There’s an old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I’ve noticed that for many people, this applies to search engine optimization.
In the mad race to get ahead in search engine rankings, the SEO landscape has become littered with misinformation. Whether you’re hiring an SEO company or starting the journey on your own, there are many common and persistent SEO myths to be aware of. I’ll debunk eight of them here.
Myth 1: You Must Submit Your Website To Google
SEO used to require webmasters to submit their websites to search engines so the engines would know that the websites existed. Search engine bots would then crawl the sites to decide whether and how to rank them. Times have changed, and search engines can find a website on their own now.
Paying for search engine submissions is no different than burning your money, especially since Google discontinued its public tool to submit websites in July 2018. These solicitations often come in the form of spam emails that guarantee you top placement on Google.
Myth 2: Meta Keywords Matter
Meta keyword tags (not to be confused with other meta tags, like meta descriptions) used to be an important part of the SEO process. Mile-long lists of keywords were a common strategy to try to improve a website’s ranking. Stuffing any and every combination of a keyword was the name of the game. It looked something like this.
<meta name=”keywords” content=”keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3, keyword 4, keyword 5, keyword 6, keyword 7, keyword 8, keyword 9, keyword 10, keyword 11…”>
With this meta tag being so abused, Google dropped the keywords meta tag as a ranking factor.
Myth 3: Keyword Stuffing Helps
Speaking of keyword stuffing, it’s a common misconception that stuffing keywords within your content is an SEO hack. However, keyword stuffing has been proven to be ineffective because search engine algorithms can quickly see through this technique.
Myth 4: Recycled Content Is Okay
Back in the early 2000s, copying others’ content or publishing duplicate content was a common SEO strategy for some people. This tactic helped the lazy or uncreative increase the number of times keywords showed up on their websites. As of February 2011, when the Panda algorithm update was introduced, Google aims to weed out sites that copy or duplicate content.
If you don’t write your own unique content, you can’t expect to rank uniquely. Focus on showcasing your expertise and clearly communicating why you’re different.
Myth 5: Longer Titles Are Better
Writing lengthy, overly optimized page titles is a common mistake of SEO beginners. Why is stuffing your titles a bad move? Google tends to hide characters in titles that run longer than 55 to 70 characters or so, which can cut off the message that you’re trying to communicate. I say 55 to 70 or so because Google doesn’t display words in a search result title based on a maximum number of letters. Instead, words in a search result title are cut off based on how many pixels wide they are.
What does that mean? The letter “W” is a lot wider than the letter “I,” so the letters within your words can impact how many words you can display.
Myth 6: A Backlink Is A Backlink
When another website links to your website, it may be indicative of your website’s importance and popularity. Google may boost your rankings based on the quality and quantity of these backlinks — though the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. Due to Google’s 2012 Penguin algorithm update, long gone are the days of seeing success from acquiring mass quantities of links from low-quality websites.
Myth 7: Low Domain Authority Is Contagious
Domain authority (DA) is a metric created by Moz that, more or less, assigns a quality value to a website. It sounds like something good to pay attention to, right? Sure, but some SEO companies spend too much time focusing on getting links from only high-DA websites. While a high-DA site is nice, it’s not the only way. Every site isn’t going to have a DA as high as Wikipedia. In the real world, most websites are just average.
Let’s say you live in a small farming town and run a wedding venue. In this case, your industry is composed of local sites that mostly have low DA. In this case, it is OK, if not equally valuable, to get links from other small-town websites that talk about weddings, photography, etc.
Myth 8: ‘Link’ Is Just Another Word For Conversion
Not so. Backlinks are like turning on the porch light so that passersby can see you. They’re warm and inviting, but they aren’t necessarily going to inspire people to come up and knock on your door.
More links aren’t always better, either. Stringing more and more lights all over your roof won’t make a big difference, and neither will acquiring a lot of backlinks from low-quality websites that are unrelated to your industry. No one is going to click on them. Therefore, no one is going to convert.
When it comes to SEO, quality matters: Quality links over quantity. Quality content over quantity. Make sure you’re complementing your marketing efforts with compelling content and a good user experience.
Originally published by Damon Burton Forbes, April 20, 2020.