The Ancient Myths of SEO

  •    Freelance writer focused on web development, email marketing and baseball. He lives in Los Angeles, but wishes he lived in Tokyo.

Most of us either know very little about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or just enough to be dangerously overconfident about what we're doing. Even the great majority of employees at places like Google are in the dark about exactly what their search algorithms are doing.

This lack of direct knowledge has allowed a lot of myths about SEO to take root. Someone heard once from their very smart nephew that Google doesn't care about Facebook. Or a customer service rep at their domain host told them that they weren't ranked on a specific word because it wasn't in their site's meta keywords. It doesn't really matter how the SEO myths got started, what's important is that we bust them so you don't waste any time.

SEO Myth #1 - It's a Big Scam

There are an awful lot of scammers selling fake/crappy SEO services by randomly calling every number in the phone book (please don't hire those people), but the need to optimize your site for search is very real. Google will likely find and index your site no matter what you do, but unless you put some effort into it, you're very unlikely to rank for any search terms other than your site's own domain name.

Take Action: Instead of giving up on SEO as fake news, get started with the basics, like writing up keywords and descriptions for every page on your site. Weebly has a wonderful guide that covers all these basics.

SEO Myth #2 - Keywords Are Everything

The most enduring myth of SEO is that entering keywords in the meta keywords section of your site's header will get your site ranked by whatever you write there. Want to be highly ranked on a search for “Cheesecake"? Then simply write the word “Cheesecake" in your Keywords and you're all done.

While it's important to enter keywords and descriptions to give your site a solid foundation of site optimization, as we briefly saw with the basics noted above, it simply isn't reasonable to expect a high ranking because you typed a couple of words into a box. Think of all the other businesses that provide similar services to yours. Google can't rank you above them for a certain word simply because you put in the minimum amount of effort, unless they didn't put in any effort at all.

Take Action: Once you've done the basics with your keywords and descriptions, start working more with the actual content on your site.

SEO Myth #3 - Social Doesn't Matter

This is a myth with at least some truth to it. Google really doesn't care how many likes or followers you have when ranking your website. They made an informative and rather sleepy video that discusses why. Ultimately, it's difficult for them to be certain that they're associating the right social profiles to the appropriate sites. Beyond that, likes and followers are simple statistics that represent an incredible amount of information and all that data is not easily digested by an already complex algorithm.

That said, social is where everything is shared. It's where people get their news and keep up with friends. Sharing your own site on social networks will get other people to also share it, which leads to more links and traffic to your site, something that Google absolutely takes into account.

Take Action: Continually add content to your site that gives you (and more importantly, other people) a reason to share it on Facebook and other social sites. Add a new product? Link to it. Having a sale? Link to it? Write a new blog post? Link to it. Blogging is probably the most shareable of these. Starting and updating a blog might be easier than you think.

SEO Myth #4 - An HTML Validator Says My Site Has Errors, So Search Engines Won't Rank It Highly

Many self-proclaimed SEO experts will cite HTML validation errors as a big reason a site isn't highly ranked in some search term or another. They are not right to do so.

It's easy to check your website for HTML validation errors. So easy, in fact, that you can quickly do it right here. Just enter your site's address and prepare to get bombarded by scary looking errors and warnings that are ultimately pretty meaningless. How meaningless? Take a look at all the errors on Amazon's home page. They sure have a lot of them.

Yet does not struggle to see their site, products, or services ranked highly by Google and the other search engines. This isn't unique to Amazon either. You can enter any major site into the validation checker (even sites created by Google) and it'll spit out a long list of errors. Unless you're checking a site that was designed an hour ago by someone who is an expert at the most recent versions of HTML and CSS, your site will have errors. That's just how it is. These errors are rarely anything to worry about. If you're using Weebly or any of the other major site building services, you're completely in the clear.

Take Action: Worry less about validating the structure of your HTML and more about your content. A site with great content can overcome even very real coding errors.

SEO Myth #5 - You Can “Do" Your SEO Once and You're Done

Once your site is published and you've taken some of the steps above, it can be tempting to think you're all done. However, like anything else involving your business, SEO is a constant work-in-progress. No matter how highly your site is ranked, if you don't maintain and update it while continually working towards better search engine optimization then you'll start losing ground.

Take Action: Keep your site fresh with these simple optimizations that you can put to use any time you add more content to your site. Putting a little work into your SEO every week will have a big impact on your results.