne

    Well, if they aren't link exchanges, then they are exactly what Google wants. What I referred to was this being a sign of link exchanging. I've never experienced an issue with this, but I've heard others warn against it. Sounds like a myth that needs to be brought to light!

  • http://www.tennisfile.com/ Mark

    thanks for making SEO a wee bit easier to digest. there's so much out there and so much FUD it can be overwhelming to say the least!

  • http://www.smittenbybritain.com/ SmittenbyBritain

    Keller, is there a specific WP plugin you use to help with keyword suggestions while writing your content? I would like to have something that suggests keywords to me as I write.

  • http://www.smittenbybritain.com/ SmittenbyBritain

    Keller, is there a specific WP plugin you use to help with keyword suggestions while writing your content? I would like to have something that suggests keywords to me as I write.

  • http://www.fresheventure.com/3501/seo-myths-exposed-part-2/ The Greatest SEO Myths of Our Century Exposed – Part 2 | FresheVenture.com

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